Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Can You Ever Just be "Whelmed?"

Feels like I’ve been far away from here for a while. And, alas, this is what happens when I am writing because I have to (i.e., in class). I have to force myself to remember that the whole writing thing is because I want to. But here I am!

Where to begin? Saturday I learned a great deal about The Boy who is to become my husband. Walking up to the registry desk at Hecht’s, he cut me off and announced, “Excuse me, we need to get a gun.” I (glared at him) and explained with a weak smile, “We’d like to begin a registry.” Thus began an entire day’s worth of apologizing for a man who looked like the one I know and love, except for that crazy expression in his eyes and the rapidity and volume with which the inappropriateness spewed from his mouth. (Admission: I know, he’s usually inappropriate, and thus the partial basis of his appeal, but this was out of control.) We watched, bemused, as Carol, who has been a team member for six years, but you wouldn’t know it, hunted and pecked every letter of our lives (“How do you spell Christina? Is it t-i-a?”). Once the boy finally received the scanner, he was disappointed. “Do you have one that looks more like a gun?” He asked. My eyes spent more of the day rolling than in their normal state.

We began with china, and I didn’t have many opinions, but he did, so I deferred (a theme of the day, for both of us. It's actually one of the things I love most about this little partnership.). At one point, the list of suggestions we were working from seemed to differ greatly from the options in front of us, so I meandered around the department looking for things they did have. The Boy said, “Wait, just wait a minute. Can we please just go and get a butter dish? I can’t handle all this jumping around, and if we’re not careful, we’ll forget that altogether and then we won’t have anything to serve butter with, because what are we going to use? Our casual butter dish? So can we please just go and get a butter dish? Please, it would make me feel a lot better.” As he scanned a crystal butter dish neither of us even liked, I swear he sighed with relief.

It was the Twilight Zone, complete with a six-foot-tall Halloween decoration that looked like Uncle Fester. It had a sensor that caused it to speak when anyone walked in front of it. A seven-year-old blond, buck-toothed kid discovered this feature, and parked himself in front of it. In ten minutes, he set it off no fewer than 25 times. One of the lines it said was, “Just wait and SEE what will happen if you do that again.” The Boy yelled, loud enough for all in the vicinity to hear, “Yeah, kid, just wait and SEE!” Along with various other declarations of how he really felt. Finally, he stormed across the aisle and stomped on the power switch, much to the horror of mothers passing by. I smiled apologetically and steered him to pots and pans, where I learned of his affinity for all things Teflon. We finally got out of there, hours later, but just barely. I think he had, at that point, developed a facial tic.

We decided a snack (and maybe a beer, for him) would be a good idea before our next store. In TGI Friday’s, I cringed as he tried to order an appetizer, “Yeah, can I just get the chip-the-chip-these chipdips, please?” I explained to the waitress, “We just registered for our wedding; he’s a little shaken.” Thankfully, she was not bitter but newly married herself, and she steered us away from our next destination and toward…that’s right, The Great Beyond. Apparently, there was time.

In The Great Beyond, The Boy was far more relaxed. Except for his wanting to march back to Hecht’s to tell them what a real scanner gun was made of, and announcing loudly in the shower curtain section, “Honestly, I just don’t know what to do—I think we’ve run out of colors to use,” he acted mostly like a normal person.

A nice double dinner date with couple friends at a fabulous (unbeknownst to us) little bistro (outside of which, Nicole Kidman is shooting a movie—show of hands, did anyone know that?), then football (for him) and homework (for me) on Sunday, and that was our weekend.

I was actually excited as I approached Massachusetts Ave on Monday evening, as surely this would be my first incident-free trip to D.C. for class. It was not to be. In all my excitement, I missed my turn to find the elusive parking lot and got hella turned around. And it was raining. And I was yelling, particularly at the incredibly obstinate pedestrians who litter the streets of Washington. Don’t get me wrong—I have no problem with pedestrians in general. But you can’t just walk across any street you want, whenever you want and swear at cars that really should just hit you. Ugh. Having said that, I deserved about 85 percent of the yelling I got. Now, a numerical recap of my drive to class:

Cars that honked and made hand gestures at me: 7
One-way streets I drove down the wrong way: 1
Cars I honked at for almost killing me: 2
Cab drivers I made hand gestures/yelled at: 5
Pedestrians I thought mean thoughts about: 409
Number of times I uttered, “Are you freaking kidding me:” 1,786
Times I circled Dupont Circle: 4
Times I drove past N Street, but not where I needed it: 3
Minutes late I was to class: 9
Mistakes I made on the way out of the city: 0

In better news, Tuesday’s trip to class was completely incident-free! Hooray! We take our victories, however microscopic, wherever we can get them.

Also occurring this week, I finally earned the right to say, “I’d tell you what I do, but then I’d have to kill you,” after a 17-month sitting, waiting, wishing period.

It seems we will probably close on the house within the next week or so, if I can manage to stop flipping out and threatening to cancel the whole thing. Fortunately, I’ve only been doing this with my mortgage broker, who also happens to be The Boy. He tells me I need to relax, and he’s probably right. My perspective has needed a bit of adjusting lately.

