Monday, February 28, 2011

I'm a sucker for accessories

My father - oh, my darling father - insisted on buying my mom an iPhone for Valentine's Day.

An interesting choice, considering that she has very little interest in owning a smart phone. And because she does not know how to charge or load her iPod shuffle.

"Don't get it," Meg told him. "She doesn't want it. You're wasting your money."

"Maybe you could...ask her? Like, see if that's something that she thinks that she might likes?" I tried to be more delicate and less blunt. Telling him that it was THE WORST IDEA EVER, like Meg did, didn't work.

Not that it wasn't. Totally the worst idea ever. The iPhone is genuinely not my mom's thing. Just like striptease aerobics isn't her thing. Just like soap operas aren't her thing.

Oh, and also there's the whole You Cheated On Her And Now You're Trying Too Hard layer to this tasty cake.

I'm not even going to go there.

Instead, we'll skip ahead to Valentine's Day. Where my father's grand gift was met with a less than enthusiastic reaction by his valentine.

Shocking, really.

Just over a week after my mom failed to flip for his high tech display of affection, I took Dad to see the Red Wings/Sharks game. While we were watching the teams take the ice, he offered up the iPhone to me.

I told him that I'd think about it.

And then I went home and immediately bought a case for my new phone.



What girl doesn't need a phone case that matches the wallpaper in Kate Spade's flagship store?



The iPhone will probably be pretty cool, too.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Just a kid

This isn’t my story to tell, so I’m not going to tell it in depth.

I’m sure that I’ve mentioned before that Meg coaches a local competitive girls’ team. They’re 16 and 17 and have all of that drama and gossip and bullshit that comes with their age, but they are generally a good group of kids.

Yesterday, two of Meg’s players contacted her, asking that they get together to talk. “We’re worried about Brittany. It's off the ice stuff.”

Meaning that the problem was a little more than a spat about playing time or idle threats to quit the team.

So, Meg sets up a time to meet the girls at her favorite restaurant, conveniently, and then calls me in a panic. “I just know that they’re going to tell me something awful. That she’s anorexic or that she’s suicidal and I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

She wasn’t exactly on track with her suspicions. But she was close and the whole story – I’m really sorry that I have to be so vague – just breaks your heart. It breaks your heart that this kid is in such an awful situation. It breaks your heart that her teammates, who are only kids themselves, had to shoulder the burden of this knowledge and the accompanying worry themselves until they finally worked up the courage to talk to an adult about what was happening.

This child has a crappy road to travel, but, my God, she is so fortunate to have friends who were smart enough to seek out an adult who they trust. Even if that adult – Meg – called her mother in a panic later that night. “I’m just a kid, Mom. I’m just a kid. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to handle this. I’m just a kid.”

My mom, who is always so smart and supportive and resourceful, talked Meg through the situation. And she reminded her “you’re my kid, Meg, but you’re not a kid. To those girls, you’re a safe, reliable adult who they can trust.”

I’m really proud of how Meg has handled the situation. She’s scared, but she knows what she needs to do. She called Lucy, who is a social worker, for a bit of preliminary advice last night. First thing this morning, she called up Brittany’s high school guidance counselor. Who is the professional. Who is trained to deal with these situations. Who immediately set up a meeting with Brittany, her mom, the school social worker and the school nurse. Who is moving this along at the pace that it needs to be moved along: rapidly. And who will continue to move it along rapidly even if Brittany’s parents drag their feet. By law, she has to.

From top to bottom, the whole situation is terrible.

I just feel awful for this girl. I feel awful for her family. I feel awful for her friends. I feel awful for Meg.

Everybody needs friends like Brittany’s: friends who do the right thing even though it is scary and even though it is hard.

Everybody needs an advocate like Meg: an advocate who is quick and resourceful and fearless. Who is aware that she may be making enemies and continues to move forward relentlessly.

In that respect – even though she is in the middle of a situation that is unbearably difficult – Brittany is so lucky. Because this very well could have gone the other way. What if she didn’t have the friends that she does? What if, instead of having Meg for a coach, those girls had someone’s father – someone who they didn’t feel that they could talk to?

It feels almost like divine intervention. Like Meg was put in that situation – coaching that particular group of girls – for a reason. The calmness with which she is approaching the situation now that the initial shock has worn off. The delicate, calculated use of her own resources. She may think of herself as just a kid, but she isn’t acting like one.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Airing out my frustration

I'm getting frustrated.

I hate admitting that. I feel impatient and ungrateful.

Frustrated is exactly what I am. So frustrated.

I feel trapped here. I feel like I have absolutely nowhere to go. I can't do the 'brary thing because there are no jobs. I can't get a full time job in another field because I'd have to give up my 'brary job. Which would translate, essentially, into having wasted over a year and way more money than I'd like to calculate in grad school earning a degree that I will never fully use. Because once I leave, I don't know that I would be able to get back in. I can't take that risk.

I don't want to lose my place in line.

I just don't know how much longer I can stand here.

When I interviewed for the position in December, I was one candidate of 120.

When I interviewed for another position in January, I was one candidate of 120.

It is pretty damn clear what I'm up against: 119 other people who want the same jobs that I do. The same jobs that are posted incredibly rarely. Not even one per month, you guys.

And, as much as I would like to be consoled by the knowledge that at least I'm landing interviews -- that I'm probably in the top 10% of those 120 -- it doesn't make me feel better.

It makes me feel like I should find another career. It makes me feel like I should cut my losses. It makes me feel like I should start studying for the GRE. It makes me tired and it makes me sad and it makes me so, so frustrated.

I am standing with one foot on the dock and another on the boat and, eventually, the boat is going to drift and I am going to have to make a choice. The boat or the dock.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

This week won't end

This week is kicking my ass from every direction.

It isn't a bad week, really, just an exhausting week. A week where I haven't had so much as a moment to feel like I'm not getting my ass totally kicked.

Wait. That's a lie. I just had three Girl Scout cookies and, in the 18 seconds that it took to consume them, all felt right with the world. But now that feeling is gone and I'm getting my ass kicked. Again.

