Eight Months of Exile

There’s this thing that happens when my favorite football team has clearly lost its game. I can spend the whole time they’re on the field yelling, clapping, covering my face with my hands, bouncing my knee, standing, swaying, leaning forward on the couch and generally being ridiculous for reasons that affect the outcome not at all… but when they’re obviously going to lose and there’s just no way to avoid it, there’s a consistent phenomenon that comes over me: I fall completely silent and go completely still.

For those of you who don’t follow football, don’t watch the Eagles or hate them with the passion that only a Giants fan can summon (right back atcha, by the way), the Birds started out the season horribly. They beat the Redskins in the opening salvo of Monday Night Football while my poor demented neighbor, Miss Ella, seemingly locked herself out of her house (not really – the back door was open – but my three friends who summoned me didn’t realize that). After that, though, the team finished the first half of the 16-game regular season with a pathetic record of 3-5 and such inconsistent play that nobody knew what it would take to get them on track.

Miss Ella was taken to a nursing home weeks before they got out of the basement of the NFC East. She passed away right around the time Mike Vick pulled a hamstring.

And then everything changed. The neighborhood got a lot quieter and the Eagles got a lot better.

Nick Foles, a second-year, second-string quarterback who had only started five games in the NFL before the midway point of this season, came in to take over for Vick… and all of a sudden, the Eagles had an offense. The second half of the regular season, with Vick suited and watching supportively on the sidelines, they went 7-1. Though every blasted game made me nervous (a symptom of a lifelong allegiance to the team), they managed not only to wrap up the regular term with more Ws than Ls—they also wound up beating the Dallas Cowdung… I mean Cowboys… to confirm their spot atop the NFC East conference and head to the playoffs.

Nevermind that the NFC East has been the weakest conference in the NFL for a few years now.

And so we came to last night. Me, alone on my couch after guests had left, because you really shouldn’t watch a consequential Eagles game with me, lest your opinion of me as a woman and a person in control of herself change dramatically. I had taken off the shirt I’d been wearing earlier in loyalty to a college team and was waiting anxiously to see if I was going to have to put on my Eagles t-shirt. This is the first time in my life I’ve ever owned any Eagles merch, and it had proven magical a few weeks before when, while decorating my Christmas tree and unable to see the game because it wasn’t being aired in my market, my sister was texting me play-by-play and told me to put the shirt on in the 3rd quarter when the Eagles were down by two TDs. Exactly one minute after I’d donned the shirt, the team scored, and began their comeback to win. In the ensuing weeks, I hadn’t had to wear it – though I thought about it – because it was clear it could only be used if the Eagles were down in the 3rd, and that hadn’t happened. They were precariously close to losing their lead more than once – and even in the game preceding the Cowboys matchup, when they were up 40 – 11, I wasn’t sure they’d really win. (They eventually did, by 43 points.)

As a fan, the last thing you want to do is screw up your team’s performance by putting on their shirt at the wrong time. In the immortal words of whoever wrote the Bud Light commercials: It’s only weird if it doesn’t work.

But last night, in the third quarter, the Eagles suddenly found themselves trailing. Eighty years as a ball club have demonstrated that when they’re down at this point in the game, they’re not getting back up. The only time I can remember when that hasn’t proven true was the week I put the shirt on.

Ding went my cell phone, signaling a new text message.

Sister 2: Put the shirt on.

Me: Literally just got off the couch to do it.

A tense few minutes of play later, it was obvious that there was some sort of disruption in the Force.

Me to Sister 2: Maybe they don’t know I put my shirt on.

Sister 2: Maybe you should take it off and put it back on.

Me: That’s unprecedented. I fear the potential fallout.

I held firm. Sure enough, it started to work. I didn’t feel a tingle and nothing started to glow, but as I sat bolt upright on the front half of my couch cushion through all play and commercials, bladder and thirst (in diametric opposition) be damned, the team started to come back. It started to look like they might do this thing. They wound up in the lead: 24-23. My hands hurt from hard-clapping.

And then the Saints got the ball with a few minutes left in the game. They weren’t passing. Drew Brees, their annoyingly illustrious quarterback who is two years younger than me and who I remember watching at Purdue when I was in undergrad in Ohio and my friends attended there, was running a ground game. They had decent field position and, perhaps most critical of all, a ground game the Eagles couldn’t seem to stop. No interceptions possible. Less chance of a fumble forced by a hard hit, or of stripping the ball from a receiver’s hands as he tries to control it. First down after first down (could the Eagles not hear me yelling at them not to let the Saints convert?), and exactly the right amount of time on the clock to go the yardage needed. There was no way the Eagles were going to get the ball back without committing some serious penalty that would cost them yardage. The Saints had previously mounted an effective defense run by former Eagles head coach Buddy Ryan’s evil son, Rob, whose eyes, I swear, shoot lasers sometimes. Now with the ball, they could run the clock down, get themselves into good field goal position, kick an easy one and win the game by two.

I could see it all unfolding, like I was predicting the future. Which I tend to do when I watch the Eagles.

At the 2:00 warning, I knew it was over. After 58 field minutes of anxious shouting and twitching, I fell silent and still. Nothing the shirt could do.

With :03 left, the Saints lined up for a field goal.

Ding.

It occurred to me briefly that I shouldn’t read the message.

I clicked the Read button.

My friend Sam: He’ll miss it.

Nnnnnoooooo! Why did you SAY that?!

And with that, the Saints’ kicker sent the ball through the uprights.

Ding.

Sam: Next year. He’ll miss it next year. 

Oh, Sam. How could you?

Me: You had to go and say it.

Sam: The dude’s about to get his AARP card. I thought there was a decent chance he’d shank it.

Maybe if Miss Ella had died again…

Or if I had my hair down, like last time, instead of up…

Maybe if the game hadn’t been broadcast in my market (impossible for a playoff), or if I had been undecorating my tree…

The shirt had worked. The team had come back and taken the lead. But Sam. Sam had effed it up via text.

Sigh.

I guess I can wash the shirt now.

 

It was almost like a Thomas Kinkade painting around here.

