Friday, June 22, 2007

An Announcement

Today is my one-year blogiversary!


To commemorate the occasion, I’m making the move to a Blogspot-free existence over at Join me at the new digs (which, by the way, might feel very familiar), update those bookmarks and feeds, and see how I’m ringing in a new year of bloggy fun!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Shoe Shine

I have to go to New York for the day tomorrow to visit a company for work, which means that my normal uniform of jeans and flip-flops isn’t going to cut it. I test-drove a few outfits and settled on a pin-striped dress and red sweater, but I realized sadly that my black heels had seen better days. They were a bargain $20 pair I picked up when I first started working about three years ago and they showed their age and, uh, bargain quality. Glancing at the clock, I assessed the damage. I couldn’t fix the ground-out heel, but the scuffs could be fixed with some polish. I rooted around for the can of black and laid out paper towels on the kitchen counter for a workspace.

As soon as I dabbed into the can of shoe polish, the pungent, waxy smell brought me back to my parents’ kitchen, where my dad would polish his shoes every so often. He had one of those carrier boxes with a handle down the middle to divide it into two sections. On one side, there would be saddle soap, black and brown polish, and a squirt bottle of water. On the other side, he stored clean, soft cloths and a soft-bristled brush for buffing. I viewed that shoe polish box as somewhat of a sacred relic because it was strictly off-limits for touching. I imagine that my parents were afraid that I’d accidentally get into the polish and start fingerprinting the house, which would not have been a stretch. Instead, I’d perch on a stool and watch Dad magically restore his shoes back to an even sheen.

Dad was and is really fastidious about certain things and shoe polishing was one of them. His left hand slid down into the toe of the shoe and his right hand skimmed the outside quickly and carefully. He applied the polish in tiny, round strokes, using the least amount of polish as possible to cover an area. Tilting the shoe this way and that, Dad checked to make sure that he hadn’t missed any spots; when he was satisfied, he laid the shoe down carefully and started on the mate as the first dried. My favorite step was buffing. The brush would fwip-fwip across the shoe, exposing a shiny, like-new surface. I sat, transfixed.

With that fwip-fwip sound echoing in my head, I finished shining my heels. They emerged somewhat battered, but much improved and it only took a little time and a dab of polish. And some magic, I think.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Not Funny at All

As the first order of business for his first day of summer vacation, JG made an appointment to switch from cable to satellite service in order to get high-definition service all the time instead of hoping for good weather and adjusting a giant antenna on our entertainment unit. Even though I was ecstatic about letting go of a bug-like presence in our living room, I pled to make sure that the dish wasn’t visible from the street, if at all possible.

JG called me at work to report on the progress:

JG: So, I just wanted to update you on what’s going on over here.
RA: Okay, cool.
JG: The guy came and had a look around. He climbed on the roof and stuff, but he feels like we have too many trees to put the dish on the roof.
RA: Oh.
JG: The only way he could do it was to put up an 8-foot pole in the middle of our yard. So, of course, I said, “Absolutely!”
RA: (sharp intake of breath)
JG: Hello?
RA: I suggest that we don’t joke about this.
JG: (quickly) Oh, sorry, joke over. I didn’t agree to it. We’re sticking with cable.
RA: Okay. No antenna on the TV?
JG: No antenna.
RA: Thank you.

Jokes are fine every once in a while, but if I was concerned about a little satellite dish on our roof, a pole sticking out of our yard is no laughing matter! Geez.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Contentment, Almost

Saturday really made me feel like I got a weekend. Sometimes, the two days are packed full of chores and bustle so I don’t feel a significant difference between Sunday’s rest and Monday’s routine.

When I think back, it’s not that JG and I did anything spectacular; we just did a few things with the right mixture of activity and rest. The morning was free and lazy. We drifted around in our pajamas, watched The Soup and Best Week Ever, and caught breakfast when we felt like it. JG mowed the lawn before we left to meet a friend at the climbing gym that afternoon and I was intent on recovering from my less-than-stellar workout on Tuesday. Let’s just say that the ratio of falling to climbing was so high as to inspire the term “high-gravity night.” Apparently, gravity had lessened its hold because I finished two long-standing projects and we all had a much improved day of climbing.

