Thursday, February 13, 2014

Life Conversations: Prioritizing

The last week month has been full of lots of happy news from a lot of people we love - mostly baby news and puppy news. Those things are definitely not of the same caliber but both involve the potential for lots of softness and cuddling. And both are guaranteed to make you involuntarily say "awwwww!!!" and cock your head to one side. Unless you hate babies or puppies in which case you are a horrible person. Go away and stop reading my blog!!! Totally joking.

Moving on... The following share worthy exchange occurred in response to the most recent baby news (from an awesome friend) and puppy news (from Joe's parents).

Joe: I want the following things in the following order - a baby, a puppy, and ... a hamster
Me: A hamster?
Joe: yes.
Me: I mean, I love hamsters but why the hamster?
Joe: I think it would make me happy to see the hamster is his cage with his little hamster wheel
Me: ok...what about a guinea pig? Remember when we wanted one? You can potty train them and they are super communicative
Joe: Really? You can train them?
Me: yup
Joe: aw, like Buster! [his sister's adorable, and now deceased guinea pig] hmmm...ok. I want a baby, a puppy, and a guinea pig ... or a hamster!

Kids, I live with a toddler.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Life Conversations: Never Ask My Husband for Fashion Advice

To understand this post, I have to give you some background information regarding three things - Joe, what I am wearing today, and my inability to match. Weird? Yes. Let me explain.

So, Joe. To understand this post, I need to make sure you understand two things about my lovely little husband - (1) he loves bright colors and (2) he loves glitter. He often loves these things together. I'm not kidding when I say that sometimes it is like living with a little girl going through her Disney princess phase. (Except, this little girl wouldn't be my daughter because I will cut whoever convinces my daughter she needs to go through this phase. I'd prefer a legos and (nonBarbie) powerwheel phase. Actually, Joe would probably be the one to buy her Disney princess stuff. Sigh. But., I digress!) When we buy Christmas ornaments he looks for the brightest and the shiniest. Preferably covered in glitter, which I will be trying to get out of everything right up until Christmas rolls around again. If you ask him, he will tell you it is because he is Eastern European and "his people like shiny things." I have no idea what that means. You see, the bright and shiny does not just apply to ornaments. He just has an affinity for bright and shiny things. Seriously, borrow him for an afternoon and try shopping for anything.

The second thing, what I am wearing today, is best explained by a photograph. This is a look at my skirt and the ties on my blouse.

Simple and well matched, which leads me to the third thing - my inability to match. Actually, it is more encompassing than an inability to match - it is more of an inability to dress myself, but let's focus on the matching. Really, it is seriously an affliction. An affliction because my mother, was and basically still is the QUEEN of matching and putting together an outfit, and my sister is currently vying for the throne. One of my two brothers is also killer about matching and generally throwing together an outfit. As in, I sometimes text him selfies from dressing rooms because I seriously cannot dress myself in a coherent way. I have no fashion sense, no personal style (turns out jeans and sneakers are just urban kid uniform, not a personal style), and can't match for my life. Getting dressed takes me a really long time, you guys. 

So this morning. I realized all my pants (black or dark blue for easy matching and because I am from NYC) were horribly wrinkled and I would have to wear a skirt (because seriously, ironing?! Ain't nobody got time for that). Except, my clean skirts were the one above and a hot pink one of the same style. I know, you're thinking hot pink?! But really, it is from Ann Taylor and totally appropriate for work. Anyway, I wanted to wear the above blouse and am so bad at matching that I needed a second opinion as to which skirt that blouse goes better with. The following unfolded in my pursuit of that second opinion:

I am holding up a hanger with both skirts and the blouse draped across
Me: Hey, which of these skirts does this blouse go with better? The green or the pink? The green, right?
Joe: hmm. Is that green? 
Me: It is green/blue I guess. That one looks better right?
Joe: THE PINK (he said this very excitedly) 
Me: No. No, it doesn't. Are you just picking the one you like more? 
Joe: maybe . . . 
Me: You can't just pick the skirt you like more. Nevermind. The green matches. 
Joe: but I like the pink one! 
Me: argh! 

And this is why you never ask my husband for fashion advice. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

A Hefty Price

In my pursuit of actually reading fifty books this year and being thrifty (ha!) I'm turning to those books that have been sitting on my shelves, unread. I just picked up Life After Life by Jill McCorkle, a book I received last year from Parnassus Books. I'm not very far in but already have the very deep feeling that at some point, this book will make me cry. The other day, during my afternoon commute, I came across a quote I've been thinking about ever since.

