Friday, May 30, 2008

Dear Man Who Called the Office Yesterday.

Dear Man Who Called the Office Yesterday,

It was so lovely to meet you over the phone. The oddity of our conversation fascinates me...when does this sort of thing happen in real life? It was as if we were in a movie [*coughSerendipitycough*], but I suppose I won't know exactly how movie-esque the encounter actually was until I have given you a few weeks. If you call back or, against all odds, rush into the office one day, windswept and carrying stargazer lilies [you would intrinsically know that those were my favorite, of course], then we are certainly star-crossed lovers who are destined to be together.

However, I highly doubt that.

Here is the thing, Kevin, I believe your name was? I feel as though I have done you a great disservice. While we may have just been killing time due to a fluke wrong number on your part, we probably talked for at least a half hour. What good did our conversation do? Did I show you Christ through our interaction? Were you able to hear His love through me? I don't think so. I'm embarrassed to have regressed back into my instinctive, flirtatious tendencies; it's so typical, and I think that you should know that there are few things I hate more than being average.

What did I have to lose by sharing my faith with you? You should have been like learning to ride a bike with training wheels on; it should have been such an automatic thing. I felt God pulling at my heart, but did I heed His direction? Never. It's just so weird -- anyone who described me as shy would have to be submitted into a psychotic ward. I am so sure. Ask me anything and I'll tell you.

I am sorry that I struggle so much with something that should be so simple; it's the coolest thing to ever happen to anyone, and you should know about it. Jesus loves me enough to die for me, and the same goes for you. He is crazy about you!! You can search your entire life for something to fill you up, to bring you joy, to give you a purpose, and maybe you'll find a decent substitute. Maybe your engineering career, or your golfing buddies, or your constant pursuit of happiness will keep you happy for a while. What happens when it doesn't, though? What happens when you feel lonely or depressed or worthless?

Everyone feels like that at times...I know that I do at least. But I have a hope in Someone so much bigger and greater and more powerful than me. He fills me up, He gives me life, He touches my heart in a place that only He can reach. I think it's safe to say that you found me at least mildly interesting, and I would assume that is because I'm different. I'm young and I love to have fun, but at the same time, I don't party or sleep around, and that is because of Who lives within me. He changed my life, and He can change yours too, if you let him.

Of course, you don't know any of this, because I didn't tell you. For that, I apologize from the bottom of my heart. I almost hope that you call back sometime, maybe when you're bored before your golf game again. I would love to tell you about who I am for real, and not just the petty, ridiculous nonsense that we talked about yesterday. I guess that's up to have the office number, after all.

Either way, thank you for helping me pass that last, painful hour or so of work. I needed the distraction in the worst way. Maybe I'll talk to you again sometime, but as you said yesterday, probably not.

Good luck with your golf game.

Oh, and my best friend Jessie thinks that you're a stalker. Just a point of interest. ;-)

Monday, May 26, 2008

And if I don't know where you are, you will always be in my heart, all along we knew we would part, but you know we're BEST FRIENDS!!

Today my baby sister turns 18. I would say that this is exceedingly strange and that it seems like it was only yesterday when we were playing with Barbies and antagonizing our poor little brother, but in reality it WAS only yesterday when we were doing those things,, I'm just kidding. We're way nicer to Taylor these days.

Honestly, though, since I always assume that Shelby is my age anyway, it's weirder when she is two "years" younger than me [we are 17 months apart, so from December to May, she is 2 years behind, whereas from May to December she is only 1]. It's inevitable that I will look at her at some point in March or April and say, "'re only 17. That's weird."

Very intelligent, I know.

Anyway, I have spent a lot of time recently reading the blog of a woman who I very much respect; it was a lovely surprise to find such a talented writer recording the anecdotes of her incredibly adorable children. Every year on their respective birthdays, she writes a Top 10 List about why she loves them so much. Since the only way to become a better writer is to read a lot and emulate the different styles of writers that you like, I'm going to borrow a page out of her book, no pun intended. So Cori, if you ever read this, thanks so much for the idea.

