I ain’t afraid of no ghost–because I own a house

While home sick this week, I decided to take the opportunity to do something I never get to do now that I’m married. I watched a horror movie.

It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but the Hubby can’t even handle the evil queen scenes in a Disney movie. The second there’s scary music and a darkened room, he’s out. When I started watching American Horror Story, I had to shut it off before he would even enter the room because the opening credits were too scary for him.  (Granted, I haven’t been in our basement since watching Murder House.  But the Hubby doesn’t need to know that!)

But he’s cute and he puts up with Downton Abbey, New Girl, Game of Thrones, and Orange is the New Black, despite claiming to hate all four of them (which is clearly a blatant lie, but whatever). And I prefer horror books to horror movies anyway, so I didn’t consider giving up my scary movies to be much of a sacrifice. And I can still watch them when he’s not home, which makes them even better because then I get the additional fear factor of NOT having him there to protect me from the evil monsters in the television.

So I sat down (okay laid down with Rosie, a cup of tea, and a box of tissues—I WAS sick after all) to watch The Conjuring. And wound up browsing Wayfair on my phone for living room furniture, the prices of which scared me more than the movie.

It’s not that I’m unscare-able. I’m quite scare-able. I still haven’t watched the clown doll scene in Poltergeist. I know the kid lives. I know the doll isn’t real. But as soon as it’s off that chair, I’m out. Too scary.

I think the real problem is home ownership. The premise of haunted house movies SHOULD terrify home owners. You’re moving into a new space and you have no idea what else could be living in there with you.   And that’s basically how every haunted house movie starts.

Although I’ve definitely gained a greater appreciation for why the family always stays in the house.  Like as a kid, I’d be yelling at the screen for the stupid family to just move out.  But now, I get it.  We sank our entire life-savings into our house, plus all of our wedding present money into fixing it up.  I don’t care if the walls bleed, there are monsters in the closets, or some demonic voices telling us to GET OUT.  I’ll tell them to either shut up or get out themselves.  We’re going nowhere!

However, since buying our dream house a year ago, I’ve discovered that there are far worse problems that a house can have than a couple of malicious spirits.

Like the toxic mold in our air vents. While the Hubby claims that I’m sick from October to April, that’s typically not entirely true. Yes, as a teacher, I get sick a little more often than the average professional (thanks, kids, for sneezing all over my computer keyboard every time you sit at it. I appreciate that oh so much). But I’ve had a chronic cough that no course of modern medicine or even good, old-fashioned chicken soup from my grandma will fix since we moved in. So the Hubby decided it was time to get the air vents cleaned. I agreed, bought a Groupon, and a nice Israeli man came and ripped all of our painted-over vents off the wall (thanks previous homeowners) and cleaned one square inch inside each one, then showed us what the rest of our vents looked like and told us the exorbitant sum it will cost to get that scum out of our house.

Pretty sure an exorcism is cheaper and more effective than that.

Not to mention the other problem that the air-vent skimmer showed us. Apparently our dryer vent was made of paper. Not metal. Not even plastic. Literal, flammable-as-all-hell paper.

Which, while scary, was not entirely surprising to us, because we have long-since discovered that the previous homeowners were the cheapest people on the planet. Mr. Previous Homeowner considered himself quite the handyman, and he therefore he did all of the wiring and electrical work in the house himself. Which means that everything is a fire-hazard. Our electrician’s eyes literally displayed dollar signs when he saw what was going on in our unlabeled fuse box.

But the fire hazards didn’t disappear when we fixed the wiring. When we pulled out the old, hideous wood-burning stove insert in the hopes of having a working fireplace, we discovered that there was no fireplace liner and that all of the 1970s tiles that predated liners in our chimney were cracked, coated in creosote from numerous chimney fires, and basically guaranteed to burn our house down if we even attempted to build a fire. Twenty-five hundred dollars later, we had a working fireplace.

Of course, the working fireplace was a necessity because every time the wind blows, a tree falls down in our backyard. Which was terrifying because many of those trees are close enough to our house to cause severe damage, but also because sometimes the trees don’t fall entirely–instead they have massive severed hanging limbs waiting to fall on poor innocent Rosie while she sniffs out the herds of deer and foxes that inherit our yard. And adding to the fear factor there is the price-tag that comes with any tree work.

Because as handy as Hubby and I can be, shimmying a tree with a chainsaw to hack off dangerously dangling limbs is not in our repertoire.

But the working fireplace is necessary for more than just the burning off all of the surfeit of wood that now takes up ¾ of our half-acre yard—because possibly one of the scariest things about home ownership is the cost of heating our house in winter. While I know that ghosts are said to lower the temperature in a house, they only do it in the rooms that they’re in. And our house is cold in all rooms. We replaced the ancient French patio doors that literally had gaps at the top and bottom and we put on fireplace doors, both of which helped. But keeping the house above 62 degrees costs more than a ten night Springsteen stand at the Meadowlands.

