Monday, December 27, 2010

Resolutions and Reflections

The year is drawing to a close, so it's natural that one might become reflective about the days past and those to come.  I don't usually make resolutions because nothing comes of them.  Sure, each year I hope to exercise more (futile), eat better (a little on, a little off), and myriad other things that amount to nothing special.  And each year I do some of the things and don't do others.  The real resolutions that matter are those that are less of a lifestyle change and are more of a goal--get a new job, buy my own home, travel to Europe. 

What you may not know is that this blog was my New Year's Resolution for 2010.  Sick of spending years thinking that I'd write "someday," I made a conscious choice to spend time this year writing what I want to write about and not simply writing for work.  When you're a flack, you spend a lot of time writing to advance other people's missions.  WashingTina is my mission. And I think I've done a pretty good job of advancing it this year. 

Sure, I know there are things that I could be doing better . . . I would really like to be even more regular about blogging. I'd like to write more frequently. I'd like to find a design that's not quite so generic, that reflects the character of the writing. But overall, I feel pretty good about what I've accomplished this year -- because when I started, I had no expectations.

I can't believe the attention that these thoughts--stories of the absurdities of my life--have received this year.  When this all started, I thought I'd write for myself (which is still the number one reason why I write), and maybe my family and friends and a random stranger or two who stumbled upon the blog. I thought I'd get some creative satisfaction by finally "making it happen" and writing for myself.  I thought I'd have a nice little product to look back on at the end of the year.  What I didn't know was that other people (people who don't know me!) would take notice.  I would have never guessed that other bloggers might take note, let alone media outlets (holy cow!). 

I'd love to be able to say, nonchalantly, that I don't care who's reading, who's paying attention.  But let's be real.  In these days of 24-hour connectivity and billions of pages of inanity on the internet, it blows my mind that I seem to have found a niche for my pieces of inanity.  I never could have imagined that WH would have his own following, that our quirks and quips would find their way to other parts of the country--let alone the world.  I started this for myself, to get some satisfaction out of writing what I wanted to write . . . but what I got out of it was so much more.  An audience.  A voice.  Gratification.  It matters to me that you're reading this, commenting on it, sharing it.  So as I look to the new year, all I can hope is that I keep getting out of this blog what I put into it . . . little pieces of myself.

*And if it's not too much to ask, how about casting your vote for WashingTina as best local blog in The Washington Post #DCTweeps awards (Question #6) by December 31, here: (Oh, and it's an honor just to be nominated, really!)

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Good, the Bad, and the Merry

Christmas comes earlier and earlier every year.  This year, I believe I heard the first notes of Christmas music around October 15.  Shortly after that, red, green, and gold started adorning windows and counters and just about anything that wasn't able to run away on its own.  I really love Christmas, but I have to say, this oversaturation is getting more and more out of control each year. 

The one Christmas phenonmenon that really drives me bananas is "Christmas music." I don't mean O Come All Ye Faithful, Silent Night, or even Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.  I'm talking about such earsplitting dittys as Christmas Shoes (the story of a poor child who wants nothing more than to buy his dying mother a pair of new shoes for Christmas -- a real spirit-lifter), Christmas Wrapping by the Waitresses (which tells about the near misses of a silver-tongued woman and "the guy I'd been chasing all year"), and my personal favorite, the vomit-inducing  "Christmas Eve in Washington."  This last one is really trite and pompous, and that's coming from a Washingtonian.  With such astute lyrics as, "It's Christmas Eve in Washington, America's hometown. It's here that freedom lives and peace can stand her ground." No. I didn't make that up. 

Some of the truly awful songs aren't about the actual song, but about the delivery.  For example, Madonna's version of Santa Baby is particularly cringe-worthy.  Also bad is Barbra Streisand's manic Jingle Bells, where it sounds like the record is skipping . . . but no, it's just Babs having a musical seizure.  And any song by Josh Groban, Celine Dion, or Amy Grant. 

Of course, this is all subjective, and I realize that two of my most favorite Christmas songs are universally poo-pooed.  I can't help it, but I love Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer . . . not for its clever lyrics ("She'd been drinkin' too much egg nog. And we'd begged her not to go. But she'd forgot her medication, and she staggered out the door into the snow") but because my own, now-departed grandmother got such a kick out of it.  Another of my favorites is the condescending Feed the World, which was an anti-hunger anthem of the 80s and brags "There won't be snow in Africa this Christmastime," and "Well tonight, thank God it's them instead of you." But despite it's lyrical offenses, there's something pretty cool about all those stars coming together for a common cause (before Michael Jackson dreamed it up for We Are the World). 

But really, the issue isn't what songs are good and what ones aren't . . . because none of them are good when played nonstop for 2 1/2 months straight (I'm looking at you WASH FM) and then put away suddenly on December 26th as if they'd never existed, only to return sometime in the late-summer the following year.  I'll leave you with my favorite Christmas song of all time, Judy Garland from Meet Me In St. Louis with Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. If that doesn't get ya, nothing will.

What are your favorite (and most cringe-worthy) Christmas songs?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

After the Wedding

I'm trying something new here at WashingTina . . . I've joined a gang.  Not what you think (puh-leeze, if you've been reading this blog for even a little while, you're not thinking gang anyway.  I'm about as likely to join a gang as Justin Beiber).  I've been recruited by my friend Susie Kline over at Motherhoot (and she is a hoot, so check her out) to join her Blog Gang.  The idea is that a group of bloggers all blog on one topic once a month or so, and then link up together.  Today's topic is marriage.  When I got the email about the topic, all I could think of was that scene in The Princess Bride (one of my favorite movies):

As I've mentioned before, WH and I have been married for two years. I can remember our wedding like it was yesterday -- all of our friends and family together for one day to celebrate together with us.  I remember my dress and the flowers and the music and the face of everyone who was there.  I remember the months of planning and all of the trips to the dress shop (Carine's in Georgetown, in case you ever need the best atelier in the city), standing in a giant (and freezing) floral warehouse picking out the flowers, the paper for the invitations, selecting all of the courses during our tasting.  I remember it all.  But that's not a marriage.  It's a wedding.  And there's definitely a difference. 

Every day since then, WH and I have been building our marriage. When I got sick on our honeymoon, that was marriage. Without complaint, WH got up with me, before the sun, and rode in the rickety "taxi" (consisting of benches in the bed of a pickup truck) in the rain all the way to the highest point on the island of St. John to go to the "hospital," which was a small building that could only be entered after having rung the doorbell.  There was one nurse on duty and one doctor on call.   He waited with me for three hours, wandering around this tiny shopping center while we waited for the pharmacy to open at 10:00.  He went with me to the same sushi restaurant three times, just so I could get miso soup (the only place we could find soup on a tropical island).  He held my hand as I cried on the plane home as my eardrums burst. 

We are a team, WH and me.  We laugh at the same things, roll our eyes at the same nonsense, and enjoy the company of the same people.  But even though we are a team, we each have our own interests.  WH is an athlete, enjoying the gym and nutrition.  I'm literary, enjoying to read and write in my spare time. We go out together and we go out separately.  We have had our ups (loads of them!) and downs (a few of those, too--have I mentioned the honeymoon bronchitis?) over the past two years, but at the end of the day, what we have is each other.  And when you have someone who plans for the zombie apocalypse, walks through a blizzard with you to get McDonald's, continues to live with you in a "staged" apartment while it's on the market,  protects you from pigeons in your air conditioner and indulges your love affair with Cher (or whatever it is that's important to you), hang onto it, because there's nothing better. Trust me, I know. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Unicorn vs. Hamster

Let it be said that WH and I love Christmas.  A lot.  Here's what neither of us can stand: the adverstising.  One advertising phenomenon in particular makes us both spew.  It's something you may not have noticed, but that once I point it out, you'll never be able to ignore it again. 

