Our tour at Come-here-U

squirrelWelcome future Hedgehogs! My name is Ryan and I’m your tour guide for today. I’m a senior studying Medieval Organizational Strategy, with a minor in walking backwards while dressed like an academic Best Buy salesperson. I congratulate you on your wise choice in considering this wonderful university. After all, we’re the first land-grant medium-large institution in cities beginning with the letter T!

I’ll be showing you the highlights of our beautiful campus. Feel free to ask me any questions along the way. Chatting up the tour guide probably won’t help you get you the fat envelope, but it doesn’t hurt. Some of us have student loans, wink, wink.

Where are you all from? Come on people, this isn’t an AP exam. Wherever you’re from, you’re not alone. We have students from every state in the Union, including Alaska and Hawaii. Our representative from Montana graduates in June, however, so if you’re from Big Sky Country, our admissions office has an extra-large swag basket with your name on it.

Our tour begins here on the Academic oval, or as we call it, “The Beach.” Hel-lo Ladies. How are you doin? I love the smell of Hawaiian Tropic in the morning. Whoa! Watch out for the ongoing hacky sack tourney! One hundred thirty-two days and counting.

We have over 500 clubs here on campus , so there are plenty of diversions from actually studying. We even have a squirrel watching club, Quidditch team, and the autumnal leaf rakers. There’s plenty of grass to go around! The legal kind, of course.

For our more musical students, we have 67 a capella groups. They battle outside of the Union every afternoon.  My personal favorite is the Thelonius Monks—they use cue cards. That way they’re always in tune. Come on you stragglers, get those feet moving!

Our campus covers over 5000 acres. We have a transit system that can take you anywhere you want to go. Just show your student I.D. It’s all free!

Gather round, peeps. This is a statue of our first dean, Millard J. Phillpot. It’s a hedgehog tradition to goose his booty after you’ve graduated. No one leaves campus without a squeeze and a selfie. Don’t try it until you have that sheepskin—legend has it that if you jump the gun, Millard’s ghost will make sure you end up living in your parent’s basement until you’re thirty. Just ask my brother. Let’s roll!

This is the undergraduate library. There are books around here somewhere. At least that’s what I’ve been told. There is, however, a Starbucks and a Chipotle on every floor. Just swipe your student I.D. It’s all free! Guy’s gotta fuel up, know what I mean? But not today, we’re just passing through.

While we walk to McCready Hall, I’ll tell you about our study abroad program. There’s nothing like spending a semester in a foreign land. I myself spent a term in Belize, and my roommate studied French in St. Martin. Welcome to our university, now get out! Just kidding! I know you’re thinking, “what kind of Medieval Organization Strategy did they deploy in Central America?” All kinds! Who knew? Just pack your sunscreen.

Here, let me hold the door. Come on through. This is McCready Hall, home of our humanities department. You can tell by all of the marble busts of writer dudes. The main auditorium holds 600, but don’t worry—our average class size is 15. You’ll only have a large lecture hall for classes that end in a 0 or 1. And sometimes a 2. Or if it’s required for your major.

I hope our dean of admissions told you that we’re a premier research institution. Starting from freshman year our students have the opportunity to work for work for free for someone they aren’t related to. One of my buds got lost on the way to class and ended up on an archeological dig. He sends his laundry home on a weekly basis. The University has a shipping office in every dorm. Just swipe your student I.D. It’s all free!

Speaking of dorms, that’s our next stop!

We offer several housing options. Freshmen are typically placed on South Campus, which we affectionately refer to as Troll Village or The Sauna. The rooms are coed by floor, theoretically, with a communal bathroom. If the showers are full and you’re pressed for time, just flush a toilet. In universal student language, that means “sober up and get out.”

All dorms have wireless access to satisfy even your most avid Call of Duty operative, and we allow any appliance smaller than a convection oven. You can also rent a fridge so you have someplace to store your…mineral water. The building isn’t air conditioned, but every room is equipped with at least one functioning window.

After freshman year, we offer suite-style housing where two units share one bathroom. Each unit houses four students and includes a kitchenette and common area. It’s just like living at home—only Mom doesn’t nag you about the dirty dishes in the sink or the state of your bathroom. Over the summer, the university brings in a hazmat team to ready the rooms for another year of academic exploration.

This is a typical University Dining Hall. As you can see, they offer absolutely anything you can think of. We have a kosher section, vegan section, and the lacto/gluten/peanut-free section. And over there is the Nostalgia section, which serves hot chili fritos and hash seven days a week, and our ever-popular grill, The Freshman Fifteen.