The bottom line of which is that I would gladly trade some poltergeists for certain elements of the realities of home-ownership. Granted, ghosts can interfere with a good night’s sleep, but I’m an insomniac anyway. And a haunting would provide excellent fodder for a new book, which could eventually help assuage some of the costs of our typical household horrors.

At least until we have kids. Because that looks like it hurts a lot and the cost of college these days is the scariest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.

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Kissing the single life goodbye at Hershey tonight with Bruce

Tonight marks my 39th Bruce Springsteen show.

I actually bought tickets to numbers 39 and 40 during the most recent onsale, then the fiancé and I decided that we couldn’t miss that much school and gave the Hershey Park tickets to my parents.

Then a bit of a family emergency struck and we realized we weren’t going to make it to the Mohegan Sun show, and my parents, knowing what Bruce has meant to me, offered us the Hershey tickets back. The fiancé now couldn’t make it on a weeknight, so it’s me and my dad making the drive tonight.

Which I think serves as a great bookend to a certain era of my life.

My journey with Bruce shows began eleven years ago in Richmond on the Rising tour. My brother had suggested that we get my dad Bruce tickets for Father’s Day the year before, but we never managed to get our acts together on that. And his birthday was in February, so the following year, I found excessively over-priced secondary market tickets (I didn’t know any better yet!) for behind the stage in Richmond. My brother couldn’t go, my mother didn’t want to on a school night, and so dad and I went alone.

I was still in school. We left after my last class of the day, driving down in my father’s car, joking that as we arrived in his BMW convertible, I looked like his midlife crisis wife or girlfriend, not his daughter. We listened to a compilation of songs I had put together based on recent setlists and I remember my father joking that we were passing “the part of town where when you hit a red light you don’t stop.” And I asked him what song he most wanted to hear that night. He named “For You,” which we knew was a long shot.

I was in one of many rough patches that year.  I had fallen out with my entire crew when my best friend of the last six years and I stopped talking. It was that relationship, not a boyfriend, that inspired Beyond the Palace a few years later. That’s the one relationship in my life that left a permanent scar. And even now, it aches to remember that loss. It was necessary to cut each other loose, but I was lost after that for a very long time.

But something in me clicked that night when the lights went down. For the first time, I felt something that fed that “hunger you can’t resist” that Bruce sings about. I know the people who haven’t felt that are shaking their heads at me, but the ones who have are nodding. And I know they’re out there because I’ve met them over the last eleven years. I’ve made some amazing friends because I discovered that there were other people who felt the same loneliness that I was engulfed in and who felt it lessened with each show. They are the rabid fans who can pick themselves out in the videos, who were there when I danced on stage in Charlottesville, who read Beyond the Palace and who wanted desperately for me to be Laura, not understanding that the reason they connected with the book wasn’t because I was Laura, but because I was Ben.

At first, it was me and my dad because it was our thing. My brother had annual ski trips with him, but the concerts were mine. My Uncle Mike joined us from time to time and started being my date to shows dad couldn’t make it to. He was the “real fan” in the family, with more than 200 shows under his belt, and I remember his friends quizzing me on lyrics and classic shows on the drive up to Shea Stadium in 2003 before deeming me worthy of the ticket my uncle shared with me. I treasure the memories of my shows with him as much as those with my dad. It created a bond between us that is unshakeable, and he is responsible for some of my favorite concert memories and a few key scenes in Beyond the Palace as well. And he claims that it’s in his will that I inherit his Bruce collection, because I’ll appreciate it more than my cousins could.

Uncle Mike in his “Born to Run” shirt, holding me as a baby

In 2008, I was in another of those impossibly rough patches. I was drowning at school, and it was just months after we lost my Uncle Jules, to whom Beyond the Palace is dedicated. He gave me a typewriter when I was eight years old and told me I should be a writer. And losing him hit the whole family with the destructive force of a hurricane. I did a double header of shows that August, going back to Richmond with some friends and then skipping the first day back at school for teachers to go to Hershey Park with my dad. And as was now our tradition, we picked the song we most wanted to hear. We had luck with “For You” at that first show, and even “Santa Ana” in 2005, which will be the song my dad and I will dance to at my wedding, as the “giants of science” line has always reminded me of him. But that night was my 20th show, dad’s 10th, and somehow we hadn’t seen “Jungleland” yet. And at the opening notes that night, I began to cry. It was one of the most cathartic moments of my life. It was the first time in a long time that I could believe things would again be okay. And my dad put his arm around me without saying a word; without needing to, because he understood.

As this most recent tour began, for the first time since March 6, 2003, I don’t feel that deep-seated need to be at as many shows as possible. Maybe I’ve grown up a bit. Maybe it’s because I finally have found that connection that Bruce has always said the characters in his songs are seeking.

Or maybe it’s just been too long since my last show and I’ll come home tonight and cry because my Mohegan Sun tickets are gone. I’ve warned the fiancé that that is a distinct possibility.

