Thursday, August 28, 2008

Three Good Ones

I've been taking Lauren to the West Los Angeles Shelter every week, and we look at dogs. For me, the first few times I went to an animal shelter, it was very sad. Many, many dogs are euthanized and they all look so pitiful and helpless. But now, in LA at least, we have an attempt at a no-kill policy. At the West LA Shelter, there are some dogs that have been there since last year. While it's discouraging that these dogs don't have homes, it's encouraging that they are still alive. (They euthanize very old, sick or very aggressive dogs, and if the shelter is overcrowded, all bets are off.) I used to volunteer at the East Valley Shelter, and for me, the best way to cope was to only go once a month or so. By then, completely different dogs would be there, and I could tell myself that many of them found happy homes. If I'd gone each day, I would have realized what really happened to most of them. That is why we ended up saving Tony the dog. But I digress, this was meant to be a happy post.

Lauren loves to go with me to visit dogs, in our ongoing quest to convince Ryan that we are ready for another adoption, and we know the West L.A. dogs so well that we have our favorite friends. Here are the top 3 adoptable, easy-going, loveable souls that we like to pet through the bars each week:

This is Paolo the pit bull. He has such a sad face (looks happy here but in person he absolutely pouts!) and has been there so long-since April. He's a volunteer favorite. Very sweet, loves to lick and wiggle and wag. Completely submissive. Doesn't bark much.

Apple: This "beautiful on the inside" lady is quite noble looking, with a curled tail and a wrinkly face. They think she is part sharpei, I think she has some Doberman in her. Completely melts with joy when she sees us. Presses her body up against the bars of the kennel and wants to be scratched and petted. She rolls over for belly rubs (yes, hard to reach through the cage bars but we manage.) The kennel card says that a woman found her on the streets, and took her home where she lived for a few months until one day the woman's other two dogs attacked Apple. She did not defend herself, and suffered injuries requiring medical attention. She was brought to the shelter to get better and be safe.

Here is my new friend. She came in only a few days ago. I have been calling her Love. She doesn't have a kennel card name yet. I cannot imagine why no one has adopted this purebred Dalmation yet. She's five years old and very sweet, submissive and optimistic and waggy-tailed. She knows "sit" and she is so eager-to-please. She is the one I could most imagine actually bringing home without any time spent at Brandon's or worrying about her around strange situations. She's very calm and impressive.
If anyone out there is looking for another dog, let me know. I would love to keep an eye out and help you rescue a great one. Meanwhile, Lauren & I will keep visiting and petting dogs through the cage bars and doing high-pitched baby talk to them to cheer them up and sending good vibes their way and hoping for all of them to get wonderful happy homes.
Oh, and one more thing-if you ever have old bedding or towels that you want to toss, instead take them down to your local animal shelter. They can always use them and the dogs don't care if they're out of style/faded/stained with bleach or whatever. Or give them to me, I'll be headed that way.

Fiesta Ballona with 'Lexa

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Another "only in L.A." moment

Today, Ryan was taking out the trash. While he was dumping it, he went back inside to get more and when he came back, someone had stolen our bedroom waste basket. It's kind of funny, I never gave the waste basket much thought until today. I vaguely remember us buying it years ago, at Linens & Things probably. It was that fake leather looking kind, like the one pictured above. No, I didn't have a photo of it, I just did a google images search and found something close. Anyway, now I actually miss this item that I never gave a second thought to in years. Probably the person who took it thought Ryan meant to throw it out.

I emptied out one of the baskets holding some of Lauren's toys, and put it in the room where the old waste basket was, but it just doesn't look right. Our bedroom is the one room in the house where all of the decor seems to come together and match (or at least not clash horribly) and I suppose now we will have to to invest another afternoon shopping for a new waste basket. I know, I need real problems!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Musings on Nicknames

When my cousin was about 10, he informed the family that he was now to be known as Charles. My response? "Oh, that's nice, Charlie." And at least I didn't still call him "Cha-Cha". :)

But now I have been thinking about nicknames recently. I've got an impossibly hard to pronounce first name that's Swedish and most Americans have never seen it before. My brother as a small child came up with a nickname for me which is the first three letters of my name. And friends and family call me that as a term of endearment. But, I don't introduce myself as that, I use my full first name. And it's very weird for me when people introduce me as my nickname because it makes it seem as if they are instantly elevated to the status of family member or close friend. It's as if they are calling me "honey" but not in a good way but in a creepy way. I instantly stick out my hand and sort of reintroduce myself with my longer real first name but people don't seem to get the hint, maybe it's too subtle since I don't want to hurt the feelings of the friend introducing me.

I got an email today addressed to my nickname by someone I don't know that well who must have been introduced to me this way. And, I don't think I have ever heard my in-laws call me by my actual name, probably because Ryan usually calls me "hon" and things so they don't get to hear it much.

What's funny is, I do have a work nickname that I don't mind a bit- "B". My office buddies talk to me and about me with just one letter and I'm fine with that. I even sign emails "-B". This worked out well in my old office but now it's confusing because my current boss and another co-worker share that initial. Now I've got newfound empathy for those Bobbys out there who just want to be called Robert.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Fashion shoot

Lauren models Ralph Lauren.
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new family member

Josie the fish. Lauren wanted to get her "purple lady fish" which she would name "Zibadeff" but when we got to the pet store, she pointed to this blue male fish and said "this is Josie. I want him. He's my fish." So, he's moved into Paco's home and is swimming around contentedly downstairs. Lauren has pretty much ignored him since he's arrived, which is frankly a relief since in his last days, we were urged very often to "tell Paco something. You talk to Paco."

