A ridiculous amount of birthday love.

Was it ridiculous to turn my birthday into a month-long event/campaign/fundraiser/whatever? Yes. I am, as they say, pushing thirty. Women of This Certain Age are not supposed to wear Burger King crowns as “tiaras” and demand an ungodly amount of attention and/or ice cream. I should be embarrassed.

Does this look like the face/outfit of someone who is easily embarrassed?

Does this look like the face/outfit of someone who is easily embarrassed?

Ahem.

First and foremost, I need to thank everyone who donated to my charity:water campaign and helped me exceed my goal of saving 28 lives. To date, we’ve raised over $600! By far the most successful fundraiser I’ve ever had – even better than the time I offered personalized limericks as an incentive (And what an incentive it was – I rhymed “schadenfreude” with “does it annoy ya?” Poetry.).

I also had a lot of fun and some good response with the social media experiment portion of my birthday project – the 28 for 28 Facebook page. I like sharing things I care about, and I care about my birthday! No, I mean, I care about ways to make the world better. Thanks to those of you who got involved with that, too.

I was determined to spend my actual birthday committing 28 Random And Not So Random Acts Of Kindness. I made lists, I set a budget, I made timetables. But because I was excited, I started two days early. And because the birthday weekend involved several Unscheduled Naps, I finished two days late. That’s me all over.

I got the idea to do this by searching online, so I’m presenting this list in no particular order to maybe inspire another internet stranger one day:

Birthday (Weekend) Acts Of Kindness

1. Bought my boss tulips. They immediately folded in half and looked incredibly pathetic. But luckily I revived them (aka cut the stems) before she saw them

2. Stuck a coffee gift card on the door of a very deserving friend

3. Drew something for a friend who needs a pick-me-up

4. Donated my hair to Locks of Love.  The entire ponytail you see up above is now on its way to Florida. Factoid: the first time I did this, I was 14, and it made the front page of my hometown newspaper. I’m just trying to get to that level of fame again.

5. Tipped the stylist of my new ‘do 28%

6. Helped a stranger move a desk (or helped a stranger rob another stranger – either way, helping!)

7. Bought a friend lunch

8. Bought a different friend a beer

9. Helped yet another friend (I don’t want to brag but I have more than two) set up a blog – check it out, especially if you’re a beer fan! Also, I would like to note I agreed to do this before I knew there was going to be a paragraph of nice things about me in it. That just made me more eager to help.

10. Bought a bunch of children’s books to donate to a program I care about

11. Bought a friend tea (I was going to buy coffee for the person in line behind us, but he turned out to be a very cantankerous man, and my friend is nicer)

12. Bought a thank-you gift for someone who was nice to me recently

13. Helped the same cantankerous old man from #11 exit a “confusing” building at the St. Paul Art Crawl

14. Recycled plastic bags and donated food at a grocery store

15. Left money at a Redbox rental machine, along with a note

16. Left a 110% tip at Caribou Coffee. I did the math so that I, like every pro athlete, can say I “gave 110%”

17. Donated books to a Little Free Library (I love those things!)

18. Left money at Nice Ride MN station. I don’t want to talk about the poorly-worded note I also left there.

19. Dropped about thirty online coupons in a basket at Target

20. Donated clothes to Goodwill

21. Gave my neighbor’s dog a treat

22. Recovered a friend’s lost phone

23. Volunteered for Feed My Starving Children at Summit Brewery  (Worlds colliding!)

24. Picked up Target gift cards for The Bridge For Youth

25. Wrote thank-you notes

26. Left money at a vending machine

27. Bid on silent auction items for local fundraisers at BiddingForGood.com

28. Left quarters in laundry room for my neighbors

*************************************

So there you go. Twenty-eight mostly small, mostly deliberate acts of kindness to celebrate twenty-eight mostly great years. Thank you, everyone, for making them worth celebrating.

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28 for 28: A birthday celebration, a social media experiment

Last year, my friend Al gave me a birthday card that said, “I love those people who are like ‘It’s my birthday week’ or ‘It’s my birthday month.’ Even Martin Luther King Jr. only gets a day. Calm down people.

