Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Magnet Theory and why I shouldn't be trusted with documents

Our magnets arrived several weeks ago.

I had them sent to my work, and I was so excited when they arrived that I cut two of my fingers opening the box. With a scissor. I'm not sure how that happened. And yes, I was ridiculed for it.

So we were all thrilled and gung-ho and we sent out a batch of magnets to the people whose addresses we had readily available. We had a big outing to the post office and made sure we had enough postage on the ones going to faraway places like Europe and South Africa.

And on a side bar: What we've discovered from this first batch is that not everyone we sent them to - even just across town in DC - has gotten them. I was wondering if USPS was screening for magnets and holding them up.

And then Nick suggested that maybe some of them stuck to other magnetic things. Which makes sense - they were all sticking to each other through envelopes when we mailed them.

So it's conceivable that someone will get an extra envelope stuck to the back of theirs and hopefully will post it. Or some random stranger will wind up with one. Who knows.

So anyway. Then we agreed to collect the rest of our addresses. And then neither of us did anything about that for a while.

It's not like it's so hard to send an email or ten asking for an address, but even so, it's an easy thing to procrastinate on.

And then in the meantime, I went ahead and lost the list. THE LIST. Which was really just a printout of the Excel spreadsheet of names. I didn't realize it was The Official Document from which we were working.

It was a grotty piece of paper, dog-eared and rumpled from being repeatedly crammed into my purse. I just happened to have started writing on it and checking off names.

But according to Nick, I was keeping track. Where's OUR list?

If I'd known it was OUR list, I'd have given it to him to keep track of, because he's all organized and files things and makes spending spreadsheets and stuff. Plus I probably wouldn't have smeared chocolate on it or torn off a corner to throw away a piece of gum.

Heh. It's true.

But no. Not knowing it was an important piece of paper, I sashayed off into the sunshine with it firmly crumpled in the bottom of my bag. And then somehow didn't return to his house with it.

How could I lose The List?

The good thing was, I knew I hadn't lost it; I just didn't know where it was.

I found The List yesterday lying gently in the middle of my living room floor.

Magnet mailing can resume!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

In which I am a lucky duck and my ability to share improves drastically

Let me preface this by saying two things. One, that I was taught at a very young age not to gloat about your fortunes. Which I think is important.

And two, as a child, I sucked at sharing. I wasn't selfish; I just didn't get it. I'd either give all of my candy away to everyone, leaving none for me, or share none of it.

I know it will shock you to hear that there was no moderation, no middle ground.

I have postponed writing this because I didn't want to sound all, "lucky me lucky me lucky me!" And have you maybe think I am a big jerk. But the thing is that kindness and generosity and sparkly surprises just can't go unacknowledged.

As you know, I did this yippee dance a couple weeks ago, all kinds of delighted about a present from SD, all jump up and down-y -- in a virtual sense, of course.

Except in person, where the Quad heard me exclaim, "A present! I got a present!" And jump up and down.

And so I have to just admit that I'm doing it now. Even though I just did it. I hope you don't think I'm gloatalicious.

Because the thing is, I feel so ridiculously lucky. And I want to put thanks on LG.

Here's what happened last week. A box arrived. A wedding present! From my friend HKW! And this one, this one I was able to make myself wait until getting to Nick's office to open.

HKW gave us the Joy of Cooking! You have no idea how much we need this book. She picked it to help us start a home. But she helped us more than she could imagine. It would be hard to convey how much help we need in this area.

Because one of us? Is used to eating steamed vegetables and popcorn for dinner. And the other? Would butter his steak if he could get away with it. And pair with a side of sausage. Wrapped in bacon.

So we have asked for a couple cookbooks, and I know for many, the Joy is a staple. It is hugely wonderful.

That night, I was at Nick's office, waiting. I often commute with him, which means that at the end of the day I wind up sitting in his office for a while. He's rarely done before 7:30, and if he intends 7:30, it often means 8 pm. And so I try to remember to have reading material.

Nick apologized for taking a long time to wrap up, and I said, "No worries - I'm just reading some of the recipes in my present."

"Your present?"

"Yeah - the one from my blogfriend? The we just opened?" The tone of this sentence? Duh. You were right there opening it with me.

"Your? Your present?"

Oh. Oops.

"Our! Our! Our present!"

And then - and this is what tipped me over the edge into "stop worrying and just post it already" - earlier today, I got another box! From Nicole! Lovely Nicole who helped me so immensely with all kinds of insight into knives, espresso machines, and other things foreign, kitchen-y, and daunting.

She sent wedding presents! A salad dressing whipper upper - a kitchen power tool! - that I seriously cannot wait to use! And a salad spinner. So awesome!

She had no way of knowing (or maybe in the way that all of us are connected in the world she just knows) how into salads we are lately. And how we are trying to be creative yet not crazy fattening with the dressing. And even though I generally agree with her that more is, in fact, better. . .when it comes to squeezing into a wedding dress (or tux) - um, it isn't.

And so will continue in this salad-obsessed manner relentlessly and tirelessly until approximately September 27.

Nick loves it, I assure you.

So, HKW and Nicole, thank you both again and again. You so incredibly sweet and kind and generous!

Lucky me lucky me lucky me!

I mean. . .Lucky us lucky us lucky us!

Monday, April 28, 2008

I am the last person to speculate on normal, but I do know you shouldn't miss your turn

So I note interesting Google searches leading to LG, even if I don't write about them all that often.

And this one - "what is the normal amount of time to take a poo in a day?" - caught my eye. Because I've gotta say, while I don't have an answer, I do spend an inordinate amount of time thinking and talking about poo.

