Columns

All columns posted on this page are written by City Street Beat author Brandi Jewett and are published in the Grand Forks Herald’s Accent section. Her columns run the first Sunday of each month.

The views expressed in these columns are that of the author and not of her employers.

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Call me crazy, but I like it here

Nov. 30, 2013

When you’re my age, living in North Dakota is like a sinking ship — people expect you to jump into a lifeboat and paddle to safety.

Whether they define safety as a big city across the country or just anywhere outside of the state line, it seems people just assume young adults are jumping ship and following their dreams to other states — except me and a few other hardy souls that is.

The community elders always seem bemused by my choosing to live here voluntarily.

It’s not because I can’t seem to find a lifeboat.

I don’t see living here as the end of the world.

Maybe it’s because I grew up in North Dakota and have built a tolerance to the frigid winters, Bud Light and the odor of the day — the solid green waters of Lake Ashtabula when I was a kid, and now, good old sugar beets.

Perhaps, it’s because this is a good place to be an employed young adult. Up until the oil boom, it seems this state was perceived as heaven’s 70,700-square-mile waiting room.

This year, some crazy people in some far-off state decided North Dakota was at the top of 10 best states for young people.

I mean that’d have to be crazy to do that right? It seems like whenever I tell people older than me I enjoy my job and want to stick around, there’s always someone who expects me to say “I’m blowing this popsicle stand faster than ice would melt in a bonfire.”

I always want to ask, “Should I not be sticking around?”

“Does this state have some terrible level of misery you can only unlock once you’re living here at age 30?”

If there’s some sort of terrifying rite of passage that I haven’t already endured by living here for 23 years — besides subzero temperatures — I’d like to know about it.

If it involves me having to dangle from great heights by my pinky toes while someone rubs their foot on my face, then Minnesota is getting a new resident.

But if that’s not the case, then I’m not sure what all the gloom and doom is about when it comes to where young people want to start a career.

Some leave and never return. Others leave and eventually return. And then there are people like me who will likely be permanent residents.

So, why do I stay?

Call me crazy, but I like it here.

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The evolution of a tomboy

November 2, 2013

The first time someone called me a tomboy was in second grade.

I had never heard the word that a girl threw my way during recess one day, and there was only one reaction I could muster — I cried.

Big, soggy tears rolled down my chubby, little face.

My blubbering caught the eye of the playground supervisor, who, after hearing my piece, assured me that it was nothing bad. As it turns out, being called a tomboy really wasn’t, though, I admit, my reaction at the time wasn’t very characteristic of a tomboy.

But I can’t say that my classmate was wrong. Wearing dresses was probably my least favorite part of going to church on Sundays — a close second was my mom scrubbing every fleck of dirt off of my face with a washcloth.

My younger sisters inherited all of my Barbie dolls when I decided Jurassic Park action figures were way cooler. Our washing machine will verify that I spent much of my childhood climbing trees, catching garter snakes and plodding through muddy creeks.

Now, I live in dresses, consider mascara a necessity and could spend all day in Forever 21 — seriously, give me a tent and I would live there.

But all that doesn’t mean I’ve lost touch with the boyish part of me. Sure, living in the city doesn’t really provide me with ample opportunity to climb trees and the nearest thing I have to interacting with wildlife is being barked at by my neighbor’s crabby dog.

But as I have grown up, that part of me has remained and evolved with me — and in some cases kept me sane.

When I was kid, it kept me out of dresses and in the mud. Now, it serves as a voice of confidence and rationality.

There are mornings when I look in the mirror and all I can muster is “Woof,” before reaching for a ponytail, some bobby pins and makeup. Part of me would love to sit there and primp forever, but my inner tomboy knows we have places to be.

“Girl, you came into this world without makeup, and you went 16 years without wearing it,” she’d tell me as a mascara wand is yanked from my grasp. “One day isn’t going to kill you.”

It’s my inner tomboy that keeps me from taking myself too seriously and from freaking out about every little thing — two things some women I know must consider their hobbies.

My inner tomboy also fuels my love for video games, stomach-churning TV shows and the need to find the perfect beer.

After all these years, she and I are still pretty fearless when it comes to adventures in the great outdoors, though we still haven’t kicked our fear of heights.

