Sunday, December 04, 2011

This is what I've been doing.


Hi. I've obviously been a bad blogger, but more on that after a story of good intentions and mouse murder.

One morning a month or so ago, as I prepared to start my day, I heard a faint squeaking coming from the corner of the garage. Because I was curious and late for work, I waded through empty flower pots and my landlord's plastic-sheathed 80s pop artwork to find a lone baby mouse. We stared at each other for a minute before parting ways. And by parting ways, I mean before I jumped in the car and left. The mouse wasn't going anywhere in an "I've eaten poison" or "I like it here behind this mildewed poster of a splatter-painted heart" sort of way.

When I returned that night, I was about to drive full-speed into the garage in the way I do where I fantasize about breaking through the brick wall and surprising the barking weimaraners that live behind us, when my headlights honed in on something small and sickly wading around in an a puddle of motor oil. Sure enough, it was the mouse. I scooted it out of my path with an old New Yorker. The next morning, it was waiting for me just behind one of my tires. And this time, it pointed a frail whisker in the direction of its brother, who was standing a few feet away, covered in cobwebs. I found myself consumed by the desire-the need-to rescue these orphan mice from a bleak future of Valvoline baths, magazine spiders and the landlord's poison traps that lurk behind every rusty shovel. So I went back inside, got a shoebox, stocked a corner of it with iceberg lettuce and cheerios, and gave them the home they'd been looking for all along- someplace warm, safe and filled with indigestible foods. Then I put the box under a tree in the backyard (it was still relatively warm outside at this point), folded down a side in case they wanted to get some exercise, and left for work with a warm heart and hands covered in bubonic plague.

The mice were probably eaten by birds, their lettuce feast eaten by squirrels, the cardboard box eaten by the neighbor's dogs. But the point is, I'd helped them in some way... maybe. Whatever. I say whatever because a few days ago, with one quick surge of brick-breaking power, I erased all of the goodwill and good karma I'd established with mousekind. I ran one over. I'm sure it was quick and painless, but it was also messy. And until Matt finally got the hint and peeled said mouse off of the concrete with a snow shovel, it served as a gruesome twice-daily reminder of how quickly the bridges we build can be burned, or flattened, as the case may be.

In other, less vermony news, I'm almost 39 weeks pregnant and feeling crazy. But I'd like to reflect on my pregnancy before it transitions to parenthood and I forget all of the little details, big discoveries, cloying discomforts and irrational anxieties that have become my friends over the past months. I'd segue into that now, but I'm tired, and you have things to do.

P.S. Doing a Google image search for "baby mice" was the worst decision I've made all day. And that's saying a lot because I also wore pajamas to Target and tried making an eggnog milkshake.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Defeathering the nest

Last night, I watched a good chunk of the Emmys whilst sipping Crystal Light and then slogged up to bed at 9 p.m., convinced that I would be dreaming weird dreams that blend common work scenarios and rare zoo animals by 9:05. But the second my head hit the pillow, it's like my brain finally turned on after being off for hours. And I could not. stop. thinking. And I was pissed. Because these weren't big, broad, creative thoughts, or "suddenly everything clicked" thoughts. They were evil, irrational thoughts - the kind that only come home to roost when all you want to do is sleep. I am afraid that my family will forget about me. I'm afraid that, along with blood, vitamins and oxygen, this baby is siphoning off the interesting parts of me too. I will give birth to a wunderkind, and in turn become a pile of fingers and brittle hair with a growing collection of old US Weeklies. I am afraid of uncertainty and the squirrel dropping acorns from the oak tree outside our bedroom window.

But morning came and brought clarity with it, and I'm hoping for a smoother transition to slumber tonight. Until then! Some thoughts I've had on sweaters and pregnancy.

On Old Sweaters
Don't be fooled by the old sweaters in your drawers and/or closet. Don't try and convince yourself that the 16-year-old working at the fancy vintage store who wouldn't buy them from you just doesn't know how to identify a good sweater. Don't lie to yourself when you spare them, for the fifth or ninth time, from the basket of clothes you're taking to Goodwill. Don't imagine the 35-year-old version of yourself pulling them out and throwing them on, excited to show off her like-new-again merino turtleneck from the window of her flying car. Just don't. Your old sweaters are old. And gross. They're pilled and have dried icing on the sleeves. They're stretched into unnatural shapes and smell like the anxious sweat of 2005. Don't be fooled by old sweaters. Just put them in the basket (if they're decent) or the trash, and move on. (This is a note written to myself as I stare at a pile of Muppety skins that used to be sweaters and need to be disposed of.)

On Pregnancy (Five things I've learned/realized thus far)
1. Naming a person is hard work and sort of psychologically revealing. All of the grade school bullies. All of the unrequited crushes. All of it's off limits.

2. Nesting is a real thing (see sweater rant above). I suddenly feel the need to purge all of the junk mail and broken nail clippers I've been saving for years.

3. Tums are delicious.

4. Some people have cute bellies. And some people look like they ate an oblong serving platter (read: me). But comparisons are fruitless - a waste of time that could be spent standing in front of the refrigerator, eating shredded cheese.

5. I am fully aware that getting here isn't always easy. It wasn't for us. And despite the heartburn and deluge of worries, I am indescribably grateful.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Monday, September 05, 2011

Onward and outward: Thoughts at 25 weeks


They (blogs, fake internet doctors, the Starbucks employees who feel sorry for you when you try to pay for your coffee* with a Blockbuster card) say that pregnancy messes with your mind, and I wholeheartedly agree. I'd actually liken it to walking around with a stomach full of person and a head full of melted ice cream.

Plus, work has been really, really busy. And... all of this is to say, I've been a bad blogger, but not for lack of trying. My account is full of half-started posts, abandoned midway through a word or sentence, left to toil until I delete them in a year.