And for those of you who hate this topic - sorry in advance for this post. You're gonna hate it.

It's true. Sometimes you'll have a really bizarre poo - maybe an unusual size or color - and you'll want to share the experience with someone else, and you'll maybe even be about to. . .and then you'll realize that, um, it's poo. And you just need to flush and wash your hands and pretend you're a normal human being.

But that pretense of normalcy doesn't necessarily stop you from telling your closest friends or family about it.

Or maybe you won't poo for several days - and that merits discussion as well. In fact, that often means more discussion, because when is it going to happen? And if you are traveling it becomes a daily question. Maybe you stop asking, but returning from the bathroom garners raised eyebrows.

Which I realize is not the international symbol for, "Did you poo?" But in context, you know.

Hopefully raised eyebrows. . .Head shake. . ."Ah, well. Maybe later."

So anyway.

If I tried to answer, I'd say we're all different. But you can probably divide the the poo world pretty accurately between men and women. Because one of the major differences I've decided there are between men and women - and please correct me if I'm wrong - is their approach to poo.

Men at the office will very cavalierly walk towards the bathroom with the office copy of the Post under their arm. And I'm thinking "Note to self: read the Post online."

Walking toward the bathroom with a newspaper is tantamount to waving on your way out the door and saying, "Yup! Off to defecate! And catch up on the day's news! I'm a multi-tasker!"

Honestly. I haven't noticed it at my current office, but I've certainly seen it. And while I know these men aren't wiping their asses with the paper, I still don't want those potential poo molecules on my news.

Plus - and this is actually something I envy - I get the sense that each guy is programmed with his Time Of Day. Whatever time it is - first thing in the morning, mid-day, whenever - is The Time. The Time to head to the bathroom with one's reading material or BlackBerry.

Seriously. There is a guy who walks through the gym in our building right around 1:00 pm every day. If I'm working out mid-day, I'll see him come through. He walks through, goes to the locker room, emerges about 20 minutes later, and leaves. Unless he goes in there to masturbate, I think 1:00 pm is his Time.

Truthfully, I think this scheduled approach would be convenient. You'd know to clear your calendar during your daily poo time. Oh, no meetings from 10:30-11:100! That's Poo Time!

And men will spend extraordinary lengths of time in the bathroom. It makes me wonder if it actually takes that long or if they're used to that schedule, so stick to it and just wait for it to happen. Because they have the reading material until it does.

Me, I never have any vague idea. It could be any number of times today. Or not till tomorrow. I might suddenly be all, oh! have to poo! And then I'm in and out in five minutes. It might be at a completely inconvenient time, but there's nothing to be done about it. Because you don't want to miss your turn.

I had a friend whose mother used this term to teach her as a kid to go when she needed to.

"Sweetheart, you don't want to miss your turn!"

Because you could skip your turn and then who knows when it'll be your turn again?

The notion of knowing ahead of time, and setting aside the time to read an article or answer email, while odd to me, would be kind of nice. You'd have your routine, and the private time (albeit on a toilet seat) and that would be that.

It's not like anyone could reasonably claim during that time that their task was somehow more immediate or urgent.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Purely coincidence?

I heard from the Dementor yesterday.

And here's the weird thing. I was wearing my emergency shoes - the ones I'd bought for a date with him ages ago.

I haven't worn them since last year, because it's just now getting warm. And so I thought of him, purely because I connect him with these shoes.

In fact, Steve had just complimented my outfit, and I'd just gotten done saying, "You vetted this shoe choice! These are the emergency shoes I bought for that date!" (And yes, he knew what date I was talking about. And he is a man who thinks about shoes.)

And then the email arrived.

Totally innocuous - he's in DC and can't come to town without thinking of me. How am I? Still engaged? Or married already? He hopes I'm well.

It's not that the content of the email was meaningful, but the timing was bizarre. I had been thinking about him, had literally just been talking about him.

Do you ever think of someone and then hear from them? Or call or email a friend, who immediately says they were just thinking of you, or just about to call you?

I feel like these kinds of things happen too often to be utterly random.

Nick, on the other hand, thinks these are pure and utter coincidence. You think about people regularly, but the times that it coincides with them contacting you stand out in your mind.

So I've probably thought about him a number of times - when passing a restaurant we went to, or something along those lines. But this time seems remarkable because he contacted me right afterwards. It's coincidence, nothing more.

I'm not so sure.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

So fine, I'm a Philistine

Last night I had an entirely free night.

Free as in, didn't cost anything. And free as in, I went out with my friends and slept at home in DC. It felt like a mini-vacation being back in my old life. I woke up in my bed, in my sheets, in my periwinkle room, to my old alarm.

Personally, I hate Nick's alarm, which wakes you up to NPR - loud. Because honestly, do you really want to wake up to 14 dead in Baghdad? Heavy traffic on the Woodrow Wilson bridge? The recession?

I think not.

I like my beeping alarm, inches from where I can snooze it. It is a sound Nick hates to wake up to. How we will compromise on this, I'm not sure.

Anyway. It's not that I want to be apart, but last night it was so nice to be in my old life.

Laura and another friend and I were talking about when I'm moving to Virginia. They both said they don't like this move across the river one bit. Because, for those of you who don't live in the area, while moving to Virginia is not like getting on a train car to Auschwitz, people don't tend to come back.

Nick takes it as a criticism of him, of his place. Which it is not. It's more that people go to the suburbs and you lose them.