I’ve had it displayed in my apartment for the past year because I enjoy missing the point. And I really enjoy my birthday/week/month.

This one is particularly IMPORTANT, however, as it’s my golden birthday. The one I’ve spent my whole life waiting for. On April 28th, I will be 28.

I think the first time I went to a golden birthday party, I was 8. So was the birthday girl. I remember balloons and a serious amount of envy as I realized I’d have to wait 20 years for my extra-special birthday party. Now that it’s here, what do I want?

Last year I had friends over for mimosas, went out for breakfast, took a bus to the Twins game (which was unfortunately rained out), took a nap, grabbed a beer at my favorite local bar, and celebrated at a bonfire with a bunch of other friends lucky enough to be born at the end of April. I got a crown; I wore a crown. I woke up the next day still wearing said crown. It was pretty great.

That’s not what I want to do this year.

I’m actually giving myself the best birthday present ever – I’m taking my mom to Ireland for 10 days in April. That’s all the gift I need. But I still want to do something more.  To quote Wayne Campbell, “What I’d really like to do is something extraordinary. Something big. Something mega. Something copious. Something capacious. Something cajunga!”

I want to do something GOOD. And I want you to do something good, too.

So taking inspiration from the Birthday Project, the #26Acts of Kindness movement, GOOD.is and the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, I’m starting something. Something fun, short-term, and (hopefully) Good.

28logo

My main undertaking this month will be trying to raise enough money to save 28 lives through Charity:Water. But even if you can’t donate, I hope you’ll join me in the 28 For 28 project.

I’m aiming to do 28 Good Things in April. All I’d really like you to do – is pick one.

Join with me as I celebrate 28 good years over 28 days.

Social/Life

A while back, I went to a totally not embarrassing concert and mused about what the experience would have been like if I’d been able to “live-Tweet” during it. Would it take away from the experience, or would it add to it? At the time, I didn’t have a smartphone, so sharing the experience while it was happening was not an option. Well, now I have one, and after figuring out the basics I’ve managed to become a slight oversharer.

Instagrammed photo of bird poop on my car

“I appear to have deeply offended a large bird.”  Okay, a huge oversharer.

I keep making vague promises to myself that I’ll settle down, but the honeymoon phase between me and my new friend Siri has overlapped with the start of summer. Like any true Minnesotan, I’m not about to let this all-too-brief season slip by. What people in less volatile climates do in a year, I’m going to try to do in three months.

That’s not anything new; last summer, you may recall, I did plenty of things. The difference is now I can share my nonsense in real time.

I think we can all agree this might not always be a good thing.

Dog of Censorship

Someone needs to invent a “Dog of Censorship” App ASAP.

Anyway. Last Saturday, I took myself to another totally not embarrassing concert at the Target Center: Aerosmith. And because I love Aerosmith for no and beyond all reason, my guess from last year’s NKOTBSB concert was not far off – once Steven Tyler hit the stage, I basically just went “Squeee!” and forgot about the ability to share/brag beyond one fairly good picture:

Steven Tyler Instagram

Instagram gets the save on this one.  Some of that confetti is still in my purse.

That (amazing) experience over, I thought I’d answered my own question about how I’d use social media at events. I’d managed to do some sharing while staying in the (really amazing) moment. And anyway, I’d blown my summer budget on that (really, REALLY amazing) ticket, so I didn’t expect to get the chance to try it out again for a while.

Less than 24 hours later, I found myself enjoying some Trampled By Turtles from the comfort of the terrace view at Target Field. Since I didn’t know about the bonus concert until I got to the Twins game, and since I was an hour early for the game thanks to my pops, I had to share the news of my good fortune.

All the mascots at the Twins Game

I was too disturbed by the presence of literally all the mascots to take a picture of TBT, however.

