Good Genes, Great Grandparents

February 26, 2010 at 3:22 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

Today is my Mema’s 80th birthday and in celebration I will be talking about her and my other grandparents today.  Gotta show some love for the older generations (even if they’ll never, ever read this).

I am extremely lucky as all four of my grandparents are still around and still physically and mentally (well, sometimes this is debated) sound.  Both sets have each been married for 60 plus years too, which I find amazing.  They are all now in their eighties, which I also find amazing.  My Papa on my maternal side still owns and runs a television repair shop that he’s had for…well, longer than I’ve been alive.  My Grandma on my paternal side plays tennis twice a week in scotching Louisiana weather.  I tell you, I come from strong stock.

These are not my grandparents but they have moxie and I think my actual grandparents would approve.

My grandparents are all wonderful people.  I’m much closer with those on my mom’s side, mostly because I grew up roughly ten miles from their house and have spent much more time with them.  My sister and I went and visited our southern grandparents for a week every summer and I think they’re pretty great too.  They met on a blind date decades ago and have been together ever since.  And here’s a fun fact – they share the same name.  My Grandma is Bobbie and my Grandpa is Bobby.  Cute, huh?

My grandparents on my mom’s side are equally adorable.  They met when Papa was a patient in the hospital Mema worked in.  He had the nurses shut the door to his room until he could convince her to go out with him and the rest is history.  Well, almost.  First she had to send her engagement ring back to the fiance she already had – she did this via letter.  Yup, my sweet little old white-haired birthday having Mema sent a Dear John letter to some man who might not have ever gotten over it.  As she once told me, she “just had a hard time saying no”.  She’s full of gems like this.  Just yesterday, as we were speaking on the phone, she had a thing or two to say about Republicans.  Now I don’t know what your political leanings are and I don’t really care, but hearing your grandmother say that “all Republicans seem to come with frown-y faces” is just about priceless.  You get ’em, Mema.

As I mentioned, I’m slightly closer with my maternal grandparents.  So close, in fact, that they have each told me on separate occasions that I’m the one they want giving the eulogy at their funerals.  Not a happy thought but an honor nonetheless.  They probably asked me to do this because I’m their favorite grandkid (and to any family who might be reading this blog – I dare you to prove me wrong).  Sure, I catch hell from them for being the only one to live so far away, but I make it up by calling and checking up on them about once a week.  If I go much longer than that my Papa will call me.  In fact, I had a phone call from them at midnight on New Year’s Eve, as they sat watching Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin on CNN.  Trying to wish them a coherent Happy New Year while at a loud party with lots of booze was a perfect way to bring in 2010.  I’m not being sarcastic, it warmed my heart to receive that phone call (the champagne probably helped with the warming of the heart as well).  And my friends sure got a kick out of it.

Trust me, I know how very lucky I am to have had so many years with these wonderful people.  I hope to have many more.  They have all taught me a lot and I’ll probably never be able to look at a frowning Republican the same way ever again.

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Sick. Of. Snow.

February 25, 2010 at 3:17 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

Old man Winter, drop dead already.

When I walked out of my two-hour stint helping at the food pantry last night, I was dismayed to see it was snowing, yet again.  I know a while back I posted about how pretty snow is and how it makes everything seem calm and peaceful…I still think that, if I’m sitting in the comfort of my own living room.  However, seeing as how I have to work and all for a living, I don’t have too much of an opportunity to sit and relax while watching the snow come down.  Instead, I have to go out and wage a battle against it, almost every single day.  Here are some things I won’t miss once it starts to warm up:

1.  Taking an extra five minutes every morning to make sure I have sufficient layering wrapped around my poor mortal body.

2.  The loud, wacky noises my radiator makes when it turns itself on.  It’s easy to pretend little gnomes are living in there and smacking the pipes with hammers while having a debaucherous party full of noisemakers and little gnome drinks .

3.  Trudging a new trail in the grass between the train station and the parking lot to my office.  It’s good exercise and all but I’m not usually up for hiking through deep snow at 7:30am.

4.  Deadly icicles.  Seriously.  I saw a huge spear of frozen water fall from the roof of the train station a few days ago and almost take out some poor, oblivious little girl.  Her mom yanked her to safety in the nick of time but she came very close to suffering death by ice.

5.  Tracking gross snowy mush into my apartment every night.  ‘Nuff said.

6.  My winter coat.  It’s warm, yes, but it makes me appear about 45 pounds heavier than I actually am and it’s cumbersome as all get out.  I long for the days of simple t-shirts and jeans.

7.  My winter boots.  Same principal here as with the coat only this time it’s my feet that ache for freedom.  I want to be able to slip into a pair of sandals instead of wearing two pairs of socks before tying laces that go to my knees.  I want to go barefoot in my apartment without freezing.  I want air for my toes.

