Monday, August 31, 2009

Where It Hurts

The breakdowns have started happening more and more often. At first, they were mostly happening in the hospital. After two months of living in a place that smelled like chemicals, fake flowery cleaning agents and poo, it was understandable how one could become depressed. But then Alan was released, began a new chemo plan, and still, the depression lingered. I decided at first to give it time. Maybe it would get the hint and pack its things and go. So I pretended like it wasn't really a problem, until one day when Alan couldn't get out of bed. That was when I decided it was a real problem and went through the list of symptoms I had noticed. When I got to the end, I was reminded of that commercial for depression meds -- where does depression hurt? Everywhere.

It is there nearly all the time now -- when we wake up, when we go for walks, when we watch TV, when we go out to eat, when we are getting ready for bed. A dark cloud hovering over our heads and carving a hole in Alan's chest.

Sometimes I will convince him to go do something fun with me lest we might both fall into a bottomless, heartless pit of sorrow where there is no internet connection or even any gummy bears. These "fun" outings are fun in a very different, non-traditional kind of way. A sort of fun that involves me pointing out all the fun aspects of what we are doing, in case they are not readily obvious to him. "Look at that man selling ice cream in his truck. We could go buy some and eat it over there! See! Fun! How fun would that be?" I say it all in a few octaves higher than my normal voice and open my eyes wide for emphasis. Perhaps I could sear fun into him, so much fun that there is no room left for any sadness at all. I make great scenes of enjoying things and encourage him to do the same. "MmmMmmm," I might say after eating a slice of pizza. And then I will follow that up by rubbing my stomach in a circular motion, the way we were taught to express our satisfaction and enjoyment of food when we were younger. When I look to see if he is buying it, I will see that he has eaten a pepperoni and maybe a bit of sausage.

If I try hard enough, I might get Alan to buy it for, oh, ten, fifteen minutes. On Saturday, though, I'd say the Feeling OK Streak stretched out for maybe even an hour.

Have you ever felt the hole in your chest? What did you do to make it better?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Anna Sheffield 2-Finger Ring

If I just had a thousand dollars lying around, I would get myself this Anna Sheffield ring as an early birthday present. It features a delicate row of champagne diamonds. I don't know anything about diamonds, but those sure do sound fancy.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday Fun

As you're getting all dolled up to go out tonight, here is a fun song that will make you want to put on a sequined dress, some white gloves and do your hair up in a super tidy bob.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


The other night I was laying around with the intention of doing nothing else except for maybe sip a beverage and let my brain go and quietly turn into a gentle pile of mush. I didn't want to think about anything, I sort of wanted to think about nothing at all, and so I turned on the TV and flipped to MTV. Yes, I know, it's a nasty habit, and I am already aware of how weird it will be to still be watching MTV when I have kids and a blue mini van. Can you imagine us all hurrying to finish our dinners so that we could all gather and watch the latest episode of The Real World? I figure watching MTV is a habit I'll kick when I have a mortgage to pay. Anyhow, if you are looking to turn your brain off for a while, watching MTV is a soothing way to do it.

I tuned into an episode of True Life, this particular one was about yo yo dieters. I can't say that I know what it feels like to be so unhappy with my body that I would starve it to get down to my ideal weight, but geez, it looks rough. The guy in the show would go into "starvation" mode where he would eat 200-400 calories a day. And then (because he was eating the nutritional equivalent of all the crumbs that tumble out of my hands and mouth and get stuck in my keyboard every day) he would go out and binge, gain all his weight back and then start all over again.

Some people might find this behavior disturbing. Some might tell him that losing lots of weight like that by eating nothing for a week is just a quick fix; what he really needed was to change his lifestyle completely. Some might even go so far as to say that quick fixes are for cheaters. But not me. I understand.

I understand why some might be so attracted to these miracle products and fads guaranteeing instantaneous results -- diet pills, liquid diets, books upon books dedicated to teaching us the best kept secrets that will make us all look like Posh Spice -- because sometimes hard work is just too hard. The old fashioned might pipe up here to say, "But hard work is what leads to long lasting results!" And to that I say, The heck with hard work! Sometimes I just want things to happen right away. Like when I want to eat Top Ramen, I want to eat it right then. Recently, my list of longings for instant results has expanded to include photography and dance. I wish I could just watch a really good dancer, and then just do it. I know it's possible because at dance class today I stood behind a 7 and a 9 year old and they just got it. As I flailed around behind them, I found myself yearning for a pill, a citrus-flavored drink supplement or anything labeled with an "As Seen on TV!" sticker. If there were such a thing that I could take that would make me dance well right away, I would be the first to take it.

It's also seeing really beautiful photography like this that makes me wish I could just cut out the carbs in my diet* to be able to capture images like it.

*OK, not really, I love carbs. If there were something easier that I could do though, I would do it.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What to talk about

When meeting new people, I always make sure to have a few safe topics of conversation ready in my back pocket. Though not always all together pleasant, they are things people might be able to relate to, or at the very least, things they know their great Aunt Sally or late ex-husband could relate to. Say, for instance, the topic of livers comes up -- "And then I said, 'Don't make me turn you into chopped liver!'" -- I could then segue the conversation to my Canadian grandma's kidney stones. She kept them in a tiny jar at the head of her bed.

