Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy freaking New Year.

This is one of the few holidays that truly brings out the worst in me. In fact, the only holiday that makes me more bitter is Mother's Day.

It just seems that every year, there is such a build up to this one day. All the important things have to be finished by New Year's, and so much emphasis is put on new beginnings and New Year's resolutions. Not to mention that whole "kiss at midnight" thing. Talk about pressure.

Three years ago, I was sitting in the Atlanta airport, where I had voluntarily given up my seat on an overbooked flight. It was the split second choice that changed my life, because it was the night I met my husband. So you'd think this would be a happy anniversary for me, but it's not. Today I can feel every last one of the 6,000 miles between us, and it breaks my heart.

It is a shame that my year has to end like this, spent eating leftovers and drinking my weight in champagne. Because I've had a darn good year. Sure, I still haven't finished college, and, despite my friends quite often being on their second or third child, I have lost half my hair to the fertility battle and am still childless. But I've been to several new countries, lost 20 pounds, started piano lessons, and learned the wonders of a Brazilian bikini wax. Not a bad haul for new experiences.

On top of it all, I had a fantastic Christmas. I got to visit Jere's family and really enjoyed it, then picked up my mom and sister and had a week with them all to myself. Of course, I wish Jere had been here to share it, but that's the way this life goes.

So, in glorious New Year's tradition, here is my list of resolutions.

I will.....

-lose 30 pounds. And just so I don't waste food, I now have three hours to eat the contents of my junk food drawer.

-finish learning the 6 Clementi sonatinas. And if the 31st comes next year and I still haven't done it, I will burn the book.

-make new friends, and let go of some of the old ones who piss me off.

-eat one baby carrot a day.

-start doing manly pushups instead of the girly ones.

-stop using the word "fuck" outside of the privacy of my own home.

-remember to send out everyone's birthday card.

-have more sex, because I sure have missed it this past year. I can hear my husband rejoicing.

-drink at least two full glasses of water a day.

-take myself on a date once a week. I need to stop neglecting me.

-remember to take my meds everyday.

-make my bed each morning.

-load the dishwasher each night.

-get pregnant. If I don't give myself the option of failure, it has to happen, right?

What about all of you? What are your resolutions? And what are your plans to help you stick with them? Anyone have some advice on how I can actually accomplish some of these?

Today's lesson: We only have so many years in our life. Unfortunately, it takes our birthday or a New Year to make us realize it and pledge to live better. Waste not, want not.

A toast to you all! Eg├ęszs├ęgedre! Prost! Na zdrowie! And Happy New Year.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Kristin's Favorite Things

Hello my loyal readers. While I was holed up in what is quite possibly the world's ugliest city (Warsaw, Poland), I had a quite interesting idea pop into my head. Unfortunately, I was 4500 miles away from my computer, so this is coming quite late for Christmas, but I'm going for it anyhow. Here is my random inspiration, transcribed from those lovely little note papers they give you in your hotel room.

Every year, the almighty Oprah does her favorite things special. In the past, she's given away DVDs, Philosophy products, expensive handbags, electronics, diamond watches, and the obligatory holiday junk food (twice the woman has given key lime pie), all to surprised and weeping audience members. It is always her most watched show of the year, and, minus whatever she decided to do in 2006, it's a lavish event that even I don't mind watching. A woman not only putting her popularity to use by giving out gifts most people could never afford, but singlehandedly turning little companies into big ones by the sheer force of putting her stamp of approval on them. It's Oprah throwing around her money and power, the one day of the year she unabashedly flaunts who she is and doesn't apologize.

So this year, I was disappointed to hear that Oprah did her holiday special without giving anything away to her audience. There were no gifts of expensive lotions and cashmere scarves, no J-Lo perfume or horrendously costly but delicious supplies of key lime pie. No. Oprah "could not in good conscience give away lavish gifts in such a time of economic struggle" (quoting Wikipedia, not Oprah). One of the richest women in the US decided to give the commoners a list of low-cost or free gift ideas. Included in her list of favorite things this year were:
  • Gratitude boxes, filled with notes of gratitude from various people
  • "Oprah's Holiday Hits" compilation album (given away for free on the show Web site)
  • Treasure boxes filled with mementos
  • Hot chocolate cones
  • Regifts (a.k.a. "swap parties"), exchanging unwanted used items of your own for others' used items you would be more likely to use
  • Gift baskets that include fruits and vegetables from your own garden
  • Time with a loved one

First off, you cannot put "time with a loved one" under the tree. Try explaining that one to your kids when they hear their school friends talking about all the wonderful things they got for Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa (I'm going with the broad term "holiday" from here on out). No, we don't need to give our kids or families lavish gifts to prove we love them. But this is the holiday season. Buying stuff for other people we wouldn't consider buying ourselves is tradition, and evil or overly commercial as it sometimes may be, most of us still do it. I do not advocate putting yourself in debt over it, but there are better ways to go about gift giving than some of the things the oh so wonderful Oprah suggested this year.

Second point: How is it that a woman who owns seven homes, has called Hermes "racist" for not admitting her after store hours to let her shop, has built a school for poor African girls that contained a beauty salon and yoga studio can in her right mind try to tell us how we should handle our finances in any way? I know she grew up poor. She won't let us forget it. But Oprah has been a millionaire since the age of 32 (she is now 54). I wouldn't go so far as to say she is "in touch" with the struggles of the middle class. And trust me, it's pretty depressing to hear about the financial crisis day in and day out. Now we've got to hear how Oprah would handle it if she were us? Come on, woman! Haven't you heard about people using television as a form of escapism??

Third, and last, point: I live in the South, and Miss Winfrey was born in Mississippi. Maybe regifting is a good idea when you get 20 of the same Burberry scarf from one of your Hollywood friends, but that doesn't fly here. Giving a gift is an art, an act that shows you cared enough about someone to put some thought into what they might enjoy. Good manners dictate you don't regift. And if you do, it's to some far away relative who will never, ever know. Public regifting. For shame.

This brings me to my list. It is a mix of the hideously expensive and the unbelievably cheap; a potpourri of the crazy ideas that have popped into my head. And while I cannot give you all the gifts I am suggesting (I am not a multi-millionaire), I will at least have the respect to give you tangible presents to wrap and put under the tree. So here goes!

-The Body Shop Vitamin E Lip Care Stick: I have not come across a better chapstick in my life. It tastes good, and it really works. I bought mine in an airport when they were having a buy two, get one free sale, and have one stashed in each of my purses. Feeling generous? They have a complete Vitamin E line.

-Gifts from Blarney Woolen Mills: I visited this store in Ireland earlier this year, and didn't actually buy anything woolen. But I signed up for their email list at the checkout, and found that not only do that have great products, they quite often have clearance sales and free shipping specials. Warning for the holidays: you need to order well in advance if you want something to arrive in time. They sometimes ship free, but they ship parcel post from County Cork. Shop about six weeks early. That's how long it took when I ordered.

-Give a vacation: Alright, in no way am I going to suggest you spring for a hotel and airfare for your loved ones to some exotic location. But is there someone in your family who has a dream destination that they'd love to see in their lifetime? Foster that dream! Here is a mini-list of ideas to help your loved one keep dreaming!
1. Lonely Planet Phrasebooks: I have three of these, and can't live without them. They contain basic (and sometimes off the wall) words and phrases, menu guides, and handy tips on navigating a country and its language.
2. Rick Steves Guidebooks and DVDs: Ok, so the man's a bit stuck in the 80's and does PBS specials. But he knows his stuff, and if you're strapped for cash, you can always buy the previous year's edition used on Amazon. The information changes very little, but he only covers European destinations.
3. Books that aren't guidebooks: There are travel books out there that aren't necessarily a list of what to see and do. Fabulous writers like Frances Mayes, Peter Mayle, and Bill Bryson cover their own experiences, and inspire the imagination (happy to give recommendations on this one).
4. Luggage: JCPenney has great sales every Christmas on luggage sets, as does Walmart. Remember to buy something durable and in a dark color, but don't spend a ton of money. The airlines will beat the heck out of them.

-Polish Chocolate: I don't care what anyone says about German chocolate. The best I've ever had was at E. Wedel in Warsaw.

-Paired wine and cheese: Giving a bottle of wine is common around the holidays, but have you ever thought about what goes well with it? Nurse someone's inner wine snob and give the perfect cheese to go with their bottle.

-Nikon Coolpix Digital Camera: Coming from someone with a camera that cost more than her computer, it was a stretch for me to buy something I could fit in my pocket. My husband actually recommended this one to me, and Walmart has it on sale for $90. It's small, pretty good on battery power, and uncomplicated. A good gift for someone as a first digital camera or even someone who has a tendency to beat the hell out of them. And it took nice pictures in cloudy Prague.

-Anthony Bourdain's books: He's such a snarky bastard. I tucked into The Nasty Bits in a cafe, and ended up sitting happily for hours.

-Tea: It's a spin on the classic mug and hot chocolate. Pick up a pretty box of tea, put it in a basket with a fancy tea cup and some little cookies, and it's a cute little gift set.