And despite being tough chicks, we do still have a good therapeutic cry every once in a while — only now, it’s on the couch with a sappy movie instead of on the playground for all to see.

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A name that warrants a mini serenade

October 6, 2013

Hi, my name is Brandi.

I cannot tell you how many times I have said this phrase in my life or started an email in this fashion. Considering I interview people for a living, I am constantly introducing myself to new people every day.

Unfortunately, in a situation where I have to introduce myself and someone has to take a stab at spelling my name usually leaves me shaking an imaginary fist at my parents.

Thanks to booze, a 90s R&B singer and a 1972 pop song, the world is under the impression my name should be spelled with a “Y” at the end.

At all times.

Always.

This has led to a series of (funny) annoyances that plague my everyday life and has occasionally left me wishing I was named Jane.

“What’s your name?”

“Brandi.”

“Oh, like the liquor?”

“Sure.”

As time has gone by, I learned to tack on the caveat “But not spelled the same,” to every conversation that has taken this route, otherwise my name inevitably ends up with a “Y.”

I’m sure a lot of people feel this way about their name, especially people who have names society thinks should be spelled a certain way. The Mykels, Emalees and Cydnees of the world share my pain.

Or at least the Jons who lack an “H.”

I’d argue it’s the song’s fault more than anything else.

Until I was 18, I had no idea someone wrote a song about some chick named Brandy.

My introduction to this musical wonder launched into the world by Looking Glass came when I was a server at a local truck stop. When an older man found out what my name was, the next line of conversation followed in a sing-song voice:

“Brandy, you’re a fine girl, what a great wife you would be.”

I’m sure the look on my face spelled out the fact I had never actually heard the song, and I thought he was a kidnapper planning our involuntary future together. Since then, dozens have told me in song-form what I fine girl I am.

Fast forward five years and my Grand Forks Herald co-workers discovered the correlation between my name and this song that apparently hit No. 1 on the charts in 1972. The serenading was almost immediate.

According to the Social Security Administration, the song also seemed to inspire a jump in babies named Brandy.

Brandy was the 353rd most popular name in 1971, 140th in 1972 and 82nd in 1973.

I was born in 1990, so I think it’s safe to say my parents didn’t jump on the bandwagon.

To this day, I have yet to actually listen to the song. At this point, I feel like it would take away the magic of random people singing it to me.

Still, Looking Glass could have at least thrown an “I” on the end.

Is it too late to change it?

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Advice for freshmen: College is a clean slate

September 01, 2013

By now, most college freshmen have survived their first week of college.

Some of you are already hitting the books while others are hitting the streets in search of people to meet and things to do. Some are homesick and some are drunk (literally or figuratively) on new freedoms.

Whatever you choose for your college priorities, I’m here to bestow a little advice on you.

The most important thing you need to know is this: College isn’t high school.

As a freshman, you’re coming into college with a clean slate. Your high school reputation as a geek, jock, drama geek, pretty girl or that guy who lost a bet and had to kiss a goat no longer matters.

Believe me, I wish someone would have told me this.

I came to UND figuring everyone would know I was the quiet girl who would set off the nerd detectors as soon as I walked into a building.

Like any high school comedy movie will tell you, being the nerd isn’t fun. I never got swirlies, wedgies or locked in a locker, but I did get sick of people telling to quit being a smarty-pants.

And to make matters worse, most of the people I went to high school with were the exact same people who had accompanied me through elementary.

And when people have been poking fun at you for the same stuff since kindergarten — such as my love of dinosaurs — it gets really old and you just assume everyone else will, too.

College was an unexpected breath of fresh air — one I definitely squandered for the first few months.

The fact that no one knew me was terrifying, but looking back, this was a wonderful thing, and I wish I would have spent more time taking advantage of it.

Not in the sense that “No one knows me, I should walk around with underwear on my head,” but more like “No one knows me, I should introduce myself to people.”

It took me a while, but eventually, I opened up and made friends based on my true self — a ball of energy with an affinity for cursing, bad jokes and ice cream. I can tell you that girl looks and acts differently than the one I was in high school.

Because of this, the friends I made in college will be friends for life. They were there for the stress, the awesome parties, the hangovers, the attempts at study sessions and any awkward situation I always seemed to find myself stumbling into.