Plus it's a favorite hobby of my sister and me to make lists. Mia Thermopolis is our it made Spanish class go a lot of faster. All right, well without any further ado:

Top 10 Reasons Why I Love My Baby Sister.

10. She will always play dress-up with me. Now, as we have gotten older, our versions of dress-up have changed; we have progressed to big girl dress-up, where we put together outfits out of our real clothes, do our hair, and make-up, and proceed to do nothing special. Or we'll get dolled up and have nothing better to do than to drive to Meijer or the Bob and Kay in hopes that McDreamy is working. Either way, Shelby is always more than happy to play along, especially because....

9. She has excellent taste in clothes. I always thought that I was as good at being a girl as Pamela Anderson is at running down the beach in a support-less bathing suit, however I have found my tragic flaw -- I am terrible at shopping. It's not that I don't love it or that I am bad at spending money, because I am quite gifted in those departments. Having collected every issue of InStyle for the past four years and faithfully watched Stacey and Clinton help poor souls on What Not to Wear, I KNOW what I should be looking for...but I always get distracted, frustrated, and then end up buying something ridiculous.

Not my sister. Shelby has an eye for what she needs [maybe I should say "wants"...], an innate knowledge of when to save and when to splurge, and a really incredible recall of exactly what is in her closet. She has hordes of clothes, and she always looks beautiful, even if only to run a couple of errands. The good thing is, she is generally willing to share and dress her pathetic older sister who she deems "earthy" and "too dependent on solid colors and cotton." Oh well...I'm sure I'll get it eventually.

8. Shelby can read me better than anyone I know. She instantly knows what questions to ask, the ways to uncover my true feelings, and exactly what to say to make me laugh amidst my anger. It seems as if only we can understand each other when it comes to "quality flirting sessions," the gratification of looking cuter than particular people, or the joy of our interactions with Old Navy Joe. Our communication and understanding almost transcends words.

7. However, when the aforementioned communication is less than what we want, we can talk about anything. Shelby is my soundboard, my confidant, my best friend. When I am angry at her, I'm not afraid of a confrontation resulting in the end of our friendship -- the very thought is laughable. I can tell her my true feelings, no matter what.

6. She willingly listens to various drafts of my writing patiently and lovingly. I write a lot, and I constantly want feedback, hers in particular. She puts up with it the way a patient mother puts up with her toddler's pathetic attempts at making jokes. She encourages me, helps me make it better. What's more, she's a good writer herself, so I can trust her judgement. Shelby is my first editor.

5. Shelby is hilarious. When I'm with her, I am more subdued, a participant rather than a performer. I love to let her entertain me; it's past the point where we need to compete to make each other laugh -- we just do. Most of the things we say would make no sense to an outside, third party, but Shelby is one of the funniest people that I know, and I am perfectly content to just be around her.

4. She is one of the only people in the world who understands the simultaneous joy and frustration of living at home. Shelby stands alone among my friends when it comes to knowing the hardships of transitioning into adulthood in the Crookston household. I'm not going to get into details, but suffice it to say that Shelby is my teammate, my compatriot, my sister in arms. I don't know what I would do without her.

3. Shelby always drives when I don't want to. She can park a car well. She cooks me delicious food just because she's bored. She is always up for an ice-cream run. She sings A*Teens, N*Sync, Britney, and Plus One with as much excitement as me. She understands the euphoria of attention from Drue's friends. She wants me to sit in the bathroom and talk to her while she is in the shower. She texts me all day while I am bored at work. She makes, revises, and even types our lists of hottest celebrities and fictional characters, just for fun. She loves popcorn almost as much as I do. She compliments my personality in ways that make me wonder if I will ever be as comfortable with a boyfriend as I am in front of her.