Or if it happened to be unseasonably warm that day, I could talk about sweating. Some people, most people, do not have a problem with excessive sweating. But when I find the people who do share my great propensity to sweat, oh boy, the topic of sweating alone can fuel the conversation for hours.

When I meet people who exude an exceptional level of nerdiness and who ease me into my comfort zone, I might really open up and start talking about Google Analytics. This is a subject most bloggers are aware of (sometimes to an almost painfully obsessive extent). But for those who are not aware of Analytics and the treasure chest of data it provides, there is an awesome feature which allows you to see the exact keywords people type into their search bar to find your site. Some of them make sense, like when I see keyword phrases like "blog about horses that are quiet" or "sweaty people and the lives they lead." Others don't make as much sense, but still may be somewhat related to your blog or its title. Once someone found my blog by searching for "woman fucking horse." I can only imagine the incredible disappointment that person felt upon visiting and seeing nothing but lengthy sentences and pictures of swings and trees.

I love looking at the keywords, not because I'm trying to optimize my site or anything like that, but because they're often the source of a really good laugh. The usual good laugh turned into a gut-busting, side-splitting guffaw when I checked my analytics the other day and saw someone had searched this keyword phrase: "if i ate myself would i become twice as big or disappear completely?" It's a question I asked myself over and over that night, and then I tucked it into my back pocket for later.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


One day Alan and I were out for a stroll when we discovered this ridiculously awesome swing in the middle of the woods and over a rip roaring river. Swinging on such a swing has been on my list of things to do for some time now, along with jumping off one of those docks into a lake like they often do in movies and staying in a luxury beach hut.

Specifically, I wanted to find a swing that I could use as a launching point to do a cannon ball into the water with...

But the rip roaring river was really just a trickling creek.

This tree reminds me of an Ent.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Power of Neutropenic Fevers

Maybe it's the yearning for the long summer days to continue on forever. Or maybe it's the anticipation of having a holly jolly holiday season in just a few months time. Whatever it is, there is something distinctly special about the last lingering days of this beautiful season. Friday night, for example, was a perfect night. It was the kind of warm night which begs you to go for a walk, a walk in which you will break the finest of sweats.

Alan and I walked around in our glowing skins, watching the sun sink in the sky, before we decided to get some dinner. At the restaurant, I ordered a glass of soybean milk and, as I sipped it, I noticed Alan's eyes, specifically, the whites of his eyes which had somehow managed to turn nearly completely red. He didn't seem too bothered by it though; what did bother him was the blistering cold of the restaurant. Sitting in my sleeveless shirt, I hadn't noticed it was cold at all. As I marveled over the refreshing qualities of my iced beverage, Alan closed his menu and ordered a piping hot soup.

On the drive home, Alan turned up the heat to full blast. When we got home, he climbed into bed and pulled two comforters over him, then he huddled in a ball buried beneath them. I wiped away the sweat that had formed on my brow just from watching him broil in his homemade cocoon.

Alan was running a temperature of 102. The advice nurse he called said that was much too high, was way above 99.9, and that he needed to get himself to the emergency room as soon as possible. We hopped in the car and away we went, through the automatic double doors and into the room of people with pressing medical matters. And here is where I learned an important life lesson: the fastest way to be seen at the ER is to tell them that you are a cancer patient on chemo and that you're running a 102 degree fever. This got Alan in fast, super fast, faster even than the tweaker guy who couldn't stop scratching himself and who kept staring at his fingers like they might eat him.

Masks were donned, blood was drawn and pee was collected. Half a novel later, near 3 am, the doctors decided Alan could go home. All the lab results were in, and none showed signs of infection. We were advised that as long as no other symptoms cropped up and accompanied the fever, he should be fine. No one thought the blood shot eyes was anything to worry about either, so we went home, taking his temperature with us.

As we drifted off into sleep that night, I dreamt that I was floating down a cool river, basking in the intense orange warmth of the last days of summer. When I woke up, I realized the river I had felt was Alan's sweat that had soaked the sheets through, and the sun that had been wrapped around me was actually his body lying next to mine, radiating such a brilliant heat that I wondered if I shouldn't get up to put on some sunscreen.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Getting Wild Style

When I first saw it, I was in awe. I came home, went directly into the bathroom (the one with the really big mirror) and tried to replicate the moves. I haphazardly threw some water on my hair so that it might look as though I had been caught in a rain storm. But I didn't really look like anyone in the movie and my hair just looked as if it had been splashed accidentally. The movie I'm referring to, of course, is Step Up 2: The Streets. And specifically, the scene where Andie does the heart beat move and some guy appears to be resuscitating her without actually touching her.

Watch it in the second half of this clip and tell me you don't want to run to the bathroom too:

Since seeing the movie, I've wanted to learn how to become a better dancer. Not that I am a terrible dancer, but I am no Andie. And I just keep thinking about how fun it would be to burst into a coordinated, highly complex dance number with all of my equally talented dancer friends one day when we are all outside hanging out in our tanktops in the rain. Some day that day will come, and when it does, I will be ready.

To get there, Nathalie, Denise and I signed up to take dance classes at a nearby studio. Our instructor is awesome. He has "wild style" shaved into the side of his head. I could just end my story right there based on that fact alone, but no, seriously, his dancing is so good. It is so good he should have his own cable show, one where he just dances 24 hours a day, taking small breaks to drink water and to think of new dance moves to do. I know for sure he would have at least 2 loyal viewers.

