Conquering Fears

This weekend I participated in the NYC triathlon. The race consisted of a 1 mile swim, a 40k (24.8 miles) bike and a 10k (6.2 miles) run. Most of you would probably assume that for me, the race got more challenging as it went along . For the most part, you are right. My swim time was 7th in my age group (not going to lie, a slight disappointment), my bike split was 20th and my run split was 102nd. So yes, things got more difficult for my as the race went along — but that’s only speaking about the physical challenges.

Mentally, the swim was the worst. Ever since I was accepted into this race I’ve been panicking. I mean, swimming in the Hudson? Who wouldn’t be nervous?

Getting ready to brave the waters of the Hudson
Getting ready to brave the waters of the Hudson

But I’ve had a fear of open water swimming for years. Swimming in pools, fine. You can see the bottom, most of the time they don’t contain animals and the chlorine keeps out all of the “bad things.” But swimming in open water, that’s another story.

Some of you may remember this post blog I wrote about visit my grandparents in Florida. In it I mentioned my fear of open water swimming:

Abby and I spent a lot of time swimming in the bay in front of our grandparents house. We would blow up rafts and inner tubes, and see who could stand on them the longest without falling in the water. At the end of the bay, there was a mangrove island, no more than 150 yards away. When Abby was 7 years old, she decided she was going to swim out to this island. My dad jumped in the inflatable row-boat and paddled along besides her as she bravely made her way out to the island and back. When she returned, my grandfather gave her a sliver dollar for accomplishing this feat. Year after year, when we returned to their house, my grandfather would ask me if I was ready to make the same swim. Not until I was 21 years old did I actually do it; and I was freaking out the entire time. Sadly, I never received a silver dollar for my feat of bravery…

So for me, taking on the Hudson, which is fill with who knows what, was a feat for me. And it definitely gave me reason to smile the rest of the race, even when I was running/jogging/trudging at the end!

So happy to be out of the water
So happy to be out of the water
Going out for my bike on the West Side Highway
Going out for my bike on the West Side Highway
One mile into the run, pain is starting to set in
One mile into the run, pain is starting to set in
So close to the finish!
So close to the finish!

Thank you Matt for acting as my support crew. It was reassuring to see you running along the path as I swam, frantically swinging your arms around and telling me to go faster. It definitely reminded me of our days on Gators. Plus your hair looked amazing.

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Swimming in Success

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For those of you who don’t know (and I can’t image there are very many out there), swimming was a very big part of the first 22 years of my life. And while the end of my swimming “career” was emotional and some what sad, I was looking forward to the end of morning practice, constantly smelling like chlorine and being able to shave my legs like a normal girl (if you are confused by that last one, don’t even ask).

My interest in swimming started at a young age, mostly (or entirely) because my older sister Abby had developed a love for the sport. Oh yeah, and she was extremely talented. Abby would win nearly every race she entered – I would be lucky to find the courage to actually dive off the block and participate in the race. I liked to practice but racing wasn’t my thing. However, with encouragement from my parents, my coaches, and my amazing older sister, I too became a pretty good swimmer. That being said, my sister’s love for the sport was always MILES ahead of mine. So, it is no surprise that after she graduated from college (after an AMAZING senior year of swimming) she decided to take that love for swimming and turn it into a career.

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After working as an assistance coach for two different collegiate teams, Abby was hired as the Head Coach for both the men’s and women’s teams at the University of Mary Washington in VA. Now in her 3rd season there, she has continued to develop a very strong program. Both teams competed in their conference meet last weekend,  both winning soundly.

A few stats from her meet for you swimming nerds (and some pictures for those of you who don’t care about the stats)!

UMW

As Abby gears up for NCAAs, I thought I would share with you an article about one of her swimmers who has a pretty incredible story, and a pretty good chance to win an event at NCAAs. Pretty impressive.

Swimming Into Success
By 

When top Division I schools courted Alex Anderson ’15 for a swim scholarship in 2006, the high school senior wasn’t ready.

Recruiters for such schools as Alabama, Arizona and Indiana universities saw a record-setting competitor who took two state titles in the 500-yard freestyle. Anderson saw a commitment to academics he wasn’t ready to make. He turned his back on school, and for a few years he lost his way – and his sport.

