Thursday, November 30, 2006

Off the To-Do List

I am that much-maligned person who sheepishly raises her hand when people sarcastically ask, “Who the heck is finished with Christmas shopping by December 10?!” I usually shrug and mutter that I hate dealing with crowds, which is true, but that excuse doesn’t hold much water. I confess that this year has topped all others; this is the first time I’ve finished before December even darkened my doorstep. Ow, stop throwing things!

The truth is that I like to cross things off my list and be done with them. With the wonder that is e-commerce, the “Christmas shopping” bullet can have a big fat check mark next to it in a short time. It doesn’t have to include circling through parking lots and wandering through malls with aching feet and bulging shopping bags with the wish and hope and prayer that the really perfect gift is just…at…the…next…store… Maybe it’s just me, but finding a perfect gift at a mall is not nearly as satisfying as seeing “Out for delivery” on a delivery tracking website.

I’m also motivated by the fact that, this year, JG and I are hosting Christmas with my family and it is a momentous occasion on a few levels. Most immediately is the oh my goodness I’m hosting Christmas freakout wherein I hope everything is good enough for my mom (and even more so, my grandmother). It’ll be the first time in at least 25 years that Christmas has not been celebrated at my grandmother’s house in New York. The pressure is on, and as a result, I don’t want to have to think about what everyone has under the tree when I have more pressing issues like what everyone is eating to worry about. Plus, JG’s birthday is in mid-December, so it’s really like multi-tasking. Two occasions with one click!

Anyway, this type of behavior is not solitary; I’m not buying presents for myself here. I need lists from my gift recipients, but my family is reluctant to dive into this winter ritual. They say to lead by example, so in early November, I sent out the following e-mail (with my list attached) to my parents and sister:

Hi Everyone – I don't know if this is jumping the gun, but since I'm starting to figure out what you all are getting for Jesus' birthday, I figured it might be helpful to distribute The List. So, it would be great if you could return the favor and let me know what you're in the mood for this year, too. Or if you've heard what other people want, too. Thanks!

The timestamp on the e-mail was November 7, which I know is ridiculously early. But hey – I needed to get my gifting spreadsheet in order. How do people shop when they don’t know what they’re looking for? Presently, I received responses from my sister and dad:

Sister: You did not just use the phrase "Jesus' birthday". You did not! Why don't you calm your happy butt down about these Christmas list things? You're starting to stress me out. I will consider this list in my shopping excursions.

Dad: I am working on my list. ETA is 27 Nov 06.

That’s right. My engineer father gave me an estimated time of arrival for a freaking Christmas list. Ah, the family.

Despite grumblings and groanings about “jumping the gun” and being “out of whack”, I clicked my final Submit Order button on Monday. And it felt great.

When all of those lovely packages arrive from various warehouses around the country, I’ll be waiting with boxes, paper, and ribbon in hand because I love wrapping presents. While I’m thinking about that, it might be accurate to add that to my list of reasons why I shop so early…

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A Good Way to Kill Time

I looked at my watch. I had 20 minutes before my meeting, which should have been plenty of time to order a cake to celebrate a recent promotion in the office. I called the nearby supermarket and said that I’d like to order a cake to pick up on Thursday. The operator politely replied that she’d transfer me to the bakery, and thanks for holding.

The line went dead. I know that this is some companies’ way of putting you on hold, but I never know if that means they “accidentally” hung up on me. I had to order this cake, so I stayed on the line, hoping to hear a voice presently.

“Hi, are you holding for Mark?”
“Um, I’m trying to get to the bakery to order a cake?”
“Oh, okay, hold please.”
“But – ”

And the silence again. Okay, I thought, I know they don’t have hold music, so this is fine. But then I heard a phone ringing, like I had just dialed. What the heck?

“Who are you holding for?”
“I’m trying to reach the bakery about a cake.”
“Hold, please.”

Argh! More silence! Then, the blasted question:

“Hi, who are you holding for?”
“I’ve been on hold for fifteen minutes, trying to reach the bakery about a cake.”
“Oh, hang on.”

