Family

Obituary for a bad dog

On Thursday March 30, 2017, Jagger Walsh took his last breath. He was 10 years old, and died from cancer.

Jagger was a bad dog. He suffered from separation anxiety and a general dislike of people. He most disliked when people used the front door, regularly charging and nipping at our visitors upon entering and exiting. If a guest shielded himself from the bite, Jagger violently ripped at the door mat. A coping mechanism, we mused.

Jagger was a Lhasa Apso, a Tibetan breed known for its beautiful coat of long hair. We can’t blame Jagger for his incessant barking and aggressive behavior; Lhasa Apso’s were bred to be fiercely protective, suspicious of strangers and to alert their owners of intruders. In this respect, Jagger was actually a good dog. He took his role very seriously, much to the chagrin of our neighbors, friends, the postman, and visiting family.

Despite his beautiful coat of hair, Jagger was not a beautiful dog. He had an under bite that stuck out like a bull dog. His front feet were deformed as well, pointing outward like a duck or a dancer. This gave him a very characteristic look – a Lhasa Bull Duck like none other. But despite his flaws, Jagger was very confident. He would jump onto your lap and paw at your legs until you gave him hugs, scratches, and kisses. And you were happy to give him your affection, because once Jagger stopped barking at the door, he was actually extraordinary sweet. Like a Sour Patch Kid. First sour, then delicious.

Jagger’s favorite past time was running in and out from the open screen door, enjoying the warmth of the sun for a few moments before running inside to ensure his family was still okay. He also loved going on daily walks around the park with his mom. During the afternoon, he sat in the studio listening to his dad make music. By all accounts, Jags was an avid music critic and gave sound advice.

Those who met Jagger know he had a hard exterior. But once making it through his front door – both literally and metaphorically – Jagger protected you. His barks weren’t aggressive, but rather a loud “Hello” – like from an old deaf man. His front teeth were just an upside smile. And his dainty walk reminded you that to his core, Jagger was a gentleman.

Jagger was a bad dog, but he was the best bad dog we ever had. We will forever miss his blond body running up and down the stairs, jumping on our beds and cuddling when we felt sad, bored, or simply in need of unconditional and never ending love.

Jagger, I hope there are a million doors to bark at in heaven. Love you forever – rest in peace.

Online life

My eBay and PayPal accounts were hacked – and I found the thief

Today, while chatting with a co-worker, I received a PayPal notification on my cell confirming my eBay purchase of $586.00.

paypal-ebay-account-hacked
Excellent!

I love when my purchases are approved. My PayPal account sees more action than nearly any other app on my phone. But I only like hearing from PayPal when I’m buying things.

I did not buy anything on eBay today. I have not bought anything on eBay in years. Once Amazon Prime wooed me into membership, I forgot eBay existed – which is part of the problem.

Immediate response

My eBay is connected to my PayPal, which was connected directly to my checking account. Panic commences. My first steps were to:

  1. Stare at my PayPal app.
  2. Self doubt – “Did I buy a Ford 6.0L Powerstroke Victor Reinz Head Gasket & Head Studs?” No. What is that? Also, I drive a Nissan.
  3. Look for a cancel or dispute button. Find nothing.
  4. Login to bank account. There is no pending purchase… yet.
  5. Login to eBay on my computer.
  6. Request a cancel order.
  7. Cancel order three more times.
  8. Call PayPal.

PayPal’s response

While waiting on the phone for a human being after spending ~5 minutes explaining the issue to a lady robot, I changed my eBay password. Hopefully the criminal couldn’t make any more purchases there for now.

The PayPal representative was very nice and helpful. First, he froze my account and reset my password. Now both eBay and PayPal were protected. I explained the situation and he immediately refunded my account. He also verified all my information and notified me that there was a new address in my settings – a Trenton, NJ address.

He explained the order had already gone through and the money was going to leave my bank account, but I could transfer the refund to my bank now to break even. I thanked him and we hung up. It was really easy, and that is really rare. Many hacked accounts are hard to reclaim.

How my account was compromised

Firstly, the person in Trenton who ordered the head gasket is 100% not a hacker. eBay was hacked in 2014 and the site requested all users change their passwords. I did not, because I forgot eBay existed.

There is a black market for selling website credentials. When a site like LinkedIn or eBay is hacked, the hackers can collect thousands (if not millions) of usernames and passwords which they then sell. They can sell 100 usernames to one person, and 5,000 to another depending on what the buyer can afford. With this list in hand, the thief will try each password and username they purchased until finding the ones that work. Reply All has a very interesting podcast about buying and selling passwords.

