For the last three weeks, I've had the responsibility to make sure this cute thing stays alive. Given my past (and only) experience with dogs (one lasted in my house less than 72 hours), I was slightly concerned for Charlie. But not concerned enough to skip out on the gig. A big house with a dog, a pool, and a lounge chair -- what's not to love?
It turns out, I am a dog person. A very specific dog person, but a dog person nonetheless. I almost typed dog girl. No, no. Not the picture of myself I want to paint.
During this time, I've read three books and nearly finished a fourth. Reading is infinitely better with a dog at your feet. It instantly changes your social life from "loner girl who stays home to read" to "Sorry, I have plans with Charlie" (and this incredible book I can't put down). What was on the reading list? Glad you asked.
Inside the Kingdom: my life in Saudi Arabia by Carmen bin Laden. Yes, that bin Laden. Oh my goodness this book was incredible. She's Persian (not Parisian. sheesh) but spent much of her life in Europe and the United States. Married a Saudi whose brother was Osama. Moved to Saudi Arabia, wore the burqa, and believed she could make a difference for women in that society. This book is why I read. Reading takes you places you could never go otherwise. Three evenings and a fluffy dog, you can knock this book out. I'm still processing all I read. When I finish Kabul Beauty School: an American woman goes behind the veil, I might do a little joint book report. If you have read these books or want to, let's have tea and talk about it!
Cruising Attitude: tales of crashpads, crew drama, and crazy passengers at 35,000 feet by Heather Poole. Hilarious book. If you fly a lot, it's even funnier because we have all been on flights with passengers like the ones she describes. Once, I was on a trans-atlantic flight when a guy across the aisle from me kept coughing his phlegm into the emergency brochure and then stuffing it back into the seat back pocket. He picked his nose a lot too, but that seems minor in comparison. Here's a fun fact I discovered: flight attendants hate serving Diet Coke because goes down the slowest. So if you see me ordering Diet Coke, you know the flight attendant was rude and it's my way of getting back.
Presumed Guilty - Casey Anthony: the inside story by Jose Baez. Of course I read this. It's a big ol' book where Baez whines that everyone is against him. The police hate him. The media hates him. Judge Strickland hates him. Judge Perry hates him. Jeff Ashton hates him (but this is okay because Baez hates him, too). At one point, he compares himself to David. As in, David and Goliath. As in, the David who fought Goliath in the name of the Lord, so that everyone would know there is a God in Israel. Except Baez left that part out. The whole case was a circus: a mesmerizing circus. He was right on one point: this was a case where there were no winners. Except for Prosecuting Attorney Linda Drane Burdick. Her character is impeccable. And for the opposition to work with you for 3+ years and not have a single speck of dirt to say about you, that is remarkable indeed. Hats off to you, Linda.
I'm sitting on my back porch listening to bottle rockets, fireworks, and who knows what else launch into the air. I'm a bit of a purist, so this business of shooting fireworks before it's even dark out and celebrating Red, Hot, and Boom an entire day early is a tad irritating. I started my morning reading the Declaration of Independence (which, along with the U.S. Constitution is a free app for your iPhone or iPad) and paid a little tribute to the glorious treasure of Americana -- Mayberry. That's right, watched three episodes of the Andy Griffith Show. Ol' Barney. What a hoot. Did you see the one where he joined the Mayberry choir? Hilarious.
It's worth mentioning that I hate fireworks.
Yesterday I discovered something even more life changing than ordering toilet paper and toothpaste from Amazon Prime. Right to your front door, people. Try it. Your world will never be the same again. Ready? Kindle books on the iPad on the elliptical in the air conditioning in a gym. Free kindle books from the library. In a gym with fit, attractive men. Are you hearing me? I can read and work out at the same time!!! I can't vouch for the intensity of this workout, but I can tell you that I only have 40% left to read in my book. Page numbers. That was so 2011.
Moving inside before I get hit by a stray bottle rocket. This neighborhood is nuts.
So this book I'm reading, You Are a Writerby Jeff Goins, basically says that to be a writer, you need to write. He also says you need to physically write the phrase "I am a writer" on a sheet of paper every single day and told us to in the book. I took my right hand off the elliptical handlebar and wrote it, all fancy and cursive like, in the air. No I didn't.
Hence, this blog. Fingers crossed, you'll be hearing from me more often (or maybe your fingers are crossed that you won't be hearing from me more often. Hmm.) The fact is, I do want to be a writer. If you have tips, advice, things you want me to write about on here, please let me know! Until then, I leave you a patriotic ditty and my favorite Sam the Eagle quote "A Salute to All Nations, but mostly America."
I ran the IOA Corporate 5k tonight along with 13,000 other people committed to health, wellness, and matching company t-shirts. And this addition of chewy granola bars at the finish line is a real morale booster for me, I have to say.
But now I plead to you, dear readers, for advice. I've written before that running is a mental game. So much so that I have read several books on the matter, faithfully borrow Runner's World each month from the library, and even have a running board on Pinterest. Yet all of these quotes and techniques and statistics didn't help me one bit when my shoes hit the pavement and I wanted to quit. Because I did quit. Apparently, my motto is if you're not walkin', then you're not running.
I always have one goal in mind when I go out for a run: to run again. This is great for the long view, but not so helpful if you, say, want to win.
Tonight's goal was simple: finish in under 30. In all fairness, this was a poor goal. I achieved that goal roughly the same time I started measuring & timing myself. So what did I do? You guessed it! Quit! I was able to quit running so many times and still was able to shave about 2 minutes off the goal time. So I finished with these conflicting emotions of feeling like a winner but with the tormented soul that only comes from knowing you didn't give your best. And that, my friends, is why Track Shack gives you free beer at the end of the race. A bubbly balm in Gilead.