So I may have a mushy brain, but it's accompanied by a happy heart. And the urgent feeling that I should be doing more to prepare before this baby arrives. The room where our stationary bike and dozens of precious dust bunnies sleep needs to magically transform into a nursery. I need to end my quest for a functional yet moderately attractive glider, bite the bullet, and buy something ugly. I need to vacuum my car. We need to sign up for classes. We need to find a daycare provider/robot nanny. I'm holding tight to the belief that everything will pan out... I think it will. It kind of has to.

From now until December, I'm going to make a concerted effort to blog about the thoughts I'm having trouble forming, the goals we may or may not be reaching, and the wonderfully confusing life overhaul we're about to undergo. Right now, it's time to stare into space for a few minutes. Happy Labor Day!

*I will always tell you it's decaf, even when it's not.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

You want a coke? Maybe some fries?


I'd like to start off by saying that becoming a regular at the McDonald's weekend-morning drive-thru is never a good thing, and I think that just happened to me. Truthfully, we have been going more often than we usually do, but still, this is disconcerting. When I pulled around to the first window this morning to pay, I breathed a sigh of relief to see a stranger in place of the girl who's been there the past three* times I've paid for our usual order, but when I proceeded to the second window, said girl I thought I'd avoided seeing greeted me with the kind of cheerful hello you only give out to valued customers and people you feel sorry for. That's what I've become. So we may have to back off for a while and eat normal breakfast things, like cereal and toast. I'll miss the morning drive, the anticipation, the $5 well spent on such a satisfactory, albeit unhealthy, start to the day. I'll just keep in mind the bitterness I felt today when I opened the bag to find they'd given me Spicy Buffalo Sauce for my pancakes.

This same morning, the one that's happening right now - the one when I reached platinum level status at McDonald's, I was sitting outside on our rusty veranda reading Tina Fey's "Bossypants" while Matt finished up the last of his McMuffin and flipped a page in "1861," which details the early days of the Civil War and is the exact opposite of "Bossypants." I'm just wrapping up the chapter where Tina describes the momentous day in which she taped the episode of 30 Rock with Oprah and then proceeded to tape her first ever episode of SNL as Sarah Palin, all while planning her daughter's third birthday party. She included Seth Meyers' script from the Palin sketch, and while reading it, I felt this twinge of nostalgia mixed with sadness over the font, the structure, the cross-outs and rewrites. And I realized I really miss writing sketches.

More than that, I miss having a reason to write sketches - I miss the urgency of churning out the last two pages during my lunch break at work and sneaking over to the printer to grab them before someone else does. I miss the rapture felt when your work is met with laughter, and the crickets that accompany a really sorry effort. I could keep writing sketches for my own amusement, but then again, I've never been a fan of pointlessness. Why put my clothes in a drawer when I'm going to wear them sometime in the next month or two? Why make instant oatmeal when McDonald's is just ten short blocks and a few dollars away? Exactly. That being said, if a good reason comes along, I'll jump on it. I have lots of ideas brewing... like one about Ke$ha presenting her PhD dissertation on the effect of whisky and glitter on house pets... or something.

Lastly, and speaking of Ke$ha, Dana and I went to see Ben Folds on Friday night. The 19-year-old in me - the one wearing baggy corduroys and some now-closed middle school's field day t-shirt, will always carry a torch for Ben Folds Five. I used to work at Creighton's on-campus coffee shop, and we'd wipe down the counters and steal bottles of Sobe to The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner. I know every word to every song on Whatever and Ever Amen. Ben Folds sings to dorky people like Michael Buble sings to that one lady you work with. I haven't really listened to anything he's released since Songs for Silverman, so I spent a good part of the show watching moths land on the back of the guy in front of me. But when he did play the familiar stuff, it was awesome. I teared up when he sang "Still Fighting It," but maybe that's because I'm a grownup now and better understand what it's about.


How does Ke$ha figure in, you ask? This was perhaps my favorite part of the entire show (video is from PA because the Iowa version had bad sound and a guy in a Chiefs hat bobbing up and down in front of the camera).


*The low end of a very rough estimate.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Why hello.



I found this beaut in a book of sample photography that was left in a giveaway pile at work. I tore it out and taped it on a cabinet in my cube, and I've glanced at it every few minutes since then because I love it so much. That Sphynx is ready to see a movie. {Photograph by Michael Warren.}

When life gets too crazy, I'm naturally inclined to sit back and watch it all unfold from somewhere dark and comfortable. I don't talk about it a ton. I don't blog about it (hence the unplanned hiatus), which is a shame because that's when stories are at their most interesting. But hopefully this is me, standing in front of you, posting pictures of cats, turning a corner. I've started a new job, or returned to an old job really, and... the list goes on from there.

Until next time, here are some Sunday afternoon suggestions:

- Watch "The Killing" on AMC. Ever since "Mad Men" wrapped me in its smoky, polyester embrace, I'm inclined to think AMC can do no wrong. They could pay a birthday party clown to write knock-knock jokes in lipstick on a bathroom mirror for two hours straight, and I'd watch it and love it and probably buy the DVDs. But my low standards aside, "The Killing" will reel you in. You'll get annoyed with it quite often, but only mildly. Stick with it. The season finale is tonight, and I'm counting down the minutes. In lipstick. On the bathroom mirror.

- Download "All Eternals Deck" by The Mountain Goats. It came out in March, so you can tell I'm not exactly on the ball. Maybe you've already heard it. Maybe you hate it. But not me - John Darnielle's voice is like a punch in the air on a crap day. He makes me want to run until my lungs hurt (which isn't far for me, but you get the picture).



