Ponder

Witching hour

I've decided that I have too much free time. My friends snorted at me when I said this yesterday. And I know those of you with babies are either rolling your eyes or firing up an email to order me to take advantage before it's too late!, but I've decided my free time is not a good thing. Or, Phillip decided this late Saturday night as I sat blubbering on the couch about the myriad of tiny miserable things I shouldn't even think up, much less freak out about.

For the record, I don't think I've been the hormonal scatterbrained mess people say women are when they're pregnant. Except for a whole new slate of strange aches and pains, I feel mostly like myself. I don't know what Phillip would say about this, but I'll have you know there haven't been any random blowups or more than one or two sudden crying jags, which means in my estimation, my mental health is as usual: questionable. People say, "Oh, it's just pregnancy hormones," and then I have to say, "No, actually, would you believe this is an improvement?"

So anyway. I get home from work around five and Phillip tends to get home around six-thirty, which means I have a whole hour and a half of wintry late afternoon before Distraction shows up in the form of dinner plans or errands or plain old "work sucked today" conversation. I bake, I watch TV, sometimes I make dinner. I think about writing, I might do some laundry, I flip through whatever arrived in the mail. Mostly I sit and attempt to stave off the anxiety that always shows up to fill in the blank space.

Phillip said, "I haven't seen you read anything in a while. Why don't you get some books?" So yesterday I went to Barnes and Noble and bought three fat novels. This one, which I've been wanting to read for a long time, this one, because I saw "lives on an air force base" on the jacket, and this one, because it looked funny. I also went to Pottery Barn Kids and did not buy anything, are you proud?

I made a list of friends who are home when I get home from work, mostly a growing number of friends who stay home with babies.

I thought about what things I need to do to get the baby's room ready, but in an orderly one-day-at-a-time way, not the ohmygodmayislikeTOMORROW way I've been favoring. Most of it Phillip has to do- move furniture in our bedroom to make room for my new desk, move my computer to the new desk and set it up, get rid of the old too-big desk, haul a to-be-purchased glider up two flights of stairs and set up where the too-big desk used to be. You know, dirty work. But I need to buy (or sew? am I seriously considering sewing?) curtains, put the little clothes away, hang up the cute little paintings I bought in China two and a half years ago, thread ribbons through the hooks on the wooden moon and stars I bought in Germany and pin them to the ceiling. (There is also a giant poster of Italy on the wall that I am not taking down. We may never have enough money to take this kid anywhere, so I have to stuff it all in his room.)

I wrote out my church meeting schedule, doctor appointments, retreats, parties, weddings, birthdays, showers and deadlines on my calendar. That makes me feel busy.

I bought more butter and chocolate chips, even though Phillip's office is beginning to expect him to show up with cookies. But I suspect my 89-year-old neighbor likes cookies too. She also likes to snoop inside the new townhouses they're always building in this neighborhood, just like me. I filed that away for the future.

The sun is not supposed to set until after 5 tonight.

I might have a new person available to walk around the lake with me after work. And I'm thinking about signing up for prenatal yoga classes at the yoga studio a few blocks away. I took yoga a few years ago in an attempt to "achieve a state of relaxation" like all the anxiety books advise, but I think the endorphins helped a lot more. My early morning class woke me up, made me feel stronger, put me on a schedule.

I feel like I do a lot of stuff, see a lot of people, commit to a lot of things, but there's still that hour after work when the sun is going down and all the things that make me nervous set up shop in my head and start their roundtable discussion. Phillip said, "It'll be hard when the baby gets here, but it'll be okay," and I said, "Maybe I'll be too busy to worry."


Old ladies

I have a new best friend. She lives across the street from me, she is 89 years old, her three granddaughters are among the smartest and most accomplished young women on earth and she has been going to my church since 1942. I knew none of these things until I talked her into letting me visit Friday evening, lemon poppyseed bread and stewardship intention form in tow. I was only planning to be there twenty minutes, thirty minutes at most, but at the hour mark she asked if I wanted some coffee and I had to say no, I was supposed to be home half an hour ago because we're having friends over. Turns out she walks five blocks to catch the bus every Sunday and has to leave directly after communion to catch the next one home. And, well, that's ridiculous. We live across the street. So we drove her to church on Sunday and sat next to her and gave her a hug at the kiss of peace and that's what we'll probably be doing for the next dozen Sundays and the dozen after that. Bet she's glad she let me visit, eh?

Now. Let it be said that I am not feeling particularly saintly, feeling irritated, as I do, about hauling an 89-year-old lady to and fro on Sundays. It's definitely going to interfere with our spontaneous after-Mass coffee hour and dim sum plans, not to mention the odd Sunday or two when we can't possibly get ourselves out of bed and half-heartedly promise to go to the seven o'clock service. On the other hand, 89-year-old ladies should be driven to church, dropped off at the front when it's raining and promptly taken home without a second thought. My 84-year-old grandmother never learned to drive and she's all I could think about during my visit (although my poor grandmother is certainly not bragging about her brilliant PhD candidate granddaughter who speaks three languages and works overseas for Peace and Justice, I assure you.)