I spent New Year’s Eve doing one of the things that makes me the happiest in life: cooking and serving a big meal for a bunch of people.

Before I bought my house, I couldn’t really have a bunch of people over. Now, I can have maybe a dozen before it starts getting really cozy. (And by “really cozy” I mean “more than two people sitting on my stairs to eat.”) I had 10 Tuesday night. At least five of them were mystified by the countertop roaster I was using to make the three pork tenderloins I was going to serve. (It had occurred to me that every item on my menu needed to be roasted and I only have one oven. Happily, when I mentioned this to my parents during my Christmas visit, they offered me use of the roaster I forgot they had.) Before I’d turned it on, people were slowly approaching it, lifting the lid and and gazing at it like it was the eighth wonder of the world. It’s a Hamilton Beach contraption, and it doesn’t look particularly old. I don’t know when my parents bought it, but I believe it was so they could make two turkeys for either Thanksgiving or Christmas to feed our crowd, which varies between 22 and 34 people, depending on who’s spending which holiday with which side of their own families. They used it for Thanksgiving; my aunt and uncle used it for Christmas, and the morning after, my uncle delivered it back to my parents so I could take it.

Everyone had dressed up. This was such a delight. I had planned to be dressy because I’ve never hosted New Year’s Eve and I haven’t been to a NYE party since 2006/7 (And that one was boring, featured me overhearing someone tell my then-boyfriend-of-two-months, Mitch, “Your wife is hot,” and hearing him reply, “She’s not my wife. Yet,” and ended with his brother-in-law, who I had met one time before this, drunkenly hugging me goodbye and saying, “Please love him.” I should have known then that Mitch was a jerk.) But I hadn’t told anyone what to wear; I truly wanted it to be whatever they liked. Eliza texted me earlier in the day:

E: Attire?
Me: I’ll probably be dressy because that’s my mood, but wear whatever you want.
E: So, pajamas.
Me: Totally acceptable. I might change my clothes at some point. Toga? Possible.
E: Bikini.
Me: That would make things interesting…
E: Why not?
Me: It IS nye…

When I opened the door to their knock, Eliza was in an awesome cocktail dress, hair did, makeup on, heels, her glasses reflecting the twinkle of the lit garland around my door. Her husband was in a sportcoat and tie. They looked dashing. As did everyone else who showed up without asking at all what to wear. I was honored that they wanted to look nice. Even wee bitty Rosemary, all of two years old, was in a pretty dress and tights, walking around sipping ginger ale from a plastic champagne flute and saying “Cheers!” to everyone.

It’s possible that her father, Blaine, scoped out the situation when he came over early to drop off the veggie tray. I was already dressed. He may well have gone back and reported to Erica that the dress code was fancy. He was in a suit. A full-on suit. The man has a master’s degree in physics and is unemployed (cruel twist to being super-smart and educated). I have no idea the last time he wore a suit.

My tree was lit up, almost every light in the house was on and my friends were complimenting my Christmas decor while Rosemary played with the sheep in my nativity scene. (I had wondered if I should put it away – Rosemary tends to be sweetly destructive – but how could I hide the nativity scene and still call myself a good Christian woman, all sins to the contrary aside?) There was so much good cheer I could hardly contain myself.

Then Rosemary got hold of the remotes and now I can’t control my TV with any of them. The evening included about 30 minutes of four people trying to figure out how to get it to respond to button-pushing. I was crouched behind-beside it, maneuvering my wrap dress to stay wrapped while reaching through a tangle of cable-box-blu-ray-player-phone-TV-router-modem cords trying to sort out which was which so I could unplug the TV, hoping it might re-set. Because kicking it to make it work is probably ill-advised when you’re dealing with a TV. Is what the four of us had worked out. This includes the guy with the M.S. in physics.

My grandmother, when she hosted holiday meals, always served Pepperidge Farm Piroutte cookies… little, buttery, crisp, light straws streaked with chocolate. I remember them clearly from my childhood. When I had been shopping, I came across them and thought they’d be a pretty addition to the berries & sparkling wine I planned to serve for dessert. The berries went into my grandmother’s sliver-rimmed bone china bowls, topped with a little bit of still-fizzing bubbly, and I laid a Pirouette across each one. It was so simple and so pretty, and it made me smile to know that my grandmother was with us, even if I was the only one aware of it.

She probably smiled too, but she prefered the sweet Asti Spumanti to the Gruet Brut I was serving. We buried her with a bottle of Asti. True story. My cousin accidentally bumped the casket during the viewing and the bottle loudly clunked to the bottom, sending my cousin shooting away from my grandmother’s remains with an expression of terror. It was hysterical. I believe my mother and several aunts peed themselves a little.

When the countdown clock ticked down to midnight, old acquaintance was not forgot, but these friends of mine in this home I’ve made lifted plastic flutes of sparkling wine and bade each other good for the year, after being a very big part of what made the last one good for me.

Here’s to 2014, and friends. And family who linger long after they’re gone. Eat, drink, and be merry. Show love.

And occasionally, knock a bottle of cheap booze around a dead body. Can’t hurt.

What Kind of Year Has It Been?

Oh heeeyyyy 2014! We had quite a welcoming party for you last night. I, for one, spent the first four hours of your existence awake and talking and listening and wearing heels, trying not to think about the dishes that were piled in the sink. We said goodbye to your ancestor, 2013, with quite the yummy meal and lots of laughs and hugs and smiles. The old Irish toasted wish that my house be too small to hold all my friends came true.

So now as I sit next to my increasingly brittle Christmas tree (it has volunteered in tribute—this thing has a death wish which apparently involves taking in no water at all despite the fresh cut in its trunk and in absolute defiance of the special stuff I put in the water to help it live longer), knowing full well that I haven’t posted a blog entry in many, many days (despite taking my laptop with me to my parents’ house for the Christmas visit), it occurs to me that I made a list one year ago today of things I wanted to learn in 2013. (I posted it a year ago tomorrow, probably because I worked late on the 1st.) Let’s see how I did.