For the love! What does it take to order a freaking cake around here?

“Bakery, how may I help you?”


“I’d like to order a cake to pick up on Thursday, for about 8 people.”
“Could you hold, please?”

Are you kidding me?

Two minutes later, I got a hold of a bakery person who, while taking my order, intermittently hollered to her cohorts about where random bakery equipment was located. Now, that’s what I call customer service.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Best Game Ever

I should probably write about how I ate so much at Thanksgiving dinner that I was uncomfortably full for several hours - as in, I couldn't inhale without grimacing - then just regularly full when I woke up the next morning. It might make sense to know that my after-Thanksgiving shopping was so productive as to check off two whole family members for their gifts.

But who says that I make sense?

Instead, I am bragging about how JG and I rocked the house at a newly-introduced game and I would like to share it with you. I plan to whip it out at our New Year's Eve party and I am sure that hilarity will ensue.

The game is called The Best Game Ever (TBGE), and JG's cousin taught us this game because her friends invented it. Here is what you do:

Materials Needed:
  • People (6-10)
  • Paper and pen for each person
  • Big bowl or something like that
  • Stopwatch, or a watch with a second hand
  1. Split up into teams of two and sit in a circle so that partners are sitting across from each other. For example, if you have three teams (A, B, and C), the partners should sit in the order of ABCABC around the circle.
  2. Distribute 2-3 pieces of paper and a pencil to each person. On each piece of paper, each person should write down and number five people, places, things, titles, or phrases that do not exceed five words each.
    - For example: 1) going sledding, 2) "Cheeseburger in Paradise", 3) my neighbor's dog, 4) milk, and 5) An Officer and a Gentleman
  3. Fold the slips of paper and put them into the bowl or whatever you have on hand. Give it a toss to mix it up.
  4. Designate someone who will man the watch and someone who will substitute in when that person is in play.
How to Play:
  1. Choose a team to go first. Roll a die, figure out whose birthday is next - whatever.
  2. A partner from the first team chooses a slip of paper from the bowl and time begins.
  3. The object of the partner with the paper is to help his teammate say the five items listed exactly as they are listed with verbal hints and/or gestures. The partner needs to start over with a new slip of paper if he:
    - Says a word or part of a word in the phrase
    - Says "sounds like ... "
    - Tries to spell it out
  4. Once the teammate has successfully identified the five items, the next goal is for that teammate to repeat them all in order and word-perfect. Unlike in the first part, the partner with the paper may not offer verbal hints during this stage.
  5. The teammate trying to repeat the items must start over if he:
    - Goes out of order
    - Repeats an item incorrectly, even by one tiny word
  6. The time limit is 60 seconds and is regulated by the person with the stopwatch.
  7. If the team successfully identifies and repeats the five items before time is up, the first partner keeps that slip of paper and can choose another one from the bowl to try.
  8. If the team does not successfully identify and repeat the five items, the paper goes back in the bowl for another turn.
  9. Once a team's turn is over, the bowl rotates clockwise and another team attempts to identify and repeat the items on another piece of paper.
  10. Play continues for a designated number of cycles around the circle (say, 2-3) or whenever the paper runs out. You decide.
  11. The winning team is determined by the highest number of slips of paper at the end of the game.
Good to Know:
  • The person with the stopwatch may not tell the players how much time remains in their turn.
  • Partners must alternate who guesses and gives clues. Whoever receives the bowl of paper will give clues; the same person on a team should not be guessing the whole entire time.
Okay, I know it sounds confusing, but it's sort of like Taboo and Catch Phrase with a little bit of Charades thrown in there. The real wildcard is that the players make up the items; you could end up with a list of craziness that you've never heard of or the list you made up yourself. Plus, if someone gets partially or even the whole way through a list but doesn't finish the repetition, you could draw it on your next turn and be familiar with it already.

So, JG and I were a team and if I can be so humble, we were freaking amazing at TBGE. In our first game, we were the only team to get two lists done in one turn, and since the second list was one I had seen briefly before, I was able to shriek the first three items ("Refrigerator! Keg! Microwave!") in swift succession before bringing it on home. And let me tell you, I'm no pansy game-player. I may not be an athlete by any stretch of the imagination, but I've got game. Lots of it.