They also were the first people who thought my lifelong obsession with dinosaurs was cool, not weird.

Well, maybe just a little weird.

But coming out of my shell earlier in my time at college and making more friends or just meeting more people in general would have been a great experience. I talk to new people every day for my job, so it’s a skill I could have been sharpening a lot earlier in life.

So you, the new freshman, learn from my meek ways and put yourself out there. You might still lose a bet and have to kiss a goat, but at least you’ll have met people doing it.

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Facebook, the new family photo album

August 4, 2013

Facebook entered my life in high school.

It hasn’t left since, and I’m not sure it ever will.

It’s great for keeping up with people I care about who live far away, and it’s even better for keeping up with people I could care less about.

The latter seems to post the most.

My Facebook friends are growing up, settling down and having some babies. I take that back – they’re having a lot of babies. And they’re posting pictures of them on

Facebook for their family and friends (and perfect strangers if they have lax privacy settings) to see.

Facebook has become the new family photo album. Instead of taking and distributing physical photos of family gatherings or holidays, we can just hop on the computer and see pictures of kids doing what kids do these days.

This is great for the family and friends, but then there are people like me who are caught in the crossfire.

I like watching my own cousins grow up, but everyone else’s kids? Not so much. I’ve watched no less than 20 grow up on social media. I haven’t seen some of their parents since high school, and I’ve never actually met these kids. And seeing them in person could make for awkward conversation.

“Oh, your kids are just darling. I’ve seen so much about them. I mean I’ve read so much about them. I mean I swear I’m not stalking your family.”

But seriously, I get more updates than most people’s grandmothers. I’ve seen kids while they’re hours-old in the hospital – long before most of their relatives would.

I’ve seen candid fathers snap photos of mothers sleeping with babies, collages of babies making baby faces and toddlers in Halloween costumes.

At best, I feel like an estranged aunt. At worst, I feel like a creepy neighbor peeking through the curtains.

But I’m sure this will all be normal to those kids.

They’ll sit by their parents and browse baby pictures online instead of cracking open a photo album.

Social media has become ingrained in our lifestyles, and these kids will be no exception. I nearly dropped my laptop when one of my cousins added me on Facebook.

I could have sworn she was only 8 years old.

I suppose this isn’t all bad. Your parents can post endless pics and document your life more thoroughly than ever before – more thoroughly than people or even you really care to see.

Evidence of my childhood will definitely look scarce compared to this next generation of kids. I only have one tiny picture book containing photos of me from birth until I was a high school senior in my possession.

But, only the good ones.

I’m not about to show the people I live with what I looked like with a perm.

The rest of my childhood photos are tucked away in a drawer in my parents’ kitchen. And remembering how many teeth I always seemed to be missing in addition to the perm fiasco, they can probably just stay there.

Some things the world isn’t meant to see.

In all honesty, I’m glad Facebook didn’t come around until I was in high school, and my parents missed out on posting every waking moment on my life online.

It adds more value to the photos our family has – even the ones that should never leave the kitchen drawer.

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Gratitude for the ‘old duffers’

July 7, 2013

If there’s anything I have learned in my short life, it’s that inspiration can come in the strangest of forms.

The usual suspects are family, friends, coworkers and mentors. But there was another source of inspiration that kept me reaching toward becoming a journalist, and it came in the form of several elderly gentlemen — or as they referred to themselves, “old duffers.”

I worked as an overnight waitress during my sophomore and junior years of college, and it was by no means a glamorous job. Every once in a while a customer would ask me what degree I was pursuing, and I would tell them my plans about eventually being a newspaper reporter.

Most were supportive and said I could be whatever I set my mind to. A few would give me a good ribbing and ask if I thought newspapers would still be around when I graduated.

But not everyone could be positive. The detractors would say things such as “So, you’re going to school to learn how to lie?” or “Are you going to get yourself blown up in Iraq?”

It was disheartening to have my dream job mocked, and I won’t say that it didn’t get to me. After a while, I started telling people I was going to school for “communications” because it was vague and, after hearing it, most would nod and return to their meatloaf.

Still, it only takes the encouragement of a few to keep someone going.

Enter my table of elderly men.