"The pain of losing the people you love is the price of the ticket for getting to know them at all."

How amazing, accurate, clever, and sad is that? The book used this quote in discussing death but it got me thinking about the other ways we lose people. Sometimes we lose people because we let them drift or we aren't willing to hold on. Sometimes that kind of loss feels just as permanent and just as painful.

The other night, I left a comment on an old friend's Facebook post. She's getting married next January and I inquired about where. She'd offered advice on some posts of mine back in 2012 relating to my wedding, so I thought I'd be nice and inquire. Offer advice, where I could, on planning a reasonable NYC wedding. What I didn't expect was that we'd spend the next two hours talking via Facebook chat - about her fiance, her prior abusive relationship, and both of our job situations. The reason I didn't expect this is that after being really good friends in high school, she and I had a rather bad falling out - I think it was our senior year - and stopped talking. It was a sad split that confused both our families. We got along really well, my family loved her, and we often did things together. She is one of those people I always check in on via Facebook because well, I care and all these years later I am still sad we stopped being friends.

We all have stories like this, don't we? Of ex-friends, peppered across our lives? Some of the failed friendships are breakups we regret, others were never going to work so were best ended, and some were just a time and place friendship of necessity. But for me, there is another category. Until a few years ago, I felt like I was never great at keeping friends. My life is full of friendships ended in fights, drama, a refusal to reconcile. Then there are those I let drift out of sheer laziness. A failure to keep up with my personal correspondence. Truth be told, I really don't have any friends from childhood that I still keep in contact with, had no bosom buddies from childhood at my wedding. All my friends are people I met from age 18 to the present. Sometime during college, I realized the problem is really me. All the pain I bear from lost friendships, the cost of the ticket, amplified by me kind of being a terrible friend. I had to learn to be a better friend and face a lot of my own flaws.

Until college I lacked the maturity to accept foibles when they were laid bare and could not readily distinguish the conflicts worth letting go from those worth standing my ground on. The result? I honestly let go of a lot of friendships worth holding on to and I've been trying to learn to stop regretting those failures ever since. Mostly, I've been working on this by trying to be a better friend. Being more open, less self involved, and more available. Part of it has been realizing that friends, really good friends, are key to grounding me and making me feel whole. Knowing how important surrounding one's self with good friends is, I owe it to them to support our friendship.

Anyway, all this to say that the quote and the conversation reminded me that this is something I need to continue to work on. I need to be patient, continue my correspondence, and let people know how important they are to me before I'm left alone cashing in a ticket for pain caused by no none but me. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Secret Stair Walk - 1/42

Remember how I wrote about that super awesome hike/walk we went on the first week of January and how our goal was to try and do a hike nearly every weekend? A week after I wrote that post I got super sick ... like I am pretty sure I had the flu. To make things just a tad bit more exciting, I got sick on a Friday. I managed to go to lunch with Joe on Saturday and almost immediately after eating my salad wanted to go home and get in bed. I was in bed the entire weekend, totally incapacitated, with a fever for two days. I thought I was better so I went to work on Monday and was completely miserable. Joe got sick too and just as he was getting better, had a drug reaction which sent us to urgent care the following Friday.

Suffice it to say, no hiking for us for two weekends in a row.

But we're healthy now! Hurrah! And so we're back at it. Today we decided to go back to the beginning of the book. We were meeting a friend for coffee around 10:30 or 11am and thought it smart to stay close to home. Plus, I hate doing things out of order so it was Hike #1 for us this morning. This hike took us to the point where Eagle Rock, Los Angeles, and Pasadena meet. It took us 10 minutes to drive to the route which was nice and easy for a Sunday morning. We literally rolled out of bed, grabbed coffee, and walked out the door.

Admittedly, I was a little apprehensive at first. I used google maps to find the starting point for the hike and when we arrived things looked a little sketchy. The intersection of Figueroa and Colorado was drab, there were overflowing trash cans, and things just looked a little rundown. We parked in the Vons parking lot and set off to find La Loma, our starting point. The weather was really nice for a hike. The high here today is about 70 but we started at 8:30am when it was cool with a slight breeze. I was thankful for the lovely weather but still not sure about this hike seeing as the first thing we saw (and the first thing the book noted about our route) was these power lines.  

But, as with our last hike, the route gave way to some fun sights. This route was really more of a walk and was way less strenuous than our last trip even though it covered only a slightly shorter distance. The staircases were not at all steep, had a lot of landings, and for the most part the terrain was flat. Perfect for a Sunday morning/post sickness jaunt. 