Other than that, my new hobby has become changing my shoes. I’ll elaborate on this later, as it really has become too essential to my life just to mention as an aside.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Pre-Nesting Activities and Panhandlers

Actually, we’ve got a nice little Saturday planned. Gonna hit Home Depot in the morning, pick out some paint colors. Then, on to a department store within the May Company family and to Target to register for wedding gifts. In this area, The Boy thinks he is pulling a fast one by acting like he doesn’t really want to go. Evidently, it would not be masculine to admit to being stoked to pick out home decor items. But anyone who knows him knows as well as I do that he will be the more opinionated one of the two of us. He keeps telling all of his friends that he’s excited about going, but only because he gets to shoot the laser gun. Great. Maybe afterward, he can pee his name on the sidewalk.

Then, maybe we’ll hit Bed, Bath and Beyond—I don’t know if there’ll be time.

Tonight I am going on a date with The Boy. I mention this, because it truly is remarkable. I have not had a real conversation or been in the same room as he, absent of any other people/responsibilities/football games in a couple of weeks. That, in concert with trying to grow accustomed to living what feels like someone else’s life, is making me act like a crazy person. I keep picking fights with him over I don’t even know what. He tells me I’m being crazy. That makes me angrier because, come on, I already know that. Time to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem. Or a diagnostic tool for the problem, at the very best. So, hopefully we will fix our telepathy headphones in time for our rendezvous this evening. I don’t know if it’s from the hurricane or what, but the blasted things just haven’t had a great signal lately.

Extended Stay with Little Sister and les chiens was executed successfully. Little Sister did not have school today, so her best friend slept over last night. I went to bed at about 11, and they were watching The Sixth Sense for the first time. Sarah woke me up at 3:00 am for no reason, but she tells me today that she wasn’t scared. Maybe she just wanted to make sure I had not been raptured. The time was mostly hitchless, except for the beagle’s overzealous pursuing of my lapspace and a terrifying encounter with a giant cricket in the laundry room. I yelled him into oblivion. So, apparently I much prefer virtual crickets to the black, crunchy variety. Mostly because you guys don’t have thoraxes.

This weekend I have to interview a panhandler for a story. I feel nervous about this, but I know you all will be breathless, once again, with anticipation. What will she do this time? What inappropriate comment will she make? Stay tuned, as I have an assignment due on Tuesday, so try as I might, I can only put it off for so long.

S’all for now. Happy Friday to all, and to all a good night.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Evading Disaster while Counting Blessings

I feel I would be remiss if I did not update you on that impossible dream I alluded to yesterday, that of escaping Week 2 of Class #2 unscathed. Take heart, there was no recreation of Christina’s Homewood Wilderness Adventure; however, further proof surfaced that I am, in fact, a moron.

I assert that the trouble stemmed from the fact that it took me nearly two hours to get to campus from work (a scant 30 miles away). I had left myself a little less than this amount of time, so when the parking lot that was 95 North extended onto MLK, I had had enough. I was proud of myself for cutting across and finding my way. I pulled into the same parking lot as before at 6:10, a mere five minutes before my class was to start. Last week, Professor/Julia Roberts voiceover artist mentioned that lateness is a blatant sign of disrespect for her. Clearly, I did not want to appear disrespectful, as I had done everything in my (considerably insignificant) power to be there on time. My first challenge was to avoid the temptation of walking the perimeter of campus to get to class (at the center of the center quad). This might not sound like a temptation, but with the construction and closed sidewalks, and given my escapade on the way to class last week, this route is the only known. I just did not have that kind of time.

So, I hiked up my (light heather grey pencil) skirt and walked up the multiple sets of stairs as fast as my (black, leather, stretched out from Little Sister’s use) flip flops would carry me. I followed another student around a couple of buildings on the only available sidewalks and realized quickly that this route was exactly what I needed. I probably should have told her that, because she kept looking suspiciously over her shoulder at me, even taking a longer route, although ending up exactly where I did, to avoid being tailed by me. Then I realized she was a weirdo if coming to the conclusion that there are other students taking classes at the same school at the same time as she is so frightening. Instead of apologizing, I laughed at her. But only a little, and not too loudly.

Of course, I could not head straight to class. Because I had been in the car nearly two hours, had consumed no fewer than 100 oz of diet coke that day, and because I always have to pee at the most inopportune times, I (remembered from last week that the restroom on the ground floor is out of service) ventured upstairs. I screeched into class about a minute or two late, of course the last one there. All conversation ceased when I plopped into my chair, and I smiled. Prof/Julia didn’t seem to hate me, so crisis averted.

In class, we had to practice our interview skills on each other. I interviewed a woman who told me that, unlike me, she had nothing interesting going on in her life. She then proceeded to tell me how she moved here from California 10 years ago to care for her mother, who had had a stroke. If her mother was still around and she so yearned for California, why did she stay here, I asked. She told me that shortly after her mother began to recover, her younger sister died suddenly of cancer. And three other siblings got cancer shortly thereafter, leaving 10 children to raise. My classmate became primary caregiver, at various points, for 10 girls, sometimes driving them to schools in three separate cities before heading to the fourth for work. Her siblings gradually recovered, but just this summer she had to bury her only son. She spoke plainly and firmly, and, searching her face for emotion, I saw calm sadness in her eyes. “So, when I say there is nothing interesting going on in my life,” she explains, “It’s because there isn’t. Only caretaking. And pain.”

Although her story was heartbreaking—she had given so much and, seemingly, gotten so little—there was an air of grace and contentment about her. “I don’t make plans anymore,” she said, dismissively. “Nothing that’s happened to me is what I planned.” I thought, despite how overwhelmed I have felt lately, maybe I was the one with nothing going on in my life. And I felt grateful.