8.  Gymnastics on ice.  I have successfully managed to stay upright on the sidewalks all winter long but I fear my luck will run out the longer this dreadful weather continues.  I’ve developed quite a skill for surfing around on ice but it’s not one I would like to make a full-time hobby.  I miss being able to walk normally, without fear of busting my delicate ass.

9.  Lackluster water pressure in my shower.  The cold water has much better pressure than the hot, which I found out when the temps started to plummet.  I’ll be glad when I can use more than a drop or two of cold water to get a comfortable shower.

10.  Static in my hair.  And on my cat.  It’ll be nice to pet her again without shocking us both, and I’m sure she’s looking forward to it as well.

Yup I’m ready for Spring, or at the very least some warmer weather.  In the meantime, here’s a pretty picture of what is hopefully right around the corner.

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February Book Club

February 24, 2010 at 3:03 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

I had another book club meeting last week and figured it was time for a new book/restaurant review on this here blog.  This meal took place at Kan Zaman, which is a Lebanese place downtown.  As an interesting aside, I took the Brown Line on the L to get there and it dropped me off at the Merchandise Mart, which I was not exactly expecting.  Typically the L drops off at a standard looking train platform, usually outdoors, but this place was deep within the bowls of the Mart, which is absolutely huge.  I had never been to this particular stop and was more than a bit confused.  It sort of reminded me of Harrod’s in London, if you’ve ever seen that place.  When the Merchandise Mart opened in 1930, it was the largest building in the world (that’s it there in the foreground).  It’s now the 25th largest building on the planet, which I still think is rather impressive.  There’s office space and shopping galore, and if I hadn’t been pressed for time I would have happily wandered around for a while.  I suppose I’ll save that for another day.  Anyway, the train dropped me off here and it only took me fifteen minutes to find my way outside to the street.  Then it was off to Kan Zaman.

Kan Zaman is a BYOB Lebanese place.  I didn’t encounter BYOB restaurants until I moved to Chicago, and now I adore them.  You can drink as much as you want and not have to worry about paying outrageous drink prices, which is fantastic.  Our group of eight ladies each brought a bottle or so of vino, so we had quite the little party going at our table.We all shared a vegetarian appetizer which featured humus, pita bread, falafel, spinach with rice and more.  For the main course, I had a spinach dish with bulgur wheat and I was able to enjoy the leftovers for two more days (or, to use a colloquialism I often get teased for, I ate on it for two more days).  The atmosphere of the place is authentic and comfortable and if we hadn’t been such a large group we would’ve taken advantage of the floor style seating in the place (yup, you have to remove your shoes).  I heard that they sometimes have belly dancing too, and that you can get up and join.  I would love to do this (quit your laughing) so I’ll be going back to this fine establishment at some point in the future.

The book we read for this month was The Unbearable Lightness of Being, by Milan Kundera.  It was a dream-like, ethereal novel about a man who has a hard time staying faithful, the woman who loves him, the mistress who wants him and a married man who wants the mistress.  There was also a female dog who was named after a male literary character and referred to using masculine pronouns.  It wove all of these characters together by giving snippets and snapshots of their histories and lives.  It also contained a good deal of philosophy and deep thinking, which some in the group disliked but I found provoking (for the most part).  However, it was slightly confusing  at times and differentiating between what was being told as a dream sequence and what was actually supposed to have happened was often a bit difficult.  I agreed with some of the other book clubbers that I would probably get more out of it during a second read-through, but alas the Chicago Public Library was anxiously awaiting for the its return so I’ll have to get to that another time.  Apparently this book was also turned into a movie, which I would also like to check out.  It didn’t seem like an easily adaptable novel so I’m sure it would at least be interesting to watch.

All in all, another enjoyable book club meeting.  To end, I’d like to share another picture of the Merchandise Mart simply because I’m astounded I didn’t know about this place before, I think it’s quite cool and well…I can.  Here you go!

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Cell Phone Madness

February 23, 2010 at 3:51 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , )

Last week, I broke down and got one of those fancy, newfangled smart phones.  My old cell phone had been treating me just fine but when my cat knocked water over on it and killed its ability to charge, I decided it was time to move on.  Or rather, the water damage decided that for me.  Note: my cat’s penchant for knocking over water on expensive electronics will likely be the topic of an upcoming post.  Damn cat.  Luckily for her it was time for an upgrade anyway, so I snagged a bit of a discount on the new phone and that’s always appreciated.  I debated long and hard about this whole smart phone thing, because I loathe the idea of turning into one of those people who fail to notice the world around them because they are reading about it on their cell.  However, I knew some of those crazy applications would make things like finding my way around the city and navigating the bus schedules a bit easier, and I’m all for anything that helps me become less of a tourist and more of a resident.  Also, my apartment lacks the internet and there are times when it would be nice to be able to check something before heading out and trying to find it.  Ultimately I settled on the Droid Eris.