-Timex Digital Grip Clip: Jere bought me this when I couldn't decide on what style of watch I wanted. I clip it on my belt loop or my purse. It's a Godsend.

-Movie night in a box: My aunt did this for me one year, and I haven't forgotten it! She sent me and my first husband a box with a Blockbuster gift card, microwave popcorn, and movie sized candy. I believe there might have been a Pizza Hut gift card in there, too. And you know what? We really made the effort to use it as our date night, so it there you go. That's how you can put "time with loved ones" under the tree. There are so many different ways you could do this gift, whether it's with a DVD or rental gift cards or even a prepaid subscription to Netflix.

-Champagne and flutes: I'm a sucker for stemware, and am constantly surprised at the beautiful and affordable things I find. You can get a couple of cheap Target champagne flutes and a $10 bottle of bubbly and make a gorgeous gift. Or if you really want to knock someone's socks off, give them these, and opt for them to be gift wrapped. The blue box is always striking.

Thus ends this year's list of Kristin's Favorite Things. I promise next year to stay home long enough to get this out earlier so it might actually be useful. Happy Holidays, everyone!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Not yet, but I promise it's coming

I got back from Europe late Thursday, and I have a ton of photos and stories. But I don't have the energy to go through it all right now. After I got off the plane, my body decided to give out. I picked up some bug in Prague or on the plane, so now I'm achy and my throat is so sore. So give me some time, and I'll get it all organized, I promise.

In the meantime, today was busy, because sometimes you don't have the option of staying home sick. I had a hair appointment at 9 this morning, and left early to get a latte at Starbucks. I should have skipped it. There was a new girl working there, and it took 25 minutes to get my damn coffee. Now, I'm a nice person. Ok. Fine. Maybe I'm not, but I'm still a lady, so I stood there patiently. I'm going to admit it wasn't entirely the girl's fault. I got stuck in line behind this woman who couldn't make up her mind and took forever to order, so I was getting short on time anyhow.

I've worked in food service. And since I've been there and done the job, I feel qualified to get upset when someone isn't doing their job. And today, this girl's boss threw her into the fire at my expense. After about 15 minutes of standing at the pick-up counter, I grabbed my appointment card out of my wallet and dialed the salon, and told them I would be late. Loudly. It wasn't a problem on their end, and I did end up running only a couple of minutes behind, but part of me did it so the employees would realize that when they run behind, it doesn't effect just them.

Does it ever occur to people in the food service industry to actually serve their customers? I know the customer isn't always right, but shouldn't they at least be considered important until they've proven themself idiotic? Maybe Starbucks should have two lines, like they're putting in at airport security. If you go through the TSA checkpoint at certain airports, they have different lanes for families, casual travelers, and professional travelers. Maybe at Starbucks they should have different lines as well. One for people who don't actually drink coffee and need to think about every aspect of their order, one for people who casually visit Starbucks and know what they basically want, and one for professional coffee drinkers. I can picture that line full of rushed businessmen and overbooked ladies who lunch, screaming out their insane but practiced coffee orders: tall decaf americano 3/4 full, grande half-caf non-fat cap extra hot extra foam, venti whole milk no whip sugar free triple shot caramel macchiato. Yeah, that last crazy one is mine. We are the people who know who we are and what we want. To quote Tom Hanks from You've Got Mail: "The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee. Short, tall, light, dark, caf, decaf, low-fat, non-fat, etc. So people who don't know what the hell they're doing or who on earth they are can, for only $2.95, get not just a cup of coffee but an absolutely defining sense of self: Tall. Decaf. Cappuccino."

And my last word on this subject. Yes, there are some irate customers. I am quite often one of them (though I tend to silently seethe instead of making a scene). But when a person counts on someone to deliver a service in a timely manner, and instead ends up waiting, it's hard to stay patient. Because who looks bad in the end? It's the customer, who is now late to wherever they were going. And if you're anything like me, tardiness is the unwritten 8th deadly sin.

The rest of my day was unbelievely pleasant, despite the fact that swallowing takes some effort with this sore throat. Everyone was in a jolly mood at my salon, and my stylist covered up my bald spots by cutting in some layers. I don't know if I've mentioned it, but my fertility meds have caused me to lose hair by the handfuls, and there's not much I can do about it. I guess you can't have it all, huh? Then I headed to the grocery store to start preparing for post-Christmas dinner. It was nice and there wasn't a crowd. And it's been a low-key afternoon. I needed that.

Tomorrow is Sunday, my favorite day. I'm ready for my sick day now.

Today's lesson: No matter how mad I get at Starbucks, I'll go back. They sell me those lovely "legal addictive stimulants" that my day just can't begin without. So it doesn't make a damn bit of difference if I bitch. They will always win in the end.

Preview of tomorrow's blog: Kristin's favorite things ala Oprah style

Saturday, November 22, 2008

R&R, shopping, and my favorite skinny jeans

Well, I'm not going into the R&R stuff. Because now it's over and that makes me sad. We had such a wonderful time on our cruise that we're already planning the next one. He got to visit with his family, and we all had a great time together, the guys in the dining room talking about whatever guys do and the ladies in my mother-in-law's bedroom watching Dancing With the Stars. I dropped Jere at the airport at 6AM on Wednesday and still managed to hit traffic coming back from Charlottesville. But I was a good Army wife, hugged him goodbye, and sent him on his way. None of that emotional junk we both hate. Unfortunately, I'm left with a mess of an apartment and piles of his laundry to wash and put away.

The goodbye stuff isn't hard. It really isn't. It's what happens after the goodbye that's so terrible to deal with. I feel like the quiet in this place is going to eat me alive. I had to drag myself to the shower Thursday evening after I discovered, as I so aptly texted Rachel, that I smelled of depression and cheese. Salty queso fresco, to be exact. Then again, showering only got me as far as a clean pair of jammies and wet hair I was too frustrated to comb.

I knew when I woke up yesterday that if I didn't get moving, I'd be in danger of staying in until Monday. So I did the one thing I could do to make sure I would leave the apartment: I bought online movie tickets for the theatre in Harrisonburg. And I really did get up and get a lot done. I bought the little digital camera I wanted for Europe, a couple heavy knit wool sweaters, a cashmere sweater in baby blue (oh so soft, mmmmmmm), and Abba's greatest hits. I bought five pair of jeans and two pair of cords. It was a good day for jeans and my butt, as I completely scored and walked out with everything I'm going to need until I lose twenty more pounds. And I really didn't want to try and force my one pair of jeans to work for three weeks in Europe, as they're already too big and will only get bigger when I start to lose guided tour weight. I mailed six, yes six, packages for Christmas. I mailed out my bills. I bought Christmas stamps. And I wandered aimlessly around the mall for a bit before I went to see Twilight.

Quick movie review: I loved it. Love love love. I know people who have read the books were a little disappointed, but after Joana said I had to read the books, I decided to hold off until I saw the movie. Because that always happens to me, liking the book better than the movie, except with The Stepford Wives. I hated that book. Anyhow, I saw Twilight yesterday surrounded by a bunch of giggling teenagers who had quite obviously read the book but were still tittering to each other, so I guess that's a good sign. And now I'm going to have to get the books for my Europe trip because Joana told me months ago I had to get them, and I've waited long enough.

On a disturbing note, I think I'm starting to look like my mother. I love my mom (seriously, mom, if you're reading this, I love you, but I never thought I'd start to resemble you), and she's absolutely adorable, but the things I'm noticing are freaking me out. We type the same way and have the same wrists. We hold our popcorn at the movies the same way when we walk.....ok, yes, that's a strange one to notice, but I was in a sweater and jeans and looked down at me and the popcorn and all I could think was that I looked a lot like my mom minus the shoes. She wouldn't wear my shoes. And I really have picked up one of her habits. She used to go to the movies every Tuesday by herself right before my sister and I got out of school. It wasn't crowded, it was cheap, and it was one of her favorite things to do. And now? I do it. Because it isn't crowded, it's cheap, and it's seriously just me time. It's not that noticing the similarities between me and my mother is so terrible. It's that it makes me feel old. And I don't want to be OLD!

Getting over myself now, and moving on to the funny email I got from Jere this morning. We had some pretty interesting conversations while he was home about our marriage and whatnot, so he sent me an online article about the "Good Enough Marriage", which talked about women waiting around for Mr. Perfect instead of Mr. Good Enough. And when I emailed him to respond, I told him that he was my perfect husband, because I tried two on before him and they didn't fit. And that he was like my favorite jeans. And my smartass husband asks, "Yes, but are they your fat jeans or your skinny jeans?"

And the answer for today at least is the skinny jeans.

Today's lesson: Never underestimate the power of "good enough". Because when you're looking for something that just fits the bill, whether it's a pair of jeans or your spouse, you can stumble onto your perfect fit.

Monday, November 3, 2008

A road trip and three calls to room service later....

My husband is here! I try not to talk too much about the Army, his deployment, and how much I miss him. I figure there are enough weepy wives with sadder stories than mine. We have it relatively easy. We can communicate all the time, send packages out each week, and breezed through these first few months. But I had no idea how much I have really missed him until I was in his arms today.
First off, the entire R&R schedule is screwed up. He is supposed to be home for two weeks. That's the only thing that remains the same. His flights changed. His layovers changed. And everything was so delayed I ended up driving to Atlanta yesterday and getting a room at the Westin so I could pick him up today. We need to be in Florida by tomorrow, and it was pointless for him to sit and wait for his flight to Charlottesville when I could grab him here and save him 8 hours of drive time.