Today was our first hip hop class and everyone there must have been dancing for years now because they all seemed to know what he was talking about when the instructor would ask, "Do you hear it?" I didn't know what we were supposed to be listening for and in the last quarter of class, I sorta started making up my own dance moves to supplement the ones I couldn't catch on to quick enough. They were a combination of the macarena and the electric slide and went well with the beat of the music if I do say so myself. Now, if you'll excuse me, there is a bathroom mirror waiting to see how I'm going to throw in the Roger Rabbit as my secret finale move for next week.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Blanca Monros Gomez Ring - One, please.

In the months before Denise’s wedding, the word elaborate was redefined to include mention of her wedding details. Like the fact that her invitation arrived to guests in a box. A whole box. Filled with tissue paper, mini crystal beads, embossed paper, photographs and a certificate to receive a home sound system from Bose. (OK, it didn’t really include the Bose speakers, but it was still a lot of stuff.)

One summer day, as we all congregated in her kitchen to proceed with the 9-step tissue paper folding Justin had invented to get it to fit inside the box just so, I thought about how crazy this all was. As the sweat dripped into my eyes, and Denise stood hovering behind us lashing us with her belt if we stopped or messed up, I wondered if I, too, would become so obsessed with my wedding when the day – some day, one day, not now, definitely not now and far, far into the future – came. Denise assured me that I would, that I could count on it. She said she never imagined all this for herself and that she had originally thought she would have a simple wedding. But then she signed up on and then all bets were off. As I watched her absentmindedly twirl her multi-carat meteorite around on her finger, I couldn’t be sure if what she said was true.

You can’t see our fear here. We learned to hide it well. And to constantly look over our shoulders to preemptively try and avoid those lashings.

All of a sudden, everyone is getting married or has secretly snuck off in the years between high school and now, while I wasn’t looking, and gotten hitched. And now I can’t help but notice the blogs and the magazines all devoted to that one special day. I don’t know what did it, but I started admiring people’s rings. We’d be at the hospital, signing Alan in to have his cancer removal surgery, and I’d notice the receptionist’s ring. At the grocery store, I would see a Ring Pop and wonder if it were a princess cut stone.

So this is how it starts.

Now, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Although there is no wedding coming soon for a long time, I’ve decided on two things: 1) A lot of money will not be spent and 2) we definitely will not borrow money to fund a lavish event (no matter how much I want to have swans walking around like Annie had in her wedding in Father of the Bride). However, should by some unforeseeable turn of events I end up marrying Donald Trump or Bill Gates, I cannot promise my adherence to either of the conditions.

And until that classy day when all my friends and family will be invited to the neighborhood park to witness our exchange of vows and, afterwards, to the Wal-Mart McDonald’s (which we will rent out completely – no holding back!) for our reception, I’m going to keep ooh-ing and aah-ing over all these beautiful rings.

Joanna Goddard of the wonderful blog A Cup of Jo got her wedding ring from Blanca Monros Gomez. Seriously beautiful, beautiful jewelry. I kind of want it all and thought maybe if I called Blanca and told her that she could drive my Civic whenever she is in town, she might offer me some substantial discounts...

If anyone asks, I would like this one, please. It even has a rose gold setting! (I know, I'm making myself sick too. But it's started and once it starts you can't stop it. What can I say?)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Today I Saw & Rachel Comey Men's Shoes

Today I was checking out {frolic!} and learned about this blog called Today I Saw. I think it's such a clever and cute idea. The author sees something, draws it and then sends it to someone she likes. Don't you wish she would like you?

Also while on {frolic!}, I followed a link to one of her sponsors, a beautiful boutique in Portland called Frances May. I'm going to have to pay them a visit next time I visit my family up there. I hope they aren't snooty, but I have a feeling that boutiques that sponsor blogs have something special about them.

Anyway, Alan has been searching for the perfect brown shoes. I so want to get him this pair I spied while ogling their website:

I know, they're a bit on the expensive side, but it's well worth it for the man who installed more RAM in my aging MacBook. He alone is responsible for saving the hair left on my head that I wanted to pull out when working on my slow, painfully slow, computer (pre-extra RAM).

Monday, August 17, 2009

Just Dance

In junior high I wasn't technically allowed to go to the school dances. If I pleaded my case well to my mom, I could make it sound like the dance was a volunteer opportunity of sorts or a required social studies assignment. I know, it was rather deceptive, but deep down, I knew she didn't have anything to worry about.

I don't know what she thought went on there in the school cafeteria, but really it was just a big empty room filled with scrawny 12 and 13 year old boys and girls dancing a foot apart. Well, some people danced that way, the popular kids did at least. Others (myself included) didn't have to worry about being pulled apart with a ruler because no one wanted to dance with us in that way. Instead, we chose to dance in big unisex groups. This hid our individual awkwardness somewhat and at least gave the illusion that we were busy having fun, that we weren't all dying for someone to come ask us to dance.

Now, a decade and some years later, I find myself in these dancing situations and oh, how the tables have turned. Late on Saturday night, after watching Julie & Julia (SUCH a good movie, have you seen it? If not, go see it now!) I found myself doing something unusual. Normally, I would have put on my pajamas, made myself a cup of tea, put on foot creme, crawled into bed and began crocheting a new afghan for Roseanne's couch. (Okay, so normally isn't quite the right word. Truthfully, my Saturday nights aren't nearly so wild!) However, on this Saturday night, I found myself going to a club with Denise and her friend the Police Man.