You leave the city to go home after work? You don't come back in for a quick beer with your friends. It's too much effort. And your friends don't tend to want to come out to you. And I can't blame them - especially the ones without cars.

And this morning I rolled out of bed late, because, um, it's a 15 minute walk to work. So I can. Yum.

But Wednesday evening with my friends. Local 16 had a party sponsored by Peroni on their upstairs deck. It was a gorgeous evening. And it turned out they were offering free beer! And they had all these trays of hors d'oeuvres. Free sausage!

So I'm a Philistine, because does it get any better than free beer and sausage?

Hardly.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Because I'm such a delicate flower

Living in DC means having allergies, as far as I can tell. And whatever is blooming right now is really getting to me.

Which would be pretty much anything and everything. Except the cherry blossoms. Their lovely little pink blooming faces are done for the season, aren't they?

I've had allergy testing a plethora of times over the years. The scratch tests on your back. The injections up and down your arms. And every time? It turns out I'm allergic to a shocking number of things on this planet.

So if you've ever had allergy shots, you know that there's an indoor arm and an outdoor arm.

Indoor being cats and dust and mold and things like, um, housework? I wish they would test for that. I'm sure I am.

And outdoor would be grass, trees, and I don't know what all. Pretty much everything between the sun and the earth except clouds. And butterflies. I don't think I'm allergic to butterflies. In fact, I don't think they test for bugs. Do people have bug allergies?

It would be so convenient to be allergic to liars or men with huge issues. Wouldn't it be great to start sneezing or itching when you're around someone who is going to be bad for you? You'd be on a date and get a rash and know it was time to say goodbye.

Anyway.

I can't remember which one is worse for me in general, but currently, I should be indoors with the windows shut tight. Which is so hard to do.

Because I love love love spring when everything is blooming. I look at bright, happy yellow daffodils like little espresso shots - the best way to wake up in the morning.

And running in the sunshine is one of my favorite things. I'm always sticking my nose in someone's flowers on my way down the street. Lilacs are my favorite, and they remind me of my grandmother. Dogwood makes me so happy. I love azaleas - the light pink ones in particular - more than is reasonable. I just beam when I see them.

But I do recognize they're not really my friends. I'm not doing myself any favors with the nose-flower-sticking-inning. When I do sit ups in the grass on my way home from a run I itch all the way to the shower. And it's an itch you can't scratch, or it turns into welts.

Our dog Gloria used to roll around in the grass, and then when I saw her I'd pick her up and hug all over her. And then eventually have to go wash my arms before it got too bad. And my neck if she'd snuggled under it. Itch itch.

I was going to say an itch is not such a huge price to pay for love, but I've gotta say, it really depends on where. And the cause.

From spring flowers to odd itches. Is not actually where I intended to go with this.

And that's all I've got to say about that.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

And sometimes the most interesting things you learn are what people don't say

I read PostSecret every Sunday.

One of my friends remarked that they really could be divided between "secrets and boasts" - which I think is true.

If you've read though them, you know that there are the boast variety - "I think I have perfect breasts!" Or, "I'm smarter than all my friends."

And then there are secrets that feel like a punch in the stomach - confessions of being molested as a kid, contemplating suicide, cheating, being betrayed. There are secrets that make you ache for the person, and secrets that you cannot imagine.

I remember one that was a postcard of the World Trade Center, with an X on one of the windows. And the back said something like, "I wish you'd gone to work that morning."

Last year, on one of the myriad nights of drinks with Laura, we wound up in random conversation at Local 16. It was one of those last-minute plans, so I had on some outfit better suited to sitting around the house, and no make up, and glasses. And Laura was post-yoga hair up dried sweat-y.

And sometimes those are when you have the most interesting chance encounters. I think it's because you're so clearly not out to flirt or to impress the opposite sex. The vibe you are sending is the opposite of sexy.

The bar was crowded, and we had, as always with Laura, several men chatting with us. One of them was a really fit looking blond, with predatory, pale blue eyes. He was very physically attractive. And very much on guard.

He was also mildly condescending. The condescension wasn't personal - although I don't think I yet understood that some men will slyly undermine your self-confidence in order to have the upper hand, to make you feel like you need to work for their approval.

At some point Laura and I separated, squeezed apart by people, and this guy and kept talking. He was intent on talking about work, which I suppose is inevitable in DC, and an easy, if tedious, default conversation.

The work conversation was boring, and, as I'd said, he was condescending. This was never gonig to go anywhere. And so during a pause I looked up at him and said, "Tell me a secret?"

You might ask why, and all I can say is, why not? You never know what you're going to get.

And this was when it got interesting, although not in a way I expected. His face closed. His lupine eyes narrowed. "Why?"

"No reason. I just thought it might be interesting."

One of the things the Dementor told me was that he could go through a crowd and pick out the people who were like him. The ones who'd grown up abused. He could see it in their eyes, in the way they moved. He didn't miss a detail about anyone, ever.

And this guy in front of me, instead of playing along, he mentally backed up. His energy shifted.

"You tell me a secret."

He sounded almost angry. It scared me.

I said something light - I can't really remember what. And excused myself to find the bathroom. And when I came back, I joined Laura in her conversation, nestled in the crowd.

What I really wanted to say was, "I can tell you a secret about yourself: You don't trust anyone."

Monday, April 21, 2008

And I said what about Breakfast at Tiffany...

It seems like lately, every time Nick and I have to make a together-y decision, we have vastly different ideas.

It could be something as small as breakfast or as large as forever. Lately, we disagree. We had a huge disagreement about smoothies the other day. Smoothies. Wtf?