Preparing to leave class, I got into a discussion with Prof/Julia, as I discovered I was the last student in the room. I was rummaging, as usual, for my keys. But I searched every section of my bag twice and I couldn’t find them. I sought a custodian who referred me upstairs to another custodian who, eager to help, had me call Security from the elevator.

“Isn’t that door gonna close on you?” The voice said, through the intercom.
“I don’t know, he’s holding it with his foot,” I replied, while the custodian echoed the same.
“Are you sure you left the keys in the bathroom?” The voice asked, and I shook my head.
“Well, you have to come past Shriver anyway, don’t you? Where’d you park your car?”
“Umm, I’m sorry, but I’m new here and I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about. I’m just hoping to be able to find my car when this is over, but without keys, it doesn’t do me much good anyway.”
He didn't laugh and said that no one had turned in any Toyota keys.

The custodian began searching the trash cans for my keys (I acted surprised at first, but then remembered that time in 7th grade when I came back from PE and couldn’t find my clothes—they had been stolen from my locker. Ms. Geist threatened to keep us all in the locker room until the clothes resurfaced, so, miraculously, they did. In a trash can. And I was actually widely accepted and well-liked.). I thanked him for his help and decided it was a possibility I had locked them in my car.

I made it to the lot with no trouble to find my keys glistening in the lamplight, right on my passenger seat. Thank God for the microcosm of college campuses; I called security and a truck pulled into the lot within five minutes. He circled the lot, looking for my car, and if we had been playing hot/cold, he was getting absolutely frigid. I walked across the lot and said, “I think you’re looking for me.”
“You the elevator lady? A very handsome man in his sixties asked.
“I am. It’s all the way over there,” I pointed, sheepishly.
“Is it too far to walk?” He asked, offering me a ride. I told him no, I could probably beat him there.
“Okay, fine, wanna race?” He asked, and pulled ahead of me. He won.

It took about ten minutes. I had to be his assistant and hold the flashlight, he had to try, twice, to convince some guy that his Plymouth Voyager was probably not stolen, just misplaced, and we gained a spectator by the time we finished, but finally I got into the car. This man was so adorable—if The Boy looks and acts like this guy in 40 years, I’ll be a lucky girl. I mean, I am anyway, but you know.

So, I finally got home to poor Little Sister (and the very excited beagle and blasé mutt) around 10:30. I slept in a waterbed with a 12-year-old and a self-centered beagle that woke me up 15 minutes before my alarm went off. See, this is one of the reasons I don’t have a dog. Today I ate my lunch that Little Sister had meticulously packed in a brown paper bag and written my first and last name on in green magic marker. She is cooking dinner tonight and expecting some “bonding.” I am a zookeeper at the moment, but it’s a happy zoo.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

At Least Partial Triumph and Enthusiasm

What a day this has been, crickets. And by “day” I mean "several months." Honestly, I’ve lost count.

The day began with another parking ticket (that's THREE outstanding tickets, ah, ah, ah) and another meeting re: the "Everything Will Stay Exactly the Same!" Merger. But then I found out I will most likely NOT be losing my job within the next 10 days. Which is nice.

Week 2 of class #1 was far more successful than Week 1 of classes and NFL season combined. (It’s not hard to be more successful than my NFL Week 1. I was eliminated from my last-man-standing pool. I know, it’s shocking. I still can’t believe it.) Although I made a rookie error on my way to class last night, I recovered beautifully and found the correct parking garage (i.e., the one that gives discounts to JHU students) on the heretofore elusive N Street. It’s good to know that N Street isn’t hanging out with J Street, somewhere out in oblivion. So, obviously, that was successful. My professor found my story idea for the first assignment “provocative” and “creative.” And also “complicated.” We’ll see which of those two ways it will go.

Today, I’m hoping against hope to avoid a repeat of the Christina’s Homewood Wilderness Adventure from last week. You’d think this outcome would be within my control, but really, I’m just not sure. In anticipation of disappointment, I brought flip flops.

The weekend: the game went well, because I did not allow myself to watch it. The man on my right ate seven hotdogs in about a half hour. I have never seen his equal. His brother confided in me, “I think he might die.” Seems a surety to me, at some point, anyway. The one on my left got cinnamon sugar in his hair because I’m not very good at “maneuvering” (how’s that for a subtle shout-out, Gilly? Ahh, the wonders of stat counters…). Later that night, I pretended to be my version of single (which, I guess, is some people’s version of married) by watching back-to-back-to-back episodes of Felicity on the couch in my bathrobe.

I got a haircut I’m not too fond of on Saturday, but thus far my mom has been the only one to notice, so I guess it’s not very drastic. Believe it or not, it really is surprising that this news has escaped The Boy’s attention, given his usual over-attention to detail in this arena. For example, in the rain one day, “Wow, honey. You’re hair’s lookin’ a little frizzy there,” or, on a day I did nothing to my hair, “I like your hair like that. It looks 20 times better than the way you normally wear it,” or, the next day, immediately after I had dried and attempted to straighten it, “Oh, so you’re back to wearing it all flat again, huh?”

Little Sister’s team did not win their soccer game, but she was the MVP of the game. Watching her, it occurred to me that she touched the ball more in half her game than I did my entire two seasons. You should have SEEN me run though. With the grace of a gazelle. It is widely observed and admired. Really.

