Saturday, March 31, 2007

Traffic and a Full Belly

Williamsburg, Virginia, Day 1:
Right now, JG and I are sprawled out on the wide expanse of a king-sized bed; he’s watching the UCLA/Florida game and I’m clicking away happily on a laptop. We’re enjoying a night of leisure after a less-than-smooth day of travel.

JG calculated that the trip would take us about five hours. We’d leave at 10am, stop for lunch after getting past DC, and arrive at our hotel around 3pm. That would leave time for an early dinner and he could catch both of the semi-final games tonight. No problem. We packed the car, loaded up the CD player, and we were off. Yay for vacation!

Well. Several spats of traffic, including one 15-mile stretch that took over an hour to cover, left us roasting hot, starving, and cranky. We grabbed fast food for lunch, but the fatty, fried fakeness made us even crankier because we felt like tubs of lard. And then we hit more traffic. Ugh. Five hours stretched out to seven.

Thankfully, our hotel room is comfortable – if a little brightly botanical for my tastes – and the internet access is free! Yes! To top off the night, for dinner, we found a fabulously local Italian place within walking distance. It was crammed full of people and JG overheard a guy at a neighboring table saying that he was waiting for a certain waitress because she’d been serving him for 30 years. The food was so tasty (and cheap!) and we were grateful for the brief walk back to the hotel. The ride down here was tiring and frustrating at times, but now that we’re settled in, I’m excited for everything we have planned. The weather should be gorgeous and I’m armed and ready with my camera.

Bring it on, Williamsburg.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Brain Equals Mush

Some weeks go by when you don’t have enough to do in the hours you have. You find yourself staring at the wall, wondering what movies are playing, and remembering that you should have called that guy about the thing. Other weeks are just right: you accomplish exactly what you intended to do in just about the time you had anticipated. Then there are weeks like the one I’ve had and there is no way you can finish everything you need to do in the time you have. Sure, the week passes quickly, but it’s kind of a curse because the time is running out!

There is a light at the end of this tunnel and I like to call it vacation. Yay! Next week is JG’s school’s spring break, so on Saturday, we’re packing up the Subaru to head off to Williamsburg, Virginia. The loose plan so far is to visit the historical section, eat at a recommended barbecue joint, and take a spin at Busch Gardens, with some lazing by a pool and reading scattered in there for good measure. We’re also going to visit with a high school friend of JG’s; she got engaged recently and we haven’t seen her since then, so it’ll be nice to hang out.

But honestly, my brain is fried. Thank goodness my to-do list at work is down to 2.5 items, or else Friday would be a very bad day. I can hardly string these sentences together, much less make the all-important packing lists because – gah! I haven’t packed yet! I don’t even know if I have to do laundry! My brain is so numb that I can’t even absorb the true gravity of those words. They’re just running into my skull and bouncing off. Thud.

In an effort to stop the insanity, I offer the following anecdote, without even a hint of a transition.

- - -

Last night, I was telling JG about a dream I had had the night before. I’m sure I’ll go into more detail with this topic in the future, but the back story is that I am very uncomfortable around big dogs and JG has been lobbying hard for the cause of He Wants a Dog. Anyway.

RA: So, I was wrestling with this huge dog and I was really really scared.
JG: Oh, man. Did you wake up?
RA: No, I noticed that the fur didn’t seem right. It was actually a person in a dog suit.
JG: Ah. Were you winning? Was the person you-sized or me-sized?
RA: Definitely you-sized.
JG: So you were definitely not winning.
RA: Right. But I don’t remember who won. I probably didn’t, but at the end, the person took off the dog suit … and it was you!
JG: Oh. I see why it was me-sized.
RA: Yeah. So, could we not talk about getting a dog so often? It is clearly causing me some anxiety here.
JG: Okay, okay.

Monday, March 26, 2007


During the day, like so many other working stiffs, I sit in front of a computer and type away at a keyboard. My morning routine of consists of work e-mail, personal e-mail, and Google Reader. After time away from my desk, I jiggle my mouse to deactivate my screen saver and check to see if any e-mails have come in during my absence. My music library has been uploaded to my hard drive and my PDA syncs with my mail server to keep track of calendar items and send me alerts. I’m not as technologically-adept as some, but I am pretty wired. Even if I don’t like coffee.