We are people who want to be together, who really like doing things together. But recently our ability to agree has taken a vacation.

On a lot of things, I'm fairly easygoing. I don't tend to care which restaurant we choose for dinner. Or what music we listen to. Often, if you have a really strong preference on something, I'll be fine with it.

And this leads people to think that I don't have extreme opinions on things. Because until you've seen me really want or really not want to do something, you have no idea how stubborn I can be. People are often shocked.

Most of the time, I'm happy to go along. If asked, I could voice a preference, but it's often not an strong one. But when there's something I really want to do, I'm not going to try to convince or cajole you into doing it with me. If it's not your thing, I'll do it without you.

I see no reason to drag or guilt someone into going to an exhibit or event that doesn't interest them. Or going somewhere they don't particularly want to. I am perfectly happy to go on my own or with friends.

But it turns out that when you're getting married, there are a lot of together-y decisions to be made. Like, for example, everything. Including the honeymoon. Which you are not going to do on your own.

My beloved, it turns out, would be more than happy to spend the two weeks on the Chesapeake, relaxing and poking around small towns. As you may imagine, the idea of getting a couple hours away from home for two weeks excites me about as much as counting the same 25 green marbles over and over and over.

Nick hasn't taken two weeks off in almost a decade. Two weeks is wild extravagance. And I know for dead certain it won't happen again any time soon. Not only because he works all the time, but because our best case scenario entails getting knocked up as fast as possible post-wedding and buying a house. Which means money, time, and energy-wise, we will not be able to go anywhere for years.

And so my goal for the honeymoon is to get as far away and go somewhere as exotic as possible. Considering where I grew up, going to Angkor Wat is not crazy.

But most people think I'm nuts.

The woman I work for now laughed out loud when she asked where I wanted to go, and I said, "Cambodia!"

Laughed. Out. Loud.

And then said, "For me, diarrhea would be one of the top things I'd want to avoid on my honeymoon."

Um. Awkward.

But even without bodily function issues to consider, I do realize it's 17 gazillion hours and many time zones away. And that kind of travel is not necessarily relaxing.

But I also have this fear that this trip is it.

It's sort of like wanting to have one last fling, albeit with exotic adventure rather than some hot naked man. Because I have this fear, realistic or not, that after this I am locked into a completely prosaic, baby-diaper and what-should-we-have-for-dinner, sweetie? existence. Our big trips? Will be to Costco.

And it's not that Nick doesn't want to check out Cambodia. He'd like to go somewhere I've never been - which eliminates a lot of places. But it's really far. And we only have two weeks. And he doesn't have a the huge need I do for the exotic. We might want to make a more reasonable choice.

So there's the idea of compromise. We should find middle ground.

My geography sucks, but middle ground between Cambodia and the eastern shore of Maryland? Would be somewhere in Africa, like Chad or the Sudan.

Which is of course exactly where neither of us want to wind up on vacation. I am being literal, but you know what I mean.

Nick has suggested that we each make a top three list and see where that gets us. And if there's no overlap?

Then we just hope Chad is nice in October?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Conundrum

Last night my parents gave me an offer that threw me for a loop.

They had offered to pay for the catering at our wedding. Because of venue-imposed restrictions, we are limited on the caterers we are allowed to use. And they are all pretty fancy. And so the catering quotes we've gotten so far? Are a lot lot and did I say lot? of money.

So, my parents said, they could pay whatever the catering ultimately winds up being. Or we could have a simpler reception and they'd just give us the rest of what they would have spent. It could be money that we could use towards the down payment on a house.

Spend it on food? Put it towards a house?

It seems like the answer should be so clear cut. Both my parents said they'd take the cash if they were in my shoes. But. Well, just but.

On the one hand, I want to be a bridey-bride. And I want to treat our family and friends to something lovely and have a nice event. This is the only time I'm going to do this, and I really want to enjoy it, and for my friends and family to have a nice time as well.

By the same token, I don't want to be wasteful. And spending all that money for one single day seems fairly profligate.

I was really fretting last night thinking about this. As Nick pointed out, as dilemmas go, this is an extremely luxurious one to be in. But still.

In a huge swirl of a quandary.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Tai Chi car inspection and DC services: would that they were all online

I have to get my car inspected by Saturday.

Every night starting last week I've thought, "I'll get up at the crack of dawn tomorrow and get it done." And now I really really have to, either tomorrow or Friday - not Saturday. Because Saturday is a Big Day. The day The Parents - Nick's and mine - meet.

So Thursday or Friday. I can't decide which is likely to be better.

It's something I've been postponing because it's so incredibly painful. You get there at 5:30 am and there's already a long line to wait through before it opens at 6 am. People line up way before it opens probably because they only want to be three hours late for work instead of five.

Because they move so slowly - honest to god like Tai Chi car inspectors - it takes forever.

I remember this from two years ago. I remember thinking, honestly, people, doesn't it hurt to move that slowly? And you could get more done if you were using both your hands. Instead of only one because the other is glued to your phone. Which is stuck to your ear.

I am a person who talks and moves quickly, who gets frustrated when walking behind people who amble. I might not be the most dexterous person on the planet, but whatever I'm up to, even if it's tripping, I'm moving fast.

But in circumstances like these, you are forced to just wait. And wait. I remember sitting there with my book, looking up occasionally, all "Breathe, Lisa, breathe." And then I'd look up again, see that nothing had changed in the last 15 minutes, and mutter, "Ow! Ow! Ow!"