Every Tuesday and Thursday morning for at least the last six months I worked at the cafe, they would come in, one by one, starting at about 6:30 a.m. Their arrival heralded the end of the work day and the start of a 45-minute exchange with some of the kindest souls I have ever met.

We would joke often, whether it was about the wheelbarrow of tip money they would “help” me roll to my car or about how we always seemed to be out of prune juice — which we never carried.

I told them about my dream career. If they were skeptical about my choice, they never showed it.

As short and limited as our interactions were, they still had a significant impact on my life. They were my cheerleaders when the rest of the world seemed to sneer at my future.

After a particularly rough night at work, I made the decision to put in my two weeks’ notice, so I could focus on my homework and my job at UND’s paper, the Dakota Student. Unfortunately, my last day was a Saturday, so my schedule kept me from serving “the old duffers” breakfast one final time.

I’m sure it was a shock not to see me that morning, and I heard they moved on to a different restaurant for their morning romps.

If you guys are reading this, you can see that I made it to the big-time (well, sort of), and I can’t thank you enough for those mornings you told me to keep on trucking. Although that also could have been because your eggs came over-medium instead of basted, and you knew serving people breakfast just wasn’t my bag.

I still have that wheelbarrow to haul around if you guys are still willing to lend a hand. It’s full of newspapers instead of dollar bills, so I may need more than one of you.

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A black duck – in this state anyway

June 16, 2013

I had a map emailed to me the other day. Actually, it ended up being one of 22 maps published on the website Business Insider under its politics section.

The maps didn’t highlight the type of politics that involve elephants and donkeys. Instead, they depicted the politics of Americans and the English language, or more specifically, the battle over pronunciation and word choice.

Having lived in North Dakota all my life, I know I pronounce things differently than people from other states. When I arrived at college, my friends from the Twin Cities were fascinated by my Norwegian-Lutheran accent. They had never heard someone pronounce “bag” with a long “A” or use the words “uffda” and “ofer” as a staple of their speech. That’s “oh for” usually followed by “sure” to those of you who don’t partake in hotdish on a regular basis.

The maps, compiled by North Carolina State University Ph.D. student Joshua Katz, confirmed I’m not only different from my big-city friends, but from my fellow Peace Garden residents, as well.

Take the word “crayon.”

The division of America’s pronunciation of this word seems to be an east-versus-west clash. The latter prefers to say “cray-awn” while the former say “crayahn.”

And then there is this little green spot on the northwest tip of Wisconsin where people say “cran.”

That is where I apparently would be at home, amid the dairy cows and Packer fans. According to the map, there is a fourth pronunciation that takes the form of “crown.” It makes me wonder what they call a king’s fancy hat.

It’s a similar story for the word “pecan”: Nobody can agree on a pronunciation.

According to the map, “pee-KAHN” seems to be the preferred pronunciation, but there are a few other rogue ones out there such as “pick-AHN,” “PEEcan” and “PEE-kahn.”

For “PEE-can” people like me, we apparently congregate mostly on the East Coast.

So, while it seems I’m not fitting around here with how I speak, my word choice seems to jive more with regional speakers. A sweetened carbonated beverage up here is a “pop,” crayfish live in the lakes and we wear “tennis shoes.”

But we apparently haven’t coined a term for a drive-thru liquor store. Virginia and North Carolina seem to have called dibs on “brew thru,” but I think we could top that.

Roundabouts were not in the North Dakota vocabulary either, according to the maps. Even if we don’t have a word for them, I sure hope we can master driving through them when the city starts building them next year.

The survey the maps are based on also asked participants to define “The City,” which apparently a large chunk of the country considers New York. I feel like asking people here to define “The Lake” may shed some light on something newcomers have been trying to understand for decades.

If you’re beginning to question your vocabulary, you can view the rest of the maps here to see how you fall in line with the rest of the country.

In the meantime, I’ll be arguing with my roommates about how many syllables mayonnaise has. I believe the correct answer is two, which means I am once again a black duck in this state anyway.

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Being Google guinea pig

May 26, 2012

When researching a story about snooping on neighbors, I needed a guinea pig to figure out just how painless it is to get information about someone off the Internet.

I figured the easiest name to plug into Google would be my own.