I was only about 10 minutes late for the 7:45 am Sunday call. My punctuality was noted and appreciated. With that extra time, I set up two superfluous mic stands. The potential benefit for my ineptitude in this area is that it might get me out of doing so much work. I’m still undecided if there is a benefit at all.

Sunday afternoon we revisited our future casa, and I mentioned no fewer than 12 times that I would like it better with shutters and flower boxes in the windows. The Boy could have sworn it had exposed brick. I think we’re going to have to fake it. So far, I haven’t been privy to much of The Boy’s handyman prowess, beyond what he tells me, but I sincerely hope he’s more Bob Vila than Tim the Toolman Taylor. Time will tell. Sometimes I think maybe it’s a blessing that I won’t move in until May… a return to Sundays on the couch for this dynamic duo, which was nice, and ç’est ça for us.

Tonight I begin the multi-night sleepover with Little Sister and Tucker, the beagle. She called last night, “Aren’t you SO excited?! I told EVERYONE at school that my SISTER is watching me! It’s gonna be AWESOME! I’m cooking dinner on Wednesday. Can Tucker sleep with us? You don’t mind if I sleep with you, do you? We’re going to have SO MUCH FUN!” Fortunately, she has enough enthusiasm for the both of us. Or, the three of us, as it were.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Best Week Ever?

Or, you can use your degree to be called "cheap" at work four separate times in one day while performing an undervalued job, only to go deep into debt to further that "calling" and come home to putz around writing a blog that a deliberately anonymous contingent occasionally reads. Yes, clearly, you can see what option I find the most appealing.

Alors, is this week ever going to end? And if it does, will that really be what I’m looking for, anyway?

A run-down. Monday morning we put a contract on our first house. Monday and Tuesday I attended my first classes at opposite ends of my geographic spectrum, while waiting to hear if our contract was accepted. Monday/Tuesday, we learned that our contract was accepted, and we finagled the financials to make it work. Wednesday at ohmygod in the morning, The Boy left for Cali. Wednesday night, I had to re-sign all of the documents I signed at ohmygod the previous night re: buying this house it feels like I can’t afford. Thursday, I learned that my job is far more in jeopardy than I had originally thought. Again. Friday, I attended a meeting involving severe self marketing (i.e., Please Love Me Enough to Pay Me, You Just Have To). Whew.

On tap for the weekend? Student night at the O’s game, which, conveniently, is also $1 hot dog night. If it doesn’t rain, because I am not trying to recreate the Howie Day experience. If it does rain, I plan to hop around the Hill with some pals. Tomorrow? Foregoing great tickets to the Maryland football game for homework and Little Sister’s soccer game. And I’m not sure I can put off this apartment cleaning and grocery shopping much longer. GAHH, again with the whole responsibility thing! Sometime between Saturday and Sunday, The Boy is due to arrive home.

Sunday, I have to strive to arrive at church at 7:45. I got a subtle talking-to about my moseying in at 8:15, after all the set-up has been done, so I’m going to try. I have to be honest though, it’s not without resentment. Because I was never made aware of the demands of this commitment at any point. And this girl needs her beauty sleep more than she can say. (If you’ve seen me recently, you can attest that it’s a good thing Dwayne Johnson (a.k.a., THE ROCK) causes such a scene that most people see him more clearly than they do me these days, because I am not looking so hot.) So, moving forward, as I mentioned before, I promised to dedicate myself and my Sunday to football and The Boy. I would say that it’s not necessarily in that order, but you know how I feel about fibbing.

Monday, lather, rinse, repeat. I’m hoping for a smoother experience re: my re-entry to the world of education, but I’ll keep you posted.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Got My Lunch Packed Up, My Boots Tied Tight

As promised, stories from my return to higher education. My schedule consists of a Monday night class on Massachusetts Ave in D.C. and a Tuesday night class on the main campus of Hopkins in Baltimore (read: an oasis of trees and brick in the middle of the ghetto). Monday. I left work about an hour and a half before the 6:00 start time, knowing that my destination was only 28 miles away, but that in the Washington Metro area, that means nothing. I was thrilled to arrive on New York Ave within 25 minutes. Seems like I would have been very early for my class then, n’est-çe pas? No. I drove around looking everywhere for N Street. Why does it get skipped? Where did Connecticut Avenue come from? How can a street be one way only during certain hours of the day? Does anyone in this city stop when oncoming traffic threatens them? These questions peppered my mind as I drove in the same circles at least five times. I was running out of time.

Finally, I found a parking garage on 17th and M that appeared to be open to the public AND open later than 8:30 (if you are not from the D.C. area, this must seem crazy to you, but it’s actually not uncommon). In my haste, I did not receive a ticket upon entry. I looked around for personnel to no avail. I even searched for those pre-pay machines they sometimes have in Metro garages, but saw nothing. And if I didn’t hurry, I would be late for class.

I walked up a mysterious stairwell that somehow landed me in the employees’ entrance hallway, then finally on a completely different street than where I entered. Dressed in my carefully chosen “first day of school outfit” of black pants, a black short-sleeved sweater and fake wing-tipped black Nine West pumps, I thought I’d fit in. And then I remembered that Massachusetts Avenue is not New York City. Therefore, everyone wears flats, at least on the street. I felt a little silly.