I sat sort of just taking it all in -- the seizure-like dance moves of the men who'd had too much to drink, the undulating belly of the woman who forgot to change out of her baby clothes into a normal sized outfit, the way everyone at this club wore a graphic tee and matching hat tilted just so. Denise kept nudging me because my eyes must have started rolling back in my head -- was it really already 12:30?? To get my blood circulating, I suggested that we dance. I picked a good spot on the floor to watch the good dancers and tried to emulate them. The good dancers seemed to dance slower, in a more controlled fashion. It's almost as if they found the beat and kept it moving. The dancers I liked to watch less were the ones who seemed frantic, as if it were a race to get all their body parts moving all at once. The bad dancers, the ones who made me feel embarrassed, closed their eyes and tilted their heads backwards while dancing. To Britney Spears no less. Not even Celine Dion or a slow Al Green number. No, to a hyper-beat infused rendition of Britney's Womanizer.

As we danced, if Police Man turned away to talk to some one else, guys would come up and start dancing with me and Denise or ask us to dance or else just grab our arms and whisper incoherent sweet nothings to us. No longer are the days of junior high and wishing someone, anyone would come dance with us.

Although that desire is gone, the dancing technique of unisex groups is still in place, although now it serves a different purpose. When I tried to break us into a group of dancing women, one of whom Police Man had his eye on, the group immediately closed back up, shutting us out completely. I wanted to tell her that actually Police Man wasn't a bad guy and look, wasn't he kind of cute too? But I knew it would be useless. Unisex dancing groups no longer are for the unwanted. They are there because they don't want you. No matter how cute, great, or friendly the guy may be. It's a sad truth, but for some reason, unisex dancing groups just see creepy drunkards grabbing at them in the dark. (Maybe because 9 times out of 10 they are? OR we just think they are?) We have turned from awkward 12 year olds, bopping in and out to the beat, into a school of fish, collected together for purposes of protection.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Monday Inspiration: Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

I've noticed that many people everyone positively sings Happy Friday! at the end of every week. In comparison, Mondays seem to be the black sheep of the work week. But what if more of us could use the L word when talking about work? Could you imagine what that might be like? Everyone would be like "Happy Tuesday!" and "Happy Wednesday!" and maybe even "Oh no! It's Thursday! It's almost the end of the week! :("

Not to be that annoying, overly chipper morning person (because believe me, that is not me at all) but just thought I'd share this quote Nathalie sent me. Hope it gets your juices flowing for the week ahead. I know it made me want to become a computer genius named Steve.

"I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet. Keep looking. Don't settle." -- Steve Jobs, Stanford Commencement Speech 2005

Owl City

If my iPhone could talk, I am fairly certain it would have a few things to say to me. It would probably ask, "You really can't beat your Scramble high score of 62? Are you even trying?" and "But we just went from your house to Yogurtland the other day! Do you really not remember how to get there?!" It turns out my iPhone is pretty judgmental, but for all the help it gives me, I'm not one to complain.

It would also probably gasp and say, "What is this? Non-Death Cab for Cutie on your playlist?? Really?" I've recently discovered Owl City, and I've been semi-obsessed ever since. So semi-obsessed that I've actually stopped listening to Death Cab over and over as I had been for the past month. It happened late one night while I was waiting in the car in the dark for Alan to deposit some checks in the ATM. A song came on the radio and I thought, "Ooh, Death Cab has new music out!" and "Death Cab sure sounds different!" It turns out it was not a Death Cab song at all but a song called Fireflies by Owl City.

His sound is very buoyant and pretty and sort of like something you would listen to when going on a long thoughtful drive through the country (if you lived in the country and if going on long drives didn't make you feel bad about killing the environment just a little bit more). Anyway, he is coming to San Francisco October 19 and will be performing at Slim's. I already bought a ticket! Care to join me?

Here is one of my favorites:

Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday Fun

Last Friday I woke up in a terrible funk that I couldn't shake off. When I told Irene, she sent me a link to and said, "Maybe this will make you feel better." And it did. Basically it's a site that lets you play fashion magazine editor/layout person. You can create "sets" of different outfits. I've just been staring at all the cool sets people put together; some are really elaborate!

Here is my first set. It's very not complicated. But sometimes it just feels like a jeans and t-shirt day, you know?

I thought this one was really cool (by Neonutt).

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Booby Traps

Because Alan is used to having someone around all the time from his 2 month stint in the hospital, we are staying at his parents' house where his mom and Bilbo can keep him company during the day while everyone else is at work.

Although my commute is now almost 3 times longer, there are some very enjoyable aspects of living at Chez Bilbo.

1) We get to visit with Bilbo himself. For a canine leading such a simple life, he is endlessly amusing to watch. Every night I'll watch him lie down next to us and notice through new eyes how his front legs are barely the length of granola bars. Or how he will take a mouthful of kibble from his bowl, run away with it (because he rightly knows how much we covet his food) and spit it all back out so that he can eat them one by one. Watching and listening to him drink water while his ears droop into the bowl is also a pastime favorite.

2) We are right next to the lake which is great for walking around and gawking at the glimmering surrounding homes.

3) I am more relaxed. This thought dawned on me when I noticed that I couldn't see the floor of his room. There are about 8 "Patient Belongings" bags scattered around, and spilling out of them all are books, half the medical supplies in hospital supply rooms, shoes, shirts, underwear, plastic tubs, you name it. And on any flat surface above the ground are our wardrobes in towering, wrinkled heaps.