In my case, I had the same password for eBay and PayPal. I can’t be sure which account they got to first, but with that password they were able to access several websites. In using the same password I had set myself up for fraud.

Finding the thief

The thief had changed my primary shipping account to their house. It was a Trenton, NJ address. So I began:

  • Google map the house. It looks scary and it’s in a bad neighborhood.
  • Zillow the house. I can see it hasn’t been sold or bought recently. I look at the estimated worth, property taxes, etc. I am trying to get a feel for the people who live here, and more importantly I’m trying to decide if I think the house is being rented or not.
  • Google the address for public records of people who have lived there.

At this point, I find 4 names of people who live or have lived in this location. The first two are men over 60 years old. They don’t have Facebook or any online presence that I can find, so I set their names aside.

The third name belongs to a middle-aged woman called Brenda. Brenda has a Facebook, and she still lives in Trenton. Most coincidentally  – she is friends with the fourth person on my list – a late twenty-something woman named Felisha. Felisha lives in Trenton currently.

I deduce, and you may disagree with my reasoning, that Brenda and Felisha live together. Public records show they both have lived at the address and they are friends on Facebook. Neither Brenda nor Felisha are friends with the older gentlemen listed as previous residents, and I determine the men are less likely to be involved.

Felisha lives in Trenton. Her pictures are of a late twenty-something, heavy set woman with a constant mean mug. She wears all male clothing and portrays herself as very tough. If I have to guess between Brenda (her mother perhaps) or Felisha, I am assuming Felisha is the thief. Am I wrong? Maybe. It’s definitely not enough evidence to call the police. I could send Felisha a Facebook message, but I’m not a journalist and I don’t want this to get weird.

Perhaps Felisha’s friend is the thief, using Felisha’s address to throw us all off. I don’t know, and I’m not going to follow up with it because…

Final justice

Two hours after the ordeal began, I received confirmation from eBay that the order was cancelled. Not only did I get my money back, but Felisha is not getting free head gaskets and the seller isn’t out almost $600. There is justice in this world.

What you need to do

Have you been hacked?

https://haveibeenpwned.com/ is a website that tracks if you have any accounts on websites that have been hacked and had user info stolen. It is a safe and reputable website, and it’s scary.

Enter your username that you use on most sites, or simply enter your email address. It will tell you what websites you are a part of that have been hacked. If you’re in the database, change your passwords.

Have several different passwords

I changed every password today on every site. PayPal, eBay, email accounts, all banking and credit cards, Facebook… you name it. You need to create a system of passwords. At least 1 password for email, 1 password for social, 1 password for banking, etc.

If a thief does get your password, they will try it on a ton of websites. Don’t let them get too far.

Enable two-factor authentication (2FA)

2FA is a system on Gmail and other platforms that will send a code to your phone or alert you in another way if your account is accessed from a new computer or device, or if your password is changed. The thief will enter your password, and then find a screen that reads “We have texted you a code to your cell phone. Please enter the code to proceed”.

Unless they also have your phone, or whatever second method of confirmation you create, the thief will likely be locked out.

If PayPal had texted me when my account was first accessed from an unknown device, all of this could have been stopped in advance. Enable 2FA on every account you can.

Enable app notifications on your phone

Allow any app that deals with your email or banking information to send you push notifications on your activity. When you buy something on Amazon Prime, get a text about it. It was the text that alerted me to the fraud and allowed me to stop it immediately. Otherwise, I may not have gotten my money back, and Felisha could have charged even more to my account.

Life

3 Complaints for Tuesday

It’s the first day of real life after a long Memorial Day Weekend. Everyone is groggy and fueling up on coffee, and it’s a fine day to be a little more annoyed than usual. Here are my gripes this afternoon:

  1. Stop airbrushing your photos: The other people in your picture? They look normal. Your neck? That looks normal. But for some unknown reason, everything above your chin and below your hairline resembles whipped cream smoothed with a putty knife.Yes. You do look prettier. But  you’re not posting a picture of you, you’re posting a picture of a cartoon. You might as well wear a waist trainer under your shirt and tell everyone you’ve lost 10 pounds. It’s lame.
  2. Stop complaining about the “bennys”. The shore is the same every year, and if you’re so proud of being “local” then you already know how to avoid the most heinous spots: Spring Lake beach is less crowded than Belmar, you’re too old for Bar A and DJais anyway, and don’t take the GSP south on Fridays or north on Sundays. Move on.
  3. The Gorilla kid’s mom isn’t the devil: Children have the tendency to wander . Kids get distracted. You get distracted. Luckily more often than not, there aren’t any gorilla around to complicate things. It’s not impossible to imagine turning around for a second at the zoo only to find your son has wandered off. It’s bad that he happened to jump into a gorilla pit. It’s sad the gorilla died. But let’s take a step off the bandwagon. We don’t know enough to hang this lady over it. Plus, we always value human life over animals, even intelligent ones in zoos. And if you ever find yourself on the business end of a lion, or a bear, or a gorilla, you’ll be glad we do.
Uncategorized

Why the Secret Wage Gap Commercial Sucks for Women

Secret released a new deodorant commercial depicting a young woman in a bathroom practicing a conversation with her boss regarding pay. She is upset because her male colleague makes more than her, without working as hard or as long at the firm.