In an added bonus, TBGE brought out priceless miscues when people were flustered or just plain didn't know what the things were:
  • "It's a band! 'Back in Black'! (seeing a blank stare) Ummm, this is two kinds of electricity!" - JG, describing AC/DC to me; I definitely needed that electricity clue...
  • "Sweat potato fries!" - JG's uncle, compensating for a misspelling
  • "Sleep sofa? Sleepaway sofa? Sleeping sofa?" - me, trying to say sleeper sofa
  • "What on earth are knocking boots?" - JG's grandma
Sure, family gatherings can be about catching up, bonding, and even eating a whole lot of food, but what does that mean when you can't talk some smack and do a victory dance once a while?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Both Sides of the Coin

On a gray and rainy Thanksgiving morning, I offer two sets of things for which I am thankful this year.

The first list is a product of the Thanksgiving potluck at work, when I impulsively restricted our "what we're thankful for" exercise to exclude friends, family, and health. Upon further reflection, here are my top five in this silly category:
  1. My KitchenAid mixer, which I will bust out as soon as possible after Thanksgiving to start making cookies for various events.
  2. My almost-complete spreadsheet that shows my entire gifting list: what each person is receiving, where I'm getting it, how much it costs, and the date of purchase.
  3. That the first season of one of my favorite shows ever is coming out on DVD!
  4. That Penn State made it to the Outback Bowl and I have an excuse to make yet another batch of chili.
  5. That I did not have to do anything for Thanksgiving. Seriously. I just showed up.
On a more traditional note, here are the top five things for which I am thankful when everything is fair game:
  1. My husband, especially when I realize that we have more fun everyday. He is totally my BFF. We should get half-heart necklaces.
  2. A relatively quiet year of settling in (in comparison to the previous year of crazy).
  3. Our house, and that it actually feels like it's ours; we're not house-sitting indefinitely.
  4. The comfort of old friends and the excitement of making new ones.
  5. The luxury of taking time for myself this year.
I'm taking the first hour or so of wakefulness this morning to be on my own and quiet. It occurs to me this year, more than any other so far, that I'm thankful for so much more than can be summarized in one sentence in a circle of holding hands. I will simply go through it all in my mind as I'm curled up in a blanket, looking out into the thick November clouds.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

My 2nd Family

Today, JG and I are heading up to his grandmother's house for the annual Thanksgiving shindig. It's the same crew as the 4th of July beach trip and I'm looking forward to seeing everyone. For now, though, I've accompanied JG to work for the school's half day of in-service and it's odd to be typing this from a geometry classroom.

This year will be my third time to join for Thanksgiving and I think I'm finally acclimated to the whole ritual. When JG and I were engaged, I was the first non-blood-related person to invade the festivities, and I was nervous as all get out. In addition to meeting all of the aunts, uncles, and cousins, I knew that Thanksgiving was (and is) one of JG's favorite holidays, and I was terrified that I was going to make it less fun somehow. To prepare, JG quizzed me on all of the cousins' names and gave me the rundown of the traditional events I would encounter:
  • The night before Thanksgiving: dinner out with JG's grandmother
  • Thanksgiving Day: watching the parade in the morning, eating The Meal in mid-afternoon, and leftovers for dinner in the evening - with watching football and playing games throughout the day
  • Black Friday: shopping for the girls while the guys play golf or watch more football
JG also informed me that I would need to figure out something to say in the "what I'm thankful for" circle. I was all aflutter - What do people normally say? How detailed do I have to be? What are you saying? I quickly stopped practicing the cousins' names and started brainstorming what I could be thankful for in such a public arena. The pressure!

Needless to say, I survived. Initially, I was taken aback by the sheer energy exuded by the cousins as a collective, but after they jabbed me good-naturedly, I held my own. I even won a few games and earned some street cred with this insanely competitive bunch. The food was great and shopping was lots of fun with a whole band of savvy sale-shoppers. And the "what I'm thankful for" circle? It's interesting that I vividly remember being so freaked out about it, but I can't recall what I said as I stood there shaking. I'm sure that I stuttered as the words tumbled out of my mouth. Apparently, it was good enough, because no one mocks me about it now.