- Tell your dad happy Father's Day. Call him if you're far away. Hug him if you're close by. Not to be all, "I would if I could," but it's true. I would. Not being able to stinks. It never gets less stinky.

That being said, happy Father's Day to all the dads I know - the newbies, the vets and the soon-to-bes!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Zebra Cakes


Yesterday morning, I ran over a box of Zebra Cakes. It was lying in the street outside the elementary school by our house, and running it over was an accident. In that I thought the box was empty, and I love running over trash with my car. But when I looked in the rearview mirror to see the fruits of my harmless destruction, I instead saw icing, wrappers, a flattened box and one intact package of cakes lying a few feet from its fallen comrades. There were cars behind me; I panicked and drove on. But all day, and all night, and today too, I've been overcome with guilt. Crazy, constant, perhaps disroportionate guilt. Yesterday was the last day of school, and those Zebra Cakes were bought by a parent to celebrate the start of summer. The close of another successful year. And I flattened it all. Kind of on purpose. There's nothing I can do, short of leaving a replacement box in the street, so for now I'll live with sadness in my heart and striped icing on my hands. Whoever you are, (irresponsible) kid who dropped your snacks in the middle of 52nd street, I'm really, genuinely sorry.

..................

After my family was here for Easter, I found a small pocket notebook in our dining room - the spiral-bound kind that detectives use. I remembered my brother using it to take notes on the combination of sauces and seasonings he used to smoke our Easter ribs (classy tradition est. 2011), and I texted him, saying I'd drop it in the mail. He told me not to bother; it wasn't worth the postage. "You should look at the quote in the front though." So of course I didn't. I left the notebook in a catch-all bowl in the kitchen, with Trident wrappers, bobbypins and brown bananas. But I found it again tonight and finally read the quote.

"The texture of our universe is one where there is no question at all but that good and laughter and justice will prevail." -Desmond Tutu


Thanks, Joe.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

If I split like light refracted

I've been listening to this song a lot lately. It wound up on a mix I have in my car... reminds me of life before contact lenses.



Off to run errands and see "Bridesmaids" old-person style (early, in time for a 4:30 dinner), but more to come. I composed a post in my head while I was falling asleep last night.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Go broke at the library... with me.


It turns out my upcoming weekend visit to Chicago coincides with Lauren’s book club meeting, so I’ve been asked to attend. And I’m honored. It turns out the book they’re clubbing is "Sleepwalk with Me" by Mike Birbiglia, which I’ve been wanting to read anyway, and which will come as a breath of fresh, nonpoisonous air after reading
Methland (which I enjoyed, and I recommend).

I ordered “Sleepwalk with Me” from Amazon Marketplace – a dumb move because I need to read it before next Friday, and Marketplace is like Russian Roulette, only the gun shoots damaged garage sale books and it shoots them on a really unreliable timetable. I’m guessing the book will show up in time for Christmas. Maybe.

To ensure a decent start on the book, I tracked it down at the library and put it on hold. I like to think of myself as a library person, so I strode in casually toward the front desk, library card in hand.

“Can I help you?” the girl at the desk asked.

“Yeah, you guys have a book on hold for me. I think it’s that one right there.” I pointed to the book, propped up behind the counter and smiled with smug satisfaction. Obviously, I’m an awesome library patron if they hold books for me. I don’t even have to find them myself. Because I come here so often. Because I read so many library books.

She picked it up and asked for my card.

“I might have a fine,” I said nonchalantly, the way I tell the Blockbuster people I might have a fine, even when I know I don’t. It’s always cooler to pretend you might have one and not owe anything than to assume you’re fine-free and then get slapped with a $7 fee for keeping “Edge of Darkness” under the couch for two months.

“Actually, yes, you do have a fine And your card is expired. I’ll need to see your driver's license so I can renew it.”

Gah. Obviously I haven’t been a library person for some time now. Probably close to a year. And since I still don’t have a Nebraska license, I was almost out of luck. However, my purse is full of junk mail (not sure why, just one of those things), and I was able to produce something with our current Omaha address.

“Alright, great. I just need to collect $36.50 and then you’ll be good to go.”

I almost cut and run at that point. $36 can buy a lot of things – it can buy books from a bookstore, or gas, or a DVD from Blockbuster, or a few months of Netflix. But then I remembered driving around with our roadtrip audiobooks flopping around in the backseat for $36 worth of weeks after we’d returned home... last August. And the least I could do was square things up with the public library. So I paid the fine. And I took my book, feeling very exposed for the library person I am not.

Going forward, I’ll return my books on time, starting with this one. And when the Amazon copy of “Sleepwalk with Me” finally leaves the chamber and shows up in the mail later this year, I’ll it set aside and give it to you for Christmas.


And in unrelated and more important news, happy, happy birthday, Matt. No surprise party this year, but I hope the day was just as good.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Test Pattern


When I was little, I used to get up early in the morning, sit on the floor in front of our 13-inch TV and watch the test pattern on Channel 9 until the shows started. This ritual could last anywhere from a few minutes to an hour.

I've been in a creative no man's land for the past week or so, but will return shortly, severely nearsighted, in love with television and stripes, and infinitely patient.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

A day of firsts

Today was the first really warm day this spring. I walked around the Old Market for a bit after my haircut, letting the Vitamin D chisel its way through my sallow mole person skin and leaving my fingerprints on expensive knicknacks.

First time I watched "Willow" (not disappointed).


Matt enjoyed his first KFC Double Down, a year after it splattered onto the fast food scene, turning our napkins clear and making our hearts work three times as hard. When asked if he'll ever eat one again, he examined the leftover mystery sauce on his fingers and replied, "Yes, but I don't know when." My guess is someday. Maybe the next time we sit inside and watch Willow on the first really warm day of spring.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Three Things

1.
I’ve recently discovered a whole trove of Tumblrs that have since served to distract me to a crippling degree. If left to my own devices, I could scroll through street style photos, rustic interiors and artful closeups of expensive desserts for minutes upon minutes upon minutes. This is the same part of me that can flip through the Summer 2010 Anthropologie catalog over and over until nothing is purchased but everything is softened, folded and covered in sneezes.

