Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Blah, Blah, Blah, My Many Apologies, Blah

I'm sorry. I suck. You pay me to entertain you, and I am failing. (Wait a minute...) To the many good people out there who come here trying to cure insomnia or avoid doing any actual, productive work while at the office, I am sorry. I really don't mean to let you down like this. But, you see, my life is just so glorious and wonderful that I don't have time for a silly little project like a blog. Better luck next time. (You can hear the sarcasm, right? Just makin' sure.)

(As an aside, you can save yourself the wasted trip by signing up for the notify service to your right. I don't profit from having your e-mail address, I swear! So, just put your e-mail addy in the box and you'll get a handy-dandy e-mail letting you know when I've updated the site with more of my crack-infused ramblings. Or not, as I often forget to send out the notification e-mail. [Seriously, why is this whole process not automated??? So much work for me!] But if there were more people on the list, I would feel compelled to be more careful with it.)

Really, I have lots of ideas in my head of things to write! I just haven't found the time in which to put fingers-to-keyboard. Soon, I promise!

Also, so as to not cause undue stress later this week, I must warn you that I'm going out of town for a long weekend. Without the laptop. Beautiful Indianapolis, if you're curious. And Cincinnati. (Which I can never spell correctly. Hold on, spell check? Damn, I was right the first time.) There will be pictures!!! And hopefully some good stories. But for sure pictures. Perhaps that thought will placate you until my return?

Monday, January 30, 2006

Pass the Ambien, Please

I continue my long, strange trip through the Land of Crazy Sleep Patterns. It's been several weeks now, and let me tell you, it's getting old. Apparently I need to start taking drugs before bed, 'cuz this all-natural lifestyle is not workin' for me.

Last night's Dreamland show centered on making lunch plans during exam week in high school. Remember how everyone's schedule would be mixed up based on which exams were scheduled for that day and the lunch period was twice as long as usual and there was much schedule coordination required? Anyway, yes, I was making lunch plans - with people I knew in college, grad school, professional life, but few people actually from my high school days. In a building that was most certainly not my high school, and in fact did not resemble a school in the least.

And then I woke up. At 4:30 a.m. In the words of Dave Barry, I am not making this up. So, if I seem a bit discombobulated today, you'll know why.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Praise to Thee, O Gods of Fake Mexican Food

*The sound of angels singing.*

Glory hallelujah, there is a Chipotle a mere two miles from my office! Truly, the Fake Mexican Food Gods are smiling on me. (Note: I am making no claims here that Chipotle is real Mexican food, nor that it is the best Mexican around. Please, I do have some culinary taste!) And only two miles away! That's totally drivable for a quick lunch run. Yes, that's right, I drive to lunch. It's California - I drive to lunch two blocks away. And I am much ashamed, because in DC a fifteen minute walk was considered "close enough," but what are you gonna do? It's just different here.

How can a girl survive without Chipotle??? The horror! The horror! Ten months I've lived here and I just became aware of Chipotle's existence a couple of weeks ago. I shudder to think that I've been missing out that long, so I'll just pretend that it opened last month. (Coincidentally, Chipotle's IPO was issued yesterday. Sorry, it's too late to make your quick millions. But, like me, you can pretend to own your own slice of the Burrito.)

Chipotle is oodles better than the Dos Coyotes three blocks from my office that I have been stupidly going to for my Fake Mexican Food fixes the last ten long, dark, Chipotle-less months, and for that I am eternally grateful. And today was definitely a Chipotle day, as the alignment of the stars clearly angered the Telephone Conference Call Gods, and they flung their wrath down upon me. But, we won't go into that here. Happy thoughts!

I love America. And restaurant franchises that allow you to order the same thing from one end of the continent to the other and get exactly what you want. (Burrito Bol, no rice, just lettuce. Black beans, fajita vegetables. Maybe chicken, maybe not. Mild tomato salsa and corn salsa. No cheese or sour cream. Guacamole only if there's no chicken and I've gone to the gym today. Not that I'm particular or anything.) And the guacamole! Mmmmmmmmmmm. Nothing can replace the Chipotle guacamole. Nothing. (Got that? No-thing.)

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Happy Birthday, Stevers!!!

Yes, that's right, today is my little brother's birthday. And I, as the big sister, have the duty of informing the Internet and providing embarrassing pictures of you. It says so right in my contract. See?

Anyway, today (and it's still the 26th here in California...aren't time zones grand?) is Steve's 23rd birthday. Which merely serves to make me old, old, old. But that's ok. Cuz he's really a pretty good kid (despite that high school propensity to refer to me as a dirty little whore, completely unprovoked) who loved dinosaurs and went to Space Camp and is now graduated from college and is an actor and works in finance and teaches improv classes and is listed on IMDB.com and everything. (Go look him up! But I will not link you directly to him, because you are not allowed to stalk him, random Internet people. So, if you don't know our last name in real life, I apologize, but again remind you that I am the big sister in this equation, and this is how it's gonna be.)


This picture was taken in January 1983, according to the note on the back. So, my math skills say you were approximately one week old. Or less. Or it was actually from February, but, really, who's gonna know? It was probably the day you came home from the hospital. Mom would know. I still remember being woken up and taken to the neighbors' in my pajamas the night you were born. Which is pretty good, considering I was only four and did not yet have a firm grasp on Where Babies Come From. (And, thanks to Catholic schooling, that firm grasp didn't arrive until sometime in high school. No, college. But that's a different story.)

In short, Happy Birthday, little bro. Don't forget me when you've written, scored, choreographed, are directing, producing, and starring in the hottest show on Broadway. Please? I'll come see it, I promise!


I went to San Francisco last night to have drinks with a colleague, followed by dinner with a DC friend who's in town for a few days. It was excellent. San Francisco, yay! A real city! With traffic! And expensive parking garages! And restaurants where you need a reservation on a Wednesday night! And requirements that you walk everywhere!

So today? I am exhausted. And have very sore feet, from the whole walking-around-the-neighborhood-in-search-of-a-restaurant-where-we-
don't-need-reservations-in-three-inch-stiletto-heel-boots. And, yes, I knew there would be much walking, but I had to wear them – the boots rock! This knowledge in no way precludes me from complaining about the sore feet today, though. Beauty over pain, c'mon people! (Followed by whining, which is definitely not beautiful. Just be sure to do it in private for the entire Internet to read.)

The highlight of this little adventure had to have been the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, as it is officially known. The locals refer to it as the &*(#$%#& Bridge. It is annoying enough in regular traffic, but there was some sort of car fire thing that wreaked havoc on all the rest of us. But, I couldn't be too upset, because at the toll booth just before getting on the bridge, I had the following experience:

Me: *Hand my $3.00 to the attendant.*
Toll Booth Attendant: You are beautiful.
Me: *Laugh; thinking, Why, yes, yes I am.*
Toll Booth Attendant: I love you.
Me: Thank you! *Thinking, May I proceed now? And, can I bottle this stuff?*

Just so you get a complete picture, Toll Booth Attendant was 40-ish and African. I know this because he had an accent from Zimbabwe or Jamaica or something. Queens maybe? At any rate, this is why you need to look stunning every time you leave the house: you just never know when someone is going to notice your kick-ass black stiletto-heeled boots and radiant beauty.

Also, a shout out to 92.7, which, on my drive back to Sacramento, played a "Cheesy '80s Dance Mix Sung by Women with Fluffy Hair" for a good twenty minutes. Paula Abdul, Debbie Gibson, even a dance mix version of "Memory" from the musical Cats. No, no this didn't make me feel old. Or lame for still knowing most of the words to these very tragic songs. Nope, not one bit.

And now, I'm off to hook myself up to some kind of caffeine IV, if it's not too complicated. Because my tired little brain can't handle much exertion today. Nor can my feet.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Better Now!

Thank you for tuning in to Sunday's Special Edition Spazzing. (If you missed it, perhaps that's for the best.) We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.

Except that I. Got. Nothin'. Work, work, blah de blah blah blah, work. Damn, that work thing is annoying sometimes! Perhaps I can distract you with something shiny and pretty? Ok, not shiny so much, but definitely pretty.

I walked into Macy's looking for a pair of black and cream heels (I thought I owned every pair of black shoes known to woman, but apparently I was wrong because I now need black and cream heels) and walked out with these: Pretty New Red Shoes. I already have red boots and red going-out shoes and red cocktail-dress shoes, but no red wear-to-work shoes. So, this purchase was totally justified.

Here they are again!