I used to think I would work with elderly people. For all my social traumas involving small talk and strangers, I've never had problems getting old ladies to chat (though most of them, it should be said, wouldn't care if you had the conversation skills of Animal, they'd talk your ear off.) I spent a summer changing sheets and cleaning up after breakfast at an assisted living center and my senior year of college doing much more disgusting things than that for six or seven elderly women at an adult family home. I quit that job because I happened to be working for the Bride of Satan and found a less, uh, manual job in another downtown office building. I missed my old ladies though, even the crazy ones and the frighteningly sick ones. 

Eventually I hooked up with a local organization that paired people in the community with retirement and nursing home residents. I was paired with a woman I'll call Bev who lived at a city-funded retirement facility just blocks away from my waterfront office. I pictured a sweet fuzzy old lady like my grandma or Ann, my favorite (and least crazy) resident at the adult family home, but Bev was a sprightly Alzheimer's patient with a blond pixie cut and a sailor's vocabulary. She wore a monitor on her ankle and wasn't allowed out by herself. I'd go visit her for an hour on my lunch break and most of the time we'd take a long walk. It was the same route every week, but Bev never got tired of the furniture stores and the smells from the Thai restaurant and if it was nice weather and I had some cash, we'd eat ice cream cones on the waterfront. She'd hold onto my arm and we'd walk at a snail's pace, but I always got tired before she did. She asked me the same question every week: Did I have a nice man? And every week I would say: Oh Bev, you remember, I have a boyfriend. Even when this switched to: Oh Bev, you remember, I'm married, she never remembered. I think she even met Phillip once or twice, but I was always that dark-haired girl who came to rescue her from the stuffy boring packed-with-old-people building to take her outside where there was fresh air and all kinds of people and everything to look at. I'm not sure if she ever called me by name, but after the first couple of visits her face would positively gleam when she saw me walk into the lobby. She'd immediately head for the elevator to get her coat.

I had to stop seeing Bev when I stopped working downtown. I wasn't able to commit to seeing her on a regular basis and I felt so guilty telling the volunteer coordinator I wouldn't be there anymore. I still feel bad about that. I hope they sent someone else to take Bev outside.

Anyway it appears I have a new old lady, if I want her. Not that she needs a new best friend. She has family nearby, three future Presidents for granddaughters and all her wits about her. She needs a ride to church, which we are happy to provide, but I'm excited to have met her. When I'm bored at home with a baby, maybe I can walk across the street to her house and talk to a grown up, even if I have to hear about the granddaughter traveling across Europe before she starts her teaching position at the fancy East Coast university.


Happy new year?

I had one of those Depths of Despair moments yesterday. You know what I mean. As someone who has never been truly depressed, I can sometimes imagine what it might be like during my fleeting moments in the Depths of Despair. It was about nine thirty last night. I was sitting in front of the TV, having watched the last acceptable hour of television on TiVo, having no interest in anything being shown on real-time television, and realizing that although we put away the Christmas decorations, the house was clean and I'd made a batch of oatmeal raisin cookies, I was surely the laziest most boring girl in the entire world and this Sitting On My Ass-ness did not bode well for the new year. It came to a head when Phillip looked at me with concern and said, "Don't you have a book to read?" I shook my head and then he said, "Do you want to work on your story?" And I thought about my two writing projects hanging out on the USB drive upstairs, two things I have barely bothered to think about since I got pregnant, and then I started to cry. For it is horribly sad when one's extremely-not-interested-in-writing husband is the person who reminds you that you used to have this idea that you might, you know, write something some day.

GAH.

Anyway, first things first: I do not have a book to read. I have two Flannery O'Connor books I planned to read eventually (with Theresa, who I have not emailed back and probably hates me, therefore negating any chance that I will actually read these books, sorry Theresa!) and a mystery novel I just can't get into. So I am taking recommendations. The requirements are: does not make my brain hurt, is entertaining but not so entertaining that I can't put it down to go to sleep, does not beat me over the head with The Lesson and fits inside my purse. Go at it, Internet.

The second thing is that I am not one to be in the Depths of Despair for very long, so I scurried over to my bookshelf, picked out an Inspirational Novel and crawled into bed, determined to have my writerly instincts aroused by the stunning and glorious language. My Inspirational Novel was The Facts and Fictions of Minna Pratt, about an eleven-year-old girl who plays the cello, and is one of my favorite books ever.  Actually, nearly all of my favorite books are about eleven-year-old girls. Do you have one of those to recommend?

The third thing is that I am fully entrenched in Miss Snark's latest crap-o-meter. (Are you not familiar with Miss Snark? For shame!) 700 or so crazy people wrote 'hooks' for their unpublished novels and emailed them to Miss Snark for her comments. The hooks and comments were published on her blog and I have read each and every one of them. I know nothing about the publishing business, how to acquire an agent, what an agent actually does and how you convince anyone other than your mother that your work is not a steaming pile of you know what. But 700 hooks later, nearly all of which were unmercilessly ground into the dirt by Miss Snark's stiletto heel, I am anxious to get started on my own. The crap-o-meter may have taught me more than my 8 frillion creative writing classes combined. My two unfinished projects should probably be tossed into the incinerator by now, so I've started thinking about my third project, a combination of my favorite parts of the two other projects, something "hook-able", something someone other than my mother might want to read.

