VM Excellent

Things to Bring You Back

Ha!  I don't know why I chose the title I did.  I think I just wanted to sound cool.  Anyway, I know it has been way too long since my last "real" post.  I wish I had some grand explanation for why I once again got out of the habit for updating my journal.  I could blame it on The Why Five or the job starting back up but neither would be true.  Maybe a lack of inspiration with a side of laziness is the best way to explain things.  Of course, it doesn't really cover why I have been absolutely horrible at keeping up with everyone else's journals.  Well, I guess the laziness thing would kind of cover that too. 

I am seriously going to try and work on this.  And I will just need to set aside a Saturday or something for blog reading.  Some of you may start seeing comments on entries that you posted ages ago.  Don't worry about responding...I'm just catching up.

So...despite the laziness and whatever, I just had to break the non-posting habit because of giddiness and overall awe.  Just recently, I have started seeing icons that I have made, appearing in certain LJ communities and as an avatar for a message board I participate in.  My icons!  It's unreal.  I'm waiting for the day when I can come across a comment or post somewhere - sporting a sayanything76 icon - and think nothing of it.  Won't be happening for a while though.  I'm still firmly in the "OMG! SQUEE!" stage.

In trying to get better at the whole icon making business, I joined an icontest community where they give you a picture or a topic and you make icons accordingly.  Everyone votes and the top icons are announced.  Well, the last contest included a category for coming up with the community's default icon.  And guess what?  My icon won!!  No joke!  There were 7 other icons included in this category and my icon received half of all the votes submitted.  So now, every time I visit the site, I get a good look at my icon.  And honestly, the icon is nothing spectacular IMO but it still makes me smile.

So yeah, I'm flying a little high right now (even though I know that this is really just a silly little thing to be soo excited about).  Enough so that I updated my LJ.  Hopefully this will be enough to get me back into writing...period.
Oh Noes

An Important PSA

For those of you with kids, here is an important PSA message that every family should see. Speak to your kids about Cooties....before Cooties speak to them first.

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  • Current Music
    Dance, Dance - Chipmunk Style
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Mary Janes

Cat on the Run

So for a while now, John and I had been thinking that we should get another cat as a playmate for Catherine.  Although Catherine the Great is steadily growing out of her biting, aggressive, kitty phase, we still thought it might be good for her to have another cat around to pal around with and help her use up some of her energy.  So, John's animal loving friends have been great with informing us of potential cats in need of homes but nothing has ever panned out.  Well yesterday, our friend Kim found a cat on the streets with no home and thought it might be a good fit for the Deck family.  After having the cat in her own home for about 2 days, Kim really took a liking to the cat but because she has 2 dogs, thought this black cat would feel more at home in a place with another cat.  Boy was she wrong.

Just for a minute, we will ignore that Catherine and the black cat couldn't seem to get along (mostly from Catherine's dislike of the intruder).  For almost the entire time she was here, this black cat kept hanging out by our sliding door gazing longingly outside.  John tried interacting with the cat but it was pretty content laying around (in one of Catherine's favorite spots no less) looking as if it would rather be outside than in the house with us.  We should have taken this more seriously.

For dinner John and I decided to pick up a pizza from Monical's.  As John opened the sliding door to get inside, the black cat ran across the room, out the door, and took off down the street as if its life depended on it.  There was nothing we could do.  It was soo fast!  Because Kim had found the cat milling around outside, John and I wondered if maybe it just wanted to stay outside and wasn't too pleased with us trying to take away its freedom.

Kim however had a hard time with this and asked John if he would help her look for the cat.  They must have looked around for a good hour and a half before Kim sadly gave up.  John didn't however.  Because Kim was soo broken up over the runaway cat, he looked for about another half hour.  He was freezing by the time he ended his search.  I have never seen his ears look so red.    Luckily...his search payed off.  Not too far from our place, John was able to locate the other cat and bring it back home.  After a quick call to Kim, he decided to secure the cat in Catherin's carrier so that it wouldn't have the chance to escape again.  Kim wanted to take the cat home with her (which was really the best choice to begin with) so we definitely needed the cat to stay put.  John went with Kim to buy some essential cat supplies and now Kim is all set up to properly take care of her new kitty.

After this entire experience, John and I have decided maybe Catherine will be just fine on her own.  She really is getting better as she gets older.  Plus, it was soo cute to see her "behave like a laid back cat" when the other cat was around.  Cuddling up to us as if to show us that she could be a good cat too if we just gave her the chance.  Of course now that the cat is gone (and she has reclaimed all of her favorite spots), she has become a little more "playful" in her interaction with us.  But honestly, she has us wrapped around her little paw.  Catherine comes first and so no other pet will enter our home unless she deems it okay.  Its a crazy thing that.
Mary Janes

I'm In A Band!