Clearly Pretty New Red Shoes can solve all of life's problems, from Special Edition Spazzing to not having enough time to write a proper blog entry. Maybe I should let Condi in on this little secret...our foreign policy would be the better for it.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Anyone Know a Good Lobotomist?

Stupid, f-ing hormones. Yes, I blame YOU for this. ('Cuz if it's not your fault, we have a lot bigger problems to deal with.) I woke up today with my life in (minor) shambles. My brain is going on and on with a line of questioning that has no answers. Is this what I want? Am I doing the right thing? What am I doing here? Is this the stupidest thing I've ever done? Can I undo it? Is this really something I need to do something about, or will life take care of it on its own? Is there any way to know? But I'm happy – why am I second-guessing myself? Why won't these questions just go away? I really don't want to deal with any of them. Argh! (And if you have no idea what I'm talking about, then good, I've done a decent enough job of glossing over my problems. Because I do not need to air all of my dirty laundry for the entire Internet. But it's tempting.)

And you know it's bad when your head is still going on about this in church and you're getting mad at the old people sitting next to you for talking to each other too loudly. Tension, frustration. And dropping the prayer card thingy on the floor. Tension, frustration, tension, frustration. And then you're pissed off at the choir director. Just shut up with your announcements and let us sing the damn song. That I don't even like anyway. We know how this music-in-church thing works, we don't need a lesson in the middle of the service. Shhhh already! Get. To. The. Singing! Tension, frustration, tension, frustration, tension, frustration, nearly to the point of tears, in the middle of church.

Hi, yes, I'm just a wee bit strung out today, why do you ask? (Smiling falsely and batting eyelashes rapidly.)

It reminds me of the conversations/fights that Nick and I used to have. We'd pretend to calmly, rationally discuss the state of our relationship, and he'd try to convince me that, sure it's not where I want it to be, but that doesn't mean it's bad, and it'll get there, eventually, someday, maybe. But in the meantime, no, no I don’t love you, but there's nothing wrong with that, because I want to be in love with you, but it just hasn't happened yet, and I know you love me and I'm happy about that and we're all just peachy here and I really do like you and appreciate what you do for me, and if it doesn't work out between the two of us, I'm sure you'll find someone better. (Which is exactly what you want to hear from someone who's supposed to be in love with you by now damn it, right?) And although we are both very intellectual, talk-things-through kind of people and the conversations would start out with actual words, somewhere along the line I would invariably be in tears. Like, can't-even-string-together-an-entire-sentence-
without-being-interrupted-by-more-sobbing tears. I cried more in those twelve months than in the preceding 25 years combined. And reapplied a lot of mascara.

I wish I could blame all that on hormones, like I suspect is today's problem, but we had those conversations more frequently than every four weeks. Yeah. Those were twelve very long months. And for the people who heard many of the blow-by-blow accounts: I can't believe you still talk to me. But thanks.

And now? I'm going to go make some coffee and enjoy my five-thousand-calorie, chocolate-covered, custard-filled doughnut. After which maybe I'll go find some Midol and wash it down with a bottle of cabernet. I've never actually taken Midol, but today might be a good time to start. It's that or some Valium. The wine, though? Is A Must. These nerves have got to chill out somehow.

Come Fly the Friendly Skies...You'll Probably Be Seated Next to Me!

I've spent the last year on an airplane.

In 2005, six airlines took me on fourteen trips to eight different cities and a dozen airports: Austin, Sacramento (twice), Indianapolis, DC (three times), LA (twice), Atlanta, Chicago (twice), Vegas, and one crazy Sacramento-Atlanta-Chicago loop. I racked up 58,787 frequent flier miles (plus 7 "credits earned" on Southwest. Whatever that means.) I can tell you what airline you're flying based solely upon where your connection is. And yet, I still haven't managed to fly anywhere for free. Maybe if I schedule a trip to Akron the second week in November, they'll let me use my frequent flier miles. Maybe.

Through all this traveling, I've developed some rather particular routines. First off, I hate giving up the day flying, so I look for a red-eye first. Sure, I'm a zombie by the end of the day, but I'd rather fall asleep during dinner than just be getting off the plane at 7:00 pm. If the red-eye doesn't work, my next choice is a 6:00 am flight. They're almost more brutal than the red-eye, because instead of being on a plane fast asleep at 4:00 am, the SuperShuttle people are arriving at my door to take me to the airport. Ugh.

Secondly, my flight is probably interfering with some sort of normal sleep schedule. (Not that I have a "normal" sleep schedule, but you know what I mean.) Therefore, time spent on the shuttle, in the terminal, and on the plane is time that I should be asleep. It's hard to sleepwalk through the security checkpoint, so I have to be somewhat awake for about thirty minutes of the process. Ninety, if I'm flying out of Dulles. (Side note to those of you who don't fly often: when in doubt, TAKE IT OFF AND PUT IT THROUGH THE X-RAY MACHINE. This includes your shoes, jacket, belt with buckle-the-size-of-Texas, firearms, incendiary devices, and small children. Also, not everything has to go in a gray plastic bin. There is nothing contaminating about the rubber conveyor belt. Your coat will be ok traveling through the x-ray machine unprotected by the gray plastic bin that sixteen thousand other people's stuff has been in today. Think about it – the conveyor belt is probably less germy.)

Where was I? Oh right, my routines. The final crucial piece of my travel plans involves seat selection. I am not tall. I do not need three feet of leg room to feel comfortable. Rather, I am impatient. I need to be near the front of the plane, so I can get off as quickly as humanly possible and get on with the rest of my day. Even if the immediate rest of my day consists of waiting at another gate for a delayed flight. Also, I need my personal space, for the sleeping portion of the flight. (Approximately 100% of our flight time.) Thus, I choose a window seat. Just let me get on the plane, settle my belongings in and go to sleep. I don't want to watch your little safety video with the too-loud audio that explains what to do if the oxygen masks come down. If something happens such that we need the oxygen masks, I hope I'm asleep. I was recently on a flight where the flight attendant woke me up to check to see that my seatbelt was buckled. In preparation for takeoff. I don't even wake up anymore when they come around with pretzels and Diet Coke. And for me to sleep through free Diet Coke is a pretty big sacrifice.

On the subject of sacrifices, FAA, what is the deal with these silly electronic device restrictions? Are you honestly telling me that my iPod is going to f-up the multi-million dollar computer systems the pilots use to fly the plane? Really? Because I'm trying to sleep here, and the music makes the rest of the plane disappear. And I really don't want to rouse myself once we've reached our cruising altitude just to enjoy the iPod. And I really, really don't want to be woken up twenty minutes before we land with your stupid announcement telling me to turn off the iPod. You just woke me up! I skipped the Diet Coke and haven't had caffeine in six hours! And now you're going to take away my only source of happiness for the half hour remaining on our flight and the person sitting next to me will decide that now is a great time to strike up a conversation because I have no way to escape and they already annoyed the crap out of the person in the aisle seat??? Because my enjoyment of Dave Matthews will prevent the pilots from landing the plane?!?!?

However, I am a reasonable person, FAA. I'll make a deal with you: I will continue to abide by your iPod ban if you maintain the ban on cell phones. Because heaven help us if I have to try to sleep through someone's incessant cell phone chatter without the benefit of my iPod. The airlines do not have enough Diet Coke to keep things from getting ugly.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

How Much Do I Love PBS?

Love. Love love love. LOVE.

See why. My VCR (yes, I still have a VCR. Shut up.) has been programmed for weeks. And I'll check it again today. Probably more than once.

In addition to tonight's lovefest, I have recently enjoyed Blues Traveler and Coldplay, thanks to the good folks at PBS and Austin City Limits and KLRU. But I can do without the Elvis Costello and the Lyle Lovett, ok? Also, Ryan needs -- needs -- the entire hour. What is this business about sharing time with some Tift Merritt chick? WTF? Outside of that, I love you. Love love love. So much that I may be compelled to make a charitable, tax-deductible donation just to make sure there's future love. Preferably of musicians I love. I'll send you a list if you need ideas.

While we're on the subject of public broadcasting love (which is definitely not as hot as it sounds), last night I discovered the depths of my true dork-dom: I was watching -- well, eating dinner and reading mail in front of -- The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer and some reporter was all blah blah blah about the pissing match the Feds have gotten in with Google, and I thought, "Oh crap! I bet it's 6:30! Shit! I'm missing Marketplace!" And, indeed, it was 6:32 pm, so I had to turn off the public broadcast television programming and turn on my public broadcast radio programming. Because it was the last installment of their week in China! And that doesn't happen very often! Kai Ryssdal hasn't been to China in eight years! You think I'm going to miss 20% of the broadcasting-from-China time to hear some law professors blather on about Google and Alberto Gonzales and the ACLU and I've already heard this story like sixteen million times today? Hey-yell no. Please do not tell Mr. Lehrer, for it will hurt his feelings. And he doesn't even have Mr. McNeill with whom to share the blame anymore.