When I get home from work, I dive right into personal e-mail and blogs that may have updated throughout the day. I work on future posts, correspond with friends, upload photos, or shop online. I realized that, in total, I can spend up to twelve hours in a day staring at a glowing computer screen, positioning my fingers on the raised bits on the F and J keys, and hearing the tap-dance rhythm of the keyboard.

Twelve hours is a bit much, I decided.

On Saturday, I took a break from using my computer. I slept in. I baked carrot cake cupcakes for my book study meeting and a loaf of weekend bread for JG. I read two hundred pages of my current book and cooked dinner. That was it. No e-mails sent, no Submit Purchase buttons clicked, and no glazed eyes in the aura of the laptop. I felt like I accomplished things – real, tangible things, not just pointing and dragging and touch-padding. There’s something to be said for actual accomplishment, I think.

Now, I’m back to the workweek and the busy thrum of the Information Super Highway, but I won’t hesitate to take a scenic detour every so often.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Made for It

When I was a little girl, I hated to dry the dishes from the dishwasher. My parents refused to use the heated drying cycle of the dishwasher, so it was my job to wipe off each dish before putting it back. To make the task go faster, I’d put on “dish music” and sashay on the ceramic tile with my dish towel waving. Each season had its dish music: fall was Aaron Copland, winter was The Nutcracker, spring was Canadian Brass, and summer was the Boston Pops. In response to my parents’ puzzled glances, I’d say matter-of-factly, “Kitchens were made for dancing,” and spin more pirouettes in my socks.


When I moved into my first apartment, JG came over occasionally to have dinner and hang out away from his dorm. Sharing the scant countertop space, we tossed salads and cooked pasta as we slid over the worn linoleum. Because I was just out of school, I couldn’t afford cable or internet access, so my only form of entertainment was the radio. (When a friend visited me, she exclaimed, “What is this, 1925?”) Dinnertime was about the same time that Delilah came on, so “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “Butterfly Kisses,” and “My Heart Will Go On” were usual audio fare during the meal preparations. If I heard the opening measures of a standard like, “The Way You Look Tonight,” I’d take up JG’s left hand in my right and sway to the beat of the music. At first, he was taken aback by the whole thing, but I’d just power through, saying firmly, “Kitchens are made for dancing!” The way I saw it, the other square footage of my apartment was a sea of tan carpet, but the kitchen gave us just enough room for a private dance floor. I’m sure Delilah would have approved.


When JG and I settled on our first house, where we live now, we decided to have dinner at the house that night. I packed a crate with the microwave, a plastic container of chili, a bag of baby carrots, two bowls, and two spoons, and we were off. We ceremoniously used our new key to get into the house, which turned out to be inhospitably cold because the heat had been off for the whole day. I plugged in the microwave and set up bowls of chili to warm up when JG swept me up and started spinning me around on the kitchen’s hardwood floor. Thrown off, I asked what he was doing. JG dipped me and said, “Kitchens were made for dancing, of course.” And we savored our first dance as homeowners until the microwave beep signaled that dinner was ready.

Sunday Scribblings #52: In the Kitchen

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Friend: You have your New Englanders, your Bostonians, your New Yorkers… What do you call someone from Connecticut?
Me: A Connecticutian!
Friend: Uh, that sounds like “execution.”
Me: Well, I’m not a big fan of Connecticutter.

Ah, the Constitution State! The Nutmeg State! The home of the river actually pronounced “Thames” and not “Temms”! A recent e-mail conversation with Jen awakened my deep-rooted love for the little state people drive through to get to Boston or the Cape. I love New England in its entirety, but the second-smallest state (take that, Rhode Island!) will always be special to me.

When I first came down to this mid-Atlantic area to go to college, I amused people by telling them that I was from “the eastern part of Connecticut.” They ogled me for a second before asking incredulously, “Connecticut has parts?” Um, yeah. Like how Delaware has northern and southern parts, Connecticut has eastern and western halves. At least we have eight counties to your three! What now?