During the holidays, the commercials feature what I've heard called the "Unicorn Man."  He's that guy who is attractive, eligible, and smart, with a chin dimple who gives gifts like Lexuses (or is the plural of Lexus, Lexi?) and diamond tennis bracelets to his unsuspecting, yet adoring wife/girlfriend/mistress (In one instance he even comes home from Africa for a cup of coffee with his little sister, but that's really not relevant here).  He is the man who the commercial people have dreamed up, but who does not exist . . . just like a unicorn.  Evidence below:

WH really hates this commercial.  Every time we see it, it sends him into fits -- and he has good reason.  You see, the Unicorn Man only comes out at Christmas (and maybe Valentine's Day). Sure, he might say he's right here and always will be, but come January third, he's history. Sure, he'll reappear briefly around Groundhog Day, but he'll be back in his hole before you know it.  And as WH points out, the man with whom he is replaced is a "Hamster Doofus."  This guy is more like a son than a husband, and needs to be taken care of, chastised, and generally watched over so he doesn't poke his eyes out with the corner of his Doritos chip.  See proof below:

This particular guy has been dubbed by WH as the Yogurt-Stealing Hamster Doofus.  He also does not actually exist. WH had some deep thoughts on the issue: 
How is it that the the guy who is supposed to be strong and romantic becomes a  hopeless Hamster Doofus two months later?  And how is it that this woman who relies on the strong chest of her partner all of the sudden becomes a controlling witch?   I'll tell you why.  Around the holiday season you must buy diamonds and the rest of the year, you must buy yogurt.   You know what I'd like to see, put that cool guy in the kitchen and the Hamster Doofus in the cabin.  I bet you anything that Hamster Doofus would go hide under the table during the storm.
I agree with WH about the men, but good grief, what about the women!  What is that lady staring out into the dark for anyway?  And why is she so terrified of a little thunder?  It's not the nuclear holocaust.  And let's not even get me started on that shrew with the yogurt.  Why should she care if he's talking on the phone with his buddy?  It's yogurt, not the Yalta Conference, for chrissakes.

The reality is that nobody's perfect like the Unicorn and nobody's completely inept and afraid of eating their wife's yogurt.  Husbands surprise their wives with jewelry, and they tick them off by leaving a half an inch of orange juice in the carton.  Boyfriends leave their socks on the floor and they cook gourmet meals on the fly.  Trust me, WH has the best taste in jewelry of anyone ever, and I've called my friends to tell them about my latest gift.  And even though he has eaten the last yogurt, I have never, in all our years, caught him on the phone with a friend discussing his love affair with pineapple upside down cake. 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Meet the Parents

It's the stuff that movies are made of: a couple's two sets of parents meet each other for the first time.  Ben Stiller's practically built a career on awkward family relationships.  But WH and I could give the Fockers a run for their money. 

WH and I had been together for several years when we finally got the 'rents together for dinner.  We met at a neutral location, La Tomate (one of our favorites), for dinner.  Everything went just fine until we got to dessert.  Sure, it was a little more formal than usual, as these things are when people don't know each other well.  But our after-dinner treats really brought out the best in us all.  WH and Dear Old Dad are fans of port, which is perfect with dessert.  There's a particular port called Cockburn's.  You can get your mind out of the gutter (at least momentarily), it's pronounced coe-burn.  But who cares really?  It looks like cock-burn and that's how we say it 'round these parts, because why wouldn't you?  When given the opportunity to act like a sophomoric 12-year-old boy, you really must do so. 

WH said to my DOD, after we had placed our dessert and digestive orders, "I really like Cockburn."  My eyebrow raised, but I thought nothing of it until he continued, "I had it the other night and thought of you."  It was then that I got what I like to refer to as "church giggles," you know that laugh you know you really shouldn't indulge in, but can't control yourself?  My father, who was sitting in the middle of the table, looked at me and started laughing too.  WH went on, innocently, "The first time I had it, you gave it to me."  By then, my father and I were crying, we were laughing so hard, my mother was fuming and WH's parents were looking at us with a mixture of stunned confusion.  Fortunately for all of us, the waiter arrived shortly after that with our desserts and mouths were stuffed so nobody could say anything -- and what could be said after that, anyway?

The good news is that despite the slightly off-color double entendre, our parents really enjoyed (and continue to enjoy) each others' company.  So much so, in fact, that we are lucky enough to spend all major holidays and occasions together.  So . . . as you look forward (perhaps with apprehension) to family gatherings during the holiday season, just remember about the time my father gave my husband Cockburn's. 

Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas Traditions

It's the holidays . . . time for traditions.  I'll admit that I am a freak when it comes to traditions.  There's little I love more than a good tradition, especially at Christmas.  There was a while there when I must say we (me) were a little nuts in my family about Christmas traditions.  The list was long and specific. 

Every year when my sister and I were growing up, my grandparents on my mother's side would stay at our house on Christmas Eve so that Christmas morning we could wake up and open presents together.  It just wasn't Christmas if we weren't all together, getting up too early, in our pajamas opening gifts.  Also on Christmas Eve, we would go across the street to my friend the Lady Doctor's mother's house for a party.  My best girl friends were there and we'd exchange gifts before retiring to wait for the sound of Santa's sleigh.  People grow up, parents move, and grandparents get sick -- things change, and so, too, must traditions. 

The first blow was when Lady Doctor's mother moved off of our street.  We revised our partying ways, but still managed to spend our Christmas Eves together.  My grandparents got older and we even ended up spending one Christmas at their house in Rehoboth when my grandmother was too ill to travel.  I think the hardest Christmas of all, though, was the year that my grandmother died.  On Christmas morning.  She had cancer, my grandfather had died earlier that year, and she was spending Christmas in the hospital, alone.  Her biggest worry, which she had expressed to me, was that my grandfather would be alone without her.  Maybe it's a little simplistic, but I believe he came to get her that day so that neither of them would be alone on Christmas.  It was the worst Christmas my family ever had.  After that year, we had a hard time getting our traditions back in order, but when I think back on it, I don't remember specifics.  It's funny how the mind does that for you. 

One year, shortly after, the Christmas Eve party moved to my parents' house.  WH joined the mix seven years ago -- this will be his eighth Christmas with my family.  My parents sold my childhood home and moved into a condo a few years back, so we adjusted our traditions again.  Some years friends are traveling for Christmas, so they miss the party.  We've added new friends, husbands, and babies -- some years bigger than others.  But what's really important is that we are together, my family and whomever can make it that year.  There is always enough food for everyone, a gift for each guest to open, and enough holiday cheer (liquid and otherwise) to sustain us well into the New Year.  And I've learned that the best tradition is one that doesn't just happen once a year, but that embodies a sentiment that builds on the love of family and friends and carries itself all the year through. 

Merry Christmas from WashingTina!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

What are you most thankful for this year?  Through ups and downs, one person always keeps me laughing . . . my Wonderful Husband.  In honor of what I'm most thankful for, here are some of his "greatest hits" over the past year.  Enjoy!

WH discusses what it might be like to be an air marshal: Marshal Plan

Why you should never look down while riding the Metro across a bridge: Looking Up

WH stands up for hardworking people: Take Pity On the Working Man

He loves his toys: Toying With Us

WH details how you can get deleted from his address book: Listen to Your Inner Voice

Preparing for the worst: Zombie Apocalypse

The real scoop on vampires and werewolves: The Witching Hour

WH does our retirement planning: Get Rich Quick

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours from WH and me!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Seven Minutes in Heaven . . . With the TSA

With news this week of the impending TSA body scans and pat downs at airports across the country, I was reminded of a particularly joyful experience WH and I had in Key West a couple of years ago.  We had gone down to celebrate a friend's birthday and were returning to D.C. the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.  Not a great day to travel, but from Key West it wasn't so bad . . . the airport only has one gate. 

We were standing in line waiting to be screened and board the plane (which basically all happens within 50 feet of each other) and chit-chatting.  WH pointed out a photo on the wall of an FBI's Most Wanted terrorist -- he looked like your garden variety terrorist: disheveled hair, long beard, soul-less eyes, slightly constipated.  WH said, "You know if that guy shaved his beard, combed his hair, and put on a Budweiser baseball cap, these idiots would never know the difference."  This was, unfortunately, within earshot of one of the TSA agents.  I bet you can guess what happened next . . . we were selected for "additional screening."

At the time, the body scanners were only a twinkle in Big Brother's eye, but the pat down was already in the TSA toolbox.  There was even a private little "room" cordoned off behind a curtain where the agents took those needing "additional screening."  I got to go first, while WH was stuck talking to another screener.  The woman was business-like, albeit completely unfriendly.  I mean, if someone's going to second base with me, shouldn't she at least entertain polite conversation?  Or buy me dinner first?  (Does this remind anyone of "Seven Minutes in Heaven" that game from boy-girl parties in the sixth grade?  You'd go into a little room, probably some closet, and then stay in there for seven minutes, doing who knows what.)   