Whether or not I get off my butt and work on this new idea is up for debate. 

Last year I had a gigando list of resolutions (most of which I kept and/or achieved, thank you very much!), but this year I think my only resolution will be to write more. And by "write" I do not mean "blog". Sigh. Besides. If last night's Dance Dance Revolution competition taking place inside my abdomen was any indication, I don't have much time left before I'll be devoting most of my free time to chasing the most hyperactive kid in the universe up and down my stairs.


I can see for a long way

I had a lot of time in college to sit around listening to music. Well, that's not entirely true. I didn't have tons of time, due to whatever job I was working and the demands of the Non-Denominational College Fellowship and I usually had a stack of books I was supposed to have read by yesterday. But when I wasn't doing those things I was often sprawled on my bed or with my feet up on my desk zoned out to some terribly deep and introspective acoustic guitar music, usually the Indigo Girls or Dar Williams or one of the other terribly deep and introspective acoustic guitar female musicians. Those songs make up the soundtrack of dorm living, when you have nothing to think about but your own future, and how the boy down the hall never pays any attention to you.

I don't listen to a lot of music anymore, which makes me a little shamefaced. I rarely listen to Top 40 radio because I've suddenly become Old and all of the songs sound the same to me, which is to say, they all sound like crap. I can't remember the last time I got excited about a new album or bought a cd instead of downloading the one song I liked from a TV show. Maybe it's because I don't really sit around Thinking anymore.

Last night was a jumble of moving furniture and stashing all the junk piled up on the tables inside cupboards and closets. I made fudge, I made a spinach dip, I realized I forgot a dozen things at the grocery store. I worried about not having enough food, I worried about not having food anyone will like, I worried about being too tired to clean the bathroom and what if I am too tired to clean the bathroom today? The party will be ruined! (Did you forget? My Christmas party is tonight. Are you coming? Are you one of those people who don't know how to RSVP? Or just assume that I know you're coming? Because I really can't stand people like you. I hope you get the junkiest white elephant.)

Anyway, Phillip was out getting his hair cut and buying my extra groceries at that one fancy pants organic our-food-is-better-than-your-food store that I really cannot tolerate entering, because the regular grocery store was experiencing a power outtage. (Oh, the power outtages! How I hate you and what you did to my poor computer!) He came home all "I'm going to eat dinner! And then I'm going to lounge about! With the television on! Because my priorities are in order! And I know how to relax! Party shmarty!" By that time I was exhausted (I am STILL amazed at how little stamina I have compared to pre-pregnant. It's shocking. It's... frustrating, actually.) I poured myself a big bowl of Rice Krispies (when this child is born, he's going to come out looking like a Rice Krispie. Either that or a flake of Special K) and sat down next to Phillip to watch, what else? An episode of Scrubs.

As I've mentioned many times before, Scrubs features some pretty good music. And while it is a show mostly about one doctor trying to get into everyone else's pants, it also has a lot of thoughtful poignant scenes, and poignant in the best sense of the word. On this particular episode, a patient died, but she didn't just lie still in the hospital bed. She was suddenly standing next to her bed wearing an evening gown and singing a song. Eventually half the cast was singing along with her. It was a deep and introspective acoustic guitar song, and maybe I started crying a little bit, because come on! Phillip kept saying, "I know this song! I know this song!" and as soon as the show was over, he whipped out his wireless keyboard and pulled up his iTunes library on the TV. The song is called "Waiting For My Real Life To Begin", by Colin Hay, better known as the guy who sings "He just smiled and gave me a vegemite sandwich."

Any minute now my ship is coming in
I'll keep checking the horizon
And I'll stand on the bow
And feel the waves come crashing
Come crashing down, down, down on me

And you said,"Be still, my love
Open up your heart
Let the light shine in"
Don't you understand?
I already have a plan
I'm waiting for my real life to begin

When I awoke today suddenly nothing happened
But in my dreams I slew the dragon
And down this beaten path
And up this cobbled lane
I'm walking in my own footsteps once again

And you say,"Just be here now
Forget about the past
Your mask is wearing thin"
Let me throw one more dice
I know that I can win
I'm waiting for my real life to begin

Any minute now my ship is coming in
I'll keep checking the horizon
And I'll check my machine
There's sure to be that call
It's gonna happen soon, soon, oh so very soon
It's just that times are lean

And you say,"Be still, my love
Open up your heart
Let the light shine in"
Don't you understand?
I already have a plan
I'm waiting for my real life to begin

On a clear day
I can see, see for a long way

It's a beautiful song. Phillip turned it up and we snuggled into the couch and just sat there, listening to an acoustic guitar and a hopeful voice and thinking about our future. I thought about being fifteen and hating myself and the entire world, about being eighteen and leaving my family, about being  twenty-three and not having any idea what getting married would mean, only that my entire world was lacking if Phillip wasn't nearby. And there we were last night, sitting in our house, on our couch, getting ready for our Christmas party, thinking about our baby. It felt very much like our real lives were beginning.