I'm glad that I don't have to study for Thanksgiving anymore; one of the younger cousins assured me at the beach, "You're in." Well! How about that! I still need to figure out what I'm going to say in that circle, though. I think I'm most thankful for the real family feeling I have now when I'm around JG's relatives. I'm not sure if that's too sappy... I'll have to double check on that...

Anyway, here's to good food, fun times, and great bargains on Black Friday! Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A New Tradition

On the way home from work last night, the radio DJ announced, “Okay, folks, it’s time for the Drive at Five, and we’re going to kick it off with a Thanksgiving classic – ”

I groaned. I sincerely dislike the Adam Sandler’s "The Thanksgiving Song" and I was sure that it was next. I poised my hand over the scan button.

“ – the Cranberries!”

My mouth dropped open. This was too good to be true.

Oh, my life is changing everyday,
In every possible way…

I cranked up the volume and belted out lyrics that I knew and ones I didn’t. I was grateful for my one-lane road that ensured that no one would hear me take part in that strange lalala bit that everyone kind of does differently and still ends up sounding sort of like an animal in pain, in a good way. I forgot how much I enjoyed this song and the sheer corniness of playing a Cranberries song in the week before Thanksgiving made it that much more awesome. They should totally do this every year.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Three-Day Weekend Update

I took a mental health day on Friday, sort of randomly, but it made me realize how much I needed a break from my routine. I was amazed at how much I enjoyed running errands when my time was entirely my own. The extended weekend rocked, including but not limited to these highlights:
  • On Friday, I woke up of my own accord, without the beeping alarm, groaning, and tense muscles that usually mark the workday.
  • I checked off my grandmother on my Christmas shopping list: porcini olive oil and a vegetarian cookbook.
  • We went to a game night with JG’s teacher friends and discovered the wonder that is Turbo Cranium. I still can’t believe that our team collectively managed to spell macadamia backward.
  • It took a lot of cordless screwdriving, but JG successfully hung three different decorative (and functional) elements, while I, ah, supervised: picture ledges over the sofa, a fabulous big clock, and ten coat hooks in the entryway. The house now gives the impression that we could have company and some class!
I have to pack up to go to work tomorrow and I’m realizing – I am not psyched to go in tomorrow. But you know what is almost as fun as a three-day weekend? That would be a two-day week, followed by a five-day weekend with lots of turkey and shopping. Booyah.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Turkey Breast Surgery

Tomorrow is the Thanksgiving pot luck lunch at my office and I’m in charge of the turkey. I don’t pretend to possess any degree of turkey prowess – I’m more of a baker, really – but last year, I managed to cook a turkey breast successfully in my handy dandy crock pot. I offered to make a pumpkin cheesecake this year and let someone else handle the main attraction, but there weren’t any volunteers to take that on, much to no one’s surprise. So I shrugged and added turkey breast to my grocery list this week.

I planned on prepping the whole thing tonight so that I could switch on the crock pot when I got up in the morning. The meat had to cook for 6 hours, so that would work just fine for lunchtime. The recipe I consulted in my Fix It and Forget It cookbook assured me that I didn’t have to thaw out the turkey, so I lugged the stone-like mass out of my freezer and klonked it into the serving dish of my crock pot. However, when I busted through the wrapper, I discovered that there was a blasted gravy packet frozen to the meat. Argh. I grabbed the nearby kitchen shears to chip away at the ice surrounding the gravy packet when I realized that there were three major factors preventing my extraction. The gravy packet was four times larger than I anticipated, its contents were frozen and rigid, and worst of all, due to its curved shape, the frozen-solid turkey breast had a death grip on the stupid thing. As I came to this soggy conclusion, I accidentally punctured the packet with my shears and gravy slush came seeping out.

Lord, what a mess.