I am getting my ass kicked by sleep. By a lack of sleep, actually. If I go to bed after 11:30 pm, I can't function. And I haven't.

I am getting my ass kicked by my sore thumb. Because, while I can totally do all of the big and important tasks just fine, the aching gets to me. As does the little shit that I can't do. Like take the back off of a remote.

I am getting my ass kicked by spending one night out. One stupid night. One stupid hockey game with my stupid father and I'm this exhausted? Really? I'm getting old.

I am getting my ass kicked by the (charming) boys who are texting me. On Monday night, I was up late because all of the things I had to get done before bed were interrupted every 22 seconds by a text message. From The Coach or from that really conservative lawyer kid who I know from soccer. What is with all of this male attention and does it have to interrupt my schedule? Pimpin' ain't easy!

I am getting my ass kicked by work. I knew that it would be a crazy week. I'm well over 30 hours and it's only Wednesday and tomorrow and Friday will be just as insane. And I also have to work at the 'brary. Dislike.

I am getting my ass kicked by my trashed apartment. I don't understand why it just won't clean itself. My apartment has to dislike the pile of clothes on my bedroom floor just as much as I do.

I am getting my ass kicked by the realization that my lease on my trashed apartment is nearly up. Like, I need to decide in the next few days if I'm going to leave or if I'm going to stay. I really don't want to move my shit. But I know that the rent increase is going to piss me off. And I'd like to be somewhere just a little bigger. And less, um, apartmenty. I am a diva and, honestly, I'm not a big fan of shared spaces such as hallways and I kind of feel like I'm getting too old for this crap.

I am getting my ass kicked by my skin. Speaking of divas: my skin is a diva. And a bitch. I'm totally going to be one of those people with wrinkles and breakouts. Fuck that.

I am getting my ass kicked by my resolution to consume more water. It used to be so easy. Now it is not.

I am getting my ass kicked by blogging. All I want to do is write something interesting and read something interesting but, no. I have to be all busy and all tired and all I can do is whine.

Sorry.

Feel free to kick my ass in the comments.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I'm really tough

I'm going downtown to watch the Wings and the Sharks tonight, so no time for a proper post.

Instead, I present to you a few embarassing photos. All courtesy of my hockey career.

And my career I mean hobby. Obviously.



That's me, you guys. Looking all official and like I know what I'm doing. Confession: I don't.

In my tournament last weekend, my team was in the lowest division. I was standing around before my own game, watching two teams in our division battle it out, and this girl who was playing for one of the teams in the top division (the division that Meg's team is in) comes up with her boyfriend and a friend and says to them "this is the lowest division. They are REALLY bad."

I laugh to myself. And then I listen to her go on and on. "No, I mean, this is the worst hockey ever. Look how slow they are. They are, like, the worst at hockey. No group of teams in the history of the world has been as bad as this group of teams. I don't even know if this can be called hockey."

And on and on and on.

So, don't let the picture fool you. I only look like I know what I'm doing.

Fake it 'til you make it!

While we're on the subject of last weekend, I have to show you pictures of the thumb that I think may have legitimately broken. But will never know for sure, because I see no point in going to see a doctor for a broken thumb.

I may or may not have taken these pictures in the bathroom at work last Monday. (Creeper!) The pictures are petty crappy, so just trust me when I tell you that it was an unattractive situation of swelling and purple ugliness.

The situation looks much better now and feels, sadly, pretty much the same.



Oh. I probably should have warned you not to scroll down if you have a weak stomach.

Sorry if I made you puke.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Sunday afternoon

Mom made lasagna for dinner.

Her way of asking us to come home without asking us to come home.

Meg got to the house after coaching her youth hockey team; I arrived after stopping in at work for a few hours.

It happened organically. No meddling, nothing that felt forced or like an obligation or for show. Meg was on one chair. I sat on another. We dozed on and off, blankets tucked around us.

The television was on - a hockey game - and there was a fire in the fireplace. It was toasty. Outside, the snow fell quietly and furiously.

My dad sat on the middle of the couch. My mom sat to his left. She, too, slept intermittantly. Dad was reading the newspaper. One of the dogs had climbed onto the couch at his opposite side. The other was sleeping at his feet.

I woke up - happy sleepy dazed - and looked around and all I wanted to do was to point out the situation.

Look at this. Look around you. Your wife and your girls and your dogs and a fire in a fireplace in your beautiful house and hockey playing on television and the leisure to spend your Sunday afternoon reading the newspaper. Was it worth it? Was it worth almost losing this?

I didn't say anything. I adjusted my blankets and I rested my head back on the arm of the chair and I went back to sleep.

It didn't need to be said.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

She'll get a big tip

Lucy and I are taking Colleen out for her birthday!

We're starting off with cake at Lucy's house. I made the cake. Chocolate truffle. A recipe that I've never made before. Based on the recipe name and the inclusion of two cups of heavy cream, I'm expecting the best.

After cake, we're going for manicures and pedicures. Which Colleen will absolutely love because, no matter how often she complains about not having enough money to put gas in her car, she's always treating herself to a pedicure.

While the Pedicure Princess will be thrilled, I will not be thrilled. Because I will be rolling up my jeans and subjecting myself to public humiliation in a massage chair at one of the nicest spas around.

You see, I have a (suspected) broken thumb and at least four of my toenails are black from running and/or soccer and, really, I'm just going to feel horrible if the sight of my feet/thumb blind my manicurist. Or force her to abandon her career.

I wish that we weren't such good friends to Colleen and, instead of doing it up in a classy fashion, we just booked at some sketchy place that smells like fried food and has questionable sterilization techniques and very, very low standards. At a place like that, they probably wouldn't bat an eye at my mutant thumb and my dinosaur toes.

But, no, I had to go ahead and make our appointments at this fancy place where my manicurist will likely vomit all over my feet.

I wonder if I'll get a discount for that.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Planner

In another life, where I was born with a more outgoing personality and a little more tenacity, I would have been an event coordinator. Or a wedding planner. Or something of that nature.