My favorite Christmas song is 'Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.' (Okay, maybe second favorite after 'Santa Baby'.) I like how quiet and sweet it is. Christmas is going to be a whirl- it's always a whirl- and I'm not usually one to savor stillness this time of year. I like the bustle and noise of parties and shopping and delivering gifts and opening presents. Stillness always feels like an opportunity for anxiety and darkness to slip in and leave me unsettled and jittery. But I can be still to music, leaning up against my husband, feeling that weird sensation of a zucchini-sized baby flipping around inside me.

Merry Christmas, Internet.


Still here

I thought a bit of an Internet Hiatus might do me good, but HA. THAT was a dumb idea.

I was away, but I was Working.

Reading

Here I am attempting to deliver the first reading at my cousin's wedding on Saturday. What I was not Working was the hair. My God, what happened to my head? Even Jesus is up there, praying over my hair.

Wanttotrade

Here I am with my brother Alex. We are arguing over who has better readings. I was a little annoyed that he got to read the Prayers of the Faithful and I was stuck with the Responsorial Psalm. "You're not even one of the Faithful!" I complained. "You're going to be SMITED." That's when Alex was all, "FINE. YOU read it!" and attempted to rip off the page, but instead, tore the second reading in half. Oops.

Oops

And let's not talk about that ruffly pink horror I'm wearing. Well, actually, let's DO talk about it. This is the questionable look of an incredibly anxious pregnant woman, who woke up at 7:30 that morning absolutely distraught because she could not POSSIBLY wear one of the seven dozen outfits she brought for the wedding. At 7:42 she climbed out of bed, threw on her sweatpants and drove to Wal-Mart, conveniently located across the street from her hotel, and nabbed the first sweater she could find that was not black or smothered in sequins. Anyway, my new ensemble made me look like a slightly immodest grandmother, but trust me, this was much better than the bursting-at-all-seams Girl-Who-Ate-Seattle look I had going on before. But the hair... ye gods.

To get to the wedding we had to go here:

Bridge

(Hood River=MiddleOfNowhereWashingtonStateVille) and drive over this:

Narrowbridge

I hate this bridge. I have hated this bridge my entire life. When you drive over it, it makes this awful terrifying WHIRRING sound and you can see the water beneath the car. I don't want to see water! This is scary enough:

Columbiagorge

Does that little green rail thingy look strong enough to keep my car from pitching over the side? NO IT DOES NOT.

Here is a shot of me and the Devastatingly Handsome Chinese Man at the wedding.

Us_1

If you don't focus on the ruffly pink horror or the lacquered hair or the fact that my husband's head is roughly twice the size of mine, it's not a bad picture.

Anyway. Lack of posting aside, I am still alive. Photographic evidence! I have some good days and some crappy days and one or two evenings of "I'm sure a bottle of Yellow Tail Shiraz won't hurt the baby TOO much, right?", but most of the time I feel pretty optimistic about Everything Will Be Okay and This Will Not Kill Me. I have been through, as I reminded myself 400 times yesterday, much much worse.

And I know you'll all find this terribly shocking, but life goes on, even when you are mentally unbalanced. Which means I still have to go to work (I KNOW!) and make dinner and visit new babies and think up a Halloween costume and speak at the pre-marriage class at church and people, that pumpkin is not going to carve itself.  As for the pre-marriage class, I guess the last time wasn't such a huge disaster because they invited us back. This time we'll be talking about Family of Origin.

I was thinking about this a lot at the wedding. I was sitting with the only Asian man in a 100-mile radius. The bride is Colombian, adopted into a gigantic, white, American family. The groom is Mexican, said his vows in Spanish and barely said a word to my family because 1) we don't speak Spanish and 2) it's hard to get a word in edgewise around these people. The priest, also Mexican, went on and on and on about what marriage is like in Mexican families and what marriage is like in American families and how my cousin and her new husband will have to think a lot about their FAMILIES OF ORIGIN and learn to adapt to one another. And instead of practicing all the difficult words in my readings, I sat there thinking about adoption and cultures and whether we'll make our kid go to Chinese school and how I've yet to go to Hong Kong and what it must be like for my cousin to look Mexican but not be Mexican. At the end of all of this I had decided that we were crazy fools for having a mixed-race baby, what the HELL are we thinking, let ALONE think about ADOPTING. YE GODS!

But then this morning, when I was practicing what I might say to the Almost-Marrieds, I couldn't think of anything juicy to share. Because honestly, the families of origin thing just hasn't been that hard. Sigh. Even the INTERESTING things about us are BORING.

As for Halloween costumes, I have hit a wall. The creativity, it is the farthest thing from oozing. But I saw Kirsten Dunst on one of the dozen Conan O'Brien shows I watched this weekend, and she said she and friend were thinking about being Double Dare contestants. Which is an awesome idea. Better than being the Flair girl from Office Space, right?


Further evidence of my unparalleled dorkiness

So, yes, I'm sort of bad at announcing things. Sorry!

