Monday, December 29, 2008


Being as though I'm in marketing and the economy is far below the acceptable line, you can imagine I hear a lot about stay-cations. The word itself has become a cliche.... and it's only been around about six months.

And then today, I experienced my first day of my own stay-cation. And realized it's AMAZING. 

Caveot. I'm actually a huge fan of REAL vacations (if you haven't noticed my aversion to winter yet... I like getting away to sun and warmth)... This slip-up actually came about by mistake due to the fact that I miscalculated my vaca time prior to booking my flight home for Christmas. 

Alas, I made lemons with lemonade. I got more accomplished this morning off my random, not-fun to-do list before noon than I have in all of 2008. It helped that the sun is out, and it is warmer than 30 degrees. Overall... fabulous day... and it's only 3 p.m.

Have you ever had a stay-cation? Tell me about it....
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Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Holiday Miracle

Family. The people in your life who you're closest to...the ones who get on your nerves the quickest. The ones who remind you of your most unattractive characteristics.... and who have the most dirt on you.

The holidays can be hard for families. Every year brings different heartaches... divorces, deaths, diseases. Often the holidays can remind us of what we're missing; what's not the same as it used to be.

It's easy to take your family for granted. And the holidays, although family-focused, are no exception. For the first time in my life, I thought there was a chance I was going to miss Christmas. Although December 25th would surely come and go, I knew without my family and oldest friends, it would just be another day.

Unfortunately, it took a horrendous 24 hours of pre-Christmas traveling to come to this realization. Let me paint you the long, but necessary, picture. 

5:00 p.m. Leave work... later than expected... for my scheduled 5:50 p.m. flight that has already been delayed until 8:30 p.m.

6:00 p.m. Get to airport. Check in/security randomness. 

6:30 p.m. Meet Cristy for dinner in the food court... laugh over the ridiculousness of the crowds and insanity. Call friends... laugh more. We love vacation. We love Christmas. 

7:30 p.m. Cristy and I relocate around her gate for her Columbus flight. We read magazines, talk pop culture, plan her wedding... Laughter continues... I leave Cristy... skipping off to my gate to check status and get ready to board.

8:00 p.m. Arrive at gate... Pull out Newsweek... Think about what I'm going to do once I get home.. 

8:05 p.m. Enter drunk 20-something guys who have been at the bar since 5:50 p.m. I knew one of them through a friend of a friend. Forward and touchy. Nervous laughter begins. 

8:30 p.m. Announcement of gate change. Ditch the drunkies

8:35 p.m. New seat. New boy. Western Reserve graduate in suit and tie. Yes, I judged. Conversation ends quickly after this WR discovery.

Realize we're not taking off at 8:30 p.m. Decide that I am starting to lose my Christmas cheer and try to avoid people at all costs. 

9:00 p.m. Commit to watching old episode of Grey's Anatomy on laptop. Killing time and any chance I may have to meet the (drunk) man of my dreams at the airport. Clearly fine with that situation. 

10:00 p.m. Plane arrives. Crew no where to be found. 

10:30 p.m. Apparently they locate crew. 

10:35 p.m. Load plane knowing the Cleveland airport is closed, and they are waiting for it to open. Grab the closest window seat I could find. 

10:45 p.m. Realize I'm sitting in the middle of a medical school reunion. Lots of talk of MBAs and how they are going to save the world... 

11:30 p.m. Get text from Cristy. She's in Columbus, and they are making her sing on the plane as they wait for an available gate. Haha, I laugh. I guess things could be worse. 

12:00 a.m. They update us that it's still touch-and-go, but they promise to get us to Cleveland tonight. 

12:45 a.m. They LIED! Cancelled flight. Unload plane.

1:45 a.m. After standing in line and being on hold with 1-800-I-FLY-SWA, realize all flights are booked until the 25th... make a bee-line for the rental cars. Still determined and optimistic that I'm going to get home. Somehow. 

2:30 a.m. Am informed there are no more rental cars available. Begin the search for my bags amongst the war ground that is the baggage claim area. 1,000s of bags scattered throughout the room in no particular order. All black, like mine.