Each morning I wake up and carefully tip toe around everything on the floor to make my way to the clothes mound. Then I will shuffle through, making another, smaller mound next to the larger one, placing unwanted clothes there. I might need to sift through the large heap a few times to find the article of clothing I'm looking for, but eventually I will stumble upon it. It will more than likely be wrapped up in an XL Sharks t-shirt that smells like chimichangas. This will remind me to bring something to eat for lunch, and for this I am thankful.

All was going well until I got a reality check last night. With my glass of water in hand and my mind winding down for a good night's rest, I walked in the room and stepped on a land mine of syringes left on the floor directly in front of the door. The hospital had given Alan a small chest's worth of syringes, and he must have decided to unpack them and place them in a convenient spot where people's bare, exposed feet were likely to be. I'm glad the hospital gave him so many (although I don't know why they did; he hasn't used one since he's been home) because otherwise I would not have felt it as much when I stepped on them. Have you ever seen a syringe? They are not at all shaped like fluffy marshmallows. No, they are pointy and aggressive and make people shout at other people's mothers -- oh mother of Pearl!-- when they are stepped on.

Normally, the situation would not have come to this. If we were at our duplex, at least 60% of the floor would be showing at any given time. And if that dropped down to 50% or so, you can be sure a never-ending nag fest would be quick to ensue. A nag so persistent, so annoying (a life skill I picked up from my mother), that immediate action would be taken to remediate the disorder.

However, we were not at our duplex, we were at Alan's parents' house. A place where I feel much better about letting disorder exist because it is not actually my place, but a place that I am just visiting for a short while. I am a new person here, a relaxed, calm, "anything goes" visitor.

I proceeded to step on the syringes a few more times (see what being too relaxed does to you?) and in all my pain and one-legged hobbling, I realized that we wouldn't be here forever. We would eventually go back to our normal lives living in our normal duplex. So I decided to teach Alan a lesson to prepare him for life back at home. And if I was going to get a foot full of sodium chloride, I sure as heck wasn't going to go down alone.

I carefully pushed the mad pile of syringes more directly in front of the door. Then I waited for him to come in or go out, stepping directly on them as I had, and to start swearing, falling to the ground in sheer agony. To my surprise, it hasn't happened yet. I swear the man has soles of pure stone. Either that or the amazingly light feet and agility of a ballet dancer pas de bourrée-ing around the booby traps in the room.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Survival Rates

Enjoying the evening heat

Yesterday Alan saw his oncologist and found out that his 5-year survival rate is now up to 87.1% from the 50-70% he was given before starting treatment. Soon he's going to go through another 6-month round of chemo, stronger doses of different stuff. This will boost his survival rate up another 4% to 91.1%. So now I can officially tell him to stop whining and start hogging attention for myself.

I just hope he handles the new meds as well as his last round of chemo. I remember when he started taking those everyone kept telling me to brace myself for a sluggish, sickly, completely helpless Alan. But actually he barely had any side effects, didn't lose any hair and didn't lose his appetite. This new one is called Xeloda. Has anyone ever been on it?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Those Cigarettes

At the gym last week, in between doing the rowing machine and the stair climber, Nathalie asked if I was still planning on moving. I had forgotten that at one time, not too long ago, Alan and I had wanted to move. There wasn't really anything wrong, per se, with the duplex we lived in. There were just annoying aspects that came along with the place. Like how the layout doesn't allow for good places to put a desk, a coffee table, a side table or a nightstand. Combine this with the fact that it's even harder to move around with more than one person in the house (let alone with just the awkwardly fitting desk, coffee table, side table and night stand) and you can see why I'm convinced the duplex was made for a family of Barbie dolls. (Not the freakishly unproportional life-sized ones, but the freakishly unproportional small, plastic ones). The poor insulation had failed to protect us from the cold California winter and also seemed to want to roast us alive in the summer.

So in the hopes of finding a bigger place, one with a modern heater not stuck in the ground that is controlled by the turn of a key, we decided to browse around a bit, see where our thousand dollars a month might take us. And as it turned out, not very far. All the places that didn't have a pink bathroom sink and a permanently blackened tub were way over our price range.

I started answering questionable ads because these were the ones in our range. The ones that always seemed too good to be true were too good to be true. Once I called a lady who promised a "charming, newly renovated cottage" just behind her house. It welcomed in an overwhelming amount of natural sunlight and all utilities were included. And we could have it all for just $900!

When I called to inquire about seeing it, she asked what I was talking about. Then she asked me to read her the details of the ad I was talking about. I was hoping she could tell me a few more details, but I ended up convincing her that it really was just lovely and cozy and perfect for a couple looking for bigger and better things. When I finally sold her on the fact that the cottage really was for rent, she asked what we did. I said I was in marketing for a technology consulting company and that I had even started my own dog walking business when I was 10 (I hadn't, but I figured that would demonstrate my long history of being responsible). She asked what Alan did. I should have said he took over the dog walking business and has been walking ever since, but instead I said, all in one breath, as nonchalantly as I could, "Oh Alan? Oh, you know, well he has cancer so he's just, you know, being treated for that and all." She demanded, "Is he in a wheelchair?" and before I could respond, added, "'cause I don't want no handicapped lawsuit." I didn't want no handicapped lawsuit either, so we never went to go see that one.