I’m not normally so defensive about this. Well, now that I think about it, I am. I just think that Connecticut is a neglected gem of New England and it doesn’t deserve all of the little-state ridicule heaped upon it. I’ve always found myself in a position of explanation of my home state because people always assumed that my family was rich. No, not all of us live in Greenwich. But we have Mystic Pizza, you know. And Yale University. And the UConn Huskies, even if they didn’t make the tournament this year. And Rachael Ray visited us one time to spend $40.

I feel like my corner of Pennsylvania is noticeably different from Connecticut, but it’s hard for me to put my finger on it. At first, I thought it was the Revolutionary history I grew up with: the Charter Oak and Fort Griswold and all that. When someone reminded me about a little thing called the Liberty Bell and some guy named Ben Franklin, I realized that the Philadelphia near me wasn’t just in my history books. Then, I thought it was due to a more generally flat landscape, but I ended up working in the Poconos for a couple of summers, so that theory went out the door. I’m still not sure what it is, but I can feel a change when I get to Connecticut.

Maybe it’s the crisp air, rocky coastlines, and lighthouses. Maybe it’s the worn-down, green faces of those soothing Appalachians. Maybe it’s town greens, white churches with sharp steeples, and the smell of the Long Island Sound. Maybe it’s wearing fall clothes as soon as school starts, scraping snow off of cars in November, and welcoming spring after Easter. I don’t know what it is, but I find it all so comforting.

Of course, I could be a little bitter because I can hardly find a good cup of clam chowder around here. I’m just saying.


Sunday, March 18, 2007

Nerd to the nth Power

I keep finding that no matter how well I think I know JG, he keeps topping himself. It’s not just that his itch to plant grass seed has sprung up earlier than last year. I can overlook the constant monitoring of no less than three unique March Madness brackets, complete with talking smack on the corresponding message boards. Tonight, however, JG hit a new high.

Thanks to one of his oft-read math blogs, JG discovered a source of great pleasure in The Klein Four, an a capella musical group made up of Northwestern University math graduate students. The blog featured a YouTube video of The Klein Four singing their original hit, “Finite Simple Group (of Order Two)”, from their album, Musical Fruitcake. From what I gathered from JG’s exclamations and bursts of laughter, the song lyrics contained a huge number of mathematical references within the context of a romantic relationship. “This is awesome,” he breathed.

JG hopped on the group’s website and became a fan before my very eyes. “Look at these lyrics! So cool! And they have other stuff!” My husband is not an impulse buyer by any means, but within fifteen minutes, he ordered Musical Fruitcake and a geeky-but-ominous t-shirt. JG mused gleefully, “I am totally playing this CD for my kids. They are going to hate it!” He exhibited a surprising level of restraint when he resisted the urge to buy the perfect classroom accessory: the modular wall clock. I’m so proud.

Don’t get me wrong - I could count the number of jokes I understood from the YouTube video on one hand, but I still thought it was clever and funny. Those grad students can actually sing! I mock, but I love that JG loves math so much. I really think it makes him a better teacher for his students and it’s sweet to see him so enthusiastic. Besides, he puts up with me when I wax poetic about how water’s specific heat and polarity make the world go ’round, but that’s another story.

I started typing while JG was finishing up his order of geek merchandise. He turned to me and said, “RA, I’m glad we’re a finite simple group of order two.”

“Um. You know just what to say to make a girl feel good.”

“I do think a simple connected graph with two nodes would be more accurate, but whatever. Let’s always be a finite simple group of order two.”


“Are you writing about me?”

“… Nope.”

“Are you lying?”


“I don’t care! I’m a nerd and I’m okay with it!”

Mm hmm. They say acceptance is the first step.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Material Girl

A couple of months ago, I realized that I don’t buy clothes for myself unless the need is utterly dire (i.e. shrinking my go-to black pants – argh) or I have money from a gift lying around. So, for my birthday, I asked for gift cards to clothing stores so that I could treat myself to some new stuff. I don’t know if there was a conspiracy behind all of this, but in the end, I had a fistful of gift cards that were all for Ann Taylor. Maybe my family is trying to class me up or something.