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Easy Money

Last night I did another focus group, and it was such easy money. $100 for 2 hours of sitting in a group and giving my opinion. I thought I would put together this list of companies in the L.A. area that pay for focus groups. Feel free to add more in the comments section. I've had a lot of expenses last month, especially in the wardrobe department, getting ready for the trial. And I had less hours at work so a smaller paycheck. So every $100 extra helps! Anyway, here are some that I have used and highly recommend.

Plaza Research
Adept Consumer Testing
Schlesinger Associates

Yahoo Consumer Testing
Sony Consumer Testing
These last 2, I don't know how I found them or they found me but the meetings were in their offices in Santa Monica.

But a good way to find these opportunities is to browse the 'Etc." section of the Jobs listings on Craig's List.

What is it like to do a focus group? Usually you start out by answering some questions via email and then they contact you by phone to ask you follow-up questions. If you fit their criterion, then you find out when and where the group meets. Here are some groups I've done:
"people who make over __$k per year and have never used self-tanning products"
"people who occasionally wear colored contact lenses"
"mothers with an infant who have a Maclaren stroller"
"women aged 24-35 who use Yahoo groups"
"people who buy ice cream at Ralphs"
"people who print online shipping labels through the Post Office's website"
"women who wash and condition their hair once a day"
"mothers of babies in diapers"
"Bank of America customers with mortgages elsewhere"
"people who have heard of but do not use Kiehl beauty products"
"women who buy energy bars"
"people who earn above __x$ who are going to buy a car in the next year"

Sometimes the screeners will be desperate to fill a certain group, and will ask you questions in such a way that gives you hints as to what they're looking for, which is how I found myself in a focus group for "women who often drink lite beer". Luckily on that one (it had been months since I'd had a beer), what happened was that I showed up, they had too many people, so they paid me $100 anyway, and sent me home without me having to participate.

When you get to their office, they usually have sandwiches or pizza, cookies, sodas, and then they bring you into a room and ask you the same questions again to make sure you fit the client's criterion. Then they dismiss one or two people sometimes (and pay anyway!) and then the rest of you sit and talk for 2 hours about whatever the subject is, around a small conference room table. Usually there are 8-10 people or so in the group. There is a 2-way mirror with at one end of the room and a moderator at the head of the table.

They usually pay around $100, but it ranges from $75-$400 depending on how long you're there, and if there is"homework" then you usually get more. The homeworks I've been given have always been collages, where I had to cut and paste magazine photos relating to a theme.

Please comment if you have done any focus groups. What were they about? And do you have any new companies I can add to the list? I think this will be interesting. :)

Monday, August 04, 2008

My crush

Drove this guy home on Saturday. What a cutie! And I got a kiss and everything. Such pretty green eyes and such a good cuddler. Lauren approves, Ryan not so much. Don't worry, I won't act on my feelings but you all should check him out in case anyone else is in the market...

"Spirited Child", a 28 month Lauren update

Lauren's asleep upstairs right now, which is a minor miracle, since avoiding sleep has been one of her goals the past few days. She avoided a nap today. Yesterday, she fought it but then conked out at the dinner table while we were out having pizza with Meredith and Gary. When we got home, she kept asking me "what's the lady's name? Maiwy diff! I like Maiwy diff!"and then she put a blanket around her head and pretended to be Meredith. (No, Meredith does not wear a shawl nor have pink hair!)

She likes to pretend to be other people, and is fascinated with acting. She likes to pretend to be Leora ("I'm Wyder's mommy! I gots a baby bwother in my tummy!") or my lawyer, Dave ("I'm Davey, I got a tie on, see!") Today on the way back from Trader Joe's, we happened to walk past a play rehearsal at Media Park and stopped to watch part of it. She was completely captivated. We wanted to leave after awhile of standing up, holding grocery bags with melting food, but Lauren kept begging, "one more minute." We agreed to take her back to see the real performance.

"Sool" is going well. I'm trying to help her with pronunciation, so now she can call it "sss cool" but she usually slides back into the "sool" sound. There is one problem there though, she keeps pushing two smaller children, Dennis and Claire. Lauren tells me "I no like Dennis. He is yucky." With Claire, she just hugs too enthusiastically and ends up hurting her. Today at Ikea, Lauren got bad at a girl who took a toy she was looking at (of course, this was Ikea, they had a hundred more identical ones for sale!) so Lauren shoved her and then immediately stuck out her hand in a peace gesture and said "Sawwy. I sawwy" but the girl was scared and ran away.

Ikea, for Lauren, is this paradise that she loves to talk about and visit. She likes it even better than Disneyland. Actually, we went to Disney a few days ago and she had an okay time but didn't seem all too thrilled to have to wait on lines. "I'm ready. I want to go NOW. I'm ready right now. I don't wait. I can't do that. I go up there. I go myself." She also got very upset that she was not tall enough for certain rides, notably the swings. I would not have chosen to take her to Disney at this point in her life but my 13 year old cousin Elizabeth was visiting and wanted to go, and Ryan's cousin works there and could sign us in for free so we went.

Elizabeth was with us for a week and is now staying the second week with my parents. Lauren took a liking to her and tried saying "Zidabeth" and "Ezibadeth" and then after a few days, told her "you are Coco" and called her Coco the rest of the week. She wanted to sleep with Coco and when she was tired and cranky, she said "Coco, go home!" but then when Coco left, it was "Coco come back!" Other places we took Elizabeth (and of course Lauren): the Getty Center, Hollywood Walk of Fame & Mann's Chinese Theater, UCLA, Santa Monica Pier, Westwood, Beverly Hills, Culver City, Mulholland Drive, Greystone Mansion, and also she went on a Sony Studios tour with my mom. We were out driving in Bel Air when the earthquake hit, and none of us noticed it. The tram at the Getty was shut down when we arrived, though, and we had to walk to the top. At the top, we found out about the quake.