During exams, the snack bar stays open all night for our hardworking students with a hearty supply of Red Bull and Pixie Sticks. Say it with me. Just swipe your student I.D. Yup, you got it. Free!

This is the study lounge. Don’t you love the leather sofas and the stone fireplace? It’s just like Hogwarts without the students. Imagine your son or daughter cozying up with a book around a roaring fire. Go ahead. Imagine it. Denial is healthy.

Each campus has its own recreational facility complete with basketball courts, an inside running track, a climbing wall, unisex hot tub, and 24/7 personal trainers. Just swipe your I.D. That’s right. Free!

Greek life is another option for post-freshman housing. I’m a member of Alpha Got Good Gamma, dedicated to good works, scholarly pursuits and rocking the weekend. We also have a number of students that rent apartments off-campus. Most apartments are furnished. Just sign a lease and move in. Don’t look under the cushions.

This brings us to our final stop—the Placement office. Because that’s what we’re all looking for, am I right? Rest assured, our placement rate is well over 90%, not including those students going on to graduate school.

What’s that? My major again? Medieval Organizational Strategy. Of course I have a job.  In the admissions office.

Thanks again for visiting us, and make sure to fill out the evaluation form in the back of your welcome packet. Good luck with your senior year, and I look forward to reading all of your applications! Go Hedgehogs.

Photograph : Squirrel on Campus by Corey Seeman © 2010 Creative Commons/Flickr

 

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The Ten Commandments for Using My Car

tencommandmentsI am the car owner, thy mother, and I have brought you out of my lady parts after eighteen hours and limited access to pain medication into the land of motor vehicles.

1. Thou shalt not drive when your judgment is  impaired in any way. At this rate, you might get to use the car when you’re thirty.

2. Thou shalt keep your hands on the wheel at all times. This includes texting, eating, and fondling your girlfriend or yourself. I know how well you multitask.

3. Your passengers shalt keep their hands off your wheel at all times (if you catch my drift). That only turns out well in the movies. In reality, say hello to the ditch. Not that I have personal experience with that.

4. You shalt not drink Caramel Frappuchinos in the vehicle.  Last week my steering wheel was stickier than a movie theater floor after The Spongebob Movie. This is especially true if you don’t have a Grande Skim Latte for your mother.

5. After picking up food at McDonald’s, thou shalt air out the car and spray with Febreeze (provided in trunk).  The same goes for dining at Chipotle, or after playing basketball in 90 degree heat. No, Axe does not take care of that.

6. Thou shalt not leave the radio turned up to 11 to scare the crap out your mother when she starts the car. If you do, when your friends come over, she will pipe NPR through the household audio system. Upon the second offense, she will rap Snoop Dogg. On the third, look out Beyonce–girl can dance. Or at least she will.

7. Thou shalt not leave discarded chewing gum in the cupholder. The same goes for straw wrappers, sunflower seed shells and used tissues. If you do, I shall instruct the cats to deposit their hairballs on your pillow.

8. Thou shalt not use my trunk as your laundry bin. If I find wet towels in my backseat, you will find your Dad’s dirty underwear in your beach bag.

9. Thou shalt not return the car on fumes. It’s only like leaving an empty Cheez-it box in the pantry, if running out of Cheez-its left you stranded on the shoulder of I-495. You have a gas card. Use it for something other than buying beef jerky from the convenience store.

10. The Golden Rule – Thou shalt treat the Prius as if it was your own, because someday, it may be. Because if this family gets a new car, it’s mine.

Just remember, if you want the keys to the kingdom, they’re in my pocket. My will be done.

Photograph – The Ten Commandments, by John Taylor © 2010 Creative Commons/Flickr

Learn to Love Cooking in 10 Easy Steps

wiskIs the daily grind of meal preparation getting you down?

Dinnertime used to make me want to impale myself with an instant-read thermometer. The heat. The mess. The complaints.
No more. I’ve changed my life, and so can you! Here are some handy tips to get you out of your doldrums and into the kitchen.

1) Drink.  Alcohol is a great stress reducer, and everything looks better after a glass of wine (not unlike dating). By the time the night is over,  you’ll be crowing “Bite this, Ina Garten.”

2) Make sure everyone else is drinking. Lowering one’s own expectations is only half the battle, unless you’re eating alone. This rule does not apply to children. That would be illegal. I looked it up.