Behind the curtain we went.  The agent patted down my legs, butt, back, arms, and middle.  Then she got to my bra.  I'm no Dolly Parton in that department . . . more like Keira Knightley.  Using her wrists (apparently screening for bombs is similar to testing the temperature of a baby's bath water), she scanned my boobs.  She seemed troubled by the underwire, as if she had never felt one before, as if she wasn't wearing one herself.  What is this? What could this strange metal be? I'm going to have to go in for a better look.  So she reached in (using her fingers this time, as I'm guessing the dexterity of her wrists simply didn't allow for what was to come next), grabbed my bra, touching the underwires, and pulled.  Then she let go.  Not since seventh grade gym class had I had my bra snapped.  And now it was all in the interest of "national security."  "You're free to go," she informed me, but not really, as I had to wait for WH and talk to the other delightful TSA agent before we could board the plane. 

While I waited for WH, the other agent made "small talk," which I'm sure was really meant to find out the true meaning of my business in Washington, D.C.  "What is your business in Washington?" "Well, I live there." Frowny face, "So, where are you staying when you get to Washington?" "Um, at my house."  Eyebrow raise, "I see.  And what was your business in Key West?" "Drunken birthday partying." Furrowed brow, "I see.  What do you do in Washington?" "Public relations.  I work for a nonprofit." Blank stare, "I see."  By that point, WH was done with his jostling and we both stood there, waiting to be cleared.  At last the "interrogating" agent informed us that we were "free to go."  

The entire plane had been held while we were being scanned.  We boarded to the derisive looks of the other passengers.  I'm not sure what they were so pissed about.  They hadn't had their nonnies jarred by a stranger. Obviously we weren't terrorists, we were tourists.  Though I can see how someone might mix the two up -- Hawaiian shirts are easily confused with army green jihad outfits. But they let us on board and off we went. 

We arrived in D.C. without further incident, thankful that we could begin our holidays in peace.  So, whether you're scanned, fondled, jostled, or are simply staying home this Thanksgiving, make it one to remember.

Happy Thanksgiving and Safe Travels, my friends!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Little Mary Sunshine

I am not a morning person.  The sooner you know this about me, the better friends we'll be.  There is nothing I hate more than having my sleep interrupted.  I've been known to rain hellfire down on anyone who calls me while I'm sleeping.  It's all I can do to be civil to most people before noon.  I used to have a roommate in college who would start the day with, "Mornin', Sunshine!" It set my teeth on edge. Not only do I not like to talk to anyone early in the morning if I don't have to, but I certainly don't like to be made fun of and called "Sunshine" because of my not-so-delightful early morning demeanor. She never did get that hint.  If it was acceptable, I would never leave the bed before midday (I'd stay up till the wee hours, though, so as not to waste time).  But it's not, really, so I'm forced to rise at the ungodly hour of 7:00 each day to get ready for work. 

Mostly it's not so bad, as WH usually has either already gone to work or is still asleep, so I don't have to talk to him in the morning (and he's not really a morning person either).  I ride the bus and speak to no one.  And then I get to the office.  The front desk guy in our building is exceedingly friendly.  I find that I steel myself for his cheer each morning.  "Good morning, my friend!" he says.  I can slink by without speaking if there are a bunch of other people arriving at the same time (and that's just the way I like it).  But there are those days when I have to muster a "Good morning."  Those are not my best days. 

Once I get to my office, I usually say a cursory good morning to anyone I might run into on the way to my desk.  Then I sit down and hope that nobody talks to me until at least 10:30.  This works pretty well most of the time.  But that wasn't always the case.  I used to work in an office with Little Mary Sunshine.  You have probablly met her (or someone just like her) at some point in your life.  She is always cheerful.  She ends all of her sentences with exclamation points!!!  She has corn syrup running through her veins.  She says "darn" and "poo" and "geez." She is enough to make you want to slap her mother for giving birth to someone like her. 

Anyway, the LMS in my former office was the queen of them all.  She sat right next to the door to the office, too, so I had to walk by her every morning in order to get to my desk.  And, of course, she always got to work early because she is what we like to call a morning person.  I'd peer in the door, hoping she'd be on the phone or have her mouth full of oatmeal or anything that would stop her from speaking to me.  But she never was, and thusly I was greeted with, "GOOD MORNING, WASHINGTINA!" every single morning.  Rainy days, sunny days, days where the sky was falling, this woman was officially the worst. 

Turns out my other coworkers were not exactly enamored of her either.  Finally someone in the office realized that we could go a roundabout way through our conference room to avoid the barrage of saccharine-sweet greetings.  That, unfortunately, only worked for a little while, because she would then come find me at my desk to say "GOOD MORNING! AND HOW ARE YOU TODAY?!"  I really hated her for it. I'm pretty sure she hated me too . . . but she'd never let me know that.   She was way too nice for that.  Instead, I think she took sadistic joy in taunting me each morning with her chirpy enthusiasm.  I could always imagine her going home to her husband and having a good giggle (she always giggled, never laughed) about my obvious dismay. 

The good news is that she got pregnant and we were all saved from having to pretend we were human early in the morning when she left her job with us to be a stay-at-home mom.  We threw her quite a lavish party, and I'm convinced it wasn't so much the good wishes for the baby (sure, we had those), but a deep-seated joy that we wouldn't have to act like we were awake before we'd had our morning dose of caffeine. 

Are you a morning person?  A night owl?  A Little Mary Sunshine? 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Plastic Bag Pariah

I committed a cardinal sin this morning. I forgot my reusable shopping bag when I went to the farmers' market.  I left the house in a rush to get the the market before all the good stuff was gone, and in my haste, I left my bag at home.  They always have plastic bags to put the produce in, but it wasn't until today that I realized nobody ever really uses them. 

As I strolled around the market picking out root veggies and the last of the summer tomatoes (and a few green ones for frying), I began to notice that everyone else had their Whole Foods and Trader Joe's bags slung over their shoulders.  There was even a token bag from The Strand.  What can I say, I live in a hipster neighborhood. And there I was, conspicuously without one.  What had started out as a jolly shopping trip turned into a covert operation as I skulked around the stalls trying not to be noticed.  But the real trouble began when I got in line to pay.

I stood there behind all the bag people, trying to pretend I was engrossed in the items in my basket.  When that didn't work (I swear, I could hear the hipsters behind me snickering), I craned my neck as if I were looking for my companion who was nowhere to be found (s/he had probably made off with my reusable bag).  No luck. The hipsters weren't falling for my act.  Nobody pointed, but I felt their stares and judgement.

When I got up to the table to pay, the woman who was weighing my vegetables looked expectantly at me.  I looked behind me to see if I might see the imaginary companion who had absconded with my bag.  But alas, nobody appeared.  "Do you need a bag?" she whispered, looking disappointedly at me (it was the farmers' market equivalent of "Your card's been declined.").  It was like she didn't want to get stuck ringing up such an environmentally irresponsible ogre.  "Yes, I must've forgotten my bag today," I replied, praying for her mercy.  "They're ten cents," she said, unforgivingly (a five cent markup from the usual five cents the grocery stores charge).  "I don't have a car! My carbon footprint is very small," I wanted to scream, but instead I paid my pennance and slunk off amist the disgusted stares of the more thoughtful shoppers, surprised that they didn't pelt me with organically grown rootabegas as I made my retreat. 

Photo courtesy of velkr0 via Flickr

And as I walked back past the line of shoppers waiting to pay on my way home, I spied one other bagless customer.  A guy about my age who looked just as sheepish as I had felt.  We gave each other that knowing look . . . the look of someone disgraced, someone ashamed, the look of a pariah.  I can't be sure, but I think he stood a little taller after seeing me, encouraged by my fearless plastic-bag-carrying confidence.  I left knowing that perhaps I hadn't left the world a little greener than I had found it today, but at least I made another person feel good.  And I swung my plastic bag full of goodies all the way home.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Baby Boomless

I'm in my mid-thirties, I'm married, and I don't have children.  This apparently makes me some kind of circus freak.  Don't get me wrong, I like kids. I was a teacher for several years just out of college.  My friends kids are some of my most favorite little people in the world.  But apparently if you make it to my age and have managed to find a Wonderful Husband, you are expected to have children before the ink is dry on your marriage certificate.