Armed with my birthday money and some leftover Christmas funds that were never spent, I headed out to the mall this afternoon. (I had a slight delay while JG and I unearthed my car from a layer of snowcone shavings from yesterday’s ice storm. My car was covered in 4 inches of tiny ice marbles with not even one flake of snow. I had never seen anything like it.) I had plugged a list of things I was looking for into my Palm so that I would stay focused. Shopping is serious business for me.

Ann Taylor was my first stop because my spending there was completely guilt-free. I am very cost-conscious and I pride myself on being a savvy bargain shopper, so the experience of walking straight to the Petites section, choosing items based on size and style, and taking a pile of clothes to a dressing room was totally foreign to me. Usually, I go directly to the sale portion, survey my size section quickly, try on something if it’s marked down at least 50% and I could really use it, decide that it’s not worth the money, and cruise right out of the store. For once, the fit of the clothing was more important to me than the cost, which was strangely liberating. Is this what it’s like to be on What Not to Wear? For the first time ever, I put on a pair of jeans that fit me correctly and immediately made me feel great. Even better, I was able to pick up another pair on the way to the register! At the conclusion of my euphoric experience, I had a bag stuffed with two pairs of jeans, a pair of denim-like pants, a black-and-white dress, and two pieces of jewelry. Get this - I didn’t even spend all my gift card money and the only thing on sale was the pair of pants. It kind of freaks me out.

I emerged from Ann Taylor feeling optimistic about the rest of my day. The first item on my list was a pinstriped suit and I had a few guesses for where I might find it. In store after store, I avoided salespeople and crept around racks of jackets and pants, hoping to find the elusive combination of perfect pinstripe and separates in the right size. I could tell that there were a few of us looking for the same thing. We circled around each other, vying for the “good racks” but trying not to be pushy. We eyed the garments draped over the others’ arms, hoping to spy a pattern that looked desirable. I used my best skills in flicking through the racks to eliminate styles that didn’t come in my size and kept my ears open for cries of discovery. Alas, all of my efforts were to no avail. I could not find a suitable (ha) combination of pants and jacket in a pinstripe that I liked that happened to be for a short person. It’s so depressing to find a pair of pants that have potential and hold them up at the waist, only to find that there are eight inches of fabric pooling by your feet. Sigh.

I checked off a few items on my list (black ballet flats, camisoles), but not finding the one at the top irked me. I drove home with aching feet and an empty stomach, feeling somewhat blah. Excited to hear about my excursion, my sister called me as I parked in the driveway. I recounted my afternoon and found that I was gaining excitement over what I had found and not just what had eluded me. My sister commended me for not bargain shopping for once and said that she was looking forward to seeing all my stuff whenever we get together again. Talking to my sister was a nice way to end my session of retail therapy. It’s almost as good as actually going shopping with her.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Playing Hooky

March is a tough month for JG because he has to teach on all five weekdays for five weeks in a row. I am not very sympathetic. That’s what the rest of us call the majority of the year. At the same time, I’m not about to volunteer to supervise classrooms of kids who are straining toward spring break, so I suppose I see his point. This year, I suggested that we take a day off in March together so that we can spend a free day together, and so we did – today!

I suppose it’s somewhat inaccurate to call it “playing hooky,” but that’s what it feels like. We stayed up late last night and slept in this morning. The plan for the day consists of getting subs for lunch and renting a couple of movies. JG has heard a lot of great things about The Departed and I want to see The Notebook because I never have (gasps all around!). I figure we’ll each bear the other’s movie and it’ll be even overall. Most importantly, though, I’m looking forward to hanging out with JG for an entire day without jobs or errands in the way. I feel like the daily grind makes it difficult for me to be really present after work because I’m so dog-tired, and then I feel guilty. My irritation rises faster than makes sense because – don’t I want to be home? It’s not fair to JG and we both needed a break. This week, twenty percent less time at work plus a whole day with each other is just the cure for job-related doldrums.

This long weekend is a nice midpoint on the way to spring break, when I’ll use some vacation time to spend JG’s week off with him. Until then, I plan to savor my lazing around in comfy clothes, eating a yummy sub, and being a couch potato on a rare day of leisure.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

From the Random Department

Today is Pi Day! Did anyone celebrate this with a kooky math teacher in their day? Well, JG is that math teacher. He left for work today wearing his “I Heart Pi” t-shirt and carrying geeky cookies and coffeecake for his geometry students. When nerds unite, their wives bake crazy stuff, or at least this one does.