I arrived in my class with one minute to spare, and tried to force myself not to think about the unlikelihood that I would ever find my car again. The class itself is a survey, and, at this early stage, it’s probably too soon to tell, but I don’t feel like I’ll learn more about forms than I already know. I will, of course, learn from practicing, and maybe also from my peers in the class. I was surprised that they did not seem to come from the same background I have, but they looked like English majors, so I could be wrong. I deliberately left my phone on vibrate, just in case I got a message from The Boy or BigJohn indicating whether our offer was accepted. Instead, of course, Ryan and Tara called and left messages, resulting in a violent buzzing coming from the bowels of my bag. You can be assured, Miss Nine West Pumps and Jack Georges Cordovan Bag felt pretty silly with her phone ringing in class. My face flushed and I apologized. (A note on the flushing of the face: it’s amazing to me how often I flush. Without experiences like being called on in class or making presentations, I don’t really notice it, but now that I’ve had two classes where I had to address groups of strangers, I remember that I’m a flusher. Brilliant.)

At the break, as you already know, I learned that we won the house, but no one in that room seemed to care, so I didn’t tell. I had originally hoped I might find a person to commute with who was in a similar situation as mine, but these were all Washingtonians who talked funny and said “Baltimore” like it was a foreign country. They don’t know I live there.

Upon leaving the building, I called Tara so I would feel less alone on my walk to the garage (it wasn’t scary, by the way). My car was one of the few left, and as I departed (slaloming through pillars I’m pretty sure are meant to have a different function), I couldn’t find a soul to pay. So, I stole parking from the District of Columbia. Again. Please believe that I had money in hand both times, I just couldn’t figure out who to give it to. I called Tara back, to resume our conversation, and back on New York Ave some guy in a late model Beamer kept honking at me. I forgot that talking on a phone without a headset is illegal in D.C. My bad.

When I came home to a celebratory bottle of Brut with The Boy, he complained that he had forgotten it was Monday Night Football and that I didn’t have cable. I had to promise to dedicate Sunday to his whiny, football junkie self. But that’s pretty much how it always goes anyway. I’ve grown accustomed.

Tuesday, after a reckless and used day, I scrambled to determine the location of my class. A professor, and not my own, finally responded with the hall and room number, so I pored over a JHU map to figure out where I could park, since I have not yet registered my car as that of a student. On my way home from work, I realized I had enough extra time to swing by the apartment and grab a kudos, so I did, and, while talking to Amber, apparently I also turned right on red. I then proceeded to nearly hit the traffic cop standing in the middle of Light Street, waving me over. I do not feel that this is the most effective way to pull people over. I kind of feel like, if you’re going to stand in the middle of the road, it’s really your fault if you get hit. Anyway, so I got a $75 ticket and a stern warning for doing something I didn’t know was wrong. Now I’m paranoid every time I see a red light.

I drove through the ghetto and over the train tracks and arrived on campus with few problems. Except that there is hella construction on campus and it caused me confusion. I had no problem reading the map, but putting that knowledge into practice was more difficult, resulting in my circling the campus twice. I finally parked in a lot I had previously thought to be off limits, and walked across the street, this time having traded my stilettos for faux-snakeskin flip flops. Time to begin the attempt to navigate the quads. Surprisingly, I found a clear-cut route, but my plan was thwarted by more construction that apparently obstructs everything from that point on. So, I had to walk past my parking lot, past the medical center I passed on my way in, and past the actual building I needed in order to get going in the right direction. It was the equivalent of spinning a blindfolded child in circles before you allow her to hit a piñata.

Pressed for time, I followed a rollerblader’s lead and asked a couple of girls where my hall was. They pointed me in the opposite direction I had been heading, and when I reached it, the name of the building did indeed begin with a G, but aside from that and being constructed of bricks, it had nothing else in common with the one I needed. I asked another girl, who pointed me in the direction of the building I had originally aspired to. Which, at that point, was also right in front of me. (I also found time to glare at the original direction givers on my way over.)

Although the two classes I'm taking are very similar in content, structure and assignments, I liked this professor and felt more inspired. I guess that could be due to many factors, not the least of which being that I wasn’t distracted about losing my car in the city. This professor looks like any other mid-thirties female English professor, but if you close your eyes, she sounds like Julia Roberts. And she and I were the only ones in the room to have seen Napoleon Dynamite. “You know, Christina,” she said to the class, seemingly embarrassed, “Every person in my undergrad class knew what I was talking about.” I was by far the youngest in this class, which further proves that I am delusional and crazy for thinking that 24 was old to be going back for my Master’s.

The real excitement of this night came when I journeyed across the quad, opposite of the way I came, thinking that I had sufficiently studied the map. I zigzagged around the grass from walkway to walkway, probably appearing drunk to any who might have seen. I ended up at a fork of two roads (devoid of sidewalks) I vaguely remembered from my circumvention of the campus earlier, so I turned around and walked across a skywalk that took me to a parking garage. Unfortunately, it was not mine. I walked down the stairs to the lower level, cheeks burning, and managed to find a way out of it. I walked along a newly constructed sidewalk within the confines of a 4-foot-tall brick wall along the winding road that goes through campus. I had to make a turn, but I still vaguely felt I was headed in the right direction. Then the sidewalk ended (don’t buy the book or trust Shel Silverstein, I’ve seen it myself and can take you there). Surrounded by the aforementioned brick wall, I had to (look all around to make sure no one was watching) throw my chic and savvy leather bag over first, then hop over the wall. Muttering, I continued walking in the same direction, forced to walk on the road through the woods. I kept looking over my shoulder to try to catch any impending traffic. I felt like an idiot. One car eventually did pass me, and I had to stand up on a 6-inch slab of concrete to avoid being hit—me and my bag, just hanging out on the bridge. I got a funny look from that driver.