Here is the ad:

 

Here is why it sucks:

Instead of fueling the popular “we fight gender inequality” fire, Secret could make a positive impact by showing a woman practicing her speech, learning how to negotiate, and walking confidently into her boss’s office prepared to show why she should make more money. Instead they show a nervous, messy woman yammering in the bathroom mirror. Talk about stereotypes.

This commercial shows everything wrong with the “wage gap” conversation:

1. THERE IS NO WAGE GAP: Women and men are paid  equally for the same jobs. A male teacher and a female teacher, a male nurse and a female nurse, etc. – they are making the same. If you combine all male salaries in the US, and then combine all female salaries in the US, you will find that on average men are making more. On average, men are also going into higher paying fields, working more hours, and spending less time at home than women. Women are taking lower paying jobs due to the flexibility they afford. Men are taking higher paying jobs but spending less time at home.

If you want to make more as a woman (or a man), pick a high paying career. Become a lawyer, a doctor, a policewoman, a corporate accountant… work 60, 70+ hours a week. But on average, women aren’t doing this, so on average men are making more. But, equal pay for equal jobs does exist… let’s stop acting like it doesn’t! Instead, let’s empower woman to pursue higher paying careers.

Listen to this Freakonomics podcast to learn more: The True Story of the Gender Pay Gap 

2. Learn to negotiate: It’s not the company’s job to tell you, “Hey you’re asking for $5,000 less than Joe, so you should ask for more to make things fair.” Companies have a range they are willing to pay for a particular job, and while your background can place you high or low on that range, your negotiating skills are vital as well.

Studies have continuously proven that women do not negotiate well. So Todd may have asked for more, and got it, where as Ms. Blazer here did not negotiate a larger salary. As such, Ms. Blazer just learned a lesson and will ask for more during her next raise/promotion/interview.

3. The bathroom and the hair: Really, Ms. Blazer should have practiced this speech at home. The fact that she is in her employer’s bathroom makes me think she just learned Todd’s salary and is reacting immediately on emotion. Don’t do this. If you need to discuss something with your boss, take your time to prepare.

Secondly, her hair is a mess. Just brush your hair before asking for a raise. Also, schedule a meeting with your boss, don’t just ask him if he has a second. This conversation warrants more time and thought than a second between meetings.

4. Todd doesn’t matter at all: Our salaries are not dependent on what our colleagues make. If you go to your boss and say, “I heard Sally is making $1,000 more than me”, your boss isn’t going to fall over and apologize.

If you want to make more, and you believe you should be making more than someone else, you need to focus on what YOU bring to the table. Phrase it as, “I do this, that, and the other, I have brought X amount of dollars/business/website hits to this company, and based on my performance I believe I should make $1,000 more…” or whatever.

Saying, “Todd has been here less time than me and I don’t think he works as hard, so I deserve more than him” is not a valid reason for a raise. Firstly, you don’t know Todd’s background or why your boss thinks he deserves what he deserves, and secondly you sound like a kid. “She has more crayons than me, I deserve more.” Why, for existing? Make a valid case explaining why you deserve to make a certain amount, and don’t simply piggy back on what your colleagues are making. That ain’t how it works, kids.

5. Stop making women out to be victims: In the end, I am tired of these campaigns acting like women are being victimized each pay day. Learn to negotiate, join high paying careers, and work really hard. The pay is there, but you need to work for it, just like men! You aren’t going to make $70,000 as a teacher in Oklahoma. You will make more than that as a broker. Pick the life you want and go for it – but you’re not a victim because of the choices you make.

6. Real sexism does exist: There are definitely shitty employers who pay women less because they see them as less. By inflating the wage gap numbers – like Obama saying women are paid 77 cents for every dollar – we are diluting the true issue that some do face. If everyone cries wolf, the real victims will be hard to hear.

 

TV

You should watch True Tori Season 1… Really

I was flipping through Lifetime’s app the other day with nothing to watch, and out of sheer boredom I turned on Tori Spelling’s confessional reality saga, True Tori. I had no idea what I was getting into, but it was fabulous

If you don’t know, the first season of True Tori is about Tori Spelling confronting and trying to cope with her husband Dean McDermott’s infidelity. It’s raw and really uncomfortable, and better than any other train wreck I’ve seen on TV.