A few weeks ago I had a mini baby shower at my house. The guest of honor and I had gone out for coffee the day before and I told her my news, which was really fun. (Have you seen a seven months pregnant woman jump up and down? Very amusing!) I told her that I was still getting used to the whole idea and I wasn't quite ready to tell all the girls who would be at the shower. I had no good reason for this, other than being the kind of person who gets overwhelmingly nervous about absolutely everything.

There were only five or six girls at the shower, and as a bunch of not-quite-newlyweds-anymore girls are wont to do, especially at a baby shower, everyone was talking about When To Have Babies. So and so was trying. So and so was waiting. So and so wasn't sure. I could feel my friend's eyes burning into me, just waiting for me to spill. But I didn't. Because I am a huge dork is who is exceptionally bad at announcing things. I either spit things out without any sort of forewarning at all or I sneak it into a remotely related conversation (see: yesterday) or I obsess and obsess until my whole body is quivering with anticipation and quietly, dorkily, share my news and turn bright red when someone makes a big deal about it.

My friend stayed after everyone else left so she could get in a few kicks. "What were you waiting for! That would have been a perfect time to tell everyone! They would have been so excited!"

But see, that's the PROBLEM. I am not quite the attention whore in real life that I am on my website. Telling a group of people anything, even a small group of people something fun and exciting makes my insides convulse. It's not that I don't like attention... I just don't like that much attention. I know, I am weird. It makes my ears turn pink and I get mumbly and embarrassed and I start wishing everyone would just act normal. Like my friend jumping up and down? That was cute and I was so proud of myself for Accepting Someone's Happiness On My Behalf, but then I was all, "Okay okay okay! Enough!" All I could think about at the shower was five or six faces all looking at me for too long, answering all their questions, saying "thank you" a dozen times... ACK! Couldn't I just randomly let it slip one morning after Mass? In between the "Hey, do you want to go to coffee hour?" and "Father seemed a little grumpy today, didn't you think?"

NORMAL people can't WAIT to have everyone be excited about them. I understand this. And hopefully I get appropriately excited and happy for other people. I actually really enjoy people being excited for me, really- I just enjoy it at home, quietly, when I talk to Phillip or I write on my website or I tell my mom about my week when I call her on Saturday mornings. (And this is one thing I am not so excited for about being pregnant- you can't hide it. I can right now, but later on I'm going to have to buy one of those "Hello, I'm due in May, it's a Boy/Girl, I feel fine, no you can't touch my belly" shirts from Cafe Press. I am not kidding. I participated in a church meeting ice breaker a few weeks ago and happened to be standing next to my pregnant friend. EVERY SINGLE PERSON asked her the exact same questions. I told her she should just stamp her vitals on her forehead. Much easier that way.)

Gah. I am so embarrassed to even write this. But really. I don't even like it when people say more than "looks nice" about my haircut. (Which is still short, by the way, and still makes me look like my first grade picture.)

Unless you are Phillip. Then you have to be OVER THE MOON about every single thing, including what I ate for lunch, the fascinating blog posts I read and how I finally decided on the perfect outfit, shoes and all, forty-seven changes later.

Now, to keep in character, I will opt to change the subject to one of my favorites, my holy sainted television set, and tell you all how ABSOLUTELY THRILLINGLY EXCITED I am to go home tonight, dig out the pint of chocolate brownie chocolate ripple chocolate chunk chocolate ribbon ice cream Phillip fetched for me the other night and watch the season premiere of Veronica Mars, so thoughtfully saved for me by TiVo.

And then? Later on? Tonight? At a friend's house? Where we are meeting an hour earlier to thoroughly recap last season? LOST. Whee!


A night at the fair

Way to make me BLUSH, Internet. You guys are so nice. You are all invited to come over for TV. Just don't expect me to start entertaining you or anything.

On to the topic at hand, which is that I think I lost a little TV cred last night. I was doing the ten-minute cleaning spree I do before we have friends over when Phillip called. Our friends the Neighbors had extra tickets to see Third Day at the fair and did we want to go? I had to think about this. Jim Halpert? Or my old friend Spontaneity? Phillip sounded like he really wanted to go to the concert so I said, "Finnnne", and sat down to double check that TiVo would catch The Office. (Which I watched this morning before work, so that when people asked me if I saw it, I could say I did, instead of saying, no, I went to see a Christian band play at the fair an hour away and have them look at me like I am Hmm, Interesting.) (And I had to hide behind my cereal bowl the whole time because ohmygoodness AWKWARD. Seriously. What does Michael have to do to get FIRED?)

The Neighbors, incidentally, were supposed to have a baby on Wednesday. I kept wondering what we would do if the baby suddenly decided to make her entrance next to the ferris wheel, or the hamburger line, or the main stage in the middle of the concert. I am highly unskilled at this kind of crisis management. After a while I decided that the Neighbors would simply speed their way back to the city and Phillip and I would hike up the hill to my sister's house and beg for a ride home. Satisfied with this course of action, I was able to turn my attention back to eating as many fair scones as humanly possible. (We are going back to the fair on Saturday, because Phillip and my sister want to ride the rides, and I just want to eat more scones. I am not kidding about these scones, people.)