The shocking thing I've discovered about DC, a city with appalling government services and DMV offices that are so aggravating that you'd rather chew off your own toenails than have to go to them, is this. Online services are amazing.

Seriously. If you can do anything ahead of time and online, do it.

I needed a replacement driver's license, and I filed for one online. And got it within a week. My online registration renewal? Took maybe three days.

If only I could upload digital pictures of my car and send them some of my emissions virtually. And then print out that little orange sticker. That would rock.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Just when you think you can predict

"Do you know how much I love you?"

I love this question. And as you know, I say no every time.

I widen my eyes and shake my head. "No."

"You don't?"

"Noooo." I look as sincere as I can.

There is a pause. I look up at him expectantly, waiting for the rain of sweetness and compliments.

"You really are a slow learner, aren't you?"

Monday, April 14, 2008

The dress

A number of people have asked about the dress.

In fact, a couple weeks ago I was talking to my therapist. And on a side bar - I think pretty much everyone could benefit from therapy. Because all you're doing is talking to talk to someone with no stake in the outcome of a described situation except for you to approach life in a healthier way.

If you've ever had parents, or not had parents - you probably need some therapy. Honestly.

It's a safe place to work things through and let go of them. It's expensive, but not compared to the cost of spending the rest of your life dragging around 85 pounds of baggage. But that's my bias.

Anyway, I was talking to her, and time was up and I was getting up to leave. And she said, "Wait! We haven't talked about one of the most important things!"

And so I ran down my mental list of things I come in to talk about - Family? Check. Work? Check. What I should be doing with my life? Check. . .

"What did we miss?"

"The dress!!!"

I had to laugh. We have a very professional relationship. I mean, one-sidedly personal, because you go in to this otherwise complete stranger and tell them the most intimate details of your life. But in a professional setting, rather than over too many drinks in a bar.

So the dress. These are pictures from my parents' wedding. Don't they look so young and cute? My dad was in the Air Force and they got married on the base.

My mom and her mom, my Gramma Lillian, favorite person on the planet and who I'll name a girl after if I ever have one. . .they made this dress for my mom's wedding. And ever since I was a kid, I've been planning to wear it.

It's made of ivory silk, with very subtle lace and tiny pearls. They both sewed beautifully, and my grandmother put on all the lace and pearls. We even found the blue garter my mom wore when looking for wedding pictures this past weekend.

We have to get it altered, because for one thing, Betty is taller than me. And she wore a hoop under it, which I'm not going to do. Plus, she, like much of the planet, is just bigger on top than me. And in the 60s they wore those enormous, stiff, pointy bras. Can you imagine?

I doubt I'll wear the mantilla or the arm-gloves, as they don't seem very me. But I'm growing out my hair so I have options. And maybe the mantilla will look different then.

You'd never think I'd wear a big crinoline-puffed dress, would you?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The honeymoon. Or, where the eff are the Orkneys?

We've started talking about The Honeymoon.

As soon as we got engaged people started asking us where we were going to go. And we had no idea. We were both still stumbling around in the delighted bewilderment of being engaged. But now we've realized that actually, it's not that far off. We need to make a plan.

But first we need to agree.

For any of you familiar with our divergent taste in furniture or just about anything, you probably have some sense of where this is going.

"I'm dying to see Angkor Wat!"

Nick (having only vaguely heard of the place), responds, "Sure, honey. That could be interesting." He says this not very convincingly.

He then exclaims in delight, "Or! How about the Orkneys?"

"Where the fuck are the Orkneys?"

In case you, like me, had no idea, it turns out the Orkney Islands, which incidentally look beautiful, are part of Scotland. You go to the northern northest, and did I mention north part of Scotland. And then go north. These islands sit where the Atlantic meets the North Sea.

Brr.

And being rather profane, with a profound loathing of the cold, I continued on this eff-bomb extravaganza.

"Look how far north they are! The North Sea! Why the fuck would we go to the Orkneys?"

"It's beautiful. And desolate. We could go backpacking. The scenery is spectacular!"

"It would be really, really cold. I don't want to be cold on my honeymoon." (Nor, I might add, do I want to backpack.)

"It might be a little cold. But so beautiful!"

"The last time I went backpacking was in Nepal. It was the most gorgeous experience."

"See?"

"Part of the trek was also so cold that I didn't take off my clothes for a week. At night I would unhook my bra and take off my hiking boots. And that was all I took off."

"Huh."

"And the only time I unzipped my pants? Was when I used the latrine."

Brief pause.

"So. . .where's Angkor Wat?"

Friday, April 11, 2008

OMG OMG OMG!

You guys, I got a present!

My friend Slightly Disorganized sent me a present! My first wedding present!

It was so utterly unexpected and such a thoughtful, surprising, lovely piece of sweetness. And all I can say is thank you thank you thank you, SD! So kindlovelyfabulous! Thank you!

It arrived at the office. I opened the box. And there was a gift covered in lovely, pineapple-print paper, and a green ribbon, and a pineapple decoration on top.

Growing up in places like Bangladesh, we re-used gift wrap. And so, to this day, I infuriate people with my gift opening. I carefully peel off the tape, trying not to tear the paper. I do this with the tape on enough sides to be able to slide the contents of the package out.

Sometimes I even take off all the tape. That carefully. Even though I know that I am not re-using the paper, I cannot break myself of this habit. I then very deliberately uncrease the paper and take out the present.

Some of this is residual childhood behavior. And some is like saving dessert for last. Prolonging the pleasure.