Later that evening, JG and I sat at a laminate table in a local Italian restaurant, one of those neighborhood joints with vinyl seats, metal pizza-pan holders on each table, and gigantic menus. After sharing an order of fried mushrooms (every restaurant in Kennett Square has them and they’re always good), we settled into our respective entrees: vegetable primavera for me and a cheese steak Stromboli for him. Quiet fell over the table – the sound of people simply not talking because they were busy enjoying their food.

“Today was a really good day,” I said slowly, breaking the silence.

JG nodded. “Yeah. I feel like we got a lot done, but it wasn’t rushed or anything.”

I nodded along. I had a serene feeling that I was in exactly the right place with exactly the right person. I wanted to wrap up the sensation and save it for another day.

JG continued, “I don’t know what could make this day any better. Except maybe a doggie…”

Ah, yes. JG’s campaign to add a furry friend to our home has not gone unnoticed. I have started to run out of excuses as to why we aren’t ready to accommodate a dog and our friends have gone out of their way to show me their dogs’ most favorable sides. The fact that JG’s concession of naming privileges represented a considerable bargaining chip is not lost on me. It’s a clear indicator that JG’s picture of happiness is incomplete without a dog curled up at his feet.

In other words, we’re getting a dog.

(JG is doing a happy shimmy in the background.)

Today is JG’s last day of the school year. Tomorrow, he will start to apply to shelters, propose dogs from PetFinder, and research electric fences. That serene feeling I wish I had saved is no longer with me. I’m three-quarters through Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog, so visions of chewed furniture, soiled carpet, and a backyard full of land mines dance through my head. I’m trying to distract myself by finding really good name candidates. After all the negotiation and discussion we’ve had, maybe we should be frank and name the dog Compromise.

Friday, June 15, 2007

High Points

How is it that the workweek seemed to drag on for 17 days, but I’m all surprised that today is Friday, so there are only eight hours to get everything done? If it were possible to get an instantaneous feed of the running loop of crazy inside my head, it might sound something like: what the heck did I do all week that there so many to-dos on my list not done and how is it that it’s the 15th already and I’ve only finished one book and how in the world am I going to finish four this month and I can’t forget to call my dad on Sunday and do I have any clean clothes and was the last time I blogged really Monday?


To quell the unrest I feel at being so not on top of it, I will take a few minutes to reflect on a handful of things that I thoroughly enjoyed this week. Call it penance for not writing them up in a proper and timely fashion.

Resting Easily
Contrary to the looming forecast for this week, I only experienced one more thunderstorm, and since I was at work, I didn’t exactly have the option to curl up into a ball and quiver. Instead, I opted to breathe deeply (meanwhile groaning, “Oh, my lord…”) as my shoulders lurched at the sound of every roll of thunder. I would like a pat on the back, please. Also, I was spared from any more dreams about criminal monkeys; I actually had a good one about JG and me, instead. I hardly ever dream about him – it’s kind of a regret of mine – so waking up from a swirly vision of dancing together was very nice. The music in the background was “Somewhere That’s Green” from Little Shop of Horrors, but I don’t know what that’s supposed to indicate. I doubt it’s in my dream dictionary…

Daily Word
After I used “riveting” twice, sarcastically, in one day, my co-workers encouraged me to set up a dry-erase board with a word of the day, with a goal to incorporate the word into a sentence during the workday. Yes! I provide the word, a phonetic pronunciation, part of speech, and a brief definition and what do you know? Discussion ensues! Building up vocabulary is fun, I tell you. Now I get a chance to revel in all of the lovely words that seem too high-falutin’ for normal conversation but are so fun to say. Insouciant! Profligate! Acquiesce! (Oh, my!) Today’s word is vociferous (voe-SIFF-er-us), which is describes something that is crying out noisily. Go forth and use!