A few:
That Kind of Woman
Cali Vintage
Modern Hepburn

2.
Happy April Fools! The other day I was listening to my favorite morning show (sorry Morning Edition – this is local, and funnier) and the morning show people were lamenting the fact that no one does anything for April Fools anymore – the occasional fake news article notwithstanding. And I believe this to be true. My parents really embraced April 1st, and maybe my mom still does; I’m just not around to find plastic French fries on my lunch bag or gasp at the fake spilled wine on the dining room table. My dad used to tell his Intro to Sociology class they’d be watching some video on some African tribe or something, and instead he’d pop in Toonces the Driving Cat, lovingly rented from our local library, year after year. I was always jealous of the kids in that class.



3.
It’s always good to save the best for last, so… Congratulations to Libby and Patrick on the birth of their son, Charles Ellis! My heart swells and my eyes get teary when I think how happy I am for two such lovely, deserving, destined-to-be-fantastic new parents. Libby, I’ve known, ever since the day I met you (10 years ago!), that you were going to be an amazing mother. Your humor, grace and signature warmth have gotten me through some of the all-out crappiest times. You’ve shared it with your friends, your family, your Patrick, your patients, and now you get to share it with the most important person – your Charlie.

Charlie, I used to drive around with your mom in her pearl blue 80s spaceship car, smoking Camel Lights and listening to Bleed American at full volume until it got dark and we had to get back to campus for important things like grilled cheese in the cafeteria and Zimas in the mini fridge. Those were good times. I just thought you should know. Oh, and welcome to life outside the womb. I think you’ll like it here.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

"Once, I was a master at recycling leftovers. Now I cultivate the art of simmering memories." - Jean-Dominique Bauby

Gah. Today’s been one of those days where I never actually woke up, like that internal mechanism that tells you you’re awake, and need to function as so, never clicked. It could be the erratic weather (is it spring? Or winter? Or some weird hybrid conjured up by the parka and flip flop people?), or the fact that I’ve finally started getting to those 5:30 a.m. spin classes I vowed to attend back in January. Whatever it is, I’m hoping it wears off. Can’t keep running into walls much longer.

While we’re all sitting around, waiting for spring to unleash its torrent of bunnies, perennials and vitamin D, here are a few book recommendations. I’ve been on a roll lately as far as finding good reading material goes. Of the four books I’ve read in 2011 (do with that information what you will), I’d only give one – "The White Album" by Joan Didion – less than two thumbs up. But I love Joan Didion, so I’d give it one thumb up and one thumb to thumb through the book to find the essays truly worth reading.

But here, in chronological order, are the books I’d recommend. I’ll spare you the lengthy reviews (and leave that to my more literate half), but just rest assured that I think they’re good. Really, that’s all you need to know.


"Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street" by Michael Davis
If you’re into Muppets and the early days of public television, this is for you. You really have to be interested in children’s television too though, because the first third of the book goes into some serious detail about Howdy Doody and Bob Keeshan and the like. Riddled with fun facts and poignant remembrances.


"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: A Memoir of Life in Death" by Jean-Dominique Bauby
Having watched the film adaptation of Bauby’s memoir (very) soon after my dad died, I kind of locked this away for a while, dreading whatever effect it may have. But my sister thoughtfully gave me the book for my birthday, and I figured it was time to give it a go. It’s super short, and I couldn’t put it down (which is weird for me, since once I know the “story,” as it were, I’m less inclined to read on). Anyway, you will probably laugh, most likely cry – and inevitably be moved by this book. Seriously, if you’re not moved, you are made of stone, and I want nothing to do with you. You soulless freak.



"The Good Wife" by Stewart O’Nan

During my heady, spendthrift days in Chicago, I used to frequent the bargain book section at Unabridged in Lakeview. One of my finds was a little hardcover edition of "Last Night at the Lobster" by Stewart O’Nan. I didn’t know anything about the author, but I liked eating at Red Lobster and figured I could spend $3 on something I may never read. Ended up loving the book. At the same time, a few hundred miles away, Matt bought, read and loved the book too, and proceeded to purchase O’Nan’s other works. "The Good Wife" is only the second one I’ve read, but it’s even better. An endearing, enduring testament to the lengths (in distance and in time) people will go to for love.

[Sidenote: Matt recently wrote a great review, which you can find here.]

So there you go! Get reading while the sky is still gray and you can stay inside. Because those bunnies bring sunshine, and sunshine brings guilt.

On a totally unrelated note, because I don’t blog regularly (we all know it – it’s time someone said it), I didn’t say anything about Japan last week, and instead decided to focus on incredibly trivial things like my hair. So now, very, very belatedly, I’d like to mention that my thoughts and prayers are with the people of Japan as they pick up the pieces of all they’ve lost. I don’t know why, but I’ve always felt a particularly strong pull toward the elderly, and that’s one of the hardest things for me to fathom about this disaster. Twenty percent of Japan’s population is over the age of 65 – a figure that jumps to more than 35% in rural areas (with many people in their 80s and 90s). Those that were spry enough to survive the earthquake and tsunami are homeless and residing in emergency shelters, less likely than their younger counterparts to ask for things they need, like blankets and food. Anyway, I’m not sure where I’m going with this. If you’re looking for a worthy place to send a donation, ShelterBox is an amazing organization.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Happy St. Pat's!

An awesome picture of my dad. Today seems like a good day to post it.