Figuring out my March Madness brackets is number one on my to-do list when I get home. The deadline is looming, but since I don’t know anything about NCAA basketball, I hope it doesn’t take me that long. I usually go for UConn all the way, but they didn’t make the tournament this year – boo! – so that “strategy” is shot. I will have to revert to decision-making factors like which team’s colors I prefer, whether I know someone who attends that school (and if I like that person), and if I think one mascot would clearly win over another in a rumble. At least I have a system, right?

People talk about being chocoholics or workaholics and I want to know – where are they getting this chocohol? Or workahol? I understand that this strange suffix, “-holic,” comes from alcoholic, but in that initial case, the suffix is just “-ic.” Maybe it’s just not as snappy to say that someone is a “workic.” Doesn’t this usage downplay how serious alcoholism really is? Sure, you might really really really like shopping, but come on, now. If the Wiktionary definition is any indication, this bizarre -holism is getting out of hand. Skateaholic? Kayakaholic? Show me some kayakahol and we’ll talk.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Fun with Fondue

Much to JG’s chagrin, last night’s birthday-weekend dinner didn’t turn out to be a total surprise.

See, a few days earlier, I mentioned that Saturday would be kind of a sad day for me; I just didn’t want to JG to be all freaked out if I was crying for no apparent reason. He hugged me and said, “Sorry, dear. Is there anything I can do?”

I didn’t expect an opportunity like this. I had an internal ethical battle … for about a second. “What if you told me where we were going for dinner?”

“Fine,” he groaned. “We’re going to The Melting Pot.”

“Yes!” I crowed with victory and then backpedaled a bit. “I didn’t tell you about Saturday just to make you tell me…”


For real! That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Anyway. We had never been to The Melting Pot before, but after hearing rave reviews from our friends, I asked JG if we could go there for an anniversary sometime in the future. As a birthday surprise, it was pretty hard to beat. For those who may live in one of the fifteen states without one of these restaurants, the idea behind The Melting Pot is that you get a multi-course meal of fondue:

  • Appetizer: bread, vegetables, and apples dipped in cheese fondue
  • Salad: okay, this course isn’t fondue
  • Entrée: selection of raw meat cooked in a vegetable-broth-base
  • Dessert: strawberries, cheesecake, and pound cake to dip in chocolate fondue

We mixed and matched the different types of fondue for a combination of a lager-based cheddar dip; a burgundy wine coq au vin cooking broth with lobster tail, ahi tuna, pot stickers, and shrimp; and a mixture of white and dark chocolate fondue. I have to say - oh, my goodness. Yum.

Our fantastic waiter whipped up the fondue courses in front of us, so it was entertaining as well as amazingly tasty. I was expecting a Cheez Whiz-type cheese fondue, but I was pleasantly surprised to have a garlicky, lager-tinged sauce. The apples seemed odd to me at first, but I enjoyed the hot and cold contrast. An added bonus was that the fruit and vegetables helped to minimize the fact that we were consuming the majority of a bowl of melted cheese.

After we ate our salads, our waiter set out platters of raw meat and vegetables, a double-boiler of cooking broth, and something like eight sauces for dipping. He gave us a quick tutorial on meat doneness and separating raw meat from the cooked stuff (which JG loved since he is Mr. Food Safety) and we went for it. There is something oddly satisfying about spearing pieces of meat, dunking them into a vat of bubbling liquid, and dipping them into melted butter, teriyaki sauce, or a spicy wasabi. The lobster was to die for and, just like our waiter said, the curry sauce really could go on anything. Seeing each other through the steam wafting up from the fondue pot, JG and I happily polished off the entrée, but we were careful to leave some room for dessert.

Are there many things much tastier than strawberries dipped in chocolate? Or chunks of cheesecake? Or marshmallows? We were already very full from the first three courses, but dessert pushed us over the edge onto a level of fullness that was on the verge of a food coma. It’s how I imagine bears might feel when they’re just about ready to hibernate for the winter. Mm …

Even though the element of surprise didn’t exactly work out, the dinner was a fantastic success. I had a bright raspberry martini, I dressed up and felt sassy, and JG and I had a wonderful night out together with amazing food. It was one of those rare occasions when I could not have thought of anything that would have made for a better time.