This caused a tiny uproar amongst some die-hard TBT fans I call my friends, but more importantly, it made my pops wonder why I kept looking at my phone. As much fun as it would have been to keep spreading the joy/jealousy of a bonus concert (not to mention a 15-inning baseball game), it was more fun to enjoy Father’s Day with my pops. (We actually only made it through 11 innings and I did respond to a few messages, but hey. We tried.)

After determining that “losing your mind to your favorite band” and “hanging out with your father” are not quite the right times to go live-Tweeting, social-sharing crazy, I struck upon a much better opportunity: the River’s Edge Music Festival in St. Paul on Saturday.

I managed to win free tickets* last week and took Lacy, another twenty-something with a smartphone, and we did it all. We admired the lead singer of Coheed and Cambria‘s magical hair. We blew our budgets on outrageously overpriced beer. We held a few inebriated souls upright in the Sublime with Rome crowd. We soaked in some much needed sun rays to the tunes of Blaqstarr. We lost our voices to Tool. We Facebooked, Instagrammed, Tweeted, sang and danced.

We shared a wonderful day with each other, and then we shared jokes about it on the internet. And that, #youguys, is the best balance of social media and social life I’ve found yet.

girls who look like girls

Just your average Tool fans.

*I won 2 single-day tickets through a Twitter contest, which is awesome. However, the publication which ran the contest was non-responsive about how to get my tickets until two days before the concert despite three attempts to contact them, then they told me (twice) to pick up my tickets at will-call at the River Centre (which is a place in St. Paul, but has nothing to do with the River’s Edge Festival). Finally, the tickets, which were not at the regular will-call at the event either but rather at the media tent, were not for “either day” as promised, but for Sunday only. Luckily two very nice Live Nation employees took my declaration that “75 minutes of Tool is infinitely better than 3 hours of Dave Matthews Band” seriously, and switched the tickets for me. Despite this rant, I did get in completely free, so thank you, Live Nation; less of a thank you, publication with really poor communication/customer service skills.

Best Things of the Week!

I’m not feeling super great today, so this will be both a short post and a way to cheer myself up.

1. I’m Certifiable!

A few weeks ago, I took a class at Dakota County Technical College; this week, I found out I passed — I am now a Certified Master of Social Media.

Social Media images

Internet, you just got owned.

Does this mean I know everything there is to know about social media? Obviously not. But I do have a good knowledge base and a good idea of how to keep up on this world. (’90s Rachel still can’t believe this is her life, by the way)

2. Lazy Saturday – my life isn’t all pedicures and shoe shopping

Look, sometimes a girl just wants to kick back with an old friend, grab some beer and some delivery Chinese, and play some SuperNintendo.

SNES control

As a Master of Social Media it's important to keep up on new technology.

3. Boooooo!

My love of ghost tours is already established.  I fell in love with the Wabasha Street Caves in St. Paul during a tour last year.  The speakeasy/gangster history gets me (Tommy gun marks in the fireplace!), and it’s on the list of most haunted places in Minnesota.

front of the caves

My fellow ghost-hunting enthusiast Sabrina flew in for a visit this weekend and we decided to visit the Caves for the monthly “All Souls” Tour.  It was almost more fun – and creepier – than last time.  I absolutely recommend this place and can’t wait to go on the other tour offerings.  Particularly the gangster tour.

John Dillinger and Rachel

John Dillinger, you can be my ghost boyfriend.

 

A whole new way to be a fanatic

I feel like I should clarify that I use social media for a lot of things besides shoe shopping and watching videos of puppies who can’t get up.

Shoes

Mostly those things, though.

But there’s something else I love even more than shoes, and it’s not clothing-based, unless that clothing is purple: I love the Minnesota Vikings.  A lot.  To the point of…well, admitting it on the internet.  And having a Vikings-purple pedicure.

Rachel is a Viking

And dressing like this in public.

And following a bunch of sports outlets and actual Vikings on Twitter, including the man I’ve been claiming as my cousin for a few years now, Adrian Peterson. (And yet he never comes to the reunions…)  This was fun over the summer, when their updates were as meaningless as mine.  Then the NFL lockout ended and so did my regular sleep pattern.