This isn't the most festive song, but it's so beautiful. If you watch "Boardwalk Empire," you've probably heard Loudon Wainwright's version, which isn't available anywhere (except for a few YouTube clips dubbed in Russian). So Jim McCann it is.



Enjoy the day! Per Monahan family tradition, I'm going to see Lady Gaga this evening. Just kidding... about the tradition. But I am actually going to Lady Gaga. I'm anxious to see what she wears. Where Irish meets Gaga, I'm sure there are corned beef dresses and shirtless leprechauns.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Bangs: A cost-benefit analysis.

Around mid-day Friday, I decided that I needed my bangs trimmed. Desperately. Immediately. And from that moment on, they felt annoyingly long and hideous. Every time I looked in the mirror, I saw the eyeless lovechild of David Cassidy and that serial killer Charlize Theron played in Monster.

I called the place where I get my hair cut to see if they could fit me in that evening, but the earliest opening was Monday, and Monday was too far away. I called the place I used to go, and they could fit me in at 10:15 the next morning. I called the place I used to go before the place I used go and booked an appointment for 5:00 that evening, but then called back and canceled because really, I didn’t want to get involved in the politics of salon hopping. In the end, I settled for the 10:15 Saturday morning with a girl who’d never cut my hair before. The result is too short and a bit lop-sided, but the deed is done. I can breathe easier and blink without scratching my corneas.

It would be one thing if this occurrence was a rarity – the frenzied phone calls and last-minute appointments. But it’s not. Instead, I repeat it over and over, month after month. It provokes a lot of anxiety, and it costs a lot of money… well, kind of. $10 a month for a trim (bangs only). It’s like having a Showtime subscription on my forehead.

All of this is to say, I’m seriously considering letting it all go, er, grow. It will require patience and barrettes, but I don’t know if I have the attentiveness and expendable income bangs require. I’m not even sure why I started down this path in the first place. So, like I do when choosing between colleges, jobs, sandwiches and gas stations on opposite sides of a busy intersection, I’ve made a short pros and cons list.

Pros

1. Cover a wonky hairline and a widow’s peak Eddie Munster can’t hold a candle to.
2. Trick people into thinking you look like people you don’t actually look like. I’ve gotten a few Zooeys and Feists, whereas before I only got Eddie Munster (see pro #1).

Cons
1. That whole regular trim requirement, plus the cost of dry shampoo to keep them from looking like old French fries.
2. And… really that’s it, so maybe they’re not that bad, if I could just have the foresight to schedule the trims or the courage to cut them myself.

A win for the pro/con list. I’ll have the turkey club. I’ll brave the left turn to get to the Love's Travel Stop. I’ll keep the bangs, for now.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

A lost art


The list of things that are wrong with me is long and includes everything from my inability to keep clothes anywhere besides a basket in the middle of the hallway, to hands that are so inhumanly icy that happy babies cry when I touch them. But this thing in particular is relatively imperceptible, and you would never know unless I told you. Or spit on you.

My head and neck are disproportionately small (disproportionate being the key word here), so it was easy to notice the lump just below my jaw line. It’s actually been there for a few years (cue gasps from the diehard hypochondriacs – I get you because I’m like you, except I rely on the internet for both diagnosis and treatment). I ignored it like the financially challenged are wont to do, and got along fine. Until recently, when I discovered that that lump in my neck, when pressed, can now trigger a projectile stream of spit that leaps out of my mouth in a fountain-like arc. Sometimes it doesn’t even need triggering; it happens on its own. Which is worse. Especially if you are around people you don’t know. Or people you do know, for that matter. Because it is weird either way.

I guess this is what the kids call gleeking, only it is a mutant form of Olympic gleeking that must be stopped before it gets worse. Also, sometimes my neck hurts.

The ENT recommended a type of x-ray only done by one radiologist in Omaha. “How cutting edge!” That’s what you’re probably thinking right now. No. It’s only done by one radiologist in Omaha because everyone else has moved on to more advanced procedures, like CT scans and leaches. Said procedure is called a sialogram, and I expected something involving a dull razor… maybe eye of newt. Definitely spells. I was sort of nervous.

And it didn’t help that, when I got to the hospital this morning for said procedure, the techs, and even the radiologist himself, were waiting, grinning, tapping their fingers against the cold metal x-ray table in baffling anticipation.

"I haven't done one of these in years," one of the nurses said as she slipped a heavy, red flak jacket over her head. At that point, I considered running away. I could live with the lump in my neck, and I bet the gleeking would help me gain inroads with the show-and-tell set.

But I stayed. And after a dozen x-rays and a mouth full of saccharin dye, it was over. I'm still not sure what all of the fuss was about. My only guess is that rarity, and even more so the threat of extinction, can make anything fascinating - Western Lowland Gorillas, Eames loungers, tan M&Ms, even sialograms.

Friday, March 04, 2011

NRVOUS

Something more substantial to come tomorrow...ish, but in the meantime, dwelling places! While the me of real life craves cozy, enclosed spaces -- the smallest bedroom in the apartment, the landing on a staircase, the two-foot space between the sink and toilet in a half-bath -- the me in my mind lives in pictures of modernist homes -- sparse, minimalist, sleak furniture and floor-to-ceiling windows that look out over a toadstool-covered forest floor. So, while I'll go for warm and fuzzy every time, I can't help imagine what it'd be like to live here. Or in any of these homes Miss Moss posted yesterday. Don't you just want to drive a Ferrari through that window?



Now, to the Moon! No, not the real moon. The bar version.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Recommendations

I am only a product pusher in the professional arena. Home and the internet are for sleeping and people Dancing Alone to Pony. However, when I grow really attached to a certain object, food, band, breed of cat, brand of band-aid, flavor of toothpaste, texture of throw pillow, etc., all I want to do is recommend the crap out of it. And because I am a fickle consumer, it takes a lot for me to want to share my loyalty with others. So here, categorized by category, are my recommendations for life.