Alex Anderson ’15 is headed to the NCAA Championships in March.

Seven years later he’s making a name for himself as a UMW student-athlete on the Eagles swim team. In February, the sophomore was named Capital Athletic Conference Swimmer of the Year at a meet in which he broke four individual school and conference records and swam in four record-breaking relays. He’ll represent the university at the March NCAA Championships in Texas.

Meanwhile, the water helped Anderson get his life on track.

“Swimming turned into a therapeutic sport for me,” said Anderson, who studies chemistry at Mary Washington. “By this I mean every time I jump in the pool I let all my troubles and worries float away. It seems like such a natural thing for me, like something I was born to do.”

After high school in Vienna, Va., Anderson enrolled at Northern Virginia Community College, NOVA, but he wasn’t interested in school. He often didn’t show up for classes, and his grades stayed low. His mother lost a battle with breast cancer in the summer of 2007, and soon after he moved out of his father’s house.

Over the next two years, Anderson shared an apartment with roommates and worked low-wage jobs to pay the bills. He was a waiter, a cashier, a cook and a carpenter’s apprentice. He managed a company that tended potted plants in offices and supermarkets.

Anderson earned All-American honors in 2012.

It wasn’t the life he wanted. He realized he was squandering his talent and an opportunity for something better.

He talked to his father, and they formed a plan. Anderson would get serious – go back to school, bring up his grades and get back in the pool. The son moved back in with his dad, joined a club team and trained to get back in shape for competition.

Back at NOVA in spring 2010, Anderson retook several courses and signed up for something new – biology. The science class was his favorite, and he aced it. After that, he earned only A’s – grades that could get him into a four-year college.

With new confidence in his academic ability, he no longer wanted only to swim. He decided on a Division III school that would allow him the flexibility to develop his sport and his brain. The science program at University of Mary Washington had a great reputation, and it was close to home. He went for it.

Anderson talked to Eagles swim coach Abby Brethauer, was admitted by the university, and enrolled for classes in August 2011.

When he is in the lane with rivals, he changes from the carefree swimmer in training.

“I bring a different attitude to my racing and competitive swimming,” Anderson said. “I love to race. I can get competitive. I just want to win.”

Anderson and Eagles swimming were a great fit from the start. His first season, he was one of the fastest swimmers, leading the men’s team to its 12th consecutive CAC title.

He qualified for the NCAA Championships in the 50-yard freestyle, the 200-yard breaststroke and the 400-yard individual medley. In his first NCAA Championship, he gained All-America status in the 400-yard individual medley with a ninth-place finish, easily winning the consolation final.

As he heads to the NCAA Championships again this year, he’s even faster, having just broken individual school and conference records in the 100- and 200-yard butterfly and the 50- and 200-yard freestyle. His relay teams – the 200-, 400- and 800-yard freestyle and the 400-yard medley – also set school and conference records en route to the NCAAs.

“Alex has the potential not only to be the most successful swimmer in the history of UMW swimming, but also to turn what have until this point only been program goals into realities,” Brethauer said. “Not only is he a talented swimmer, he is also one of our top students – and he’s a great teammate. He is a wonderful example of what it means to be a Mary Washington student-athlete. He represents both our team and the entire department with aplomb.”

When Anderson started back to swimming, he scrutinized how he had trained, his stroke, his performance and found new ways to better old race times. He fell in love with chemistry for the challenge, too, he said. And his first quiz back with a low score, he used the same skills he uses in the pool.

“I look at what I’ve done and how I can do better. I change it. Since [that quiz], I’ve tried 10 different types of study skills,” he said. “The biggest tool for success is to be willing to try new things and be able to change. You have to look back at what you’ve done to do that. Otherwise you might change for the worse.”

 

Today Is Somebody’s Birthday!

I first met Matt when he joined my swim team the summer between freshman and sophomore year of high school. I wish I could say that I have a crystal clear image of his first swim practice and that from the moment I first met him I knew we would be husband and wife one day. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. But it didn’t take too long until the “Gary Hall Jr.” lookalike cause my eye…

At that point in time, I was training out of a pool in New Hampshire Monday – Friday and then would drive down to Bentley College in Waltham MA for Saturday morning practice with the rest of the team. It took me a while to get to know Matt, since I was only spending 3 hours with him each week. But as he started to make friends with the other kids on the team who trained with him every day, our friendship started to develop.