But, tonight. TOTALLY DIFFERENT. Osama bin Laden could be delivering the State of the Union live on NPR and still I would not turn off Austin City Limits. And miss seeing Ryan Adams "live" in concert from the comfort of my own bed??? As if!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Just Another Thursday Night

Folding laundry = boring.
Folding laundry + champagne + the West Wing = much more exiciting.

Seriously, I do not remember the last time I drank a whole bottle of champagne by myself. Graduation? Kathy's wedding? Either way, darn good times. And, can I just say – this $5.08 champagne from Target was worth every penny.

Oh, note to any readers still in high school: drinking does not make everything fun and cool. Drinking is bad, mmmkay? Oops! I mean readers under 21. Orf course you wouldn't drink until you’re 21.

I was supposed to go grocery shopping tonighgt. Oops. We've already seen how well I do when I'm not in the modd for groceries...drunk, not such a good option. Oh, and the driving involved, definitely no. So, tomorrow we'll be going out for lunch. Or having avacodos and beer.

Also, I must admit, I watch Project Runway. Yes, really. I'm not much of a reality TV fan, but this is one show I will actually sit through. I watched it last season out of a sense of duty (the BR connection and all) but have so far avoided it this year. But alas, I caught a couple re-runs over the weekend and it's on my TV right now, so...I watch. And worse, I enjoy. (OK, y'all, you have no idea how hard it was to get that link to work right. It's hard enough sober--you try it while drunk! See how much I love you?)

Can I just say, I love the fact that women can be about-ready-to-burst-pregnant on TV? Cuz in 1983 that wasn't the case. And Heidi Klum...for as much as I hate her delivery (hot? yes; but an actress she is not) I am totally loving the bangs. So much softer of a look than last year. And please, if there's a god, can you please, please, please make me look that good when I'm pregnant? I'll do whatever you ask! Sacrifice my firstborn, sure. Pretty please?

Yeah, so that's my Thursday night: laundry, champagne, and some quality Bravo TV programming. How jealous are you?

Aslo, I would just like to say, that if I can (1) take pictures, (2) download them to the computer, and (3) post them to the blog in this condition, perhaps, Canon, I do not need this many instruction manuals to teach me. Just a thought. (Though at some point the computer did a blue-screen-thing and then spontaneously rebooted. Not surer what that was about. Whatev.)

Anywya, it's probalby time for bed for me. But there's basketball on. Hmmm. Tough call.

UPDATE: 5:04 am. Shhhh, alarm clock! Why are you so annoying? Mmmmm, water. Water is soooo tasty. And you, on the kitchen counter. Don't think I didn't see you, empty champagne bottle and champagne flute, so damn cheerful and innocent-looking. You're not exactly on my good list right now. I'm going back to bed; maybe I'll feel like greeting the day in another hour or two.

And the Winner Is...

New York City!

That's right, folks, my airline credit has been redeemed for a 5-day, 4-night trip to the nation's most crowded island. It'll be fabulous! Actually, the airline credit only gets me to about Detroit, and does nothing in the way of a hotel stay (What is this business about sharing a bathroom at the end of the hall with a bunch of strangers? Did I miss the memo informing me I'm back in college?) but who cares? I get a real vacation in a real city. Hooray! Oh, and the dates are March 23-27 for any of you who want to join me.

Any suggestions on where to go, what to see, where to eat/drink are welcome. Preferably things off the beaten track...I'm confident I can find the Empire State Building on my own. But a cute little European bistro in Chelsea? The best place to get cannoli in Little Italy? Definitely tell me about those.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

There’s No Place Like Home. Until You Don’t Live There Anymore.

"Home" is a foreign land these days. I haven't really lived in my parents' house in a decade. Since I've been gone, some of the rooms have changed functions, naturally. There's no longer a room that's referred to as "my room," but rather, "the back bedroom" or "the green room." Even more confusing than the updated décor and new nomenclature is the kitchen and bathroom renovation a couple of years ago, wherein entirely new cabinets and countertops were installed. I can't find a damn thing in either room. "Glasses?" "To the right of the sink." "You mean to the left?" (where they used to be) "No, to the right."

The bathroom used to have four drawers and two cabinets. It now has a dozen drawers, in addition to the two cabinets. My first time in the newly renovated house, I spent ten minutes looking for a cotton ball. I took a guess and pulled open a few of the drawers nearest the sink at which I stood. No luck. I looked in the cabinet under this sink. Nope. I looked in the other cabinet. Not there either. Muttering to myself, What is wrong with you people??? Don't you use cotton balls?!?!?! I continued my hunt around the bathroom, eventually finding them on a shelf in the linen closet. Of course. (These days I just bring my own. It's safer that way.)

Then, I needed the hair dryer. We still own one of those, right? I didn't recall having seen it on my quest for a cotton ball, but I tried the stand-at-the-sink-and-make-a-logical-guess method anyway. Four incorrect guesses later, I decided to be more methodical. I started at the left side of the sink and opened every single compartment. Three drawers of "Dad stuff." Pass. The cabinet with cleaning products and the garbage can. Three mostly empty drawers containing rarely-used items, like a hand-held mirror with fake peach flowers hot-glued on the back. (I have no idea where this came from, but I believe it showed up around 1991. Yes, we still have it – it's a perfectly functional mirror!) Three drawers of "Mom stuff," makeup, hairspray, etc. Ok, hairspray, that’s a good sign. Another cabinet, which was formerly the home of the hairdryer. But clearly not anymore. Another drawer of brushes, combs, etc. Finally – in drawer #11 – I found the hairdryer. By this point my hair had already dried into whatever godawful concoction the towel had created, but at least I knew where to look the next time.

Outside the house, things are equally strange. I have friends, people I went to school with, who live there. By choice. This is not a reality I had ever contemplated. Sure 57% of Americans live within an hour of their childhood home, but I didn't expect it to be people I knew! These are people who went away for college! People who have graduate degrees! People who could get a job anywhere! And they want to live in Janesville?

Janesville is my adopted home; it is not my hometown. To be fair, I liked and appreciated Janesville for what it was, but never loved it as much as my born-and-raised counterparts. I was a transplant there at age 10 and J-burg didn't live up to my cosmopolitan Milwaukee suburb standards. I was old enough and aware enough to know what I was missing. Plus, my extended family has always been scattered across the country. It didn't occur to me that people might grow up and live in the same city as their parents and siblings. At the very least, not in a small city like Janesville. Dad's entire family lives in the Milwaukee metro area, and half of Mom's family is concentrated in Chattanooga. But these are cities of hundreds of thousands! Not 60,000, like Janesville. (Talk about a small town – the families of four people I was friends with in high school with are now related by marriage.)

Finally, while I could see the value in geographic proximity to one's family, I could not envision a job that would keep me in town. Madison, Milwaukee, Chicago – they all made the list. But I knew I was a city girl and I really wanted to do something legal and/or political, so wherever I ended up would have to have a decent concentration of government entities, law firms, and perhaps consulting firms. (Is it any wonder I fell in love with DC?) Unless you want to do real estate deals and prepare wills (like one attorney I worked for) or medical malpractice (like the three others), there's not a lot of exciting legal work going on in Janesville. Even in middle school, I knew my work would be a defining part of me, and there was no work, and hence no life, there for me.

But the people I know from middle school and high school... They are now Janesville's electricians, pharmacists, teachers, bankers, radiology technicians, engineers, chiropractors, small business owners, doctors, paralegals, homeowners. And, most frightening of all, parents. (Baby: This season's hottest accessory for 28-year olds!) They could have found a job anywhere, but they chose Janesville. And this is wonderful. Because for as much as I need to be somewhere else, doing a job that doesn't exist at home, Janesville needs them to stay, to live, to grow, to prosper.

Monday, January 16, 2006

I Have a Dream

In January 1987, the United States celebrated its second official Martin Luther King, Junior holiday. I was in third grade. As part of the commemoration at school, each of us had to identify a dream of ours, and draw a picture to accompany it. To set the stage, our teacher read to us the relevant part of Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech.