Facial Moisturizer - Eucerin Everyday Protective Face Lotion
If you’re like me, your face turns into a torturous mask of dry, crackly skin within seconds of washing. But you can’t not wash your face because, if you’re like me, you also have the epidermis of a 14-year-old boy, and your stipple drawing of forehead zits is the only thing still getting you carded. When you basically have the worst skin on earth, even worse than animals with poisonous skin, balance is imperative. I accidentally stole this facial moisturizer from my younger brother when packing to return to Omaha after a trip home. I made a halfhearted offer to mail it back, all the while slathering it on my face every morning and night like a goon. A goon with slightly happier skin. Recommend!

Breakfast – Kashi Instant Hot Cereal (Truly Vanilla)

Loyal readers will know that I have, in the past, struggled with breakfast. Growing up, my sister loved oatmeal to the point of sitting on the kitchen floor, eating handfuls of dry Quaker Oats like it was going out of style… and also like it tasted good. I’m more of a milk and cereal person, or a bacon person, or a breakfast burrito person. Any kind of person except an oatmeal person. But in an effort to consume more fiber, I forced myself to give it a second chance. Trial and error and dozens of half-eaten boxes of instant oatmeal led me to Kashi’s Truly Vanilla Hot Cereal. The key is to add half as much water as the box instructs, and also to put things in it. I add frozen blueberries, but you could add M&Ms or red pepper flakes. Just make it your own. Recommend!

Clothing: What H&M is selling right now
We don’t have an H&M in Omaha, which is good because I don’t have to deal with the constant disappointment of strolling by the store window, hoping for something wonderfully cheap and brilliantly wearable, only to find a bunch of bald mannequins wearing crocheted prom dresses and neon yellow Fresh Prince hats. But I recently had the chance to peruse the current merchandise, and now! Right now, their clothes are awesome. Think Madewell meets a normal person’s salary. More navy stripes than a fleet of old timey sailors. Recommend!

Almonds: Blue Diamond Wasabi & Soy Sauce Almonds
These things have enough sodium to dehydrate a dinosaur and kill all the slugs in Nebraska, but they’re delicious. Like a small, crunchy dragon roll. Recommend!

Mascara - Maybelline "Falsies"

I have this one eyelash that I discovered a few days ago. It's about half a lash length longer than its comrades. Normally, if you found an abnormally long hair on your arm, you'd yank it immediately, hoping no one had noticed it, and put it in a ziplock bag in case a museum comes calling or your grandchildren want to see it someday. But an abnormally long eyelash is a whole different ballgame. Brooke Shields uses pharmaceuticals to get longer lashes, so I should probably keep the one that grew naturally. The point of this story is that Maybelline's Falsies mascara helps all of my other lashes catch up to that one really long one. And therefore I am less of a freak. Recommend!

Image-based blogs
I’m a sucker for collages of captivating pictures – shoes, jewelry, close-up shots of sandwiches, etc. These are a few of my current favorites.
Miss Moss
Tomboy Style
Cup of Jo
Wiksten

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Top 10 Favorite Love Songs



Happy Valentine's Day! Whatever you're doing right now -- typing a memo, browning hamburger for a casserole, walking a dog or deep conditioning your hair, stop. Just for a few minutes. And slow dance with somebody.


10. REM - At My Most Beautiful


9. The Promise - Tracy Chapman
Two years ago, when Matt and I were teetering on the edge of getting back together after two years apart, this song popped up on Pandora, and I took it as a sign. I've been using Pandora as a Magic Eight Ball for life ever since, which kind of poses a problem when I'm listening to my Bad Decisions station.


8. Otis Redding - That's How Strong My Love Is


7. Adele - Make You Feel My Love
I thought deeply about which version of this song I like best. Matt loves the Garth Brooks version, and I have a special place in my heart for Billy Joel's take. But for me, Adele is it.


6. Ryan Adams - Come Pick Me Up


5. The Pogues - Fairy Tale of New York

I'm not exactly sure when or how this song became "ours," but it is. I mean, it can be yours too. But there's something about the line "You're an old slut on junk" that really tugs at the heart strings.


4. Damien Rice - The Blower's Daughter



3. The Weepies - Somebody Loved

After careful consideration, we chose this song for the first dance at our wedding. It's pretty, it's short enough to keep people's attention, and the idea of being "old and worn, like two softened shoes" is really appealing to me.


2. Peter Gabriel - The Book of Love
Close second for our first dance song, but it's a little long. We saved it for later in the evening. At that point, people would've danced to the sound of folding tables being stacked in the corner of the room. [Note: I love the Magnetic Fields, but come on, it's Valentine's Day. PG for the win.]


1. The National - Slow Show
This song isn't outwardly romantic, but it's desperate and hopeful and soul-baring, and love is very much the same way.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Various incongruous thoughts because I cannot get this two-post-a-week thing down, no matter how hard I try.

Resolutions are made to be halfheartedly adhered to, over and over and over again. That's why P90X is still sitting in the bag we brought it home in. It is dusty, but it is there. Just in case.

The elliptical machines at the 24 Day Spa Basketball Court Fitness Warehouse to which I belong are arranged in such a way that you can watch your favorite episode of “Angel” and a random Zoomba session at the same time. Last Saturday, I was rolling the afternoon away at a leisurely backward 8 while Fox News slowly melted my brain when I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, a lone dancer in the otherwise empty classroom. She was prancing around to music provided by a handheld CD player. She was moving in a vaguely familiar manner, all fluttering feet and galloping explosions that spanned the length of the room. She was doing a reel! And suddenly, I was overtaken with a nostalgic curiosity that could only be quelled by an awkward conversation. Why are you Irish dancing in the Zoomba room at 24 Hour Fitness? Do you take classes with other people? Where? Etc.