(Thanks, JG!)

Friday, March 9, 2007

Train Friend

I’m curled up in bed, wearing sweats and bundled in layers of blankets. My book light casts a moonbeam onto the pages before me. The before-bed reading that usually slows my brain and rests my thoughts is not doing its work tonight. Reading is not the answer right now. A memory reserved for a birthday and an anniversary swims up to the surface.

- - -

I was on a train headed up to my parents’ house. I usually took the Amtrak train up the Northeast Extension, through Philadelphia and New York City, for almost all of my holidays back home. Normally, I looked forward to the train ride because it was relaxing. After the conductor tossed my luggage on the overhead rack, I’d sleep until we crossed the border into Connecticut. Involuntarily, I would snap awake to watch the marinas, the craggy beaches, and the small skylines of Hartford and New Haven through my window. I knew I should sit on the right-hand side for the best view. But this time was different.

A few days earlier, I had received a phone call from a friend from high school. Sit down, she told me.

I sat.

“I had to call you. Kip is dead. He committed suicide last night.”

No. Oh, no.

I called JG instinctively, my voice tight inside my throat. He biked over to find me speechless, stiff in his arms. There was no processing or talking it out. I curled into myself, physically and otherwise. Knowing that one of my best friends, a polar opposite and complementary figure, was no longer alive was too much. I could barely breathe without crying.

That is how I ended up on a train up to Connecticut with no major holiday to speak of. I was relieved to find a seat by myself, but at the Philadelphia stop, a young man boarded the car and asked if the seat was taken. I shook my head. I didn’t feel like talking, but the man struck up conversation, asking me where I was headed.

New London,” I said, swallowing hard. “I have to go to a funeral.”

His face fell. “Oh. I’m so sorry. I hope everything goes well.”

“Thank you.”

My train friend paused, then struck up conversation on a different note. He told me about how he was headed back to Boston, after an interview in Philadelphia. He told me about graduate school and waved a book in his hand for emphasis. He told me about how he was looking forward to seeing his girlfriend and that, for Valentine’s Day, he gave her a bouquet of balloon-animal roses because he couldn’t afford real ones. I nodded along, quietly.

Our train rolled into Penn Station in New York and the man jumped up. “I hear there’s a Krispy Kreme stand here, so I’m going to grab one. Save my seat?”


Five minutes later, he returned, bag of donuts in hand. “Do you like glazed?”

I was dumbfounded. He bought me a donut?

He waved away my dropped jaw. “They were having a special. Do you like glazed?”

“Yeah,” I said, “they’re my favorite. Thanks for this.”

He hunkered back down. “Don’t mention it. It’s the least I can do for a saved seat.”

I ate slowly and wondered - are donuts therapeutic? Do they ease tension and lighten burdens? Or was it simply because this donut was a gift from a stranger from Boston?

As the train rolled out of Penn Station, my train friend reached into his brief case and asked, “Did I mention that I wrote a book?” He pulled out a slim children’s book with a picture of a locomotive on the cover. It was a re-telling of The Little Engine That Could and I leafed through it with pleasure. He had brought the book along as a sample for his interview and it was very charming, indeed. After I returned the book to him, I fell into a deep sleep, lulled by the steady beat of the train on the tracks. In my exhaustion, I missed out on my ritual of watching the boat docks and rocky seashores flow by the window.

When we arrived at my stop, my train friend helped me with my luggage and said, “I really do hope everything goes well for you. It was nice talking with you today.”

I was so grateful to him that I could only whisper my thanks.

At the service that night, I cried quietly. Hundreds of people had come to show their support, so I was one of many standing in a room that was not nearly large enough to hold the love we had for Kip. Afterward, I waited in a long line to greet his family: parents who had seen Kip and me singing in chorus concerts since the sixth grade, giving presentations, and graduating; and a younger brother who had long ago measured his growing progress next to me. As I hugged them, new tears sprang into my eyes. What can a person say? I am so, so sorry. I miss him, too. I know that I can’t miss him more than you do and it hurts me so much to know that you are hurting more than I am. I am so, so sorry.