1. How to make a really, truly good lasagna
I did not learn how to make a really, truly good lasagna. In fact, I only made lasagna once in 2013, and it was the Tyler Florence recipe that bubbled over in the oven. I did, however, eat some really, truly good lasagna. So maybe I’ll just get the recipe from the neighbor who made it. 1/3 credit.

2. More arias by Puccini.
I did not sing more arias by Puccini. But I listened to them. This counts as learning. Half credit.

3. How to get paint out of carpet.
I heard a few suggestions for how to get paint out of carpet. They did not work. Item voided.

4. My own worth.
It didn’t occur to me a year ago that I wouldn’t have a yardstick by which to measure that. But I know I’ve learned more about my worth than I knew in 2012. And I’m very grateful for that. Credit.

5. More about history.
I learned much more about history even though I still can’t quite get past page 100 in “Lincoln: Team of Rivals”. Credit.

6. How to better identify and let go of lost causes.
I’m trying to think of what the lost causes were in 2013. I know the biggest one, and I certainly finally recognized it. I’m definitely working on letting it go, and I’m getting there. That’s pretty huge. There’s another one I haven’t quite admitted yet, but I’m pretty close. Maybe I don’t see things in the frame of the phrase “lost cause.” I kind of like that I don’t see things that way—it seems so dire and blah. Oh, but I accepted that my car will look like a piece of crap until it no longer belongs to me, because it will cost too much to fix it. And the tree is probably a lost cause at this point. Credit.

7. How to be a more effective and prolific advocate for crime victims.
After waiting for about a year for a response from the state senator with whom I worked on our first legislative effort for crime victims, I gave up (lost cause recognized) and approached another lawmaker. He and I are due for a follow-up conversation in the next few days to find out whether there’s something we can do to change home detention eligibility requirements so that persons who have been served with a protective order while on home detention forfeit their eligibility. And the state’s system for issuing protective orders now provides information to complainants so that they know exactly when those orders have been delivered to the respondent (it takes longer than you might think, and this is typically the most dangerous time in a volatile situation). Credit.

PS: As soon as I started working with the other lawmaker, the state senator emailed me and asked me if we could talk about my ideas. I told him who I was talking with and the senator immediately contacted him. Rick finds this hilarious.

8. How to paint the nails on my right hand as well as I paint the nails on my left hand.
This is almost a reality. Sometimes. Half credit.

9. How to let other people see me vulnerable (in non-blog form). 
I’m still working on this. Old habits. But I’ve gotten better. I’m just not where I should be yet. Half credit.

10. What it means to be truly loved.
I have friends and family who truly love me, and I have more of them than I deserve, and I am more grateful for that than I used to be. But I know that, when I put this item on the list, I meant romantic love, and there was very little of that in 2013. The only person I dated was Rick. But I’m okay with that, because I’ve needed the time, and I’ve needed to work on #4. So… maybe I’m set up better for 2014. Half credit awarded, half suspended indefinitely.

11. How to get red wine splatter of a white ceiling without repainting the whole damned thing.
Whatever. Item revoked.

12. What yet another country looks like, in person.
Didn’t happen. No credit.

13. Where I left my step stool.
I found that thing a week after I wrote the post. It was behind my bedroom door, which I never close. Credit for finding it negated by credit subtracted for being a jackass.

14. More about my community and who lives in it.
Definitely accomplished this. Particularly last week when I heard a terrible car accident. By the time I got to the corner of my block, where it happened, there must have been 50 people milling around. I have no idea where they all came from.

15. What it would take to fix Congress… because just voting everyone out is both unrealistic and probably a really, really bad idea.
Well, I have my thoughts. We know this. But I think they might have come to a bit of an understanding up there on Capitol Hill recently. Everybody lost in 2013. Credit awarded for being smarter than most of those people.

16. To be more open to new things.
Well, I think I am more open to new things… I just can’t think of any new things I did. Oh, wait—new career, new chapter as a graduate student, first full year as a homeowner, just accepted my first freelance writing gig, new friends, hosted a holiday dinner for the first time… and I’ve let spiders live in my basement. That never happened before. Credit.

17. A new, really good soup recipe.
Just made it two days ago for the second time. It’s just chicken noodle, but damn, it’s good chicken noodle. It’s also the only thing I’ve eaten today. Credit.

18. How to clean my house the way Mary Poppins cleaned Jane and Michael Banks’ room.
Nope. But I did see “Saving Mr. Banks,” and apparently, Mary Poppins was never meant to be a housekeeper, so I had the wrong premise. Item voided.

19. A magic trick that makes laundry fold itself.
Negative. But I did leave it unfolded for a long time, piled in heaps. No credit.

20. To be more productive and feel more purposed.
This might be the most unexpected gift of my new career. Or maybe it’s just because, in that new career, I am constantly making To Do lists and then crossing things off. Sure, I don’t even get started on them until 4pm on any given day, but that’s even better, in a way, because the reason I don’t get started until 4pm is that I’ve spent the previous hours doing other stuff that was more pressing and had come up in the course of the day. I almost never get everything on the list done, but let’s face it: a bunch of the stuff is just there so I don’t forget it needs to be done at some point, not necessarily that day. Crossing items off those lists is truly one of the most satisfying little things in life. And to be appreciated for my work makes me feel more purposed. Credit. 

21. Better ways to get and keep my back healthier.
It was better in 2013, and I was more mindful of how to keep it from freaking out. I stopped seeing the chiropractor in January. That seems to have helped. Credit… and a knock on wood.

22. More grace.
Thank God, this is an ongoing effort. But when I feel grace, or I feel myself using grace in response to a less-than-gracious situation, I feel great peace. And since I didn’t quantify this as anything other than “more,” even just a tiny bit counts. Credit.

23. When to keep my mouth shut.
I’m actually doing pretty well with this. Especially because it’s limited to keeping my mouth shut and not keeping my typing fingers still. You’re welcome, blog. Credit.