Of course, I had no idea what flight he was on or when he was coming in. But I did some good Army wife digging and found a flight coming in from Germany this morning and figured it was the correct one. I was right. Sort of.

I got to the airport about half an hour after the flight was to have landed, allowing time for him to get off the plane and go through customs. But there was a group of other wives there waiting for the same flight, and it had never come in. It had disappeared from the flight board, and the USO had no information for us (very sweet USO people were just as impatient as we were). So a few hours later, I got the call that they were in. Customs took over an hour, and by the time he called back to say he'd cleared customs, I was ready to climb the walls.

The funniest part of my day was the nice USO guy who, everytime he saw a young PFC or SPC would ask, "Is that one yours?" And when Jere finally came up the escalator, the man said, "Welcome to Atlanta, Colonel," I yelled, "THAT ONE'S MINE!" The USO guy kind of blinked at me. I love getting that reaction.

I wish I could say we've been spending today having quality time with one another, but I'd be lying if I did. We've sat at our respective computers, ordered room service, napped, and watched a little football. I'm not feeling particularly well and he's completely worn out. Tomorrow we're headed to see my family down there and stop for the night on our way to the cruise port. Soon enough we'll be cruising! I think I picked a nice, low key cruise. He looks like he needs the rest.

Thank you to everyone who has kept me distracted the past few days. And thank you to everyone who is making this R&R stress free. Jere really wanted to take a cruise during his time home so he could unwind, and it wouldn't have been possible without my friends supporting me, helping me plan and pick out dresses, making lists so I could pack Jere's clothes without forgetting important things, and caring for Miss Ginger while we're gone. You all are my saving graces, and you know who you are.

Today's lesson: Patience is really overrated. When you've finally had enough waiting, it's quite often better to get in the car and be impatient in a new location. Preferably one with room service.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I love this city. I could relocate here and be happy, despite the fact that I'm not a Mormon. Everyone is friendly and polite and gives money to their homeless people. And their public transportation is free within in the confines of downtown, which is fantastic for me.

I got to the airport in Charlottesville yesterday, and for once, everything went fine. Minus the weird guy I sat next to on the flight from C-ville to Atlanta. But I got seated next to a mom and her adorable baby girl on the 3 1/2 hour flight to Utah. The mom was my age and Mormon, and therefore had 100 different suggestions on places to go and things to see that tourists might miss. She even recommended I make the drive down to Provo and come out to photograph the gardens by her. She said if I missed all the autumn stuff I used to do in Michigan, I should come out and do the corn maze in Lehi.

Usually I hate being seated next to moms and their little kids when they're traveling in lap. It's always squished and no baby can be happy for that long on a plane. Hell, I tend to get cranky myself. But we were in the very back, and this woman was supermom. She brought her daughter on the plane in a baby sling (like me, she thinks strollers the size of Jeeps are just a pain), and brought this neat cover so she could breastfeed and no one would know. Well, I knew, but the woman was next to me and did all her maneuvering undercover. Never saw a thing. We were also lucky enough to have the center seat between us empty, and her adorable little girl fell asleep for a big chunk of the journey. Of course there was fussing. But not a whole lot of it. I had a blast playing peek-a-boo, and everytime I giggled, she'd giggle. It was a riot!

I picked up my rental car, and, lucky me, they were out of compacts. I am rollin' in some sort of SUV with enormous blind spots. And since I picked it up at night, when I got to the hotel and couldn't locate the trunk button in the dark. So I had to drag my suitcase out through the backseat. Checking in was fine, my room is huge for a standard. Room service rocked because they brought me two cans of soda instead of just one. And yes, it is soda in Utah.

I woke up this morning way too early. My hotel has a Starbucks, so I got a latte and tried to plan out my day. But I couldn't figure out where I was on all my maps, so I got dressed, grabbed my coffee, and went to guest services. Five minutes and a marked up street map later, I walked downtown. It took me almost a half hour, but I meandered and enjoyed my coffee. It was so breathtaking to cross the street and see the Mormon Temple come into view. If you look at the rest of Salt Lake City, you wouldn't guess it's there.

After wandering around the square a little, I took the advice of the nice woman on the plane and headed to the conference center. When she said they gave guided tours, I thought I'd be with a group of people at a set time. But when I walked in, I was greeted by this nice older woman who asked how much time I had, and since I was in no hurry, she took me on the long tour. Just me.

The conference center was finished in 2000, and can seat 21,000 people on three different levels. There is a massive organ with almost 8,000 pipes. They were building stage risers during my tour, and everytime a hammer hit a nail, you could hear the phenomenal acoustics. I got to go up in the balcony, and I can confirm there isn't a bad seat in the house. And on the roof they have a garden. I don't mean a little garden. I mean with trees and fountains and a field. The sweet guide and I chit chatted for awhile and she hugged me when I left.

The next stop was the church office building. This is not some little office in a corner of a basement, like in so many churches. This is its own building, and it's 28 floors. The secret is the observation deck on the 26th floor. Ok, so it's not a secret, but you'd never know if someone didn't tell you. Security there was tighter than at the Pentagon (and they laughed at the information desk when I told them so, explaining that it wasn't for any other reason than the security of the employees in the building, like many other businesses....I guess that makes sense). You could see everything from the deck, and I got some really fantastic pictures.

On the recommendation of the guest services guy at my hotel, I caught the Trax train over to the planetarium and the outdoor mall across the street from it. I toured the planetarium and saw a show, then went shopping. I've known for awhile now my wardrobe needs serious updating. And the Ann Taylor I went to had a stellar petites section. I came out with skirts and tops and jackets and tights and even some new shoes. (Note to Sara: remember all those jackets I tried on out there, the ones that looked great except for the sleeves? I found one with the same shape and much smaller sleeves. You'd be so proud!) The store had some really great deals, and I got 15% off my whole purchase. And did I mention the skirts were all size 8? And I no longer wear a large in shirts or jackets? That's what I call progress. I even got a cap sleeve top because my push-up toned arms are looking awesome.

At this point, I was loaded down with a bag half my size from the planetarium gift shop with a huge and heavy puzzle in it, and three bags from Ann Taylor. I was headed toward the Trax stop when I saw a Victoria's Secret and decided to pop in. Can't do any harm, right?

It's been a long time since I lingerie shopped. As many of you might recall, the last trip bra shopping was to Penney's, and I dragged my husband with me to hold the stack of potential undergarments while I stood there and swore because they weren't fitting. I ended up with a couple that fit ok, but I've lost 17 pounds since then, and nothing fits anymore. And the sexy stuff? It hasn't really been necessary for a long, LONG time. Two husbands in a row who deployed means I have no clue how to shop for all those little lacy things. Yeah. Me. Clueless. I know, who'd have thought?

For those women who haven't gone to Victoria's Secret for a bra fitting, and can afford to invest in bras, I highly recommend you stop in. Honestly, there have been many years where I couldn't afford their bras and made do with what was within my price range. While I was standing there clueless, a nice woman came up and asked if she could help. I explained that Jere was going to be home on R&R, and she told the sizing specialist exactly what I wanted and why I wanted it. So the sweet lady sized me (17 pounds, I haven't lost a bit of cup size, hooray, because I thought they shrunk a lot, but it turns out I just lost a couple band sizes), and what they do is hand you a box of all the different bras they carry and send you in to try them on. You take out what you like, they write it down along with your size, and then they take you out to the store, find the bras in the right size, help you pick out a color and matching panties if you'd like them, and take you to checkout. There was no hunting, no frustration, and I came out with some really cute matching bras and panties that FIT! I walked away so happy. And the best part is now that I know what I like, I can go to their website and reorder anything I want. Until I lose 30 more pounds, that is.

I'm back at the hotel now, after having dinner at the restaurant downstairs. Duck breast with fig and mushroom sauce, yum. And I got another latte to take back to my room for dessert. Tomrrow is another day, and I should probably map out a plan. So excited, but a little afraid of getting back in that SUV.

Today's lesson: You don't have to leave the country to enter another world. You may just have to explore a new city to learn about different cultures and enjoy someone else's history.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Found the cat's sanity. Now where's mine?

Ginger is now flea free. It was very lonely last night sleeping without her, but she got the run of the rest of the apartment while I holed up in my room. I kept waking up every hour to go check on her and let her know she didn't do anything wrong. This morning, I let her come up on the bed with me so I could take the flea comb to her, and she was free of the little buggers!

However, the house is not fully sterilized yet. I overestimated the ability of my water heater and my own motivation. After getting through my room, my bathroom, the dining room, and the kitchen, I was exhausted. So I got up this morning and did the living room and started on Jere's room, once again running into the hot water problem. Luckily, all the rooms that aren't finished have closable doors. I know fleas can get out, but my cat can't get in. Besides, anything that touches her will drop dead.