I thought that once we got engaged, I'd be free and clear of annoying questions for at least the year we were planning the wedding.  Oh how wrong I was.  In fact, I can remember a conversation I had during my work bridal shower with a senior male coworker who asked, "So, I guess we'll be hearing the patter of little feet soon enough."  I almost looked around to make sure he was talking to me.  I hadn't even gotten married yet and already I was chasing little feet?  When did this kind of comment become okay?  I realize that I was supposed to get married a long time ago (read, before I turned 30) and that by now we are supposed to have children, but we don't.  We're on our own timeline, not the rest of the world's. 

Every time I am nauseated it's not morning sickness, but thanks for asking.  If I'm looking a little thicker around the middle, it's probably because I've been indulging in a few more French fries than usual and forgoing the gym (as has been my habit for many years).  If I turn down a glass of wine, you can keep your sideways glance to yourself -- I'm probably just hungover from the night before. 

As more and more of my friends get married and move to the suburbs and have children, I am more acutely aware of the fact that we don't.  It might also be because at least once a week someone will ask me, "So, when are you going to start a family?"  I hate that question and what it implies: that WH and I are not a family because we don't have children.  That the family that we've built for ourselves that consists of our parents and siblings and an army of friends doesn't really count. 

We're approaching the holiday season . . . a time of parties and gatherings and family events.  It's inevitable that I'll be asked at least once about our family planning.  The same way we were asked for four years about our marriage plans.  And the same way I was asked for years before that if I was ever going to get a boyfriend.  (I was even told once, "Aren't you getting a little old to be coming to Thanksgiving by yourself?")  What if we were to have a baby . . . what would the next question be?  When are you going to start teaching him to read?  Where is she going to college?  When is he going to get married?  When are you going to die?  I mean, where is the line? 

I read a joke once where a woman said, "Every time I'm at a wedding and my elderly aunt says to me, 'You're next,' I just wait for the next funeral when I can say the same to her." Maybe I should figure out a way to take this approach the next time someone pries into my personal business.  In some cases, I know it's because they care about us, but in most cases it's simply because they're nosy. 

So consider this is my pre-holiday public service announcement.  Think before you ask some of these questions.  Not everyone can have children.  Not everyone wants to get married.  And believe me, if it's a woman who lives in the D.C. area, it's not exactly easy to find a boyfriend.   Besides, the person you are asking already thinks about it a lot more than you do.  Your question just calls attention to something that is out of all of our hands.  Or maybe, just maybe, some of us are happy just the way we are. Instead, stick to gossip about crazy Aunt Jane's reindeer sweater or how drunk the office douchebag is getting at the Christmas party.  Either that or be the drunk douchebag -- at least then nobody will ask you if you're pregnant.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

One of These Things is Not Like the Others

Every day has a dose of crazy.  Whether it's an urgent email about the $100 that Bill Gates wants to give me for forwarding it along, someone's potty training status update on Facebook, or an altercation in the alley outside my office window, I can't escape one day without a little madness.  I personally prefer to get my daily dose of crazy out of the way early in the morning, like taking your vitamin with breakfast, if at all possible.  Fortunately, today was one of those days.  There was a rare Morning Crazy on the bus today.  Picture it . . . packed bus, swelling to the brim with hipsters, yuppies, and working wounded.  And then, just like that old song from Sesame Street "One of These Things is Not Like the Others," crazy reared his head.

Close to the front of the bus was a man who was possibly homeless, drunk, and/or mentally ill.  My jury is still out on all of the above.  At first it wasn't quite so apparent -- he was just muttering incoherently to himself.  Then he started in on his seatmate, "Me, me, I like it," he said.  When this failed to elicit a reaction, he turned up the volume a little louder, "Me, me, I like it!"  I couldn't tell if it was "Me, me," as in himself or "Mimi," as in Mariah Carey (maybe he was really happy she's finally pregnant).  But whatever it was, he wanted attention.

"ME, ME, I LIKE IT!" he said in his loud, sing-song way.  The balding, 30-something yuppy next to him replied, "Pardon me?"  Morning Crazy responded with something unintelligible.  On we ambled and the crazy intensified.  "I don't get it. I don't get it," MCrazy said.  "Pardon me, sir?" the balding seatmate replied.  "ME, ME, I LIKE IT!"he repeated over and over, until finally wearing out the hospitality of the yuppy.  "Sir, I don't want to talk to you anymore," the yuppy said. 

Finally the yuppy gave up and moved away.  The seat remained empty for a couple of stops, but this enraged MCrazy.  "I'm a Cuban American!" he yelled. "I been here 31 years!" And on he went. "I don't get it."  He was getting louder and a little bit scary, so The Hero stepped up.  Another 30-something man, who in my estimation was former (or current) military (based on his haircut, the way he talked, and his ability to remain calm in a "crisis"), sat down next to MCrazy.  And then he unleashed: "Listen, you are annoying these people and I don't care what the fuck your problem is, you need to be quiet and take your bus ride and let these people go to work."  He said this in a very quiet, even voice (which I could hear because I was sitting directly across the aisle as this transpired). 

MCrazy informed The Hero, "I'm just riding the bus. I'm trying to ride the bus.  Will you take me home?"  It was kind of sad, but The Hero was having none of it, "You need to be quiet.  I'll give you money to get home if you will just leave these people alone." (At this point, I was getting nervous that MCrazy was going to get violent.  He was practically incoherent, he was belligerent, and he didn't appear to understand that he was making everyone on the bus uncomfortable.)  "Man, I got money! I got money! I want you to take me home," MCrazy said.

This went on for a little while longer, when finally MCrazy said, "I don't know what I'm saying."  Everyone on the bus gave a visible eyeroll at this point, thinking finally he'd gotten a clue, and even The Hero said, "That's the first thing you've said that made sense."

MCrazy finally stopped talking.  And then we got to my stop.  The Hero got off the bus (as did I), so I don't know how this little fairy tale ended, but I like to imagine that it had a happy ending:  MCrazy continued on to the stop near his house, went home, and slept off whatever was ailing him.  Maybe he was having a reaction to cold medicine or had some bad clams and was slightly delirious.  Maybe he was an actor practicing a role a la Joaquin Phoenix.  Maybe he woke up at noon and realized he'd been a compete weirdo to everyone on the bus.  But whatever it was, he got my daily dose of crazy out of the way early in the day, setting the stage for me to have a rather productive workday. And that's a happy ending in itself.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Reflections on Turning 30 . . . Something

This weekend I celebrated a birthday.  I'm not sure why, but this particular birthday caused me a bit of an existential dilemma.  In short, I was feeling old.  Now, I realize you're only as old as you feel, age is just a number, and you shouldn't lie about your age, you should defy it, so say the great philosophers (and at least one cosmetics company).  But for some reason -- perhaps it's my increasingly creaky neck -- I'm acutely aware of aging.

All day I was feeling gloomy.  I couldn't put my finger on it, but I was sour.  Eventually you reach a point, I think, where you've got more years behind you than you've got ahead of you, and I was lamenting this all day to WH.  He, of course, told me to shut it, as that would mean that I would be dead by 70.  I'm not sure why I was reflecting on my mortality, but I was.

Wonderful Husband, in his usual wonderfulness, organized a gathering of my nearest and dearest to celebrate the passing of another year.    In attendance were childhood friends . . . friendships that span more years than the Jonas Brothers (all three of them!), Lady Gaga, and Christina Aguilera have been alive.  Some newer friends, who were just meeting my long-time friends for the first time, marveled at the longevity of our friendships.  It's something I think we take for granted most of the time . . . when you've known someone all your life, they become your second family, and you know they'll always be there.  And spending time with old friends, the people who remember my awkward phase (73-pounds, 5'4", braces, perm and 1987 bangs), reminded me that there are some definite pluses about getting older.  So, I decided to compile a brief list of reasons I'm glad I am the age I am and not any other age:

1.  You can look at the "youngsters" and scoff, "When I was your age . . ." and fill in any appropriate blank.  For example, "You think you've got it bad?  When I was your age, we had Crystal Pepsi, Brett Favre couldn't even imagine retirement, and George Bush (the old one) barfed in the lap of the Japanese President" or "When I was your age, I had to print my papers on a dot matrix printer, do you know what that is?"

2.  Betty White's career resurgence is evidence that you absolutely do get better with age (but please put me out of my misery if I'm still working in my 80s). 