3:00 a.m. Vow to buy bright orange suitcase. 

3:30 a.m. I have entered hell on earth. Realize I dragged about 50 pounds of luggage (with a bad back) through the slush to the airport to eat crappy food court food, be slightly accosted by drunk men, wait six hours for a cancelled flight, be denied the opp to fly or drive the next day to Ohio.... AND to top it off... LOSE THE LUGGAGE that started this chaos in the first place.

I lost all rational thought. I hated my life. I hated Southwest. I had no solution. Hysterically crying from exhaustion, disappointment and stress in the middle of Midway's baggage claim area, I called my parents. I was hoping maybe since they hadn't been stressing for the past nine hours, perhaps they could save me from what was sure to be a Christmas involving takeout and depressing Hallmark Christmas specials.

4:15 a.m. FIND MY LUGGAGE on carousel #6!!!!!!!! Shed tears of happiness. Can't stop the flow of tears that keep running down my face. I'm not even sure why I'm crying anymore. 

4:30 a.m. Leave Midway with luggage  but no plan as to how I will get home. Defeated once again by Chicago weather.

5:30 a.m. Fall asleep with Moxie. At least someone is happy I'm back in my apartment.

7:30 a.m. Mom calls frantic. Get changed! The Helmkamps are coming to pick you up in 10 minutes! Shut the F up... There is no way I am this lucky. Clearly I was good this year.

7:45 a.m. My miracle ride arrives to whisk me away to Akron, Ohio... once thought of as a ho-hum, regular destination, now the Oz in my Wizard... the pot at the end of the rainbow... the genie in my bottle.

3:00 p.m. Exhausted... but never happier to see my family and home on Christmas Eve. 

3:01 p.m. Begin most appreciated Christmas in Ohio EVER!

Have any trouble achieving your Merry Christmas because of the apocalyptic weather that arrived oh-so-conveniently during the height of holiday travel?? Any stories that beat mine?? Do tell... 

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008


I wonder if they can predict delays 8 hours ahead of time.... hmmm...

Stalking all day. Anyone want to make a bet on how long I'm delayed?? I'm crossing my fingers not... I have my mom's birthday dinner to go to tonight!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOM!

Anyone else going to be at Midway around 5ish?
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Monday, December 22, 2008

Real Ridic...

I'm not sure which is more ridiculous.... that I had to buy an $18 bottle of prescription toothpaste or that I risked death-by-possible frostbite by traveling all the way to Ravenswood after work to drop off keys so that my obese furball will get exactly 1/2 cup food each day while I'm gone.... or that both of these events happened in one night. 


Hoping mother nature takes a sedative tomorrow and ignores what could be another snow storm... which has the capability of causing me to sleep over or get drunk in Midway airport... unfortunately the free Southwest passes don't work until you actually get on the plane... damn.

Wish me luck, and safe travels to everyone :) 

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Notable Quotable

"If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant. If we did not sometimes taste adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome."

-Anne Bradstreet, poet
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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Today was so cold that....

I woke up today to face -5 degree temperatures... and -40 degree wind chills. To put that in perspective, it was so cold that... 
  • I actually ran at one point, through the piles of frozen snow, like a crazy person to get closer to the warmth of my apartment
  • I suited up with two scarves... not one
  • My eyelashes actually froze due to my eyes watering from the winds...
  • My friend, Dee, and I, in an effort to avoid frost bite while shopping downtown, braved the Woodfield Mall the Sunday before Christmas... insane
  • I ate chili for lunch and dinner
  • I'm actually exhausted from the dealing with the weather
  • I'm looking forward to the warm temperatures of Akron, Ohio (forecasted 10 degrees on Christmas Eve!)
  • My friend, Cristy, willed me her goldfish, Trixie, in case she didn't make it through the day alive
  • We decided Chicago is the new Canada
  • Moxie actually grew, instead of shed, hair 
  • Not even the craziest runners were out on the bike path
Did you make it through the day? Have you already beat the cold and are enjoying fruity drinks by a tropical pool or hiding away in Texas (Alyssa?!)? Or are you just in some location where you don't feel like two scarves is enough?! Please share.... 
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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Back to You, Jim...