I remember thinking this was a stupid assignment. For starters, I did not consider myself visionary, nor artistic, so I found the desired work product daunting. (Please just assign me a book report, ok?) But, more importantly, I thought it was ridiculous to be generating new dreams when we had not yet achieved the vision Martin Luther King espoused. I liked what he had to say. I shared that vision. Why did we need other, new ideas?

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal." I loved the Declaration of Independence as only an eight-year old can, and cherished the notion that our Founding Fathers thought we were all equals. This was before I knew Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, before I realized black men gained suffrage long before that right was extended to women, before I discovered that a woman's earning power is only 77% of that of a man.

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. This sounded like a good idea. I didn't know any black people, but I couldn't imagine not sitting down and having dinner together. The Huxtables seemed like a family we would be friends with. Never mind that they're fictional, I was sure there were other people like them, just not in my neighborhood. I was convinced I would have black friends if I lived in a big city, like New York or Chicago or Milwaukee.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I wasn't sure quite what things were like in the state of Mississippi, having never been there, but if there was still injustice and oppression going on, then we should definitely do something to change that.

I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. Well, duh. Even apart from the ugliness of racism – which I had never witnessed, let alone experienced firsthand – I knew I wanted to be judged on my character. This was before George W. Bush led us to war based on faulty intelligence, before Bill Clinton was impeached for perjury, before I knew what the Iran-Contra affair was about, before I learned why Gary Hart dropped out of the race for President. (Somewhere in my parents' basement there is a Gary Hart button that belongs to me.) This "content of one’s character" was a standard we should apply to everyone, essentially asking, Are you a good person? It's almost intuitive to a third-grader.

I knew the Civil Rights movement had occurred decades before, and that we, as a society, had made significant progress since that time. I knew that we hadn't met all of the challenges Martin Luther King, Jr. laid out for us, but I was fairly confident that by the time I was an adult, his vision would be realized.

That was then. Nearly two decades later, it pains me to report that I was wrong. In 2004, the median household income for blacks was 64% of that of whites. 24.7% of black Americans live in poverty — a rate twice the national average. Of the 45.8 million people in this country without health insurance, 13.7 million are Hispanic, 7.2 million are black, and 16.8 million are Asian. Business ownership is concentrated in the hands of white men: women own 28% of the businesses in the U.S.; Hispanics 7%; blacks and Asians, 5% apiece.

This is not the America of which I dreamed.

And so I wonder, What is your dream? Not only for yourself, and your children, but for the nation? And, are you doing something about it? Dr. King dreamt of equality, of brotherhood, of an end to injustice and oppression, of the triumph of integrity. Beginning today, let us work tirelessly to achieve these, and all of our dreams.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Public Service Announcement

The new Spring line came in this week at Banana Republic. You know, 'cuz it's January already. So, if you're itching for lightweight sweaters, capris, or apparel in navy blue, they've got you covered.

The Rain in Spain Stays Mainly in the Plain

In Sacramento, not so much. Actually, we are the plain. (Sacramento: elevation 25 feet.) And we are officially in the rainy season these days. Perhaps you heard about it on the news over Christmas? There was flooding, or potential flooding, of six counties here in Northern California. I returned to find (a) my house fully intact – yay! and (b) leaves – gross, wet, icky, gobs of leaves. Piles of wet, stuck-together-by-the-rain leaves. A lovely layer of sticky, wet leaves, about three inches thick, covered the road, gutter, sidewalk, patio, every horizontal surface imaginable. Leaves, leaves, leaves, leaves, leaves. Ew. The mat by my back door was completely saturated and collecting mud. Ew, ew. It was unavoidable – I tracked mud and piles of leaves into the house. Ew, ew, ew.

I shook the mud off the mat and hung it over the deck railing to dry. Two days later it was only marginally less wet, so I opted for an hour in the industrial strength dryer. One problem solved! The leaves, however, stuck around until the gardeners showed up the following Monday. (Yes, we have gardeners. Shush. Almost all the rental properties here have them. Yes, it’s a couple of "Mexicans." Stereotypes come from somewhere!) It’s still raining. And it will be until April. People must just get used to it – yesterday I saw another gardener mowing my neighbor’s lawn in the rain. What?

But, I’ve left the house without a coat every day this week, and I can definitely live with that!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Pure, Unadulterated Bribery (Inspired by Tom DeLay)

Have you noticed that there hasn't been a new post in more than 24 hours? Curious as to what's become of me and my fabulous stories? Wondering if I'm holding out on you until you all post some freaking comments?!?!?!? Well, you'd be right about that one. So. No new posts until you play along and post a comment. You're shy; I understand. But really, you can do this. (***Kisses*** to those of you who have already met my demands. I love you! And will pass your legislation!)

Also, on a completely unrelated topic, my Goddamn Rock Solid Ghetto Shiznit name is Ass Machine Shizzlemah. (Wanna know yours?) Which--and if you've ever had the pleasure of meeting me in person, I think you'll agree--is mighty damn appropriate.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

It's National De-Lurking Week!

It's National De-Lurking Week! (Isn't the internet great? Someone makes up shit like this and everyone else goes with it. Click here if you don't believe me.) As I am new at this blogging thing, you guys only get National De-Lurking Seventy Two Hours. Sorry. I suck.

National De-Lurking Week, much like the name indicates, is a chance for all you blog-readers out there to become blog-commenters. Enough lurking in the shadows! Reveal yourselves! Ok, so I don't actually want you to reveal yourselves, 'cuz that's really not something I need to see. But, leave a comment! Out of the sheer goodness of my heart, I allow anonymous comments, so no need to worry that your comments will end up in your FBI file. At least, not by my doing.

In order to make this a bit more interactive, here are some topics/questions for you to address in your comments. Or, just say hello.

  1. Who will win the Superbowl?
  2. Name your favorite song from Ryan Adams' 29.
  3. I have a $200 credit on Northwest Airlines that I need to use by the end of April. Where should I go?
  4. Which Federal agency has the funniest acronym: ARHQ; DARPA; FERC; HUD; NARA; NIST; OSHA? Why?
  5. What page were you on before you clicked here?
  6. Did I use enough exclamation points in this post?

Happy commenting!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Because Sometimes I Just Need to Yell

I've been thinking about communication styles lately (2006: the Year I Finally Refine My Communication Skills) and I realized that I am one of those people—people who are not bothered by conflict. It's not that I go looking to create discord, but if I stumble into an argument that's worth having, I'll have it, without much hesitation. (Just ask the numerous people I've gotten into a heated political debate with. In the middle of a bar.)

I've discovered the problem: I approach situations a little too logically. Logic, amazingly enough, is not particularly conducive to a good row. I can typically anticipate how someone else will feel, and am empathetic to their viewpoint, even if I don't share it. The result often is they have some emotional (over)reaction while I calmly analyze the situation and address the underlying facts, overlooking little things like them blaming me for everything or yelling at/about me. Later, in mentally reviewing the course of events, I realize the ways in which someone's words or behavior was totally out of line, and how I really should have smacked them around for it. I can't have them thinking that such behavior is ok, nor that they won the match. (Ahem. Compete much?) I can't leave things at that point, so I make the next logical move: I pick a fight. It's fun, really! And a great stress reliever! You should try it sometime.

A recent encounter went something like this:

Him: Hello?
Me: Are you done being pissy with me? (Aren't I sweet? Didn't even say hello.)
Him: What?
Me: Are you done being pissy with me? I called. You didn't call me back. How else am I supposed to take that?
Him: What? You didn't leave a message; I figured it wasn't important.
Me: Yeah, well, I haven't had that much success when leaving you messages. You could've at least acknowledged that I called. Call back, send an e-mail, whatever. (Lies, all lies. Had he e-mailed, I would have lambasted him for sending an e-mail instead of calling me. Some things just need to be done over the phone. Yelling is one of them.)


Me: Did you even stop for two seconds to think about how I might be feeling? How this wasn't very much fun for me, either? How it's not always about you?
Him: I'm sure this wasn't fun for you.
Me: No, it wasn't.

[More silence.]

Him: What do you want me to say?
Me: Nothing. I just think you could've shown a lot more consideration in dealing with this.
Him: Sorry. (In a not-very-sorry tone)
Me: You don't sound sorry. And you're totally entitled to feel that way. But don't lie to me.

[Again with the silence.]

Him: So, what else?
Me: Nothing, that's it.
Him: That's it?
Me: Yup.

[More silence. Verizon is getting rich off of us, and we're not even talking.]

Me: I'm gonna let you go now.
Him: Ok.
Me: So, you know, if you ever feel like being yelled at, you've got my number.
Him: (laughing) Yeah.
Me: Bye.
Him: Bye.