24. More about where I came from.
This was accomplished unexpectedly. My friend loves to get lost in ancestry records. I now know my mother’s great-grandparents’ names and what they looked like. I know there was a third child in a photo taken in 1895, but no one knows who it is. I know and have seen photos of the ships my great-grandparents immigrated on, and I know that my great-grandfather held at least two patents for textile design, which was one of his goals in immigrating (his company in Germany took all his ideas and claimed them as theirs). I know my grandfather’s father was in a soldiers’ orphans’ home by the time he was 15, but I’m still working on finding out why. If we can find who his parents were, we will have unlocked a very long family mystery. Credit.

Now, the following are not resolutions, but they’re things I’d like to do in 2014. Here goes:

Read more books.

Help my division work more effectively.

Make more friends.

Fall in love, be fallen in love with… and keep him for a while!

Go to the movies more. (I think I went twice in 2013, and one of those was the day after Christmas.)

Figure out what the hell my two-year-old neighbor did to my remote last night that rendered it useless for controlling the TV’s power and volume. (This might be the hardest one to accomplish. Several people tried already.)

Enjoy more moments.

Take six graduate classes. (Two lined up for next term.)

Be of service.

Show love.

Buy a Christmas tree that accepts water as sustenance.
********
A happy, healthy 2014 full of the best words to all of you!

 

 

 

I have enough adorable kid photos to fill a recycling bin.

When did Christmas cards become all about photos of people’s kids?

This is really two different things, in my mind. One is that so few people even send Christmas cards anymore. I know they’re a pain in the ass. Every year I think, “Oh, I can write Christmas cards while I wait for the laundry/cookies/dinner/this show on TV,” and every year I get halfway through and think, “Why the hell does it take so long to write some Christmas cards?!” But it’s tradition, and I think it’s lovely to actually spring for the $0.46 (and whatever the breakdown cost is for the card and envelope) to let someone know I’m thinking of them during this season.

As of right now, I have received 15 cards. That’s it. How sad is that? Granted, a lot of my friends and family are last-minute types, so maybe I’ll get a few more in the coming days, but I’m going to bet that I top off at 25, outside. Which means that half the people I send cards to don’t return the greeting. (I’m pretty sure that half the cards I’ve received only came because they got mine first.)

I haven’t even gotten a card from my parents yet.

Of the 15 cards I’ve received, eight are collages of kids. The only cards that came with art and not snapshots of precious children are the ones that came from people who don’t have children.

Here’s the irony: 20 years ago, these photo cards would have been grand. You know why? Because it would actually have been a year since I’ve seen some of these kids. I wouldn’t have been force-fed photos semi-weekly on social media since the day they were born. I have actually seen these kids grow up. Which means I have no need for photos of them in my mailbox.

Except my nephews and my niece. I’ll take those.

It’s not that I don’t like children; regular readers know that I do. It’s just that I don’t like narcissism. (And I have noted before the irony of disliking narcissism while being a blogger.) And I thought, for a while, that it was an affordability issue, but then I looked it up and it turns out… these cards are way more expensive than the photo-less ones I buy at a store. Way more!

I realize that many of you who are reading this right now might be photo-card-senders. Please understand that I don’t dislike the people who send them. I love them; that’s why I get cards from them, and why they get cards from me. But I guess I’m kind of old-fashioned in addition to being childless. I guess that means I don’t get it. When I was a kid, parents didn’t brag that much about their children. When my parents were kids, parents mostly thought their children were horrible burdens and gaping mouths clamoring to be fed.

It was a simpler time.

My cousin, who is single and childless (and 41 and has never moved out of her parents’ house, but I digress) also sent a photo collage card… but it was a collage of places she traveled to this year. She’s always been a little all about Eve, but once I got past that, I couldn’t help but like the idea. “In your face, Parents of Adorable Offspring. Did you get to go anywhere besides the grocery store this year? Nope.”

So, though I love all the kids who are peering happily at me from the meager string of cards I’ve collected, I’d like to ask that people do two things next Christmas:
1. Send an actual card
2. Try to make it about something other than themselves and their kids

Feel free to tell me I’m an asshole in the comments section.

Like Taking Wine From A Baby’s Mama

I’m still getting used (I just tried to spell that “youst.” True story.) to the holiday festiveness of my new job. Today was the office Christmas party, complete with a baked goods contest and a white elephant gift exchange. Yes, a Christmas party. There was food that didn’t come out of a vending machine and by “party” I don’t mean merely “group of people working at the same time and eating simultaneously,” which is what “office party” meant in my old career.

Unfortunately, the white elephant exchange made me slightly violent, which may have spoiled the festivities a bit for me.

I didn’t participate in the gift exchange because I
         A) forgot about it; and
         2) didn’t go buy something for it.
So I got to watch, which was perfectly fine because I had already totally beasted a game of holiday-themed Taboo in which my VP, who had apparently never heard of nor played the game before, had totally bombed. She’s very competitive, so she was kind of pissed about it. Then she said something about hating angels because they’re dead babies. Which made me reevaluate my entire concept of what angels are. And made me plot to decorate her office with angels.

It was kind of a weird party.

Anyway, there were some pretty nice gifts in this exchange, including a bottle of sangria, a bottle of limoncello, a bottle of Bailey’s and a bottle of merlot. And I was sitting next to a coworker who is exactly no days away from her due date to deliver a child that she, quite frankly, looks terribly uncomfortable lugging around internally at this point. Friday she thought she was going to have him because he was breech and the docs decided to try to move him, but since that comes with a risk of elevated fetal stress, they also planned to induce her if there was a problem. She had gotten all psyched up to deliver, one way or another, and then she got to the doc and found out he’d flipped to head-down position and now she just has to wait him out. 

The woman needs a drink. Is what I’m saying.

So it was pretty great when she scored the bottle of sangria in the gift exchange.

But then Marty, having been relieved of his original gift and stuck with a stuffed school mascot, came over and took the wine away from the pregnant lady.

I did not make that up.

Marty is kind of an ass on a regular day, so if anybody was going to do this, it was going to be him. He’s affable enough, but he’s a blowhard and he is also, by virtue of a weird inter-divisional galactic hiccup, my client. For the most part we do just fine with each other, but it’s crap like this that makes me realize what a spazz he really is. 