There are few tasks that I appreciate more than planting the seed of an event and watching it bloom. Isn’t that what last summer’s trip to South Africa was all about? Taking an idea that had been born years and years ago and, from that tiny concept (we want to go to the World Cup) building an entire adventure around it. From match tickets to hotels to transportation to tourism.

There is just so much satisfaction that can be derived from nurturing an idea as it comes to fruition. To something tangible. To reality.

My office is right next to my coworker Maria’s office. Maria, as you know, is getting married this summer; I’m a bridesmaid. Her head is constantly spinning with wedding projects and vendors and ideas. She is always bouncing ideas off of me. And I love it.

We’re currently on the hunt for vintage teacups and I am in my prime.

Happiness is rabid internet searching.

I especially love the part where I’m spending someone else’s money. And also the part where I have a legitimate excuse for reading wedding blogs, which is an unfortunate and unrealistic hobby/passion/obsession that I fell into entirely by accident but cannot seem to break. I am addicted to pretty things. An addiction that I can nurture through August. After August 6, I will check myself back into reality.

Or quit my jobs and launch an event planning business.

Who wants to be my business partner?

And who else has an alternate career hidden up her sleeve?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

So Midwestern, So in the Kitchen: January

As I mentioned in my Resolution Recap, my resolution to make one big meal every week has not been a challenge.

Nothing close to a challenge. More like a genuine pleasure.

I don't know why or how I got out of the habit of cooking for myself. It doesn't intimidate me. It doesn't take that much more time or that much more effort.

I talked myself into believing that, because I'm only cooking for one, because I'm single, because I'm not cooking for anyone else, because it's just me that I don't deserve a real meal.

I might be single, but I still like making decent food.

And in January, I did.

On Week 1, I made Unfried Rice from a recipe that I got from Daily Garnish. I happened to come across it at the perfect time: I was hungry, I had all of the proper ingredients and I had time to make it. Fried rice is by no means a favorite dish of mine, so it wasn’t like my heart exploded into a thousand pieces and I got a portrait of the unfried rice tattooed on my back. But I totally liked it. And I had everything that I needed, which felt like winning the Academy Award for Best Reformed Kitchen Slacker and also made the meal feel as though it was dusted in gold.

When Week 2 rolled around, I pulled out a recipe that I had made before. I don’t even know that it counts as a recipe, seeing as how the most difficult task is opening a can and because it takes under 11 minutes from start to finish, but this is my resolution and I’ll count it if I want to count it. So there.

Oh, and if you must know, it was Seven Can Tortilla Soup, a recipe that I printed off of Tasty Kitchen months and months and years ago. Now would be a good time to tell you guys what a sucker I am for black beans. Black beans make me happy. So does this soup recipe, even though it barely counts as a recipe.

Week 3 approached and I was craving buffalo sauce. My buffalo sauce craving did not interfere with my memory, which is awfully good at cataloging minute slices of daily living and less good at recalling essential tidbits such as my social security number. I am sitting around thinking about the vinegar delight of buffalo sauce one day, and I suddenly remember seeing a recipe for Crock Pot Buffalo Chicken Wraps over at Iowa Girl Eats. So, I high tailit over there and make my grocery list and the rest is history. Spicy, tangy, vinegary history. Hell to the yes.

I swiped my recipe for Week 4 from Iowa Girl Eats, too. We Midwesterners must all eat the same. Or maybe my food twin is also a food blogger. I’m really not sure. What I am sure of, however, is my love for Chipotle (born the summer that I lived in Denver) and the inconvenient location of my nearest Chipotle. And also the inconvenience of my new budget, which does not leave me room to feast at Chipotle every other night. And also the inconvenience of my pants, which would not fit if I went to Chipotle as often as I think about Chipotle.

What I’m getting at is this: on Week 4, I whipped up Homemade Chipotle Burrito Bowls and they made me very, very happy. I love tofu. I love rice. I love black beans. (I wasn't kidding before.) I love that I could eat the leftovers cold at my desk because I have two jobs and I’d be lying if I said that I got a chance to get away from my desk(s) for lunch on a regular basis.

And that, my friends, is what January looked like in my teeny-tiny kitchen in my teeny-tiny apartment: awesome and delicious and filled with a lot of my favorites. February is following the same trend. Fantastic. I love it. I love food. I love attaining goals.

Next up: establishing my love affair with David Beckham.

Which can't be any more complicated than remembering to pick up cilantro from the grocery store.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A crush and a blog

I'm thinking about The Coach. I should be writing about The Coach. I write what I think about.

He's what I'm thinking about.

I just don't want to write it down.

We've played this song before. The song that I never fail to turn up too loudly. The one that I sing too readily. The song that gets stuck in my head. The song that I play on repeat through my blog, that catchy song that I only hear when I like a boy and I can't shut up. When I reduce myself to nothing more than a squealing girl with a crush and a blog.

How many times have we done this? How many times have I played that song on repeat for a month straight? Or two years straight? Or a summer straight?

It never fails to be fun in the moment.

But the music has always stopped on me. Suddenly. Catching me with my head thrown back, hollering the words out of tune. Embarrassed.

Give me a little time to turn on the song. Give me something other than the texts and the flirting and the promise. Give me something with the potential of real and I will give you the song. Out of pitch, coordinating dance moves, mushy clichés and all.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

My stinky bag and border patrol

I always have really bad luck when I’m crossing the USA/Canada border. I’m pretty sure that I have bad luck because I expect the bad luck because THIS DOESN’T HAPPEN TO OTHER PEOPLE.

On Friday, I had my car searched when entering Canada.

Nobody ever has their car searched going into Canada! I think that it is safe to make the generalization that Canadian border guards are way less intense than the American guards and, thus, if you’re a sweet and innocent, rule-following angel of a girl such as me, you usually don’t have any problems entering Canada.

Except Friday. When my damn car was searched.

The guard was pleasant. She went through the whole where-are-you-from-and-where-are-you-going song and dance. And she looked at my passport and, in Canadian fashion, asked me how much ass I was planning on kicking at my hockey game. And then she was like, “oh, and now you’ll drive up there and go to the left and get your car searched.”