We went to see a promising one bedroom on a "charming, quiet" street. As we pulled up, we took notice of the hardware shop on the corner. It looked like it had come straight from the set of a stage production; it oozed charming. Then we looked across the street and noticed the expansive cemetery sprawling in front of us. I started thinking about all the horror movies I'd ever seen -- did any of them ever involve a house near a cemetery?? OK, yes, about half the ones I could remember...

I tried remembering how the movies ended, but was interrupted when the landlady showed up. It was hot that day, really hot, and she was wearing a baggy, shapeless dress, a real proper muumuu. She held a white Bic pen in her hand and some papers in the other. As she led us up the stairs and into the apartment, she complained about the heat in a slow, tinny voice.

"I hate the heat," she said.

"Oh? Do you?" I asked, trying to make pleasant conversation.

"Yeah. It makes me cranky." And with a yank, she pulled open the door and held it for us. "Well, go on in!" she said impatiently.

We could tell she was a big bundle of kindness and we warmed up to her right away. The apartment was hot and stuffy. I thought it might have been because the doors and windows were all shut, but she said it was usually like that. Then, seeing as how we had built up our camaraderie so well, she added, "I hate coming over here, it's so hot. Usually I make my husband come show the place, but he's out of town." Then she moved her white Bic pen to her mouth. She inhaled and made the tip glow orange. She was "smoking" one of those cigarettes!

Although we probably would have ended up being great friends with her and having her over for dinner all the time, we decided it'd be easier to stay in our hot box than move all our stuff into another, so we didn't take that place either.

Shortly after that, the quest for a new home ended. Partly because it was tiresome looking for places and partly because it was disheartening to see what all of a $1,000 could get us. But at least the search answered the age old question I've had for so long -- so people really do buy those products off those carts at the mall, even those fake cigarettes. Alan swears he saw her exhale smoke.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Jessica Hagy Business Cards

Most business cards are so perfectly ordinary that I never know what to do with them. I never think to reference them and so they just sort of amass in my wallet, in the bottom of my purse, in the nooks and crannies of my car. One day I felt bad for the lot of them as I'm sure existing as unused clutter was the same fate their forefathers had suffered. I gathered them all up and put them in my desk drawer where I figured they could at least be comforted by the sight of one another.

However, the other day, someone gave me a business card, and it was so cool I had to share it. They're by Jessica Hagy and are from Moo. They have all sorts of designs and styles, but here are a few I really liked from her. Aren't they so splendidly awesome? I mean, come on, she uses Venn diagrams.

Update: Thanks, vegarduel, for this awesome link showcasing a whole stash of neat business card designs. Also, just wanted to let you know that I'll be quitting my job tomorrow so that I can go work for this company:

I don't even know what they do, but that doesn't even matter. I just want to be able to give these out.

Or maybe, I won't quit, IF I can convince the right people at work to switch our business cards to these:

Sunday, August 9, 2009

A Writing Affair

One of my first memories of writing was in second grade. I had taken to writing my name with a lower case T. Like this: Sobrina tung. My teacher was all up in arms about it, reprimanding my inappropriate use of lower cases. But I just didn't see what the big deal was, especially since that was how my dad signed our last name on my field trip permission slips and on grocery store receipts. I once asked him why he didn't capitalize the T as we had learned to do in school. He said it looked much better uncapitalized, and after comparing a capitalized Tung and an uncapitalized tung, I had to agree. It did make for a finer signature.

My first memory of expository writing was sometime after this in elementary school. We learned the approach many students learned, the Sandwich approach. An essay could be viewed as a sandwich, with each of the essay's paragraphs corresponding to the different components of a common sandwich. The introduction and conclusion were the slices of bread holding everything together and the three paragraphs in between played the roles of the bologna (or ham or turkey if that was your preference), the lettuce and the tomato. If I didn't think about it too much, it would have made enough sense, but all too often I would get hung up on all the unanswered questions. What about the mustard? What would that be in the essay? What if I don't take tomato in my sandwiches? What if I decided that I'd like to have peanut butter and jelly and not a savory meat sandwich? This confusion lingered through junior high through high school and through to my freshmen year of college. I followed the sandwich approach and yet I had no idea what I was writing or what I should be writing about. I pictured crafting a paragraph of bread, then laying in my bologna, and after that I filled the rest of the sandwich with random musings behind the author's title choice, forgetting completely what I was trying to prove.

Freshmen year of college, two interesting things happened. First, I took an English class with Weiko Lin who taught me how to write. I don't know how else to put it because he really did. We wrote pages and pages on Malcolm X's first conk, on the loss of virility in American History X, on why most shoelaces are flat and not rounded pieces of string. After receiving our first assignment, we came back to the classroom and said, "But we don't have 8 pages worth of stuff to write about the conk." To which he said something good and wise, something like, "Yes, you do. Now go back and try." His point was that we needed to learn how to focus our writing, how to make a point, and for me, it worked.