Was anything resolved? Not really. But I felt a hell of a lot better! Now it's time to sit back and wait for things to blow over. Which they will, of course, because that's the way life goes.

A little tip for anyone out there who may be thinking, "Well, I just won't answer the phone for those first few days and wait for things to blow over": Do Not Kid Yourself. Not returning my phone call merely adds fuel to the fire, and gives me more time to think about the many, many ways in which I will verbally emasculate you, whenever you do call. Because I, like women since the dawn of time, have the ability to hold a grudge in perpetuity, and can access it on a moment's notice. Consider this purely hypothetical scenario:

We date; we break up; we maintain a tenuous friendship. In the midst of one of our better spells, in an up-to-now very cordial e-mail conversation, you jokingly refer to an incident from two months ago that we never really settled. Hypothetically, I could play along and joke about the incident with you. Or, I could answer with a snarky, I'm-dead-serious-about-this reply that leads us into a morass of unresolved issues from the past six months of our relationship, culminating in several rounds of rather uncomfortable phone calls, complete with yelling and a lot of silence.

Hypothetically speaking, that second one is probably a situation you want to avoid.

Believe me when I tell you, you're better off picking up the phone in the first place. Actually, you're best off not being an idiot in the original conversation. But, you're a boy, so the damage is probably already done. Barring that, just answer the damn phone and let me yell for a while.

Christmas, Revisited

Yes, I stayed up writing this until 2:00am, because I couldn't fall asleep knowing it was unfinished. You'd better like it!

This weekend I unpacked the last of my Christmas gifts, bought next year's cards, and took down the string of lights I'd put up around my living room windows. All this de-Christmasing got me thinking about the well-choreographed Christmas traditions we've developed in my family. (Family motto: Change Is Bad. I think Dad came up with that one.) It's a routine we've perfected over the years, and it’s as dependable as TBS’s 24-hour marathon showing of A Christmas Story. (Oh my God, I shot my eye out!)

Late afternoon on Christmas Eve, we start the insanity that is getting five people showered, ironed, blow-dried, and made-up. In one bathroom. Dinner is something unassuming that can be put on the table in 30 minutes or less. This year it was Italian Beef sandwiches, accompanied by salads from the deli. I'm pretty sure this was not the first time we've had that meal for Christmas Eve. A couple more years of Italian Beef sandwiches and it'll become Official Christmas Tradition. After dinner, we resume the prettifying and finish up any last minute gift- wrapping that needs to be done. This year, that meant roughly half the gifts. Eventually I started smacking a tag and a sticky bow right on the department store boxes, sans any wrapping paper to disguise the packaging. 2005 was not a Martha Stewart Christmas! (For the record, my wrapping was done; I was drafted to finish others'. Whose gifts I had purchased on their behalf and shipped home a month ahead of time, while they wrote me a check.)

Dad's choir sings at "Midnight" Mass, which begins at 10:00pm. (No one has thought to change the name of the service, despite the fact that it's been at 10:00pm at least since we moved there in 1989.) We need to be at church around 9:30 or so; Dad about half an hour earlier. Right around 9:00 Liz asks if she is really, really expected to attend mass. This is an annual query. And every year the question is met with the same response: surprise and puppy dog eyes from Dad, wondering why on earth she wouldn't go, and being hurt that she would ditch a family outing. (News flash: she's not into that whole organized religion thing. Hasn't been since, oh, 6th grade or so.) Mom, being the peacemaker and trying to cajole Liz into going without flat-out ordering her 25-year old daughter to go to church. Liz, rolling her eyes, sighing, and, while not actually agreeing to attend, leaving the room to go put on some appropriate-for-church clothes (i.e., not the flannel pants and hooded sweatshirt she’s currently wearing). Steve and I, brushing our teeth in the bathroom, wonder aloud if Liz is joining us for church, but neither of us wants to ask anyone who would actually know the answer, lest we spark World War III on Christmas Eve. We just wait to see who gets in the car twenty minutes later.

Mass. I spend most of the time looking around to see who else is there. I recognize fewer and fewer people every year. Or, I recognize someone and wonder who’s kid they’re babysitting? On Christmas Eve, people??? Oh wait, it’s probably their kid. Huh. There is a lot of singing of festive Christmas songs by the little old ladies in the choir (and Dad), and some talk of Jesus and all. Our last priest had a tradition of foregoing the homily (“sermon” for you non-Catholics), instead reading to us his favorite Christmas cards from the year, complete with a description of the picture on the front of the card. He retired several years ago, and our new priest has established his own tradition: actually giving a homily. Father John talked about, um...oh right, how we hear the same readings every year at Christmas, but probably have a different reaction to them because we are different people a year later. Ok, true, good insight. But I kind of miss the hokey Christmas cards.

Back home after mass, the real fun begins. Actually, this year it began before we even got home. As Dad had to be at church earlier than any of us were prepared to leave the house, we took two cars. Coming home, Steve drove us kids in Mom’s car while Dad drove himself and Mom home. We beat them out of the parking lot and, as there’s really only one route to get from church home, we were going to arrive home first as well. A few blocks away from home, Steve said, “Wouldn’t it be funny if I parked Mom’s car in Dad’s spot in the garage?” Peals of laughter erupted, mixed with “Ohmigod, hil-AR-i-ous” and “Dad’s gonna kill you.” (Remember the family motto?) We’re all busting up as Steve calmly pulls in the driveway, hits the remote to open the garage door, and parks Mom’s car on Dad’s side of the garage. Dad pulls into the driveway behind us, no doubt wondering what the hell his idiot kid is doing. And perhaps wondering which idiot kid is doing it. We wait for the honking and arm-waiving to ensue (“yoo-hoo, you accidentally parked on the wrong side of the garage!”), but they’re not forthcoming; Dad just pulls into Mom’s spot. The three of us scramble out of the car, laughing so hard we can hardly speak. But we do manage to observe that only in our family would such a stunt be this entertaining. I’m not kidding, there were tears.

We continue our evening with the Official Christmas Tradition of The Christmas Eve Picture of the Kids in Front of the Tree. We must do this in our church clothes, and, as we are never ready early enough to take the picture before church, it is the first order of business after church, before everyone changes into their pajamas. Witness this year’s picture:

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of The Christmas Eve Picture of the Kids in Front of the Tree. The past two years we spent Christmas in a hotel, but that did not prevent us from taking The Picture in Front of the Tree. The first year the hotel had a Christmas tree in the lobby, so we all traipsed downstairs, pulled an armchair over and took The Picture in front of the tree the good folks at Marriott provided. Last year the tree was not located in a place conducive for a picture. But, fear not! There was a picture! This time, the three of us are standing in front of the hotel room fireplace, which was decorated with gigantic red velvety bows. Did the hotel staff decorate? No, we did. Because it’s just not Christmas without The Picture in Front of the Tree, and, in the event that there’s no tree, you can make do with festive décor from the Dollar Store.

By now you’re probably wondering what, exactly, we do with the annual Picture of the Kids in Front of the Christmas Tree. Take a copy to Grandma on Christmas Day? Send it as next year’s Christmas card? Send it as this year’s yeah-it’s-after-Christmas-but-at-least-you’re-getting-a-card card? Oh, no. These pictures, along with all of the Christmas morning gift-opening pictures, are developed and then put in a box. For the enjoyment of future generations. Of which there are currently none.

After all of the picture-taking excitement has subsided, we have one final Official Christmas Tradition to uphold: we each get to open one gift. Several years back, Liz and I noted that this tradition did not exist when we were little, and we racked our brains as to the origins of this tradition. And here it is: it’s all Steve’s fault. Steve, from the moment he left the womb, but perhaps before, has been obsessed with Christmas. Growing up, the three of us took piano lessons. You’d think our parents would let us play anything we wanted on the piano, thereby making good use of the expensive instrument and lessons, right? No. We had a rule—A RULE—No Christmas Songs Before Thanksgiving. And thank god for that, ’cuz otherwise we would’ve been hearing Jingle Bells all summer long. As it was, Steve regaled us with Jingle Bells and many, many other Christmas songs all day on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

By Christmas Eve, Steve would be ready to burst. (I recall a 4-year old little boy waking me up at 3:00 one Christmas “morning” because he was “too excited to sleep—Santa came!” but wisely knew he wouldn’t find a sympathetic audience in our parents’ room. Liz sleeps like a log, so guess who got to keep the kid quiet, entertained, and out of the living room for the next four hours?) Sometime during the evening, Steve would start asking, “When can we open presents? Can I open one now? Can I? Can I? Can I? Pleeeeeeeeeeease? But I can’t wait until tomorrow morning! Just one?” And my parents, on their third child and darn tired of holding the line, gave in. (The first of many victories Steve scored that never, ever, ever would have been allowed for me. But that’s another story.) And so it came to pass that each of us is permitted to open one, and only one, present on Christmas Eve. To shut the darn kid up.