I ran the whole thing under the coldest water my faucet could produce in an effort to safely melt the ice surrounding the gravy packet. Unfortunately, this plan didn’t exactly work and rendered me with hands that were frozen stiff and completely numb. I gritted my teeth as I attempted to pry the turkey breast from the gravy – “Come on, you know you want to!” – but to no avail.

JG arrived home to find me practically sobbing into the sink with frozen hands clasped around the rebellious hunk of poultry. Upon quick examination, he said, “I’ll fix it,” and he did! He simply cut open the gravy packet, drained it out, and slipped it out of its prison. Why couldn’t I have thought of that? Maybe because I had crossed the line of logical reasoning when I couldn’t feel my hands and the idea of being beaten into submission by the white meat of a dumb animal was too much for me to handle.

I managed to finish up without a fiasco, thank goodness. It’s one thing to be bamboozled by the meat, but it’s quite another to be outsmarted by onion, celery, and chicken stock. I just hope the turkey turns out well tomorrow.

Edited: November 16
The turkey turned out just fine! It was too bad that I had no idea how to carve the thing and butchered it, but no one knew the difference.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


When JG sees or experiences something that is just too happy for words, he makes this noise. Kind of a long, drawn-out “Haghhh” from the back of the throat. It rasps against the roof of the mouth. Think Darth Vader. What has the power to induce this dramatic exhale? Why, it’s ping pong on ESPN! Haghhh. HDTV! Haghhh.

Recently, we’ve welcomed in a new member of the family that brings on the most prolonged of breaths: The Almighty Surround Sound. Say it with me. Haghhh.

The surround sound was JG’s gift to himself when he received his paycheck for coaching volleyball over the fall and I admit that I wasn’t totally opposed to it. He chose a Consumer Reports' Best Buy and it was quite reasonable. And silver. And shiny. It matched our TV!

There were two conditions to JG’s purchase: 1) He couldn’t set up the back speakers with any visible wires and 2) He had to believe me when I thought the volume is too high. I was not looking forward to a perpetual game of “it’s too loud”/“no, it’s not”. JG agreed to the conditions, took the plunge and a nice FedEx man lurched to our door, grunting, with a 50-pound box in his grasp.

The installation process was a blur of Styrofoam, unplugging, and testing – oh, the testing. I watched as JG scurried around the living room, listening to every speaker. “Oh, we’re in business,” he muttered, “This bad boy’s good to go.” He tested the TV audio, a CD of Indian-inspired music – “That’ll sound awesome!” – and, of course, a movie. It had to be a movie that would take advantage of the full range of the surround system and the progressive scan DVD player (whatever that means) that came with it; the movie that immediately sprang to JG’s mind was none other than The Matrix 2, complete with whizzing bullets and motorcycles. I was not a fan, to say the least. I didn’t think it was impressive at all that the sound of a motorcycle zoomed from back to front to follow its path and I was all creeped out because I felt like there were, well, bullets flying past my head. I winced as JG sat next to me and whispered, “Oh, this is awesome. Haghhh.” Uh, right.

This past weekend, I took the system for a whirl with Finding Nemo, the least macho movie ever. When I got the full experience of hearing the fish splash all around with that swelling music and seeing it through crystal-clear progressive-scan-induced picture – well, I was won over. What can I say? Haghhh.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Still Shaking My Head

Because I am incredibly particular about how I look in pictures, what I’m about to say may not have been all that apparent thus far. If I deem a picture good enough to put up here, then it can be verified. Please just take my word for it and trust that it is simply a preface for what I’m about to say afterward.

So, I’m Asian.

My grandparents all immigrated from China to New York City, where my parents were born. I can’t speak Chinese and I grew up in suburban, southeastern Connecticut. To any of my elementary school classmates out there, no, I still don’t know karate or Bruce Lee and I’m not related to that other Asian kid in our class.

There’s that. Now to the episode at hand.