I know, it’s ridiculous.  It’s also much, much smarter than I am.  I’ve had it a week and I still feel like we’re in that awkward, getting-to-know-you phase.  This thing automatically synchs up with my Gmail account and it imported every contact I had there immediately into my phone.  I didn’t necessarily want people like my ex boyfriend in my new cell phone, so I went about deleting some names.  Of course, my getting used to touch screen technology is much like my grandmother trying to navigate the highways around Chicago, and I wound up accidentally calling the bastard (I don’t really think he’s a bastard, but the word fit nicely here) about a half-dozen times in my attempt to delete his number.  You can imagine my frustration.  I think I caught all of the calls early enough to end them before he got it, but with my luck he’s out there thinking I’m super needy and losing my nerve every time I call to try to get him back.  Fabulous.  So my initial experiment with my phone was not a great one, but I am getting better with it (and his number is finally gone).

One of the aspects of having a phone that can do everything but laundry is having the ability to download all kinds of free and pointless applications.  There are innumerable games and other time wasters out there, which I try to avoid as I usually have a book on me and find little need for Pong 2.0.  Some of them are fun though, if not useful, and I have downloaded a few.  Case in point: daily Calvin and Hobbes cartoons.  Do I need these?  Absolutely not.  Do they make me happy on a basic level?  Why yes, yes they do.  As a grown woman who still sleeps with the stuffed monkey given to me as a young child, I identify with this comic.  This was one app worth the 20 seconds of my time it took to download.  I’ve also found a googlemaps application, as well as a compass, so I never have to worry about walking out of the subway downtown and losing all sense of direction ever again.  Huzzah!

There are other things my new creepy-smart phone can do as well.  For instance, as soon as I look at it I can tell the latest weather for whatever city I happen to be in (it updates automatically).  It also links up my phone contacts to their facebook profiles, so if you’re number is in my phone and we’re friends on that social networking site, your profile picture comes up whenever we speak or text.  That right there kind of freaked me out, because that’s just a lot for a phone to know.  It plays music but I haven’t made it far enough to program that yet.  I wonder if that means I can get rid of the iPod I rarely use…perhaps.  It also takes a better picture than most cameras I’ve ever owned.  There’s a voice recorder should I ever have the need for one, and it appears I never have to delete text messages again (my old phone would begin to harass at me as I approached 50).  There are roughly four dozen more various tones and noises that I can choose from when setting an alarm, ringtone etc.  It also acts as a super fancy paperweight, should I have the need for one.  These are all standard features.  I tell you, phones sure have come a long way since the Zach Morris Special.

My sister and I used to have a set of walkie talkies that looked like Zach’s cell phone.  Ironically, my father had one of the very first mobile phones available and it looked exactly like our toys (and this here beauty).  I remember one time in particular where he gave us a verbal tongue lashing for playing with his work phone when in reality we were playing with our walkie talkies.  I doubt anyone would make that mistake today.

I feel like an old lady as I describe my astonishment with this new world of phonage.  I signed up (and started paying for) my first cell phone plan around the time I began driving, which nicely coincided with the rise in popularity in cell phones to begin with.  Maybe I am an old lady.  Either way, it’s interesting to see how far they’ve come and to imagine what they’ll be doing next. Geez, I remember thinking I was cool with my bright green pager, 

I’m pretty sure I’ll keep my current version for quite a while (partly because it might take me the length of the contract to fully understand it) but I’d like to see a phone that makes me dinner.  Or a drink.  I wonder how long it will be until cell phones begin doing manual labor.  I’m all for my phone doing my grocery shopping and coming back with wine.

I hope dreams really do come true.

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Pain in the Neck

February 22, 2010 at 2:21 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

I have a newfound respect for anyone who has ever dealt with neck and/or back pain.  I woke up on Friday morning and was pretty much unable to move.  I couldn’t turn it to the right for the life of me and even turning it to the left kind of hurt.  I winced in pain getting ready for work and at one point made a movement that literally stopped me in my tracks because it caused a shooting pain to resonate through my body.

It only got worse.  I managed to make it through the whole day at the office but it wasn’t easy.  I actually scared one coworker with my whole slowly-move-my-entire-chair-and-not-my-head routine.  The children in my office had great fun trying to get me to turn around without thinking about it.  Sweet little kids, huh?  Reaching for a pencil sharpener caused me to cry out in pain, as did many other little movements.  It wasn’t event the same movement every time, because then at least I would’ve known what not do to.  Instead, what felt fine one minute would cause extreme pain the next and vice versa.  It was like a twisted, evil guessing game from Hell.  I iced the area in question on and off all day and tried to lay on the floor of my office during my lunch break.  I couldn’t even manage that – I had to sort of roll on to my side and then lay on my stomach.  Thank goddess I have an office to myself, because I know I looked like some sort of dying seal.  Not that I cared, I was just trying to find a position that didn’t make things worse.  I couldn’t even really eat because the pain was so acute that it was making me sick to my stomach.  It was a fantastic way to go about a Friday.