The following March (7 or so months after Matt joined the team), we loaded up the team buses and headed to Brown for the New England Senior Championship meet. Somehow, I realized that Matt’s Birthday was going to fall during the weekend of the meet. Being someone who LOVES to celebrate my own birthday, I immediately felt sorry for him. While the kids of the swim team were my closest friends in high school, being at a championship meet for your birthday didn’t seem very fun. The focus of the weekend was on swimming, not celebrating Matt’s 16th Birthday. And I just didn’t like the sound of that.

The morning of Matt’s Birthday, we were all in the hotel lobby eating breakfast before heading over to the pool. When Matt got up to go through the breakfast buffet, I placed a surprise birthday present on his chair. I watched from a little ways off as he came back to his seat and tried to figure out who put the gift there. He read my card and opened the box… I had picked out a “graphic tee” from America Eagle that had something to do with life guarding… I mean, how cool is that?

Matt came over, shocked that I even knew it was Birthday, let alone bought him a present, and thanked me. At that moment, I thought to myself,  “there’s something about this guy….”

Unfortunately at that point in time, I didn’t know that buying a high school boy a size medium is a clear insult. Even though Matt weighed all of 150 pounds, he would never be caught dead in a size medium! It wasn’t until years later that I learned Matt went to American Eagle and exchanged the shirt for a larger size. Matt wote the shirt a lot over the next 3 year years and it always brought a smile to my face.

Who would have thought that 13 years later, I would still be trying to add something special to Matt’s Birthday.

 

Happy Birthday Matt! I may not have an American Eagle shirt to give you, but I still love you just as much.

Parenting 101

In the spring of 2010, one of my very best friends from college married her college sweetheart.

She was a member of the swim team. He played lacrosse. She majored in Government. He majored in Economics. She went to Northwestern Law School. He went to Harvard Business School. She is a practicing lawyer. He works for a successful consulting company. Oh, and I did I mention that they are ridiculously good-looking as well?

So when she told me last year that she was pregnant – I will thrilled. However, I was a little worried for their unborn child. Here was a child being brought into a home of high expectations. Both of his parents were Division I athletes. They both went to an Ivy League School. And they both went on graduate school to earn advanced degrees. They know what success was have grown to expect nothing less. I thought that if this kid didn’t come out of the womb faster than all other babies, he would be seen a failure from day one.

When the baby’s due date came and went, I fell for the kid. Already he wasn’t living up to expectations. Thankfully, he arrived in one piece on September 1st.

So now that Will has had time to adjust to his parents, “how are things going?” you ask. Well, let me just say, Will has certainly impressed us all.

He has learned to feed himself

 

He has already been drafted by an NFL team

And he has started to demonstrate his incredible swimming skills (be it in the bath tub)

 

But the very best thing that Will had added into his parents lives is laughter. It seems like every day he is reminding them, just how “not perfect” they are.


And man, what great parents that makes them! I can only hope that one day Matt and I are half as amazing as you two are.

Guest Blogger – Team Building

I am excited to announce that we have another guest blogger today! This is someone who has been highly sought after since I started my blog a year and a half ago but always comes up with reasons why she shouldn’t/can’t write a post for me. After much begging, she finally caved!

This time of the year, people often get together to celebrate the holidays and enjoy each others company. Last night, Matt and I visited the Culinary Loft for his company party and this afternoon, I was be celebrating with my Robin Hood colleagues. And while my sister doesn’t work in a “corporate” environment, that is no reason not to celebrate the festivities surrounding the holidays. Please enjoy her post about the most recent team building activity that she did with her swimmers!

So everyone knows my sister is the just about the best baker ever and so very creative when it comes to her baked goods.

Inspired by her work with Robin Hood and Taste Buds doing gingerbread houses I decided to surprise my swim team on their last official practice with a gingerbread house making party.

We divided into classes and had a competition; at the end of the day prizes were awarded in the following categories:

 OVERALL WINNER: Seniors (they each made a house depicting their apartments on campus and put together village)

 

MOST CREATIVE: Sophomores (what they made isn’t really little things appropriate but it was hilarious)

 CLASSIEST: Juniors (a very classy and well designed house)

 

MOST ENTHUSIAM: First years (they got VERY into building their project…)

 

Thanks to Molly (and mom) for suggesting this as a team project; and thanks to my swimmers for making it fun!