I came across a woman this afternoon with whom I have spoken before, but not extensively. After inquiring after JG and expressing appropriate sympathy for his ailment, she suggested a fail-proof remedy:

She: Have you heard of the brat diet?
I: Sorry?
She: B-R-A-T. Bananas, rice, apple juice, and toast. It never fails. Been using it for kids and adults for years.
I: Okay, thanks. That sounds like a good idea.
She: Well, judging from your eyes, I’m sure you know a lot about rice.

Um, what?!

I bumbled around gathering my jaw up from the floor and thinking of a coherent response to this insane display of ignorance. I managed to choke out, “Oh, well, I’ve had a lot of rice in my time,” nervously chuckle, and walk away/flee. But I was actually fighting the urge to snap, “Yeah, I know a lot about rice… from when I worked in the freaking rice paddies.”

I drove home with that phrase echoing in my brain. “Judging from your eyes”?! It trumps the previous record-holder for Most Ignorant Thing I’ve Ever Heard Regarding Race (once proudly earned by the gem, “Do you speak English?”) by, oh, I don’t know – a whole darn lot. I don’t live in the most diverse of communities, but still, I was appalled. What if I had said to this overweight, middle-aged, white woman, “Judging from your build, I’m sure you know a lot about trans-fatty acids, white bread, and apple pie”? I would have felt like a total jerk, that’s what! And that feeling would have been totally deserved.

Upon relaying this exchange to JG, I asked if I had missed out on an opportunity to educate this woman amid my verbal clumsiness. He shook his head and asked, “What could you have said?” I can’t imagine that it would have been much more comfortable if I said, “I did have a lot of rice in my childhood, but what you said just now was pretty offensive to me.” Maybe it would have made a difference to the next person she encountered whose eyes indicated rice expertise. I don’t know.

Hours later, I am still dumbfounded.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Hello, Nurse

At 2am this morning, JG woke up shivering and shortly thereafter, he sprinted to the bathroom and was violently ill. I sat halfway up as he staggered back and cranked up the heat. It was a wakeful night for both of us: JG had a routine of being sick every 35 minutes – eerily regular – and I snapped to attention whenever a chill ran through him or he got out of bed. Bile rose in my throat whenever I heard the proceedings and queasiness soon followed. Upon JG’s feeble requests, I fetched a thermometer (slight fever), water, and ice pops, to no avail.

That’s how we ended up, instead of grilling bratwurst in this amazingly warm weather in preparation for the UD vs. William and Mary game, sitting on the couch with College Gameday on TV. JG is huddled up in a blanket with a stainless steel bowl by his side. I ran out to get a fluorescent bottle of Gatorade because we’re both afraid that he’s becoming or already is dehydrated. The sight of food makes JG’s stomach turn and I’m watching him warily, waiting for the next onslaught. His pallor and weakness startle me.

The glossary of symptoms on WebMD unhelpfully turned up everything from the stomach flu to radiation treatment side effects. We make an educated guess that it’s food poisoning; according to the all-knowing Alton Brown, that’s usually the case with a so-called 24-hour bug. A quick search reveals symptoms that are close enough to what JG has, but after I read off the questions, he affirms that he does not have to go to the emergency room. And then I remember that I don’t know what the closest hospital is, and I make a panicked, mental note to figure that out. I think the plan is to try and keep him hydrated and wait out the 48 hours that food poisoning typically takes to clear out.

I feel uneasily useless in this situation. My weak stomach flips and flops at the hint of anything unsightly and I’ve warned JG that it will be very hard for me to clean up after him if he, uh, misses. He’s very understanding, but I’m terribly insufficient for this wife-turned-nurse phase. I’ve found yet another way in which I am too weak of heart to nurse a child; how do parents do it? I can’t even handle this gracefully when my patient is mobile, self-aware, and adept at expressing his symptoms. Gah.

JG’s asleep now. I’ll fix myself some lunch and keep an eye on him.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Closing Up Shop

“It’s a circle of hell in here,” I e-mailed to JG. “I want to be anywhere else.” Send.

I was referring to my workplace, which has made getting up in the morning much harder than it normally is for me. Today held a morning spent fighting with a fidgety, shady web interface and mysterious formatting coming out of nowhere. I looked hopelessly at a desk covered in manila folders and white paper, broken up with glasses from bygone beverages. I glanced twitchingly at my to-do list with items that rebelliously refused to be crossed off.