2. We have the best inside jokes in the world. Who knew individual words could spark such wonderful memories? HeadBAND! The Hello Dolly video. "I'm glad that..." *large ring on pinkie finger, stroking imaginary mustache like a fat, Latin car salesman* "All right boys and girls, when we drink alcohol in school it is imperitive..." Wirehead. Flab shirt. Chicken. The Boards. The F.A. drmdrmdrmdrmdrmdrm!! Wally was NOT here. Nat the Flat. "What do you mean NO?...Pretty much THAT!" Jackie Chin. "Did someone say my name?" Basically the entire Steal Magnolias script. "Looking forward to it...a lot." along with the rest of Love, Actually. "Ha-RUMPH!" Warm Spray. Ocean girl. Camp Michewana. A-L-I-A-S: ALIAS!!
"Don't make me laugh, HAHAHA!" "I would rather by cute and thin than fat and ugly." Need I go on??

1. Shelby is my baby sister. No matter what trials we face or what transitions we fight to understand, she is my best friend and baby sister forever. Days can pass where we do absolutely nothing, but we are side by side the entire time, and we have fun without even meaning to do it. We can fight and scream and hit and scratch, only to collapse into giggles five and a half seconds later. Without her, I would be far less creative, far less competitive, far less funny, and my wardrobe would be devastatingly depleted. Shelby completes me the way that a best friend is supposed to complete a person, and even though it's strange to grow older, and mature into adults, it is a comfort to know that we still have the rest of our lives to be together. I cannot wait for this next part, as she goes to college and we both begin to learn who we are and what we want out of life.

Baby Sister, you are my favorite. I love you with everything I am. Happy Birthday, my beautiful Shelubi!!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Born Country

I can no longer deny it: I live on a farm. Honestly, there is simply no way around my mother's quirky hobby of collecting farm animals or her lifestyle of choice...she designed our house to look like a farm house [complete with wrap-around porch and porch swing], we live on twenty acres of land, our neighbors own cows, and chickens roam around the yard. I live on a farm.

I can handle that, though. I mean, sure, every once in a while I have to go collect eggs as if I were Laura Ingles Wilder, and yes, right this very moment I am supposed to be helping my little brother spread sand in his horse arena, but I think that my family is decently normal. It's kind of like the fact that we have a million cats, but we're not crazy cat people and our house doesn't smell disgusting -- we have an eclectic array of pets, but we're not crazy hick farmers.

Or are we?

For the moment, I am going to disregard the fact that Mom has named her chickens Ethel, Maude, Hazel and Esther, Cindy Lou and Betty Joe. I am going to discount the fact that the rooster's name is Toby Keith. Let's just forget about the hay loft, the multiple horse pastures, and the goats that serve no real purpose other than being somewhat adorable. This is no longer about the animals; it is about what we do for fun.

My dad has a large pile of brush that he needs to burn tonight. The love of fire being one of the only common denominators among my diverse group of friends, I naturally asked to have people over. This is when it hit me for real -- the farm isn't the problem, my crazy redneck friends are!! When we aren't over here, hanging out in the hayloft and hiding the goats to make my sister mad, we're in Paul's Barn [yes, capital "B." The Barn. It is proper noun, trust me] burning things, shooting pellet guns at each other, lighting fireworks, or shooting skeet [and no, I don't know how that began...I blame Bradley, but I digress]. Do you see the common themes? Guns and fire. Oh dear Lord.

Now, I think that it needs to be said that I love my friends with my entire being. They say that friends are the family that you choose, and I think that I won the lottery, because my guys are such wonderful, respectful, amazing young men -- I love you boys so much. My girlfriends keep me sane; I don't know what I would do without them. Truth be told, I love the fact that we all hang out in a Barn. Sitting on the roof, watching the illegal fireworks from Indiana paint glittery portraits in the clean, country night air is one of my favorite things. When we drive through the back roads at night, windows down and country music blaring, I know that it is summer.

And it's not like we're stupid hicks [although Tyler's "I thought them there were REAL deer" will forever live on in infamy]. We're all going into really incredible fields: occupational therapy, finance, political science, hospitality and tourism management, business, education, English, videography, and who even knows what else? We're young and we're smart and we love each other. So who cares if we're a little bit more country than one might expect? And who cares if something always ends up on fire when we hang out [or someone's eyebrows...disappear]? And does it really matter that we're good ole' country kids instead of "sophisticated" college students who party? We have fun and damn the rest.