Brethauer Girls, LLC

If you put my sister and I together, it is often a deadly combination. Not deadly for us, but deadly for everyone else who comes in our path.

Over the holidays, we often play charades with our best family friends, the Possees. When Abby and I are on the same team, no one else really stands a chance. All Abby or I need to do it is look at each other and we instantly know what the other is thinking. In a blink of the eye, we are yelling out the right answer.

For one year in high school , we had the opportunity to swim together representing our school. At the state meet we won both relays and we came in first and second in the 100 yard backstroke. Talk about family domination (no, it isn’t worth mentioning that NH state swimming really isn’t that competitive – I want to seem impressive).

Whenever Abby and I are both home at the same time, within 5 minutes my mom can be heard saying, “I hate when you are both here. I just don’t even stand a chance.” Sorry Mom, but you are the one who created this.

So when Abby and I talk about going into business together, I know that we would be an unstoppable duo. Forget “D.C. Cupcakes,” The Kardashians, or Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen – we would create an empire than no other sisters could match. All that’s left is to come up with a business plan, raise some capital and launch our business. That shouldnt’ be too hard…

Anyone have any suggestions for a business idea? And no, starting a swim lesson empire is not an option.

Don’t Wait.

A roll that I have taken on throughout my life has been “cheerleader.” No, I was certainly not a high school cheerleader who stood along the sidelines at football games and performed dance routines during pep-rallys. My cheerleading was done in a different way.

I made psych up mix tapes for my friends to listen to on the long bus rides to travel swim meets. I purchased thousands of dollars of poster board and markers for “poster making parties.” I cut yards of ribbon out for my teammates to wear during soccer games. I designed logos for West field hockey water bottles. I designed and sold car decals for the class of 2001. I created signs to hang on hotel doors for the Ivy league swim meet. I made crimson necklaces, crowns and headbands – because who doesn’t want to wear those at a swim meet. And my shining moment came when I collected hundreds of pictures of my team mates, depicting them swimming at the ages of 5,6 and 7 to create personalized posters with the saying ‘Remember why you swim…” before one of our big meets.

In short, I LOVE to psych people up, including myself. I could spend hours researching inspirational quotes and movie clips. From Miracle to Braveheart, Rudy to Gladiator – I could go on all day. But, I think my sister would agree, that the most inspiration video for us (and probably all swimmers) is the video of the men’s 400 freestyle relay at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

However, I might have a new favorite. The Director of Development at Robin Hood, Mark Bezos, was invited to give a talk at the TED conference in California a few weeks ago. They invite people to give short talks, palet cleansers, to give inbetween the main presentations. Mark gave us a preview of his talk during our last all-staff meeting, but the video below is from the real thing.

So don’t wait.  Get in the game.  Save the shoes.

Be Robin Hood



Happy Birthday from Your Friends

I have blogged about, or at least mentioned, Dunkin Donuts in 8 of my previous posts. Clearly I have a strong love for this company.

It makes me laugh because Abby (my sister) has a serious love hate relationship with Dunkin Donuts. While she likes their vanilla chai tea, she used to date a boy who worked at Dunkin Donuts. She first started dating this boy her senior year in college. After graduation she moved to upstate New York to coach swimming at Hamilton College. She tried to break it off with this boy countless times, but he was blinded by his love. He moved to upstate New York to be near her and when he couldn’t get a job, decided to settle for a position at Dunkin Donuts. He would work during the day and come over to visit Abby after work. When she first told me this, I thought “wow, that is awesome. Free donuts and coffee delivered to your door.” What I didn’t account for was the fact that the smell from Dunkins lingered on his clothes and would fill her apartment. Soon, she was bathed in the sweet smells of donuts and coffee. Apparently, this is NOT something that you want your apartment to smell like day in and day out. Unfortunately for Abby, she had totally captivated this boy’s heart, which was realized fully when he gave her “the deed to his heart” for her Birthday that year (yeah, I can’t make that kind of stuff up). No matter how much disgust she expressed for his odor (and eventually just for him in general), he wouldn’t go away. He was like a lost puppy.