Case in point: two nights ago, Visanthe Shiancoe tweeted the word “Welcome” and I lost my mind trying to decipher that message.  Did it mean the deal with Donavan McNabb was complete?*  Did he just hit enter before he finished writing his sentence? Was he just toying with my emotions like the entire team does season after season?  I spent the better part of an hour Googling, ESPN-ing, and Tweeting when I absolutely should have been sleeping.

Social media, I’ve discovered, has brought me a whole new way to be crazy.  I mean, a fan.  Maybe it will calm down again once this week of trades is complete, but somehow…I doubt it.

*It wasn’t then, but it is now. I have a whole bunch of thoughts on this, and losing Sidney Rice, but they mainly just make me go “I can’t with you right now.”  This is what it means to be a Vikings fan.

PS: I know I lost some of you a while back there, so here’s this:

Fabio on a piano will sell this deodorant

Last week, one of my social media classes talked about the concept of “going viral.”  One of the best examples was all about this guy:

No doubt, a very successful ad campaign that completely exploded on YouTube.  It’s funny and memorable and has made a star out of Isaiah Mustafa (aka the man your man could smell like).  There’s no way Old Spice can reach this level of viral success again; they also have to retire this ad campaign before it outlasts its welcome and becomes a failed TV sitcom.

In that spirit…there’s this now:

I’m left with the feeling of “is this real life?” I can’t tell if it’s going to be a successful campaign or not, but the comments suggest no one was begging for a new Old Spice guy.  Still, I spent the past ten minutes Googling Old Spice, and I still kind of can’t get over the way Fabio says “Old spices.”  Or, you know, anything.

Fabio modeling for the cover of his own book

Also, I once caught my 79-year-old office mate reading this book. Note Fabio is the author AND the cover model.

What do you think?  Is this the definition of trying to hard?  Is it funny anyway?  How old is Fabio and does he even have a last name?

#NKOTBSB (New Kids, Old Technology, Backstreet Boys)

Honestly, I haven’t thought that much about the New Kids on the Block in the past two decades. It would be weird if I did. But you cannot unlove the things you loved before you were twelve, and I loved NKOTB, hard, from about ages 5-7. There’s a reason I never got rid of that t-shirt – and not just because my brother bought it for me (he was 9 and I was 5, how adorable is that?). It was so I’d have something to wear 21 years later when I finally saw the, um, “New Kids” in concert.

Rachel in the NKOTB tshirt now

Once again not wearing pants; that's a skirt.

It gets better, of course, since the men of my childhood dreams are on tour with the men of my teenage dreams, the Backstreet Boys.  They have combined into some new entity called, and I still wonder if they’re kidding about this, “NKOTBSB.” Really guys?  Are you sure you want to go with that?

I dragged my “but I was an NSYNC girl” best friend Lacy* along for the ride.  I think I wore her down with repeated viewings of this video:

She could not resist those moves or outfits.

Lacy and I arrived at the concert in time to see the opening act, Matthew Morrison (yes, the guy from Glee), which would have been more exciting if either of us liked Glee.  And while he is amazingly talented, he was not in a boy band from our childhood, and couldn’t quite hold our interests.  Instead, we people-watched and joked.  Lacy posted a few of our choice statements on Facebook through her BlackBerry, and I thought, “this would be a great event to live-Tweet.”  Unfortunately, I seem to like my cell phones like I like my boy bands: from the ’90s.  My phone makes and receives calls and texts (most of the time), but that is the extent of its power; Tweeting was not an option.

I’ve been thinking of upgrading my phone for a while now, as I live in a world where instant communication is expected and goes beyond just phone calls or texts.  I’ve resisted out of a strong desire not to spend more money on something I’ve lived without so long (for a social-media-expert-in-training, I can be a real curmudgeon).  I can check my email at home; I do not need to “check in” everywhere I go because if it’s fun or awkward I’ll just write about it here later; and GPS? Try a paper map from 1989 that doesn’t even include the Target Center.  I’m all set!  Right?