Right now I'm annoyed because I've got a bit of a lady bug problem. I went to the new girl in the apartment office and told her yesterday that there were upward of 100 of them crawling around. She made a note and said she'd do a work order and maintenance would be out today. I waited all day. No maintenance. Surprise surprise. I probably sucked up 75 of them during the day, and just got another 40 with the vacuum attachment off of my ceiling. Yeah, they like the nice, soft, pink light from my lamp.

At what point does it become a good idea to break your lease? Is it when you complain about the fact that you get more bugs in your apartment than you ever had in your entire house when you lived out on a farm? Is it when your favorite girl in the front office quits (always a sign something's gone wrong)? How about when your neighbors creep you out, or they start coming around for apartment inspections that are supposed to be announced but never are? Twice now I've been in my bathrobe and the apartment wasn't picked up when one of the office girls, the maintenance guy, and the exterminator have gone tromping through here. Luxury apartments my ass. I'm moving back to the ghetto, where there are no bugs.

Actually, I will be moving in the spring. Back to Jere's old apartment complex, closer to his mom and with bigger, better bedrooms. The closets are smaller, but they can fit more. And I'm looking forward to a walk in pantry and being around the corner from Michael's and Panera Bread and Target. OH TARGET!!!!!! And the mall. I'm going to miss being so close to Andrea and our cute little downtown, but it's not even half an hour away.

Today I made a spa appointment. For those who don't know, Jere will be home for his R&R in less than three weeks. I have to thank my ex-husband for one thing (um, specifying because I have to, my second husband). When I married Jere, I came in with military wife experience. Because of that, I know that the next three weeks are going to drag along and make me crazy. Part of me needs to keep busy, but another part of me needs to hand out the most frustrating tasks to other people. That means I'm going to pay someone else to do the mani/pedi and the unpleasant waxing of things, and I'll get a massage and facial to boot. The cleaning and obsessive worrying? I'll keep those tasks for myself.

I'm sure you all will hear more about preparing for R&R in the next few weeks. I have so many goals that need to be accomplished. The biggest is dropping the last three pounds to get to my R&R goal weight. We'll see if I have the motivation and patience to do that. Going to Utah next week will help as long as I keep busy. I'm going to go raise my blood sugar with some chocolate cake now. I can feel it dipping too low.

Today's lesson: You have to learn that there are limits to what you can do. None of that "the sky's the limit" bull. The sooner you let someone else pick up a stressful task or stop when you've hit your breaking point, the sooner you can enjoy your sanity.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Sanitizing for my cat's sanity

Ginger and I have fleas. Well, technically she has fleas, but as the vet told me, if I hadn't caught it early, they'd multiply and come after me. On top of which, Dr. Brown informed me that I gave her the fleas, as she is an indoor cat and one must have come in on my clothes. Living next to a field filled with ladybugs, spiders, crickets, ants, and grasshoppers, I'm not surprised there are fleas in that field as well. Great. So we have fleas.

Today was my first time meeting Ginger's vet. She's been there a few times, but they've always done her medical stuff when I'm on vacation and she's there for boarding. I absolutely love him! He's older and friendly and didn't once make me feel like an idiot for not noticing the fleas. He even showed me how to find where the cat and her fleas have been in my apartment so I could sanitize. He suggested I have the exterminator come, but after I told him about the field and the other pets in the complex, he decided it wouldn't help. My indoor cat is now on monthly flea treatment, and I have to be more pro-active about grooming and vacuuming. I was, of course, bemoaning the fact that I'll be spending the day washing everything, but he assured me fleas were more fixable than stress or allergies (which was what I thought was going on). He shook my hand on the way out, commented on how beautiful the day was, and told me to open the windows and enjoy it. "It's a beautiful day to kill you some fleas!" Ha.

So that's what I'm doing. I'm starting on one end of the apartment and working my way across it. My room is first, as Ginger doesn't spend any time in here until the evening and I can close the door without her freaking. The doc said her fleas will be dead in 12 hours, and told me to call if she didn't stop itching within a couple of days. We went three hours ago, she's already stopped itching. Fantastic! In fact, and this is kind of gross, but it made me happy, she was sitting on one of my piano books and you could see the dead fleas falling off of her. My baby is going to feel so much better!

Praises for me, by the way. The vet tech who was helping the doc told me Ginger doesn't look even close to her age. Her eyes are clear, her body functions are good, she's well groomed and at a perfect weight. I'm a good mom. And after I told the vet that Ginger was an old lady, he said, "Naw! She's not old yet." That made me feel so good. He said she hadn't scratched herself raw or anything, just a couple spots, and wanted to know how I knew something was wrong. "Honestly," I said, "she started sleeping on the other side of the bed." She'd stopped sleeping on my left and had started sleeping on the right. Can you tell I have no kids? I know my cat's sleeping habits enough to be concerned when she's being weird.

Well, it's time to switch out the laundry. And sanitize the bedroom, since the bathroom is finished. After that, I'm shutting her out of here and waiting for the flea meds to finish their job before I do the rest. May as well get it all at once.

Today's lesson: Never underestimate the knowledge you can gain from being observant. It may keep you from being attacked by fleas.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Another Happy Sunday

Writer's block. I have it. Normally, I have a ton to say. That hasn't changed, as I've had some really great ideas float through my head lately. But the motivation to put it together just hasn't been there. I think the California sun fried my brain. Which is actually fine with me, except that I had to come home and try to get back to normal life. I need a writer's vacation. Like Colin Firth takes in Love Actually. A quiet spot on a lake with no distractions. But I'd bring my cat.

Unfortunately, I don't have the time for that. I'm booked through the end of the year, and then I start school. That's right. School. I finally qualified to go to college as a Virginia resident. Everything fell right into place with the transfer program and the finance stuff. To be honest, if there had been a snag with either of those, I wouldn't have followed through. I've tried to go back to school here before, but something always got in the way. And in less than a month, I register for classes. Somewhere in there, I need to meet with the transfer advisor. Busy girl!

Today is Sunday. Once again, my favorite day of the week. I got up. I went to get coffee and a donut. And I saw a man get out of his car with his two little girls. The older one was carrying the newspaper like it was made of glass, straight out in front of her. They were at the cash register next to me, and he ordered two bottles of chocolate milk, and let the girls pick out what donuts they wanted. The girls stood there and debated and picked out their donuts like it was the most life changing decision ever. And they all sat down at a table, the girls with their milk and donuts, dad with his paper, and quietly hung out.

I've never been able to imagine my husband as a dad. And this is not an insult to Jere (seriously, hun), but for those of you who know him, try and picture him changing a diaper. Are you imagining it? You can't, can you? Jere, at 45, does not seem like a diaper changing man. However, while watching that man and his daughters today at Dunkin' Donuts, I actually saw what kind of dad my husband will be. He's going to be the dad who chills out with his kids and spends mornings giving them sugary foods before he brings them home for me to deal with. It makes me even more excited for him to be home so we can have a family. Someday.

There's a lot of change coming down the chute. There's school and an upcoming move closer to Jere's mom. And after Christmas, it'll be time to buckle down into full fertility diet mode. I also suspect the doc will increase my meds, making me a sick girl once again. But finally getting the right diagnosis gives me hope, and the motivation to do my part. And I really have done my part so far. I've lost 17 pounds. 17, yeah, that's right. That's a little less than a pound a week since Jere left. Slow and steady. And permanent. No more of this yo-yo diet crap.

Well, it's piano practice day. And we'll see if I go to the gym or not. Maybe a little distraction will kill the writer's block.

Today's lesson: There's beauty and inspiration in the little things. Like watching a man with his kids, or looking in the mirror at 17 pounds that are no longer there.

Note: In case anyone doubts what a huge accomplishment 17 pounds is for anyone, know that a gallon of milk weighs 8 pounds. 11% of my body weight. That's two gallons of milk I'm not dragging along with me anymore. Good for my heart, good for my knees, and good looking in a pair of skinny jeans. Only 3 1/2 more gallons of milk to go.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Everytime I come here, I never want to leave

October 4, 2008

I have to say, California is one of my favorite places to be. There's just something about the warm weather, the water, and the shopping that makes coming here bittersweet everytime. I always seem to do my craziest things in California.

The first time I came out here, I got a tattoo. A big one. Don't get me wrong, a large reminder of my second marriage on the back of my neck is not my favorite souvenir, but I wouldn't trade doing it for anything. I was supposed to stay with Tami for a week, and ended up staying for three. I wholeheartedly blame her for this California fever I've seemed to develop, what with all the boxed wine, nights sitting on the porch laughing, and tacos at 9 AM.

I've made it out here to Cali twice since then. The second time was for a cruise that took off from LA and went to San Diego, Catalina, and finally Mexico. It was April and the weather was sunny and gorgeous. My favorite part of that trip was shopping with my sister on Hollywood Blvd. and seeing the Chinese Theater. Everything was such a landmark of Hollywood, and finally being there in person was fantastic.

And now I'm out here again, for what I'm sure will not be the last time. This trip is the most different of my experiences out here. I'm out here visiting my friend Sara, who is adorably pregnant. And she and her husband live on the Marine base. So I'm staying at her home. If you get in the car and drive 20 seconds, you can see the ocean.