Foodie Show Tunes
Adam, the Amateur Gourmet, presented a grateful viewing public with a week full of original songs about his food and I dare anyone to listen to odes to malted-milk ice cream and lasagna without A) cracking up at the lyrics or B) standing in awe of his simultaneous piano-playing and cinematography. My favorite is “Falafel Love,” which garnered multiple viewings on my computer. Much to JG’s chagrin, I find myself humming the catchy tune during the day: “Why, why did he pick falafel…”

Good Hair Day
As a follow-up to a detailed hair how-to, Whoorl encouraged readers to send in glamour shots of their good hair days. My hair is my only physical feature that I consistently enjoy; I love that it’s so shiny and well-behaved. I took a dozen self-portraits one morning in an effort to do my mane justice and I have to admit that I was a little giddy when Whoorl responded to my e-mail saying, “Your hair is gorgeous!” Aw, shucks. It’s too bad that my facial expression in that picture is a combination of dubious and goofy. At least my hair looks pretty.

I realize that I’m at least three years behind the curve, here, but in an effort to find a jazz radio station to stream, I discovered the wonder that is Pandora and self-loaded radio stations. I like wordless music for working, but a girl only has a tolerance for so much Aaron Copland and movie soundtracks in a given day. But now, I have an endless supply of free jazz without having to assemble play lists. I am on my way to high-end productivity, um, right after I post this entry. Once again, I’m compelled to consider how my life was so freaking inconvenient before the internet. Let us never go back to the dark ages of cassettes. Amen.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Not a Good Omen

I’m sitting in a rowboat. A doctor, with whom I am unacquainted, is rowing backward, facing me, and telling me about the swampy, foggy surroundings. He tells me how he has been studying the indigenous primates in the area for years, but there has been an incident. It turns out that a local couple, with whom I am slightly acquainted, is searching for their infant baby girl, who has evidently been stolen by the monkeys. They’re not sure she’s still alive. The hair on the back of my neck bristles and I feel a chill. The yapping calls of unseen monkeys make me scan the trees unsteadily. Thunder rumbles in the distance and dark clouds hover overhead.

I open my eyes with a start. It’s three in the morning.

Awakened by the roll of real-life thunder, I brush away the uneasy dream and reach out to JG sleeping next to me. I hate thunder. I know it’s just sound, but the sheer volume sends tremors down my back and makes my hands fly up, involuntarily, to shield my ears. It is impossible for me to relax during a storm; I clutch pillows and twitch nervously as lightning bolts blind me – an unnerving harbinger. This storm is worse than usual because I have images of a stolen baby girl and laughing chimpanzees with dangerous-looking teeth flying through my head. The vivid imagination that served me so well as a child is my downfall during the dark, wee hours when thunder booms, uninvited.

Conflicted between the heavy heat of our bedroom and the impulse to be covered and secure, I toss and turn to find a position that both deafens the noise and feels sheltered. My biceps are getting sore from the extended tension of my fingers plugged into my ears and I can’t help but slide over to JG’s side of the bed for comfort. He’s snoozing away, nonplussed by the storm, until I accidentally nudge him too strongly. “Is it the thunder?” he asks sleepily. Yes! Hence the quivering shell next to you! But I tell him to go back to sleep. It doesn’t make sense for the both of us to be awake at this hour.

The last time I look at the clock, it reads 4:34. I am exhausted. My arms are tired. I drift back to sleep, but thankfully, there are no child-stealing apes this time.

I am at work right now. I am a zombie. And there are scattered thunderstorms on the forecast every single day this week.