When he triumphantly swiped the sangria from Ellen and replaced it with the stuffed school mascot he didn’t want, the entire room groaned as if to say, “Wow. You just did that.”

The game continued, with my artsy friend Dwight enamored with his Circle of Wetlands Creatures Holding Flippers Around a Candle candle holder (he walks to work and we had decided he should light the candle and then walk slowly home in the dark with it as though it were some sort of hippie-nature-commune-of-one parade for peace) and my boss struggling to open a package (the entire room watched him for what seemed like an endless three full minutes as he battled a curling ribbon without success). Something like seven people later, I was still stewing about Marty’s low move. Work Husband Rob and I schemed. Non-participants ourselves, maybe we could get someone to collude with us so Ellen could get her bottle back.

 “Psst. Donna,” I whispered across the table. “Donna! Donna!” 

Donna turned.

“When it’s your turn, are you willing to play along and take Ellen’s mascot so she can go get her sangria back from Marty?”

Donna winked. “Sure.”

Hehehehe.

Like thirty-two rounds later, it was Donna’s turn. “Gimme your mascot,” she said to Ellen with a smile.

“Go get your wine, girl!” I said.

Interestingly, though Ellen has had some trouble walking lately, she did not have any problem wobbling the length of the large conference room to get that sangria back from Marty, to the hoots and applause of the rest of the room’s occupants.

But two rounds later, another coworker (one who is not an ass), took the sangria.

You guys. What the hell?

These were childless men taking the sangria from the pregnant woman, by the way. Because of course.

So Ellen went trolling and found the bottle of merlot, which she swiped from the new guy who just started in the web department two days ago. And everyone applauded, including, by the way, the new guy who just started in the web department two days ago. 

Content with her merlot, Ellen situated herself in her chair again in whatever position was possibly less-than-miserable.

Two rounds later, we came to the end of the game… the part where the person who picked the first gift gets last dibs. Well, guess who had picked the first gift.

You got it. Marty. Marty, who, after several rounds of vindictive communal swiping in retaliation for his dick move with the sangria, found himself saddled with a bag full of stupid gag gifts.

“I swear to God,” I said to Ellen and Rob, “if he comes over here looking for that wine, I’m smacking his hand.”

The rat bastard came back and took Ellen’s merlot.

I smacked his hand and it had no effect.

You would think that, the first time you swipe a bottle of wine from a dilating woman, you’d learn to read the room. The faces of all persons gathered for Festivus reflected the same thought: “Really asshole? Really? Twice, you’re going to do that?”

You know what, Marty? Noted. Noted.

I looked at Rob across the table, rolled my eyes and said, “It’s really a wonder that he’s still single at the age of 46.”

But there was salvation at hand—as there always is on Christmas. Remember my friend Dwight, with the woodland creatures candle holder? He won the award for Best Baked Good in the blind taste test. Said award was a bottle of pink bubbly, which seemingly would suit him really well, except for the fact that Dwight has a deteriorating spine and is on medications so hard-core that he may be in violation of a few laws. Which means he can’t drink or he’ll die.

So he gave his bottle of bubbly to Ellen.

SCORE! Take THAT, Marty!

Naturally, I had a meeting with Marty right after the festivities were over. I was so seriously annoyed with him for being a douche rocket that I could barely speak. (I am apparently a little too invested in this matter.) But then as the meeting really got rolling, I started putting out a few ideas and he loved them. After a while, he told me I was on a roll.

“You know what?” he said. “Here. You win this for your ideas.”

And he handed me the bottle of merlot he had stolen from Ellen.

I played it cool. I didn’t want him to know what I was going to do with it. I acted like I didn’t really want it. I left it on the table between us, half-sure that he would take it at the end of the meeting. But wouldn’t you know… he picked it up off the table and handed it to me again. “This is yours,” he said.

And I walked that bottle of wine right over to Ellen.

Girlfriend went home with the merlot and the pink bubbly.

Hurry up, baby boy. Mama needs a cocktail.

Decent or Douchey. Totally Your Call.

I feel like the world needs a lesson in being decent vs. being douchey. Maybe it’s because Rudolph is inexplicably on TV before Thanksgiving and I’ve always thought Santa was douchey in that show, but mostly it’s probably because of the following story.

I get home tonight and of course there is a series of parking fails on the block resulting in several half-spaces and none full, so I circle around and start to head into the alley to park behind my house. I get a car-length in and there are two guys in my headlights with a two-wheeled trailer – not a huge thing, probably five, six feet long. It’s blocking the alley. So I stop, thinking the guys will move it – perhaps to the half-pad that’s to my right.

They appear to chat a bit, and then they look at me and kind of shrug. And I shake my head and gesture in the universal sign for Move That. The one guy walks through his gate (I’ve never met this guy), holds it to let the other guy in, and they both walk into the back “yard” (which is walled in with cement block, so I can’t see them).

So I wait, because I figure they’re strategizing or something, because obviously they’re not going to be that dickish. But one minute turns to three and then to four and I finally accept that they’ve actually gone into the house.

Really? That’s how you’re going to play this? I mean okay…

I debate approaches because clearly these guys are douchebags, but since at least one of them is apparently my neighbor, I decide to kill them with kindness. I turn off the motor, leave the lights on, get out of the car in the alley in the freezing rain and walk through the still-open fence to knock on the back door. (There are windows in the door and no curtains, so they really can’t ignore me or anything.) They have popped open some beers—how nice!—but they come to the door. I’m smiling.

“Oh, hey,” the one guy says.

“Hi.”

“You need to get down the alley?”

“Yeah…” (smiling)

“Oh, really?” he says flatly.

“Yeah, that’s why I’m sitting there.” (Smiling. Possibly a tiny bit passive-aggressive but I’ve kind of earned that, haven’t I?)

“Oh, really?”

Seriously, dude? Are you stoned? Is that what’s happening?

“Yeah…”

“Oh, okay.”

“Um, so…”

“You want me to move that thing?”