3.  Toys. WH has waxed philosophically about the toys he loved as a child, and I think he's right. A little friend of mine is attached by a cord to every toy she owns. But when I was a kid (which can be used interchangeably with "When I was your age"), our toys were awesome. Favorites of mine include the hippity hop, that horse on springs you could ride back and forth, the Sit and Spin, and Hungry Hungry Hippos.

sit n spin
Image courtesy of kramerwalks via Flickr
  4.  No more 20s! Don't get me wrong, I loved my 20s. A lot.  But I wouldn't go back for anything in the world!  Case in point, Linsay Lohan.  Poor child still has most of her 20s ahead of her.  Can you imagine having gone through all that rehab and court dates and bad movies (I Know Who Killed Me, anyone?) and still having another 7 years left before you turn 30?  My 20s were exhausting, what with all the graduating from college and pretending to be an adult and social events and such.  Mostly the social events.  You have to do that stuff while you're young, because if you try that shit in your 30s, your head will explode.  But, on a side note, if you happen to run into me on the street and want to tell me that I still look like I'm in my 20s, that'd be okay.

5.  I've never had to live in a world without Saturday Night Live (even in the years we all may have wanted to). 

And as I sat there on Saturday night, surrounded by friends and family, I realized just how lucky I am.  Even if later that night someone took my bar stool the minute I stood up, so that when I went to sit back down I came crashing to the floor bruising my tailbone.  And even if, because of that, I've been walking like a 90-year-old grandma for several days.  Because when I went crashing to the floor, I looked up and saw the faces of people who love me (and who love to laugh at me) and realized that as long as you can laugh, at yourself and others and along with your very best friends, it doesn't matter how old you are.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I Voted!

Election Day is coming. Ever since I was a little kid, I have loved Election Day. (Full disclosure, my birthday is in early November, so Election Day also means birthday parties!) When my mom and dad would go to the polls, housed at my elementary school, they would go do their voting thing and my sister and I would get to fill out a fake ballot (all the candidates were named after flowers) ourselves. I always voted for Mr. Chrysanthemum.

I Voted
Photo Courtesy of aperte via Flickr

As a kid, it was something fun to do, but in retrospect, it was a great way to teach us about voting and the process. Not that I needed that lesson.  My family has always been civically responsible.  In fact, by the time I was in high school, my mother was a local elected official, and I spent Election Day working the polls on her behalf.  I can honestly say, I have a great appreciation for the political process (vitriol and mudslinging aside).  I remember standing, from early morning till nearly poll-closing, handing out literature.  Most of the time, all of us poll workers, even when we were supporting different candidates, had a sense of comeraderie (how could we not after enough ornery voters had passed us by, refusing our literature and smiling faces?).  Election night meant staying up late, watching the returns come in (or better yet, attending a party somewhere).  I haven't gone to bed on time on an Election Day in 20 years. 

Living in D.C. brings with it a whole different electricity on Election Day.  Without Congressional representation, there's not a lot that we vote for that counts for much, but our local elections really matter.  This year one of the candidates for Advisory Neighborhood Commission in my neighborhood has done the ultimate in voter outreach.  He's hosted mixers, made personal phone calls, and (my favorite) sent out handwritten, personalized letters.  I spent a good 15 minutes talking to him one afternoon a couple of weeks ago.  Needless to say, he has earned my vote wholeheartedly!  Because what really matters, to me and, I would hazard a guess, to many of my neighbors, is constituent relations.  I've already mentioned my love for Jim Graham's staff.  If you want things done in what can be a dysfunctional city, you've got to have someone you can call. 

And frankly, in return for earning our vote, our elected officials owe us their attention.  Even when the person representing you is not the candidate you supported, they still have a responsibility to listen to you.  It's a part of good citizenship to ask much of our elected leaders.  It's also good citizenship to get out and vote.  There aren't many people in my sphere who don't vote, but the ones that I can think of have been browbeaten by me about the responsibility of voting.  (Don't even get me started on what a privilege it is to be able to vote and what people in other countries -- not to mention our own -- have gone through for the right to vote.)

There's a new trend emerging to encourage early voting.  It's a great idea in theory, but there's just something so exciting to me about going to the polls on Election Day.  When I was in college, I had to vote absentee, which was always really depressing.  No proudly pulling the lever (because that's how they did it in those days).  No campaign workers issuing last ditch attempts to get my vote.  No "I Voted!" sticker.  Just a pencil and a stamp. Boring.  That's why I'm not going to vote early (or often!).  This year, I'll be waiting in line at the polls, same as I do every Election Day, filling out my ballot, and proudly wearing my "I Voted!" sticker all day long like a (possibly dorky) badge of honor.  Because Election Day really is my favorite holiday.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Get Rich Quick

WH has been on a roll lately.  Tonight he came up with a plan for us to get rich.  It's elaborate and ridiculous, but it just might work (except that I'm about to blow our cover right here). 

WH: I figured out the best way we can get fast cash.

WT:  Really?  How?

WH:  Jared from Subway is training for the marathon.  So you drive the van slowly.  I'll grab him from the side of the street while he's running and chloroform him.*

WT:  Okay.

WH:  And then what we do is pull up his shirt and take a picture of all of his stomach staples and scars from the surgery from his tuck. 

WT:  Why?

WH:  We contact Subway and tell them that unless they give us $5 million, the pictures will be sent to Quiznos headquarters.  I'm sure they'll know what to do with it.  It has to be a reasonable amount.  Five million is enough for us and it's not enough that Subway will fight over it.  They'll pay.  You know they will.  And if either of us disappears or if we don't hear back, we automatically release the photos to Quiznos and all the news outlets.

WT: Oh.  But how do you know he got work done?

WH:  These are the facts.  First, everyone who comes on TV to tell how they lost weight, they always have a body shot.  Females always have a bikini and males always have boxers.  But not Jared . . . he always dresses like Charlie Sheen's brother in "Two and a Half Men." You never see him naked.  Number two, when they show him training for a marathon, it looks like it's the first time he's ever been running in his life. 

WT:  Okay.

WH: We have to do it on Halloween so nobody will even notice that we're wearing masks.  It still looks normal.

WT:  But where will we get a van?

WH:  You can't get it from Budget.  You can get it from a lumber yard or from some dealership with no security camera in West Virginia or Pennsylvania.  Cash only.  And in Hollywood, since terrorists always use black vans and pedophiles always use white vans, I guess we'll have to get a grey van. 

WT:  Well, how do we know where he is running?

WH:  You're going to have to do your homework.  And since he's an ego maniac, when you call him over, "Oh my gosh! It's Jared from Subway!" he won't even think anything is weird.   Technically, he's not going to remember.  Then before he even  knows what happened, he's going to wake up in the grass somewhere, with the last memory of some people in masks on Halloween.

WT:  Oh.

WT:  And if we ever do get caught, our lawyer is going to ask him, "Did they drug you?" and he's going to say yes.  That's when the lawyer is going to say, "So you admit, you were under the influence of drugs.  Then how do you know what you remember?"  I know. I watch Law & Order.
It does make sense.  And I really could use $5 million dollars.  But I don't want to be the one stuck driving the van. 

Happy Halloween, Jared!

*Note: No Subway spokespeople were harmed in the writing of this story.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Witching Hour

Wonderful Husband must be getting in the mood for Halloween, because the conversation we just had could only come from an overload of horror movies.  And we already know he's had deep thoughts about zombies. But tonight, tonight is something special.  It went something like this:

WH: I've been thinking about vampires.  If they're on a liquid diet, drinking blood, don't you think they would have diarrhea a lot?

WT: Uh . . .

WH:  And why, in any vampire movie, does Dracula or anybody always have a nice dining table?  Because, it seems to me, that the only thing they need is a little juice bar.  Not even a refrigerator.

WT: Oh.

WH: I guess they could have nice wine glasses, but no plates.

WT: Maybe.

WH:  At least werewolves eat like humans, and then once a month when the moon is full, they eat rare meat.  As a human the next day, though, the guy probably has an upset stomach because too much meat is not agreeing with him.

WT: Yeah.

WH:  Here's the thing . . . when they eat that raw meat, they have the insides of a wolf.  But the next day, is their colon the colon of a human or the colon of a wolf?  Because that makes a huge difference.  If it's a human colon, I bet the next month they're going to think twice about rare meat.

WT: Hmm.

WH:  And why the hell does a werewolf have a sixpack?  When you look at the stomach of a wolf, they don't have sixpacks, in fact, they usually have a round tummy.