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH SEASON ONE OF TRUE TORI

      1. Tori spelling is actually cute:
        Maybe she was in the midst of an anorexic breakdown in response to her beady-eyed husband’s infidelity, but Spelling looks fantastic the whole series. If nothing else, I learned that being really insecure can help you look your best. Her hair is way too blond, but it has a little bang that makes it work. Her normally huge face is svelte and tanned, and her clothes are adorable. I found myself mentally jotting down outfit ideas each time she went to her counselor’s office or succumbed to crying in bed.
      2. Tori Spelling has adorable nails:
        I wouldn’t even know what to ask for to get Tori’s nails. “Green, blue, lines and sparkles, but in a non-trashy way?” Every time she lifts her hands to wipe away the searing tears of fat-man betrayal, which happens a lot, I idolized her color choices. Some cute examples below.
      3. Tori Spelling’s cry face:
        Someone was definitely channeling her inner Kim Kardashian ugly cry throughout each episode. I don’t blame her though – she has four kids, no money, and an insane amount of insecurity… and her sweaty meatball of a husband screwed a stranger during Christmas. Cry on, girl.
      4. Tori Spelling doesn’t understand karma:
        Tori and Dean were married to other people when they met on the set of a Lifetime movie – she for a year or so, Dean for twelve years. They slept together the first day they met. They divorced their spouses… Dean even had a son with his previous wife, and married each other immediately. Now, 7 years and 4 kids later… Tori wants you to know she feels really betrayed and doesn’t understand how this could happen to her! The irony is so sweet my cheeks hurt.
      5. Tori’s friends can’t hide their judgement.
        Tori’s best friend Mehran can’t believe she’s staying with him. “It might not work out…” he warns. Their friend Wolf.. yes Wolf… tries to coach Dean on proving his love to Tori and spending more time with their oldest son, but Dean interrupts Wolf the whole time. And when Tori admits during a luncheon that she slept with Dean the first day they met, her friend’s response is “…That’s fascinating.” Her friends trying to support her is admirable, because their job is not easy.

        tori-spelling-judgemental-friend-cheating
        “I hate you”
      6. Tori Spelling is incredibly insecure:
        It’s sad, and shocking, and makes her relatable, but damn is this girl struggling with her own identity. That’s really what I was most surprised by in this entire series.
        – She doesn’t tell Dean she’s mad or hurt or anything… she doesn’t know how to voice her own thoughts to him. It’s a real problem.
        – She says that everyone always told her she was ugly, and she has spent her whole life trying to overcome that.
        – She has a bump on her stomach from a hernia she got during her fourth pregnancy, and is truly worried that bump drove her husband to cheat.
        – Even though he’s in rehab for drugs and alcohol, and just got caught lying about an affair, Tori still calls her husband “babe” and gets really quiet and subservient around him. She just wants him to like her. In fact, Tori talks quietly and subserviently around almost everyone.

        dean-mcdermott-tori-spelling-cheating-affair
        “Dreamy McDermott”

In all honesty, anyone who has been cheated or supported someone through infidelity will like this show. It’s honest and captivating at times, sad at other times, and overall just interesting. I mean, it’s Tori Spelling… she lives in a different world than the rest of us, but is going through something very relatable.

Season two isn’t any good. She has some bad plastic surgery done between the two seasons and she can’t keep milking the cheating husband story any longer. The second season is pumped with filler conflicts and other key staples of bad TV. Ignore season two. But definitely do yourself a favor, and binge the entire first season during the next snow storm. It’s worth it for the Jennie Garth cameo alone.

Podcasts

Top 5 True Crime Podcasts

I never thought I’d live without DiscoveryID and their surplus of true crime dramatizations. But in June we cut the cord, went cable-less, and with it went my surplus of murder stories. I had to find a new way to appease my craving and, to my absolute joy, I stumbled upon something even better – the true crime podcast.

These podcasts remove the commercials and cheesy dramatizations that plague most true crime TV shows, and add in a ton more research, dark humor and grizzly details the FCC would never allow aired. In other words – outside of in depth documentaries and novels, podcasts are the way to go for die-hard true crime fans.

While there are a ton of podcasts to choose from, below are my top 5 true crime podcasts, along with why and great episodes to get you started.

#1: The Generation Why Podcast

Hosts Aaron & Justin  of The Generation Why podcast “discuss theories and share their opinions on unsolved murders, controversies, mysteries, conspiracies, & true crime.”