I climbed down from my machine and saddled toward the door, stopping to fill my water bottle, hoping for a break in her music so I could run in and ask her my questions. Finally, she paused, and I made my entrance, complete with a high-pitched hello, hoping she’d hear me with headphones in her ears. She didn’t. Instead, she started dancing again. And I was standing there, uncomfortably, in the room. Watching. Just me… and her… and everyone outside on their elliptical machines, watching me watch her, feeling sorry for me – trying to fathom how embarrassed I must be. I felt my face getting hot as I debated what to do. I could walk out, just as anxiously as I’d walked in, leaving everyone on the outside to wonder what my motives had been. Or I could stand there until she stopped dancing.

That’s what I did. And when she paused again, I ran up to her, sweating, frantic, desperate to get her attention before the next song started on her CD. “Hi! Iusedtoirishdancebackinstlouisbutnowilivehereanditsbeensolongbutidreallyliketostartagaindoyoutakeclasseswhere?” Gah. I’m cringing right now, in the present tense, just thinking about how horribly awkward I was, and am. But she was nice, and she told me about the classes she takes at a place downtown, twice a week. When we parted ways, she said, “I’ll see you in class!” And I felt triumphant, like that whole ridiculous farce had a purpose and an outcome. I went home and signed up for more information.

And that is all. That’s all I’ve done. I haven’t gone to any classes, and now I’m not sure that I want to. After all, getting up there and dancing in front of people you don’t know? How embarrassing.

But in a related turn of events, I have been complaining, for the past few weeks, about that horrid McDonald’s commercial where the couple does the little hand dance with their lattes, and I guess the trick is that they’re doing all of this crazy stuff while staring straight ahead and occasionally taking a pretend sip. Anyway, I hate it to the point of hiding my eyes when it comes on. Because eye hiding is easier and more immediate than channel changing. But driven by that same insatiable curiosity, I still had to know who that pair of hand dancing latte drinkers was, so I Googled it. And it turns out… hold on to your hats because this is about to come full circle… they’re Irish dancers. Like, hipster Irish dancers who dance to Gnarls Barkley songs and wear neon. Very cool! I’m being 100% sincere right here.

Run from Up & Over It on Vimeo.



And then I gave their hand dancing another chance, and when they’re not holding lattes and schilling fast food, it’s kind of cool too.

Up & Over It YouTube channel

Almost makes me want to go to that class. I’ll show up in an gold lamé unitard and explain that I’m part of the new wave of post-Flatley dancers. It’s worth a try.

In other news, not only am I trying to get back into the dance thing – I’m also trying my hand at producing educational materials. My brother, Joe, who’s Teaching for America in Kansas City, needed a way to get his kids to remember the old Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus Species biological classification thingy. So, he came up with this, and I drew it… poorly, but with markers and love.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

"I'm not afraid of Sasquatch, I just think we should all be on alert."


Ever since Annie participated in JVC near Gorge, Washington, wherein I learned about Sasquatch (the music festival - I learned about the creature long ago, via Monahan favorite "Harry and the Hendersons"), I've wanted to go. Really badly. And something - airfare, or work - has always kept me from making it happen. The 2011 lineup is amazing. Maybe this is my year? Probably not, but a girl can dream... about a pet bigfoot with bad breath and strong arms, about John Lithgow in flannel, about the adversity that made them a family.



2011 Sasquatch lineup

Friday, January 28, 2011

"That was the year, my twenty-eighth, when I was discovering that not all of the promises would be kept, that some things are in fact irrevocable and that it had counted after all, every evasion and every procrastination, every mistake, every word, all of it."
— Joan Didion, Goodbye to All That

Monday, January 24, 2011

January Hymn

This is funny, at least until it devolves into paper eating nonsense.


The past two weekends have been shiny spots of warmth in an otherwise snow-crusted January. We saw Country Strong three times in a row, pausing in between viewings to split granola bars and nap on the floor of the theater lobby. We dug tunnels in the snow and filled them with old throw pillows and Little Golden Books. We fed Pringles to slow-moving sparrows.*

Actually, last weekend brought us to St. Louis, where Matt and I met up with Nerinx friends on Saturday afternoon, family that evening, and I've-known-you-my-entire-life friends late Saturday night. Mimosas, trivia, yearbooks, delicious pasta, wine and a lot of babbling, which came back in glimmers and fragments the next day. There was talk of Andy Garcia, I think. The rest of the weekend was more subdued. I spent Sunday afternoon helping my mom take down the brittle but beautiful Christmas tree, while MC, Paul and I debated what we'd do to the house we grew up in, if money was no object and only the sky (or the asbestos in our basement floor) was the limit. My vote was for a panic room; something simple, sturdy and windowless in the middle of the house.

Joe didn't get to join us in St. Louis, so he made a last-minute visit to Omaha this weekend instead. We spent the evening at the Dell on Friday night, and again on Saturday night, and in between I made him accompany me on my regular weekend trip to Target, where I wander aimlessly, spilling coffee on sale items and reading the backs of shampoo bottles. We also exchanged Christmas presents. Joe gave Matt "Road House" on Blu-ray and a fifth of whiskey. We gave Joe this poster:

...with the requirement that it be displayed in his classroom. He agreed.

On Sunday, we said our goodbyes, and I settled back into my normal Sunday routine of pretending to put things away. It's only almost February, but I'm already dreaming of dinners on the patio, open windows and sunshine on my kneecaps and the curly top part of my pasty ears.