One of my favorite pastimes as a Chicagoan in the winter is following the track of pending storms and virtually befriending all the weathermen. I mean, seriously, during these weather reports, I feel like they should add in tunes from the Apollo 13 soundtrack... They have all the effects of a good movie...
  • Suspense: 'Eleven inches of precipitation - a mix of freezing rain and snow - will begin to fall upon Chicago at approximately 11 p.m. this evening.'
  • The Unknown: Is it going to pass?? Will our pipes freeze? Will we be stuck in our apartments until 2009? Do I have enough food? How will I get to work tomorrow?
  • Love: 'Cuddle up and stay warm, Chicago'
  • Laughter/Clever (or not-so-clever) Commentary: 'We got another doosie coming our way, Todd'... 'If you thought yesterday was beast, we're expecting a monster! (cue the laughter and flash the ridiculously white teeth)
To our media's credit, I witness a similar, intense weather report when visiting San Diego. It rained. Turns out, when you never drive in the rain, you don't know what things like hydroplaining are. Rough life.

Off to a fratastic holiday party... but check the weather tonight... it looks like a doosie's coming our way!!
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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Drew Peterson is engaged

I can't say there a lot of headlines that physically make me want to vomit. But when I found out that Drew Peterson was engaged again to a 23-year-old... I couldn't help but be stunned.

Not as much stunned that he would propose to someone after four months of dating... but that someone 1) would be dating him and 2) that she would say yes. 

I don't want to judge, but this whole confusing situation raising a lot of questions... such as:
  • Has this woman read the paper in the past year?
  • Is she aware that one of his wives mysteriously died and the other (that he is legally still married to) is mysteriously missing?
  • Does she have a mother? Or family? Or anyone who might ask, 'what the f are you doing?' I'm pretty sure both of my parents would probably personally move me back to Akron, Ohio if I ever called them announcing an engagement after only four months of dating ANYONE...let alone a suspect in a disappearance and murder. I think that might warrant more drastic measures... involving tranquilizers and drugs... 
  • Where did D.P. meet this said-un-named young woman? Is he area of choice dive bars or does he looked to the more educated, college bars? And is he really that charming that he seriously is engaged for the fifth time?
  • Is D.P. or his publicist paying this woman to get more publicity? Did he miss all the media attention? Has he already called Dr. Phil? Or Jerry?
  • Where will his children fit into this family? Ugh... too sad...
  • Were they really dating before all this commotion went down?
  • At what point, at the old age of 23, do you start to disregard HUGE red flags such as criminal records, four marriages, etc. in fear of becoming an old spinster with several cats?
  • And is Chicago filled with so many crazy guys that one might be in competition with other women to find and land the CRAZIEST of them all?
Clearly (and thankfully) I'm not part of the Chicago Police Department, and I don't have a doctorate in psychology, so I suppose I won't know those answers... and, yes, I agree everyone deserves to be happy. In fact, I've raised a glass to two engagements in the past week... but I have to say... the only thing that this will raise in my book is a lot more questions.

Too many for tonight. Night Chicago.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Kiss N' Tell

As I said, definitely didn't make it to book club tonight... but here are a few interesting bits from our latest book, "Kiss & Tell" by Alain de Botton. After the first loooong couple chapters, it became interesting... but I'm still not convinced enough to recommend it. The author is long-winded and writes too much about the actual process of writing the book. Had we actually had our girls' night/book discussion I would have brought up these quotes for discussion. Think about them. Discuss. And if you read it... add your own favs... 

"I don't particularly like London, but at the same time, I think it's granting too much importance to the place you live if you actually move to another one. In the end, all cities are the same, so you might as well stay where you are, where you know how the phone and transport system work, and get on with what matters."