When I got to him, Kip’s dad put me at arm’s length. Eyes sparkling, he said, “You were one of Kip’s best friends. We’re so glad to see you.” He hugged me closely and I could feel him crying into his beard.

- - -

Oh, my train friend. If not for you, I would have been concentrating on containing my grief with the fragile strands of control I had left, too afraid to speak from the threat of crying. But you drew me out, distracted me with tales of locomotives and balloon flowers, offered me well wishes in the end, and somehow made me strong enough to handle was ahead. Could you tell that I was broken? Was it apparent that every inhale pained me? Whatever the case, I was thankful for your kindness. I still am.

Tomorrow is a dark anniversary for me and I have already stained the cuffs of my hoodie with tears. JG is sleeping beside me, but I’ll wake him up for a bit. I need a hug.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Better Late, Really

Yesterday was a fantastic birthday. I got a call from a friend from church that ended with me hearing a tinny cell-phone version of “Happy Birthday” sung by thirty-odd church people. It was so cute! And thanks for all of the sweet wishes!

I devoured a mountain of yummy mussels and JG did a great job with presents this year. Nerd that I am, I had asked for a book light for Valentine’s Day and here it was! In all of its LED glory! Add in a good book about digital photography and Pinky and the Brain DVDs and you’ve got a winning birthday combination. The DVDs were more of a gift of self-sacrifice because JG does not exactly enjoy the comic genius that is encapsulated in Pinky and the Brain, so I appreciate that one very much.

In the aftermath of the birthday hoopla, I realized something. I may not be excited about my actual birthday, but do you know what I really love? Belated birthday wishes and things!

I think it all started in college. My mom would dutifully ship me a care package, my grandma would mail a check, and my sister would send an e-card to be followed up by a gift card to Starbucks or somewhere. Between all of this mailing, almost nothing arrived on time. I’d get the packages in dribs and drabs for the week after my birthday and I loved it. It wasn’t a birthday anymore – no, no! Happy birthweek! Happy birthmonth!

This year was no exception. Today’s mail brought in cards from my sister and JG’s grandma. My sister called me today to let me know that things were on the way and she added, “But I know you like birthday gifts to be late. I planned it that way.”

Yeah, right. But I’ll take it!

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

And Many More ...

Birthdays have never been a big deal for me. I’ve never been the type to count down the days and I can’t remember ever feeling different when it comes around. In fact, since my birthday falls in the beginning of the month, I’m almost always caught off-guard. It’s March 6? Already?

In my eighteen years of living at home, I can only recall 4 birthdays when I had an actual party. Before any “deprived childhood!” accusations ring out, let me clarify. We always had cake and opened presents with the family, but a party wasn’t an every-year thing. Looking back, I realize that they were stressful events for my mom and I didn’t really miss them. As long as I had cake (mm, marble cake), I was good to go.

Lack of parties notwithstanding, I still had my share of memorable birthdays:

  • 7: We had a snow day! I went sledding and opened presents in the same day!
  • 10: I had a double birthday party with my friend from gymnastics. Our moms treated all of the girls from the gym to pizza and we played charades. I remember trying to act out “possum.”
  • 16: My friends threw me a Sweet Sixteen party that involved a dull game of Truth or Dare (winning questions included, “What did you get on the SATs?” and “What is your biggest regret?”) and the smart idea to throw me up in the air to “see if RA can do a basket toss.” Thankfully, no one was hurt.
  • 18: A giant blizzard closed school for two days, including my birthday. I was so disappointed that I wasn’t able to walk through school and gloat about being able to buy things I had no intention of purchasing, like cigarettes and lottery tickets. To my surprise, several snow-delayed flower arrangements were delivered to my house the day after my birthday.
  • 19: My then-boyfriend had broken up with me two or three days before, so my floormates threw me a calzone party and bought a cake that said, “Happy Birthday, RaRa!” Then all of the girls ate candy and watched The Wedding Planner. It was exactly what I needed.
  • 21: JG took me out for dinner and my first drink and I was terrified of getting drunk because I had zero alcohol tolerance. I ordered a strawberry daiquiri that ended up much being much bigger and pinker than I had expected and I barely finished it by the end of the night. JG chuckled at me all throughout the meal because he knew that I kept asking myself, “Am I drunk? Is this what it feels like?”