They cover recent stories, like the Steven Avery and Scott Peterson cases, as well as older and more unheard of stories, such as the Hinterkaifeck murders.

Aaron and Justin walk you through each detail of a case in a very organized way, fully explaining the murder/crime, police investigation, mysteries or unresolved clues, the official outcome, and their own thoughts. This is a great podcast if you like thorough stories, lots of details, and educated assertions. There is no hyperbole and very few jokes. It’s to the point – but somehow it’s far from dry.

To get started, I suggest listening to: The Matthew Hoffman tree surgeon murder.

#2: The Last Podcast on the Left

Hosts Henry Zebrowski, Ben Kissel and Marcus Parks use humor to run through all the details behind murders, conspiracies, and mysteries “both imagined and real.” (They cover true, real life crime, but also how “imagined” threats, like the ghost cats of the south, result in very real consequences for very real people.)

Each episode is riddled with “bro-humor” jokes, imitations, and jabs at the murderers and criminals, but never at the victims. They describe the motives, methods and reasoning driving each criminal and case, but they also make fun of the wrong-doers constantly – because they don’t deserve respect.

This is a light-hearted, but still incredibly thorough, true crime podcast. I think it’s a great listen for the commute home.

To get started, I suggest listening to: Leonard Lake and Charles Ng Part I: Operation Brownie Pockets (This is the beginning of a 3-part series that I loved).

#3: Criminal

Host Phoebe Judge covers “stories of people who’ve done wrong, been wronged, or gotten caught somewhere in the middle”. Criminal podcast episodes are short, generally less than 30-minutes, and are narrated by the people affected by the crime themselves. This can range from the perpetrator, to the victim, or most recently to the career of a Chicago courtroom sketch artist. The stories are not focused on every detail, motive, or moment of investigation like the first two podcasts on this list. Instead, the episodes focus on the more poignant aspects of the story, which create often fascinating vignette-like episodes.

To get started, I suggest listening to: Angie

#4: Sword and Scale

This one is good if you don’t mind a host peppering his opinion throughout the story. On Sword and Scale, host Mike Boudet includes 911 calls, court transcripts and his own (often judgmental) opinion to give as “naked” a retelling of the crime and aftermath as possible. He tries very hard to fully expose the perpetrators – whether criminal or members of the justice system – and does not shy away from explaining gory, scary and disturbing details. Mike also includes lots of sources and materials to accompany each podcast on his website, and also plays pretty great music throughout each episode.

To get started, I suggest listening to: Episode 55 – Abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell

#5: Serial

I didn’t want to include this podcast, because I think everyone has listened to it by now, but it’s too good a series to leave off completely.

Host Sarah Koenig dedicates each season of Serial to a single crime. So far, there are 1.5 seasons, and each covers a controversial case that leaves the viewer trying to desperately decide if the defendant is guilty or not. Sarah tries very hard to create an unbiased story and isn’t afraid to admit when her biases are coming through. She is not a police officer, a lawyer, or a criminal – she’s simply a reporter telling a story, and working tirelessly to determine what actually happened. As a normal person too, you find yourself rooting for Sarah the amateur sleuth and trying to wrap your head around the dizzying details that make up a criminal case alongside her.

Since Season 2 is still underway, I suggest listening to: Season 1 – the case of Adnan Syed

Online life

Quitting: Social Media

Why I quit following your every move

In December of 2015, I decided to go 1-month without Facebook or Instagram.

I initially started my 31-day break for two reasons:

  1. I was on Facebook and Instagram all the time. I would stay up in bed scrolling and scrolling, without retaining anything.
  2. I didn’t care about the things I was reading. People’s politics, “funny” quips, year end resolutions – God was I bored. The mundane and often unimpressive details of my “friend’s” lives were making me hate them. I wasn’t happy for anyone; I felt judgmental and dismissive, or envious and unhappy.

All of the above is bad, and after taking a good look at what social media was doing to me, I took a break.

I kept a list of a few things I wanted to post, and some observations I made, during the first few days of my hiatus.

  • “Can you believe its December 1st?”
  • “I just typed “Gmails” into Google and clicked Send to get to my email. #tuesday”
  • A picture of the NYC skyline from my office that I didn’t end up taking
  • A picture of the wasabi ginger potato chips that came with my lunch
  • I forgot my best friend’s birthday. Without the Facebook notification, I completely overlooked it.
  • While driving the 2 hours home from work, I picked up my phone to look at Facebook. I just realized how dangerous that is, and how often I must do it.
  • “I just watched my 3rd Netflix documentary today.”

All of the above is bad.

Jotting down and looking at the posts I would have made brought their idiocy to the forefront of my mind. Usually, I post and forget. But really looking at the posts I would have created made me hate them, and myself too kind of.