How could my body turn so against me over the course of a single night?  Alas, I’ll probably never know.  I mean, I’ve woken up with a stiff neck before, and it usually goes away sometime throughout the morning.  I kept expecting Friday’s pain to alleviate itself in much the same way, but I was sorely disappointed.  Pun intended, because all I can do is laugh about this.  The sharp shooting pains racked my right side throughout the day and well into the evening.  I spent all Friday night on my couch, alternating a freezing bottle of Jager and a heating pad on the offending region.  Why Jager?  Well, it was the largest, coldest thing in my freezer and I knew it would stay icy for a long time.  I didn’t drink any though because I was still feeling sickish, and I wound up falling asleep on my couch very, very early.  So early I could just about qualify to be a grandparent.  I woke up Saturday and I was at least able to move, although not as much as I would normally.  Even today I’m still a bit sore and not quite my usual self.  It’s light years better than it was on Friday but I find it crazy that an incorrect sleeping position can still be causing pain three days later.  Is this what getting old is all about?  Awesome, I can’t wait to see what happens in the next 60 years.

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Don’t Mess with the Metra

February 19, 2010 at 8:40 am (Uncategorized) (, , )

Before I get started, I just want to say that this post should have appeared yesterday.  However, due to a gross malfunction on wordpress.com, it did not.  So here it is now in all of its glory, and I apologize for the delay.

You may or may not know that I take the Metra train to work every morning.  Chicago is a plethora of public transportation and there are many ways for me to get around since I live sans car.  There are buses and the L (short for elevated train – basically an above ground subway) as well as the actual commuter train which is the Metra.  The Metra is a really nice ride (I usually sit up top, which I find sort of fun) though it is a bit more pricey than the other modes of transit.  However, it works out nicely because the station I get dropped off at is directly across a parking lot from my office.  In short, I use the train just about every day.

There aren’t many rules on the Metra but the ones they do have are important.  You know, no standing too close to the tracks, no smoking and no loud talking on your cell phone (this last one gets ignored all too often).  You can pretty much do anything else you’d like – chat, read, get drunk.  I’ve seen some interesting things on the train but last week I saw something that was actually quite disturbing and it reminded me of Rule #1 – keep back from the tracks.  Last week in general was a bad one for the Metra, as two women were killed in separate accidents.  One was in a car and I think she got stuck on the tracks and the other was a woman who was trying to beat the train and didn’t make it.  The latter was actually on the line I ride on and caused some delays, although it happened a bit north of where I was.  These incidents prompted us regular commuters to commiserate with one another about the stupidity of trying to outrun a huge, fast-moving hunk of steel that can’t exactly stop on a dime.  Obviously these deaths were a tragedy but they could have been avoided, as far as I can tell.  I heard some stories about close calls others had seen and was grateful I’ve never witnessed anything myself.  The next morning though, that all changed (don’t worry, no one dies in this story).

This is the train station I get picked up in the morning.  Notice the crappy little shelter, which leaks and provides absolutely zero protection for the 25 or so people that sometimes have to wait an additional 30 minutes on a freezing cold platform when the train is late.  Not that I’m bitter or anything.  Anyway, I was standing here one morning last week and chatting with a few of my train buddies as it was about to pull into the station.  In case you’ve never ridden one, the train makes all kinds of noise, flashes a bunch of lights, shakes the platform and typically sounds a loud and obnoxious horn.  It’s very noticeable when it’s approaching, and anyone within a block radius of the thing will pick up their pace if they’re trying to catch it.  Normally this isn’t an issue, as most people who ride my train walk (or run) up the stairs on the side the doors open on, so there’s no crossing of the tracks involved.  Last week, though, a woman was running down the other side with a small child in tow.  She was yanking her by the hand while she tried to make her way to the crossing platform (you can only cross the tracks in one area, the rest is separated by a fence).  Every one of us on the other side was urging the woman to stop, because she was cutting it DAMN close.  We all tensed up and held our breaths as she dashed across the platform with literally inches to spare.

The conductor of the train was NOT happy.  It was really a foolish thing for the woman to do, especially when there’s ice and snow on the tracks.  One wrong move and she and her child would have been human pancakes.  The conductor had literally laid on his horn the entire time he was pulling in and he stopped before the edge of the platform.  He wouldn’t let anyone on the train until the other conductor-ticket taker guys walked around and found the woman, presumably to give her a much deserved verbal tongue lashing.

Trust me, I know how much it sucks when you miss your train by mere seconds and have to wait for another one.  I’m sure she had someplace very important to be too.  Still doesn’t make it worth it.  Anytime there’s a battle between a train and a mere mortal, the train will always win.  That’s why you don’t mess with the Metra.