Okay...I'm not really in a band. At least not in the actual sense. But I have spent a good chunk of Thanksgiving weekend pretending with John and a friend of ours.

This year for Christmas, John and I decided that we were only going to get each other 1 big present from our wish list. Instead of buying each other a bunch of little things, we were going to save our money and get each other something really nice or something we were really wanting. For me, I want a notebook computer. For John however, he wanted the new Rock Band game to help break in his new PS3 he received for his birthday. Well actually, the PS3 should have been the Christmas present and Rock Band the birthday gift but the timing on release dates didn't really cooperate. And since Rock Band had to be pre-ordered in order to get the special discounted price, John went to pick up his game just before Thanksgiving Day. Of course I didn't expect him to know that the game was in the house but simply wait an entire month before he could play it. I mean, that would be expecting him to view this as an adult and not a little boy with a new toy. ;)

But enough rambling. John didn't wait and so this weekend has been spent trying the game out. For anyone who is familiar with any of the Guitar Hero games, Rock Band is like the next step up in music gaming. For anyone not familiar with Guitar Hero, you basically use a controller in the shape of a guitar with 5 buttons and a strum bar - and you have to hit notes that are coming towards you on the screen. Really, it's like Dance Dance Revolution only with using your fingers. The later versions of Guitar Hero also have a bass mode and multi-player is two people playing against each other to see who can rock the hardest and get the better score. (Of course there is more to the game but that is the basic gist of it.) With Rock Band however, the game is made for multi-playing with spots for a guitarist, a bassist, a singer, and a drummer. In the kit John got, the game came with 1 guitar/bass controller, a mic, and a drum kit that has a set-up that is a good simulation for an actually drum kit. There is a kick petal and everything. Of course John as a drummer, was most excited about this addition.

Without getting into things much, the game is best played with you and up to three of your friends forming a band together and going on tour while trying to play through the songs included in the game. The singer doesn't really have to know how to sing but they do have to stay as close to pitch and phrase rhythm as possible depending on the difficulty level. The drummer really drums as well. Game play for drums is pretty much the same as the guitar/bass but it feels much more real as you are actually using a kick petal and wooden drumsticks to hit 4 different drum pads.

So anyway, John and I have only played with one other person so far. I can't begin to tell you how fun and addicting this game can be. Although I have my favorites - the mic and bass guitar - the three of us took turns on all of the "instruments". And I have to say, that on a couple of songs where we each played our best instrument, it really did feel as if we were an actual band. It was such a cool feeling. The game even has fans singing along with you (and the original singer depending on mic volume) when your band is doing well. Also, when band members mess up, it can sound just as it would for a garage band just starting off. The drums and guitar/bass parts only play in the real song if you are hitting the notes given to you on the screen. There were definitely times when we sounded rough.

Overall, I think that John's Christmas present will be well used this next month. We have some friends who are excited about trying this out and can't wait until we share. There are already mini holiday parties planned and this is definitely a party game.
  • Current Music
    All the rock band songs that keep playing in my head
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Oh Noes

Thankfully Wrong

So John and I went to see Regina Spektor at the St. Louis Pageant Theatre with a friend of John's. The concert itself was great despite the loud drunk singers behind us, the ultra chatty women in front of us, or the 45 minute wait in between the opening act and Regina. Once Regina came on stage she totally rocked.

Unfortunately, the concert experience was almost completely ruined by a simple idiotic act on my part. Right before the opening act Kim (John's friend) and I went into the restroom. As I am sometimes wont to do, I took off my wedding rings before I washed my hands. Do you see where this is going? Yes, I stupidly got distracted and forgot to put my rings back on after drying my hands. I simply left them right there on the ledge above the sink.

So, it wasn't until 25 minutes into the opening singer's set that I realized that my hand was a little bare. And of course, my heart starts racing uber fast. Without saying a word I go back into the restroom praying that my rings are still there but having that horrible sinking feeling that they aren't. Of course - they aren't. So then I had to go to John and tell him that I left my wedding rings in the bathroom where they no longer seem to be. John with the ever so cool head tells me not to panic and then goes with me to talk with one of the security guards to see if there is a lost and found and if anyone had turned in the rings.

The story fortunately has a happy ending as the guy we talked to said that someone had just turned the rings in and then proceeded to direct us to the guy who would lead us to the lost and found area. After very little effort my rings were back on my hand and I only needed to feel embarrassment and thankfulness at the entire situation.

I was soo sure that my rings were gone forever. My faith in someone having the kindness and decency to turn them in was very low. But I am soo glad that I was proven wrong and that people are a lot more honest than I thought. Thank God for that. Thank God for that indeed.