I didn’t want my life represented on the internet like this. After 4 days, I stopped having urges to login.

Disclaimer: You are probably judging me right now, because you carefully craft interesting and poignant posts before hitting submit. You only upload breathtaking and life changing photos. You have already dismissed me completely as part of the problem. Be warned, ye who find themselves pompously posting. You’re probably posting dumb shit too.

Staying friends anyway

My friends had to text me and call me more. I had to personally update them on my life because I could no longer just post toward them. We shared news with each other, not our profiles.

I felt like I was caught up and close with my friends by reading their daily updates. But I wasn’t actually interacting with them, and there’s a difference.

I felt more connected to my friends by the end of December than I had in quite some time. That’s for real.

Removing validation and comparison

December is a really great time to quit social media, because there’s a lot of socializing going on, and you will want to send pictures of yourself having fun to all 300 of your acquaintances.

Not posting pictures or writing about the parties and friends I visited made me realize I didn’t need my life to be validated.

Removing the burden of prying eyes on my day-to-day changed my perspective. I want to pursue a life I’m proud of for me and not because of how it’ll make me look.

Let me repeat that: Instead of wanting my life to look a certain way, I want my life to actually be a certain way. Those are 2 very different things.

I thought I was chasing life for myself, but removing constant public opinion from my everyday helped me to hone in on what I really wanted. Not doing a single thing based on how others will respond made life begin to feel more genuine.

Even though I hadn’t noticed it, I had been altering parts of myself, or at least how I portrayed parts of my life, for your public approval.

The end

At 1am or so on New Year’s Day, I signed back onto Facebook. The next day, I signed back onto Instagram.

By January 3rd, both were deactivated again.

It was like a rush of self-involved nonsense. The things people were writing infuriated me. Several photos of the outfit you’re wearing tonight? Complaining about the guy who cut you off? Really long, introspective paragraphs about all you’ve learned this last year? STOP.

Why do we feel the need for so much attention? Why are you telling me the guy at Starbucks can’t make a latte? Why are you telling me you think your girlfriend is the most beautiful girl in the world?  Does that make you love her more? Because you threw it into cyberspace instead of just telling her yourself?

Maybe I will go back eventually. I mean, this isn’t a personal challenge or a promise or a social-network diet. I know there are good parts to social media. I really miss some parts of it. It’s easier to create an event online than to send invitations to people. It’s nice to see your second cousin’s new baby. But the majority of the time, we use it to tell everyone what we had for dinner, and how bad Star Wars was, and why everything is great for us, or why everything sucks today. And that’s okay. If you want to use this phenomenal tool to spout nonsense toward people you’d avoid in person, go right ahead. I won’t judge you, but only because I won’t be there to see it.

Uncategorized

Things I Know at 28

Today is my 28th birthday, and I’m not feeling entirely positive about it. My mind is flooded with questions like, “Am I too old for my room to be this covered in crap?” and “Am I supposed to know how to make lasagna from scratch?”. I gauge my general life direction against where I think the world expects me to be. It’s stupid, and all of this stress and self-centered contemplation really puts a damper on my attempt to age gracefully. So to keep from having an “older-than-quarter-but-less-than-mid-life” crisis, here are the things that I do know for certain at 28 (Spoiler: This list is not impressive).