The biggest difference was that while our last route took us through a neighborhood, this walk really took us through a neighborhood. Most of the staircases formed alleys between properties. The walk was quiet, probably because we were there at 8:30am and judging by the number of full driveways, most people were still sleeping.

We encountered a few other stair walkers along the way, mostly people who lived in the neighborhood getting in some morning exercise. We did run into another pair with the Secret Stairs book! I wondered whether we'd run into anyone else one of these days and it happened sooner than I thought. One of my friends lives along this route and mentioned that she's seen random people in the neighborhood with books and kindles. I guess there are a lot of stair walkers out there! At least one neighbor seemed not to appreciate the foot traffic. Just to set the record straight, we were quiet and used our inside voices.

The best past of this walk was exploring a new Pasadena neighborhood. While the walk technically started in Los Angeles, it took us straight into Pasadena. This neighborhood is no more than 5 miles from our apartment but because it is entirely homes, we never have any reason to go there. The neighborhood was quiet, the homes all lovely and well maintained, and the people we encountered seemed nice. Joe's new goal is to try and buy a home in this neighborhood. It might be a little quiet for me but the homes are all charming and unique. Plus, it isn't very far from most of our favorite local places.

Honestly, there wasn't much to see on this route but there was one highlight. We came across this adorable English Cottage. Whoever built this is English or loves the countryside. 

How adorable is that?! It has great stained glass, some well placed big windows in the back for lots of natural light and a great view, and about 3 front doors. The real kicker? It is for lease. Anyone wanna go halfsies and host weekly teas? I have the perfect little Wedgewood tea set we can use! 

Now that we have two hikes/walks under our belts I think an accounting is in order. Over the last two hikes we've walked 5.9 miles and climbed 1,564 stairs! I can't wait to see those numbers go up as the year goes forward! 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Her, A Spike Jonze Love Story

Hi. I know you're probably busy staring at Joaquin Phoenix's dreamy eyes and great face and  you are definitely lost in thought about how awesome the name Joaquin is. I know, bad idea putting the movie poster up front like that and distracting you. Sorry. Can I pull you away for a second? 

I rarely write about movies on here but seriously, I had to take a second to encourage everyone in the world to see this movie. I saw it yesterday afternoon and since then it has occupied so much space in my thoughts and prompted lots of discussion at my house. A few minutes in, I realized how happy I was that the trailers are vague and give us no more information beyond man falls in love with intelligent operating system. I promise you this movie is so much more than that. It is beautifully written and acted. Joe and I both agreed that this was the most immersive movie going experience we've had in a long time. The writing and Joaquin Phoenix's performance grabs you and pulls you in, completely. Oh yea, and the movie totally messes with your head. 

This film offers a thought provoking look into the nature of human relationships and love in a way that has preoccupied my thoughts. One thing I encourage you not to do if you see this movie is get hung up on the future Spike Jonze creates. Yes, it is terrifying at times (not in a scary monster kid of way, so don't worry) and I definitely had to pull myself back from spiraling down the rabbit hole of what ifs/are we on the precipice of this. I can see how someone could get really hung up on the future painted. Don't. I think it is both cautionary and a device for the telling of this story. Yes, Jonze is holding up a mirror to the current state of our human interactions in a world dominated by social media to show us what could be, but he is also showing us what is - what is at the heart of real honest human (in person) interactions. They are messy, require us to be vulnerable, and sometimes make you feel like you want to die and/or retreat from society. But you know what, that complexity makes us human and we should not forsake it. I could understand Theodore's (Joaquin Phoenix's character) feelings and his willingness to engage with the OS. The characters are emotionally complex but I think just enough is held back that you can put yourself in their shoes. The dialogue is amazing and honestly, at times I wished I'd had a notebook to write some of these things down. 

I promise you will not regret seeing this film. Oh and one more thing - don't question all the high waisted pants on the men in this film. I am chalking that up to future fashion sense. Preferable to plastic clothes and flying cars, am I right?

Have I sufficiently intrigued you? Will you go see this film so we can talk about it?   

Monday, January 20, 2014

I Lied when I Said 2013 was Boring

Joe and I rang in the new year at a friend's house. We were with an amazing group of people and had a great time. During dinner, rather than reviewing new year's resolutions, we went around the table and shared our 2013 highlights. My friends are pretty amazing people and all had great highlights to share. I am so proud of all their accomplishments and so happy to have them in my life.