  • Current Music
    Pam Pong - Sweet Diss and the Comebacks
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Sam in Headphones

My Life In Random Music

If Your Life Was A Movie, What Would The Soundtrack Be?

So, here's how it works:

1. Open your library (iTunes, Winamp, Media Player, iPod, etc)
2. Put it on shuffle
3. Press play
4. For every question, type the song that's playing
5. When you go to a new question, press the next button
6. Don't lie and try to pretend you're cool...

Opening Credits:
Ammunition by Switchfoot
I can actually see this being the opening for some teen movie.  Don’t really think I would pick this for my personal opening credit but I wouldn’t mind it being somewhere in my life movie.

Waking Up:
Perfect Day by Hello Dave
This one makes me laugh.  The beginning of the song would have seemed a little more appropriate years ago when I actually had to go in to work for THE MAN!  But it is a great song for “Waking Up.”

First Day At School:
Come Awake by David Crowder Band
Okay, this would have been better as my “Waking Up” song.  But what can you do?  I can see this working as a first day of school song if you stretch it a little.  A nice song of motivation for a generation that can rise up and change the world. 

“Rise, rise, rise, rise….
Shine, shine, Oh shine
We will shine
We will rise
We will shine, shine, shine”

Falling In Love:
Marvelous Things by Eisley
I think I am getting lucky with the songs.  Again, not a song I would have picked personally but I can see it being appropriate for the heading.

Fight Song:
Too Much by Dave Matthews
This could be my pump up song.  This would be playing during the montage of me training and getting ready for the fight.

Breaking Up:
Meet Me Under the Mistletoe by Harry and the Potters
Oh My!  Well, maybe my breakup moment happens right before I ask Ginny Weasley to meet me under the mistletoe for a short snog.  Or I break up with my boyfriend because he catches me snogging Ginny.  Oh wait!  In the song, “Harry” wants for Ginny and Dean to break up.  So maybe this isn’t about my break up but about hers.  Who knows…

#41 by Dave Matthews with Tim Reynolds
Again with the Dave Matthews.  I thought this thing was suppose to be random.  Well, it has a lot of dance references like “waltzing back” and “do you wish a dance.”  Don’t quite know what I think of this yet.

Say Won’t You Say by Jennifer Knapp
I can get behind this.  Not a bad “Life” song at all.

Mental Breakdown:
Christmas Time Is Here (Charlie Brown Christmas Instrumental) by Vince Guaraldi Trio
Oh this is too funny!  Not at all the mental breakdown song for me.  I guess the feel of it could be used for a scene of me all alone in a bar somewhere drowning my sorrows. During Christmas.

Hummingbird by Wilco
Another good song selection.  I can totally see myself driving to this.

“His goal in life was to be an echo
Riding alone, town after town, toll after toll
A fixed bayonet through the great southwest to forget her”

By and By by Jennifer Knapp
This is making it look as if I only have a couple of artist stored on my computer.  Anyway, this song is a great flashback song for me.  Not as old school as I was hoping but it really was a song that I listened to often right when I was coming out of my depression.  The Way I Am had just come out and I played that CD constantly.  It was a total encouragement for me.

Getting back together:
Diamond in the Rough by Jennifer Knapp
Oh come on!! That’s three songs from Knapp.  Well, maybe I have one of those independent movies that famous actors loved so much they decided to be in it for almost nothing.  And then Knapp heard about the project and said she would love to work on the soundtrack.  Can’t say that I would mind.  Not one bit.

Today by Smashing Pumpkins
Not a wedding song at all.  The lyrics start off promising but…

Birth of Child:
I Want to Live in a Dream (Remix) by Clearlake

Final Battle:
These Apples by Barenaked Ladies
Nope, not a good final battle song in the least.  That’s 3 badly chosen songs in a row.  Excuse me while I have a little talk with my media player.

Death Scene:
Answer Me by Jennifer Knapp
Yep, it’s official.  Jennifer has agreed to do the soundtrack for the movie.  I could think of a better song for this scene.  She’s got a few that I would love to use.  But I will trust her on this.

Funeral Song:
Stars by The Weepies
Well, my funeral will be comforting and mellow.  I love The Weepies so maybe this scene can have them actually playing at the funeral.  Naw – that might be overkill.

End Credits:
Come In by Sarah Masen
Nice!  This would be a great ending song.  I'm in Heaven at this point (yea!) and the song could be awesome for not only summing up parts of my movie life, but a little commentary on my welcome into eternity.  Perfect!