“Yeah. Oh! It IS yours, right?” I mean of course it’s yours, but for right now let’s pretend I’m not making safe assumptions and I’ll be generous enough to let you own up.

“Yeah. Well I mean it’s his but…”

“Oh, hi, yeah, that’s actually mine, but…” says the other guy.

“Hi. Yeah…” (I think I’m still smiling, but there are amorphous blobs of ice-rain landing on my head, so I’m not 100% sure.)

“You need to get, like, what, all the way down?” the one guy wants to know.

“No, um… like halfway down.” (Smiling and fully aware that he wants to challenge why I didn’t just drive down the block behind us instead of the alley between us and it… yet not willing to tell him exactly where I live in case he decides that my requirement that he be decent warrants a tire-slashing party later tonight. His house is clean and he doesn’t seem to have criminal tendencies—he’s just a regular douchebag—but you never know.)

“Oh, okay. Can you back out and we’ll move it?”

“Um… well I’ll back out as far as I can, but… I can’t see into the street and I don’t want to back into the street, so…” Which is why I didn’t already back out, but you guys are A) douchey; and 2) kind of bad at context clues.

“Oh, yeah, okay, well…”

“Oh, actually, if you can just back up a little bit we can roll it into that half-pad right there,” says the other guy, who’s apparently the brains of this particular operation.

“Great!” If only someone had thought of this before, when you were both looking at me and I was making the universal gesture for Move That and then you WALKED AWAY AND LEFT ME THERE.

So they both come back out, into the freezing rain, and I back up and they easily move the thing into the half-pad. And I gesture at them to go ahead and walk back inside out of the rain before I drive by, but they wave me through. So I roll down my window and thank them and wish them a happy Thanksgiving and then silently plot to set their house on fire.

Moral of the story: if you have a choice between being a decent human being and being douchey… don’t be douchey. It makes people want to set your house on fire. (Hashtag DBD)

But honestly, why feel the need to be jerks in situations where you are clearly in the wrong? Not only were you blocking me from getting through the alley to my parking pad, but you were also illegally blocking the alley itself. Why stubbornly insist on doing something that could land you in hot water with the fuzz? If they drive by and see your contraption blocking the path of hypothetical emergency response, you’re going to get cited for it. And it would be a shame if, say, your house was on fire, and the emergency personnel couldn’t access the burning area.

I mean I’m just trying to help you out, here.

Hopefully the upshot of this mild neighborly battle of wills is that these guys feel kind of guilty for being dickish to the nice lady who was all dressed up and had to climb out of her car in the alley in the freezing rain because they were dickish for really no reason at all except laziness and an apparent forgetfulness of having had mothers who would be disappointed in them right now. This is why I’m always telling Gaybor Steve not to go all sassy on people right from jump. If you get bitchy at step one, you make the other guy feel justified in his initial behavior, and you’re at the added disadvantage of having nowhere to go from there. If you start out with civility and a smile, you get to be the bigger person and you have wiggle room for possibly escalating behavior.

Also? #DBD.

 

Anti-Social Network

I can’t decide if Facebook is particularly annoying today or if I hate all people in general.

Which is the kind of thing I’d rather like to post as a status, but I can’t. For obvious reasons.

Seriously, though:
1. (disappointment emoticon followed by FB explanation that we’re looking at a disappointment emoticon, which, to me, indicates Facebook’s failure to design sufficiently emotive emoticons) “What an unbelievable day at work. Not appropriate for Facebook discussion but I just had to vent for a minute.”

^Okay, you know what? This is not a valid status update.^

Also? You just got that job. Stop complaining about it.

2. A. Night. With. NOTHING. Feeling so happy. 

That last part was actually spelled out. No emoticon with accompanying emoticon explanation. Also no interesting content whatsoever. Nor am I interested when this person tells me what she’s doing on all the other nights.

3. Time for some more work after a lovely evening. :-)

That was a plain old smiley face, no explanation needed. And I know this guy, and I know what “a lovely evening” means, and it’s to do with the guy he may or may not be dating. He wants someone to ask what he did. I’m not doing it. I’m not.

Throw in the usual baiting (today it’s about George Zimmerman and Toronto’s charming mayor); today’s selfies from the same people who posted selfies yesterday; excessive use of exclamation points; some Map My Run shit from a few people who apparently think the rest of FacebookLand gives a flying flaming turd about them going for a run, taking a particular route and running a particular distance in a particular time; an occasional fitness system sales pitch from someone who hasn’t been able to talk about anything but her weight loss since some time in 2011; and a snarky person-to-person-for-everyone-to-see oblique attack on another person with whom they’re no longer friends (but I am) and you have a day on the social network.

And then there are the grammar horrors.

recognize the irony in a blogger deciding that social media “status sharing” is the lowest form of self-serving narcissism, and I realize that I can’t exactly impose my personal Facebook rules (make people laugh or make people think – do not, repeat, do not complain or seek attention – that’s what the blog is for) to everyone on my news feed. I also recognize that the logical reader might, at this point, suggest that I remove myself from Facebook, or remove these particular friends from my list of personal contacts. Well, I can’t remove myself from Facebook because it’s like Communist Russia; you either go along with it or you die a lonely death in cold, cold isolation with nothing but a quarter-loaf of stale bread. And I can’t remove these folks from my list because sometimes they do offer something amusing or useful or interesting and I would feel bad ignoring it. One of them may or may not be my sister. Who may or may not often post things from Map My Run or summaries of funerals she’s been to that day. But often shows me my nephews doing something adorable. Oh, I’m torn.

Wouldn’t it be great if, instead of apparently un-self-explanatory emoticons, Facebook had an algorithm that would allow it to filter stuff you just don’t have the time or emotional energy to see? Maybe you could set it daily. The first time you take a look at the feed each day (if you’re a frequent FBer), you answer a quick series of questions designed to protect you from the people you know and love:

1. What is your mood today?
A. Fine, why?
B. I’m great!
C. Meh.
D. None of your goddamned business, asshole.

And Facebook would note that, if the answer is D, you should not see any posts like this:

FB post 3

 

 

 

(Granted, you might appreciate the comment. But the narcissism of the person who took a screen shot of their own comment would probably cancel that out.)