Anyway. I have actually seen Third Day before. I was (I think) a junior in college and the freshmen in my bible study were all, "OOH, they are the BEST." So they dragged me off to the little Christian college down the road where Third Day was playing in a big gym. (This is also where I saw Ani DiFranco for the first time and totally cried my eyes out when she sang 'Angry Anymore' with Julie Wolf. That was a different kind of religious experience.) I had never been to a Christian music concert, mostly likely because I never listened to Christian music. I'm a Catholic! I didn't grow up going to Young Life or any of that stuff- how was I supposed to know who Rich Mullins was? But there was one freshman in particular who was determined to find at least some Christian music I would listen to, and it turned out that Third Day was a relatively consistent winner in my CD player (and I actually still listen to the compilation CD he made for me). (Ah, CDs! I am so old!) Off I went to the concert where we had pretty close seats and an excellent view of six hipster boys with electric guitars attempting to turn the concert into a "worship service".

I don't know what other Christian music concerts are like (I am still not a fan, sorry!), but one thing I really like about Third Day is that they are almost leading a sing-along instead of performing. They're leading worship. (And maybe that's the hangup I have with Christian music- I don't know how to listen to it and I don't know how to think of the people who sing it. Are they performers? I don't get it. I infinitely prefer straight up worship music to Christian versions of rock and pop.) But at a Third Day concert you are expected to stand up and sing and dance around. Last night was FREEZING (people threw sweatshirts on stage because Mac Powell was shivering) and I decided I might be warmer if I stood up and bopped up and down. And I am pretty much a fan of any live performance, no matter what it is. They had a pretty cool set, a lot of energy and a lot of that "feeling" you get in a huge crazy worship service, the kind that people complain isn't present at Catholic churches, the kind that Catholic converts claim doesn't matter and isn't what's real. I'm in the "it's not what's important" camp, but that doesn't mean I don't love it. And what's there not to love about hipster boys with guitars? NOTHING.

Then I went home and checked my email and saw that I had all these lovely people leaving me notes on my website and I got really embarrassed and told Phillip that now I had to be INTERESTING and I am so NOT INTERESTING and EEK. Then he reminded me that you were all reading this tripe before, so quit freaking out. And I did. And now I have written a post about Christian music, of all mind-numbing not-interesting things. Oh, I apologize. Although, much like other things I am taking suggestions for (what to see in London's West End in November? what book to read next?) I am open to music recommendations. Maybe. I'm not promising anything.

Have a good weekend! I will eat a scone for all of you!


Hello, my name is

Yesterday I signed up for this free stat counting service. It only tracks so many hits per day, but since I have all of four readers (and one of you is my mom, hi Mom!) I didn't think that was a big deal. I copied the code to the site and obsessively watched my stats page to see if anything happened. Turns out my free stat counting service is WAY COOLER than the measy information doled out by Typepad, if and when the Typepad hamsters feel like telling you about your stats. For one thing, there is a MAP. I can MAP you people! It gives me a nice (yet freakish) list of google search strings. It tells me what pages you visit, it tells me how long you stay, it tells me your IP address and better yet, it tells me who has that IP address REGISTERED. I have all the tools I need to become a Bona Fide Stalker. I know where you live, suckers!

However! All this information has made me a teensy weensy bit uncomfortable.

For example, I now know where you people are coming from. I could have found out this information before my free stat service, but frankly, I'm too lazy to go about hunting down every single IP address. Believe it or not, I DO have other things to do. Also, who cares! Apparently, I SHOULD CARE. A frightening amount of you are IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD. Like, DOWN THE STREET. You people are making me nervous. Do I know you? Also, there are quite a lot of you in places I have never visited. Where did you people come from? You can't ALL have found my website via some bizarro search engine hit. Why are you reading some dorky website written by a nerdy neurotic girl in the Pacific Northwest? I sincerely question your choice of online content.

When I started this website I didn't give a lot of thought to anonymity. For one thing, it was mostly just to write home and post pictures while I was on a trip. I figured I would probably want to have a Real Blog like all the cool ones that occupied my brain at work, but I didn't set it up to keep any secrets or vent about real people. My IN-LAWS know about my website. I will be hanging out with some friends and telling them some story when they start telling me the end and I realize they have already read the entire thing on my blog. (Which is very very embarrassing.)  My family and nearly all of my friends know about this place and there's nothing on here that I wouldn't tell them in person anyway. (And not that they actually come here. Some of them are all, "Website? Internet? Friends in the computer? ARE YOU DATING ONLINE?") But! There is this thing called Work and whatever semblance of a Professional Life I may possess. I might die a trillion deaths were someone from the work section of my life to discover this thing. And why have I been gallivanting about the Internet thinking that that will never happen? I write very specifically about my city. All that has to happen is for my old boss to type in some city-specific search string and TA-DA! He will spend the rest of his afternoon reading about how I could not sleep for six months in 2002.

I got so obsessive yesterday I began to think YOU were tracking me down. Here is what I was thinking: If one had a lot of time on her hands, she could use her stat service to see MY IP host, and then, assuming my IP address is registered to my company name (is it? ACK!), she could find out where I work and know exactly what I'm talking about whenever I write a thinly veiled work post. Horrors!