Friday, June 8, 2007

Friday, Three Tenses


  • Received a replacement laptop at work because the one I had was plagued with errors impossible to replicate on demand. No sound? No wireless connection? No idea! Happily, the new one worked just fine.
  • Went to lunch at the Greek festival with co-workers and had yummy stuffed grape leaves and chicken and orzo.
  • Became a sweaty mess. Hot food, no shaded outdoor seating, and a record-breaking combination of heat and humidity made for an uncomfortable situation.
  • Sat in a hot car in the sun during my commute home.
  • Jumped into the shower as soon as I walked through the door.

I am…

  • Sitting on my couch, underneath a whirring ceiling fan, in wet hair and pajamas.
  • Breathing easily.
  • Typing on JG’s old college laptop, the one with the R and F keys missing and a finicky Ethernet port.
  • Eavesdropping on Good Eats: the sausage episode.
  • Hearing my stomach growl.
  • Watching the clock.

I will…

  • Make myself presentable and put on something fun and dressy.
  • Drive to meet JG and his teacher friends at a new (to me) Japanese-Thai restaurant.
  • See JG for the first time since 6:30am this morning.
  • Take pictures because we’ll all look snazzy. Hopefully, some of them will be good.
  • Come home late and fall into bed for a hard-earned night of sleep without the threat of an alarm buzzing on Saturday morning.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Pick-Up Lines

According to my application spreadsheet, I have been officially on the job market for four weeks. I think it’s going pretty well, so far. I’m making several contacts, sending out résumés, and of course, combing job sites for postings. Because I’ve chosen to post my information online, I’ve had the pleasure of receiving my fair share of job-related spam in the past month with the following awesomely bad lines. Everything is verbatim, unfortunately.


  • Greetings,dear friend!
  • I am trying to reach you!
  • Are you blessed with a new child yet unable to attend work? Are you a college student with odd class schedules impairing regular work time? Well you’re in luck!!!
  • You are invited to a people-intensive, on-the-edge of technology powered environment.
  • You befit on our position.


  • Honest Workesr Needed!!!
  • Basically, almost anyone can manage to handle the job, but you honesty and doing your best are of utmost importance for us
  • You needn’t any education, qualification or any special skills. Everything you need is a great desire to work.
  • Requirements: USA citizenship. Responsibility, diligence and honesty.
  • General requirements: the ability to work in teamand good communicative skills. Ability to keep company’s interest s more than your own one. USA citizenship required.
  • Age: from 18 till 70 years


  • Your monthly salary can amount to $1,800-2,300.
  • DO NOT TURN THIS OFFER DOWN!! GREAT OPPORTUNITY!!! You can recieve a salary not less then 50 000$ a year!

Big Finishes:

  • ... act now for this great intuitive job offer.
  • If you are interested in this job and you really want to work with us, send us confirmation that you are ready to work in our company , then we will send you contract, you should sign it and we will begin to co-operate.
  • If you have found this letter to be a nuisance, please accept our apologies.

- - -

P.S. I’m glad to report that I got the fun, relaxed weekend I wanted. JG and I spent a lot of time just hanging out together and I felt like I had woken up from a vacation this morning. Thank goodness for mental health days.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

City Longings

JG and I went to the climbing gym yesterday. The twenty-minute drive is very curvy, but best of all, scenic. Rolling over hills, I can see through the windshield wide expanses of cut grass, dotted with grazing cattle and fluffy sheep. There is an equestrian school at one point and it’s common to see young girls in jodhpurs putting their animals through their paces. Stony farmhouses and red barns mark land ownership and wooden rocking chairs tilt gently on open-air porches. The smells of hay, honeysuckle, and humus flow in through the open windows and I breathe deeply.

Most of the time, I love living in our small-town-almost-countryside community. People walk their dogs in the neighborhood, we know that our mechanic’s name is Chip, and we have quiet nights with starry skies. I make a daily commute to a small city, so coming home is like a breath of fresh air. My ears are clear of car alarms and I look forward to seeing the sun set.