So. Now that that is off my chest, I'm going to go ride a horse and find more things for us to burn tonight. We're hanging out at my house at 8:30 or 9:00...come on over if you're up for some good country fun...and maybe cow-tipping. But no promises.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Tour-Guide Barbie

What is it about a phone conversation that makes a person's voice inflection change so dramatically? We have all seen it before -- your mom is pissed about something, she's yelling at you as she dials a number, and as soon as the other party answers the phone, her entire demeanor changes. Suddenly, she's June Cleaver, sweet and kind and straight out of Stepford. "Nancy! How ARE you, darling?" she'll coo into the receiver, all the while shooting looks of death across the room. "Cocktails at six? Marvelous!"

I do the same thing, though [adopt new mannerisms over the phone, that is, not schedule cocktails with a woman named Nancy]. Now that I am a receptionist by trade, I spend a lot of time on the phone. Answering a call goes a little something like this:

Phone rings. Young woman at desk places hand on receiver, however does not pick up until second ring at which point caller ID tells her to expect. Once that information is known, the young woman involuntarily flips her hair over her shoulder, lifts the phone to her ear, and speaks in a lower, lilting, honeyed voice:

"Good morning *Real Estate Office Name,* this is Carly, how may I help you?"

The thing is, it's more than just the voice; it's the inflection. It goes down {GOOD MORNING, Real Estate Office Name}, then up {this Is CARLY}, then flat {How May I Help You?} That probably doesn't make any sense typed out like that...okay, just think about Toy Story 2, which is arguably one of the most fabulous movies of its era. Revolutionary. Redefined the concept of cartoons. But I digress.

One of the best characters in that movie is Tour-Guide Barbie. She waltzes through her script and her inflection is her dance partner. It's the typical airline stewardess, the roller coaster operator...the receptionist. It's Tour-Guide Barbie's voice that I inevitably emulate.

And that's just it -- it's inevitable!! I don't even mean to do it! As I start the newer, more involved task of scheduling showings and coordinating listings, and I talk to selling agents more, I quickly learn that my vocal patterns are mimicking theirs. Slick and oily, words flow out of their mouths the way that water comes out of hose, gushing a flow of cold liquid that looks great until you taste it, and then the flavor of metal is left on your tongue. The only way to stop the madness from spewing is to twist the hose into knots, so the water gets all backed up and bulges. That's what working with real estate agents [one in particular] is like.

Don't get me wrong -- the majority of agents that I have interacted with are great people. But their candor and their mannerisms are slightly unnerving, especially when you watch them switch it on and off whenever they want.

This is what concerns me so much about my own phone habits. They're just silly...I mean, it is not a big deal, just slightly ridiculous that I answer the phone in a Scarlett Johansson voice and speak in a way that is completely foreign to me. The ironic part is that it is natural -- I don't necessarily try to do it; it just sort of happens. Maybe it comes from years of working with the public, and somehow, after so much customer service, I have adopted a sickly sweet, ingratiating tone to deal with the people who annoy me most. Maybe it's a mask, and by acting like a darling, helpful receptionist I am more apt to be a darling, helpful receptionist.

I don't know why I turn into Tour-Guide Barbie when I am dealing with our clients, but honestly? It's kind of fun. I don't hate it. But if it gets to the point where I have a Jekyll and Hyde thing going on, somebody slap me.

And on that note, thank you so much for reading!! You have a great day, now! Mhmm, buh-bye!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Nepotism at its Worst

I work for my uncle....well, he is sort of my uncle. We have no blood relation -- he married my dad's sister. So in a strictly legal sense, yes, I suppose he is family. I've never been particularly fond of him, and he doesn't particularly mesh well with his in-laws, however that may be considered a good thing by some; my dad's family is...colorful, for lack of a better term. Lots of ignorance, grudges, immaturity, insane competitiveness, but whatever.