Thankfully, Abby was finally able to end things with this boy. I am not sure how she did it… He was like a child who had to be told “no” over and over before he fully grasped the concept. I have a theory about this boy, but I will save that for another time… (don’t worry Abby, I won’t embarrass you THAT much) He eventually found a girl (now his wife and mother of his child) who appreciated his unmatched loyalty and devotion. It is worth mentioning though that she didn’t have to deal with his Dunkin Donuts “cologne”… however I don’t think that was the only thing Abby had taken issue with…

Thankfully, my relationship with Dunkins has always been a positive one. And now, we are taking our relationship to the next level. I received this early Birthday present in the mail last week. If this isn’t true friendship, then I don’t know what is. I can’t wait to use it one day on my way to work!

Thank you friends at Dunkin Donuts, for not only remembering my Birthday without the aid of Facebook, but also for the sweet present!

Tasting the Forbidden Fruit

 

Growing up, our household had a lot of holiday traditions. Some of these have since ended, but some are continued to this day.

Most years, I ran in the Memorial Day Road Race. It started as something that I did with my father. I will never forget the first year we ran together. I was in Kindergarten and 5 years old. We “trained” by running around the block near my house. At best, the block covers a total distance of .5 miles and we probably did this 2-3 different times before the race. This was plenty of physical preparation for the 5K run. Unfortunately what my dad didn’t account for was the massive amounts of psychological training I should have been doing.

The race ends with a 100 yard stretch that is lined with the friends and families members of people participating. Well, as we ran down this stretch, I burst into tears. I am not sure what triggered this, but I can tell you that it was a fair warning for my parents for all of the tears that were to come as a result of tennis matches, soccer games, swim meets and all other competitive atmospheres. I finished the race, placing 3rd in the 8 & under division (I can’t imagine there were more than 5 kids in this age group…) and proudly brought my medal into Kindergarten for show and tell the following Monday. For many years after, I participated in this race, often with a different family member.

On Halloween, our town wouldn’t have trick-or-treating on the day of Halloween OR at night. This lead to problems when the New England Swimming Top Ten Banquet often fell on the weekend of trick-or-treating. We probably attended that banquet for 10 years in a row, and would find ourselves sneaking out early so that we could make it home for the last couple hours of trick-or-treating. Either that or we would be coming from a soccer game…

The 4th of July normally meant watching fireworks from CMC (one of the hospitals that my father worked at) and Easter was a family brunch at the Sheraton Hotel and Conference center… I know, I thought that one was weird too. Christmas was matching PJs on Christmas Eve and for the past 15 years, the Candlelight Service at the Bedford Presbyterian Church.  Thanksgiving brings cooking, the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade, and many times charades with our family friends, the Possees. However, the tradition I like the most comes the day after Thanksgiving.

While I certainly participate in the shopping escapades that make up Black Friday, the tradition that I am referring to is the welcoming of Christmas. I have a strict “no Christmas” policy until Thanksgiving has past. While I am not a huge fan of turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing, I do think that the idea of Thanksgiving is one that should not be forgotten. Everyone races to get to Christmas and I find that this holiday gets overlooked. So, as a way to honor Thanksgiving, I don’t listen to Christmas music, set up decorations or truly start my Christmas shopping until that day after Thanksgiving. 

That being said, I LOVE Christmas music. From the Friday after Thanksgiving straight through to Christmas Day, I don’t listen to anything else. I have created countless Christmas Music stations on my Pandora and know the words to basically every Christmas song ever written. I find myself tempted to listen to christmas music, especially if I enter a store that has their holiday decoration out in full force. However, it is a sacrifice that I am willing to make.

Today, while I was sitting at work listening to my “classical music” Pandora station, a song came on that sounded familiar, but I couldn’t quite place it. When I switched my computer screen over to the Pandora website to see the name of the song, I knew immediately that something had gone terribly wrong. The song that I was listening to, and enjoying, was none other than Angels from the Relms of Glory, a 100% Christmas song. I immediately changed the channel, but it was too late. I had tasted the forbidden fruit and I want more.