My weekend was dragging me by the hair through a muddy Friday and it hurt. A lot.

But now, the folders are closed up, hiding all of the overwhelming paper. My list is magically checked off. My desk has returned to its normal state of calm and as a result, so have I. I take a deep breath and stretch out my arms to knock out the kinks from my body. It’s time to shut down the computer and zip on home in a day that is screaming for a walk around the neighborhood with its unseasonable warmth.

Hallelujah, it’s the weekend!

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Quiet Wednesdays

Shortly after the new television season started up (woo!), I realized that JG and I had a habit of turning on the television for no reason at all. It was background noise, and that bugged me, partially because the TV is always three times louder than it has to be, and also because it’s not just noise. It has that visual part that triggers a vegetative state for me. I can’t help but be transfixed by the glow of the cathode ray tube, and before I know it, I’ve squandered three hours of my time watching something like Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders: Making the Team. Shudder.

So I suggested what we now affectionately call Quiet Wednesdays. They’re not so much quiet as non-television-watching nights. We haven’t been sucked into the vortex that is Lost and I didn’t mind taping Project Runway; instead, we found other ways to spend the evening. I conceded playing video games to JG because it wasn’t as passive an activity as zoning out in front of the TV, but the compromise is that we have to listen to a CD over the sound. Preferably something girly and show-tune-like.

Tonight, I have a Quiet Wednesday made even more so due to JG being out at his grad class. My night so far has included an hour of yoga, browsing around for Christmas gifts for the fam, and a CD player full of jazz. I’ve discovered that I like the imposed mid-week break in the routine. Even though I’m not exactly reading up on philosophy or something, I’m not simply putting my brain on pause while the laugh track echoes around the living room. It’s also a nice way to space out my bouts with craftiness; next week, I plan on finishing a wreath made out of the cards we received for our first married Christmas. I’ve found that the best side benefit of a Quiet Wednesday is that it breaks up tough workweeks (like this one, again) and helps me feel better about the remaining days ahead. I know it’s all in my head, but it works, so I think that’s okay.

All of this is not to say that I don’t enjoy some significant TV time. Trust me, I’ve got my other evenings booked with a regular schedule of an hour or two of entertainment, depending on the night. Quiet Wednesday is more of a temporary, voluntary leave of absence, so to speak. It’s not that I have to do it, but I’m relieved that I don’t rely on TV for evening entertainment every night of the week.

Friday, November 3, 2006

Slightly Pre-Crash

I’m tired.

I arrived home this evening after a two-day summit with consultants from my company. I came along because, for some reason, I coordinated the summit, even though event planning is miles outside my job responsibilities. Over the course of the summit, the consultants discussed important things like business development, revenue targets, and profit margins. I typed notes diligently on a laptop projected onto a wall, scurried to set up whiteboard easels and post-it pads, and made sure that everyone was properly sugared and caffeinated. It was kind of fun, but mostly exhausting. I’m not sure how long I’ll last tonight.

This week at work took something out of me. I had my annual performance review on Wednesday, and I cried the whole way through it for no good reason. It wasn’t indicative of how I was feeling, but I simply could not stop the tears. The feedback I received was almost entirely positive, but the few bits of negative feedback cut me to the bone. I wasn’t necessarily surprised, but seeing a comment in black and white is just plain hard. I know that my performance was very good overall, but I wish I had done better over the past year. I wish I could be less rigid and more approachable. I really wish I hadn’t cried through the whole darn thing, which left me with red, puffy eyes and a terribly raw nose.

And then I got a phone call. I didn’t get the job. I was deflated, the wind knocked out of me. They didn’t think I was “a perfect fit” and they were looking for someone with “different experiences”. The woman who called me was very gracious and she said that I was definitely the right material for their company. Apparently, she'll keep me on their “A-list” for new positions. Thank you, I heard myself say. I don’t have hard feelings because I know that they work really hard to find the perfect person… I just thought that I was the perfect person. I felt like the stars were aligning so that I could leave my job and take on something new. I was disappointed. I still am.