Thank you to my mother, for giving up your ticket to let me go with dad tonight. It’s my last show that I’ll attend with him while I still bear his last name. And while I’m sure there are more shows in our future, there’s something magical to me in getting to go to this show with him.

And Bruce, if you’re reading (hey, a girl can dream, right?), the song I want to hear most is “Sandy.” It’s what my parents will walk me down the aisle to next month as I begin this next chapter of my life.

Thank you everyone who has been a part of this ride, and I can’t wait to start the next stage, where I can introduce you to my new husband at shows!  And I’ll see you all further on up the road.

The wedding registry: One small step for man, one giant step toward being able to live together on a teacher’s salary

While I am definitely not a “wedding girl,” I have to admit that I’ve gotten into a few aspects of planning the big day. I have a venue, a date, a DJ and a photographer. And the fiancé has been wonderful and booked the honeymoon for us.

I even have a real wedding dress. It’s white and lacy and everything. It was obtained with ease at the second store that I went to. The first store was a horrific nightmare starring an evil witch who banished my mother from the dressing room, ignored everything I told her, and then kept forcing me into puffy monstrosities that made me look like a marshmallow Moby Dick until I sobbed that I was fat and didn’t want a wedding. Literally. I wouldn’t have been the least bit surprised if she chased me through the store with a harpoon yelling, “Call me Ishmael!” The evil witch wouldn’t leave me alone until I squealed that I was a little piggy who didn’t deserve to get married.

Then I went to P. Lawrence in the Kentlands, had a lovely experience, and emerged an hour later looking forward to my wedding again.  

So with the dress ordered, I started to get excited about the idea of registering for gifts. I mean, this is pretty much the only time in your life when you can pick out the exact presents that you want and force people to buy them for you (ignoring the fact that I’ve hacked my dad’s Amazon Prime password and can therefore pick out presents for myself and order them, forcing HIM to pay for them with free two-day shipping… that’s a close second to a wedding in a lot of ways. But he screams at me and then changes his password if I buy anything too extravagant on his account, so that has to be used with caution).  

So on Saturday, the fiancé and I set out for the mall.

The end result of which was shockingly similar to the first wedding dress shopping experience, because I wound up curled in the fetal position, sobbing that I didn’t want a wedding.

Retail does not seem to be my friend these days.
What could have happened to turn shopping into something so horrible?

Well, to start with, I was completely overwhelmed. The fiancé and I are in the process of selling my bachelorette pad and buying our perfect suburban dream house. Which, shockingly, was much easier than I could have imagined. We found a buyer for the condo, fell in love with the perfect house, made an offer, and boom! We’re moving in a month! (Message me if you need the best real estate agent in the DC area. Seriously. He’s amazing.)

Which is all wonderful and happy and the birds are singing and I’m so excited about it that I don’t even care that the new Bruce album comes out tomorrow. (Besides, I’ve had it for three weeks. And stopped listening to it two weeks ago. Next.)

But it means we need a LOT of stuff. Yes, my one bedroom condo was pretty full, but it’s not going to make a dent in a five-bedroom house. And the fiancé has declared the new house to be an Ikea-free zone, so none of my furniture is making the trek with us.

AKA we need pretty much EVERYTHING.

Which is fine. I’m my mother’s daughter, so I’m a pretty freaking awesome shopper. No, I’m not quite at her level, because she can walk into stores and basically have them pay HER to take clothes (or at least that’s how she explains her purchases to my father, a trait handed down from my grandmother. You can buy anything as long as it’s a bah-gan (bargain with a Gloucester, Massachusetts accent). But I’m good. So picking out all new stuff that I don’t even have to pay for? Piece of cake.

Or it would be, if I was just shopping for myself.

Here we reach a problem—I have pretty much the only fiancé in the world who not only has a distinct opinion about every single thing we put in our house, but he was also raised in a much wealthier area than I was. So while he wouldn’t characterize his family as “rich” per se, the idea of shopping anywhere below the level of Bloomingdales is as abhorrent to him as the idea of shopping below the level of Target is to me. Like I’m pretty sure he equates Bed Bath and Beyond to Walmart or Big Lots.

And I didn’t understand that prior to Saturday.

So savvy shopper that I am, I figured, okay, we’ll start at Bloomingdales. He’ll see how absurd the prices are, laugh, and say okay, let’s go somewhere reasonable.

I like Bloomingdales. It’s one of my go-to stores when I need a really nice formal dress. No, I don’t buy anything else there. But formal dresses, if they’re on sale, are doable at Bloomingdales.

Unfortunately, my plan backfired, because when I laughed at the absurdity of spending $750 on a duvet cover before even factoring in pillow shams or anything else to go WITH the duvet cover, my fiancé said, “Wow, that’s a good deal.”

I laughed harder, and he looked at me uncomprehendingly. “What?” he asked. “It’s on sale. It WAS $1200.”

