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The Heart of Life

The Heart of Life: December 2012

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Tale of the Dropped Pen

I think I've mentioned before that I kind of have this thing for Shakespeare, so in my sophomore year of college I signed up for "Intro to Shakespeare."  In this class I was flanked mostly by a variety of thespians.  Most were of the funny and outgoing variety, and a few were of the more hardcore dramatic (and socially awkward) type.  As for me, I was of the random non-thespian few.  Acting has never been my thing, but I bit the bullet for Shakespeare's sake.

Anyway, there was one guy in particular in my class who was the epitome of hardcore dramatic (and socially awkward).  He had this weird dramatic British accent, which would have been fine had he been British.  But he wasn't.  He also liked to throw around the word "quasi" whenever he commented in class.  Quasi?  Seriously?  Who says that?  A quasi-Brit, I guess.

One day I was sitting one desk behind and to the side of the quasi-Brit.  All was well until he lost control of his pen.  I watched it fly from his fingers and land neatly inside the purse of the girl sitting in front of him.  He casually moved to retrieve it, then suddenly froze in midair.  He quickly withdrew his hand with a look of anxiety on his face.  It appeared that it had only just occurred to him that reaching into a girl's purse would frame him as the quasi-klepto.

He gripped the sides of the desk and frantically glanced back and forth between the girl and her purse.  It was at this point that the purse girl innately sensed that something weird was going on behind her.  She turned around and saw the quasi-Brit gazing intently into her purse.  He looked back up at her and saw that he'd been caught, so he leaned back in his chair and feigned intense interest in our professor's lecture.

After the purse girl drew her purse closer to her feet, the quasi-Brit gave a resigned sigh and reached into his backpack for a new pen. 


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Humans Pretending to be Animals and Animals Pretending to be Humans

Lately, a few girls in one of my four-year-old classes have been pretending to be kitties.  I won't lie.  There are few things I dislike more than children pretending to be animals.  I can't stand it.  It would have been slightly more tolerable had they been playing quiet, timid kitties issuing delicate little mews.  But no.  These kitties sounded like they were being dunked into frigid water.  Repeatedly.

"Meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee," a girl squeaked.  "Eiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii," another girl squealed in reply.  They frolicked on their hands and knees toward a toy pan and pretended to lap up milk.  "MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!"  "EIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII!"

Kill meeeeeeeee.

Even when I was little I thought other kids pretending to be animals was weird.  One kid in my elementary school pretended to be a velociraptor straight out of Jurassic Park every recess for probably a solid year.  He formed his hands into claws and held them near his chest as he stealthily tiptoed around the playground.  Sometimes if you got too close he would hiss and screech at you.

And then there was the creepy girl we met at the pool when I was about ten who thought she was a dolphin.  She made all sorts of dolphin-esque noises and even attempted to swim like a dolphin.  I can't remember if she spit water into the air like a dolphin.  What put me over the edge was when she tried to play with my four-year-old brother like she was the main attraction at Sea World.  I remember thinking, "She's like my age... and pretending to be a fish.  This is creepy."  So I snatched my little brother away.  I mean, dolphins have teeth too.  Apparently she'd read one too many Animorph books or something.  I can't help but wonder what animal she was out of water.

Now, I'm not saying that it's wrong for kids to pretend to be animals.  Imagination-based play is great.  I'm all for pretending to be fairies, doctors, teachers, race car drivers, magicians, superheroes, etc.  But when it comes to animals I can't help but think, "Really?  That's the best you can come up with?"  I like cats, especially kittens, but there's nothing really great about pretending to be one.  They eat, sleep, use the litter box, rub up against people's legs, meow, purr, and run away from dogs.  They don't even talk.  Lame.

Then comes up the dilemma of talking animals.  I'm perfectly fine with cartoon or puppet animals talking.  I loved the Aristocats and 101 Dalmatians as a child.  But it's just weird when kid shows have real dogs or cats that talk.  Take, for example, this movie.  Maybe you bought this for your dog-loving child for Christmas, and I'm sure they'll love it.  But please don't tell me that watching those dogs talk isn't creepy slash bizarre.

Remember this 90's movie?  This one isn't too bad because it was before they could digitally manipulate the animals' mouths, but it's still kind of weird.  My biggest beef is giving animals human qualities.  They aren't humans.  They are animals.  Also, I don't really like the idea of teaching kids that if you don't like where your mom drops you off, you can just run away.

Speaking of animals being creepily human-like, you've probably seen this commercial.  It's animation, but it's still weird.  Animals aren't like that.  And they don't look like that.  And they don't talk.