WT: Yeah.

WH:  And what if they already had a big meal before they turn into a werewolf? What then?

WT:  I don't know.

WH:  If werewolves do exist, I'm pretty sure they live in Pennsylvania or in upstate New York.  I don't think they have werewolves in Arizona, because it's too hot there.  They would turn into a were-coyote.

WT: Right.

WH: And you know who was the weirdest werewolf ever?

WT:  Who?

WH:  Michael Jackson.  He decided to go dancing instead of hunting.  Round up a bunch of dead bodies and go dancing. 
You can't make this stuff up.  He went to say that if they do exist, he'd rather be attacked by a werewolf or vampire than having to deal with religious extremists.  I have to agree with him on that one.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A Semi-Private Room

I started physical therapy this week for a neck injury sustained ten years ago.  This got me thinking about how I ended up there and all of the delights along the way.  My sister and I were Christmas shopping in late 2000, when some kid on a cellphone ran a stop sign (more on that here), causing the crash that injured me.  Flash forward ten months and I'm getting surgery on my neck. 

For months I had been complaining to my doctor that I couldn't feel my left hand.  My fingers "played piano" of their own accord.  And I was repeatedly assured it was "just muscle spasms." I was only 25.  Finally I was able to convince him that it wasn't just a muscle spasm, so he sent me for an MRI.  If you've never had one, let me tell you, it's a special kind of hell.  I was "secured" to a sliding table, my head locked down in this weird cage thing.  Then they slide you into the MRI, which is what I imagine being locked in a dryer might be like.  It's not for the faint of heart.  Or the claustrophobic.

One look at the MRI and my doctor almost threw up.  I have never seen someone with a worse poker face than me.  "This is not good.  I'm going to get you into see my friend who is a neurosurgeon. Tomorrow."  Nothing like a doctor telling you "it's not good" to instill confidence in your care -- especially after having ignored my complaints for the better part of a year.  I must admit, there was a tiny part of me that enjoyed being right, but before I could even muster an "I told you so," the larger part of me had a conniption fit about having to have surgery. 

When I saw the neurosurgeon the next day (the last appointment on a Friday -- he had stayed late that day because of the urgent call from my other idiot doctor), my fears were confirmed.  Surgery was a must . . . if I wanted to remain able to walk, write, and feed myself.  In fact, the surgeon wanted to admit me to the hospital that night for surgery in the morning.  I had made his top ten worst list, and he performed that surgery several times a week.  But even with that knowledge, vanity was my biggest fear.  He was going to have to slice into my neck, go in past my voicebox and fix my neck that way.  I was going to have a scar.  It was at that point that I burst into tears.  Not when he said, "If you don't have this surgery now, you may not walk in the future." Can you say, drama queen?

I scheduled the surgery for ten days later, a Tuesday.  I assured my friends at work that I'd be ready for happy hour that Friday, neck brace be damned (because I didn't want to impinge on my social life, hello!).  Oh yeah, did I mention that I had to wear a neck brace for 12 weeks after the surgery?  It was hot.  We went to the hospital early that morning and my parents checked me in.  I don't really remember much after that becuase they knocked me out and cut me open.  I woke up in some room with my parents there and these things on my legs that were supposed to keep me from getting a blood clot.  They were so hot, and all I wanted was to take them off.  Then I fell back asleep. 

I woke up next in my room.  I was sharing it with some old lady who had had a hip replaced.  I snoozed in and out, waking long enough to throw up from the anesthesia.  My friend the Policy Lawyer showed up with flowers and sat there while I dozed and barfed.  (It's friends like that who you know you can count on forever--thanks, friend!)  Sometime after she left, the old lady in the bed next to me turned on the TV.  She must've been half deaf, because it was cranked!  I was so miserable, and all I could hear was Judge Judy squawking at someone.  Then she started to moan (the old lady, not Judge Judy).  "Aaah!  Oooh!" And on she went.  Finally I pushed the nurse call button.  They came in to see me and I begged them to get her to shut up.  Or at least to turn down the TV.  There's nothing worse than being in the hospital . . . unless it's being in the hospital in a "semi-private" room.  I can still remember the nurse going over to tell the old lady, "There's a very sick woman in the next bed.  You have to be more quiet."  "Well, what's wrong with her? Is she sicker than me?" the old lady argued.

I think I must've fallen asleep shortly after that, because the next thing I knew, it was morning.  Breakfast had arrived (styrofoam eggs) and my neighbor was moaning again.  She hollared through the curtain, "I hear you're sick over there.  Can I have your breakfast?"  I said she could and a nurse came in to give it to her.  Then she asked me why I was in.  "Neck surgery, " I told her.  Ray of light that she was, she informed me, "Oh, that's too bad.  You know, once they get their hands on you, you'll never be the same again.  I'm having my third hip replacement."  I pretended I was aleep after that because I really didn't need her sourpuss.  I never did move that curtain to see what she looked like, and thank god for that. 

While I was waiting to be discharged (laying there as uncomfortable as can be with an IV and a hard plastic neck brace), the old lady called for the nurse.  And then it happened.  "I can't go," she said, "You're going to have to give me an enema."  I prayed I was hearing wrong.  The nurse tried to get her to wait, but she was insistent, "If I don't go soon, I'm going to get really cranky."  Nobody wanted to see her crankier than she already was, so the nurse went to get the supplies.  On her way out the door, she gave me an apologetic look. 

What happened next was like something out of a bad comedy.  As I lay there suffering, the nurse administered what had to be the world's loudest enema.  I heard every gurgle and hiss of the tube.  And then there was the smell.  It was the grossest thing that's ever happened to me.  But at least I wasn't the nurse.  The old lady felt the need to narrate the entire process, which I will refrain from doing here, because even I have my standards.  Let's just say, it was without a doubt the most disturbing part of the whole hospital experience. 

At long last, my parents arrived and the doctor discharged me.  Once I was at my parents' house (where I had to stay for six weeks until I swapped out the hard brace for a soft one), I was happily ensconced in my own private room and my real recovery began.  I never did make it to that happy hour, but lots of friends came by to visit during  my confinement.  I'll never forget all of the support I got from everyone, but I have to say, to this day, I can't hear Judge Judy without having flashbacks. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Stink Bug Mafia

We are under seige.  Attack. Invasion.  Choose your ominous word.  It doesn't really matter what you call it.  What matters is that it's happening.  Stink bugs have taken over the Washington area with a vengeance. I know what you're thinking: it's just a little bug.  And you're right.  One is just a bug.  But what we've got is a mafia. 

Stink bug
Image by jcantroot via Flickr
 The Washington Post ran a story a couple of weeks ago that was informative and humorous (at least to me).  The story referenced the smell (sweaty feet--though I disagree, more below), ways for homeowners to remove them (suck 'em up in the vacuum), the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Working Group (really), and Congressional action:

Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, a Republican who represents Maryland's rural 6th District, sent a letter Friday, signed by 15 members of Congress, asking U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson to take immediate action to limit damage caused by Halyomorpha halys.
You can't make this stuff up.  Frankly, I fear grave danger (to quote Jack Nicholson, "is there any other kind?") for speaking out against what I am certain is an underground, organized effort.  A mafia.  Think about it.  They get in silently when you least expect it.  When threatened, they release the stink to summon fellow mafiosos.  And just look at them . . . you know they have names like Vinnie, Vito, and Nicky the Nose.  What I haven't yet figured out is what they want.  Are they out for money?  Blood?  Global domination?  My money's on the latter, though I haven't been able to prove it.  But I haven't seen this organized an effort since The Sopranos went off the air. 

The other night, WH and I were watching TV when we spied one of these fellows sneaking across our wall.  Just as we became aware of him and were ready to combat him, he took wing.  Exactly what you'd expect of an enforcer.  I mean, he didn't want to be recognized.  He certainly didn't want to be caught.  But . . . like all of the underlings, they eventually do get caught.  I have perfected my stink bug catching tool (because you can't squish 'em, lest you unleash the stink).  It involves a Swiffer mop (to coax the high-up-the-wall bug down to lower ground), a paper towel (for the bug to crawl onto), and a swift walk (with a modicum of girlish squealing) to the toilet for a forceful flush.  This is my method of necessity, even though I'd really like to hit 'em with a shoe.  What worries me, though, is that some stink bug consigliere somewhere is apprising the rest of the family about my technique and they're getting smarter and organizing a counter attack. 