And suddenly, I realized that he wasn’t screwing with me. He actually thought $750 for duvet cover was a good price. And that a $3,000 set of four pieces of cookware was a steal. You don’t even want to think about what he was willing to spend on towels. I did a quick tally in my head and calculated that at the prices he was considering, a casual dining set would cost more than our combined gross income for two years.

It was time to regroup. If we registered the way that he wanted to, it would take all of our guests combining their gifts to buy a full set of bedroom linens, before we even got into anything like dinnerware, cookware, glassware, or silverware.

So, faking a deathly allergy to Chanel perfume, I dragged him out of the store.

We tried Crate and Barrel, which he conceded was tolerable, despite having never heard of it (how has anyone never heard of Crate and Barrel? I wanted to register there for my bat mitzvah, but my mom wouldn’t let me!), but we honestly didn’t know where to start. And when he began admiring the $3,000 dressers, I debated tattooing the words “Teacher’s Salary” across my forehead.

And then I took another page from my mother and grandmother’s book. Bribery. I had come prepared with Reese’s peanut butter cups in my purse, which are the fiancé’s kryptonite. Just as I can be placed under a hypnotic spell by pretty shoes, peanut butter cups allow me near-total mind control over my beloved future husband. A man’s secret weakness is necessary for any woman who plans to spend her life with him to know, as long as it is only used for purposes of good, not evil.

So a handful of peanut butter cups later, we got to Bed Bath and Beyond. Where he insisted on registering for a $200 sheet set in Exorcist-vomit green.  

Which I took as progress. One small step for man, one giant step toward being able to live together on a teacher’s salary. That kind of thing.

And at least I can modify the Bed Bath and Beyond registry from home.

But when we turned in our scanning gun to go home from an eight-hour day of shopping, the guy manning the registry counter looked surprised. “Still getting married?” he asked us.

Apparently we’re not the only ones who found registering to be a complicated process. But at least they sell peanut butter cups there, for future registry excursions.

Thanksgiving may only be my 5th favorite holiday, but I’m still thankful for it

Ah, Thanksgiving. My fifth favorite holiday.

Mostly because it gets me out of school for four sweet, glorious, sleep-filled days.

Well not this year, because I’m going to LA at the crack of dawn tomorrow morning (literally. The VERY crack of dawn), and coming home on the red eye Saturday night because my dad is a complete and utter psychopath and the antithesis of sleep.

Why is it my fifth favorite holiday? Well Purim is the clear winner because you get to dress up in costumes and (they don’t tell you this part in Hebrew school!) you’re SUPPOSED to get so drunk that you can’t tell the difference between Haman and Mordechai. Jews know how to celebrate a holiday.

 Of course, all of our holidays are basically about the same thing. Someone or something tried to kill us. We won. Let’s eat.

Hanukkah is number two because I love presents. And the hot firemen who show up when I almost burn my house down every year. That alone makes it an awesome holiday, even though it’s a little weak on the religion side.

Thanksgiving probably used to be higher on the list, but the combination of crazy family drama (my desserts aren’t kosher enough for the very recently ultra-orthodox branch of my family. Hypocrisy at its finest considering how often I’ve seen them eat shellfish, but I digress.) and the major weight loss this year that makes me feel that food is my absolute arch enemy has lowered it in the ranking. Now it’s somewhere in between Rosh Hashanah (I like apples. I like honey. Win.) and Tu B’Shvat (which I think is the tree holiday. I’m not really sure what it is, but it doesn’t require that I do anything and I can claim it’s a holiday so I don’t have to do work).

I get to avoid the majority of the drama this year because we’ll be in LA, but that makes this year’s celebration a religious experience for my parents. Their religion? Adamism. They will be spending the long weekend worshipping at the altar of my brother’s feet, while I gag in the corner and try not to incur the wrath of Adam’s most fervent followers while looking at all the yummy food that I no longer eat.

Oh joy, rapture!

Sorry, do I sound bitter?

I’m really not.

And to prove it, here’s a list (in no particular order) of some of the things that I’m thankful for this year.

1) Bruce Springsteen is alive and well and touring. I know it’s an odd thing to be thankful for, but it’s been a hell of a year for me and Bruce! The future of the E Street Band looked uncertain at this time last year because of Clarence’s death, but I did four shows in the same week in the spring run, and then had my own personal Courtney Cox moment when I got pulled up on stage to dance with Jake Clemons, Clarence’s nephew. Seriously, one of the best nights of my life and I’m thankful that I got to experience that!

Hugging Bruce. Yeah.  It happened.
Dancing with Jake. Because he rules.
Campaigning with Bruce.  I still don’t know how this wasn’t the official Obama campaign ad.
Yup.  Just holding hands with Bruce Springsteen.  Typical day in the life of Sara Goodman.

2) My newspaper kids—I promised them a shout-out! It’s no secret that I was pretty miserable at my old school, and I still don’t want to be a teacher when I grow up. But my newspaper kids are the ones who get me out of bed in the morning. Okay, technically, my psychotic addiction to exercise gets me out of bed in the morning, but my newspaper kids are the ones who get me to school. Love you guys!