3) Cook what you want to eat. You can’t please everyone, so please yourself. Develop a sense of Zen about hot sauce on delicately flavored entrees, selective ingredient-picking and sentences like “it’s not my favorite.” Practice saying “If you don’t like it, feel free to cook tomorrow.” Be prepared to follow through.

4) Just make the Mac and Cheese already. Not the Gruyere/Emmentaler version laced with truffle oil and lobster meant to “expand their palate”.  Kids don’t like anything that isn’t as orange as a stadium full of Dutch soccer fans. Accept this and you will know peace.

5) Get the right gear. Nothing says “I’m a real cook” more than having a potato ricer, a convection oven, and Dean and Deluca smoked sea salt in your kitchen. Even if you never use them.

6) Put on music. Cooking should be fun! It’s even more effective if you sing and dance along. Need an extra booster? Tell your teen son you’re going to “drop it like it’s hot,” or that the dinner recipe includes “Cup a Ace, Cup a Goose, Cup a Cris.” Snap a pic of his horrified face for future inspiration.

7) Get someone more competent to help you. Like playing tennis with an ace, working with a better cook raises one’s game. If you play your cards right, they’ll tell you to ditch the apron and let them take over because you’re totally useless.

8) Get someone less competent to help you. If something goes wrong in the kitchen, ask for help. Make sure to tell your dinner guests that “Bobby was SO helpful.” Put finger quotes around helpful. Non Est Mea Culpa.

9) Add butter. Because everything is better with butter. Cheese sauce, chocolate and sprinkles often work as well.

10) Tell your diners “It’s French.” Even if it’s chicken. Call it poulet. Quote Julia Child. If they look less than impressed, say things like “The French have such a refined palate,” and “Not everyone can appreciate true cuisine.” Poor creatures–fatally limited by their own lack of sophistication.

If the above ten steps don’t work, pull a Spinal Tap-worthy 11 and get take out. Better yet, do step one, then jump all the way to 11. Learn to Love Cooking in Two Easy Steps! As Martha Stewart says, “Now that’s a good thing.”

Photograph “The Instrument” by Sierra Blair © 2005 Creative Commons/Flickr

 

 

 

 

The exponential complexity of teenage dating

puzzleboxWatching the Dude negotiate his teen years, I’m reminded of some fundamental truths of  high school life.

1) You are not as dorky as you think you are. It all balances out over time.

2) Similarly, you are not as awesome as you think you are. It all balances out over time.

3) There is some subject you hate because you think it’s confusing and useless, and you’ll end up needing it some day. For me, it was logarithmic functions. I was fifteen years into my research career, and I was like, really? Now? This is why I became a writer.

4) Combination locks were invented by a sadist. So were logarithmic functions.

5) Dating sucks. Having a boyfriend/girlfriend is very nice. The road to there, however, is convoluted, confusing and no matter what you do, it’s the wrong thing. Sort of like logarithmic functions.

Social life at my son’s high school works like a puzzle box. He must move the pieces in precise order and placement for the top to open, and just when he thinks he’s got it right, someone adds another layer of complexity. You can only use one hand. Touch the wrong piece and and the box resets. The box holds another puzzle box.

I remember the teen caste system as pretty unforgiving. The Dude is in a good place. He has nice friends and seems to move across social strata without much trouble, yet like many teens still feels on the outside looking in a lot of the time. Come to think of it, many adults feel that way too.

He’s counting on college to be different. After all, he’ll have no parental supervision. I reminded him that we sent him to a four week Spanish language program over the summer where it appeared he had very little supervision, and by the looks of the Facebook pictures from the week, plenty of girls to pick from. In fact, given the No English policy, if he’d dated a girl from the French camp, he wouldn’t even have had to talk to her.

“Mom, no one hooks up at camp.”

Generations of band camp attendees beg to differ.

I told him that it gets better. After all, his father and I found each other at a big group event where the Venn diagram of our social circles had an intersection of one person. That’s all it takes. I look for hope and understanding in his face and all I see is you had choices and ended up with each other? I’m not sure if I should be offended or not.

It could also be worse. Malia Obama went to her first prom. Her secret service agents wore ties that matched her dress. Dating is hard enough without having to introduce a young man to your father, the Commander-in-Chief. Your parents are only Prius-driving dorks that use the term “Venn diagram” in regular conversation.