But today? Meh. I may have to go through and delete a couple of the truly irascible work posts, but I'm not sure I care so much about everything else. Really. An anonymous blog would be nice for the times I'd like to use a choice curse word or two or let the neurotic demons go wild, but that feels kind of secretive and alter-ego-ish to me. Of course, I'm lucky enough that the people I know in Real Life are nice enough to keep their ridicule and scorn to themselves. Although I take comfort in my name being someone else's name and therefore un-google-able, I don't have any important identity to hide or protect and I can't think of a whole lot I need to keep secret anyway. If I think of anything, I have my new Nancy Drew journal to hold it for me. (My new Nancy Drew journal is awesome. I love Nancy Drew almost as much as I love TV.) If you have an anonymous or anonymous-ish blog, why did you choose to go that route? (A perfectly acceptable answer is, "Because I don't want the entire world knowing where I live, like you do MORON." I can see how that makes excellent sense.) If you don't have an anonymous blog and you have more readers than your mother, does it ever make you feel Weird?

Actually, I think the most offensive part of the whole stat counting thing is seeing how many people are visiting and NOT TELLING ME THEY STOPPED BY. The lost opportunities to inflate my ego just really bug me.

So, all of that is to say: Yikes! Public! But! Whatever! I still don't care! Back to regularly scheduled programming. (Which would be The Office. Don't tell me you're doing anything ELSE tonight.)


Abundance

Yesterday was Shanna's birthday. Shanna was my best friend in fifth and sixth grade. She was skinny and blond, which clearly denoted her superiority over me. She had a Nintendo in her room and often accused me of being friends with her just so I could play Super Mario. (This wasn't true. I was friends with her because I could go over to her house before school started and use the hairspray that was verboten in my own house.) She had Debbie Gibson lip gloss and a corkscrew curling iron and together we developed the perfect waterfall bangs (I practiced on her because I had short little girl bangs and a 'flop' is rather difficult to achieve when your mother tells you you are too young for hairspray.) We listened to her New Kids tapes and rode our bikes and we liked the same boys. Those boys always liked her back, while I got stuck with the fourth grader who put a stuffed animal in my locker and declared his undying love on the playground. (FOURTH GRADE. Even I thought that was ridiculous.)

It was Shanna's birthday yesterday. I remember this, even though I haven't seen her since the New Year's Eve we were thirteen and stuffing grapes in our mouths at a family friend's house in Spain.

I'm sort of pathetic in this way. I remember phone numbers and middle names and important days for people I haven't seen in years. I have always always wondered what it would be like to keep people. To have them around until I am one hundred years old. My grandmother still calls her best friend from high school on Sunday nights. I think they watch baseball games together on the telephone. I think this is precious.

So last year, when Fellow Bridesmaid started talking about this book she was reading, and how we should get a group of people to do the Examen every year like the people in the book, I was all, "I AM SO IN." I kind of forgot about the 'retreat' aspect of it and concentrated on the "I'll have friends forever and ever and call them George" part. (Not that I don't like retreats. Retreats are lovely. I just don't like the part where I have to talk about myself. I mean, I love talking about myself. Who doesn't? But not at a retreat. Ick.)

We met together for the first time over Labor Day last year at my new house. Fellow Bridesmaid, a professional retreat leader, organized everything. I just had to have clean dishes. We were four couples in newish interracial marriages, we knew each other from school, we were in the same-ish stage of life, and we committed to doing this every year. EVERY. YEAR.

Our second retreat was this past weekend. We named it Emmaus (or Emmaus Amadeus, sung to the tune of 'Rock Me Amadeus', which was Neighbor's Husband's contribution and sometimes it's just better to humor him.) We ate twice as much food as we would normally do on an average weekend. We talked. We prayed. We went shopping and played board games and some of us decided that Guitar Hero is enough of a reason to let one's husband buy a PlayStation even though he already has an Xbox and a mountain of PC games. (I can rock 'More Than A Feeling', Internet.)

I have always been a Best Friend in search of the other half of my cheap broken friendship heart necklace. I've had a handful of best friends, and every time I usurped one to make another, I felt tremendously guilty. I don't let go of people easily, even if I haven't seen them in years and most likely won't see them again. Getting married completely revamped my concept of Best Friendship, of course. Now my best friend is a BOY. He doesn't want to go see dancing movies with me or eat ice cream or paint his toenails. He especially doesn't like to stay up all night talking about boys, but he's still the best friend I've ever had. Awww. And when you're married, couple friends are important. It is really super lame to hang out with another couple when you only enjoy half of them. Friends! So necessary! So hard to find!

Except, for Phillip and me, they just haven't been hard to find. How lucky are we? Like, WAY LUCKY. I was friendless for a while. I hated entire years of high school. I hated my freshman year of college. I've been lonely and sad and cursing the universe for making me an introverted introspective Grade A dork. But for whatever reason, at this point in our lives we are blessed with amazing wonderful friends. The kind of friends who drop by for no reason, who come over once a week to watch TV, who kick off the week with a glass of wine on Sunday night, the kind who know they can call you if their plumbing mysteriously breaks in the middle of the night and they need to take a shower. Friends who call you "Aunt Maggie" when they hand you their new baby.