Things I Definitely Know at 28

  1. Female Friends Are the MOST Important: If I could marry my girlfriends and have affairs with men on the side, I would. They get me more than anyone. When I’m upset, they ask the questions that get to the root of my feelings. If I’m being irrational, hypocritical, or just fucking crazy, they will tell me. And if I get mad at them for calling me crazy, they forgive me. Being a woman is a very unique experience, and your girlfriends help you embrace your journey. Also, there is nothing as therapeutic as a girl’s night. Whether we’re white girl dancing our way through Beyoncé’s discography or crying into a pizza, I always walk away from hanging with my ladies feeling like I just saw the friendliest, drunkest psychiatrist on the block. They are an intricate part of a happy life, and you should keep them.
  2. I Should Stop Looking At the Neighbors: If you’re 28 and living at home because you want to save money and you like your mom a lot, that’s fine. Even if you have a friend who left home at 24, or that annoying bitch who somehow manages to travel the world on absolutely no income at all – how does she afford this and where the hell is Budapest! It doesn’t matter. You can’t compare yourself to everyone else and it’s incredibly unhealthy to try! I’ve learned it’s important to stay on your own track, and forget everyone else because they’re still figuring it out too.
  3. 28 Is Not Too Old: My fellow 28-ers are not too old for the following things:
    1. Alcohol or getting drunk on the weekends.
    2. Casual dating.
    3. To start working out.
    4. To start new hobbies.
    5. MTV (Girl Code, what up?).
    6. A messy bedroom.
    7. Needing your mom.
    8. Being single.
    9. Living paycheck to paycheck.
    10. Going back to school.
    11. Changing careers.
    12. Crying when your boyfriend gets mad at you.
    13. H&M.
  4. 28 is Too Old: My fellow 28-ers are too old for the following things:
    1. Losing control of yourself every time you drink.
    2. Staying in unhappy relationships.
    3. Staying at a dead-end job because it’s easy.
    4. Doing anything because it’s easier than doing what you want to do.
    5. Complete apathy.
    6. Not knowing how to say you’re sorry.
    7. Thinking your age makes you cute (unless you’re talking to your grandparents).
    8. Not knowing how to get along with your siblings.
    9. Not appreciating your parents.
    10. Forever 21.
  5. Well All Need to Get Off the Phone: The internet and smart phones and quick accessibility to everything are killing our sociability. Put your phone down during dinner, or when talking to people. Make eye contact and maintain in-person contact. Otherwise, we’re all going to have weird, robot children.
  6. This is Only the Beginning: A (mostly) clean and cute apartment, a sister-best-friend, a best-friend-boyfriend, a decent job with great flexibility, good friends, great family… everything is fine! And it’s only the beginning of it all. So I’m enjoying it. Now give me cake!
  7. And lastly, when all else fails, Buzzfeed gets it.
Cabinet Cooks

Cabinet Cooks: Tofu!

Okay, let’s clear the air enough for me to admit I’m not a vegan. I had gumbo for lunch today.

After the move this weekend, I didn’t have the time or money to go out and get everything I’d planned on buying. While a vegan diet shouldn’t be expensive (beans and broccoli, right?), I needed to replenish my entire kitchen, and all of the oils and sauces and different treats I wanted to add to that shopping list pushed me way over budget.

Though I have chicken in the fridge and shrimp in my belly, I’m not a complete failure. Mark and I went shopping on Sunday and purchased a lot of vegan friendly foods, including Almond Milk, veggie burgers and tofu. I also have gluten free pasta, an entire fridge filled with veggies, cabinets stocked with legumes and a plan. While I am not totally meatless (Mark has ground buffalo in the freezer that I cannot wait to bite), I am still sticking to a mostly dairy, GMO and gluten free diet, with a little meat sprinkled throughout.

With that said, I attempted my first tofu recipe yesterday. It’s a favorite of mine; a really simple mushroom wine sauce. I usually cook it with chicken, so why not tofu? (Spoiler: Because never tofu).

Ché’s Famous Tofu with Mushroom Wine Sauce Recipe

Ingredients

  1. At least 6 mushrooms, sliced, I used Baby Bella;
  2. One onion half, or less or more, diced;
  3. Garlic, diced, as much as you can handle;
  4. Red wine, 1/2 cup;
  5. 2 pads of butter, or non-dairy butter;
  6. 3 ounces of firm tofu;
  7. Lots of pepper;
  8. A little bit of low sodium salt;
  9. Some type of gluten free flour, or regular flour, if needed.

Step One: Press Your Tofu

I don’t have any pictures of pressing tofu, but I followed these steps. In case you don’t know, tofu is fucking gross. It comes in a package filled with water, which spills all over you. Then you have to press your tofu between two plates, and squeeze all of that soy water out. It takes about 15 minutes for the tofu juices to excrete, so I used that time to prep the rest of the meal and started cooking the sauce.

“Food”

 

Step Two: Make Your Sauce

The sauce is easy. Melt the butter in a pan on medium heat. Then, add the garlic and cook for about a minute, or until fragrant. Then add onions, and sauté until translucent, also about a minute or so depending on the amount. Then, add the wine and the mushrooms at the same time. Let simmer for at least 10 minutes. Add lots of black pepper and a bit of salt. The mushroom flavor will then release into the wine and butter, and it will taste delicious. If you want to thicken it, use your favorite thickener, or just use a teaspoon or so of flour. This is the only part of this recipe that you should replicate.

A bad picture of a good thing.

 

Step Three: Begin to Ruin Your Meal

A serving of tofu is 3 oz., but the package contained 12 oz. So, I stored my tofu in two ways: First I froze a portion of it. This changes the consistency of the tofu but also helps in removing the moisture (soy juice). I stored the second portion in the fridge. To store tofu in the fridge, place it in tupperwear with water and seal it. The shelf life is maybe 3 days. Or really 0 days, because it’s disgusting either way.