I have had people snatch presents out of my hand and tear the paper for me. Because they just cannot bear the process.

And so I got this beautifully wrapped package. And was unwrapping the ribbon when I thought, "Crap! Do I need to wait for Nick to open this?"

So I took it next door into Jenny's cube and asked her.

"Don't be ridiculous! Presents are for the bride. Open it open it open it!"

I emailed Nick. But he's in all-day meetings. No word back.

I agonized. I really did. And then decided on a compromise. Having years of absurdly careful present-opening practice, I'd do the following: I'd open it, revel in it, and then re-wrap it. So that Nick could share the pleasure of our first gift.

And then I discovered that those gift-wrappers, they mean business. I've never faced such a firmly wrapped, strategically taped present. The damn paper was taped on both sides. I was really working at it, when I got an email back from Nick.

Saying "Of course you can open it! She's your friend!"

And it's a cheese spike! Yum! Cheese! More cheese! Because you can't really have too much cheese.

Or can you?

Never!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Because of course I'm always on the not-stupid bus

Typically, when Nick goes out of town, I stay at home. Home meaning my place in DC.

I temporarily revel in my old life. I grab a beer with friends in the neighborhood, I walk home, I roll out of bed late late and still get to work on time. Walking. It feels good to be back in my old routine.

I had a horrible driving commute up the 5 in San Diego. I've commuted in from Virginia by Metro. It's just that finally I set up a city life for myself, one I really like, with lots of walking, friends nearby, and no driving. And then went and fell for someone who lives in Virginia.

Although I suppose he could live in Alabama. That would definitely be worse.

But then I stop and think, honestly, would I fall for someone who lives in Alabama, deeper South than I will ever be willing to live? And then I have to think, well, yes, if he's The One of my fewer-than-26 ever possible in my entire life, I do realize geography is not necessarily kind.

Anyway, I digress. Maybe more than usual. I superdigress. Or megadigress. Maybe I megress.

Whatever.

So living across the river is not my dream, although Nick loves it. He loves crossing the water at night, putting physical distance between work and home. Me, I love my city life, love walking to everything, love never having to drive. We will head back in this direction. But for a while, Virginia is where we are.

And of course I want to spend as much time together, so if he's home one night but leaving early in the morning, I'll stay over. I've learned I can take a very convenient bus to work. I've done it twice so far.

Being me, I'm all, "I took the bus. From Virginia."

I say this in the way someone might say, "I got a rash. From a one-night stand."

Which makes no sense, because I have been on some of the most horrendous buses you can imagine. And I don't mean DC buses, although I have been on plenty, and they can be atrocious. My lovely friend Jen was once thoroughly and deliberately urinated on by a homeless man on the 36 bus going up Wisconsin.

I've been on a multitude of buses with large bags of grain that you had to climb over because they filled the aisle, not to mention chickens and other small farm animals. Honestly. Buses with the squealiest brakes you can imagine, and the only good thing is that you know that they still have brakes.

I've been on bus trips where I was sure I was going to die.

Maude and I once rode on the roof of a bus in Ecuador. Because they drive like maniacs, and the mountain rodes are scary, and you can look down, past the eroding side of the road, past the plethora of crosses erected to commemorate deaths in that particular spot, down to your vast potential death, should the driver not successfully pass that guy he's really trying to pass uphill on a blind curve. While chatting with his girlfriend. Who is practically sitting on his lap.

So we rode on the roof on the side closest to the mountain, figuring, worst case scenario, we'd try to jump to safety if the bus went over. We had to sit between grain sacks and hold on to the rails, and we got rained on, but the false sense of control over our destiny was worth it.

So anyway, the bus from Virginia. Is nice. And clean. And punctual. It turns out to be more efficient and more pleasant than taking Metro. And much nicer than DC buses.

Nick gave me his Smart Trip card last time, but this time forgot to leave it for me. So I said I'd just pay cash, and did he know how much the bus cost?

"I think two-fifty."

"Two-fifty for the stupid bus!?" (as in, the stupid bus, because I have to commute from Virginia)

"Yes. You'd think it was a bargain if it drove you to Mensa headquarters though, right?"

At this I have to laugh at myself. Who do I think I am? Seriously.

And so I ask, "What are you wearing?"

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

In which I learn I am less flexible and more transparent that I envision myself to be

Recent events, like falling in love and getting engaged, have persuaded me to drop Jaded as a middle name. And have made me back away from my "get married in your 20s" directive.

And I am glad I waited this long and found this particular person. That said, I know for a fact that in my 20s it would have been much easier to walk into someone else's life and live there without a struggle.

Because, here you have two adults who have been living full, productive lives. Who, moreover, have been living alone, and have fully stocked their respective places. And have strong senses of who they are. And definite taste.

Who both have what most would probably agree is good taste. This taste, however, doesn't really converge at very many points. As in almost none.

I mean, we both like furniture. And appliances. We both like art.

Saying we have these things in common is like being all, "You like to eat when you're hungry, too?"

I like Nick's stuff. I just would never choose it. And he feels the same way about mine.

My furniture is a mix - old Thai teak furniture, which my mom had made by temple table carvers in Bangkok in the 60s - sat next to a contemporary, clean-lined glass coffee table. My bedroom has unexceptional but simple Scandinavian-designed furniture. The walls, the sheets, and the comforter are periwinkle. It's the softest, happiest color to wake up to.

I have a lot of ethnic art - mirrored tribal textiles from Rajasthan on the walls, statues of Hindu gods and goddesses, indigenous art from Ecuador. . .I lined my fireplace in orange poster paper - the same orange of my kitchen walls. And that's where my black stone Nandi, a statue I was given as a child, lives.