So far we've made it to the zoo, SeaWorld, and went shopping. Shopping is so much more fun when you have people to do it with and tell you yes or no. I ended up walking out of the stores with a new Coach purse, and two beautiful dresses from BCBG. And having Sara and Rickey there to help me pick out dresses made my life so much easier.

Yesterday I was even treated to hearing her baby's heartbeat at her doctor's appointment. It's truly an experience that will knock the wind out of you, and I was completely fascinated. But the best part of that was glancing over at her husband and seeing him listening to his child's heartbeat.

And are you ready for this? Today I'm going to learn to surf. Or, more accurately, I'm going to learn to wait and be pushed into the waves. I'm charging the extra camera battery so Sara can take a ton of pictures, and all of you can laugh at them later. I know my husband is quite looking forward to some hilarious photos.

Today's lesson: Travel doesn't always involve hotels, rental cars, and rushing to see and do everything. In fact, the best travel doesn't include any of that. Having the time to sit back and enjoy your friends is quite possibly the most rewarding vacation of all.

Friday, September 26, 2008

So I like best of all autumn...

...because its tone is mellower, its colours are richer, and it is tinged with a little sorrow. Its golden richness speaks not of the innocence of spring, nor the power of summer, but of the mellowness and kindly wisdom of approaching age. It knows the limitations of life and its content. - Lin Yutang

It's beautiful here today. It hasn't stopped raining for 48 hours, the sidewalk looks like it could be permanently soaked, and it's cold and crisp. The leaves are barely starting to turn, just the tops and the tips. Today was the day you could feel the season change from summer to fall, and I couldn't be more happy.

I didn't sleep so well last night, as autumn decided to come in with force, blowing rain and my birdfeeder into the side of my building. I got up every couple of hours to peek out at the droplets flying sideways past my streetlamp. When I woke up this morning, I opened the blinds to enjoy the water dripping down the window while I went through my morning emails. But the sound of the rain coaxed me back under the covers, and I slept until noon.

After I finally made it out of bed, the rain was gone, but the wet still hung in the air. I decided to run to the store and get my baking supplies for this weekend, because nothing is going to go better with the turning of the seasons and the days of rain in the forecast than the smell of baking banana bread and rum cake. I ran to the closet and pulled out my skinny jeans and the fall tops I bought a couple of months ago. The pretty turquoise jacket with the matching collared shirt still had the tags on, and had been waiting patiently for the weather to cool down. I added on my brown leather boots, and headed out.

Of course, my car didn't want to start, until I realized the key wasn't turning because I had screwed up the lock last time I got out of the car. Thanks to Rachel telling me how to jiggle the steering wheel, it started just fine. In the meantime, the rain started to pour back down. By the time I was done buying the rum at the ABC store, I walked out into sheets from a cold autumn shower.

But the rain didn't dampen my spirits! I went to Hellmart for the rest of the ingredients, and found crates of fresh apples and pumpkins and squash at the front of the store, along with a display of cider. For once I enjoyed my trip to the crowded megamart, and walked out with some perfect Braeburn apples and a gallon of cider. And I may have picked up a carrot cake, too, since the cake spice smells so warm and sweet. I was in such a good mood, I even joked about the sexiness of Mark Harmon with the girl at Subway. Yummy.

I love everything about autumn. I love the way the leaves look, especially in the rain. And all the food and smells, pumpkins and spices and apples. Not to mention the damp smell everything seems to take on for the months before the freeze. I think my favorite part of autumn is sweaters. It's the only time of the year where you can wear your favorite sweaters without having to cover them with a coat. I know what you're thinking, what about spring? But the sun is different in the spring, and it rains so often you have to cover up anyhow.

When I get back from California, I get to go through my sweaters. And I'm even more excited because I've lost so much weight that anything I had stored away when it didn't fit now gets to have a second chance. I have a storage chest full of cashmere begging to come out and play. I even bought some baby alpaca scarves in Peru, and I can't wait to wear them all.

Now before anyone goes all crazy on me about my penchant for expensive fabrics, I'll let you in on a little secret. I don't buy cheap sweaters. I'm a collector. I shop at the end of the season, and I consider each sweater an investment. I figure I save a ton of money by not wearing through cheap sweaters each year. And I take immaculate care of my cashmere, packing it away every spring with acid free tissue paper, hand washing it so the fabric blooms, and never putting it on hangers. My favorite red sweater is several years old and looks like new. I stopped buying the cheap sweaters after I grew tired of them having holes after being worn twice, and pilling and stretching and all the other crazy things cheap fabrics do. My mother-in-law even got in on the game a couple Christmases ago and bought me the most gorgeous shell and cardigan set. Now let's see what happens when Jere finds out I'm using his grandmother's antique blanket press to store my sweaters and scarves...

So everyone take a minute this weekend to enjoy the changing of the seasons in whatever way makes it feel special for you. If you're in a warmer climate than I am, my apologies. You won't need a sweater until at least November. But for my friends in Michigan, lucky you! Someone be sure to go to Klackle's, pick apples and pumpkins on a hayride, drink cider, and if you get the chance, ship me an apple caramel cheesecake donut or ten. I dream about those.

It's time for me to dive into some cake and cider, and watch Super Troopers. You are freaking Rachel, I completely blame you for that one.

Today's lesson: Sometimes it takes nothing more than the change of the seasons to regain your awe in the beauty of things. We should all take a moment to stand breathless in the rain and feel the wonder of the coming season soaking into us.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Trading Vienna for Berlin...and where the hell is AT&T?

I was pretty disappointed yesterday when my travel agency called and said my trip to Vienna had to be cancelled. Turns out that since it's so close to Christmas, no one else wanted to go. That little trip was just supposed to be conveniently added onto the rest of the month in Europe, but no one else wanted to go there. Fortunately, they had a trip right before mine going to Berlin, so I'm going there instead. Yes, I'd rather go to Vienna, but Jere has no desire to see Berlin when we go to Germany, so I can go there on my own. As I told the travel agent, I've been working my butt off on my German, so I'd better get to go somewhere I can actually use it. Geben Sie mir eine Flasche Wein. Yeah. I'll do just fine.

Today, AT&T was supposed to come and fix my phone line. I've been going over my minutes on the cell phone by an obscene amount every month, so Jere and I decided to get a landline. The problem is they hooked it up a few weeks ago, and it's still not working. So I called and made an appointment to have someone come. The woman said today between 8 AM and 6 PM. Nice window, huh?

So I cleaned the apartment on and off all day, waiting for the repairman to call and say he was on his way. The call never came. 10 hours and 4 hand mopped floors later, my phone is still not working. I'm so steamed. I turned down Andrea for lunch because I was waiting for them to come. Hopefully I cool down by tomorrow, because I feel like calling and screaming right now.

Short blog, but it's bedtime here. And tomorrow is a major piano practice day, so I need all the rest I can get.

Today's lesson: Plans tend to change when you are the most excited about them. Best to just shrug your shoulders, go with the flow, and go buy yet another travel book so you know how to get around Berlin.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

What happens in Bear Lake....goes on my blog?

Even the weather couldn't ruin this past weekend. Don't get me wrong, it was cold and wet and pretty miserable. The driving was white knuckled, and I spent almost the entire time soaked to the bone. But rarely have I had a weekend filled with more laughs or received more of a reminder that in my friends I will always find unconditional love.

I left for Dulles Airport around 8 in the morning on Friday to catch my flight. Despite the rain, I didn't experience a single delay on my trip. I got into my rental car in Lansing and drove all the way to Bear Lake, where Kelli and Christina were waiting. Kelli did some truly amazing research online and found a great deal on a gorgeous cabin right on the lake. And she gleefully spent the rest of the weekend trying to cryogenically preserve us with open windows and her fan.

When I finally pulled in the drive, we immediately went out to seek food. There was a restaurant down the street, but as it was past 8:00, it was closed. So we hopped over to the gas station to find an ATM, and asked the girl there where we could find something to eat. She said the only place open was the bar, but it was all the way across town. Now what does across town mean to you? A 20 minute drive? More? "Yeah, you'll have to go to the other side of town, it's about a mile and a half down the road." We were definitely in podunk. That said, the food at the bar was nice and the waitress had a good sense of humor.

We went back to the cabin to build a fire, but it was so wet, we gave up. And determined as we were to get silly drunk, it didn't happen. We went to bed early. And the next day, we went horseback riding in the rain.

I can't even pay proper tribute to our hour long ride in print. I have never laughed so hard in my life while sober. It was Kelli's first time on a horse, and the manager of the stables put her on the biggest horse on the ranch, Joe. She couldn't steer him, and managed to whack herself in the head while trying to go underneath a branch (not a tiny branch, one the size of a tree trunk). Christina and I were behind her and actually had to stop our horses until we quit laughing.

We embarassed the heck out of our guide, Oscar, talking about our sex lives and making dirty cracks about everything we thought of. That's what they get for sticking a girl who hasn't gotten lucky in 5 months on a horse of that name. I may have gotten Lucky, but when I woke up the next morning and felt every sore muscle in my body, I realized that Lucky got the best of me.
After coming back to the cabin and taking a long nap, we drove over to a bistro recommended by the woman at the ranch. The food was tasty, my wine was fantastic, but we were so full and tired that we wanted nothing but to go to bed. After putzing around the cabin for a bit, we did just that. Another exciting night for the little old ladies.