There’s also the benefit of paying attention to reality.  Had I had my eyes on my cell phone, I would have missed the nostalgic magic.  And a strange kind of magic it was; the kind that can only exist in a room of 15,000 screaming 20-40 year old women.  The kind that made me realize I will never not be five years old, because the second Jordan Knight came on stage I lost my damn mind.  If I had been able to Tweet, there’s a good chance I just would have gone “Squeee!” and then forgotten about it anyway.  So here’s a more coherent translation of what I thought during the event:

1) All of these dudes aged really well.  Surprisingly well.  I did not come into this evening expecting to develop a crush on Donnie Wahlberg, but these things happen, right?

New Kids in Minneapolis

Donnie Wahlberg, commanding the Target Center with his abs.

2) I know all the words to songs I forgot existed.  Good job, brain.  You could be doing other things, like remembering your friends’ birthdays, but no, this is clearly a better use of your time.

3) Donnie wore a “Public Enemy” t-shirt, much like the one he wore in the “Step By Step” video, except glittery.  Drink that in for a second.

4) I’ve never heard Howie from Backstreet Boys speak before, and it turns out he sounds exactly like the cartoon character Phineas from Phineas & Ferb.

5) Like every musician who comes to Minneapolis, both bands referenced Prince and yelled “Minneapolis” a lot.  To which I say “I’m not from Minneapolis! Give some love to the right side of the river!” If I ever become a major pop star and play the Target Center, I promise to give St. Paul a shout out, too.  And reference Prince.

6) There’s Jordan Knight again, SQUEEEE!

7) The Backstreet Boys wore white suits during “Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely,” then threw the coats on the ground during “Incomplete.” White coats are for complete people!  Or doctors!

8 ) Near the end (but before “Hangin’ Tough, much to Lacy’s annoyance), the Kids introduced the Boys and vice versa.  This is a nice idea, but I’m fairly certain that if you’re at an NKOTBSB concert, you know the names of the band members. And possibly their birthdays, star signs, marital status, hopes and dreams as described to Teen Beat in 1989, etc.

9) 12 year old girls who are currently obsessed with Justin Bieber…we are your future.

10) This was so much more fun than I expected.  Really, I bought the tickets out of a strong desire to giggle and experience ridiculous things, but the reality was even better.  Oh-oh-OH-oh!

What do you think? Was the Twitterverse at a loss without these deep thoughts on Friday night?  If the New Kids on the Block can’t convince me I need a smart phone, who will?

*At this point I should add that Lacy is a good sport, a great friend, and usually has way more “highbrow” tastes than me. But she also appreciates the silly side of life, which is how we’ve stayed friends for the past decade.

In which I write about important things, like shoes

Yesterday morning, my barista said to me, “Your dress reminds me of my curtains!”  She tried to clarify that she meant the floral pattern looked like her favorite new curtains that she just made herself, but is there any way to hear this without immediately picturing Carol Burnett? I think I even checked my shoulders for curtain rods.


(skip to 3:22 for the fashion show)

I decided to take this as a compliment (or at the very least, an insult worth sharing with the internet), but it did make me think about my personal style.  Let me be the first to admit I’m no fashionista.  I do wear dresses almost every day of the summer because I live in Minnesota, and for nine months out of the year I have to wear all my clothing at once just to survive.  Sometimes I add a cardigan because, like actual fashionista Zooey Deschanel, I believe you can never have too many cardigans.*  I would be wearing my hair in a side-pony right now even if the look hadn’t made a comeback.  My style literally has not changed since I was four years old.

Rachel at four

Some looks are timeless.

Apparently the only thing that’s changed about my look in the past two decades is the footwear.  Excuse the (possibly boys’) flip-flops above, because current me loves shoes almost as much as I love the Minnesota Vikings.**  I’ve written before about my inherent brand loyalty, and while I don’t have a favorite shoe designer, I do love one store above the rest: DSW.

Shoes

YOU'RE BEAUTIFUL!