After I crossed the bridge, I finally found my car, and somehow made it home with only a couple of incidents where I had to turn around on the way back.

Welcome back to college. I felt more competent on my first day of undergrad. And I was wearing a name tag.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Now Everything is Easy 'Cause of You

When last we spoke (remember? I was the writer, you were the voyeur?), I predicted that The Boy and I were gearing up for sing-a-longs that consisted only of the songs, “All You Need is Love,” and, “I Got You, Babe.” I'd like to amend that statement. First and foremost, the song we’ve been hearing in our collective head has been “Changes” (the David Bowie one, not the Bruce Hornsby one. Or the remake of the Bruce Hornsby one. Anyway, not that one.). Because I can’t seem to post these days without some major life change occurring first, let me invite you into today’s version of the goings on. Watch your step, the sand, much like my attitude and faith, tends to shift.

Before we delve into the grandness of this most recent development, a lighter note. Since I’m sure you’re all wondering what The Boy did for my birthday, let’s revisit that first. He told me we had a reservation at 7:30. A week prior, when he asked if he could take me out on Friday, I asked if I needed to dress up. He said not really, so I bought a couple of very cute coordinating tops, ostensibly to wear with jeans. You know, to pretend I was going on a date with my boyfriend. When I came home from work on Friday, I was not concerned that I did not have ample time to get ready, since I had planned my outfit a week in advance. I had even bought some accessories to add to the ensemble that day and needed only to put everything on. After I dressed, I text messaged The Boy to ask if it was still okay that I was wearing suped-up jeans. He said, "It's business casual."

Feel free to refer back to the text above this was new information to me at the time as well. Go ahead, I'll wait. Yeah, I went crazy. My laundry, including most of my dressier pants and a couple of cute skirts, were at his house, in the dryer. I was Christina, Storm of Fury, tearing through my closet, throwing clothing over my head, calling The Boy names and repeating the phrase, “Are you KIDDING me?” ad nauseum. Until I found the skirt I bought for $10 from a discount outlet three years ago in Carolina. The one I wear backwards to enhance the effect of the newly-acquired caboose. Skeptically, I tried it on with the previously mentioned tops and accessories. Jackpot, and I’m not afraid to tell you, it was far better than what I had before. When I met up with The Boy, I tried to stay irritated, but I was so tickled by his obvious (and clearly stated) appreciation of the ensemble (or, rather, me in it) that all I could say was, "Yeah, well its by accident, because you did not properly prepare me." We have led a reasonably well-coordinated and fashionable existence together for over a year now, so this behavior was, obviously, disappointing at best.

From there, he gave me a hand-written letter that made me cry and tickets to Oasis and Jet, which I initially thought we wouldn’t be able to use, but we can. (Champagne Supernova for you, if you’ll be my girl.) We had dinner at Ruth’s Chris, where I had never been, and laughed because our definition of business casual leaves no room to include wrinkled, baggy Dockers, logo’d golf shirts and anything bearing any resemblance or relation to Tommy Bahama. We seemed to be alone in those beliefs. Later, at the piano bar, we sang Billy Joel too loudly and mocked the girl who spent $40 three separate times to sing her rendition of Alanis and the like. And it was a great birthday, even if we expanded the sing-a-long repertoire a bit further than I had planned.

Saturday morning we met my Fajsha, the Realtor, to look at a dizzying number of houses we had researched (and GoogleMapped). We hoped not to waste time, but it is very difficult to know what you’re looking at from a short, too-good-to-be-true description and a photo of the front of a house. (BigJohn calls these overblown descriptions of homes "puffing." I told him it would not surprise me if some of his colleagues died of lung cancer.) This is especially true with row homes, which all of these were. We saw 20-25 homes that day, including a few we loved, but with prices we hated or nonexistent parking. BigJohn had us rate each home with a number, 1-10. I am notoriously horrible at rating like this, because it is too black and white. I'd rather explain to you what I did and did not like, acting almost as if what I am evaluating has feelings I'd like to avoid hurting. This, of course, is nowhere near helpful.

We found a couple of homes in the 8-8.75 range. However, most were not. One was a 200-year-old mansion with marble floors, crystal chandeliers, 20-foot ceilings, no AC and, probably, ghosts. We practically ran from that one. N/A, I suggested. Another had two stories of spiral staircases, terra cotta floors, neon lights on the brick walls, a built in dartboard and pocket pool table in the living room and a four-person hot tub in the bedroom. I’m not going to lie to you, it was cool. But I am contemplating having a child in this house. On the sidewalk when we were finished, The Boy said, "I’m just going to go out there and say it-- 9.75." BigJohn laughed heartily and, thank God, The Boy came down off his testosterone high (or low, depending on how you look at it) within a few hours.

Another home we saw (it begs to be said-- across the street from a church, next door to a vet, but around the corner from a strip club and adult theater) had grapes and figs growing in the back yard. In the master bath of that house, there was a five-foot partially frosted window with a nude Grecian water carrier etched into it to reveal a two-person Jacuzzi, large stall shower and double sinks-- all of them a deep mauve. While I tried not to vomit at something that could have been so great turned so terribly wrong, The Boy said to my father, "Oh, look at this, a dimmer! To set the mood... umm, you know, of relaxation." Oy.