The second thing that happened was that I started writing short blurbs (for lack of a better word) in my AIM profile. AIM was the lifeblood of the dorms, and I didn't know anyone who wasn't on it. I didn't know if anyone paid attention to my profile, but one day someone living on my floor told me that he checked my profile all the time, just to read my little blurbs. It was enthralling to have a reader, even if it was just one reading my insignificant profile blurbs. Eventually I moved out of the dorms and stopped using AIM and my blurb writing lied dormant. When graduation came, I tried figuring out a way to harness my blurb writing creativity into something I could do everyday. Preferably something that would still allow me to eat on a regular basis and to have a bed to sleep in. Because eating and sleeping in comfort are a few of my top priorities and finding any sort of job was trickier than I thought, I set aside any writing desire and took up a job in market research. My life became a life of Excel spreadsheets, SPSS data tabulations, calculators, surveys and PowerPoints.

Two years after that and after some heavy duty soul searching, my friend Jon said half joking that I'd be good at writing the blurbs on the sides of Vitamin Water labels. This set off a series of sparks in my head, ones that ultimately led to my conclusion that someone had to be writing those blurbs. And there weren't just blurbs on Vitamin Water labels, there were blurbs on everything. When I finally figured out these good people were known as copywriters, I made it my business to become one. Except that all open positions were looking for people with copywriting experience, of which I had none. I finally found a job posting that looked promising, so I whipped up a compelling cover letter, an improper one that I hoped would look at the hiring manager straight in the face and say, "I can do this. I can be non-traditional. I can be rock 'n roll. Please hire me. Oh, please." A month later I moved to Walnut Creek to get my blurb writing on and surprisingly I was still able to eat and sleep in a bed.

Now here I am, still writing blurbs at work (among other things) and writing, at times, long winded blurbs here. I recently found out about a newish online magazine called Content. It is "For and By the People of San Jose." It is one of the most beautiful magazines I've ever seen, and as someone who's always sticking up for San Jose, San Francisco's homely (to some unshapely) sister, I wanted to be a part of it. On Friday I went to a collaboration meeting and found I might have a whole lot more to learn about magazines and magazine writing. The two editing/writing types I met with talked about how much they despised Facebook, about how pretentious the track changes function in Word is, about Gonzo journalism. It made my head spin. Because although I don't live and die by Facebook, I don't think it is really any sort of evil. Actually, I had never given it much thought before. I also actually think track changes works fine for many of my intents and purposes. And who is Gonzo?

Watching the two go back and forth in lively conversation, I felt sort of like I was removed, on the other side of a window, the one looking in at a scene playing out on a stage. It sort of like that time Alan and I went to the hipster cafe in Santa Cruz. As we parked and walked up to the entrance, a man as tall as Alan but half the weight of me, walked out. He walked with purpose and gave off an air of accomplishment, as though he had just completed a substantial portion of his memoir detailing his 22 years of life. In his arms he carried a typewriter, an actual typewriter.

Listening to the two go on, I didn't want to disagree too much or to ask if Gonzo was a new character on Sesame Street, so I did my best to nod and look like I, too, hated track changes. But really, I was making mental notes to bring my typewriter to the next meeting. That should really impress them!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

How I Love Yoga, Let Me Count the Ways

The stretches. The muscle building. The focus on the present. Yes, it's true, those are all great. But what I love most about yoga with Sherry Han is listening to what she has to say. Some call the truths she often spouts during class "Sherryisms."

This week, one of my favorite Sherryisms was, "You make your body beautiful. Don't let your body control you." And although she was helping someone across the room with his form, I knew she was talking to me. Get some control woman, was what she seemed to be saying. She was referring to the bowls of Cheetos and Doritos I had been eating all week, the late night meals I'd been eating with Alan 10 minutes before bed, the 3 desserts I'd been having after dinner.

But, see, it's not my fault they each keep making their cases so well. The Cheetos and Doritos say, "You need grains and cheese in your diet! Don't forget your dairy!" And the burritos and tacos before bed are all saying with such incredible sass, "You want Alan to gain weight, right? You should encourage him to eat. You should eat too. No, don't eat like that. Make it look good, convince him he should have some too. You don't want to be responsible for him shriveling away do you? Eat! Eat!" And because they have a very good point, I must partake.

You would think the brownies, cookies and ice cream would be screaming the loudest what with all the sugar, but actually they don't say anything. They don't need to. They just sort of sit there on counters or in cupboards looking all ridiculously moist, plump, chewy and creamy good. Desserts that look that good are just asking for it.

Aside from the reminders to take control of my body, the other thing I love about doing yoga with Sherry is her hands. I never thought I could be so in love with someone's hands, but Sherry's have won my heart. During savasana, the "corpse pose" we end each class with, Sherry turns the overhead lights off so that each of us can get comfortable lying on our backs and to sink into complete relaxation. Now, I don't know how other yoga classes typically end because I've only ever done yoga with Sherry. The way Sherry does it is she will come around to every person and give them a mini back massage. Big deal, you might think. My husband/wife rubs my back all the time. But you don't know. You don't know how strong Sherry's hands are and how she seems to know exactly where to push and knead to release the built up tension in your back.

These mini back rubs are so great they are the stuff dreams are made of. Which is actually what I find myself daydreaming about when I am in savasana. Wouldn't it be great to own a pair of her hands? If I had an extra pair, I could maybe have them transplanted in place of Alan's hands, but then again, I don't think he would like having such small, feminine hands and it might be weird that they are so disproportionate from the rest of his body... so maybe I could get Sherry's hands for myself...

This is the part where the daydream starts to get too muddled because if I had her hands on myself, I'd need to get really long, flexible arms too in order to reach my back, so this is usually when I snap out of it and by then class is over and everyone is rolling up their mats.