Nothing is designed to go together, but it's all my personality. None of it was planned; most of it was inherited, in one way or another.

Nick, on the other hand, has what one of our friends described as a "very grown up" place. Everything is big, solid, and well constructed of dark wood. He has beautiful antique furniture, carefully collected. He's clearly given some thought to how things will go together.

On his walls he has a lot of vintage maps, and prints of animals - ducks, for example, or hunting scenes. He also has a penchant for prints of old buildings. They're all nicely done and beautifully framed.

Not my taste, but tasteful. And I should mention that I like to think of myself as a supportive character, happy for him to have his taste and me to have mine.

So a few months ago, Nick and I went to an alumni event for his school. It had a silent auction, and one of the things you could bid on was a lithograph of one of the campus buildings - a fine piece of neoclassical American architecture.

Nick looked at it, put down a bid, and asked what I though. I replied in a vague yet supportive way. I thought.

But the next day, we were talking to Maude and Dan about the event. He said he'd won this framed print that he was excited about.

And then he said, "Lisa doesn't like it."

"Sure I like it!"

"I know for a fact you don't."

One of them asked how he knew.

"Because when I asked her what she thought of it she said, very politely, 'It looks like the kind of thing you like.' And then she added, 'You might really enjoy it at your office!'"

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Clearly we come from very different directions

I don't know if this is a difference between men and women, or just a difference between Nick and me. Or maybe I'm just really frivolous.

Nick is going to a conference this week.

He hadn't mentioned anything about it before, but we were talking about our schedules for the week. He said he's out of town for a couple days, and then when he comes back, he's got this conference the next morning.

And actually, he says, he's a panelist for one presentation and a moderator for the next.

"Are you ready? Have you worked out your presentations?"

"Yup. Submitted all the materials yesterday."

He's organized like that. I really admire it. Me, I'd fret about them for ages, but not really work on them till midnight the night before.

So, knowing he was comfortable and prepared, my mind turned to the next important thing: his outfit.

He has suits I think are really attractive and suits I think are less so. And he's really not a clothing person. In my mind I'm hoping he's planning to wear the grey herringbone suit. He looks so handsome in it.

"What are you going to wear?"

"What?"

"What are you planning to wear?"

"I hadn't thought about it."

"Really?"

"Really. That's what you want to know about my presentations?"

"What else would I ask?"

"You might ask what they're about."

"Oh."

Monday, April 07, 2008

The best birth control

We had the kind of Saturday evening that causes my legs to cross, my uterus to clench, and my ovaries to go on strike.

Those of you who know me know that I do not categorically like children.

If I love you, odds are I will love your kid. And if I love your kid, I'll do pretty much anything, including dealing with his meltdown while you're at the gynecologist.

But I take it on a case-by-case, or rather, a kid-by-kid basis.

When a colleague brings a baby to the office, my tendency is never to rush forward exclaiming, "Ooh, what a cute baby!"

No. More likely I'm easing out the side door. Or deeply engrossed in a work project, too busy to look up while the stroller and gaggle of baby adorers pass by.

And just because I like you doesn't mean I'll think your kid is cute. This is why people like my friend Kay, who had a lovely girl last year, knows that I am sincere when I say that she is one beautiful kid.

On Saturday night one of Nick's sisters, her husband, and three children were in town.

They have a super cute, well-behaved 9 year old boy, an equally cute but is likely one of Satan's minions 4 year old girl, and a blob of a baby.

We took them to a child-friendly pizza place in Alexandria. The walls are bright pink, or maybe purple, I can't quite recall. There are games for kids to lose all of Uncle Nick's quarters in. There's a jukebox for them to put Uncle Nick's dollars changed into quarters - a 54 step process in itself - into and then complain that the quarters are gone.

There's a gumball machine, which produces large gumballs, to be slightly chewed and handed to Uncle Nick to hold. There's a clown who makes fabulous balloon things, like an astoundingly well done Little Mermaid! And a baseball bat! There are lots and lots of screaming, jumping children.

In other words, it's my definition of a Little Piece of Hell.

So we're eating our pizza and pasta - both mainly with our grubby little hands, regardless of type of food or availability of utensils - and the kids are clamoring for more quarters more quarters Uncle Nick more quarters pleeeaaase Uncle Nick, so that they can sprint off and lose them within 42 seconds of acquiring them.

Nick said that at several points during dinner he looked over and I was cutting my food (with utensils), staring straight forward, and he knew I was thinking something like, "Just breathe. 33 more minutes and this will all be over."

Everyone else was having soft drinks, so I was going to, but Nick ordered a large beer with dinner, and luckily I followed suit. Large meant goblet I had to pick up with both hands large. Which at first I thought was excessive, but if I had ever met these people before and felt comfortable, I'd have chugged it and asked for another halfway through dinner. Fuck, I'd have done a keg stand, had one been available.

At some point with all the commotion it gets hot in there, and so I take off my sweater.

Shortly thereafter, Nick's sister offers to show me the cute trick that her baby can do. And I'm thinking, "Boy, it's a good thing he can do tricks, because he sure lags behind his siblings in the looks department."

Because remember how I said I'm not one of these all-babies-are-cute people? He's at the far end of the not-cute spectrum.

So the trick is peek-a-boo.

And when she asks where he is, he'll hold something in front of his face, delighted that he's invisible. It turns out to actually be a very cute thing. Where is he? There he is!