The thing about a puzzle box, is that you just have to try until you find the combination that works. It will open in its own time, when you least expect. It only feels like it goes on and on without end. Sort of like a logarithmic functions. On second thought, maybe you ought to talk to your father.

Photograph : “A Mystery Box” by RBerteig © 2007 Creative Commons/Flickr

Blessed or screwed, I’ve got it twice over

IMG_0656According to my husband, Winter Storm Pax was entirely my fault.

When my son was home on his third straight snow day, I aired my grievance to management.

“Mother Nature,” I shouted, “Go **** yourself. Twice.”

Around here, mothers have each others’ backs. If Mother Nature lived in my neighborhood, the Mommy Mafia would have sent her to sleep with the goldfishes days ago. Nothing diminishes the affection for one’s children like extended periods of close proximity.

My husband clamped his hand over my mouth. “Are you crazy?” His eyes held the crazed look of a man contemplating another five hours behind a snow blower. He whispered. “She might hear you.”

Being subjected to repeated queries regarding “what do we have in the house to eat?” diminished my sympathy.

“I wouldn’t mind as much if I had a mudroom,” I said. My husband sighed. It’s a sore point for me. When we bought our house he said it wouldn’t matter because it doesn’t snow in Virginia. I guess he should have checked with Mother Nature before making that assertion.

So when the Weather Channel sounded the alarm, the accusations flew. “You did this. I warned you.”

I was the picture of innocence. “I wished her sex. Twice. Who doesn’t want that?”

My husband said, “I wouldn’t mind sex once.”

“Which you might get if your son wasn’t following me around all day asking if there’s anything to eat in the house.”

Still, the aftermath of Pax was beautiful, the vibrant blue singular to evening snow contrasting with the golden pools cast by the landscaping lights. The world was hushed, like everything had stopped to admire the view.

“Let’s take a walk,” I said. We put on our gear and strolled hand-in-hand down the middle of the street. The light bounced off the snow on the ground and in the air, almost bright enough to read by.

When we returned from our wandering, we saw a message scrawled into the snow on the driveway.

Never Surrender.

My son popped up from his hiding place and pelted us with snowballs. I wondered how long he had lain in wait, especially when I noticed that he was wearing shorts and a tee shirt. When the battle was over, my husband and son went inside, but I hung back a moment.

“Try not to get snow all over the floor,” I shouted. “I don’t have a mud room.” My husband shook his head.

I took a deep breath. My son would be home again tomorrow.

“Hey Mother Nature,” I called into the silence.

“Thank you. Twice.”

 

She is one mean Mother

IMG_0656I grew up in Michigan. I lived in Chicago for ten years, and in Boston for another five. I should be able to laugh in the face of winter. Instead, winter is laughing at me. We’ve had a record number of snow days and late school starts this year, and I suspect we aren’t done yet.

After cursing out the weatherman, I thought perhaps I was being unfair, shooting the messenger. So I went to the source.  I told Mother Nature to go **** herself, twice.

Remember that old Chiffon commercial? Let’s just say she was not pleased.

Jeannine, are you telling me how to do my job? I’m just asking because I know how much you like it when people tell you how to do yours.

I didn’t tell you how to do your job. I merely gave you a suggestion for how to spend your free time.

Just for that, I’m going to wait until your husband is in Las Vegas and let ‘er rip. You do know how to run the snowblower, don’t you?

I have a tendency to flood the engine. Every time. Anyhow, isn’t this what I had children for?

Does your son know how to run the snowblower?

Come to think of it, the Dude doesn’t know how to run the dishwasher and all he has to do is push one button.

Then I’d be a little more judicious about tossing around pejoratives if I was you.

Aren’t you getting a little bored of snow, day after day? I know I am. Variety is the spice of life, right? I’d love a little caliente right now.

Fine, I’ll toss in a little sleet, just for fun. You do have your tree guy on speed dial, don’t you?

That’s just cruel.

Think of it as family time. A stay-cation in Siberia.

At this rate, my son will be in school until July.

At which point you’ll thank me.

Fair point.

Until then, I’ll take your suggestion, sort of.

I’m not following.

Why go **** myself when it’s so much more fun to **** with you. Oh look, it’s snowing! Isn’t it pretty? Call off school!

Can this get any worse?

Hey Mom! Is there anything in the house to eat?

I had to ask.

Maybe someday you’ll learn to keep your thoughts to yourself.

I’ll get right on that. After I clear out the driveway.

 

J.B. Everett