It really isn’t that hard to sell shoes to a shoe-lover like myself, but what really sold me on DSW was the rewards program.  I’ve actually remembered to check my mailbox every day this week because I’m expecting a $10-off coupon.  The store occasionally emails me about web specials; I don’t usually buy shoes online, but I DO usually find something on the website that I will then drive ten miles to find in person.  They also give away shoes through Twitter on Fridays.  I have yet to win, but this in itself is a reason to have a Twitter account.

And just in case writing about how much I like shoes has made you think I might have some fashion sense, this once happened.  Forget fashion sense, I’m still waiting on my common sense to kick in.

*She said this in Lucky.  I can’t find the article online because it’s over a year old — it’s been that long since I’ve read a fashion magazine.
**Which is a whole lot, despite how girly this post has become.

#SocialMediaDay, or how Twitter is making me go broke

Today is Social Media Day.  The part of me that grew up in the ’90s kind of can’t believe this is a real thing, but I also realize that I now use social media on a daily basis (wrote Captain Obvious in her blog).  ’90s-Rachel also can’t believe I’m about to say this next part, but these days, Twitter is increasingly important to my life.

I started using Twitter for the most noble of reasons: to stay up-to-date on my favorite celebrities.  I gradually added in local restaurants, news outlets, stores, and more.  Within a few months, I realized the free service of Twitter was actually causing me to spend money.

There’s always something going on in the Twin Cities, and Twitter makes it easier to stay up-to-date on the ones most exciting to me.  A recent highlight was seeing Chuck Klosterman at the Fitzgerald in St. Paul at an event called Wits — not only did I find out about it through Twitter, audience members were asked to tweet during the show.  Would this appeal to everyone? Definitely not, but it appealed to me and other followers of MPR and Chuck Klosterman.

Another big coup was finding out about (and subsequently buying early tickets to) Paul Simon’s concert at First Avenue.  I took my mom for Mother’s Day, so thank you, Twitter, for making me daughter of the year.

The Twitter madness is not limited to arts events: this weekend, I’ll be cheering on the Minnesota Twins in Target Field thanks to tickets from the American Diabetes Association.  The ADA offered free tickets to anyone who raised a certain amount of money for their Step Out to Fight Diabetes event.  I was planning to donate to the event anyway, and I love the Twins, so this was exactly the motivation I needed.

Oh, and I also found out about the upcoming New Kids on the Block/Backstreet Boys concert through Twitter.  Now that’s something ’90s Rachel can get behind.

NKOTBSB

Dreamy.

Target Market

“I made a trip to Target and spent a ton of money on “stuff” and I literally can’t tell you what cost so much–the Velveeta? The shower curtain? Before you knew it, I spent $80.” – My friend Sabrina

I go to Target about once a week, for just about everything.  Food, clothes, apartment necessities, entertainment.  Where else can you get batteries, balloons, bike helmets and blueberries all at once?

Target Logo

It calls to me.

Actually…as it turns out…lots of places.  Some of them closer to where I live, or cheaper.  But just like my coffee loyalties lie with Caribou, Target is the only “modern general store” for me.

Part of it has to do with the fact that I live in Minnesota — even though it’s a large corporation, Target is still a huge part of our local economy, as the cover story from this month’s Minnesota Business points out.  Another part has to do with the stellar brand image.  You know the one I mean.

Rookie of the Year DVD

Worth it.

What gets me more is the marketing within the store.  I can go in and aim for one thing (for instance: a black cardigan) and come out an hour later with a whole bunch of totally different things (for instance: three sets of curtains, four wash cloths, a double feature DVD of The Sandlot and Rookie of the Year, and a three pound bag of Laffy Taffy.).  The signs, sales, and artwork always lead me astray from my original path.

In that way, Target is like the internet: you go online to look for one thing, and a dozen other things pop up or catch your interest instead.  Did you manage to get through this whole blog post without clicking on one of the hyperlinks?  Have you ever walked into a Target store and come out with only the things on your list?  How do you do that?