Regardless of all else, that side of my family has a few outstanding qualities; we are loyal, intense, hard-working, driven, and the fabulous "family ass" is not a myth [the last quality must be maintained, however, because when left on its own, the result is terrifying]. My dad and all of his six brothers work in trades; they grew up building, roofing, working with their hands. Most of my guy cousins, then, spent their summers working in some sort of family business, whether their father owned it or their uncle. Nepotism is the breadwinner of my paternal side.

To put your assumptions at bay, I am not working on a roof or pouring cement this summer. Like I said, the uncle that I work for married into the family -- I would never describe this man as the sort who could handle such a physically demanding job as construction. He went into his own family trade, though: real estate.

Having worked in the office for two and a half weeks, now, my uncle apparently deems me ready to take on his assistant's job. The young woman who seemingly runs half of the business put her two weeks notice in on my third day of work. A couple of hours later, I was in my boss/uncle's office, frantically scribbling notes about the things that I needed to learn from her before she left. The assistant took one look at my list when I showed it to her, barked a laugh, and handed it back to me. "Go back and tell him to be reasonable," she said. Fifteen minutes, a lot of yelling, and one tearful assistant later, I was sitting at a computer, trying to wrap my mind around my new job description as listing coordinator/assistant to the broker.

I previously stated that I have a work ethic genetically coded into my system. I am not, therefore, afraid of work. Please. This summer, I have two jobs, I'll be putting in 50-60 hour workweeks, and on top of that, I intend to hang out with friends and maintain some sort of a life. I am not scared to learn new things and work hard. Still, I think that it needs to be said that the woman I am replacing is five years older than me, she has a business management degree, advertising and marketing experience, and a real estate license. I just finished my first year at college as an English major, and to be perfectly honest, I have no real interest in the business of real estate. I just wanted a summer job, and suddenly I was being thrown into a position for which I was neither qualified nor capable of completing.

Anyway, long story short, I respectfully talked to my uncle the next day, told him that while I appreciated his confidence, I was not ready to take on that much responsibility for a three month job. I was shocked at his response -- he was mature, gracious, and understanding! "All right, I understand," he said. "That's okay."

Why then, two weeks later, am I sitting here trying to cram all of the information into my head anyway? Why did he let the training slide for the past two weeks, when apparently he intended to have me take over as listing coordinator regardless of what we agreed upon? Why did he make his assistant cry again yesterday with his rudeness and negligence? Why did he let this issue lie dormant until the day before she left? What did I get myself into?

At this point, I only know two things:
1.) I am in way over my head.
2.) I just need to stick it out and let this be a learning, growing experience.

Oh, and obviously the fact that I am naturally demanding a raise...I may as well make this stress worth my time. :-/

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Tuesday Morning, 9:03 am

I never understood the concept of was all a little too Xanga for my taste. I mean, who cares? Who reads these? Who really wants to know the minutia of a stranger's everyday life? Are bloggers simply narcissistic journalism dropouts? Bored writers with a superiority complex?


But as I sat in this office day after day, and I stared at the traffic that beats the tarmac outside the window, my mind slipped into a nearly comatose state. One can only Facebook for so long before their brain begins to ooze out of any available orifice; I think that I may have reached that threshold on Tuesday last week. This morning, though, a spark of genius ignited within me -- write! I do it anyway, but write for an audience! A blog is not simply a forum for vain, silly people to record their, a blog is the literary equivalent of a gym, a place to flex and work out thoughts, develop a voice, perfect technique. A blog is God's gift to bored, trapped writers who have 9-5 desk jobs.

And so as I answer phones, enter listings, deal with ridiculous clients, and avoid the owner [so as to avoid the monotonous busywork that inevitably follows in his wake] I will use my job description to my advantage; so many thoughts, so many experiences, so little time. This blog is my new safe-haven, my respite from real estate agents and trashy tenants. This is my forum, the resting place of the misadventures of my first summer home from college.