Finally, at the penultimate house of the day, we arrived an hour and a half late. It was in a location we like, but didn’t have secured parking and had only one full bath. The price seemed entirely too fantastic to be real, so we checked it out. The seller was home, so he told us some info on the house and allowed us to walk through. It was really nice. We thought maybe we read the price wrong. It would meet our immediate needs, continue to meet them if they were to change, and it would provide us the opportunity (and the instant equity) to make some additions at our leisure.

So, Sunday, after much discussion and my final birthday celebration (the annual Mom’s Chicken Parm and Chocolate on Chocolate Cake Extravaganza with the fam), we went to BigJohn’s office to write a contract. Because, even though I feared diving into this too early, we both knew we had to try to get this house.

Yesterday, on a break from my first day of class in D.C. (more to come on that later, and you’ll probably laugh), I found out our contract was joyfully accepted. We are buying a house. Granted, it's a house I won't live in until May, but it's a house. Our house. (And yes, it is a very, very, very fine one.) We would celebrate, but I’ve got class again tonight, and The Boy is off to California for four days in the morning, so there isn’t really time. In the words of David "Let's Dance" Bowie, "Strange fascination, fascinating me; changes are taking the pace I'm going through..."

Friday, September 09, 2005

Gumby Braves the Inevitable

Yesterday I turned 24, making me officially older than The Boy, and really, just officially old. (Disclaimer: Men, except for perhaps Parker, you might just want to take today off, because I feel like you're bound to be confounded by this post.) My brother called, singing a song he wrote about how I’m really getting old and he just realized it. Little Sister mentioned in one of her (seventh grade) classes that I was turning 24 and one of the kids said, “Did she know George Washington?” This is the first birthday on which I was not embarrassed to tell my coworkers my age. So, naturally that lack of shame made me feel bad. Today, a well-meaning gentleman told me I don’t look a day over 25. I always wondered at what point the pendulum swings from wanting to appear older than you are to wanting to appear your age…or maybe just a little younger. Apparently, that point is 24. Having a fiancé with the tendency to call me “granny” and do “preventive maintenance” on my chin/neck (by tapping them with the back of his hand to deter the effects of gravity) doesn’t help.

The birthday began with the third and, hopefully, final installment in the “Please Believe I’ve Never Done Drugs, You Just Have To” trilogy, airing promptly at 8:00 AM. This time, though, it included discussions about my honesty regarding friends, parents and supervisors. I wanted to tell the guy, seriously, it’s never really been dishonesty that’s gotten me into trouble. Pretty much every argument I have is due to the fact that I don’t usually filter the truth. Somehow I got through it, though, and it would seem that is the last time I will have to. Until five years from now, when my entire life will be different. I’m still planning on being honest then, so, according to my understanding of this system, that probably means I’ll have to take the test an additional three times at that point.

At work, I was supposed to have a 1:00 meeting with the Bob (not two of them, just the one this time) to discuss my future with the company. (Following the recent “Everything will Stay Exactly the Same!” Merger, we are on the verge of down-sizing. Don’t worry, this doesn’t even faze me anymore. I’m like Gumby.) I headed down to the 3rd floor café for this meeting (since I do not have access to certain spaces and no one wants to sit with me at my counter), and there was a surprise party for my birthday! Flowers and cake and…loaves of bread and blocks cheese? I had already eaten lunch, but that was not the point. This choice of refreshment seemed odd. Until the Texan announced that she had it on “good authority” that my favorite thing is “cheese on toast.” I felt heat begin to creep up my chest and neck. She explained to those who had gathered that she Googled me and discovered that I looooove cheese on toast, thereby forcing me to explain that a story of mine is published on the literary e-zine Toasted Cheese. I suppose this gesture could have been seen as thoughtful, and I pretended to take it as such, but all I can really say is ew. And also, who does that. Also, shut up. But the idea of the whole birthday surprise was lovely. I also received multiple bags of Skittles, ostensibly to get me through the bevy of days that await at my “temporary” umm... “workspace” (i.e., the counter in the middle of everyone’s way). Seems that I should probably just be rejoicing that I am what the Bob and Texan both proclaim “cheap,” so I don’t have anything to worry about. Mmm, should we be telling those under our employ that they are underpaid?

The birthday continued with Dwayne Johnson inspiring pilates on the living room floor while Scott Speedman brooded in the background (i.e., I was watching Felicity) before dinner at the Melting Pot with The Boy and several friends. At that dinner, Gabe gave me a flowery “Daughter” card with only the words, “We need to talk” printed on the inside, and Edie gave me the cake she baked that slid across the seat of her car. The taste was not affected, and a smashing good time was had by all.

The birthday festivities continue tonight, with The Boy “surprising” me. I assume this means it will be a surprise to him as well, as he really hasn’t planned anything. I told him, not that he was ever under any obligation to begin with, but with the introduction of Dwayne Johnson and all things associated with him, birthdays and holidays between now and our blessed arrangement are going to have to be uncomplicated affairs. I'm envisioning sing-alongs where the only songs played are, "Love is All You Need," and, "I Got You, Babe."