3) The new version of the Great Gatsby with Leonardo DiCaprio in it.  Leo + Gatsby? Oh, there aren’t words to describe the level of thankful that I am for this combination! If there was just a Bruce song in this movie, it would be the most perfect thing EVER in the history of mankind. Just saying.

4) Obama winning! Woohoo! I don’t have to get my ass back in the kitchen and make you a pie!

5) My super awesome boyfriend, who I am sending home for Thanksgiving with a pie that I made. Not because I had to because Romney won, but because I WANT to. See the difference? (But seriously, I’m thankful that this year, when I have to deal with my family, I’m no longer the sad, pathetic, schoolmarm-ish spinster. Not that I ever was, but I was treated that way, which was almost as bad. He seriously quoted Springsteen to me at 7am yesterday. Epic win.)

6) Rosie. That little furball ruined the carpet in my apartment, pretty much destroyed my leather sofas, and has basically destroyed everything else I love. But she’s my baby, and I’m grateful that the little demon is in my life every day.

7) My parents. They annoy the bejeesus out of me. They call me every three minutes with absolutely nothing to say, try to run my life, yell at me constantly, and are generally pretty mean to me. Because they love me very much. They won’t SAY that. But they show it through the constant need to talk to me and the presents they buy me instead of saying they’re sorry when they’re REALLY mean to me (or in my mom’s case, when she creeps me out by picking out baby clothes. STOP IT MOM!)  But my mom did FIND me number 5 on my list, so thanks for that too… JUST STOP BEING CREEPY!

8) That my best friend’s divorce is final. Seriously, I did a little happy dance when that came through. She’s the best and deserves the best and now she has a chance to find it, which I am VERY thankful for!

9) The people who buy and read my books! Someday, when I’m a famous author, you get to say you were reading me before everyone else. You’re my Obie (the Bruce fans get that one) and I appreciate and love you all!

10) Cake. Do I need to explain this one?  (The people who got the joke just died laughing, I promise.)

11) RGIII. Again, no explanation needed. He is the Luke Skywalker of the DC area. He is our hope. He is our future. He will hopefully not kiss his own sister like Luke Skywalker did. But if he does, it’s okay. Because the Redskins suck significantly LESS with him in town.

12) The block feature on Facebook and Twitter.  Some of you know why I’m so thankful for this one. And to Verizon, yes even Verizon, for allowing me to block phone numbers when stalking gets scary.  Thanks guys.

13) Apple products. They all just work, and they work together, and they can do anything and everything. (Hint hint Nick.)

14) Black Friday sales. Because losing weight was REALLY a ploy to get my mother to buy me new clothes. It’s working beautifully.

 

15) Sushi. I’m a newbie, but I’m obsessed. It rocks.

Obviously this isn’t an all-inclusive list, but it’s a start. And thinking about what we’re thankful for is really what this holiday is about.

That and carbo-loading for all the Black Friday shopping! Stock up on that stuffing and cornbread now! You’re gonna need it to keep your strength up for tomorrow!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

It’s been a week and I haven’t ordered the new iPhone yet. That’s progress!

My name is Sara, and I’m an Apple-aholic.


Hi Sara.

Thanks. Like most of you here, it started years ago with an iPod. Just a little, 32GB iPod. Everyone else already had one. I tried to be a good girl and just use my little non-Apple mp3 player, but everyone made fun of it. So I gave in to the peer pressure and tried my first Apple product. I’d seen my dad using them, so really, how much harm could there be in trying something Apple?

And at first, I had it under control. That one iPod was enough for me for a long time. True, I started toting it everywhere with me, just in case. And yes, I used it to hide from uncomfortable social situations. Turn it on, slip those little white earbuds in, and suddenly I felt good again. Was it a crutch? Yes. But I couldn’t see that at the time because it was just one little iPod.

I should have known there was a problem when I had to have it wired into my car because I just couldn’t function without it. And when I would panic if I didn’t have it with me. But one little iPod can’t hurt you, right?

But then I got my MacBook Pro. I’d had a Dell laptop (which, admittedly, I had wanted because they came in colors. I’m a girl. Deal with it.). And that’s when the addiction really got bad. Because I never wanted to touch that old Dell again once I had my MacBook. Oh no. Everything just felt RIGHT when I used my Mac. Everything worked.  There were no more viruses to worry about.  No left button/right button confusion. And I felt superior to all those PC people who had to hit “CTRL” instead of “Command.” Losers.

And I didn’t even have an iPhone or an iPad! Clearly I wasn’t an addict. Addicts couldn’t be away from their Mac products for longer than three seconds without dying like the the guy who drank from the wrong cup in the third Indiana Jones movie. I, on the other hand, chose wisely.  I could leave my iPod in my purse for most of the day and be fine.