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Snowed In on the Interstate

February 17, 2010 at 12:50 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , )

As promised, I’m going to share quite a story today.  The time?  Christmas Eve, 2004 (I think.  It could have been ’03).  The place?  The roads leading from Bloomington, Indiana to Memphis, Indiana.  The situation?  A massive amount of snow blocking my way.

Hindsight is always 20/20 and in retrospect I never should have tried to get home in the first place.  But it was Christmas Eve and I certainly didn’t want to spend the holiday all by myself in an empty apartment, so I decided to suck it up and hit the road.  There were weather warnings galore and if you’re familiar with the stretch of road that winds through Brown County, you know it’s not the safest to begin with.  The stubbornness which I allow to rear its ugly head every so often propelled me to ignore the pleas of my parents, because I was confident in my driving ability.  I did not take into account the fact that weather can make driving damn near impossible, no matter how good at it you are.

The drive in question would usually take me an hour and a half.  This heinous trip took close to eight.  I got out Bloomington with my cat in her carrier and luggage in tow.  I also had water and blankets but I neglected to pack food or…well, another important item that we’ll come to in a bit.  My cat absolutely hates traveling by car and she cried for the entire journey, so that really helped the situation.  I got a few miles outside of town and came up behind a semi that was having a difficult time making it up a hill.  I sat behind that thing for about two hours but we finally started moving again and I figured that would be the worst of it, since I was almost to the interstate.  Oh how I was wrong.

The interstate was literally a parking lot.  I sat for hours at a time without moving an inch and I slowly started to lose my mind.  I would alternate between fits of screaming and pounding the steering wheel to pathetic cries of resignation.  Then I would laugh at my situation a bit and the cycle would repeat.  I called my family incessantly so they could share in my misery.  I was also running out of patience with my cat, who would not shut the hell up.  And I was getting hungrier every minute.  As the hours slowly ticked by, a solution was becoming more and more apparent.  If I ate my cat then I could kill two birds with one stone (remember me talking about losing my mind?  This here is where it got ugly).  I had a few sickish fantasies but ultimately decided it would be too messy to pursue.

So there I sat, hungry and pissed off.  Barring running out of gas, I didn’t think things could get much worse.  Then my bladder began to fill, ever so slowly.  I had just witnessed a man in front of me get out of his car, open the front and rear passanger side doors and relieve himself in between.  Actually, lots of people witnessed this as there wasn’t much else to see or do while we all sat there stranded.  He made it look easy enough but I knew that my lack of grace and coordination wouldn’t possibly allow me to pop a squat in the ice and snow without messing all over myself.  I searched my car and trunk and the only thing I could potentially pee in was a mug I bought for my sister with her sorority letters on it.  Here again comes in hindsight, and I should have just pissed in the damn thing and given it to her anyway.  But no, I decided to take the moral high road and I put it back.  By then I was becoming desperate and was doing the whole little-kid-hopping-dance to stave off wetting my pants.  Trying to compose myself, I walked up to the truck behind me and asked the guy sitting in it if he had anything I could relieve myself in.  He offered me his coffee thermos, which I tried not to take.  Obviously this wasn’t something I could just give right back to him.  He insisted though and told me he had many more at home, so I walked away with a teeny tiny toilet.

I set myself up between the car doors as I had seen the other guy do and got down to business.  I didn’t even care that car loads of people were using my outdoor bathroom experience as entertainment.  I peed.  And peed some more.  In fact, I was so overcome with the glorious sensation of my bladder emptying itself that I completely lost all track of time and space.  I ended up filling the cup in record time and messing all over myself anyway.  So there I stood, with a cup full of my own urine and more of it soaking my pants.  Not my proudest moment.  I dumped out the cup, pulled up the pants and resigned myself to sitting in a cold piss stain for however much longer it took me to get home.  I got back in my car before it could freeze.

A few minutes later, the kind gentleman who gave me his thermos walked up to my window and knocked.  I rolled it down and could see he was having a hard time not laughing right in my face, and then he gave me a bottle of hand sanitizer.  He told me I could probably use it.  I told him he must be Saint Nick in disguise and that yes, I sure could use the sanitation.  He disappeared out of my life after that and eventually his thermos made its way into a gas station trash can.

Not for a while though, because I still had a few more hours of sitting on the road.  After what felt like an eternity, we actually started to creep along.  I was still going crazy and my father told me that if I took the next exit I came to and made a left, I would wind up on Highway 31, which would basically lead me home.  Nothing sounded better than that so an hour later when I approached an exit take a left is what I did.  As I drove, I felt something was off.  It wasn’t just the fact that none of the roads were plowed and my little four cylindar car was in danger of becoming stuck for good.  The route just didn’t feel right, but I trusted my dad and kept on driving.  Again, a mistake on my part.  After roughly 20 minutes and deciding that sitting on the interstate was better than dying on some backwoods street with no one around for miles, I called and told my dad I was turning around.  He got out his trusty map again and realized that I should have taken a right off the interstate rather than the left.  Well that news just made my night, let me tell you.  I sure as hell told him.