I now find myself trying to fulfill my musical appetite with the likes of Taylor Swift, the cast of Glee and Something Corporate. Unfortunately all I crave is Mannheim Steamroller, the London Boy’s Choir, and Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas is You. It is going to be a long 3 weeks…

Talent Show

In fourth grade, my school put on a talent show. Auditions were held within each of the classes and the students voted on the top two acts. These acts would then get to participate in the school-wide performance where  audience was made up of the entire 3rd and 4th grade, along with parents and family members. While my true talents ultimately developed in the swimming pool and on the field hockey field, in 4th grade, I still considered myself a pretty well-rounded child. I was a member of the chorus, which entailed participating in the grade-wide musical and was even given a solo my 4th grade year (although, my family still mocks my fast-paced singing of “wild geese that fly with the moon on my wings, these are a few of my favorite things; the main point to focus on here is that I was awarded a solo!). And in my fourth grade class’ performance of A Christmas Carol (wow, we were NOT a PC school at all!) I played the part of the Ghost of Christmas Past, a pretty solid role if I do remember correctly. Anyway, when I decided to audition for the fourth grade talent show, it wasn’t that surprising. However, it was a bit surprising what I decided to showcase as my talent.

At first, I told my mom that I wanted to try out two different acts. Now this was right around the time that my grandparents bought Abby and me a karaoke machine for Christmas. The system had two tape players so that you could play one tape to sing along to, and record your amazing vocals on another blank cassette. Needless to say, I went through a lot of blank tapes during this phase. The machine also came with a sample karaoke tape; it had one side with songs that contained the lyrics and another side that contained the same songs, only minus the lyrics. You could practice the words on the first side, and once you mastered those you could flip the tape over and become a star!

The songs that were on this tape were a bit “off the beaten path” especially for me, who was a child of Rosenshontz and Disney music for FAR too long. One of my favorite songs on the tape was “Let’s Give Them Something to Talk About.” I had practiced this song countless times and thought it would be perfect for the talent show; it was far and away my best! While I knew the lyrics by heart, I had no idea what this song was about. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this song, please see below:

While this isn’t the worst song ever written (or even close to the worst song), for a fourth grade talent show, it wasn’t the best idea. Couple that with the fact that my singing abilities weren’t amazing, I am EXTREMELY thankful that my mom talked me out of that idea. I ended up doing a comedy skit (I know, that isn’t much better) from the Free to Be You and Me record. That’s right, I just said record. No, I am not that old, my parents were hippie-ish and just liked living in the past (please reference previous posts about growing up in a cable free household for more evidence of that.) The skit, and pretty much the entire record, broke the mold of traditional gender stereotypes. It was deep for fourth graders and I blame my classmates’ inability to grasp such complex and forward-thinking ideas as the reason why were weren’t voted through to the final performance. Either that, or the fact that I forgot half of my lines. Either way, my musical and theatrical career came to a screeching halt after that experience. Although I continued to lay down some pretty serious tracks on the karaoke machine in our basement.

Thankfully, some children didn’t have their dreams of stardom trounced as easily as I did. The Mickey Mouse Club skyrocketed kids like Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera into world-wide stars.

Miley, Hil-Duff and the Jo-Bros have The Disney Channel to thank. And Fergie got her start on the 80’s classic show, Kids Incorporated where she stole the show for 5 years straight.

And now, children around the world have the wonders of YouTube and Ellen to thank. After conducting a search for the most talented children featured on YouTube, Ellen came across the likes of Greyson Chance, a 13-year-old boy from Edmond, Oklahoma. His performance of Lady Gaga’s Paparazzi won him the attention of millions, but most importantly, of Ellen. She featured him live on her show earlier this year, with his unbelievable performance of that song:

Then two weeks later, it was announced that Greyson won the 10,000 dollar prize from the Ellen contest AND the backing of Ellen’s new record label, eleveneleven. Today Greyson released his first single Waiting Outside the Lines.

Man, must be nice to be a YouTube sensation. And talented.

Greyson’s story has inspired me to re-think my career as a performer. Let’s be honest, I missed my chance at the Olympics and I am never going to be a professional crafter (besides Martha, I don’t think there is much money is that field). I am going to devote the next chapter of my life to perfecting my rendition of “Let’s Give Them Something to Talk About.” I will then buy a flip camera and record my “unknown” talents and post it to YouTube. I will then received 100,000 hits in a single day and be invited to LA where I will inevitably become a star.

How’s that for a life plan?