I have a low tolerance for this sort of thing, but he is a smiley kid, and it's a relief that screaming niece is elsewhere. Although elsewhere turns out to be picking coins off the bathroom floor. Nick makes her put them back, although I'm not sure if he successfully gets her to scour her hands. Before the meltdown, I mean.

And then the sister asks for my sweater. Which she then hands to the baby so he can pull it up between then when it's his cue to hide.

And what I hope does not show on my face is: Ick ick baby ick! That baby is going to get gross baby drool on my sweater! And he's holding it with the hands he mashed into his sister's plate of spaghetti. Which was covered in butter. And 85 shakes of Parmesan cheese, because boy, is cheese fun to shake when you run out of quarters! It's almost as fun as running around screaming!

And so I am cringing quietly, thinking, "Lis, it's just a sweater, be more generous with the baby."

The peek-a-boo show is abruptly cut short by the arrival of Nick and niece.

Actually, we hear them way before we see them. He's striding towards, us, niece under one arm. Or, what you assume is the niece, because mostly what you see is Nick carrying something that has a blonde head and a whirlwind of swinging, kicking arms and legs. The whirlwind is producing astoundingly loud yelling and sobbing noises.

Because it is a horrible thing to be pried off the bathroom floor and forced back to the table.

For that kind of travesty, the grown-ups definitely need to be punished.

Dinner ends, everyone is herded out, and we go our separate ways. I've rarely been so happy to wave goodbye to anyone.

We go home and collapse on the couch, thoroughly agitated and exhausted.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Two sides of the same pleasure

My dad gave me an essay entitled The Reading Life by Garrison Keillor last December.

Being from the Midwest, my parents love him. They love Prairie Home Companion. It resonates with them - his words are real and true. They evoke memories of youth for both of them, and they listen to him and laugh.

He's a good storyteller. And I can appreciate his craft. But as a person, he never really grabbed me. I never found him all that hilarious. I got tired of his show on PBS.

All this to say, even though it was only a page long, I didn't jump to read the essay.

My dad kept asking me if I'd read it, and I'd say that I just hadn't gotten around to it. He sends me articles regularly. The importance of Vitamin D. Consumer awareness articles. Health and safety tips.

Whenever he gives me something that comes with an owner manual, he follows up to see if I've read it. Because he knows I probably never will.

In other words, I'd put it in my "will be edifying but not necessarily interesting" pile.

But I finally read it the other day. It's about how Keillor became a reader, a writer, a storyteller.

And damned if he didn't pull me in from the very beginning. And this, this part I love:

"All of storytelling is an opening of the heart, a search for intimacy with strangers. Intimacy is a necessity of life, and we would go insane without it. On planes and trains and long bus trips, in bars, coffee shops, it happens all the time: You sit next to someone you don't know, and a spark is struck and you wind up telling more about yourself than you ever told your parents or your sister.

A writer starts out trying to show off, but if you keep going, you learn a thing or two. One, that writing is less like Destiny and more like dentistry: You get up in the morning and go to work. And, second, the great pleasure of stories is to be of one mind with another human being, and to that end, it isn't so important whether I write the story or you write it and I read it, they are two sides of the same pleasure."

I love his wording, and it's so true.

Thanks, Dad.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Want a cookie rituals

Our dog Gloria was our last family dog. She was a mutt from the pound in Lima, Peru. She was the first smart dog we ever had. And she was totally bilingual.

So she could do things that our other dogs couldn't. Like sit and give you her paw. I realize these aren't stellar examples of her intelligence, but for us it was pretty cool.

And one of the best things was that she could do them in Spanish.

You'd say, "Want a cookie? Una galletita?"

She'd cock her head.

"Sientate, por favor."

She'd sit down. You'd squat down and put out your hand.

"Dame la mano."

And out would come her paw.

"Gracias!" And you'd give her the cookie. And pick her up and hug her and kiss her and tell her how much you loved her.

She was a dog, but she was family. For dog lovers, you know what I'm talking about. There are times that you like your dog more than you like some of your friends and family.

And so, not to compare myself to my dog, but, well, sort of. . .

I realized the other day that I love these kinds of little rituals. And they're really not so different from the "want a cookie?" back and forth.

Sometimes, when Nick tells me he loves me, I'll say, "You do?"

To which he'll nod. And then say, "Do you know how much I love you?"

I'll shake my head. "Noooo."

"You don't?!"

So then I look up at him, and as earnestly as possible I say, "No."

These things are always said with the same inflection, the same feigned lack of knowledge, the same feigned surprise.

So he will go on to list the newest reasons. Or the original reasons. Or any reasons. It feels like sunshine.

I love this back and forth. And he knows for a flat out fact that I will never, ever pass up the opportunity to hear how much I'm loved. Or why.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Good advice and getting unstuck

The skies are back to sparkly.

Thank all of you for the nice comments and kind messages.

I got such good advice from several people. It was the kind of advice where you stop and think, wow, this makes so much sense. Why didn't I think of this?

Essentially, it was this. It's OK to be sad sometimes. It's OK to be down sometimes. It happens to everyone. Accept your feelings. They will pass.

It's so reasonable, isn't it?

I get all worked up when I'm in a bad place. I think the issue is that I get scared that the bad place will move in and take over. It's terrifying. Even if rationally, I know I'm not alone, somehow, I'm all alone. I'm sitting next to Nick, but I'm alone. I'll get stuck somewhere bad. All alone.

And then I have people say, hey, Lis, it's OK. And if you get stuck, we'll help you out.

It makes it all easier.

Thank you.