That’s how they suck you in though. That MacBook is a gateway drug. Because it came with a free iPod touch. Which meant that I was using Apple more than ever. I could leave my old iPod in the car and use the touch for everything else. I could even use it to get online when I had wifi and was away from my computer.  Which, yes, I could do with my Blackberry, but it was just BETTER with an Apple product.

And oh how I clung to that Blackberry! I saw how addicted my dad had become to the Apple way of life, and I know that addictions are hereditary.  I didn’t want to go that route. So I vowed never to get an iPhone! Never to get an iPad! Never to fall prey to that Apple-induced madness that possesses addicts every time a new product is announced! Oh no, not me! I didn’t have a problem! I could stop any time I wanted to.

Addicts, however, tend to surround themselves with other addicts to justify their behavior. And my parents are no different. Like the worst of smokers and drinkers, I started using my parents’ iPads when they weren’t looking. A websearch here. A Facebook update there. An email. A YouTube video. A round of Words With Friends. But they caught on. And because they don’t see their own addictions as a problem, instead of castigating me, they bought me an iPad for my birthday last year. The Apple TV quickly followed suit.


And after that, there was no turning back. I woke up at 2:45am the night that the iPhone 4S went on sale to make sure I was alert enough to order mine EXACTLY at 3am. I claimed I had a doctor’s appointment and left school early the day it was delivered–the FIRST day that anyone could have one, to rush home to set it up. Behavior that a non-addict would find simply appalling.

I couldn’t stop though. I popped apps like they were TicTacs. I spent countless hours installing things I didn’t need, had no use for, but craved because they were there and they enhanced my Apple products like nothing else could. I preferred texting other Apple users because they too acted like our behavior was normal. They got it. And with iMessage, I could see when they were replying to me. And we could send emojis. Non-Apple users didn’t understand and judged us for preferring the company of other Apple-aholics. Clearly THEY were the ones with the problems.  Not us.  Never us. And even if some of my friends were addicted, I wasn’t.  I couldn’t be an addict. 

But when they announced the new iPhone 5 and I actually debated spending $700 on one because my contract isn’t up for another year, I realized that I had a serious problem. Buying the iPhone 5 was the equivalent of going SEVEN Springsteen shows. (Okay, three with Ticketmaster fees. But still). I have bills to pay. A mortgage. A schnauzer to feed. And I was actually debating spending that much money just to get the new iPhone a few months earlier.  Not good.

Maybe there was a way though.  The day that the announcement was made, I tried to figure out if I could make the money.  But when I posted this on my Facebook (JOKINGLY):

And got THIS as a reply from someone who shall remain nameless, but whom I will from now on refer to as the Creepiest Person I Know:

I realized my addiction had gone too far.  (NO I DID NOT CONSIDER HIS OFFER.  I’m NOT that bad!  But that is a REAL, UNEDITED message that I got the night that the iPhone announcement was made.  SCARY.)

So I’m taking a stand. I’m going to try to break the cycle of addiction. I can make do with the 4S with the upgraded iOS6, which does let it do most of the same stuff as the iPhone 5.  No, it doesn’t have the slightly different body to let everyone know immediately that my phone is superior to theirs in every possible way. But I’m strong. I can manage. And, God willing, with the help of other Apple-aholics out there who are also fighting the urge to spend $700 on a slightly better phone just because it’s new and Apple makes it, I can resist the daily temptation to buy the iPhone 5. I know the craving won’t ever actually go away. But I just need to take it one day at a time.

That’s all any of us can do, right?

It’s been on sale for pre-orders for over a week now. I’ve made it a week so far.  And that’s longer than I ever thought I would be able to last. It’s been hard.  Especially because my dad ordered his right when they went on sale. And I was lying there in bed, staring at the ceiling, praying that I would have the strength to stay away from my MacBook.  Because I knew that as soon as I sat down at that screen, I wouldn’t be able to resist going to the Apple homepage and ordering that phone. But I’ve made it this far, and I keep hoping I’ll have the strength to resist even when I see other people with the new iPhone.

Damn you, Steve Jobs! I feel your icy grip clutching me from beyond the grave!

God, I want that phone.

Stolen from http://theoatmeal.com/comics/apple

Everything I know about cars, I learned from Springsteen songs. Help!

I know absolutely nothing about cars.

Okay, I guess that isn’t true, strictly speaking. I know how to drive them. I know that they run on gasoline. I know Bruce Springsteen likes to sing about them (even though he admits he doesn’t know that much about them either).  And I know that the second anything stops working in mine, I need to call my dad ASAP.

That is the full extent of my knowledge of cars.

I have no idea what goes on under the hood of my car. When I open it, it looks like an super-complicated game of Mousetrap, with lots of random doohickeys that make it run. But honestly, as far as I know, there could be little gnomes running on a hamster wheel who are REALLY the reason why my car goes when I push the gas pedal.

So when my “check engine” light came on last week, I did what any rational person would do.

I became convinced that my car was going to explode and began dictating a will to Siri. That’s legally binding, right?