After hitting “search,” pages and pages of stories I have written for the Herald popped up in my results. I’m hoping the sheer number of them will deter any potential stalkers from wading through the results looking for useful bits of information.

Next on the list of results were my Facebook profile, my LinkedIn profile, my blog, and a long-abandoned Grooveshark account.

At least Ithought the Facebook was mine. Turns out I was a step ahead of myself and have set my account to being hidden from search engines. There are apparently two other Brandi Jewetts on Facebook, so they’ll hopefully throw any creepers off my trail.

Upon closer inspection, I found my name mentioned in various places in random documents uploaded to the web. Glancing at the search results, it wouldn’t take someone more than 10 seconds to figure out I went to UND and was involved with various organizations there.

I switched gears and tried the public court search site for North Dakota. I was greeted by the citation Ireceived three years ago for making too short of a stop while taking a right at a red light. I got one laugh because I was reminded the ticket was issued on my birthday.

Happy Birthday — not.

If you’re a regular reader of my columns, you know I’m from Valley City, N.D., so you could browse through those records, too. I only have one speeding ticket on file there so it’s not terribly exciting.

I don’t owna house so searching myself on the Grand Forks County property information site was a dud, though I did discover a number of our elected officials here have some nice-looking homes.

Phone number

My name wasn’t the only item the Internet had information about. Next up was my cell phone number.

I learned a simple search can tell you which city the phone number originates from, the carrier and whether or not it’s been associated with spam. Despite what the people Icall to interview may have to say, the Internet says my phone number isn’t associated with spam activity. Neat.

And my carrier is Verizon if you were hanging on the edge of your seat there.

After doing a vanity search, I moved on to my parents and roommates.

I’m sure my mom wouldn’t be pleased to know her age is out there for all to see thanks to sketchy people-finding sites. I did learn my dad shares his name with an American colonel who moonlighted as a pirate every once in awhile.

Their addresses also turned up, which means anyone could plug it in and check out an aerial view of my childhood home on Google Maps — a little unsettling butI can’t say I haven’t creeped on other people’s houses this way.

After telling my one of my roommates about his long-lost Myspace profile I found that listed everything down to his income level and zodiac sign, it became clear that no one enjoys being the Google guinea pig.

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My anti-hoarding hobby

May 5, 2013

I hit a milestone this month.

It involved a lot of late nights and earned me some razzing from friends, but I did it.

I can officially say I put 265 hours into a video game.

That’s right, I have spent about 11 days sitting on a couch, maneuvering levers and clicking buttons in pursuit of completing quests in “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.”

That’s a drop in the bucket compared to what some people may put into that game or others like it, but I’m proud of my accomplishment – or at least I am after some convincing from my male roommates.

You see, oftentimes, if you play video games, you seem really cool to people who also play – but weird to those who don’t.

This is all part of a stigma that follows gamers of any type, whether you play on a console or with cards and dice. Part of the world thinks we are awkward, antisocial and fat beings that take up space in our parents’ basement and subsist on Mountain Dew and Cheetos.

Not so much.

Most of the avid gamers I know hold jobs, have significant others and have a group of friends that may or may not share their enthusiasm for gaming.

In addition to being construed as weird, gamers are often thought of as immature.

And yes, the thousands of vulgar teenage boys clogging up online gaming venues really aren’t helping the stereotype. For those of us who have hit puberty, it’s a different story.

For example, a few months ago I did a story profiling the Warhammer regulars at Grand Cities Games in Grand Forks. The game involves commanding a miniature army and pitting it against someone else’s – a game of chess with monsters and space soldiers.

After the story ran, I received an email from someone who thanked me for telling it in a way that didn’t make these grown men sound like kids playing marbles.

The email touches on a pretty commonly held school of thought I encounter quite a bit when comparing video games to a more traditional hobby.

Hobbies such as quilting, building model cars or collecting various items are considered more acceptable than video games, and people older than me tend to think video games are a waste of time, energy and money.

I disagree.

I don’t think I could get 260-odd hours out of a “traditional” hobby without spending exuberant amounts of money and having to buy a storage unit.

A majority of hobbies and collecting requires and produces a physical product, which is what I think people who don’t play video games tend to misunderstand about it: Why put so much time and effort into something that isn’t tangible? According to my game stats, I’ve forged hundreds of armor sets and weapons – and acquired or stolen many more. I don’t have all these things sitting in my living room, and that’s a good thing because I feel like an episode of “Hoarders” would be in my future.