But occasionally, and ever so rarely, talking animals work for me.  I happen to really like this commercial.  And then there's this movie.  I have a thing for little talking pigs.  For some reason the animals don't look too unnatural when they're "talking."  It also helps that it has a few really great underlying messages:  You can do anything if you try; it's ok to be different; be kind to those who are different than you; being nice can get you a long way; etc.

Anyway, I imagine that these animals pretending to be humans has something to do with kids pretending to be animals.  The more human-like animals are, the more relate-able animals are to kids, I guess.  I'm just crossing my fingers that my future kids aren't hugely into pretending to be dogs or watching talking dog movies.

Update:  One of my links was wrong, but it's fixed now.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

On Santa

Earlier this week Santa came to school.  Each kid took a turn sitting on Santa's lap and told him what he/she wanted for Christmas.

One three-year-old, in his itsy bitsy tiny voice told Santa that he wanted a monkey vampire.  He also wanted a Christmas tree with real vampires on it.  Good luck to his mom.

While one of my four-year-old classes was busy reciting Christmas wishes to Santa, one of the moms slipped in and whispered to me, "I came a little early because he wanted me to be here for Santa just in case he needed help.  Last year he got nervous and asked Santa for chicken nuggets and french fries."

Speaking of Santa, Kev and I were in charge of the ward Christmas party yesterday.  Most wards go with the traditional "special visitor" (a.k.a. St. Nick), but not our ward.  Our visitor had a few things in common with Santa--magic, deception, and flashy costume.  Take a guess.  Not the Grinch.  Not the Three Wise Men.  Not the Little Drummer Boy.

A magician.

A Christmas magician?  Nope.  Just a magician.

Don't get me wrong.  He was very entertaining.  His tricks went off without a hitch.  He made the kids very impressive balloon animals.  He more or less ended with his testimony. Definitely not your typical Christmas party "special visitor."

There are pro's and cons to deviating from the Santa norm.  Personally, I never really enjoyed sitting on Santa's lap as a child.  One of my favorite pictures in my scrapbook is of my then one-year-old brother sitting blissfully on Santa's lap while my mom holds a screaming three-year-old Lindsey.  Really, what's enjoyable about sitting on a strange, furry man's lap?  And yet, it's sort of a childhood rite of passage.

On the other hand, it's just so fun to see most kids' faces light up when they see Santa.  Santa is somewhat non-denominational, but he happens to provide a child-friendly first glance at faith.  As a child I remember looking at the skinny stovepipe of our wood-burning stove and thinking that a child couldn't fit through there, let alone an overgrown man.  But I believed that somehow Santa had that already figured out.  Santa allows kids to see that you don't have to know all the answers to believe in something.  That's what faith is all about.  You're in a seemingly hopeless situation and you can't see how it could possibly work out ok.  And yet you believe that God has it all worked out.  And the thing is, it always does work out.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Life-Changing Discovery

A little while ago I had my first P. F. Chang experience, complete with chicken lettuce wraps.  I thoroughly enjoyed them.  Thus, when I was at the store earlier this week, I bought a head of lettuce, hoping to somehow concoct some sort of loose copycat of the chicken lettuce wraps.

However, when dinner time rolled around the other day, I wasn't in the mood for a big cooking adventure, so I immediately scrapped the idea of doing a copycat.  I was actually in more of a taco mood anyway.  But my tortillas had been hanging out in my fridge for a while, so that didn't sound very appetizing either.

Then it hit me.  Taco lettuce wraps.  So we loaded up lettuce leaves with taco meat and typical taco condiments (minus shredded lettuce, of course) and dug in.  Holy yum.  They're messy to eat, to be sure.  But so delicious.  Tortillas simply cannot compare to the crisp freshness of lettuce leaves.

I might have tacos like this for the rest of my life.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012


Once upon a time, I worked in retail off and on for about three years.  This experience in retail has endowed me with two somewhat opposing shopper attitudes.

First of all, I have a lot of patience and sympathy for checkers who end up needing an override.  In the event that you don't know, an override becomes necessary when the cashier is required to void out an item that's already been rung up and exceeds a certain amount of money.  An override is also required when an entire transaction needs to be voided.  There are other reasons why an cashier might need an override, but to be honest I've blocked them out of my memory.  Anyway, in order to get an override, the cashier has to call for a manager to approve what has been voided, etc. and then scan their special card or type in a special code.