Work Talk

Trying to describe what I do for a job can sometimes get a little complicated if not wordy.  Not because what I do is soo complicated but because it is not a conventional job.  Telling people that I was a secret shopper and explaining about the different types of shop assignments I did seemed to be a little easier for people to understand.  I go to some place of business (from restaurants to apartment complexes) and pretend to be a customer or whatever.  I would pay attention to what happened during my visit and then report my findings.  There were of course different things I had to pay attention to depending on the shop.  And some shops only required me to take pictures and note the conditions of things without having to actually talk to anyone.

The problem with these sort of shops for me had everything to do with the area in which I live.  Springfield isn't a huge place in terms of shop assignments and so the competition to get the prime shops available was brutal.  I didn't work as much as I wanted and the pay for most of the shops in this area weren't as great either.  Though I definitely noticed an increase in pay the more assignments I took.  And because my reputation as a good, competent shopper was noted, assignments did start coming to me.

And that in fact was how I became aware of my current job.  Technically, it falls under the heading of secret shopping and I am contracted just as I was while doing standard shops.  I am still not sure how my status as a shopper was obtained because the assignments are through a company that I had never worked with prior to the offer.  But nevertheless I was asked to apply and so I did.

So what do I do?  Well, for anyone who has worked in a call center before, this will make a lot more sense.  I am contracted through a company called Consumer Research Group (CRG) to make phone calls and then evaluate those calls.  The twist however, is that everyone knows about the calls and that they will be evaluated.  See, a very well known computer company has "centers" located in several places in the US and a few out of the country.  Whenever each "center" has a training class, they schedule training for practice calls so that the agents will get experience dealing with different scenarios they may face once they actually start taking real calls.  Depending on the sales division, each class with go through 3 - 6 different scenarios, ranging in difficulty and are evaluated according to the standards set up for whatever department they are training for.  There are 4 different sales' divisions trained and each division has it's own set of scenarios and standards.  Each division also has a schedule for which the calls are to take place.  One division handles all of their call training in one day while one happens over a 2 day period and the last two over a 3 day period.  For each agent I speak with, I evaluate their performance and write up a report.

That's the overview of what I do.  With a little bit of detail.  If you want to get into more detail about how this actually works, you can read more behind the cut.

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I can't tell you how thankful I am to have this job right now.  Not only do I get to work from home, but I also have the option of opting out of a call set if needed without any penalty (unless I say I am available and back out at the last minute).  I get to make my own schedule to a certain extent.  The pay is nice and I work every day of the week except weekends and most Tuesdays.  The call sets are consistent for most of the year except for December and January but then I can go back and do regular mystery shops to help out.  Most of the women who work still do some of their favorite mystery shops year round.  They just don't sign up for call sets during other assignment times. 

John and I are thinking of moving within the next year or two and I don't have to worry about finding a new job because I can do this from anywhere with a computer, internet connection, and a phone.  I just have to change address information and let them know where to send the check.  It took me a very long time to be in the place I am at right now and I am praying that I can continue doing this for a long time.
  • Current Music
    Right on Track - As song by kids Incorporated
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OMG no way

Football Fever

So I meant to post this yesterday but got caught up in...whatever and didn't get around to it. And honestly, it's not like it's some big important topic. But it is about an odd behavior for me so I thought I would share.

Sunday...John and I met some friends at a sports restaurant (famous for their wings) and watched the Colts vs. Patriots football game. The weird part? The outing was my idea and I was actually cheering for a team. It's still a little surreal for me. But after spending two Sundays ago with John while he watched a couple of football games (the Bears and then the Patriots), I found myself enjoying the time with him and asking him to explain some of the rules that I was still unsure of. And then, watching the Patriots play and seeing how awesome they looked as a team...I got excited when John told me that they would be playing another awesome undefeated team this year. And then when he told me that said team had beaten the Patriots last season and that this game was going to be a huge deal - well, I suddenly found myself uber excited.

Now don't get me wrong. I grew up with a grandmother who loved sports and was a huge fan of all of the Chicago teams. My family as a whole was big into basketball and so I found myself getting into watching this particular sport the most. I understood the rules of the game and whether NBA or high school, I could really get into a game. But football has been something that I haven't cared about since the 1985 Bears. And even then I didn't really understand the game or what I was watching as much as simply loving the atmosphere in which I found myself in while watching with my grandmother.

So, knowing this, John was really intrigued to see me cheering and getting into the game this past Sunday. I found myself in a restaurant full of Colts fans cheering, for the Patriots and loving every minute of it. There were a few others cheering along with me so I didn't feel embarrassed to clap or yell or anything. And on top of everything, the Patriots won and the food was really good.

I don't know if I am now a football fan but I am a lot more interested in the game. And now that I am interested in a couple of teams I won't feel so out of the loop when some of our friends start talking about the season. But the best thing about all of this? I have a new way to connect to and spend time with John.

  • Current Music
    Slowly, Now - Sleeping at Last
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