I like the fact I can make or acquire things and don’t have to find a place for them in my apartment – otherwise the cat-person who follows me around in the game would definitely have to chip in for rent and beer.

Yes, I’m inside for hours and, no, you can’t hold the results of what I’ve accomplished through video games in your hand, but it still consider my hours of dedication a milestone worth celebrating – with Mountain Dew and Cheetos, of course.

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In the world of dating ‘nice’ not a universal term

April 7, 2013

They say nice guys finish last, but I’ve heard it argued that they don’t. Instead, they are actually finishing in first place – at being stupid.

It’s a harsh criticism most of these “nice” guys don’t want to hear, but in my experience it’s not far from the truth.

Personally, it’s never been a pleasant experience to see a male friend develop a crush on a girl that seems nice enough, but you know the only thing she and your friend have in common is they both breathe air.

But, she’s got a rockin’ bod and a pair of blue eyes set to “stun,” so there’s no escape for your male friend. He’s fallen head-over-heels for what he imagines her to be instead of who she is.

You warn him. He inevitably blocks out reason and continues to pursue her. It always ends the same. The feelings aren’t mutual, and up goes the friend-zone fence.

The guy is dejected and you spend an evening convincing him he’s a nice guy and someday he’ll find the right girl, when secretly you want to shake him and tell him to man up.

After he’s rediscovered his self-esteem, it’s time for the questions:

Why don’t girls like nice guys?

Why do girls date jerks? First, girls do like nice guys, however, the definition of “nice” may vary.

Some girls believe a nice guy is someone who will treat them like a princess – wining, dining and giving gifts such as puppies that fit in their purses.

Others think a nice guy is a protector who will be the definition of chivalry and carry them into the sunset on an alabaster steed.

But, “nice” to me is someone who remembers I only eat original Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, tells dirty jokes and takes out the garbage without being nagged.

In the world of dating, “nice” is not a universal term, and it’s determined by personality and interests. The same goes for those “jerks” girls date.

Yes, there are definitely men who treat their ladies like garbage. The rest of those jerks are probably just your crush’s type – a category you don’t find yourself in and therefore makes you eternally bitter.

Nice guys, want to save her from the “jerks” – I get that. But in all likelihood, she wouldn’t get along with a nice guy like you and vice versa. The relationship would be doomed to fail like purple ketchup and scrambled egg push-up pops.

My advice?

Get over it.

A woman knows what she likes in a man, and having that challenged by someone who may not know her and still thinks he’s her Prince Charming will do nothing more than annoy her.

It’s like those guys who insult a woman’s boyfriend the moment they find out she’s not single. Now, I’m not sure what color the sky is in your world, but in my world it’s blue and telling a girl her boyfriend is dumb or unattractive does not win you any points – or a date for that matter.

To me, approaching a potential mate should be done with reason and not blind admiration. So, think before you crush, my friends.

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The ‘power’ of the ‘like’ button

March 3, 2013

At least once a day, I’m visually assaulted by my Facebook news feed.

Pictures of dead dogs and disfigured children greet me more frequently than I’d like.

It’s not that I subscribe to morbid and depressing pages and these pictures are their updates – though I will say that some of the constant “woe is me” posts from friends would fall into this category.

No, instead I have Facebook friends who think hitting the “like” or “share” button will save tortured animals, give kids free medical care and pay for injured soldiers’ reconstructive surgeries.

You know, those photos and statuses that proclaim things along the lines of getting 10, 000 likes or shares will have some sort of positive effect on the subject they are speaking about.

“Stop animal cruelty now! Share this picture!”

“This child hasn’t eaten in a week. If this gets 1, 000, 000 likes then she’ll get food!”

“If this gets 100, 000 shares, Timmy will get free dialysis!”

Some of them are downright depressing like, “If this gets 1, 000, 000 likes my dad will quit drugs.”

I understand the nobility behind it. We all want to help people and support well-meaning causes. But clicking “like” or “share” is much different than dedicating your time, money and resources.