Damnit!

Not that I had anything to hide. But I get stupid nervous in situations like that, so I drove to the covered lot all shaky and parked my car just like I was supposed to. And I turned off my car just as I was told to. And unlocked my doors and popped the trunk. And got out of the car.

Then the agent made me take off my coat, which was not very nice. I had a bulky scarf under my coat, so I guess I understand why. It just freaked me out even more. So I got to stand by my car as these two agents dug through it, watching them open all of the compartments and stick their head in the trunk. The (cute) male who was searching smiled and said “I won’t be opening your hockey bag unless I have to.” I gave him a courtesy laugh but, dude. My bag takes up my entire backseat. If you think it is necessary to search my car, by all means do so. But you might want to check the biggest item in it.

Not that I blame him. He's Canadian. He knows the stench that lives inside of a hockey bag.

When I went back to the States that night, I picked the wrong line. It moved at hald of the speed of the other lines. I knew that I would be subjecting myself to a thorough questioning, so I pulled the registration for my car out of my glove compartment. Just in case. I didn’t think to memorize my license plate number once I’d done so. Fail. The agent obviously wanted to know what my license plate number was (which I've been asked before) and, well, I really see no need to know that information on a regular basis so I couldn’t tell it to him and he was not crazy about that. I gave him the paperwork when he asked for it.

And then he wanted to know when the last time I’d crossed the border. An answer that I knew! October 17 for the half marathon! And he’s all “I don’t have those border crossings in here.” Okay, buddy. Well, I had to submit my passport information prior to the run and I’m sorry if your agency didn’t make a note of it but what, exactly, do you want me to do about it?

So, of course then he wants to know if I’ve been in other countries in the last year. I tell him South Africa and he actually checks my passport stamps. This guy was detailed. And scary. He asked me for my birth date at least five times. And where I’d been a few times, too.

I get so flustered in those situations. I may know what you’re asking me but it is a very slim chance that I’ll be able to answer your questions without looking terrified and stammering my way through it. So I obviously appear very credible. As much as it sucks, I can’t blame them for questioning me further.

My Saturday border crossings were uneventful, thankfully. Meg was with me. I must seem less suspicious when I’m not traveling alone, because there were no problems. And the Canadian border guard told me and Meg that he liked our passport covers.

I liked him. He was cool.

So was the woman who I god when I crossed back into Canada with on Sunday morning.

On my last trip across the bridge, on Sunday afternoon, I got to hand my keys over to the border patrol agent. She climbed into the back seat of my car, unzipped my hockey bag and stuck her head inside.

I had played five games in four days. And she stuck her head in my bag.

She is a brave soul.

All of them are, actually. I’m sure that they don’t have an easy job. I am certainly grateful that they keep their respective countries safe. And, while I’m not crazy about attracting their attention, I would always prefer they be too cautious.

And so, the next time I cross the border with my hockey bag, I think I’ll Febreeze it.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Reader Poll

A few weeks ago, I started pursuing a freelance writing gig that would suck an additional 10-12 hours out of my week. It seemed like a good idea at the time but now I’m second guessing myself. Should I:
a. not even consider it
b. continue through the evaluation process, then make a decision
c. have myself committed
d. press onward (it’s only 10 hours a week)
e. ask my mom

Please make this decision for me. My thumb is throbbing and I cannot think.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Weekend Recap: the good stuff

I had a hockey tournament in Canada.

My team lost in the tournament final. 3-2. Our opponents scored their third goal with 20 seconds left in the game. Painful.

Also painful: my injured thumb. I have no idea if it is just sprained or if it is broken. I just know that it is purple and swollen and ugly and wouldn't look out of place on the hand of a zombie.

Later in the week, I will tell you all about the amazing luck that I had with customs. (I am a very suspicious looking individual.)

For now, I will leave you with the best part of the weekend: lunch on Saturday.

Lobster and brie grilled cheese.

Lobster. And also brie. And also grilled cheese.

That is all.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Travel Thursday: South Africa Day 10

The draw for the World Cup was held the December before the tournament. It was at that time when we learned what teams we'd be seeing in the group stages and we could look at the different groups and make educated guesses as for which teams we would be watching in the Round of 16.

USA and England were placed in the same group. Obviously, England would win. Hopefully, USA would advance. So, seeing as how our first Round of 16 game featured the winner of the USA/England group, we'd be seeing England play.

Except we didn't.

We got to see the United States play again.

Which was so, so awesome. Every game that we saw at the World Cup was awesome. Absolutely every one of them. But the games featuring OUR team, OUR country, they were just a little bit more special and more awesome.

And, with it being a knockout game (winner moves on, loser goes home), everything was just a little more intense, too. More special, more awesome, more intense.

And more of a pain in the ass, because we had to go back to Rustenburg.

F'ing Rustenburg, that two hour trip that took three hours last time. And was not any better when we traveled there to see USA/Ghana. Oh, except that it was an 8:30 pm game.

So we take a 3:00 pm bus to Rustenburg. We get to the stadium way, way early. And we decide to get some food. We get in line for concessions. We wait. And we wait. And wait. And, 45 minutes later, we're still in line. We HAVE NOT MOVED.

Not awesome. I am definitely not a fan of being hungry. We, thankfully, had snacks packed with us...but a Luna Bar is not a substitute for real, warm food. It just isn't.



Had it been earlier in the tournament – like, at the first game that they hosted at that venue – I could almost understand the food debacle. But, it was the last game at the stadium. And we stood in line for 45 minutes and couldn’t get food. So not cool. (I really hate being hungry.)

Know what else wasn’t cool? The game. The United States lost, you may recall, early in extra time. The Americans game out of the game pretty flat, so I wouldn’t say that they deserved to win, but I certainly was hoping that they’d pull out the win.

We got to see a Landon Donovan penalty kick taken at the goal that we were seated closest to, which was a HUGE thrill. (I think that I might marry him, that Landon Donovan. He looks a little bit like my longtime boyfriend, David J. Matthews, plus he plays footie. We’d be a jolly match. ...call me, Landycakes!)