We have yet to decide on a venue for the “after-party” of the event (read: the reception), because we can’t seem to be able to find time to discuss it without the people who are seeking to collect several thousand G’s from us looming over our shoulders. So we need to give that some attention, or else there may not be a party after all.

Tomorrow morning the house hunting begins, a little too soon for my taste, but My Fajsha and The Boy think that now is the time to get on that. Which I will probably appreciate when the wedding is closer, but now it’s all a bit overwhelming. (Also, anyone who knows BigJohn can understand this, and anyone who doesn't, just take my word for it-- this whole The Boy and BigJohn being in cahoots and talking more frequently to each other than either of them do to me is frankly a bit unsettling.) It's all a good kind of overwhelming, certainly, but apparently it's time for a cool change or two. Or seventy.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Powerless Lines, Quality Time and Running in the Dark

Despite the devastation in the Gulf states, Dad and I soldiered on to Texas on Thursday. Which was probably not the best plan, but I wasn't about to question BigJohn. (A word on the ultracatastrophe that is Katrina: I am not, and have never claimed to be, a journalist. Therefore, I am not going to pretend to be now. If you guys want to donate, you know where to look, and that's not why you're here anyway. My saying more on the subject seems only to minimize it, which I refuse to do.)

We stayed in Alabama Thursday night, then nearly ran out of gas Friday in Mississippi. We were too far north to witness the worst of it, but there were trees and huge road signs down all over the place, and the power was out at most of the exits. When we stopped for lunch at 1:00, we saw a mile-long line at a gas station that didn't even have gas. We were told some of the people there had been waiting since 5:30. I had to wonder what made these people panic; most of those we saw were not evacuees, but North Mississippians scrambling. The picture at left is of our gas line. It was at least a mile long when we found the end of it, and we sat for three hours. We could only use the air conditioner whenever we moved the car (sometimes an hour passed in between moves). We still felt fortunate to have gotten gas at all, as there was no guarantee that, at the end of the line, we wouldn't just be stuck.

We caught up with brother east of Dallas near 11:00, where I had three harrowing insect encounters within five minutes. They're not lying about the fire ants, I can tell you that. A night in a run-down motel (not too much choice regarding accommodations), a quick lunch with brother and his pals and a trip to Best Buy (their favorite place to play), where Danny grabbed my face and said, "Stay here as long as you can," and we were already off to the airport. So no QT with the bro, but it was good just to see him and that he is happy. Dad and I were the last two to check in, but we boarded in time and spent the last of our quality time together-- and I do not use that phrase in jest. Amid conversations about politics and consequences, engagements and mistakes, baseball and God, Cat Stevens and credit, I found my relationship with Dad never really got lost, even if I did. So, thanks be to God, time, The Boy, and Dwayne Johnson for that.

Sunday brought lots of showing off (the aforementioned) Dwayne Johnson to various churchmembers who "just knew," then Little Sister and I began our, as she put it, "significant plans." We went semi-successfully shopping and packed a snack to eat in the park, where I saw not one but two Sunday brides who made me act like a crazyheaded woman and get jealous that it wasn't me. (I don't know if you picked up on it, but I'm not so much digging the planning of this blessed event.)

Little Sister and I cooked dinner and watched movies and made each other laugh. Monday's great plans were shot to hell with a migraine, but we managed to get some discount shopping in, where Little Sister purchased an outfit for picture day that didn't quite pass my fake-maternal inspection. I reported it to the Grand Poobah of these issues (aka, Little Sister's real mom), at which Little Sister got angry. I had to tell her that, although I am always on her side, it may not always feel like it. I think she's starting to figure out that I'm actually on Mom's team. I feel like Darth Vader. (I apologize, I really don't care enough for that series to make vague references to it.)

In all of this meantime, The Boy spent the weekend in Connecticut at various picnics and what have you's, even managing to get his father to offer to contribute to our (thus far non-existent) honeymoon fund. The hearty laughs at "Fiji" as the answer to the question, "Where are you thinking about going," confirmed my thoughts that that might be a better anniversary destination. I have yet to see The Boy since last I posted, and, given the choice between the company of him or Dwayne Johnson, I definitely choose him. The Boy maintains that that's not what I might have said two weeks ago, but he is incorrect. And anyway, even if he isn't, sometimes we say things we don't mean.

All of this engagement has inspired me to try to act like a grown-up. Which is fine and good until someone notices, and then it's just embarrassing. For example, at 7:45 am in the 5th floor cafe.

Hawaiian Shirt Guy: "WHOA!" (pretends to faint) "Christina?" (looks at his watch) What are YOU doing here?"

Me: You know, getting married, have to be responsible, etc.

Undaunted by the mocking, this morning I went running at 5:30. At first, I feared that the other runners might shun me, since they have not seen me before and have no guarantee, even from me, that they will ever see me again. But they spoke to me. It was like being accepted into an exclusive club. It felt good. Maybe I'll even do it again someday. Because, let's be honest, I am getting married. In college we called the pre-marital scramble for fitness the LGN (Look Good Naked) plan. I'm not trying to brag or anything, but I've also never had terrible issues with self-esteem, so I've amended the plan to LBN (Look Better Naked). And so, I should get on that.

Tomorrow brings a morning meeting with an events coordinator at Reception Option #2 and dinner with the would-be caterer. Hooray for progress, because I can't wait until these details are ironed out. Raise your hand if you'd like to be on my list of "delegates" (i.e., people I delegate the rest of my wedding planning to)...
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