So do you have advice? Tips? How do you trick your mind into pushing yourself when you know you don't have to?
Editorial update: in full disclosure and in the spirit of harmony and goodwill, it is worth stating clearly that the visa process between the United States and Brazil is one of reciprocity. In other words, whatever the United States imposes on Brazilian citizens, Brazil will impose on United States citizens. To read what Brazilians must go through to get a visa to the US, click here. It is a doozy. No side has the upper hand. It is also worth mentioning that I personally know people who have been denied visas to the United States simply because of their age, nationality, or marital status. These issues are complex and political. It is not uncommon for many people around the world to wait months to acquire a visa and still need to fly to a neighboring country to reach the nearest embassy, only to be denied upon arrival. Just today I read about a nomadic ethnic group that continues to be denied citizenship and therefore without rights. These are complex issues that demand serious attention. I welcome your thoughts in the comments section below.
I'm going to Brazil in a couple of weeks and even though the Brazilian tourism website tells us it's the #1 most requested visa destination for Americans, it's easier to eat a hamburger in India than it is to get a visa for this country. Which goes to show you: never underestimate the power of American ingenuity and perseverance when it comes to lounging in string bikinis on the white sand beaches of Rio.
In case you decide to visit this wonderful country, allow me to give you a few tips:
Be sure to start off with the Official Brazilian Embassy website. You will know if you have reached the correct place if the site looks like this:
Silly me, the Embassy is in Washington, D.C. Instead, you need to visit your local consulate. In my case, that would be Miami. While getting your visa, you can also check out some nice Brazil girls for dating.
If you still do not know what you need for a Brazilian visa, be sure to check out the State Department website. It's full of all sorts of helpful information, like where to avoid "quicknappings" and to be on the lookout for robbers and rapists who slip drugs into your drinks.
In my research and personal experience, I discovered the following paperwork is needed to acquire a Brazilian visa. Note: depending on the time of day, person you are speaking with, and alignment of certain planetary objects, each piece may or may not be needed. And you won't know if it is or not.
3 months of paychecks
Social Security number
Letter of invitation in Portuguese
Letter of introduction by US company
Notarized letter of introduction
Drivers License of your employer who is not going to Brazil
Purchased airline ticket
Yellow Fever shot
Printed web form written in Portuguese
2x2 photo stapled
2x2 photo glued
Postage paid envelope
Home utilities bill
Once I accumulated all the necessary paperwork and entrusted my most personal information to the FedEx guy, I thought I was home free. Two days later, I was informed by the outrageously expensive visa handling people that they did not have enough time to process my visa and my only option was to drive to Miami or cancel the trip. Then, they charged me $134.85 to mail my paperwork back to me. With that kind of money, I want the FedEx guy to show up in his purple shorts at my desk. Preferably with flowers.
And so, yesterday I piled in a Toyota Highlander with 4 others and we made the trek to Miami, Florida--the city that can either be described as the armpit of America or the one that puts the fun back in dysfunctional. You pick.
It should be noted that the Brazilian Consulate does not have an address that can be picked up on any GPS, they don't answer their telephone, but if you walk into enough tall buildings and speak Spanish to a security guard, you're bound to find it. It should also be noted that you must pay for the visa in exact change--but no cash or credit card is allowed. Instead, insert your money into an ATM machine that wires directly to the Bank of Brasilia. For Americans, $141. If you're from Singapore, you can sneak in for twenty bucks.
Most importantly, the Brazilian Consulate is open only two hours a day. And they do not take appointments. Which means my next job is definitely to work at the nearest consulate.
When you arrive at the Consulate, you will receive a red ticket with a sharpie marker number scratched on the back. If it looks like a ticket you would receive at a county fair, then you are an excellent observer. Do not use your telephone in the room. The only exception to this is if you are a woman and the security guard thinks you're cute. In that case, talk loudly.
While you are waiting in this windowless room, sitting in government issued plastic chairs, be sure to admire the oversized framed posters of Brazilian beaches. Of course, it could also be Hawaii. Difficult to tell.
And so, the journey to get a Brazilian visa is nearing the homestretch. All that effort and I still did not come back with one. Hopefully, my passport will be stamped in five to seven days. And I'm going to be on the lookout for that FedEx guy.
Dark eyes, military shaved cut, and a brown leather satchel bag. He had 13B and I was holding lucky ticket number 13A.
Whereas most people would greet a fellow seat mate with a friendly "hello" or better "Would you like to take the aisle?", this guy gives me the once over and says "You don't seem like a cuddler." Stunned, I did what any self-respecting girl would do. I pulled out my iPhone and posted it on facebook.
I should have been offended. At the very least, I should have flirted. But, you see, refer back to point A. Dark eyes. Military cut. Brown messenger bag. This guy could do no wrong. And then he offered to share his USB port with me. In the traveler's world, he who has power, is god. And he shared his power with me. The lowly turtleneck and leggings wearing non-cuddler.
When the meals came (he's gluten free), he offered up his banana. While I enjoyed pasta and brownies, he endured rice cake after rice cake. I like to think we bonded over the Nutella packets he snuck on the plane. But the real excitement came when we realized we were both headed to Addis Ababa. What are the odds that two people in Minneapolis would be flying all the way to Ethiopia? I can only name eight other people who were doing that same route. At this point I realized if true love was going to happen, then we had between 15-17 hours to make it so. I was up to the challenge.
He shared his sour patch kids with me. That's almost like kissing.
He noticed me in the KLM lounge and casually asked if I used Google Voice to text. That's almost like asking for my number.
On the next flight, he winked at me from his seat a few rows up. Surely there's a Michael Bolton song about that.
And then he gave the dreaded fist bump. The only thing worst than a fist bump is a side hug. And maybe Typhoid.