People were cheering loud and hard against the American team. After South Africa was knocked out of the tournament, all of the support fell to the other African teams. As you may know, Ghana is an African team. No hostilities, that’s for sure, but definitely little to no support for the Americans from anyone but the Americans.

You know who were really nasty? The England fans who had bought tickets to that game, assuming that England would finish first in their group. They were NOT a happy bunch.

Needless to say, there were a lot of people really happy to see the Americans lose that match. Meg and I were not among them. And then we had the three hour bus ride home, just to add insult to injury. We got back to Johannesburg at 3:30 in the morning. Absolutely exhausted and fairly miserable, I was so relieved when we got a cab right away. I’d been worrying (shocking!) that we would have a difficult time getting back to our hotel, as Johannesburg was not a town that was particularly alive at nighttime.

One of the most amusing parts of the day came at 4:00 am, when Meg and I were getting ready for bed and Meg, so hungry for real food, decided to eat the pasta leftovers that had been sitting, unrefrigerated, in our hotel room for 27 hours. It has been seven months and I’m still amazed that she didn’t get sick.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Valentine's surprise

So I’m at my desk, working away. (When I say working away, I really mean trolling the internet for vintage teacups for Maria to use at her wedding.)

When I raise my eyes from the monitor, out of the corner of my eye I see a headful of gray hair. And a little troll face, peering at me. There was my grandma, standing at the door to my office with a gift bag in her hand.

Grandma!” To say that I was shocked is an understatement. “What are you doing here?”



“I brought your Valentine’s Day present, since you can’t come over on Friday.” (The rest of my family is eating dinner at her house, but I have a hockey game. Boo.) “I called your dad to see if I could sneak inside your apartment building, but he said that the main door is locked. So I asked him if you would get in trouble if I stopped by, and he said he thought it was okay.”

It was, of course, okay. More than okay. My adorable little grandma with her bag of goodies – a scratch-off lottery ticket and sweet rolls and cookies and a bag of chocolate – being all friendly and hugging on my coworkers. She got to talking with Maria and ended up at her desk, looking at pictures of us in our bridesmaid dresses and talking to her about her cats. (Maria has 6 cats. My grandma warned her against becoming an animal hoarder.) And she told me all about my grandpa cutting his finger. And her trip to the gym this morning. And about how great grandparents are the very best (hint hint, nudge nudge).

Oh, and she also asked Maria if her fiancé was her dad. HAHAHA. Awkward. But you can get away with that shit when you’re old.

“She makes me miss my grandmothers,” our graphic designer has sighed to me, more than once, in the hour since she left.

She is so cute. She is so sweet.

I am so lucky.

A present. And more presents.

I am of the belief that my best friend, Lucy, is the best best friend. In the whole world. Ever. I’m always hesitant to turn down an invitation to hang out with her – even if it means cancelling plans that I have with my not-even-close-to-best friend: the treadmill.

I was still at the office when Lucy called to invite me to dinner last night. My gym plans were scrapped in a nanosecond.

We puttered around her kitchen, putting together our meal and brainstorming birthday presents for Colleen. Lately, Colleen has been fancying the domestic arts. Now that she’s living with that new boyfriend of hers, she is in full-on nesting mode.

Thus, after years of disinterest in the kitchen, she is overcome with the desire to learn how to cook. Which I happen to find absolutely darling, because she cannot successfully boil up a packet of ramen. And once we were at a Mexican restaurant where they made tableside guacamole and she gagged – she honestly gagged – because the sight of it grossed her out. Even though she loves guacamole.

Oh, that Colleen. Adore her. But she is completely nuts.

Lucy and I decided that we’re going to encourage Colleen’s search for her inner domestic diva with her birthday presents. We picked out a couple of cookbooks. Lucy set her sights on a bunch of kitchen utensils that are undoubtedly missing from the boyfriend’s bachelor kitchen. And I jumped on Etsy – right there on the counter of Lucy’s kitchen – and ordered her the cutest damn apron.

Purchased from Etsy seller Boojiboo.

She is going to go absolutely wild for this apron. Blue and brown are her favorite colors. She loves anything with a vintage feel. It is just the apron for Colleen and I’m so so so excited to give it to her.

I love buying the perfect present. Even if I have to suffer through gift-purchasing anxiety in order to find it.

And, while we’re on the topic, I never bragged about my favorites among the presents that I gifted at the holidays. And I meant to. But I got caught up in my own gifts (Wheee! Materialistic!) and never completed the task.

Because I know that you’re, like, so way curious and because it has only been seven short weeks since Christmas, here it is. The So Midwestern Christmas Anxiety-Ridden Favorite Gifts of 2010.

For Meg, a pair of Nike Free Run+ shoes, in the loudest color combination that I could find.



For my grandma, this adorable Scandinavian table runner.



Table linens for my mom, too. I bought them all from the same Scandinavian store, Fjorn, which carries all sorts of beautiful/fun/unique Scandinavian gifts that are perfect for anybody in my mom’s very Norwegian family.





Meg insisted on that we get our mom this Kyocera ceramic knife set, which was featured on Oprah’s Favorite Things list.



Mom was actually in the market for some new knives, so she really appreciated this gift. It’s always nice to pick up a gift that the recipient really needs.

Buying Christmas presents for my father this year was pretty unpleasant, considering the very rocky fall that our family had due to his incredible display of stupidity. His presents from Meg and me were quite generic and safe. I picked up this book, Fathers and Daughters and Sports because I wanted to give him one gift with a little bit of meaning behind it and our athletics have always played an enormous role in our relationship with him.



He doesn’t generally read anything but the newspaper, so maybe the gift was a little misdirected but I’ll read it one day so, even if he doesn’t, it isn’t a complete waste.

Finally, my favorite gift of the season: the custom pet portrait that I bought from another fabulous Etsy seller. I drew my cousin Liz’s name for our cousin gift exchange.

Purchased from Etsy seller FuzzyMug.