When I got home that day, I nursed my wounds with chicken noodle soup, which is strangely, magically curative in these circumstances. After all this and then the summit, I’m about done. Stick a fork in me.

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Confessions of a Hander-Outer

I'm going to come out and say it: I was proud of my Halloween costume. Designed for all-day work wear, I was a princess-cut diamond ring: a black t-shirt puff-painted with a bird’s eye view of a ginormous ring, a big strand of fake pearls, and of course, a tiara. Ha. I tied with a scarecrow for Most Creative Costume at the office, you know.

It was in this regalia that I greeted our neighborhood trick-or-treaters, basket of candy in hand. Last year, in my inaugural debut as Lady with Candy, I was too nervous to properly observe this suburban ritual. I had only gone trick-or-treating once during my childhood (as an eight ball) and being on the other side of the door was a new experience for me. This year, however, I realized that there should be a few rules to this free-candy racket, at least at my house…

DO say “Trick or Treat”.
When seemingly mute children came to my door with the bags outstretched, I was half-tempted to say sweetly, “How can I help you?” so as to coerce the traditional greeting from their lips. I will allow that “Happy Halloween” is an acceptable substitute because I am all about inclusion.

DO say “Thank you”.
So, let me just go over this whole Halloween thing. Kids come to my house in costumes, rendering me unable to recognize them, so that I can give them free candy for the vague achievement of wearing something that is not their normal garb. Call me crazy, but if you thank a random guy holding open a movie theater door for you, shouldn’t you also thank the neighbor who is giving away free snacks on a fake-o holiday? In the same vein, if you’re a parent of said kid in costume, I will amend this guideline to recommend that you please strongly encourage (i.e. threateningly demand that) your kids say thank you. If you do so, it will help negate the inherent ingratitude of your little ghoul.

DO wear a costume.
What’s up with these teenagers who wear hoodies and cargos and hold out a backpack for candy? I know you’re all in it for the sweets, but come on, make an effort. I suggested to JG that, next year, we invest in those mini boxes of raisins for the kids who are clearly dodging the costume route. (And those adults, too, for that matter.) He cocked an eye at me and said, “That’s how you get egged…” Which brings me to my next guideline –

DON’T be a jerk.
In response to the egging threat, I retorted, “Isn’t that just giving in to terrorism?!” And with that, I had somehow crossed the threshold of sanity and JG didn’t press the issue. But seriously, since when does the lack of free things entitle someone to hurl eggs at someone’s house? This jerk rule isn’t confined to egging; there are other ways to exhibit jerklike behavior. For example, if you examine the (free) candy I dropped into your plastic pumpkin and give me a look like “That’s it?” Or maybe if you crane your head to sneak a peek into my basket and say, “Hey, I want a Twix!” Whatever, jerk. You can have your single Reese’s cup and enjoy it.

DON’T trick-or-treat on someone else’s behalf.
Even if your “son” can’t make it. Even if your toothless, un-costumed (see above) infant is trying his hardest to wish me a happy Halloween. If you have kids, you can afford the darn candy! One exception to this rule took form in the tiny Frankenstein in a stroller who held the bucket as his mom said “trick or treat”. Okay, you can have candy. Raisins for the rest of you, if I weren’t afraid of being egged!

DO compliment the jack o’ lanterns.
I think acknowledgement of the hard work and painstaking detail that goes into making pumpkin art this is the only way to rise above the resentment that comes from failure to comply to the above guidelines. A friendly “nice job on the pumpkins!” will go far, let me tell you.

Okay, it’s not like I didn’t have any polite, well-costumed, complimentary children at our stoop. We did have a few, including a teeny tiny little lion and a kid whose mask was disgustingly awesome with its fake-blood drip effect. I also admit that we ran out of candy (gasp of horror!) before the end of the night, forcing me to jump outside, blow out the pumpkin candles, and hop back in the house to turn off the front light. I had to avoid the eggers, after all.

Gotta love Halloween. See you next year, kids.