By “liking” a cause, you’re acknowledging the problem exists, getting warm fuzzies from passing on the photo/status and then moving onto Words with Friends or laughing at last weekend’s party pictures.

That’s not what supporting a cause is about. If you truly care about something then take that passion you’re putting into your corn on Farmville and do something. There are ample volunteer opportunities through local or national organizations.

And yes, many of these organizations do have Facebook pages you can “like,” but I recommend participating in their events because clicking “like” just doesn’t cut it.

As for trying to rally Facebook to do things such as get your dad off drugs? I think the support from loved ones would mean more than the so-called support of a few hundred strangers who are clicking a link. If all the support you can muster for your father is a Facebook status then you may want to seek outside help.

An additional annoyance that comes with the pictures or statuses is that they’re partnered with the occasional threat or accusation such as “If you don’t share this you’re a heartless human being!” or “share this or cancer will win!”

I guess I’m sort of natural anomaly because I am walking, talking and writing without an organ pumping blood throughout my body after bypassing that picture. However, for the record, I don’t want cancer to win.

The situation surrounding these photos and statuses reminds me a lot of those chain letters and emails from the ’90s.

“Pass this on or you’ll never find true love, your cat will die and your milk will sour,” is an example of some of the threats attached to these letters and emails. I find them as equally annoying as today’s status and photo shares. I did what I felt was right and ignored them.

On the other hand, in the time since my pet cats did die and my milk did go sour a couple of days ago. The jury is still out on the whole true love thing.

Maybe, I should’ve passed those emails on when I had a chance. Hopefully, disregarding that picture of the one-eyed dog on my newsfeed today won’t have the same consequences.

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My bad habit

February 3, 2013

Everyone has a bad habit. Some of us chew with our mouths open. Others don’t pick up after their dogs when the pooches do their business on a public sidewalk.

I have recently undertaken the endeavor of quitting my bad habit: biting my finger nails. Some may consider “endeavor” a strong word, but I don’t. Ask anyone in my family, I’ve been biting my nails as long as I can remember.

I’ve also tried to quit dozens times, but each has been a failure. I read “The Bernstein Bears and the Bad Habit” as a kid, but apparently I lack the willpower that Sister Bear had to kick the habit.

My mother has been nagging me for years to stop. She threatened to buy me Bite-X, a concoction you put on your nails that is supposed to make them taste bad. I considered trying it for this year’s quitting attempt but read reviews in which people said they just got used to the taste and continued biting, so I decided not to take that route.

Other websites suggested painting your nails will keep you from biting because they look pretty. I decided to give it a try. I ended up with pretty nails for two days then one would chip, and I would eventually end up with the top half of my nail still covered in polish but the bottom half not so much.

A couple of years ago, I tried wearing fake nails to keep me from biting my real nails. Not the expensive salon-installed kind, mind you – I didn’t plan on chomping through a $60 manicure if I broke down and relapsed. With the fake nails, I stopped biting but still had to have the nail between my teeth.

Plus, there was the downside to re-learning how to use my fingers. Going from no nails to having nails is very unsettling. I had to relearn how to type, open pop cans, put my hair up in a ponytail and pick up simple objects.

The faux nails worked until they fell off. Then I found myself back at square one: nubs for nails.

So, here I am quitting cold turkey.

While researching other methods of quitting, I came across the darker side of the issue. Nail biting is more than just a bad habit. It’s considered an impulse control disorder, one that usually develops in childhood. The scientific term for it is onychophagia and doing it isn’t without consequences.

As I discovered, when you bite your nails, your cuticles are casualties caught in the cross-fire. Improperly removing pieces of cuticles (such as the hangnails chronic nail biters get) leaves them open to viral and microbial infections.

The act of nail chewing also puts biters at risk for other problems, such as contracting illnesses from parasites – like pin-worms – and bacteria that may be camping out under nails. Swallowing the chewed nails can also result in stomach problems.

The fact that something so simple could lead to serious health problems should be enough to get me to quit, right? I’d like to think so, but so far that approach has been unsuccessful. The thought of all the germs my hands encounter every day suddenly throwing a party in my body in the form of an infection isn’t enough to control the impulse.

Maybe the social stigma that comes with nail biting would be enough to stop me? Whenever I see lists of pet peeves men have about women, nail biting is usually on there. My guy friends have expressed a similar sentiment.