I know I should be excited about the year ahead of me, but I just don’t get that excited on birthdays. I had bigger thrills on the first day of school or on our wedding anniversary; to me, birthday mostly says, “Congratulations for still being alive,” and I have to remember to say my updated age if anybody asks. The fact that today is Tuesday didn’t exactly invite an all-out party, either.

But when I came in to work this morning, there were birthday signs wallpapering my desk. The e-cards in my inbox produced welcome laughs during a particularly stressful morning and my co-workers even signed a fantastic card. There’s a giant crowd of penguins on the front and one of them is wearing an enormous sombrero. The inside reads, “Happy Birthday to Juan in a million!” Ha! Juan in a million! I love it. I’m not used to a whole big birthday thing, but I must admit that I enjoy a day that’s all mine.

Tonight, JG is cooking me a yummy dinner. Birthdays for us consist of whatever the birthday person likes to do, so I requested steamed mussels and pasta, with tiramisu for dessert while we watch the new episode of Gilmore Girls. Woo! We know how to party it up, let me tell you. On Saturday, JG is taking me out to an undisclosed location that he refuses to divulge and my sneaky attempts at trickery (“So where are we going, again?”) have proved fruitless. Ah, well. Maybe that’s what I’ll wish for when I blow out the candle on my tiramisu.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Waiting for the Red-Eye

San Francisco International Airport, Gate 28:

I am waiting to board my flight in a quilted vinyl seat facing the tarmac. Distant runway lights shimmer in the distance, obscured by finger-printed glass and those fold-up walkways. Caravans of luggage trundle down below. I wonder if I’ll see any of those guys with the light sticks who guide arriving planes. A light bulb over my head flickers irregularly. The stark fluorescence casts sterile light on an already subdued troupe of travelers.

We’re a motley crew, this red-eye bunch. With many rows of vinyl seats between two gates, we’ve spread out strategically so that each person has at least three seats to himself. Two young families with toddlers and babies play in the pod of gates. The toddlers admire the planes and while other little ones fuss. People shift uncomfortably, silently hoping that they don’t share a cabin with the children. There’s really nothing anyone can do if it’s the case. We all know we’re in the airport for the same reason and a good night’s sleep is a characteristic of an ideal scenario. We’re all going to board a plane, receive a blanket and pillow of doubtful origin, and hope for a decent amount of rest in what is inevitably a restless situation. Perhaps, like me, the people in this gate did not savor the idea of leaving the city the next morning, only to arrive at home about eight hours later. At least this way, uncomfortable seats and cramped quarters notwithstanding, I have the prospect of a good lunch and a relaxing afternoon and evening at home. The weekend will be only slightly shorter.

I look around. I’m not the only one who has dressed for the occasion, sporting comfy layers. It is evident that some unfortunate ones have come straight from their workplaces and their business casual attire is bound for a night of obtaining new wrinkles. I yawn. It’s a good sign that I’ll manage to rest during this flight, despite my middle seat placement.

I’m almost home.

Thursday, March 1, 2007


I was sitting at the hotel desk, typing away to make up for a day without checking e-mail. Suddenly, the armoire holding the television shuddered noisily. The re-run of The Office skipped a beat. The floor trembled and my stomach flipped and flopped.

What was that?

I chalked it up to someone slamming their door down the hall and went along my e-mail way. The hotel where I was staying was hosting a technology conference and you never know what to expect from those rowdy techies.

Fifteen minutes later, the local NBC affiliate broke into The Office to announce that there had been an earthquake in Lafayette, which is a mere 20 miles from San Francisco. Sure, it was only a 4.2 on the Richter scale and, apparently, that’s “light” – insert finger quotes here – or something. I know San Francisco folks get used to these things, but come on! It was an earthquake! With tectonic shifting and everything! I had to hear the phrase “Richter scale” in reference to an area where I was currently located. What’s up with that?

This is why I didn’t apply to CalTech, Mom. The San Andreas Fault and I would not get along. I’ll take the predictability of good old East Coast blizzards, hurricanes, and humidity any day.