2. How do you feel about insert today’s political phenomenon?
A. Brilliant!
B. Horrible.
C. So horrible it’s brilliant!
D. I don’t even know what you’re talking about, but I vote.

And Facebook would note that, if the answer is D, you should not see any posts like this:

fb post 2

 

 

 

 

 

3. Which characteristic are you likely to exhibit today?
A. Relatively even tolerance.
B. Hysterical laughter at satire/irony/stuff about horrible things happening to people.
C. Rage.
D. I love Jesus!

And Facebook would note that, if the answer is C, you should not see any posts like this:

fb post 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Rate the strength of your opinion on the following statement: A user’s status updates should contain that user’s original thoughts most of the time.
A. Strongly disagree
B. Somewhat disagree
C. Neither agree nor disagree
D. Somewhat agree
E. Strongly Agree

And Facebook would note that, if the answer is D or E, you should not see any posts like this from that guy who always, always posts things like this, like, five times a day, for crying out loud:

FB post 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Of the following people, who will probably piss you off/annoy you the most today?
A. Your mother, who really should not be on Facebook anyway and definitely should stop Liking all these anti-government pages
B. Your ex, who probably shouldn’t be your FB friend but we’re not going to go there right now because clearly you’re still sensitive about it
C. Your boss, who probably shouldn’t be your FB friend but he asked you and what… you were going to say no?
D. Your kid, who, despite the attention you’ve paid to his/her education, still doesn’t seem to understand that “OK” is not spelled with seven Ks
E. That friend who posts totally senseless stuff that nobody ever clicks Like about, but she still hasn’t taken the hint

And Facebook would filter your news feed appropriately.

6. What is most likely to set you off on an uncontrollable tirade today?
A. Poor grammar and/or punctuation
B. Willful ignorance
C. Self-serving pith
D. Public displays of affection
E. Someone else’s total lack of self-awareness
F. Stuff that, I swear to God, doesn’t even make any fucking sense.

And you’d be spared the worst of possible provocation.

BIL 2 once summarized FB etiquette/non-annoyingness like this: Don’t post anything you wouldn’t literally yell in a room full of people numbering the same as the number of FB friends you have.

Sometimes, though, it’s a pretty great way to spread the word about a pretty great thing. Here’s my favorite of the last few days. I’d be more than happy to shout that one from the rooftops.

 

Prom Night

It’s prom night! I’m doing my nails! I know what I’m doing with my hair and everything!

Tonight is the fundraising semi-formal gala for the neighborhood association. We call it the prom, but really it’s just another neighborhood party in a different location for which we get to dress up instead of come-as-you-are. There’s dancing. It’s just like high school, except with Spanx and an open bar (wine and beer) and a silent auction, a pre-event dose of ibuprofen so my back can handle the night, and an instant spray-on tan from a can instead of weeks of seven-minute increments in a tanning bed. And nobody sneaks off to get high afterward.

That last part might not be true.

I’ve been mentally preparing for The Colombian to be there with Lydia for a month, so it’ll be totally fine. It’s nice to be able to go to prom and not feel like I have to have a date, or feel like a loser for not having one. (I did have dates to my proms.) So why was it a tiny little poke in the gut when Rick, who never posts on FB, posted about his gallery showing yesterday and thanked his girlfriend for making it so special?

That’s awesome, by the way. I’m glad they’re doing well. I’m just a little jealous that nobody says such sweet things about me.

While electro-chatting with Angie about the upcoming evening, a text came through. Javier, from whom I haven’t heard in two weeks (when I was in the mountains and he simply asked if I was in town and then not another peep). “Pre-drinks, my house, 7pm. Bring bubbly but not required.”

Well, hell. You’ve gone ahead and invited me over (I’m not the only invite—an hour later, Gaybor Steve told me without prompting that he’ll be there) and even beaten me to the “what can I bring?” punch by telling me. If my former coworker had been able to bring me my latest wine shipment, I’d have bubbly at home, but that hasn’t happened yet, which means now I have to go to the store.

I’m currently smelly, sans makeup, greasy hair pulled back in a haphazard ponytail, and wearing entirely too much ironic fuscia velour in the form of yoga pants and a zip-up hoodie given to me by my Crazy Aunt for Christmas a few years ago. It’s what I wear when Honey Badger don’t give a shit. Now I either have to shower early and put on real clothes to go out in public or I have to go get the bubbly when I’m all gussied up.

Oh, wait! That gives me the chance to cruise by The Colombian’s house early and scope it for signs of Lydia’s car. Then, since I haven’t replied to the text, I can toss off going to the pre-party if I don’t like the look of things.

Jesus, it is just like high school. What the hell, me? Get it together. We are too old to care about this shit.

And we are going to look gooooood tonight. If we find the right Spanx. I have to find the full-body bust-to-thigh one so I don’t have to wear the other one, because the other one has a band at the waistline that’s totally discernable if someone puts a hand on my back. Of course, the full-body one has a tendency to cheat its way south at the top, which means I have to reach in and pull it back up over my boobs. I didn’t have these problems in high school. I weighed more then, actually, but I had less trunk jiggle and the shoulder-to-ankle royal blue sequins on my dress were good cover for any less-than-smooth bits I might have had.

I could just wear that dress. It would be my second ironic outfit of the day. I still have it and it still fits. In case you haven’t noticed, I apparently have trouble letting some things go. But in my defense, the reason I still have the prom dress is totally because I like occasionally slipping it on to confirm: *fist  pump*Still fits! I might do that anyway, just to bolster the confidence a little. And then when it no longer fits I can burn it and pretend I have no idea that I ever had a prom dress.

Maybe I should start drinking now.

 

 

 

Heaven-Sent, Direct To My Mailbox

Those of you who are lapsed or non-Catholics might not know that this is the time in the liturgical year when the readings at church focus on the Second Coming. I figure that’s what’s prompted the mail I’ve just received from my Crazy Aunt.

Actual mail. She’s that nuts.