She’s totally obsessed with her dog and really hard to shop for and – hello! – the gift was so perfectly her. I was so excited to give it to her. (I actually had it printed in a color other than black, which upped the cuteness factor by 200%.)

And those are the best presents, right? The ones that are so perfect that you can’t wait to give.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Trouble, pre-planned

One of many text messages I received yesterday from The Coach:
“I’m coming over soon and we are so going to make out.”

Um, yes. Yes and also please. Yes also please and if we could make it sooner than later, that would be really great. And also I happen to know that your team will be in town at the end of next week and would you like me to pencil you into my calendar? Or I could also permanent marker you into my calendar and call Lucy for a pep talk and make an appointment to get my hair highlighted and spend the next 10 days meditating for three hours per day in an attempt to find and harness my inner Britney-Spears-sex-kitten-circa-I'm-A-Slave-4-U and buy a new bra and also obsessively/nervously blog about you every day because I am absolutely certain that my readers would love that like woah.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Thin

I got slightly pissed off during Saturday afternoon's bridesmaid dress shopping.

I wanted to write about it yesterday, but I wimped out and wrote about the dresses instead. What I wanted to write about was how the other girls pissed me off. Today I have the nerve and I'm going to write it and I'll apologize in advance if it is irritating. I don't mean to be annoying or ungrateful or obnoxious. I just want to get this off of my (bony, emaciated) chest.

I was uncomfortable. And then I was a little bit angry.

They talked about my body too much.

Not in a creepy way. In a "oh, you're so skinny, " and "of course that looks nice on you, you're tiny" and "that dress would only look good on super thin girls, like you." Over and over and over again. Hear it enough and you feel like nothing more than skin and bones and curly blond hair. No personality, no spunk, no fun. Just a skinny girl who sits around being skinny and looking skinny and living skinny and breathing skinny and exuding skinny.

After all, skinny is good, right? Skinny is a compliment. Skinny is a destination. Skinny is a goal.

Skinny gets old. It gets really old, really fast.

And I feel a little bit guilty for not reveling in it. For not soaking in the compliments with a giggle and a flick of my (petite) wrist and a toss of my hair.

They meant nothing by it. But in this world - where you're endlessly bombarded with images of and dialogue about body image/stereotype/issues/etc., the compliments just felt tainted and dirty. And I felt guilty. Because I'm the thin one and they all pointed it out. And then pointed it out again. Maybe if I hadn't been there, they would have been more comfortable in their own skin instead of having to evaluate mine.

Body image is a strange, uncomfortable, deeply personal subject. I don't like being forced - merely by the fact that I'm on the smaller side - to delve into it with strangers. I don't like it. If I don't know you, I don't want to talk about your body or your body image or your body issues. I don't want to talk about mine. And I definitely don't want you to talk about mine.

I suppose that means that I have my own issues, too.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

This is what we do

I have never once, never ever, seriously for real in my whole life had an emotional attachment to a Super Bowl ad.

Until this Super Bowl ad, my friends.



Detroit and Eminem and grit and figure skating and pure fucking bad ass.

This is the Motor City. This is what we do.

I am so in love.

Bridesmaiding 2011

Yesterday, in the midst of another healthy snowfall, I made the trek to David's Bridal to try on dresses for my work friend Maria's August wedding.

Yes, another notch in my bridesmaid bedpost. Bridesmaiding is certainly one of my talents.

Oddly (considering the number of weddings I've starred in), I haven't ever worn a dress from David's Bridal. As a matter of fact, I've never been to a David's Bridal. It was in the middle of a Saturday afternoon and, as you'd expect, a complete zoo. Other than that, however, it was perfectly fine.

Maria has a wide, wide range of bridesmaids. In age, we span from 24-40, in size we range from a 4 to a 26. All of the girls were really good sports about trying on the dresses that Maria wanted to try, thankfully, and I think that we've narrowed down the choices to two dresses. I'm guessing Maria will make her final selection once she's picked out her dress. Which will hopefully be soon. August 6 is not that far away.




Dress #1: has beaded straps and a beaded neckline. I thought it was flattering on all of us and comfortable enough.
Dress #2: was made out of jersey, which was sort of weird. I wondered if, in the August heat, I'd sweat right through it. One of the other girls was worried about it showing every bump on us, but I didn't think it was too bad. The cut was great for the girls who actually had boobs. ...which was pretty much everyone but me. It was super, super comfortable.
Dress #3: Was super cute on me (someone walking through the store had to stop to tell me how darling it looked on me) but not on the other girls. I was the smallest of the group, and I think that those tiny straps just didn't do much on the bigger shoulders. The top of the dress was very boobolicious on the other girls, too. It was okay, but they weren't all that comfortable.


Dress #4: looks cute in all of the advertisements, but not so cute in person. The halter was of chiffon and it sort of looked, and felt, like you were wearing an awkward and tight scarf. None of us loved this dress.
Dress #5: You can't really see it in the picture, but it has a tiny bit of floral detailing on the shoulder that, when we grabbed it off of the racks, we were a little concerned about. It actually turned out looking pretty. The cut and the straps and the ruched waistline were flattering on all of us. The bonus was they had samples in the right size and the right color for all of us, so Maria could see us just as we'd look as we stand up with her at the church.
Dress #6: I couldn't help but stashing this prom dress in the dressing room and trying it on when I was supposed to be putting on another dress. It barely covered my crotch.


Dress #7: was pretty and plain. The ruching at the waist was obviously very flattering on all of us. It has a tiny brooch at the hip, which was pretty. There was nothing wrong with this dress, but nobody was super excited about it, either.
Dress #8: was cut way, way too tight through the hips. I thought that the top of the dress was pretty, but the bottom of it was just too tight. Definitely not for us. I felt like I was all hips in that dress. Yuck.
Dress #9: I liked on me, but it wasn't the right dress for the entire group. It had pockets! I like pockets. It was another slim cut. Maria wasn't wild about the large slit up the back, either.