Christmas Morning in our house probably resembles that of most homes, except for all the extra rules: You are not to wake us up until the big hand is on the 12 and the little hand is on the 7, got it? You may look at, but may not touch, any of the presents under the tree. If you need a nice, quiet way to entertain yourself until the rest of the family is up, you may empty the contents of your stocking; however, you are not authorized to empty anyone else’s. (I have a sneaking suspicion that each of these rules was broken at least once.)

Anyway, we roll out of bed (these days at a reasonable hour, like 8:00am), start the coffee, and open presents in our pajamas. Dad hands out the gifts, one person at a time, counter-clockwise around the room. Side conversations are frowned upon, so pay attention please, we can’t spend all day on this. After all the gifts have been opened, wrapping paper tossed, and bows saved for next year, Dad heads to the kitchen to prepare the traditional Christmas Morning Brunch (we’ve already eaten enough candy from the stockings to qualify as breakfast) of pancakes and eggs. We again do the bathroom shuffle, and head to Milwaukee for Dad’s extended family Christmas celebration.

The Official Christmas Traditions are not nearly as detailed for the extended family, but there are two items of note:
  • The tray of cookies Aunt Sandy makes will contain an assortment of approximately fourteen kinds of cookies. There will be gingerbread cookies, complete with colored icing trim. There will be chocolate chip cookies and snickerdoodles and sugar cookies with frosting. There will be pinwheel cookies with jelly in them. And, if you’re lucky, there will be peanut butter cookies with a Hershey’s kiss in the middle. If you are not tempted to eat a dozen cookies during the Christmas Day celebration, you do not belong in our family.
  • Upon receiving and opening a gift, the correct response, under any and all circumstances, is, “Thank you! It’s just what I’ve always wanted!” Lest you forget from one year to the next, we practice this response a couple of times as a group before the first present is handed out.

  • These, then, are the Official Christmas Traditions. If you ever join us for this hallowed event, consider yourself warned.

    Monday, January 09, 2006

    I Hate Technology

    I had a post. A long, beautiful post, with wonderful anecdotes. And somewhere in telling the computer to change the font, it decided I wanted to delete the post. All of it. So now I have 1/3 of a post--the last version saved--from at least half an hour ago. Stupid technology. I hate you.

    UPDATE: I'm on version 3 of this post, so at least I know now what the website did when it eviscerated the other post. But it still doesn't bring back my long, beautiful post. Fuckers. Guess who will be composing her future posts in Word first, so this never happens again?

    Sorry kids, I'll try again tomorrow. Maybe it'll be better the second time around.

    Friday, January 06, 2006


    The archives have been posted! They're a little hard to find, but click on the January 2006 link and you'll find all of the old stuff, in reverse chronological order. Which just means you'll have to do a lot of scrolling.

    Do Not Go to the Grocery Store When You're Not Hungry. (Or, The Evil Safeway, Part I)

    For those of you who live in DC metro area, let me start off by saying that my Evil California Safeway is in no way close to the Evil Safeways of DC. For starters, some of the cashiers here even say hello to you while they ring up your groceries. As opposed to, say, carrying on a conversation with another cashier three lanes over. But I digress...

    I know what you're thinking. All the healthy living advice tells you not to go grocery shopping when you're hungry, because you'll come home with bags full of crap. And that may be true. But let me tell you, going when you're patently not hungry isn't such a great plan either. Case in point: I stopped by the store the other night, knowing that my dinner options consisted of some dried fruit, Crystal Light and a couple of eggs of questionable age. Clearly a trip to the grocery store was in order, and the Evil Safeway is only two blocks from my house. Damn them.

    Trouble is, I wasn't hungry. In fact, I hadn't been hungry since about 10am and the thought of food was making my stomach turn. So, without anything else to guide me, I bought what was on sale, thereby entrusting my grocery decisions to the marketing folks at Evil Safeway. Veggie corn dogs, check. Couple of pints of Haagen-Dazs light, check. Liz suggested I have cereal for dinner, so I grabbed a box of cereal (on sale) and milk. Some standard take-to-work items, yogurt and bananas, went into the basket. $30 and five plastic bags later (Yes, they only give you plastic bags at my delightful Safeway. No "paper or plastic?" decisions for me to weigh.) I arrived home and assessed the shopping trip. Seemed pretty successful.

    Then I discovered what I didn't buy. Anything for lunch this week. Anything for dinner, save the cold cereal and milk option. Bread. Bottled water. The normal assortment of vegetables, baby carrots, salad, etc. You know, anything that might resemble an actual meal.

    In fact, I missed two entire food groups: alcohol and caffeine.

    Sure, being so-hungry-I-could-eat-everything-in-sight might not be a good state in which to do your grocery shopping, and you could come home with six varieties of potato chips, some peanut butter and a chocolate cake. But, really, being nauseated during the process leads to the same basic result. Let this be a lesson. If food is unpleasant to think about, skip the groceries and head straight for the booze.

    Thursday, January 05, 2006

    Birthday Pictures!

    You know you want to see them. Particularly if you weren't there to experience the joy yourself. Maybe, if you're really nice, you'll score an invite next year.

    But first: you must suffer through my musings. Or, use the scroll bar to get to the good stuff.

    I turned 27 this December. And, for the first time in quite a while, I feel like my age matches my place in life. 27 is a bona fide grown-up age. Undergrad was ages (well, years) ago. 27 means you have some life (and work) experience. 27 means you can't go out and get sloshed and blame it on being young and stupid. But you can try. See if you can stay out past 2am anymore...just try it! (And if you can, tell me how you feel the next morning.)

    However, 27 is still far enough away from 30 to not induce any panic attacks. And it means you can be a responsible grown-up with out being old, boring, or responsible for anyone other than yourself. 27 just may be the perfect age! I'll let you know eleven months from now.

    And now...

    Chrystal and me, showing off our ghostly winter complexions.

    I have no idea what they're on,
    but they sure didn't offer me any. Jerks!

    Neal, involved in some deep thinking? Nah, probably not.

    Amazingly, none of them are the birthday girl.

    The intelligensia.
    Don't let their sweet outward appearance fool ya,
    these girls can party!

    Wednesday, January 04, 2006

    Other Random Things You Should Know About Me

    • I'm an NPR junkie.
    • Also, C-SPAN and C-SPAN2. Really.
    • Despite my quality education, highbrow news sources, and having grown up in the Midwest, I have a tendency, like, to totally talk like a Valley Girl. Ya know?
    • I'm working on that one.
    • I may actually become HTML literate through this little exercise. But I wouldn't count on it.
    • For some reason I find the word "fuck" the most descriptive and useful of all the swear words, and therefore use it often.
    • This is unfortunate because most people find it the harshest and most offensive of all the swear words, and therefore do not enjoy hearing me use it often.
    • I have a thing for numbers.
    • And sports metaphors.
    • I absolutely love hyphen-filled modifiers. You'll have to watch for those. I should trademark them or something and become filthy rich! (Except that I'm probably the only one who uses them.)
    • I have a tendency to write really insanely long sentences, often aided by the hyphen-filled modifiers.
    • Followed by short ones. That aren't technically sentences so much as dependent clauses.
    • I can be a little bit of a princess sometimes.
    • But usually I'm pretty mature and level-headed about things. Sometimes it's disturbing.
    • Also, I'm the teensiest bit of a control freak. No, really, I know it's hard to believe, but it's true.
    • And anal. It's not like I'm compulsive or anything, but I do like things to be neat, orderly, done a certain way... (I can't believe I used bullets instead of numbers for this list, because I have no idea how many items there are here. Whee! Look at me throwing caution to the wind and living with the uncertainty!!! But it would annoy me if there were some strange number of items, like 38 or something. Lack of information is actually better on this one.)
    • I work out in the morning. By choice.
    • I have a mild obsession with footwear. Particularly of the three-inch stiletto heel variety.
    • I'm rather sacrilegious. But not just about religion. Actually, about pretty much everything.
    • I am a member of the Junior League. And I volunteered on Howard Dean's 2004 presidential campaign. Which makes me, in the words of an ex-boyfriend, a pinko-commie-liberal-conservative-Southern-belle.
    • Speaking of the South...prolonged exposure as a child (and as a grown-up) have caused such phrases as "sweet tea," "oh mah word," and "darlin'" to creep into my vocabulary, complete with a soft, lilting accent.
    • In addition to being the Irony Queen, I am also the Efficiency Queen. If there's a faster, more direct way to do something, I've probably already identified it.
    • I may be a little competitive sometimes. Ok, most of the time.
    • Sarcasm is my primary form of communication. It's so inherent that it took me this long to add it to the list. Sad, just sad.
    • I'm a wee bit particular about grammar. So, if the phrases "also, too...," "besides," or "between the three of us...," please, I beg of you: Stop. Just stop.