The need to override sneaks up on even the most vigilant checkers.  You're happily scanning items when all of the sudden the customer makes a last minute decision, "You know, I think I'll wait on that leaf blower."  You push void and rescan the item, praying that the gods of cash register land smile upon you just this once.  The cash register laughs and demands, "OVERRIDE!"  You frantically glance around, hoping that a manager happens to be nearby.  Nope.  You pick up the phone and call a manager, timidly asking, "Hi, can I get an override?"  The manager sighs because you asked for an override less than an hour ago when a coupon wouldn't scan.  After that, there's nothing to do but wait.  All the items have been scanned and you can't go any further in the transaction until that override is taken care of.  The customers in line begin to get antsy.  Some cast incredulous glances at you, silently asking why you're just standing there when there's an increasingly long line.  You apologize for how long it's taking, but alas, the waiting game continues.

Anyway, when I'm that customer or I'm behind one of those customers, I try to assure the checker of my understanding.  It just happens sometimes.

And then there's the second virtue of a retail veteran.  I notice good customer service and am horrified by bad customer service.  For this reason I avoid Walmart like a dirty public bathroom (sometimes it can't be avoided, but the plan is always to avoid it).  I know most of the world loves and reveres Wally World and its ultra-affordability, but I always walk out angry and annoyed.  I go through the check-out line and my checker is talking to another employee throughout my entire transaction, so I look around thinking I'm surely being punked by the HR department with an unexpected role in a Walmart "What Not to Do" training video.  Nope.  This is real life.

But regardless of where you are, sometimes you get awesome service, and sometimes it's less than desirable.  A few weeks ago (on Black Friday) I was in Vanity trying on an assortment of jeans.  There were tons of girls in Santa hats working and we were almost suffocated by the amount of help being offered, as there weren't many people in the store at the time.  I found the winning style and size of jeans, but the sewing on the inseam of one leg seemed to be coming unraveled in two places.  I tried on another pair of the same style and size and while the stitching seemed spot on, I glanced at my butt and noticed something slightly abnormal:  a small vertical, white line.  Like a drop of bleach dripped down my butt.  Granted, the fabric in that spot had a faded look anyway, so nobody but my husband would probably notice (even that is debatable), but it was something I would notice every time.  Thus, I set out to find yet another pair of the same style and size.  As I was completing my unsuccessful search, one of Santa's helpers came to offer her services.  I explained my dilemma to her and she replied, "Hmm... so you're one of those picky customers..."  Someone forgot to tell her you don't tell customers they are picky.  You say, "Hmm, that's unfortunate.  How about I give you a 10% discount?"  By the way, 10% is a pretty standard discount for damaged products, so don't feel bad about asking for a discount on a product that has something wrong with it even if it's on sale (unless it's already been marked down for the defect, of course).  However, I was so surprised by her accusation of me being picky that I forgot to ask for a discount.  If those jeans didn't look so great I would have walked right out of the store.  But instead I got the pair with the butt drip.  I'd post a picture, but they're not in my possession as my mom is giving them to me for Christmas.  Just do me a favor and if you see me wearing some great jeans, don't look too closely at my butt.

When I was a freshman in college I went to Wendy's with my roommates and had an unforgettable experience.  My roommates had ordered burgers, and as they were unwrapping their burgers one commented that her burger felt a little cold.  The other took a bite and furrowing her eyebrows lifted the top bun to check under the hood.  "They forgot the patty!" she exclaimed.  The first roommate checked hers to find no trace of a patty as well.  They gathered up their burger-less burgers and presented their well-condimented buns to the cashier.  He looked a little perplexed and asked, "So... do you want a new burger?"  They kindly informed him that yes, they would like a new burger--with the actual burger included.

And yet a few weeks ago my husband and I went to a Wendy's and had a completely different experience.  After we ordered and were waiting for our food, the cashier realized they were out of chili.  She told us of her mistake and had my husband pick out something else from the value menu instead.  He picked the spicy chicken nuggets and she said, "Great.  I'll make it six piece instead of four.  Once again so sorry about the chili."  As she finished gathering up our items I heard her say, "One value fry... I'll up it to a small."  We were so impressed by the effort she made to make it up to us.

What I think it largely boils down to is managers and how well they train the employees they are in charge of.  Managers have a lot of power over the your experience as a customer.  If all the lines are super long and only three of the ten check stands are open, it's not because the checkers slacking off.  It's because managers aren't doing their job and calling for back-up checkers.  If you have an unpleasant encounter with an employee, it's probably at least partially because that employee hasn't been trained by his/her manager to handle weird situations appropriately.

It's a very strange existence--simultaneously being understanding and having very high expectations.  This makes me either a the nicest customer ever or the pickiest, most demanding customer ever.  Bless the poor retail employees who have to deal with my bi-polar behavior.