Dress #1 and dress #5 are the finalists. I really think that it will depend on what sort of a dress Maria chooses. At least, I hope that it how she picks our bridesmaid dresses. Because, dress #1, with all of the bling and beading, may look a little silly with a plain dress. And vice versa. I think we're all okay with either dress - the price is exactly the same, they both look perfectly fine on all of us - so it is just up to Maria to decide.

If we were betting on this, I would definitely bet on dress #5.

Friday, February 04, 2011

And again

I didn’t get the job. They hired an internal candidate.

This rejection business is becoming a little too familiar.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Please, please, please

It has been a week and a day since I interviewed. I haven’t heard a thing. I am trying to remain positive.

I drove past the library this morning. I stared at the building and all I wanted was to have clammy hands and a nervous stomach and be pulling into that parking lot on my first day of work.

I wanted it so, so bad. Overwhelmingly so. If I hadn’t been on my way to work, fresh mascara on my lashes, I would have given in to my urge to cry. “Please, please, please,” I whispered.

Please, Gods of Libraries and Angels of Employment and higher powers everywhere. Please.

I fear that eight days without a word is a bad sign.

At work yesterday, I was talking to Matt, the coworker who got the promotion to full-time over me. Do you know what he said to me? He said that if the other library he worked at (up until he transitioned to full-time this week) opened up a full-time job, he would apply for it.

Even if the job opened up tomorrow. Which it could.

(They had someone retire just last week.)

That’s how dedicated he is to his new job. To MY job. To the job that I should have been hired for but wasn’t because he was the safe choice and I was the wildcard and, goodness, it makes much more sense to hire someone who:
a: is bland
b. has moderated a book discussion group

than to hire someone who:
a. is energetic
b. is personable
c. is really fucking smart and capable of learning how to run a bloody book discussion group and every other damn thing that you’d need her to do.

It is beyond frustrating to have been passed over for someone who didn’t even want the job. Far beyond frustrating. It is infuriating. And disheartening.

Travel Thursday: South Africa Day 9

When I look back on our trip to South Africa, there are so many moments that stand out as being truly special. There were quite a few times where I was literally breathless from what I was witnessing. Our safari was undoubtedly one of the experiences that still – seven months later – seems like a dream. It was that awesome.

When I booked our trip, when I decided that we’d take the one day safari, I expected that it would be fun but I had no idea. No idea! Not the slightest clue as to how awesome it would be.

It was so awesome.

We were up early on the morning of the safari: 6:00 am, so that we could get dressed and have breakfast before our tour guide picked us up at 6:45. Which was actually 7:15. Of course. I am such an anal, punctual American; I’m not sure I ever got used to Africa time.

The ride to Pilanesberg National Park took a couple hours, plus the extra time spent picking up our fellow safari-goers at their respective hotels. I’m pretty sure I took a nap en route. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure that everyone took a nap en route.

When we got to Park, we had this big to do with the tour operator about our vehicle. We had the option of paying extra to take our tour in an open air safari vehicle or just going along in our tour bus. The tour bus would obviously be very lame, but our tour guide was sort of a tool about letting us get in the open air vehicle. ...which we’d be charged more for. Whatever. We were touring with a really awesome Italian woman who put up a fight for us and, funny, the previously unavailable open air vehicle was suddenly available. Go figure.

Two of the girls in our group decide that they’d rather stay in the van. They were dressed to the nines and had put on makeup in the van. Surprised? Not us.

The rest of our group had an awesome time in the open air vehicle.

I absolutely cannot describe what it was like when our vehicle turned a corner and, a few hundred yards away, a giraffe was standing by the side of the road. When I saw the first giraffe, I thought it was a statue. I honestly thought that it was a statue. How could I be so close to such a magnificent creature? I’m still not sure that I believe it.



We saw all sorts of animals – gnus and springbok and the cutest tiny monkeys running alongside the road. At one point, our driver pulled us off of the main path and turned off the vehicle. Sitting just before us was an elephant. Just hanging out, munching away on a tree. It was so quiet and we were so close that you could hear him chomping away. Absolutely amazing.



The safari experience was incredible. If there is any non-soccer activity that I am grateful to have scheduled into our trip, it was that. I would have been happy with driving around that park and looking for animals for days upon days.





I already want to go back. I want to go on a long game drive at Kruger National Park. I want to pack up my (nonexistent) husband and my (nonexistent) pre-teens and spend three or four days on a safari. Or maybe go with Lucy and Chet. Or by myself. I don’t even care. I just want to go back.



As part of our tour, we took a stop at Sun City, which is this big, lavish hotel and casino complex that isn’t far from Pilanesberg National Park. I guess that the point of including that in our tour was to give us an opportunity to have lunch and a chance to gawk at the grounds. It was nice, I guess, but I wasn’t all that impressed. A casino is a casino is a casino, right? That’s how I felt, anyway. I was equally unimpressed by the restaurant we had a quick lunch at. As well as by the painfully boring guy from Atlanta who we reluctantly invited to traipse around the casino with us.

I did, however, get the chance to buy a print from the 2010 World Cup Fine Art Collection when we were at Sun City. It is framed and hanging in my living room and I love it.

The print is called Soccer in Africa: Rural Game by an artist from Mozambique named Isaac Sithole.



At some other point during the trip, I bought a mug with another piece of his art (the right side of the image above) on it. I am as obsessed with the mug as I am with the art print. Whenever I drink my tea out of that mug, it makes me happy.

That night, we ventured back to Melrose Arch for the evening. It was a Friday night and it was PACKED. It took us a few tries to find a restaurant that would seat us, but we did. We watched the Spain/Chile game on the televisions at the restaurant.



I had just started getting sick at that point, and I ordered hot tea to go with my dinner. Meg ordered Raspberry Tea. Which was definitely an alcoholic drink served out of a teapot. Typical.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Resolution Recap: Month 1

One month down, 11 months to go.

I'm going to keep posting these monthly updates. Skip them if you must. I totally understand. But I can't skip. I thrive on accountability.