Turns out, I just didn’t tighten the gas cap well enough the last time I filled my car up and apparently THAT causes a “check engine” light. But even once my father reassured me that no, my car was NOT going to explode (actually, his exact words were that it PROBABLY wouldn’t explode, which was somewhat less than reassuring), I still had to bring it to the dealership for them to reset the “check engine” light.

Luckily, I befriended the service manager at Toyota years ago, so that was a painless procedure. Until he reminded me that I need to get my car serviced before I drive it to Brooklyn to see the Gaslight Anthem in a couple of weeks. And unfortunately, it’s almost at 90,000 miles, which means that I needed to get the timing belt replaced.

I have no idea what any of that means. All I know is was going to cost me something like $1,100. Which is ELEVEN Springsteen shows! (Okay, not really. It’s three plus Ticketmaster charges. But in a perfect world, it’d be ELEVEN shows that I now can’t go to! Although in a perfect world, I’d be at ALL of the Bruce shows with no timing belt issues. I’d also be stick skinny, married to Leonardo DiCaprio, a world-famous author, and I’d have a shoe collection that would make Imelda Marcos’ look sparse. Clearly the world is not perfect.)

So, I cried a little, but agreed. Because I can’t afford a new car right now. And I DO love my car.

And in fact, I love my car more than ever now, because while it was in the shop, I drove my brother’s old Jeep.

Back in 1999 when my brother got the Jeep (from my uncle—it was already four years old then), he thought it was the hottest car on the planet. He pimped out the stereo system and you could literally hear him coming from about a mile away. Seriously. It was better than a LoJack.

Fast forward to Wednesday when my dad gave me the keys.

“We need to discuss a few things about driving it,” he said.

A few things turned out to be a lot more than I expected. For example there are warning lights on for parts of a car that I’ve never heard of. I don’t know what a rear cooling sensor is, nor do I know what it does or why it’s “bad.” Does it have tattoos and piercings? Does it need to go to the time out corner? And is it ACTUALLY okay to ignore it like my dad says it is?

The key fob works, he explained, but only if you’re trying to lock or unlock the rear passenger side door. It’s useless on all other doors.

The brakes are “slow,” he told me, “so leave about double the stopping distance you’d normally need.”

Air conditioning? Hah. That died years ago.

Planning to drive anyone else? Not a good idea. There used to be seats in the back, but they’re long gone.

Need to open the back hatch? Watch out because It doesn’t stay up. But there’s a pole in the back of the jeep that dad told me he uses to prop the hatch open with.

As he walked me through the basics of driving this relic of my brother’s adolescence, my eyes wandered to the spare tire holder, which looked oddly misshapen. “What’s wrong with the spare?”

“There is no spare. There are jumper cables and motor oil in there.”

“What happens if I get a flat tire?”

My dad just looked at me like I was an idiot. “Don’t get a flat tire.”

Needless to say, I was a little concerned by the time I got into the driver’s seat. Which wasn’t helped by the fact that I started the car, released the emergency brake, put it in drive, pressed the gas pedal and—nothing happened.

My dad knocked on the window and I rolled it down (THAT actually worked without me breaking out the 80s-style hand crank). “You have to put it in reverse for a second to go forward because the brakes lock up.” Silly me, I should have thought of that.

So, taking my life in my hands, I put it in reverse, then back into drive, and it mercifully lurched forward.

“This isn’t so bad,” I thought as I pulled away. It’s MUCH higher than my car and I DO like feeling tall.

That feeling of contentment lasted until I got it up to 30 miles per hour, at which point the car began to sound eerily like the Loch Ness Monster giving birth to a rabid elephant.

I quickly called my dad. “Is it supposed to sound like this?” I shouted over the car’s hideous cries of agony.

“Yup,” my dad said. “It’s fine.”

At which point, I realized that one of two things was going on. 1) My dad hates me and this was all part of a plan to kill me while making it look like an accident because there was NO WAY that this car was going to get me to and from school and the gym while mine was in the shop, or 2) the car ALWAYS sounded like that and we just couldn’t ever hear it over my brother’s subwoofers and ghetto fabulous music.

Right now, I’m leaning toward option 2, as the car DID safely get me where I needed to go. My hearing hasn’t quite recovered, but I’m pretty sure that old Nessie is either going to have that rabid elephant baby soon or else finally reach the end of her days. Nothing can make a noise like that for that long and live.

And my timing belt was replaced, so I’m back in my car with a new-found respect for the gnomes that keep it running so smoothly.

I’m poor. But I’m back in a hot car that actually works like a car is supposed to. Whatever that means.

And as my dad pointed out, if I ever DO want to run over that goose that stalks me in the mornings, I’m free to borrow the Jeep any time.

All workouts and no soda make Sara a cranky (but skinny!) girl…

It’s official. I’ve become one of THOSE people.

You know the people I mean. The ones who exercise with freakishly religious zeal. The ones who ONLY fill their shopping carts at the grocery store with organic fruits and veggies. The people who can, without needing to do any quick math, tell you IMMEDIATELY how many calories they’ve consumed so far today, as well as what their total daily caloric intake will be.