But another part of me loves metropolis and everything it includes. I love to wander museums, listen to the orchestra, marvel at the ballet, and eat exotic food. I love not having to drive and, instead, relying on public transit maps that might be really confusing or hearing my shoes slap against the concrete sidewalk. I love knowing that I can do almost anything at any hour. I don’t think I could live in a city, but visiting is exhilarating.

Much to my chagrin, JG does not so much enjoy cities. He finds them loud and dirty. There’s too much going on and there aren’t enough trees. People are brusque and always in a rush. He doesn’t relish the theater or the ballet and his palate is not quite as expansive as mine. Rather than go out for dinner when they charge way too much money for not much food, JG would prefer to stay home and fire up the grill so that he can have a steak the way he likes it.


In a way, I understand. Our life and our home are comfortable and I am grateful for them. Lately, though, I’ve been clicking enviously through the pictures that college friends are taking on their two-week jaunt through Europe and it makes me feel oh-so sedentary. Despite undersized portions of foreign food, it’s nice to have a chance to be an adventurous city mouse.

Sunday Scribblings #61: Town & Country

Friday, June 1, 2007

The Getting It Done

A few nights ago, I struggled to fall asleep. My body was tired, I had already read several chapters of my book, and JG was snoozing away, gently, at my side. But the gears in my mind were turning steadily and my stomach twisted and turned, enough to be uncomfortable, but not enough to be sick. I swallowed hard. I just have to get through this week, I thought.

Suddenly, I was struck with the realization that I’m always trying to get through things: a work day, a meeting, a long drive, reluctant family time, chores. Anxiety washed over me like a wave, leaving me sputtering and gasping for air, as the thought crystallized in my mind: I can’t survive like this. I am overwhelmed. I tried to breathe evenly, but the panic from my flip-flopping stomach rose to my throat and I began to sob.

Between big sniffs and wiping my eyes, I remembered that, about a year ago, I had recurring episodes like this one. I’d sit up in bed, take a box of tissues off of my nightstand, and cry as softly as possible so that I didn’t wake JG. When the tears were spent, I would lie down again and hope that my body was tired enough to sleep. At the time, I felt trapped because I couldn’t figure out how to meld JG’s and my interests – sports and fine arts, respectively – into leisure time that we both enjoyed. I felt overextended and high-maintenance, so I couldn’t bring myself to draw JG into my nighttime sadness.

Not this time, I decided.

I nudged JG and whispered, “Kiddo?” It’s our mutual term of endearment. “I need to tell you something.”

The sheets rustled. “What?”

“I’m very sad right now.”

He turned over, toward me. “Why? What’s going on?”

I sobbed, “I was just saying to myself that I needed to just get through this week, but I feel like I say that all the time, with everything. How can a person live like this? I’m so tired.”

“I’m sorry, kiddo.”

“I know we can’t solve it tonight, but … I don’t know. It’s just very oppressive right now.”


“I wasn’t going to tell you. Like before, remember? But I didn’t think that was a good idea, so I had to wake you up.”

“I’m glad you did.”


I don’t remember how it happened, but after all of the nose-blowing and deep sighs, I fell asleep. Every so often, I woke up, startled, but reaching out and confirming that JG was beside me was enough to send me back to my dreams.

Soon after that night, I read an essay by Anna Quindlen that looked back to her time as a young mother taking care of three children, aged six and under. A particular passage hit me square in the forehead.

I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of the three of them sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages six, four, and one. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less.

I paused and re-read the last bit.

I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less.

I don’t want to write that line in 20 years. I will not write that line.

So, this weekend is all about the doing. JG and I are both taking the day off from work on Monday, so we have a nice long weekend. Tonight, we’ll have something off the grill for dinner and then we’ll crash on the couch with our latest Netflix delivery. I’ll turn off my alarm and sleep in as long as I want tomorrow morning. I think we have a few things we want to do, like go climbing, go out for dinner and a movie, and read, but nothing is set in stone. Regardless, I’m going to try to shift my mind to the doing and away from the getting it done.