    Anyone Up for a Little Christmas Camping?

    Originally published December 29, 2005 (to the site no one knew about). Yes, I've only been blogging for two days and already I'm running repeats. But, as NBC pointed out to us a few years ago: it may be a repeat, but if you haven't seen it yet, it's new to you!

    I'm at home this week. Or, more accurately, "home home." (My parents' house, for those of you who didn't start using this terminology sometime freshman year of college when you suddenly realized "home" referred to your dorm room and you needed a new term for that other place you call home.)

    Remarkably, we are all here for Christmas this year, after having spent the last two at Grandma's and the year before that Liz and I spent Christmas in DC, having come home at Thanksgiving for the holiday and Mom's surprise birthday party. At any rate, this is the first time in three years that all five of us are in the house at the same time. Thus, sleeping arrangements must be carefully choreographed, since the bedrooms we grew up in are no longer bedrooms, nor do they hold the requisite number of beds.

    Liz has been home for two weeks, so she's already settled into the only real bedroom space that exists. And Steve reclaimed his old room--now the office/TV room wherein I write this, and which boasts a loveseat-like piece that folds out into a twin bed.

    My accommodations: a sleeping bag and a twin-sized air mattress typically used for camping. In fact, it still had some "tent sand" on it from the last use. Now, before you go cursing my evil parents, you should know that Dad very kindly blew up our acceptable-for-guests queen-sized air mattress a couple of days before I got home. And, upon my arrival, it was nearly flat. I opted for the guaranteed-to-stay-inflated camping mattress, rather than taking my chances on waking up at 3 A.M. on the hardwood floor with a now-deflated air mattress between me and said floor. Quite the rational choice.

    But still...As I snuggled into my sleeping bag on Christmas Eve, vinyl air mattress making funny plastic groaning noises beneath me, I couldn't help but be grateful that none of us had anyone Special to bring to Christmas (not that we ever have, but it could happen, right? Some day?) Because, oh my word, where would he/she have slept?!?!?!

    Tuesday, January 03, 2006

    Blog Envy

    Ok, I'll admit it: I have blog envy. Yes, I am envious of my friends (real and virtual) who write funny, witty, entertaining blog entries on a fairly regular basis. And who, apparently, don't mind sharing some pretty intimate details with strangers-from-the-internet and, worse, close personal friends. I feel inadequate on many levels. First off, my blog (as you can see) is not nearly as pretty as many of the others I read. However, there is a perfectly good explanation for that: I'm cheap. Ok, I'm not that cheap, but I am one of the eight people out there with a blog who does not aspire to be an actual, published author. Thus, paying a site to host a (much prettier) blog appears to be not a good use of funds, insofar as it does nothing to promote my career. On the other hand, paying Comcast $55.07 each month for the privilege of watching West Wing reruns and ESPN for a combined total of, oh, maybe 10 hours a month is a perfectly justifiable expense. Also, a pretty blog would require me to have web design skills, which I do not.

    Second, as I have already mentioned, I have no author aspirations. I loved English class and am a great consumer of the written word, but the words "creative writing" were enough to make me curl up in a fetal position and wait for the storm to pass, figuratively speaking. Perhaps literally, too, but you'd have to ask my classmates; I've blocked out those memories. Instead, I am a technical writer. I take facts, analyze them, and present them in a manner that leads you to a particular conclusion. Namely, that I am right. And providing you good counsel with my recommendations. Come to think of it, that might not be so different from creative writing after all.

    Finally, I am amazed by others' ability to bare themselves publicly. I am an intrinsically private person. If you met me, though, you might not realize it. I am quite the extrovert and do a terrific job talking about me and the goings-on in my life, and my views on particular subjects (politics, football, this season's cute shoes), but you probably would walk away not really knowing what I do, where I live, or if I care more about cute shoes or football. I started a blog last summer, shared the address with exactly one person, and, after a couple of months, gave up because I couldn't handle the pressure of knowing that she was reading it. So I started what is essentially my journal in an online format, which you do not get to read. (Though there may be some cross-pollination, in which case you will be invited to read selected entries from said journal.) There are some things I am just not ready to share with everyone. Or with the specific people about whom I rant periodically. They don't know who they are, and I'm not going to tell them!

    So here we are again. Please bear with me as I struggle to find a voice that is both entertaining and thought-provoking. Most important of all, please leave comments! In part I am doing this as a professional endeavor: the ability to write columns, editorial pieces and speeches is a skill I need to develop for my next foray (or anticipated foray). You get to be my first critics! I hope you are willing to indulge me in some heady policy discourse, in addition to the not-so-exciting happenings of my life. Also, leave comments because I am an information whore and I would do anything to know what everyone is thinking at every single moment! How will I ever know, if you don't tell me?

    I apologize in advance if you are offended in any way by what I write. I typically do not intend to offend (unless you're a Chicago Bears fan, in which case the offense is wholly intentional). My political/religious/
    moral views are entirely my own; I do not expect you to share them. But it would be nice if you did. Also, sometimes I swear. A lot. Finally, if you know me and you do not want to be specifically named in this blog, please contact me. I can guarantee you anonymity, but please be warned that this promise will be invalidated in the event that anything I write is published in the New York Times. Again, my apologies, but some things are out of my hands.

    I think that's enough of a preface. If you're really interested, you can go read some of my old stuff (as soon as I figure out how to post it here). But why dwell on the past? Life has a way of moving on, irrespective of our readiness for it.

    First, a Disclaimer

    For the record, I am not some horribly pessimistic person who thinks life is full of daily tragedies, as the name of my blog might indicate, and I am not here to bore you with such stories. Rather, I was too late to jump on the blogging bandwagon, and all the good names were taken!!! So, Alan, this is why I disregarded all of your wonderful suggestions. Not because I didn't like them, but because other people got there first. Damn them!

    Also, and you may have already picked up on this, I love irony. Who does irony better than Oscar Wilde? Well, maybe me, as I am the Irony Queen. At any rate, the vignettes I write here will rarely qualify as "tragic." And I can't imagine they'll be daily, but we'll see. Depends on how exciting my life is.

    Sunday, January 01, 2006

    A Thousand Tiny Blessings

    Originally written October 26, 2005.

    Grandma died today. It's been coming for a while, so no one was that surprised. In the midst of juggling meetings and making travel arrangements, I didn't have much time to contemplate it. But on my drive home tonight, I thought about how wonderful it was that everyone was in town, that in her last moments in that hospital bed she was with her family. In picturing her in a hospital room--and not at MaryKay's house--it occurred to me that this was exactly why she had to break her hip last week: so she could die in the hospital.

    God, as usual, knew what He was doing, even though it wasn't clear to me a week ago. Knowing she wasn't going to bounce back from a broken hip, I was upset at the news. To me it seemed an awful, painful thing to have to suffer through. But now it's clear. Grandma had to be hospitalized. It prompted people to come to town. It meant MaryKay and the kids don't have to be weirded out by the fact that Grandma died in their house. It all fits.


    Originally written October 15, 2005

    I just watched the West Wing episode "King Corn," where the candidates are in Iowa for the Corn Growers Convention, ahead of the caucuses...the one where Donna and Josh have hotel rooms across the hall from each other, but nothing happens. It originally aired January 26, 2005, and I recall seeing it in that general time frame, probably that weekend.

    I didn't even watch the whole episode, just the first and last few minutes. And now I'm close to tears. It makes me want to be in Iowa in January. It makes me want to work on a presidential campaign. It makes me miss Mark and my DC life (which are so terribly, inextricably linked) like crazy.

    And now I am crying, the kind of tears that wash away all the day's mascara without any trouble.

    It's hard for me to tell if a job on the Hill would actually make me happy. Or if just being back in DC would do the trick. I know everything will work out in the end (it always does, particularly in my professional life), but I don't know how much time and mental energy I should be devoting to it right now. Am I just spinning my wheels? Do I need to learn to be more patient? Or is being proactive a virtue? Am I lusting after something that's only a good thing in my head? (And yes, I'm referring to both a job on the Hill and Mark, simultaneously. See how tricky this is???)