I cut my remaining 3 oz. (4 oz. if you’ve been doing the math) into blocks. This is where I begin to screw everything up. These blocks are too thick. Tofu should be cut into 1/2 inch thick pieces.

Poor preparation.

 

Step Four: Finish Ruining Your Meal

Tofu is never technically “uncooked”, so how you prepare it is entirely up to the recipe. Some recipes call for baking, some call for blending, some call for sautéing, etc. None call for throwing the tofu into a bath of hot red wine for 5 minutes.

Don’t do this.

 

Note: In a proper dish, you would spray non-stick oil onto a pan and heat the tofu for about 3-5 minutes on each side. Once cooked, you would place onto a plate, dish the mushrooms and onions on top and then spoon the sauce over as desired.

Step Five: Garnish and Serve!

Once I felt the tofu was adequately soaked, I cut it up into bite sized pieces and flopped the contents of the pan onto a plate. Beautiful! Then, for flair, I threw some parsley on top.

Mmm, flair!

 

I poured myself a glass of Pinot and took a bite. Hmm… it didn’t taste like much. Then I took another bite, and and started gagging. This was disgusting. I can’t adequately describe just how vile this dinner was, because I can’t even comprehend what those tastes were, but just take my word for it. Do not ever prepare tofu like this, or at all.

Step Six: Drink Wine for Dinner

I ate the mushrooms, because they were delicious, before tossing the rest. Because I was still hungry, but also disgusted and unnerved, I had three glasses of wine and went to sleep.

There you have it! Ché’s Famous Tofu with Mushroom Wine Sauce Recipe. Skip the tofu, add more mushrooms, and enjoy.

Ché's Guide

The Fire That Woke Me: Moving On

the fire

 

I learned a lot from my neighbor Joe dying in a house fire last December. Running to my mom’s house through the police barricades and firemen, watching the black smoke pouring from the house attached to hers and from out of her attic, and seeing on the pavement the lifeless body of my neighbor, his bare leg sticking out from beneath the white sheet that covered him, was one of the worst moments I’ve ever experienced. I immediately started sobbing this strange, animalistic cry that I’ve never made before and pray I’ll never make again. It was the collection of our fears, all the worst case scenarios, realized in real time.

After he was admitted to the hospital, I spent the weekend chain smoking and drinking, unable to erase the image of him that was seared into my mind. After he died, I couldn’t go to my mom’s house. His burnt home was directly beside hers. His truck was still in his driveway. There were boards against the door I used to watch him walk through and ladders in the garden he once cared about. Metal springs, all that were left of his mattress, sat morbidly twisted in his backyard. I could not be near that place, and I don’t know how my family stood it. His blackened bedroom window faced my sister’s. She still keeps her blinds closed.

I couldn’t stop looking back at that morning; the horrible panicked phone call from my mom, the longest car ride of my life, the feeling of terrified panic that clogs your throat.

Yet it’s been nearly two months, and everyone is okay. His home is being rebuilt, his family has returned to wherever they came from, and his truck is finally gone. Joe won’t ever be forgotten but we moved on. I don’t know how; something was lost to us! A relationship perished in the worst way imaginable. There is unfinished business and zero resolution here!  But we didn’t have a choice. We had to return to work, pay our bills, feed our stomachs, and see our friends. Moving on wasn’t an option, it was required.

This is the first time in my adult life that I think I’ve finally accepted that we really don’t get peace and resolve every day. We are not guaranteed closure, or fairness, or a chance at the last word. In fact, we rarely deserve those things. But what we do get are 24 hours to move on, shake off and do better.

I’m reminded of a salary negotiation that went really terribly and how I spent months smoldering over a pay rate that I couldn’t change. There was nothing left for me to do, yet I lived in that conversation for way too long. I didn’t move on and it was as unhealthy as sitting in Joe’s ashed bedroom would have been. What I should have done, and have done since, is learn from my mistake and then get over it.

The habit of living in the past, of putting new words in our mouths for past arguments, imagining conversations going differently or thinking of relationships preserved, is really toxic. It’s an expensive habit that yields no results and costs you whatever time you actually have. Yes, I wish I could have somehow saved Joe and my mom wishes she noticed the fire before it had raged so hotly… but I couldn’t and she didn’t. That’s all there is too it, and the longer we stayed in that day the worse off we were.

Learning from the past is obviously a requirement for every adult that wishes to be successful, but it is also just as important to get over it. If there is one thing I’ve taken from the day that left me so shaken, it’s this; Life sucks, and then you move on. Take from it what you can, and then leave it where it belongs – behind you. There is no use in clogging up your present with yesterday’s darkness.

Sail on, Joe. You are preserved as a good memory, and the darkness is lost. Rest easy, our friend.