I'm not sure what I did to anger the Boss Bug, but I'm pretty sure I almost ended up with a horse head in my bed one night a few weeks ago.  Thank goodness I'm a light sleeper.  I awakened to a tickle on my arm.  And then that smell.  Not sweaty feet, as The Post suggested, but something more reminiscent of wet paint mixed with fart.  It was all over me.  But I got the last laugh.  I captured Salvatore the Stink and sent him to a watery grave (minus the cement shoes).  I did a quick clean up that involved washing my arm of the offending smell (so as not to summon additional goombahs to the party) and went back to bed. 

I slept with one eye open that night, you can be sure.  But I've started to be lulled into a false sense of security.  That's just what they want.  Because when I least expect it, I'm sure the mafia will strike.  Maybe I'll be summoned to a sit down over cups of espresso, kissed on the mouth and welcomed to the family.  More likely, my fate will include a trip in the trunk of a car.  So if you don't see me for a while, send out a posse, because I really don't want to end up a stone in the foundation of the next monument to be added to the National Mall.

Friday, October 1, 2010

A Force of Nature

My friend Karen is something of a hero to me.  She was radiant.  She was laugh-till-you-cry funny.  She was full of life.  She was a mother.  She was an actor.  She was a warrior.  She was a sister. She was a daughter. She was a friend.  And she had breast cancer.  But never once did breast cancer have her.  Even when the cancer was at its worst, her indomitable spirit and zest always shone through. 

When I first me Karen, we were both playing the same part on alternating nights in this ridiculous dinner theater play.  I wasn't sure we would get along.  I couldn't have been more wrong.  We connected instantly, and when we finally had the opportunity to play different roles opposite each other (she as the evil diva and I as the drunken mess), it was magic.  "I always felt so bad having to be so mean to you, but it really was fun to be so deliciously evil," she would say with a cat-that-ate-the-canary grin (she had the best impish smile you've ever seen!).  Not only did we share a love of theater, but also of elephants, good food, and just about anything creative.  Karen had an incredible artistic streak. 

I'll never forget the day she called me to tell me she was sick.  We often chatted during the workday, so it wasn't particularly strange when I saw that she was calling me at my desk.  "I don't want you to worry and I don't want you to get upset, but I have breast cancer.  And I am going to be fine," she declared.  She faced a mastectomy and chemo, but she did it with such a positive attitude that I always said, "If I ever get sick, Karen's the first person I'm going to call."  She didn't just sit back and wait for the doctors to do their thing . . . she sought out an acupuncturist, a healer, and a hypnotist.  And she got better.  She liked to joke that she was the only person who actually gained weight while on chemo, her healer was so good. 

And when she got better, she did the most amazing thing.  She contacted a photographer friend of hers and asked him to photograph her nude in various stages of recovery and reconstruction. The warrior goddess -- that same impish grin, and a tremendous amount of strength.  It was around this time that we started writing together.  We'd meet on Friday nights at Love Cafe with my laptop in tow and work on a sitcom that I'm determined to this day to get made somehow.  The original story was her idea, but it grew organically out of our synergy.  The only way I can describe it is magic. 

Then life happened and we both got busy.  Work, family, hobbies, and all those other day-to-day things got in the way of our regular writing dates.  But we always kept up with each other.  In January, 2008, as I was planning my wedding, I got a call from Karen's sister informing me that the cancer had come back and that Karen had surgery again.  It was like a punch in the gut.  It had been nearly seven years that she'd been okay.  She was a survivor.  It was over, the cancer was gone.  Only it wasn't. 

Karen's friends rallied around her as she recovered at a friend's house in Chevy Chase.  It was at this time when I got to meet Karen's sister ("Doesn't she look like Meg Ryan?" Karen would say with pride), her two sons whom she loved more than anything, and the army of women who were her friends, confidants, and supporters.  And I realized just how incredible this woman was.  Friends clamoured for the chance to spend time with her and make her meals.  There literally were days when the house looked like Grand Central Station.  And there was Karen, feeling ill, but basking in the glow of all the love.  It was powerful -- just like Karen.

She didn't make it to our wedding in September, because though the cancer was gone at that point, she was still going through treatment and just wasn't feeling up to it.  We talked a several more times after that, and again life got in the way.  One night I had a startlingly vivid dream about Karen, which prompted me to call her.  When her sister answered the phone, I knew it wasn't good.  Just a week earlier Karen and the doctors had decided that nothing more could be done and treatment would cease.  I could hear in her sister's voice all that that implied. 

Karen died in March 2009.  Her memorial service was standing room only.  Her army of women (and men) joyfully remembered the force of nature that she was.  That she is.  I talked to her sister that day, and she declared, "You have to get that sitcom made.  Karen's going to haunt you if you don't." And I promised I would. 

After seeing the life force that Karen was able to command in her army of women, I was moved to join another Army of Women.  Army of Women is a nonprofit that provides the opportunity for women (and men!) to take part in breast cancer research studies aimed at determining the causes of breast cancer -- and how to prevent it.  It harnesses the power of the internet to connect women and researchers.  And today is Blog for Your Breasts Day, a day to recruit for that army.  It takes just a minute to sign up -- and you'll be added to a database to learn  about research projects and given the opportunity to opt in to studies that interest you.  The projects are not clinical trials, but are prevention based.  So I encourage you, if you're over 18, to please join the Army of Women -- and tell your own army to join.  It costs you nothing, but could make all the difference in the world.  Learn more.

I did it for Karen.  Who will you do it for?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


We commuters are a diverse bunch.  Most of us are completely benign and totally boring.  But, there are those select few who stand out.  Anyone who rides Metro or the bus knows what I'm talking about.  I've already discussed the famous Seat Hog, the Loud Cellphone Talker, the Sick Passenger, the Transit Groomers, and the Aisle Surfer, to name a few.  A quick survey of my fellow travelers (via Twitter*) and a pretty good list of Metro-types came about.  Please allow me to expand on these below.

The Snoozer: fairly self-explanatory, this is the passenger who sleeps as if they're at home cuddled up on their memory foam mattress rather than jammed into a slow-moving commuter train.  I always marvel at these people and their peaceful slumber.  Sleep on the train? I'd be afraid of what might happen to me . . . my luck and I'd end up in Rockville wearing nothing but my sneakers.  A special subset of this group are those that have their mouths wide open and snore.  That's a special kind of magic.  These passengers have also been known to be Seat Hogs from time to time.

The "Like" Girls:  I ran into these delightful sweeties this morning, actually.  They are friends.  Some might even say BFF.  They are so excited to be together that they don't know or care that the entire bus is listening to their conversation about who they were with last night, how many beers they had, or how boring their job is.  They punctuate every third word with "like."  As in, "Oh my god, like, I seriously was, like, so drunk.  Like, for real."  On the off chance that these BFF aren't together, one of them is inevitably talking to the other on the phone (see also Loud Cellphone Talker).

The Bouncer: this is the (usually burly) individual who has staked out his real estate at the door of the train.  He has designated himself the guardian of the door, guarding it with his imaginary velvet rope.  If he's not looking around disinterestedly pretending he doesn't see the hoards of people trying to get into the train, he's probably reading his Wall Street Journal or playing with his iPad.  He will not move.  You could shout "FIRE!" and he will remain rooted to the spot right at the door like a sequoia, because he is better than you.  He's already gained entry into the elite club known as the center car -- you know, the one with working air conditioning.  A subset of this group is the aisle bouncer.  On the off chance that you've gained entry, this delightful fellow is blocking the aisle so you can't get to the one open seat next to the Snoozer.

The Faregate Moron: you know this one.  This is the person who can't read arrows.  Or goes to the gate with the red circle.  They gum up the works for those of us who want nothing more to escape the bowels of the station.  A subset is the person who doesn't realize until they've tried 14 times that they lack sufficient funds to exit.  She is also the same person who pays her bus fare in all nickels. 

The Pole Dancer (also Pole Hugger/Leaner/Clencher): the pole belongs to this person. I mean they own it like a stripper on a Saturday night.   The best part, you don't have to tip them.  They swing, sway, lean on, hug, and, in some unfortunate circumstances, even clench the pole between their buttcheeks.  It doesn't matter if it's packed like a sardine can in there and you need the pole to keep yourself from careening into the 80-year-old woman with the walker for whom nobody would move (see Seat Hog), the pole belongs to the dancer.  A special subset are children (usually of tourists) who squeakily whiz themselves around the pole as fast as they can, until they land on the floor.  One particular young man of about eight once did the whiz-spin and on his way back up, licked the length of the pole (I know, because I was there).  I didn't see any news stories about a kid whose tongue turned black and fell off, so he probably just died before that happened. 