Early to bed, early to rise, and we were up and out of there just after 8 in the morning. I was lucky enough to make it to Little Man's first birthday party. I'm so happy I didn't miss this important event, and I got to see even more of my friends. When it came time for me to go, I didn't want to. I wanted to stay and visit and talk.

The drive to Lansing was treacherous, and I was exhausted and soaked by the time I had dropped off the car and made my way to the gate. Luckily, my flight wasn't canceled, because so many were. I got back to DC and still had a two and a half hour drive home. But hey, you'd drive to the airport if it saved you $400 in airfare. But it meant that I was worn out today, so I decided not to have my piano lesson and caught up on my emails and talked to my husband. Then I fell asleep and took a 6 hour nap. Whoops.

Today's lesson: Visiting home can be completely fantastic. But when it's time to return to regular life, leaving everyone you love can truly make you ache.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Spontaneity and inevitability

Anyone who knows me well knows I'm not the most spontaneous person out there. Every trip has to be planned and scheduled. So when Rachel emailed to let me know there was a McCain/Palin rally in Fairfax the following day, I wanted to go, since I hadn't seen Rachel since December, and the whole thing sounded like fun to me. (Ahem....personal note here: my blogs are non-partisan. I'm not talking politics here, just talking about someplace I went. Political debate makes me crazy.)

I decided fighting DC commuter traffic in the morning before the rally was out of the question, and got on Starwood and booked a night at the Westin only ten miles from the park. Let me just say, I love my Starwood points, and didn't pay a penny for the room. I went shopping for some cute new shoes and an automatic feeder for Ginger, then came home and packed an overnight bag.

There was a time when the idea of only having a few hours to prepare would have sent me over the edge. But after so much travel, especially on guided tours where you're unpacking and repacking constantly, I've gotten good at it! I already had my travel cosmetics packed, and planned an outfit for the rally. After loading up Ginger's food tray, I was set!

The hotel was gorgeous, the room service was fantastic, and Rachel and I had a wonderful time at the rally. I think we've decided McCain picked Sarah Palin because her name is easier to chant than his. Cindy looked gorgeous in green as usual, the sun was shining, and the crowd was 30,000 strong. No matter what your politics, the whole thing was exciting.

I got home last night and found Miss Ginger angry but well fed. She learned how to eat out of the bowl, which made me SO happy since I've got girls' weekend next. She will be just fine.

I woke up this morning to the inevitable: Ginger rubbing her paws on the blinds because she knows it will wake me up, and the remote going missing so I'm forced to watch kids programs like Handy Manny. You know, I don't mind these bilingual cartoons so children can learn the basics of another language, but I figure that since there's already Dora and Manny teaching kids Spanish, can't we have another cartoon that teaches them German or French or something else? I know that an increasing number of people in America speak Spanish, but I wish my high school and and middle school would have offered something other than Spanish. I've got to agree with Joana's sister. Why aren't we teaching our kids Latin anymore? Such a good base for languages.

Oh well. Living in our home, our kids will learn German. Jere took it in college, and I'm good enough at this point to make simple sentences. "The car is red" or "I am a housewife." A couple more weeks of practice and I might be able to make my way around Vienna with ease.

Today's lesson: Only when you've planned and prepared things ahead of time can you be spontaneous. By being organized, it's easy to grab, go, and not flip out because you can't find the teeny tiny tube of travel toothpaste.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Takeout for the obsessive compulsive

Today is my day to chill. Yeah, yeah, if today is my day to chill, what was yesterday? Yesterday I mopped floors and cleaned my light fixtures. I wrapped Christmas presents since I won't be around for November or December, made the Christmas card list, and managed to email my husband back and forth enough to actually pick out our Christmas cards. And today I was supposed to volunteer at a blues event, but that was moved on account of the weather. So I found a House marathon on TV, curled up with my cat, and called it good.

Then this evening I decided that being good all week earned me a thin crust pizza. I got online to order it through Pizza Hut, then remembered something. Thank you, Wraith and Ericka, for introducing me to Domino's and their order tracking process. I ordered my pizza online, watched as the website told me the exact second my pizza was being prepared and by who, then told me when it went into the oven. And I knew the exact moment the delivery guy went out the door, and I knew his name before he arrived.

For those of us with a few obsessive compulsive tendencies, what a delight! I set my screen where I could see it, watched the status of my dinner, and organized the living room and kitchen. What a world we live in that we can know the exact location of our pizzas at all times. Someday, I'm betting, there will be webcams so we can watch it cook, too. And now I'm happy with my pizza and a movie, looking at the pictures my husband emailed me today.

It's been a great day.

Today's lesson: Technology has given us some wonderful things. The telephone, indoor plumbing, electricity.....and a little doodad that lets you track the exact location of your thin crust vegetarian pizza like the computer obsessed control freak you know you are.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Little things amaze me

It's been awhile since I watched the Travel Channel. Quite frankly, I've been too busy travelling the world to pay much attention to the TV.

But I turned it on this morning to watch Samantha Brown. And it's been phenomenal today. First she went to Belize and tubed through the same cave I went though. And right now she's in Cusco, Peru, touring Awana Kancha, the alpaca and llama cultural center. She's feeding the same llamas that I did!

As I tour more places and realize just how big the world is, I'm more facinated at how much of it I can see from my living room. And it's a true delight seeing the places I've been, simply because it's like living it all over again.

And now Samantha is drinking Pisco sours and eating Guinea pig and alpaca steak. I miss beautiful Peru and I miss the food and views. My biggest problem is my own conflict: Do I want to see more of the world, or do I want to return to the places I loved? Should I go back to Ireland and revel in thick Guinness and cheap crisps in a tiny dirt-floored pub? Should I drink cinnamon tea in the freezing cold night after watching the dervishes in Turkey? What about sitting by the ocean in Lima, watching fireworks and a wedding from a beachside restaurant? Or do I want to find new places to love and learn from?

And what on Earth will I do if I fall in love with Europe in December? That's five countries I will have travelled to, and I fear I may not want to come home to my mountains, despite how beautiful my home is.

I've been home too long, and I'm ready to go again. A month without travel makes me restless. And I can't wait to spend next weekend with some good friends.

Today's lesson: Travel breaks your heart twice: it hurts to be away from home, and it hurts to be home.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

I'm going back to bed.

I've been sick for two days. Two whole days where food has been the enemy. So when I woke up this morning and felt fantastic, I was completely ready to make up for everything I'd skipped while I wasted away in my bed.

I bounded out from under my comforter, fed the cat, and softened some butter. The dishwasher was unloaded, six dozen cookies were baked and packed, and a ton of online Christmas shopping was finished. I got so busy I actually walked out the door late for my music theory lesson. And that is where it all started to go downhill.

What is wrong with people? And trust me, there is no person above my notice at the moment. This includes handicapped drivers, city planners, police officers, secretaries on lunch, cell phone providers, fat old women, supercenter employees, Ford F-350 owners....the list goes on.

First off, I think city planners are idiots. I know there are special people out there whose job it is to make traffic run smoothly by programming traffic lights to have specific timing. To whoever has that position in Waynesboro: "YOU SUCK." At no point should a driver hit every red light in the middle of the day. I'm not talking rush hour here. And what is the deal with handicapped drivers? Is there a law that states they have to go 20 mph under the speed limit while taking up both lanes? Each time I tried to pass this guy, he'd switch lanes!

I obviously arrived late to my lesson, which was less overwhelming this week. Jere gave me great advice, telling me to be honest with my instructor that I was completely lost. It's hard for me to admit when I'm overwhelmed by something, especially in music, but I walked in and told him I just wasn't grasping the first lesson, and he was able to break it down in a way that made complete sense to me.

Earlier I had decided to run to Walmart after my lesson to pick up some Christmas gifts and fresh veggies. I really hate going there, but there are some things you can't get at the grocery store. I suppose I could have gone to Martin's for the veggies, but I figured Walmart was safe because it was the middle of a Thursday. No kids running around because school was in session. I should have known I was walking into a nightmare.

What's wrong with Walmart? Let's start with the pharmacy. My doctor told me to pick up some ovulation tests, so I went hunting for them, only to find the place where they should have been empty, with just the price signs and no tests. So I walked up to the pharmacy counter and tried to flag down a woman, but ended up being assisted by a hard of hearing old man. What follows is the conversation that ensued:

"Uh, yes. I'm looking for ovulation tests."
"Ovulation tests?"
"Yes. Ovulation."
"Pregnancy tests?"
"No, not pregnancy tests. Ovulation tests."
"You need a pregnancy test?"
"No, ovulation tests. They come in packs of seven."
"You need seven pregnancy tests?"
(Let me interject. This very hard of hearing man is yelling "pregnancy test" over and over, so the head of every old lady is turned to look at me, the teenage looking short girl, and they're tsk-tsking to each other.)
"No. I don't need a pregnancy test. I need ovulation tests."
(Turning to the head pharmacist, thankfully a woman)"Do we have O-VU-LA-TION tests?"
(Nice pharmacist lady)"They would be over by the pregnancy tests, but I think they are restocking that whole area so they may not be there."