Yes.  I have become a skinny health nut.

I didn’t become one of THOSE people because I wanted to feel morally superior to the people who don’t work out, buy processed foods, and don’t know their daily calorie intake at this exact second—although don’t get me wrong, I DO feel superior to all of you who aren’t like that.  Massively so.  All of THOSE people do.  You were right about that.  We judge you. 

No, I made this lifestyle change because I promised myself that I would be a size 4 by summer. And I’m actually almost there. I’ve got probably another 5-7 pounds left to go, with another two months of school left and a month-and-a-half until the pool opens.

3 days before I got on the exercise/healthy eating wagon
Me last week… see the difference???

Yay me!

But I’m also finding myself at that dreaded plateau, where those last 5-7 pounds don’t seem to want to budge.  I’ve tried reasoning with them, I’ve tried yelling at them, I’ve even tried offering them a trip to Disney World (hey, it would work if someone wanted to get rid of ME!).  But to no avail.  Clearly, drastic measures are necessary, so it was time to give up my last remaining dietary vice.

Yes, boys and girls, I’m talking about my diet soda addiction.

For years, I ignored all of the articles/tv shows/doctors/health experts/random busybodies (cough Angela cough) who said that any soda, even diet, is bad for you. Because I love me some Diet Coke. And it has zero calories! Nothing with zero calories can be bad for you! (And no, no one who speaks German could be evil either.)

Anyone who has ever tried to lose weight knows that CALORIES are the enemy, not the artificial sweeteners and other delicious, cancer-causing ingredients.

Right?  I mean, why would they put the word “diet” in the NAME of the product if it wasn’t going to help you lose weight?  Who would do something like that?

And I NEEDED my soda.

Because if you know me at all, you know that I don’t drink coffee. (And if you don’t know me, but still know that I don’t drink coffee, that’s really creepy and please stop stalking me!) But I’m an inveterate insomniac and have a day job that starts at what I believe should technically still be termed “The Middle of the Freaking Night for God’s Sake.” Literally. When I rule the world, that’s what 7:25am will be called.

So for years now (never mind how many!), I’ve relied on two (okay, three or four) cans of Coke Zero to get me through until the time when normal people start their days. You know. Noon.

For me, that was the perfect amount of caffeine to keep me functional, but NOT enough to cause further sleep problems.

But coffee drinkers don’t understand that, as I learned when I went to the Meadowlands to see Bruce Springsteen with my dad last week. I drove both ways, as it was my spring break and my dad had to work the next day, but after hitting a mysterious traffic jam on the New Jersey Turnpike that Google Maps claimed didn’t exist but that lasted for an hour, and with three hours left to drive at 1am, I realized I was going to need some kind of a stimulant to help keep me awake on the road.

So we stopped at the Walt Whitman rest stop to get me a Diet Coke.

Perfectly confident in my abilities to make it safely home with that 32oz soda next to me, I got back in the car. My dad called my mom to give her an estimate on when he would be home, and I spoke to her for a couple of minutes as well (a little bit about the concert, but mostly bragging about how healthily I had eaten that day.  My mom is the skinniest person on the planet, so she was proud). And when I went to take a sip of my delicious, life-prolonging, energy-giving Diet Coke, I got only ice.  And that horrible watered-down soda remnant crap that you get when your soda is gone but you try to drink it anyway.

While I had been on the phone, my dad drank the whole soda. And because he single-handedly keeps Starbucks in business and literally has pure coffee running through his veins instead of blood, the caffeine in my soda did nothing for him.  Thirty seconds later, he was asleep.

At which point, I decided to kill him and leave his body in the swamps of Jersey.

Because if I learned anything from The Sopranos, it’s that that’s a pretty common occurrence in New Jersey and shouldn’t really raise any eyebrows.

But I love my dad. So even though I spent the next hour of the drive plotting his demise in gory detail, I didn’t act on it. Instead, I drank half of my emergency 5 Hour Energy that I keep in the car for just such situations.

And I haven’t slept since.

So, because I’m pretty sure I’m still hopped up on the caffeine from a week and a half ago, I realized that the time had come to lay off of the soda entirely to help reach my weight loss goals.

(Plus, the soda habit was getting expensive. I need to save my money for the really important things, like clothes that actually fit now that I’ve lost weight and tickets for when Bruce comes back around in the fall!)

And I have to admit that in addition to cutting out all of the additives that were going to kill me, cutting caffeine out as well has left me feeling…

AWFUL! All of those experts who said I’d feel so much better, what the hell are they smoking? I mean, yes, I get to feel that sense of superiority over all of those coffee and soda addicts out there, but…

Actually…hmm….

Never mind. I feel great.

You just might want to stay out of my way if you happen to see me before noon for the next couple of weeks. I’m still a little grumpy in the mornings.

But bikini season, here I come!