I however, totally flaked when it was my turn. I am being completely honest when I say that I blanked and said something stupid that did not at all describe how great 2013 was. I may have indicated that "not much" happened in 2013. Lies! Completely and utterly false. I mean, really! 2013 was an awesome year! I clearly just needed a few more days weeks of retrospective thinking (and a look back through my calendar).

Here are some highlights from a memorable 2013:
  • Joe and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary and while "dating anniversary" sounds like a really weird thing, 2013 also marked the fifth year we've been together and the sixth year we've known each other. With a year of marriage under our belts, I've become very aware of my life existing in two phases - the life, growth, and experiences I had before we met and the life, growth, and experiences I have lived and continue to live with him in my life. They mark distinctly different versions of me and honestly, I think I like the me he has helped me become more than the me that existed prior to his presence in my life. Reaching this first year milestone is what really got me to the point where I stopped, reflected and began to appreciate and accept the profound impact another (romantically linked) person can have on your life. Especially because for as mature and grown up as I thought I was at 23 (my goodness), the last six years have been pretty intense in terms of personal development - with a lot of that coming in the year preceding and following our wedding. Being married and letting someone occupy that much space in your existence is both exhilarating and terrifying on a daily basis - often with both feelings spurred by the same realities. This year was full of a lot of quiet moments full of no thought other than holy shit, I'm married! Being married is a pretty exciting adventure. 

  • I read 36 books (yea, weird transition from the above, I know)! Not nearly my goal of 50 but I am proud of myself for not letting my job (and various other obligations) consume my life. Those 36 books represent time I took to enjoy myself and enrich my life.
  • I turned 29 (eek!) and for my birthday, Joe took me to see Beauty and the Beast at the Pantages. It was my first time at the Pantages and seeing Beauty and the Beast got me closer to my goal of seeing 50 Broadway shows by the time I turn 50. (I have a long way to go on both of those.)

  • Because the Harry Potter series may have ended but still lives on in my heart, I went to Irvine with Joe and my friend Tara to see Potted Potter. Tara and I spent a lot of time deciding what Harry Potter attire we'd wear and ended up being the only ones at the show fully embracing the fandom. I was disappointed in all the alleged Harry Potter fans at the event. 
  • I made my first post graduation trip back to South Bend and realized how much I love and miss Notre Dame. Is it normal to love your graduate school as much as your undergrad university? Well, I don't care! I do! This trip also allowed me to regain my winter weather credibility, as it was snowing and cold the entire time we were there. I walked around campus (in the snow!) like a boss - in a dress, heels, and no nylons. Take that Midwestern winter! (Side Note: I'd totally die in this polar vortex business you guys had going on. The winter weather we experienced in South Bend during our visit was a joke compared to what people experienced a few weeks ago). I also got to see some people I miss nearly every day of my life. You know who you are. 

  • I made my first and second trips to the Hollywood Bowl, seeing Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes for the first time and my homegirl Kristin Chenoweth for the second time. Both concerts were spectacular and the Hollywood Bowl is amazing. It is one of my new favorite summertime destinations. 

  • The Dodgers made the playoffs and I went to TWO division series games. I got to see them clinch a spot in the NLDS and saw Brian Wilson (swoon!) and Clayton Kershaw pitch. I had a great time experiencing my first ever live postseason and hope the Dodgers make the postseason every season.

  • I fulfilled three dreams decades in the making and saw the Backstreet Boys, Everclear, and We are Scientists live. Actually, I saw a lot of concerts in 2013. I also saw Bruno Mars and Ellie Goulding at Staples Center. So worth all the late bedtimes and standing out in the hot sun. 

  • I started out 2013 by meeting Sonia Sotomayor and she signed my copy of her memoir! I managed to tell her .0001% of how much I love her before the very scary bodyguard (secret service? US Marshall?) barked at me and told me to keep the line moving. Also, I highly recommend her memoir. It was a great read.

  • I helped plan two fundraisers for two organizations I care for deeply and attended a handful of fundraisers in 2013. My jet setting also resulted in my picture appearing in local publications more than once. 
  • I was slated for a leadership position in the Junior League and invited to serve on an ad-hoc committee. True to form, I accepted both and spent 2013 serving on several committees. It has been a lot of work but these committees have been two of the most rewarding endeavors. I've learned so much and gained the support of so many amazing women. Taking on these roles has made me a better (and more organized) person.
  • I found the courage to chop off all my hair and get a pixie cut! Which, now that it has been almost a year with this haircut, I almost can't believe I ever had hair longer than this. Seriously ladies, short hair is where it's at. Along the way I also realized that really, it is just hair.
  • I visited San Diego and Nashville for the first time and LOVED both. Long vacations are great but 2013 taught me that sometimes you really need to just get away. If you can't take an entire week off of work (or afford an entire week away) sometimes a three day weekend is all you need to recharge your batteries and explore a (little bit of) a new city. We already have our first weekend trip of 2014 planned - Phoenix, AZ in March! 