The Ding Dong:  mouth open, eyes up to the sky.  The Ding Dong is completely clueless.  This is the passenger who gets on the bus during rush hour and doesn't know where they're going, rides the escalator to its conclusion and just stands there oblivious to the increasing number of commuters backing up behind them, and (my personal favorite) stands on the left of the escalator.  Everyone hates the Ding Dong.  A lot.  I bet they have no friends. (See also the Faregate Moron.)

The 100-Yard Dasher: get out of the way. No, I mean it, get out of the way.  It's urgent that I make the train.  My grandmother is dying.  My wife's having a baby. I'm going to pee in my pants.  I think I just saw David Hasselhoff.  I'm going to miss the train . . . and I'm way more important than you, person who is walking at a normal (maybe even brisk) clip.  This passenger sprints, trenchcoat flying with belt trailing, knees high, long strides, to catch the train . . . that hasn't even arrived yet.  Don't be this person.

Big Junk: this is always a man.  And he has big junk.  It's the only explanation for why he must sit, legs splayed in a near-split, airing it out for all the world to see.  If you are sitting next to him, you better squeeze your knees as close together as they can get, because you have no other choice.  His junk is big.

The Ear-Splitter: is that Kanye I hear?  Oh, now I can sing along with Metallica! Katy Perry, is that you serenading all of us passengers?  Wait, no, it's just someone else's headphones . . . five rows away.  It's okay, they're annoying now, but in ten years they're going to have to have an ear transplant.  Just sit back and gloat.

The Line Leader: no matter how long everyone else has been waiting for the bus or train, this person is going to get on first.  Not second, not third, not after the man with the prosthetic leg. First. You can usually spot this person when they arrive on the scene.  They sidle up to the group already waiting.  They crane their neck as if they're looking for someone they might know (or possibly the bus or train that hasn't arrived yet).  Then they move up near the front into the remaining six square inches of free space and manage to elbow their way to the front of the line. They are more important than you (see also the Bouncer, the Pole Dancer, and the 100-Yard Dasher).  Did you notice, I mentioned them last?

Public transit is a slice of life.  You can bet Big Junk sits like that at home.  I'm certain that the Snoozer is the first one to fall asleep on the plane, the park bench, at happy hour.  The Ding Dong's mouth never closes and the mindless wandering is how they do it at the mall, the Smithsonian, the emergency room.  And the Line Leader has been at the front of the line since second grade.  But if you ever see me on the train, you'll easily be able to pick me out.  I'm perfect.  It's hard work, but I've gotten pretty good at it.

Who's your favorite Metro-type?  Who did we miss?

*Special thanks to FixWMATAchrispulaski, schwars1, ScarlettL, chocolategirl1, aka_tk, theitgirl, and _jpscott for their invaluable input on this story.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Do You *Believe* in Life After Cher?

Today I got some sad news.  Now, it might not be sad to anyone else, but it's sad to me.  Turns out Cher is ending her Las Vegas show on Feb. 5.  And I have not been to see it yet.  You see, I love Cher.  A lot.  Sure, I realize there are much cooler stars to be in love with.  I could swoon over that Bieber kid, but he doesn't have quite the way with wigs that Cher does.  Yeah, I could worship Lady Gaga, but Cher's got bodysuits older than her.  And say what you will about her, but Cher is a survivor.  I've been known to watch the full two-hour long Biography on her and get misty throughout.  One of the first records (yeah, a record) I had was "I Got You Babe," from my dad's collection of discarded 45s.  She is a force to be reckoned with and is constantly reinventing herself. I could wax poetic about her for paragraph upon paragraph, but that's not really the purpose of this story. 

Back in 2003, before I really knew WH (we had met, but he wasn't Wonderful anything to me at that point), when Cher was on her marathon Farewell Tour, three friends and I managed to get tickets to see her at the Verizon Center (then MCI Center).  We planned for weeks about it and fantasized about getting called up on stage during her finale.  We even had "What Would Cher Do?" t-shirts made, with a top ten list on the back*.  We made sailor hats to throw onstage during "If I Could Turn Back Time" (a Cher concert tradition).  And we spent evenings at Timberlake's listening to Cher on the jukebox over and over again, annoying the other patrons to no end.  In truth, we may have gone a wee bit overboard, but Cher's worth it. 

The night of the concert, we decked ourselves out in our WWCD t-shirts, feather boas, and sailor hats (because what else would you wear to a Cher concert -- besides maybe a buttless bodysuit).  We found our seats, on the side about 15 rows up and three sections back, middle of our row.  Not too bad.  The crappy comedian who opened for her was inconsequential to us, and we waited, somewhat impatiently for the real show to begin. The lights were up and people were milling about while the roadies put the finishing touches on the stage.  My friends were chatting and I was stretching a stiff neck and looking around when I spotted a guy who kept staring at us.  He'd look at us, then look around our section, then land back on us again -- I can't imagine why, unless it was the sailor hats and the rainbow feather boas.

The next thing I know, the guy is at the end of our row and pointing to us, "Hey, you, do you guys want to move up?"  Did we ever!  I poked my friends, getting their attention and gathering my coat to get up.  My friends and I scooted out of the row, spilling beer down the necks of the people sitting in front of us.  We followed the guy down the steps of our section, down, down, down until we reached the floor area.  That's right, the floor.  At this point, we giggled like little kids, clapping our hands together and wondering where we were going.  The guy kept going down the middle aisle, until he stopped . . . at the four seats front and center, within sweating distance of where Cher would be performing.  It is at this moment when I nearly passed out. My one friend, the Cher Fan, and I couldn't stop shaking and staring at each other open mouthed.  In fact, since then, I've never seen him so excited. 

So there we were, shaking and sweating and gawping like maniacs waiting for the show to begin.  We couldn't sit down, this was Cher, after all.  But much to our surprise, the people seated around us, the ones who actually paid the big bucks to be up close and personal remained subdued and seated throughout.  It was weird.  At last the show started and we jumped up and down, we sang along, and we made a spectacle of ourselves.  But we didn't care.  As the finale approached, we got our sailor hats ready.  When the moment came, we zinged them onto the stage . . . and if memory serves, CF nearly took Cher out with his. 

And then, as quickly as it began, it was over. Cher was taking her final bow.  We reached out to her, clapping and waving our hands as she ran across the stage slapping hands with everyone she could reach.  Then it happened.  Cher. Touched. Me.  I immediately flashed back to that old Brady Bunch episode when Marcia got kissed by Desi Arnaz, Jr. and delcared, "I'll never wash my face again!"  I could imagine it, preserving my hand in a plastic bag, declining to shake hands with people and feigning injury for the rest of my life.  Then I remembered, I'm not crazy. 

Still flying high, we all returned to Timberlake's and regaled our friends there with stories of the night.  It was the best night of my life up to that point.  In fact, it was the night when WH and I first kissed.  One of his favorite stories to tell is, "The first time I kissed her, she told me it was the best night of her life." He conveniently leaves Cher out of the equation in the telling. 

I've seen Cher in concert twice since then, including the time I dragged WH to L.A. to see her at the Hollywood Bowl for what she swore was her last concert, but nothing compares with that first time.  The time she touched me.  In fact, I "Believe" that if "I Could Turn Back Time" and relive that night exactly as it happened, I would, because that was the night "I Found Someone."  WH has indulged my Cher obsession for the past seven years (don't worry, I undulge his love of UFC, because all's fair in a good relationship).  We even danced to "After All" as the first dance out our wedding -- the other "best day of my life."

*From our What Would Cher Do t-shirts.  Die hard Cher fans will recognize some of these.
10. Wait four hours for a table in the back, so she wouldn't be gawked at.
9. Win an Oscar.
8. Hang from a chandelier like a transvestite pinata.
7. Believe in life after love.
6. Cher, Cher, and Cher alike.
5. Choose Equal.
4. Be an evil frickin' diva for 40 frickin' years.
3. Singlehandedly support Bob Mackie's career.
2. Turn back time.
1. Hwahwao!