At this point I just waved my thanks and walked back over to the pregnancy tests to see if I'd missed seeing the ovulation tests. I hadn't. But while trying to get in there to look, I was repeatedly run over by a woman on one of those electric scooters, a subject I will cover more in a moment.

Here's my question about the hard of hearing pharmacy assistant: if he can't hear me say "ovuation", what else does he miss? Isn't it somewhat important to correctly hear things in pharmacies? Don't you run a risk of handing out the wrong medication if you hear someone wrong? And what about HIPAA laws, you know, those privacy laws about not giving out patients' private information? Goodness knows what this man has said too loudly. "SO YOU KNOW THIS MEDICINE FOR YOUR GONORRHEA CAN MAKE YOU DROWSY, RIGHT?"

Here in Virginia, we let old people drive long past a point that is smart or sane. This includes letting them drive those motorized scooter carts around Walmart like they're on a Nascar track. I've never seen so many fat old women driving those stupid scooters around all at once. And none of them cared that they were blocking all the aisles. There was one woman who backed out of an aisle and thanked me for waiting, so she was ok. But all the rest of them, freaking idiots.

And the last thing that drove me crazy was that when I went to buy the cafe con leche powder because I had a craving and was feeling too pissed off, lazy, and stressed to come home and fight with my espresso machine, there were four cans and they all expired in February. Oh. And when I got through the line, I realized I forgot to pick up what I actually came for.

I was supposed to go to a Junior Women's Club meeting with Andrea tonight, but I called and told her if I had to smile at one more person I would scream. So I went home, hauled in the groceries, and found a package from my husband waiting. Right on time. :-)

On a couple of good notes, I am about 90% done with the Christmas shopping, as I will not be here to do it in November or December. I ate organic brownies straight from the pan for dinner with a glass of milk. And last night I managed to make my own blog header on blogspot using my own graphics. I'm darn proud of it, go take a look:

It doesn't matter how much I got done today. It wasn't worth the stress. I'm going to bed tonight and not getting back out until sometime Saturday afternoon.

Today's lesson: There are some days when you should just stop what you're doing, drive home, put your jammies on, and climb back into bed. In fact, you should do that everytime you even think about going to Walmart.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Welcome to Drunken Piano Night

Before you think I'm completely crazy, let me explain the reasoning for drunken piano night. A few weeks ago, I wanted champagne. I love champagne, but my biggest complaint is that I can't get single girl sized servings. They make little wine bottles, but they don't carry little champagne bottles in my grocery store. So when I wanted champagne, I had to buy the big bottle and drink the whole sucker. Yeah, bubbly things don't store well.

Upon completion of half the bottle that night, I realized I'd never played the piano drunk. I've never had a piano at home! So I ran and played the piano and realized that all the tightness, all the inhibitions......were gone! I made tons of mistakes, fell off the bench laughing, but managed to get in some amazing work. The next week at lessons, my teacher was in shock at how far I'd gotten on some of the more difficult pieces. It was the best lesson I'd had, and I joked with him that I should have regular drunken piano nights.

So last night, I mentioned to Jere that I was due for drunken piano night, and he told me to go for it. I went to Martin's, got fresh mozzarella and grape tomatoes for a spinach salad, and a bottle of pink champagne (my favorite). I had dinner while the bottle chilled, then went at it. And here is the photo chronicle of Drunken Piano Night, August 2008!

I toast to you. And to me. And to my camera. Salud! Slainte! Serefe! Cheers! (That's the most important thing I learn on my travels....toasts in every language. For reference, that's Spanish, Gaelic, and Turkish)

Bottoms up!

Without a piano, a drunken pianist is just a drunk.

There is a point at which one becomes too drunk to play the piano. I had to turn to movies around my 6th glass...

...and to playing with my bimbo.

At some point during the evening, I went online shopping. I checked my Amazon account this morning, and it turns out I bought "Champagne for Dummies", "Wine for Dummies", and Norah Jones sheet music. Guess I decided to make this a regular event.

If she were awake, she'd roll her eyes at me.

The bottle is gone and the movie is over. I guess I decided to steal her pillow. I was fast asleep as soon as I put the camera down, I'm guessing.

Today's lesson: They say that people who drink alone are alcoholics. That's why I have a cat, a piano, and AOL Instant Messenger.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Lazy Saturday?

Come on! Isn't Saturday supposed to involve sleeping in? I love having my cat to keep me company, and yes, we've been going to sleep earlier than usual so I can get up before the crack of noon. But Saturday is about staying in bed all morning, and Miss Ginger wasn't about to change her schedule.

Time to get out of bed, mom, I've been up for hours!

Put down the silly laptop and give me food!

Fine. I'm just going to sit here and stare at you until you feed me.

And once I fed her, she left me. She's fast asleep in her daddy's bed.

Today's lesson: I saw this on GraphJam last night, and I think it fits.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

I really deserved a great day.

Yesterday was fantastic. Which makes up for the crap that was Tuesday afternoon. Tuesday morning was fine. I got up, baked four dozen cookies to give out to people here, and went to have a great lunch with Andrea. My day should have continued on just as fine, right?

Instead, I got sick after lunch, and it somehow drained every last bit of energy out of me. I looked like Superman does when he gets near kryptonite. But my day was far from over, so I dragged myself to the post office, then came home to finish all my baking. Jerry's office at the Pentagon wanted cake, and was willing to trade some of Monique's Hawaiian meatballs for it. Those meatballs are the one reason I can't be a true vegetarian LOL.

So while waiting for the oven to preheat, I stood in the kitchen trying to eat. And then the inside of the oven burst into flames. And not little flames. Big flames. It's electric, so I leaned over and punched the button to turn it off (thankfully that stopped the whole bursting into flames thing), and ran to the leasing office. The girl up there saw me running in and asked what was wrong, and I told her my oven had blown up and she laughed. Apparently the heating element went out, and they've had 8 of them go in the past few weeks. Normally I would have had to wait a day or two for them to replace it, but since I was in the middle of baking, and I had dropped off cookies to them earlier in the day, the maintenance man came and fixed it at 7:00 at night. Sweet!

Unfortunately, it meant not finishing my baking until well after 10. I finally got to sleep around midnight, and got up before six to get myself together and get on the road to fight DC traffic. Then I had the half hour metro ride, and then security at the Pentagon. Let me tell you, everyone is so friendly there at security. They laughed when I begged them not to squish my cake, told me the pictures on my ID's were gorgeous, and showed me exactly where I needed to go. Not to mention they were fast and efficient. TSA needs to come learn from these guys.

After I left there, I went to Ikea. I found some wonderful things, then dealt with the surly checkout guy. Is it just me, or do they seem to have a rule at Ikea where they refuse to help small people load big things back onto their cart? Finally, this woman and her two kids helped me drag it all into the elevator. I told her she was the most help I'd gotten in the store all day. She must not have been from DC. ;-)

And after all this, I came home. My Ikea purchases are still in the car, half a container of the meatballs and rice are gone, and I fell happily asleep at 5 yesterday, and slept until 5 this morning. I feel better than I have in days. Going around DC yesterday reminded me how much I miss it there, and hearing one of Jerry's collegues speak so highly of him made me miss my husband and all our friends in that office. I may finally be adjusting to life here in Staunton, but my heart is in Washington.

And it's why there's still $40 on my metro card.

Today's lesson: Despite traffic, rude people, and smelly metro riders, it's still easy to miss the city you love. Even when you're sitting at a dead stop on the expressway at 8:30 in the morning.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Strange last few days

How do I even go into how angry I am? I always feel like Jerry and I are having to justify our marriage to people around us. The latest incident involved an old female friend of his asking if he was sure I wouldn't go around cheating on him. The quote from a certain source asked if "I had all the play out of me." Goodness sake. Jere and I have been married for a year and a half! Do I have all the play out of me? Geez. Any of my friends can attest I'm not exactly motivated enough to go out and play the field in the first place. I'm a marrier, not a dater. Just because I'm 20 years younger than Jerry doesn't mean I'm going to run around. I'm sick of having my character constantly called into question.

If it hadn't been for my friends, I would have stayed ticked off a lot longer (or made my way through a ton of red wine). My husband wrote a nice email back, explaining my undying fidelity and talent for producing baked goods. And Andrea had lunch with me and very smartly said, "OH NO SHE DIDN'T!" I feel much better now, just a little residual insult left now.

Today was a day of baking and cooking. Jerry wanted butterscotch cookies, and they smelled so good they almost didn't make it into his care package. I ate one. Exactly one. And with Rachel's help, I packed and sealed the box before I could eat another. But what I'm most proud of is the roasted red pepper eggplant tomato sauce I made to go with dinner. So good on top of some whole wheat organic pasta. A glass of sweet red wine, and it was the perfect dinner. I don't even need dessert now! But maybe a decaf latte would be nice in a little wihle. :) And now I'm settling happily with Yours, Mine, and Ours. The original.