One last thing, completely unrelated, but last week I bought the new Decemberists CD, The King is Dead. I'd kind of gotten tired of the mariners, the man-eating whales and 10-minute-long songs, but this is totally different. I wholeheartedly recommend it.


You can listen to the whole album here.

*Lies

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Smells like band-aids


If you're like me, you're drinking ice-cubed chardonnay, wearing a sorry combination of work and sleeping clothes, and watching the Thursday night lineup on NBC. Or, more likely, you are doing social things, with social people... and not wearing anything with a drawstring. But you're missing out! Because this new "Perfect Couples" show is actually pretty funny. Or maybe that's the Barefoot talking.

Speaking of the Thursday night NBC lineup, they used the line "smells like band-aids" on Community, and I'd like to say, for the unread record, that I thought of it first. My closet in Chicago, crammed to the ceiling with shoes, one-hit wonders from Forever 21 and probably my roommate's cat, smelled distinctively of band-aids. And I used to tell people that. So, Community writers, you owe me (an autographed picture of Chevy Chase or money).

And finally, speaking of TV, and in the spirit of Cougar Town, of which I have officially and publicly admitted my appreciation, here is a list of five things you're wary of but will probably like if you try:

Cottage cheese
Nova
Store-brand lip balm
Homemade funnels
Howie Mandel

Parks and Rec! Gotta go.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Because I promised I would.

The pressure of two posts a week is already getting to me.

There is a hamburger documentary on the Travel Channel. Also, we're heading to St. Louis tomorrow night for Christmas in mid-January, and I need to pack. My mom left the tree up for us, so my hope is that we get there before the very last needle comes crashing to the hardwood floor.

While I stuff Christmas gifts, dirty laundry and dryer sheets into some sort of airport-approved trash bag/trash can, here is an amalgam of links I've collected over the past week. Things I've found funny, or at the very least worthy of wasting a little bit of time.


Do you dislike Gwyneth Paltrow? She seems to be pretty polarizing. And while I don't have a real opinion either way, her most recent blog post deserved some sort of response, and Videogum delivered.

Kanye West's video for his Monster single is controversial. This is not that video. This is better. [I couldn't embed the clean version, FYI]


I love this poster.


And finally, listen to this when you have a chance. If you've seen the movie, it'll make you like it even more, and if you haven't seen it, you'll want to... after listening to this... so... yes.
Coen Brothers on Fresh Air

Have a good weekend!

Friday, January 07, 2011

Love, Spoochi


Sometime Christmas evening, I ordered Joan Didion's The White Album from the Amazon Marketplace and promptly forgot about it until it arrived in the mail yesterday. Thumbing through its yellowed pages, I found a postcard that had been wedged in the spine, equally yellowed but in otherwise good condition. Being the overly sentimental person that I am, I immediately went about devising a way to return it to its original owner. But then I realized that it had never been mailed. And then I realized it was from a cat.
Dear Dad,
I thought it was time you knew what went on in the flat when you go to work. I realize Mom likes dressing up in her "outfits," but she now includes me on the costume changes. I feel ridiculous. I am supposed to sleep and eat during the day - not be a vaudevillian. We have reenacted this shot many times - it reminds me of a cheap party trick. If there is anything in your power you can do about Mom finding full-time work so I can go back to leading a normal kitty life, I would be most grateful.
Love,
Spoochi

Monday, January 03, 2011

The year I saw Italy and Oklahoma for the first time

Goodbye, 2010. You were a good year (on par with 2009, and so, so much better than 2008). But the champagne has been swallowed and the resolutions made, and now it’s time to usher in 2011 with all the ambition that can be mustered from the comfort of my couch. While Matt’s resolution is singular but lofty [he borrowed P90X from a friend when we were in Minnesota for New Year’s Eve, and last night I caught him carefully examining the 90-day calendar. “On day one, you take the ‘before’ picture of yourself – the one where you look sad, pale and hopelessly out of shape,” he said. “And on day 90, you take the ‘after’ picture – and you also achieve success.” I looked at the calendar, and the word “success” was actually written on day 90. Although I have to say, for all the people I know who’ve made it through day one, and maybe even through day 23, I don’t know anyone who’s gotten to day 90 – with all its tanned, muscular “after” pictures and success and promises of infomercial stardom.]

Anyway, on the flipside of that singular but lofty goal is a smattering of smaller, not-unachievable goals that I’ve set for myself, most of which could actually be accomplished during the month of January. They are as follows:

1. Take Matt’s day one picture, preferably in bad lighting to enhance the before-ness.

2. Try P90X for 90 seconds before stomping away (dramatically, in the direction of the nearest refrigerator).

3. Go to spinning class once or twice a week (on Mondays and Wednesdays, when the music is good, as opposed to Saturdays, when the instructor thinks he’s in a reimagining of Full Metal Jacket starring a room full of bikes).

4. Tell people I go to spinning class three times a week.

5. Buy yoga gloves, as my sweaty hands have become an impediment in achieving Zen.

6. Go to yoga.

7. Save more (money, specifically).

8. Cook more.

9. Read more.

10. See our families more.

11. Write more. A wise Biers told me this weekend that more people would read my blog if I wrote with any semblance of a routine. And I suppose he’s right. So my goal is to post at least twice a week, hopefully more. I’d go so far as to name specific days (like, I will always blog on Tuesdays and Thursdays), but I’m afraid I will end up rebelling against the self-inflicted structure and not blog at all. Which would defeat the purpose of this resolution.

What are your resolutions? Don’t leave me hanging! My twelfth resolution is to encourage more comments.

And finally,
2010: A Photo Retrospective, beginning with a New Year's Eve 2009 midnight kiss

































































Addendum: After spending nearly two hours looking through photos, I can confidently say that 2010 was a really, really good year. Don't let me down, 2011. As half-baked as they may be, I've got plans for you.

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