  •  I ran (and partly walked because I actually hate running) my second 5k! It was a lot of fun and is quickly becoming a family Thanksgiving tradition. I hope later this year I'll be saying 2014 saw me running my third 5k! 

  • I joined a CSA and have expanded both my cooking and baking horizons. I really love the fresh produce available in California. It might be one of my favorite parts about living here. In joining the CSA, I not only expanded my cooking repertoire but also learned the difference between delicious fresh organic produce and the junk you sometimes find in the produce aisle at your local supermarket. Leaps and bounds, you guys! 
  • I started spinning and weight lifting - my quads and triceps have never been happier. I've seen the light and I am never going back! 
So see, despite my mental freeze, 2013 was a pretty amazing year! 2014 is already off to an interesting start with lots of possibilities and a few accomplishments already under my belt! I can't wait to see what it has in store for me. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Vegan Mac & "Chreese": A Tale of Disaster

Because I am sick for the second time in three weeks (yea, I have no clue. Don't even ask me to guess what my immune system is doing. I had a fever yesterday and spent the entire night shivering and sweating like I was in a sweat lodge. This is especially annoying because usually I never gets sick and now I've been sick twice in three weeks)I thought I'd write a short but (hopefully) amusing post. The last few months I've been dabbling in some vegan baking and cooking. I've cut out a lot meat from my diet and wanted to see exactly how far a stretch it would be to cut out (a few time a week) animal products in general. I'm happy to say that all of my attempts have been successful and delicious. One thing I've managed to cut out (almost) entirely with almost no effort is dairy. This proved to be pretty simple and other than a few cravings for cheese early on it has been painless.

In October, while one of my friends was in town, I mentioned to get that I was really enthusiastic to try making vegan mac and "cheese." She was skeptical and asked a lot of questions. Understandably so, cheese is delicious and I'm generally skeptical of stuff that claims to taste "like the real thing." But, I was confident about vegan mac and cheese being delicious and was very holy than thou in my insistence that it would be great.

Last week, Joe had a dental procedure that required him to be on soft foods for a few days. We went to whole foods and he picked up some mac and cheese and other soft foods. At the very top of the shelf, I noticed a prepackaged brand of vegan brown rice pasta mac and "chreese" (yes, they call it chreese. red flag #1) . Deciding this would probably be good (I mean, all the vegan recipes I'd cooked had been delicious), I picked up a box to have for dinner one night. It's not like I normally eat mac and cheese but let's be real, it is delicious. I wanted to try a vegan version because I was wondering whether the vegan version could guiltlessly fill the void in my life left open long ago.

So, Thursday night, after a long day, I started making my vegan mac and "chreese." It was an unmitigated disaster. This was quite possibly the most unappetizing thing I have even put in my mouth. From the minute I started mixing the "chreese"sauce, I knew bad things were going to happen. Here is the email I sent to my friend notifying her of my awful experience.

So that vegan mac and cheese was HORRENDOUS. As in, I was mixing the "cheese" sauce and was like this smells so weird it is triggering my gag reflex. I tasted it and didn't even swallow. Joe was observing the entire process, quietly laughing to himself with a bowl of real mac and cheese! I spit it out in the sink and threw the rest down the disposal. I am now eating real mac and cheese!

So, the boxed vegan mac and cheese was a HUGE mistake and I put aside my no dairy experiment to have the only thing that could cure the disaster - a bowl of real mac and cheese. You guys, there are no words to describe how gross this was. Like I said, the minute the "chreese" mix came of out of the packet, the smell signaled bad news. I am very sensitive to bad smells and the minute I commented on the smell, Joe knew I wasn't going to eat any of what I was making. My only regret is that I made the mistake of actually putting that mess into my mouth. I can't even describe what it tasted like but just thinking about it makes me gag.

So lesson learned here - don't trust stuff that comes in a box and tells you to just add your favorite non-dairy milk. No good will come of it. I am however, still confident that vegan mac and "cheese" made from scratch will taste good. It has to, right?