"Anyone who hears a lover account for the demise of their passion will recognize that we are prone to locating the essence of a person in what we publicly dismiss as trivial, yet privately hold as vital. The lover may cite the rejected one's taste in religion, profession or literature, but this lacks the explicative power of the crumbs that follow, namely that the ex happened also to gulp loudly between mouthfuls, did not replace their knife and fork symmetrically and mopped up gravy with a piece of bread, details while one intuitively knows to be far closer to the grounds of the relationship's demise than anything yet outlined."

"Nobody can write the life of a man, but those who have eaten and drunk with him"

"The process of intimacy therefore involved the opposite of seduction, for it meant revealing what risked rendering one most open to unfavourable judgement, or least worthy of love. Whereas seduction was founded on the display of one's finest qualities and dinner jackets, intimacy entailed a complex offer of both vulnerability and toenails."

"We may be forced to identify our lovers from a cripplingly small pool of choices. In trying to explain the more inexplicable love stores, one may have to answer the question, 'Why them?' with the gloomy thought, 'Did you see the others?'"

"Everyone has something to hide, because everyone suspects that if others knew certain things about them they would no longer be loved. Behind our need for privacy lies a fear that we are unacceptable when everything about us is known."

"The more one has to talk to someone, the less one in fact will."

"Strangers to ourselves, we are unreliable autobiographers - and hence render almost impossible the task of our biographers. They are left with the choice of either believing and reporting what their subjects suggest, thereby falling prey to the subjects' fantasies, or doubting and interpreting, thereby risking the addition of their own fantasies to the already muddied picture."

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Oh the weather outside is frightful...

There are certain circumstances when you can learn a lot about a person. Getting lost. Putting up Christmas lights. And waiting for the bus in the middle of a snow storm. I got to test out that third theory with about 200 strangers this afternoon.

Old man winter paid the Windy City a visit today... dumping snow onto Michigan Avenue and the rest of Chicago continuously since about 10 a.m.

As I sat in front of my desk, facing a bleak, frozen river from the 14th floor, I felt like I had been glued into a gigantic snow globe. And someone kept shaking things up.

With each hour came the impending doom of my commute home. Had I not had an end of day deadline that I didn't finish until 5:20... I would have been out of there by 3.

After hitting send, I slowly put on my armour (aka coat, furry boots, extra five wool jackets, hat, scarf and gloves) and headed out in the battlezone.... the bus stop.

This is when I learned a lot about a lot of people. As I approached the corner of South Water and Michigan Ave, I couldn't help but notice the intimidatingly large swarm of people who also had the crazy idea to go home tonight. As I stood there, and the swarm started to multiply, we watched about a dozen bus number 20s pass us by (p.s. does ANYONE know where that bus goes? Because I'm about to move there).

The reactions varied amongst the crowd to this shitshow called rush hour. Many started calling loved ones, describing in detail the dreary situation that lay ahead of them. Others (like myself) huddled in the corner of a building or behind a pole, convinced that frostbite would come before the 143 or 151. But most everyone had the oh-F*ck look on their face... knowing it was going to be awhile before they could crawl into warm sweatpants, eat dinner and hit the DVR button.

Then the 143 bus came. Ahead of me people pile on. I go to step in... and realize it's completely full. F it. Then the 151 bus comes. I swear... it happens again.

Then I get smart and go to the bus stop one block south. Suckers... I'm on! And after only two stops... and a 1/2 an hour passes... I achieve a VIP bus seat... window! Things are looking up. It took me two hours and fifteen minutes, but I'm back and safe in my warm apartment. Nothing to it.

Like I said, I learned a lot about Chicagoans today. Everyone realized that this commute was going to be about as fun as a hangover at Disney World...but some realized they weren't alone and others just wanted to be alone. For example, I was consoled by a stranger who had also just missed the cut to get on the bus... but then also was completely cut off by a dude who clearly could care less about being a gentlemen at this point. 

Needless to say, I did not travel the extra mile for book club... and I did not make it to the grocery store to get quarters for laundry. So I'm forced to put on my sweatpants, post a ridiculously long blog (or blogs) and call it a night. 