So I turned around and inched my way back towards the interstate. By this point the truckers had caught on to the idea of taking the other highway, so there was a bit of a line.  It was nothing compared to the mess I had just gotten out of though, so I began to follow.  That actually worked out quite well as the semis created a nice little path for me.  It was still slow moving, but at least it was moving.

Obviously, I eventually made it to Memphis.  Yes, it was seven hours late and yes, I had lost any resemblance to a normal human being by that point, but I was home for Christmas and that’s all that really mattered.

I had to throw away the jeans.

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Road Trip to Indiana

February 16, 2010 at 3:45 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

I traveled home this weekend to spend some quality time with my friends and family.  January and February seem to be extremely popular months for women in our family to give birth and so we often get together to celebrate the birthdays all at once.  This year was no exception and we spent Saturday evening having a grand ‘ol time in a private room at a vegetarian-hating place called Beef O’Brady’s.  I resigned myself to the fact that I would be having beer and fried appetizers for dinner and settled down to visit and chat.  One of the first appetizers brought out was chips and queso, and since I’m a bit of a cheese head I was excited to dive right in.  I asked a nearby cousin if the queso had meat (and to her credit, she really didn’t think it did), so I took a bite.  Then I paused, as the bite seemed a bit…well, heavier than it should have been.  I looked at my cousin and asked her again (around my mouth full of queso) and she said she really thought it was okay for me to eat.  After that, I turned around and saw the worried expression on our waitress’ face, and she just shook her head and said she was sorry but it wasn’t vegetarian friendly.  I didn’t want to turn into one of those vegetarians who freak out and go ballistic over a tiny bit of accidentally ingested meat, but I was still beyond grossed out.  I spat out my bite, rinsed my mouth with water and proceeded to drink lots of beer while trying not to focus on what had just happened.  Not so easy when your entire family thinks it’s hilarious and thoroughly enjoy teasing you for it.

Other than that, our dinner was decent.  The room we reserved worked out perfectly because my family is large and loud, and it includes a few small children who love to run around and make a general ruckus.  We’ve learned that keeping us away from the other patrons is usually a good idea.  It also made it easier for us to open presents and cut through the cakes.  Have I mentioned how much I love my birthday?  I especially love celebrating it weeks after the actual day.

After the eating, we all headed to a favorite family hangout – Horseshoe Casino.  Personally, I’m a bit too much of a tightwad to spend large chunks of cash at the casino boat, but the place makes for great people watching.  I had a few beers bought for me by my wonderful aunt and cousin and I managed to hang out and only spend $10 in a three-hour period.  A few other family members had a bit more luck and one cousin in particular walked away with $60 – which may not seem like much but I think leaving with even a dollar more than you started with is something to be proud of.

The people watching at this casino in particular is especially great.  Have you ever been to peopleofwallmart.com?  Yup, it’s something like that.  I had quite the enjoyable evening sitting and watching others lose their hard-earned money.  After my sister and I tired of the casino (which was about midnight – my mom, aunt and uncle were there until four-thirty in the morning) we headed to her apartment in Louisville (Looavul).  I hadn’t seen her place yet and was quite impressed with the size and quality of her apartment.  It sure beats the house she used to live in where hoards of rats had constant parties in the basement.  An old high school friend of mine ended up coming over since he was in the neighborhood and it was fantastic to see him and catch up.  We all hung out for a while and then it was time to crash.  I even had a bed all to myself, since my sister has my bed from my mom’s house in her spare room.  At least I have my own bed someplace.

The next morning I woke up with a bit of a beer headache and promptly regretted the offer my sister and I made to go babysit my cousin’s three children under the age of five.  I don’t get to spend much time with these kids because they are currently the most popular members of our family, so I was excited for some one on one playtime.  Until the beer headache.  A breakfast at Waffle House helped and before I knew it, I was knee-deep in Playskool toys and dirty diapers.  I don’t know how my cousin handles it every day – the three hours that my sister and I were there was enough to make me consider celibacy for life.  Okay not really.  The kids were actually fun and adorable as hell…it was just a lot of work.  Props to the moms out there, you all must be superhuman.  Or on lots and lots of cocaine.