    Why does Mark feel like the last vestige of my DC life? It's not like he was a major part of it, during my 33 months there. I think it's because he has what I want: the life of an accomplished Hill staffer, permanently based in DC.

    UPDATE: I went off in search of the bittersweet, tug-at-my-heartstrings song that closes the episode, guessing the title was Desire. Oh yes, I got the title right. And who's the artist? None other than Ryan Adams. Fuck. The fun never ends.


    Two hearts fading, like a flower.
    And all this waiting, for the power.
    For some answer, to this fire.
    Sinking slowly. The water's higher.

    With no secrets. No obsession.
    This time I'm speeding with no direction.
    Without a reason. What is this fire?
    Burning slowly. My one and only.

    You know me. You don't mind waiting.
    You just can't show me, but God I'm praying,
    That you'll find me, and that you'll see me,
    That you run and never tire.

    Beautiful Sorta

    Originally written October 1, 2005.

    I have a new favorite song. Or another favorite song; I rarely have just one. Ryan Adams, naturally. I've been obsessed lately, and he's got a new album out, which should arrive on my doorstep in a matter of days, yay! My everlasting thanks to Mark for introducing me to Ryan. Everything has a silver lining, doesn't it?

    I've tried to figure out why this song appeals to me. Surely there are others that are more interesting, lyrically, more emotional, more representative of various relationships I've had. I think this song grabs me because of its up-tempo beat (I know I prefer loud, angry, possibly dancable, driving-percussion kind of music), but also because it's laden with irony. Me and my dark, sick, twisted mind--I just live for irony in all forms. Art that is ironic, be it a movie, painting, literature, has always appealed to me. And, as the title indicates, this song has plenty of it.

    Beautiful Sorta
    All I wanna do is get up
    Is get up
    Is get up in the morning
    In the morning and not wanna die
    I feel alright when I think about you
    Walking through a star field covered in lights
    Wasted like you're losing your job, you're so fired
    We're just like the ones we used to make fun of

    It's beautiful sorta
    Beautiful sorta
    Beautiful sorta but not

    All I wanna do is get down
    Is get down
    Is get down in the evening
    In the evening and not wanna die
    Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow
    I'm buzzing like a jar full of lightning bugs
    Walking through a star field covered in lights
    Wasted like a bum with somebody's wallet
    Pcitures inside of you and me, you and I
    So far past sad I'm crazy and scary

    It's beautiful sorta
    Beautiful sorta
    Beautiful sorta but not

    I do everything I can to remove you but it hurts
    From all the things that we've started

    It's beautiful sorta,
    Beautiful sorta
    Beautiful sorta, but not

    Things Are Better in My Head

    Originally written September 22, 2005

    I'm in one of those phases--the one where I go on a "boy binge"...going out, meeting everyone I can, for drinks, coffee, dinner. They seem great on paper, fun over e-mail, sound good on the phone. And when I get there, interact with them, size them up...nothing. None of them turn into anything, most often by my choice. Occasionally I score a friend, but that's it. Why, then, do I do this? All that effort, for so little payoff? I think the answer is twofold: (1) I like the attention; and (2) I need the reminder.

    The reminder that I really would rather be alone than with the wrong person. And boy are there a lot of "wrong persons" out there! I'm eliminating potential dating partners from the pool of 3 billion men in this world, one wrong person at a time. But, like all binges, this will be limited in duration, and eventually I'll be back to being happy alone again.

    Still, all these wrong people help me to see what was right about those that I have dated. That "sparks" count for something. That a gut feeling is enough to go on. That I'm getting closer in real life to the ideal person crafted in my head.

    Depressing though it is in the moment, returning home 40 minutes and one drink later, these encounters inspire me, give me hope. Hope that he is out there, somewhere. It's only a matter of time before I meet him.

    White House Material

    Originally written September 1, 2005

    Thanks, Steve, for putting things into perspective. In a recent conversation about relationships (and how weird is it to have a conversation with your little brother about grown-up relationships?) Steve shared with me this little gem.

    I call it "being White House material," and some people just aren't. Why would you date someone who's not? You know what you need and want from someone. You, more than any of us, would be the one to say, "Forget it. You're not White House material," and move on.

    This shorthand really encapsulates so many of those intangibles that I need from someone. Beyond the usual--smart, funny, nice to old ladies and puppies--I need someone who's politically engaged, intellectually curious, comfortable in a room full of strangers, charming without being smarmy, and displays both strength and grace under fire. Truly, White House material.

    A Secret Admirer

    Originally written August 29, 2005.

    The funniest thing happened today. As I approached the car to go to work this morning, I realized that my missing hubcap had been replaced. At first I thought maybe someone was playing a joke and had merely moved a hubcap from one tire to the other, but no, I actually have 4 hubcaps on the car now! No note, no indication of who did this or why. (The hubcap has been missing since last summer, mind you.)

    At work we speculated that perhaps someone felt that I was dragging the quality of the neighborhood down, with my out-of-town plates and missing hubcap. Charles hopes that any other problems with the car (thankfully, none) are mysteriously fixed. I wondered if perhaps my secret admirer would wash the car for me--it desperately needs it! Or, maybe if I leave my dry cleaning out, he'll take care of it for me.

    Really, I love the idea of a secret admirer who does the errands I haven't gotten around to. After all, that's one of the big attractions of a boyfriend, isn't it?

    She's Leaving Home

    Originally written June 28, 2005

    Wow, Liz, you're really gone. Or you will be within the next 48 hours. This is so weird.

    All these years you've wanted to live in Africa, and now you really are. It's your dream come true! It's still strange, though. Even before you applied to the Peace Corps, I was so busy being supportive and listening to the trials and tribulations of the process and working through the logistics that I didn't think about what this would mean for me. Until I talked to you this morning, your last day in Wisconsin.

    It's not the distance that bothers me; I think your year in Mexico prepared all of us for that aspect of it. And, of course, I was already getting used to not living in the same city. No more weekend trips to Target, no more meeting for dinner in Chinatown, no more sharing of leftovers, no more trading episodes of the West Wing we forgot to tape. No, it's not the distance, it's the length of the commitment and the utter lack of communication. It's nearly impossible for me to comprehend that I can't reach you whenever I want. Or even call your voice mail directly and leave a message, so as to not wake you up at 5:00 in the morning. It's one thing to not see you for a long time; it's quite another to not talk to you.

    And this morning, on the phone, that reality sunk in. I can't believe I'm letting you get on a plane bound for Africa without any idea of when I'll hear from you again. The thought stopped me in my tracks. I'm sure you heard my voice catch; I couldn't quite make it to the end our conversation. And once I was off the phone I sat in the parked car in the parking lot and cried, while everyone around me headed to their desks as if it were any other day.

    So, Lizzie, have fun and be careful. I love you.

    A California Girl? Not Exactly, but Getting There.

    Originally written June 16, 2005

    Sometime last week the realization struck me: I live in California now. Yes, I know, this should not have come as a surprise, as I have technically been residing in Sacramento since March 29. But it took this long for the concept to really sink in. I think it was a combination of factors--little, everyday things that are a normal part of life--all rolled up in one week.

    I got my hair cut. Not such a huge deal, but I made a conscious effort to find a stylist here, rather than trying to squeeze a haircut in the next time I'm in DC. Whenever that is. A small step, really, but symbolic.

    And I attended a business dinner in Sonoma, two hours away from here, at a restaurant I've been to. I forgot to print directions to the restaurant, but it didn't matter because once I got close to town, I recognized where I was and knew exactly where I needed to be. And it's been three months since I was there last...Sonoma was one of the first places I went in California!

    Finally, I made out with a guy. Again, nothing extraordinary, but certainly noteworthy. The fact that I was, in some remote corner of my mind, considering dating someone who (a) lives in California, (b) has always lived in California, and (c) probably won't leave California speaks volumes.

    And then it ocurred to me that I hadn't told him I'm probably only here for two years. When did that information disappear from my introductory remarks? It used to be one of the first five things someone would know about me. 1. my name; 2. my employer; 3. the fact that I just moved here from DC; 4. the job is temporary until...well, no one's really sure, but probably a year or two; 5. yeah, I loved DC and plan on going back there when this gig is up.

    Is that still the plan? Probably, but one never knows. The idea of sticking around here isn't as mind-boggling as it once was. But, as I'm fond of telling people, nine months ago I wouldn't have believed you if you told me I'd be in California right now. Anything could happen.