Not only is my bad habit unhealthy, it’s also apparently unattractive. I certainly don’t want to be shunned from society for the way my fingernails look.

I guess being a vain young woman could be the key to quitting.

The Internet was kind enough to inform me that people who bite their nails can develop anxiety from the embarrassment and self-consciousness that stem from the condition. This is bad news for people who bite their nails when they’re anxious to begin with. I consider myself a pretty relaxed person, so giving off the false impression that I’m nervous is undesirable.

By far, the most frustrating part of having onychophagia is there is no escaping it. You have to buy items to sate other vices: cigarettes, alcohol and ice cream. But your fingernails are always there, free of charge and mocking you as you write yourself a Post-It with the reminder to stop biting.

The good news is I didn’t give in to biting while I wrote this. I just have to keep it up for about 50 more years. But with every other “addiction,” it’s one day at a time.

_______________________________________________________

My summer in the fraternity

At the end of the day, you’re still brothers – even when you’re a lady

October 19, 2012

This summer, I found myself living with a dozen dudes.

More important, I found myself with a new set of brothers who accepted me as one of their own – a “lady bro” if you will.

As a recent college graduate, I had no clue what I was doing with my life after walking across the stage to receive my diploma. I did have an interview set up in my hometown for a job I would most certainly despise. It was for newspaper sales instead of writing. Luckily, the stars aligned and I found myself with a position at the Grand Forks Herald.

Of course, this presented a problem: Where was I going to live?

One of my former Dakota Student coworkers happened to live in a fraternity that was renting rooms within the PB&J-everyday-for-dinner price range. And so, it was decided: I was going Greek for two and a half months.

I’ll be the first to admit I did have reservations. As an undergrad, I had some not-so-pleasant experiences at fraternity parties with guys acting ungentlemanly. The thought of actually living there and not being able to escape after the beer ran out and the cops showed up was troublesome.

Most people I told about my planned excursion shook their heads as images of beer bongs and togas filled their minds.

The conversation with relatives usually went something like this:

Relative: So, do you have a job yet?

Me: Yep, I’m moving back to Grand Forks to work at the Herald.

Relative: That’s great! Have you found an apartment?

Me: Not yet, but I have a month-by-month lease set up at a fraternity.

Relative: (Pause) I think you mean sorority.

Me: No. It’s a fraternity.

Relative: Like in “Animal House”?

Me: Yes. Like in “Animal House.”

While I will admit there were some similarities between Delta Tau Chi and my summer residence, Pi Kappa Phi, they were pretty basic.

Contrary to popular belief, my nights weren’t full of debauchery. (Well, not every night.).

Mostly it was just hanging out with a group of guys who were kind enough to let me invade their traditions and conversations and allow me to tag along on their normally all-male excursions. Instead of streaking, stealing farm animals or conducting panty raids, we went bowling, ate free tacos and burgers at local bars and threw Frisbees.

Don’t get me wrong, there were times when we’d “bro out” in true fraternity style.

One of my favorite bro moments was the All-American Fourth of July celebration. Nothing says “America” like getting McDonald’s apple pies, cracking a Bud Light and watching the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest before heading out for a bar crawl and ending the night with fireworks.

Despite the stereotypes surrounding Greek life, my stay at a fraternity was a positive one. And in the midst of all the fun, I learned an important life lesson from the men I lived with – almost as important as how to properly pour a beer.

I learned that no matter how hard you hit someone with a flyswatter or how loud you blow a vuvuzela in their face or how many times someone eats your clearly labeled sandwich meat, at the end of the day you’re still brothers – a bond not easily broken.

This is a pretty big deal. I can think of very few organizations I’ve been involved with in my life that invoked such a level of camaraderie. I know if someone whacked me with a fly-swatter, there’d probably be retaliation in the form of fists.

During my stay, I was adopted as a lady bro, which proved to be the best part of the experience. As the oldest of four kids, I was always looking out for my younger siblings. Living in the fraternity gave me more than a dozen big brothers who were there to make sure I was having the kind of fun that wouldn’t result in broken limbs – but sometimes broken pride.

As my change in attitude suggests, I also learned you shouldn’t judge someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes – or perhaps in this case, toga.

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