I seriously spent my entire sophomore year of high school praying for a friend, just one person who would understand me and have fun with me. Twelve years later I feel like that prayer is still being answered. And whenever I've had friends disappear, I've been given more. I've tried to stop labeling Best Friends, as I am too old to keep a diary with a lock and squirt Jean Nate on my neck before I leave for school. I've tried not to think about how many friends we have or how close we are or who we might be friends with next. We did our retreat stuff this weekend, but we also just reveled in being friends. Friends who talk about next year and the year after. And I can't tell you how awesome it is to leave your husband behind with his board game nerd buddies and go to the mall with their wives and your credit card, knowing that you're ALL having a blast.


Giving myself a good talking to

Oh good people of the Internet, I had no intention of giving you all complexes over the pronounciation of the word "bruschetta". I just happen to be a snotnose brat who spent several of her formative years in bruschetta's home country, and who ordinarily prevents herself from expressing the snotnose brattiness for fear of being labeled as such. It came out just that once, I won't do it anymore, promise! Just don't say "brushetta" until you have given me some and my mouth is too full to protest.

Over the weekend I developed a Smoker's Cough and I'm sort of enjoying it. It makes me sound all sultry like and I wake up with that strange wheezing feeling, which is kind of neat, and all of this without having to actually smoke anything. (For the record, I have never smoked legal or illegal substances in my entire life. And I'm not about to start now, although I sincerely wish I'd tried pot before I implemented the personal no smoking ban. A friend of mine offered to whip me up some pot brownies (how kind of her!) but I've heard that smoking pot can make one a bit, um, paranoid? And Internet, I am already the most highly strung person I know; attempting to become a pothead can lead to no good.)

Hi Mom!

Besides, smoking pot would have disqualified me for the "Special To Us" Summer Olympics which took place yesterday in a deserted North Seattle park. (Did I not tell you there were drug tests? That's what the little paper cups were for.) We played an awesome game of volleyball (LOVE VOLLEYBALL WHO WANTS TO PLAY WITH ME?) and things disintegrated from there, as who had any idea it would take us hours upon hours to score in lawn darts? But three hours later we'd awarded all the medals, eaten our grilled hamburgers during the closing ceremony and Phillip and I found ourselves zonked out on the couch comparing new suntan lines and arguing over whose serving shoulder hurt worse. (Answer: mine.) I'll have pictures up on Flickr in a few days, but for now I've got new pictures of the Sainted Grandchild and the baby shower, which are only interesting for the glimpse into my house, because you are all stalkers and want to know where to find the kitchen knives and the matches for your nefarious purposes.

Anyway. Smoker's Cough! I have no idea how I got it. I am clearing my throat every five minutes like an eighty-three-year-old man. It's pretty gross.

Last Friday I wrote a post about the myriad of things I had to do around the house, just business-of-life type stuff, and how much I didn't want to do those things. How I just wanted to sit on the couch and watch fourteen episodes of House back to back because I am so BUSY and I need some DOWN TIME. Then I decided to be angry instead of whiny. Anyway! But Phillip and I were talking in the car the other day and I realized he was feeling the same thing. We feel like we're doing 800 million things, so when we're home, all we want to do is sit around and ignore the pile of dishes in the sink. But then we asked ourselves: are we really this busy? And neither of us thought so.

It seems like there's what I've been calling a Spirit of Sloth hanging out in our house right now. We're so apathetic to everything. We seriously cannot be bothered to load the dishwasher or start the washer or dust the floors. We gave the house a scrub down before the baby shower two weekends ago, but we won't do the same thing for just ourselves, the people who live there. The mail piles up on the table, the magazines never get recycled, the bank statements go unreconciled, the wall hanging thingy we bought for the blank brown wall sits lonely in the office downstairs, waiting for us to care. And I guess this isn't anything new, but it feels particularly bad right now. We're lazy. We're not accomplishing anything. It's just an overwhelming feeling of BLAH.

My new plan is to go to the library when I get home from work. I have a good two hours between when I get home and when Phillip gets home. I normally spend that time eating everything in the refrigerator, watching TV and not doing the dishes. A new library opened up not far from my house, so I'm going to start bringing my laptop there after work. (I had to ask Phillip if it was okay to bring my laptop to the library and just hang out there. Isn't that a weird question? I think nothing of bringing it to a bookstore or a coffee shop and working and studying for hours, but it seemed wrong to do it at the public library. I am an idiot. And Phillip said, "No, that's where all the Asian kids hung out in high school.") I figure if I don't feel like writing, I can at least browse the shelves. We're going to Costco tonight to load up on Phase 1 food. Then we're going to put up the wall hanging thingy and the Flowers of China prints that have been sitting in a closet for two years. And this morning I loaded the dishwasher (and turned it on, go me!) before I left for work. Phillip rode his bike. This funk must be snapped out of, stat!

And I really want to write something for this. If I can get my act together, that is. There are still House reruns on my TiVo, and that does not bode well for the snapping.