2011 Resolution #1: drink more water and less coffee.
The coffee component of this resolution has been relatively easy. Want a cup of coffee? How badly? Will I want one later? I’m budgeting out my two cups of coffee, usually having a cup in the morning and another in the afternoon, and it has not been a major inconvenience. Except on Fridays, when I only got five hours of sleep the night before and all I want to do is drink a bathtub of coffee. But I don’t. Because I have a resolution!

I am not quite so awesome when it comes to water. I did well up until last week, when I fell off of the wagon in a quaint town called Lazyville. Here is a life tip: if you’re trying to drink a minimum of 64 ounces of water per day, it is best not to start at 5:00 pm. Or 10:00 pm.

I am so lazy that I will bring my empty water bottle to work with me and, due to the fact that I will have to get off of my ass in order to fill it full of water, I just won’t do it. And then it is the end of the day and I’m either downing 32 ounces of water just before I go to bed (bad idea) or I’m not drinking the water that I’ve committed to drinking (which maybe I did three times last month, so it isn’t the end of the world).

While I am drinking the water, I am not doing it in a way that is going to make it a healthy habit. We have some room to improvement, that’s for sure.

Grade: A-

2011 Resolution #2: run a half marathon in under 2:00.
I ran this month, but it wasn’t even 10 times. When I do get myself on the treadmill, I’m putting down decent distances. It is probably time to look at registering for a springtime half marathon, so I can have a training timeline and a bit of concrete inspiration.

Grade: Incomplete

2011 Resolution #3: make one big meal every week.
YES. Yes, yes and yes. I will write an entire post about January’s kitchen exploits. For the sake of a brief recap, I’ll tell you this: I did it. It wasn’t a big deal. It takes two seconds to plan out a meal to make before going to the grocery store. I thoroughly enjoy the process. And the convenience of having something ready to pack for lunch sitting in the refrigerator cannot be matched.

Grade: A

2011 Resolution #4: complete the list of fun that Lucy and I created in January.
Lucy and I tackled the making (and the eating) of crème brûlée in January. Twice, actually. The first time was on a Saturday night at her house. We followed the directions meticulously. So meticulously, in fact, that we lost all ability to think critically and took the crème brûlée from the oven really, really prematurely. So it was a little more like crème brûlée pudding than actual crème brûlée. Did we eat it? Yes. Was it still delicious? Yes.


(Sportin' my Canada sweatshirt for my girls Kari and Teagan!)

Round 2 was the following Friday night, when Lucy and Chet hosted a dinner party. Luce was all about trying again, so try we did. Our results were much more satisfactory. It’s amazing what a little extra time in the oven will do.



I still wouldn’t consider our efforts perfect, but we’re getting there. I have my eye on a chocolate crème brûlée to try next time.



Grade: A

2011 Resolution #5: be more positive.
This is hard to quantify. I started off 2011 on a big upswing, but finding out that I didn’t get the job (and all of the political office bullshit that came with it) knocked me down pretty hard.

While I am over pouting about the lost opportunity, I’m not back to where I was before. I’m not exerting energy towards being positive like I was before that happened, so that will need to change because, honestly, I preferred my days more when I was making a conscious effort to be positive.

Grade: B-

2011 Resolution #6: be a better blogger.
Eh. I feel so-so about this resolution. I definitely blogged as much as I strive to, but I'm not crazy about how I did with responding to comments. I tend to do it in bulk, and that ends up being days after I posted and you all left comments. So that's a little lame. And I'm going to try to be less lame.

I thought I was better a leaving comments on the blogs that I read, however. And it's been fun. Unfortunately, I don't have enough time during the week to read/comment daily - so you all are getting my comments in bulk. Usually on Saturday mornings. It's the best I can do at the moment; sorry for filling up your inboxes!

Grade: B

2011 Resolution #7: get my finances in order and keep my finances in order.
Big ups to mint.com, which is mostly the best website for personal finance idiots such as myself and also the sole reason that I have a budget/an idea of how much money I waste every month/even the slightest clue about how to go about achieving this goal.

January was more of a month to determine how I'm spending my money and how I can spend it smarter (and, like, maybe not all of it), and I'm fairly pleased with the progress that I made.

I have a long, long way to go.

If only mint.com could bitch slap me every time I tried to buy something idiotic.

Grade: B

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

My new identity

I can't remember if I wrote about it at the time. But at last year's office Christmas party, I was the unlucky recipient of one (1) pair of edible panties in our pick-a-random-present-trade-it-around-random gift exchange.

It was mighty embarrassing. I work in a very, very conservative office. Nobody has ever brought even a slightly risqué gift. So, of course I end up with it. And turn all red in my shock and humiliation. It took a good six months for my coworkers to stop bringing it up on a regular basis.

The coworker who brought the gift happened to also bring his (uninvited) wife to our party. Even though we have it in the basement during lunch and it isn't anything that you'd ever even think of bringing a family member to. That's how he is. Inappropriate with gifts. Inappropriate with guests.

Anyway, this lady has no idea what my name is (even though I've met her dozens of time) but does that stop her from bringing up the edible panties EVERY SINGLE TIME she's in the office? No. No it does not.

Scandalous gifts have since been abolished from the exchange. Our last Christmas party was, as a result, uneventful. But my coworker still brought his wife.

Who still had no idea what my name is.

Last Wednesday night, I'm in the gym locker room throwing on my coat and getting ready to go home after yoga class. I'm replying to a text message and stuffing my feet into my boots, completely oblivious to everything around me. (Which is a state that I try to be in when I'm in the locker room. OMG, the horrifying nudity that I occasionally witness.)

There are several women around me in various states of undress. I'm just doing my thing. (Which, if I recall correctly, was snickering to myself about yet another text message from The Coach.) And then I hear this loud voice. "HEY! HEY! ARE YOU THE EDIBLE PANTIES GIRL?!"

And, I swear you guys, every lady in the locker room turns around. And there I am, phone in hand, mouth agape, speechless.

And the place is completely f'ing silence.

And she's looking right at me. I had no choice but to reply.

"Yes, yes I am."

As though suffering through the flirtations from the yoga man in the burgundy spandex pants wasn't enough.

I need to join a new gym.
 
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