I was scheduled to return to Chicago on Monday but it started snowing Sunday night and people all over southern Indiana began freaking out about another foot of snow.  I swear, Indiana has had more snow this summer than Chicago.  There were five fresh inches of snow Monday morning and my mom decided she would rather risk being stuck in the snow rather than listen to me bitch about not being able to get back to my apartment, so we headed out into the elements.  She made sure to pack enough food, water and blankets to last us a week in case be became stranded, because my mom is like a boy scout on steroids.  It’s one of the many reasons that I love her.  The drive to Indy usually takes us an hour and a half but yesterday it took us close to three, because people were going so slow.  Fine by me, I didn’t want to end up stranded on the side of the road like this car here.  We counted roughly 27 cars that were stuck in ditches or on the side of the road between Louisville and Indy, plus one overturned semi.  Most of them had already been vacated by their owners but we definitely saw a few that were fresh.  Perhaps it’s not a great idea to drive 70mph in icy, blizzard like conditions?  Just a suggestion.

Eventually, we made it to Indy.  The trip actually reminded me of another winter journey I made a few years ago, only that one involved an extra 6 hours tacked on to my commute and me coming thisclose to eating my cat for survival.  It’s actually a good story, now that I can laugh about it.  Perhaps inspiration for tomorrow’s post?  We shall see.

I believe I’ve talked about the megabus before, seeing as how it’s the transit system that takes me from Illinois to Indiana on a somewhat regular basis.  They were an hour late again picking me up last night and I have come to realize that the megabus customer service department is actually a black hole of endless telephone prompts that will never actually get you anywhere.  I think they make it so difficult to reach a real, live person that you eventually hang up in frustration and contempt.  At least, that’s what I did after sitting on hold for 15 minutes.  By that point the bus finally showed up and I no longer needed their run-arounds.  So a warning to all of you potential megabusers – you get what you pay for.

Thus ends my weekend journey.  As usual, my trip home was filled with lots of family, lots of food and the occasional dear old friend.  I was glad that my mom and I both made it home safely and a delicious pasta dinner made by a cute, funny guy upon my arrival home was a great way to cap the long weekend.

If you’re lucky, tomorrow I will tell my tale of the longest, most horrible road trip I have ever had the misfortune of experiencing.  It involves me urinating in a stranger’s coffee cup on the side of the interstate, so get excited.

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The Worst Valentine’s Date Ever

February 12, 2010 at 3:43 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

With the approaching Hallmark Holiday, I felt the need to reminisce on the various Valentine’s Days that I’ve had.  One particular memory stood out and I figured it a good enough story to share, so here we are.  When I was in high school, I worked at the local Dairy Queen (yup, just like Parker Posey in Waiting for Guffman).  Being a young female fast food worker in a very small town meant that I was often hit on by less than stellar prospects.  One year, around V-day, the cousin of a coworker started hanging around the store.  We exchanged pleasantries a few times and he was fairly nice so I didn’t balk in horror when he walked in on February 14th with a rose and a card for me.  I thought it was sweet and figured I’d at least take him up on his offer for a date.  That was my first mistake.

We agreed upon a day to go out but didn’t discuss specifics.  As the night approached, he called to tell me that his truck was in the shop and he would either have to reschedule or I would have to drive.  No big deal, he actually lived rather close to me so I offered to pick him up.  I arrived at his place and we started discussing things to do.  Since he had asked me out, I figured he would have a general plan or at least some ideas on hand.  Nope.  He did tell me that he was really close to broke, so the cheaper things could be the better.  I suggested arcade games for a bit at the mall (hey, I was in high school and there wasn’t much else to do) so that’s where we went.  He put a couple of dollars in for change and we blew through that in about ten minutes.  I put a few more bucks in, and a few more after that.  And then a few more.  This was probably mistake number two, because I should have realized that this would set a president for the rest of the night.  After an hour or two of air hockey and Pac-Man, I was about finished with the gaming and getting hungry.  So was he and we tried to think of a place that would serve us a meal for free.  When that didn’t work, I offered to take us to the cheapest place I could think of.  I was getting low on funds myself and at this point in the date I didn’t want to shell out big bucks for a meal.  So…

We had our first date dinner at Taco Bell.  I paid, of course, and we had a somewhat decent dinner conversation.  However, I was kind of wondering what he expected from all of this.  Did he really think that type of date would woo me?  I’m not trying to sound bitchy or snobby or anything, because I honestly don’t mind going dutch on dates or even picking up the whole tab.  I think it’s only fair in this liberal, women-can-do-anything-men-can-do age.  However, if I asked someone out on a date I would at least make sure I had enough money to cover it, even if they did want to pay for some of it out of their own pocket.  Especially a first date with a new person.  That’s my humble opinion.

So after we finished the fancy Taco Hell dinner, I drove him home.  He invited me in but I politely declined, as it was getting late (9pm).  I would have figured that he sensed the date was a dud, but my coworker told me later how much fun his cousin had and how he wanted to ask me out again.  Lucky me.  I never took him up on his offer for another date, though I was slightly curious as to whether or not it would have gone the same way.