For five and a half handwritten, photocopied pages addressed to me by name in fresh ink at the top, she detailed what we should do now that we’re in the End Times. Apparently we should stock up on non-perishables because when Satan comes to try to reclaim the souls of the recently converted, all literal hell will in actual fact break loose. Also we need to find some blessed salt so we can spread it across the thresholds of our doors (don’t open them during the unrest, though) to keep Satan at bay.

If I had known that all it took was some blessed salt, I wouldn’t need to go to confession right now as she urges.

Does it have to be kosher salt?

My aunt, you may recall, sent out checks for a thousand dollars to each of her nieces and nephews last Christmas because it was the money my grandfather had left her and she thought he would have wanted her to do it. I think my mother did get her to understand that, if he had wanted that, he would have left it to his grandchildren instead of her.  Her response was that she was just trying to do the right thing.

Which is true, really. My aunt is an untreated mentally ill person who my social worker sister says would probably be classified as a paranoid schizophrenic with religious preoccupation if she would ever be willing to be diagnosed as anything. But she has a heart full of goodness and love and she just wants everyone to be saved. I don’t begrudge her that. I don’t begrudge anyone that, when it comes from a place of love. And she’s not dangerous; most mentally ill people aren’t. It’s far more likely that she’ll be the person who gets hurt – though she’s pretty paranoid and afraid of a lot of things, so she might never be in a dangerous situation.

One of the things she’s afraid of, apparently, is the Affordable Care Act. more colloquially known as Obamacare.

After the five and a half pages of her letter, she tossed off another paragraph on different paper (no lines) about how the law is against Christianity because it “pushes abortion funding and the implantation of the chip under the skin, which is forbidden in the Bible.”

Where to begin, eh?

Aside from the fact that a lot of things are forbidden in the Bible, like footballs and cheeseburgers, the ACA does not push funding for abortion. It provides members of Congress and their staffers the option, if they choose to be part of the health care exchange rather than private insurance, to pay a premium for insurance in case of abortion. They don’t have to pay into the exchange at all if they don’t buy that particular feature of protection. It’s like a la carte.

It also says nothing about chips.

What we have here, I think, is a bit of confusion on my aunt’s part, because the only CHIP to which the ACA refers is the Children’s Health Insurance Program. And it is not implanted, it is implemented.

Oh.

See, now I definitely don’t believe the thing about the salt on the threshold.

There is one thing, though, that I find to favor my aunt’s way of looking at the world: the 4×6 envelope in which the letter arrived bore no sign of the postal service. The stamps were not cancelled and no meter mark was affixed. There’s no date of mailing. It appears never to have been touched. I’m sure this is a miracle of postal delivery. Deliverance. One of those.

Heaven-sent?

 

 

All Class

I went to a kind of fancy luncheon today to honor some amazing people who either give literally millions of dollars to truly worthy causes or else find ways to get other people to do it. Since I was there for work, I had to put on a nice dress and do my hair special and wear hose—pantyhose, you guys—and act like I know what I’m doing because I was around a lot of seriously important work people.

This was after I had to color my dress because I apparently spontaneously lactated bleach. Coupla little bleach spots on my still-paying-for-itself black wrap dress, smack on the right nipple. I don’t know how it happened because I don’t buy bleach for laundry and I don’t clean in my expensive black wrap dress. Sharpied that shit. Totally worked. I win.

Fortunately, I got to continue that classiness when I arrived at the luncheon. It was one thing when I had to pretend to be fine standing in a circle of deans and VPs and the president and the provost. Some of those folks are actually on my client list. I’m sure they were wondering why I was there, the answer to which is that our fundraiser folks are also on my client list. And the whole reason all of us were there is that some of the people being recognized were people whose efforts had, in one way or another, benefited our institution. So let’s eat!

Lunch was a lovely cold salmon filet with what a colleague kept calling “frizzy salad.” Also known as frisee salad. And in his defense, that stuff is hard to eat with any degree of grace. I know because of the number of times some of it wound up hanging out of my mouth when I tried to take a modest forkful. It didn’t seem to matter how many times I cut it up. I think frisee lettuce regenerates.

Also I kept slamming my knee into the table leg and disrupting everyone’s place settings. And I spilled my iced tea, which I don’t even drink. But that’s kind of okay because another colleague knocked over the whole little baby pitcher of coffee creamer.

You can’t take us anywhere.

I had to look around to see if it was acceptable for me to put my dessert plate on top of my lunch plate when I was ready to inhale my individually sized chocolate mousse cake with strawberry gelee. Somebody else did it, so that made it okay. I briefly entertained the notion of grabbing one of the cakes that was at an unoccupied seat at the table, but I managed to control myself at least that much.

I always feel like such an ass at these kinds of things. I’m supposed to appear sophisticated and worldly but most of the time I’m like, “Can anybody tell I Sharpied my boob?” and “Do I have frisee in my teeth?” It’s like I’m 12. Here I am all gussied up and working professionally for nearly two decades and whatnot, and I can’t seem to figure out how to not be an unimpressive jackass.

I managed to conduct myself with some degree of aplomb while I handled a few interviews after the event, though I did drop my phone/recording device twice. Also, do you ever have the problem where you’re at a thing and people are offering a hand to shake and you’re holding your sunglasses, phone, event program, pen and umbrella all in your right hand? And then you have to switch everything to your left hand just to be able to reciprocate the proper greeting? Why don’t I just learn to hold everything in my left hand? Why am I an unimpressive jackass?

Also? The people at this function are amazing. Ah. May. Zing. I welled up four times, and the only reason it wasn’t five is because I draw a line at crying about 17-year-old Girl Scouts because get on with your life, sweetheart. But with all the giving and all the selflessness (and I guess there’s an argument to be made that if you’re a gazillionaire you’re probably not entirely selfless but you’re still giving it away to refugee camps in Burma and the like), I felt super-inspired and super-uplifted and super-jerky. Again, obviously I’m not a gazillionare, but still. What do I do for the refugees in Burma? Nothing.

Also my underwear was on inside-out.

Again.