Stay warm, Chicago!! 

Tell me about your commute... did you make it home? Get stuck in the suburbs? Get a date?

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Riots at Chuck E. Cheese

Spotted. Parents around the country battling out their frustrations at each other at area Chuck E. Cheese restaurants. Apparently, the entertainment doesn't stop at the creepy dressed up mice and disease-infested ball play box.

Check it out...

Yet another reason not to have kids and move to the Wisconsin suburbs. Clearly it will cause you to get drunk amongst a number of screaming and crying kids with ADD and pick fights with other parents. I feel like fighting someone just thinking about it.

Best quote, "The environment also brings out what security experts call the "mama-bear instinct." A Chuck E. Cheese's can take on some of the dynamics of the animal kingdom, where beasts rush to protect their young when they sense a threat."

Thinking back, Chuck E. Cheese may have even been stressful for me as a kid...

Do you like Chuck or his Cheese? What are your thoughts?
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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

It's Beginning to Feel a lot like a Recession or is it Depression?

December 9, 2008. Open a newspaper. Turn on the news. Check the Twitter logs. Read a few blogs. The news is bad... I mean seriously depressing.

Beyond the usual layoffs, auto industry mayhem and miscellaneous negative economic news, here are some other uplifting headlines from sweet home Chicago just in the past week... 

But to keep us all from believing it's the apocalypse or that hell has freezed over and settled next to Lake Michigan, I've also searched and found a few feel-good stories. Some of which are Chicago-based... most of which are not. Take from it what you will. 

And is giving away $25 for $3. Yet another reason not to cook :) 

Anyone else have any good news to report??? I'm sure we would all appreciate it... 

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Monday, December 8, 2008

Lost Ipod = Lost mind

Everyone has those weekends where they actually look forward to Mondays. This was almost one of those weekends. 

Don't get me wrong, I would've probably offered to get a cavity drilled if it meant I could stay in bed for an extra four hours. What I mean is that I was looking forward to getting back to my weekly responsible schedule... stalking media... working out... eating healthy... reading my book club book... All things that did not take place this weekend. Mainly the responsible part.

To my dismay, the cheery morning came to halt when my irresponsibilities of the weekend came crashing down upon me. I discovered, upon leaving my apartment, that I had once again (yes, this happened another time) lost my Ipod. 

It either a) fell out of my massive purse or b) someone voluntarily caused it to "fall" out of my massive purse. I'm going with the latter....because my $2 chapstick and random Mardi Gras beads remained in the purse all weekend. 

Losing an Ipod in the city is more than just throwing away $150. You might as well lose your sanity along with it. 

Suddenly you have to listen to every conversation next to you on the bus. Or it's so quiet you're forced to hear your own thoughts. And considering you have read my thoughts for the past few weeks... you can imagine why that is scary.

After work, you can't unload to a relaxing tune or upbeat song to take you to the next destination. The cold air feels even colder as it whips at your face and you aren't humming to Beyonce or Britney. Don't even think about running... because you'll suddenly become obsessed about your breath.

You start dreaming about your Ipod as if it were a tragically lost ex-boyfriend. Remembering the smooth blue edges....the feel of the controller as you scanned your favorite songs. Wondering what song would be playing if you had it...Counting Crows? Dave Matthews? And becoming crazily jealous and kind of insecure thinking that someone else somewhere might be checking out the playlists... the most played music....

Like I said... sanity. Gone. 

Ever lost an Ipod? Anyone sympathize with my sorrows?
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Sunday, December 7, 2008

Trials of Tree-Trimming

After a ridiculous weekend of over-celebrating the holiday season, I broke out my hidden domestic skills to pick up and decorate my first real Christmas tree. Despite Walmart selling me a set of 400 Christmas lights... only 200 of which actually lit... the day successfully put me in the holiday mood.