You know, I’m not against being thrifty and having financially responsible dates involving video games and cheap food.  Under other circumstances it could have been whimsical and cute – I just didn’t think it was first date material.  And even though I was in high school, this guy was older than me and I figured he would have something a bit more grown-up planned.  Again, a mistake in thinking on my part.  Oh well, if this was the worst first date I ever had then I suppose I’ve been pretty lucky.  And it is pretty funny, when I think about it.

As a side note, I’m heading home this long weekend and since that means a loss of internet, you can expect another post early next week.  If you’re lucky, it will include highlights of a vegetarian’s family birthday dinner at a place called Beef O’Brady’s.  I can’t wait!

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All My Friends are Getting Married…

February 11, 2010 at 3:47 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

…and I couldn’t be happier that I’m not.  I can think of at least six weddings coming up in the next year that I’m supposed to attend, and those are only the ones I’ve already received invites to.  Even my little sister’s friends are getting hitched – I spent Valentine’s Day last year watching her stand as a bridesmaid for a friend of hers whom I’ve known since elementary school.  My sister actually has it worse than I do, as most of her closest gal pals are now either married or engaged.  Personally, I don’t know if I ever see myself getting married but if I do it won’t be until I can marry anyone I want, male or female.  Until then, I will be content with my non married status.  Here are five reasons why:

Reason #1:  Planning a wedding makes you crazy

This isn’t always the case but it seems to be common.  Bridezilla types really freak me out and the thought of having a panic attack over the color of invitations or the size of a cake makes me want to strangle myself with a veil.  A relative of mine spent a LOT of money on a wedding when she was my age and she and her mother both had to get prescriptions for Xanax before the big day.  Some of my friends currently in the planning stages are experiencing stresses as well.    I think that when a couple decides to get married someone else should step up to plan it, for free.  They’re getting ready to make one of the biggest decisions and changes of their lives – how can they really be expected to focus on wedding colors?

Reason #2:  Weddings are freakishly expensive

The more I hear about this, the more dismayed I am.  People really spend as much on a wedding (which is only a FEW HOURS long) as they would a down payment on a house?  How does that make sense?  No wonder drive thru weddings in Vegas are so popular.  I just can’t wrap my head around the amount of money it would take to pull something like this picture off.  I was never the kind of girl who dreamed of what her wedding day was going to be like though, so maybe that’s my problem.  Perhaps if I had childhood fantasies about the dress I would be wearing and what sort of decorative table arrangements I’d have, this would make more sense.  But I didn’t have those fantasies (and at this point I don’t really think I will) and so it just seems a tremendous waste of money and energy to me.  Isn’t a wedding supposed to be about celebrating your love and commitment with the important people in your lives?  That can be done in pajamas.

Reason #3:  In-laws are often overrated

Trust me, I know how insane families can be.  I also know how insane someone else’s family can be, which is why I’m glad I’m not tethered for life to someone else’s family’s craziness.  Don’t get me wrong, I know some in-laws are very nice people and get along fabulously with anyone they meet.  I also know that some of them are completely nuts and would like nothing better than to sabotage any relationship they see.   Either way you look at it, adding yourself to a second family means twice the holiday meltdowns and twice the birthday gifts.  No, thank you.

Reason #4:  The divorce rate

Perhaps the fact that my parents divorced when I was 21 has something to do with my jaded view on this, perhaps not.  Actually, it probably did.  Anyway, I look around and see some of my already married friends who have significant issues in their marriages.  I know that no relationship is perfect and they all take hard work but sometimes people seem to get married thinking that it will fix all of their problems.  Uh, right.  I’ve just seen divorce happen to good people and it’s never pretty.  My family member who was prescribed Xanax?  Divorced in two years.  Obviously if I were to get married I would have to be a thousand million percent sure that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with that person – I can’t even decide what I want for dinner tonight, so how could I commit to something that…well, permanent?  I’ve heard “when you know it’s right, you know” – I’ve never felt that with absolute certainty so I’ll stay on the safe, single side for now.  Which brings me to Reason Number Five…

Reason #5:  I’m enjoying the single life


And so I have no desire to put a ring on it.  I’ve been single for almost four months now and it seems to be agreeing with me.  It’s also worth noting that being single doesn’t mean I’m not dating, because I am.  It’s scary and intimidating to be back on the dating scene but it’s also kind of exciting.  I like getting to know someone new and letting them get to know the awesomeness that is me.

Before I close here, I’d like to make a little disclaimer.  If you’re married or thinking of getting married, I am in no way trying to make you reconsider.  If you’re happy then that’s all that matters.  Despite what this post may lead you to think, I do actually believe that two people can meet, fall in love and live (for the most part) happily ever after.  I’d be lying if I said I never wanted it to happen to me.  But for now, at this point in my life, I am just fine with where I’m at.

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