Other than everything I mentioned at the beginning, and some other small annoyances, all is good here. I'm busy. Washed the bedding. Have piano lessons tomorrow. Learned that Windex kills and repels ants. And I need to get up bright and early to make a bunch of chocolate chippies for some friends. Time for Sunday to be over and the week to begin.

Today's lessons: Love may be enough for you and your spouse, but be prepared when love isn't a good enough reason for those around you.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Warm and fuzzy

August 17, 2008

Old movies make me happy. I woke up this morning, admittedly hungover from my champagne and brownies. I thought about getting dressed to go to the movies after my bath, but while I was surfing to find something to watch while putting on my makeup, I saw a Gene Kelly documentary was on, so I left it and wandered away. Then they announced a Gene Kelly marathon, and I dropped my makeup, climbed back into my jammies, and haven't left the bed since.

Les Girls, Take Me Out to the Ballgame, For Me and My Gal, Summer Stock, An American in Paris, and now I'm in the middle of On the Town. I've been laughing, singing, crying, and gushing all day long. I'm completely crazy over this marathon. There were so many of his movies I hadn't seen. Next is Singing in the Rain, one of my favorites. But right now I'm swooning over Gene Kelly in Navy uniform and eating sugar free Butter Pecan.

Short blog, because I'm going to go get giggly over these old movies now.

Today's lesson: Weekend entertainment doesn't have to cost you a fortune in popcorn and overpriced movie snacks. You can have so much more fun with some old favorites, ice cream, and microwave kernels.

(Note to Joana: Next time I come up, you and I need a date to watch Meet Me in St. Louis. I was watching Judy Garland today and thought of you!)

When a flexatarian gets the blues

August 15, 2008

Everyone has bad days, and today was one for me. There isn't a particular reason. A little lonely, a little impatient, and a little sad. If it weren't for my friends calling and emailing and IMing, I would have gone completely insane. You guys rock!

But even after booking a flight to California for October (YAY my Sara!), I still had the blues. I knew I needed comfort food, and fast! Usually, when I want comfort food, it involves pizza or Chinese takeout or macaroni and cheese. But my diet doesn't allow for those things, and eating them would just make me feel worse. What's a girl to do?

Well, this girl went across the street to Martin's and wandered the organics aisle. Actually, I wandered the entire store. You know what? I could have bought the normal comfort foods, but I saw plenty of things I wanted instead: organic Spaghetti-O's, California rolls with carrots and brown rice with a pair of chopsticks (because you can't eat sushi without chopsticks), vegetarian lasagna, corn chowder soup, Hint water, and pistachio gelato. I came home and tucked into my new comfort food, watched Hannah Montana, and finally felt better. Now I'm happily stuffed and watching Friday Night Fights. And yes, Jere, I'm recording it.

Prior to sinking into today's funk, I actually accomplished quite a bit. I've been going to bed earlier, so I'm waking up earlier as well. I love mornings! There's something different about the light and the mood that makes me feel like even though I don't work and I don't have anything in particular to do, by waking up early, I become part of the world again.
It's time to settle in for the night and watch some boxing.

Today's lesson: Today's lesson comes from two of my friends. It is quite often worth saving your old letters, cards, and journal entries. They may not seem important, but they're worth a very good laugh at how young and silly you used to be. KVB forever! *sigh* So romantic...

Peru/Now my cat has abandonment issues

August 6, 2008

I must first admit that I am very lonely now that Ericka isn't online. :-( Boo.

Peru was fantastic. There's no other way to put it. The hotels were mostly nice, the members in my group were all so friendly, and the scenery was beyond words. Actually, for as beautiful as Peru was, I think it was the people I explored it with who made the experience so memorable. I made amazing friends, and have already added their cities to my Travelocity watch list. I predict there will be a party in Miami coming up soon!

Ginger is recovering from her two weeks at the "condo". She's curled up to me as close as she can get, and stares in fear each time I come within 20 feet of the front door. And she's taken up yowling for attention. My poor kid. Though she got her revenge by waking me up before 7 this morning because she was hungry. Twit.

And now, in the spectacular fashion that has become the staple of my blogs, I present you all with a list, because writing about what I loved would take days, and though I loved my first South American trip, I am so grateful to be home with my cat.

Things I Will Never Take for Granted Again Now That I've Been to Peru:
1. Toilet paper, toilet seats, and toilets that flush. Not to mention getting to pee for free.
2. Being able to not only drink my water, but also being able to brush my teeth in it and shower without being paranoid.
3. And speaking of the shower, I love water pressure and hot water. Something that doesn't seem to exist anywhere in the Andes.
4. Walking down the street without being accosted by people selling things or begging for money.
5. Traffic. Because compared to Lima, DC rush hour has the ferocity of a kitten.
6. Guinea pigs and alpaca. Yummy suckers.
7. Oxygen. You never realize how much you love oxygen until you're at 11,000 feet gasping for air.
8. The English language. Though actually, this applies to anyone who lives in their own country and speaks their own language. Because the second you go somewhere you don't speak the language, you discover what helpless feels like. (Thank you to my lovely Miami friends for ordering in the Chinese restaurant, because I would have never survived!)
9. Traffic cops. Mmmm.......some of the young men were gorgeous.
10. Jackets and sweaters. You never know how badly you need one until you forget it.

All in all, Peru was a thrill ride of mountains, ruins, new cuisine, Spongebob in Spanish, Pisco sours, and crippling hangovers. I'm completely in love with the country. Never before have I been so motivated to walk farther and climb higher in search of the next great discovery.

Today's lesson: You should never be afraid to try new things. Countries and people can surprise you. Not to mention Guinea pig and alpaca turn out to be extremely tasty!

This title isn't supposed to make sense...

July 10, 2008

It seems like a great deal of my blogs touch on the subject of old people. Today, I'm sad to inform you, is no different.

Actually, I went and had lunch with a girl Jerry used to date today. For as weird as it probably should have been, it definitely wasn't. It was so nice to sit down and have girl talk about our men and friends and religion and even a little politics. Not to mention Mexican food rocks my socks.
My favorite store called me a couple of days ago to let me know about a sale they were going to have today, and since I was already in Harrisonburg, I decided to stop on by. I'm so happy I did. I went into the mall through Penney's, because I love to dress shop there. So I called my grandma to chit chat, and started sorting through the racks. At some point there was an announcement over the loudspeaker, no clue what it was about. I kept talking, as I thought I was the only one there, and it was my grandmother, for goodness sake. All of a sudden, I heard what could only be described as a voilent shushing noise. This little old woman came up behind me to SHUSH me! SHUSH! First off, I'm not that loud. Second, I'm on the phone with my grandmother. Yeah, I'm one of those good granddaughters who calls her grandma, so don't shush me! I turned around, looked the woman in the eye, and said, "Oh my goodness, grandma, you won't believe this. I'm being SHUSHED by an old lady." I'm terrible. It's the mall. If I can't be on the phone at the mall, where can I be on the phone? Sheesh. So I walked around to the other side of the rack and kept on talking. Apparently, I'm just that rude. I swear the lady had to come from the other side of the store just to shush me, because I certainly didn't see her there before.
One more thing, to defend myself here. I generally have really great cell phone etiquette. I don't talk in restaurants, I don't answer when I'm visiting with other people, I turn off my ringer in theaters and church. I also don't talk on the phone when I'm paying for items at the checkout counter, because that always drove me insane when people did it to me. I'm not loud. My phone is always on vibrate because it takes forever to find my phone in my purse, and I don't want it to ring the entire time. And today, in a nearly empty department store, in the middle of the day, I decided to call my grandma to talk. Because I try not to talk on the phone when I drive, and my downtime while I shop is the perfect time to call, especially because it feels like we're shopping together even though she's in Florida and I'm here. So kiss my tush if I want to be on my phone at the mall.

Anyhow, I bought a cute sun dress and then headed to my favorite little store. And before I talk about how much I spent, I want to tell you how much I saved. I'm just so proud of my shopping today! By shopping at this sale instead of at any other time, I saved $471. Yeah. That's right. I completely rock. My favorite store completely rocks.

I managed to get 5 dresses, 4 skirts, 3 sweaters, 3 pairs of earrings, 2 necklaces, 2 dress shirts, and 1 very fabulous pair of petite dress pants, all for just over $300. I bought almost everything I took into the dressing room. The poor girl who set up my dressing room looked at me like I was one of those people who tries on 25 things and only buys one, so she gave me a big smile when I walked out of the dressing room with a pair of pants and top in one hand, and the pile of clothes that fit in the other, and handed her the small pile. On top of it all, I love this store. B. Moss is awesome, because they're kind of small, all the clothes are consistently sized, and their staff is so friendly. The outfits are already put together for you, and it so organized! And by shopping today and buying so much, I won't have to do any major clothes shopping for quite awhile.
And did I mention I bought all my dresses and skirts in size 8? I haven't worn a size 8 in many years. I'm so happy! YAY!

Now my only problem is finding room in my closet for this abundance of clothes.

Today's lesson: Sometimes you don't even know you need retail therapy until you're smack in the middle of it. And that therapy is twice as effective when you're paying half the price.