The first hurdle was in the actual transportation. With puffy coats, gloves and lumberjack hats, my friend Aline and I headed over to St. Clement's church to pick up the tree. After first lifting the pile of pines, we gawfed at its lightness. We laughed at how much we felt like a Norman Rockwell painting or characters in a "Christmas Story." Check this one off the list of things we've never done in the city.

Cars... even buses stopped, smiled and let us pass with none of the usual beeping or swearing. One particularly cute older lady exclaimed, "You go girls! Who needs men!" as she walked, arm-in-arm with her husband.

We only had to stop two times in a three block radius... but the point is, it arrived safely to my apartment with time to spare before the rest of the girls came over to decorate. 

One pizza and a bottle of champagne later, my friends and I had a beautiful tree, natural air freshener and one seriously curious cat. Let the holiday fun continue... 

So for the next few weeks... my posts will be written in the cozy confines of my technicolor holiday extravaganza... aka my living room. 

Everyone has a ridiculous tree trimming story. What's yours?

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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Runners' Rage...

As a runner, I've done a lot of crazy things. I trained for my first 1/2 marathon on Saturday mornings in January and hurdled puddles in the pouring summer rain. I spent months meeting my running buddy at 5:30 a.m. before work to get in training runs.... and I ran 20 miles of my first marathon in humid, 85 degree heat....while taking pictures (see above). 

I'm not saying these things to brag... I'm just realizing that to non-runners , these activities are not normal. 

The best part is, I'm not alone. And I'm nowhere near the craziest out there. In Chicago, runners are their own breed. 

Last night, however, I truly tested my sanity as I geared up, completely aware of the severe winter weather advisory, and hit Michigan Avenue to run the familiar 3.5 miles home.

As much as I enjoy the runner's high... there are also many other benefits to running home...even if it is dark, cold, windy and snowing...
  • Michigan Avenue is like a human tetras game or Mario Brothers level... I feel like I get bonus points for every tourist I avoid running into
  • Racing the 151... and beating it
  • Watching the reactions of normal, sane people to my crazy running shenanigans
  • Checking out the window displays
  • And although I'm no Prefontaine, I can run home faster than it takes to wait for and take the bus home
To all those other Chicago runners out there... what was your "i-really-can't-believe-I'm-running" moment? And what made you cross over to crazy??
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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

New York Times: Top 10 List

Top 10 Books of 2008! Just in time for the holiday lists :)
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Monday, December 1, 2008

Backin it Up Hip Hop-Style...

MTV Hip Hop II:  An intermediate Hip Hop class for those who have danced before.... Tons of fun and cool choreography like you would see in music videos.

When I was five, my dad's friend nicknamed me, "Colleen the Dancing Machine" for breaking it down by the campfire to his guitar rendition of "Wild Thing." 

For eight years, from 5th to 12th grade, I performed around the Midwest as part of a competitive show choir... and could flash the jazz hands, dance on boxes and do a 10 second costume change with the best of them (refer to above picture for some chuckles... I'm the sparkly pink girl with big show choir curls in the front).

Today my signature not-so-secret pick-up move is "the twirl"... I've been known to challenge dance-offs whenever possible... and sometimes there's nothing better than a night out dancing with the girls.

But even though age-- and mainly my four years at the water-hole known as Ohio University-- has encouraged the use of alcohol with these recent dance activities, there's still something to be said about learning actual technique and the feeling you get once you nail a routine. 

So I've been searching these past few years for a solid dance class... that's not too stuffy, too time-intensive or too expensive.

Tonight I'll be starting my second MTV Hip Hip II dance session at All About Dance on Clark Street (right by Treets icecream). I'll be working off the Thanksgiving turkey, stuffing and pie to the sounds Rihanna and Madonna... 

I have to admit, the fact that they insist on continuing to call it  "MTV" Hip Hop makes me feel like a huge dork..and the fact that they elaborate on that in the description noting, "cool choreography like you see in the music videos" doesn't help. Ah well... it's a fun class... and as long as I have some new moves to pull out at Duffy's, I'm set (someone cue the dry ice, striped shirts and mini burgers to appear).

Happy Cyber (?) Monday!

C....The Dancing Machine

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