The one thing that gets me every week though, are the people that roll up their mats before savasana. I mean, they will actually pack up their stuff, put on their jacket and shoes and then leave. Without enjoying savasana and without getting their backs rubbed. And every week, the same thought of asking the same question runs through my mind. If I were to ask, I'd say it quietly because you'd know, of course, that everyone else is thinking the same thing. Excuse me, Sherry, may I have her back rub since she left? But then I realize that that would be greedy and in the anti-yoga spirit, but seriously, how are these people missing out on the best part of class?

Yoga and hiking, these are a few of my favorite things:

Trying to teach Nathalie the scorpion pose.

Denise doing the table pose.

Too tired from walking up this hill to do any poses.

No, really. Don't try to do any poses when you're tired and on the edge of a hill. This is proof that that can be a very bad idea.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

pillowhappy Pillows

My obsession with pillows started around this time last year when I bought my first couch. I didn't want just any cushions to support my lower back or to cradle my head while napping. I wanted perfect pillows, ones that would complement the brown fabric of the couch, while simultaneously pulling out the greens and yellows in the room to bring it all together.

A year later, I am as obsessed as ever, except now I am in real danger of never being able to afford a house or to get to go on a bona fide vacation any time soon because I want to spend all my savings on everything by pillowhappy. There isn't even enough space on my couch for all the insanely cute pillows I want, but I figure I can put them in my car, in the kitchen... maybe I can create my own Chuck E.Cheese inspired ball pit filled with pillows!

Here are a few of my favorites:

How, oh how, did I ever live life without owning these pears?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Finding Inspiration In an Eggplant

Now that Alan is eating again, is putting on weight and doesn't have 5 different IVs and drips and hoses coming out of him, I've been able to notice "normal" things about him. For instance, things like his hair. I'd been observing it since he had been released from the hospital -- its length, its in-excitability, its remarkable likeness to a leaf of lettuce clinging hopelessly to his head.  

This weekend we were discussing the subject of his hair while waiting in line to order our tacos, when he remarked that he might just grow it out and wear it long, down to his shoulders long. He said he'd always wanted to have long hair again, so why not now? 

While it's true that some guys can pull off long hair, it should be noted that it's as rare as the woman who's able to successfully pull off the pixie cut. Not everyone looks good with an 
extreme hair do, and was he trying to tell me he was a Halle Berry?

I was trying to picture the long hair in my head when he said, "See! Like that guy." 

I followed his gaze to the people in front of us. One man had just enough hair to warm the sides of his head. The guy next to him had a plain buzz cut. I couldn't see any other guys he might be looking at because surely, surely he was not referring to the Metallica fan right in front of us. He had such a nice head of hair, so long, straight, black and luscious that he could have been mistaken for my friend Sue -- a woman who could afford to quit her day job and pose for Pantene Pro-V ads as far as I was concerned. I looked at Alan and he he did a little head jerk to indicate that he was indeed referring to Metallica Man. 

"Yeah, but he has straight hair," I whispered.
"So?" he said.
"So?" I said, making a big deal of eyeing Alan's very not-straight, very not-curly, but definitely something weird and sorta in between lettuce leaf. "So, no, that's not going to work." 

We got home and I pulled out my scissors. I had had enough of the lettuce. As 
I've never been formally trained on cutting hair, I did what I imagined most stylists do. I closed my eyes to envision what I might want my creation to look like. I thought of movie stars, 
spaceships and swimming pools, when all of a sudden an image of an eggplant popped into my head. It turned out to be the perfect inspiration, and with some careful snipping, I turned the head of lettuce into the top of an eggplant.

Before - Lettuce Head
After - eggplant stem

Monday, August 3, 2009

Better Than Sams

A few of my favorite Bruins.

This weekend, I spent some time with Vivien and Jennifer who were in visiting from Pittsburgh and L.A., respectively. We were all at UCLA together and it was in my senior year that they saved my life. Senior year was the year people were graduating, getting jobs, moving, joining the Peace Corps -- all sorts of crazy stuff. It was also the year that I decided to start dating because not enough was going on in my life already. I wanted to date to "see who was out there" and to "have some fun." Having fun in my mind meant staying up late to watch reruns of Sex and the City and going out for ice cream, so I thought it'd be a piece of cake finding fun people to have fun with. I was open minded and didn't have too many restrictions, save for my one rule which was that he had to be a loser. OK, actually, I never formally decided on that one, but that's how it turned out, and I am still convinced I must have had some sign stuck to my back that entire year: Hello, I'm looking for Losers. Are you one? Ask me out!

I dated a series of Sams, none of which were very interesting. I dated one Sam near Halloween and as we brainstormed costume ideas, I suggested that we might wrap ourselves up in aluminum foil and be an element off the Periodic Table. But he didn't know what the Periodic Table was, and it was no fun at all when we showed up at a party together and he had no idea why we were dressed like the Tin Man.

Another Sam (whom I never really dated, but who had befriended me to "talk about life" because "I was cool") offered to walk me home one night. He had just finished creeping me out (turns out he didn't just want to be my friend), and as I made a beeline back to my apartment, he grabbed my hand (because "friends can hold hands," he had said). In my head I thought, Fine, just let him hold your hand. It's not a long walk. Then when you get home you can run inside and tell Keith all about how terribly creepy this guy is. But we hadn't walked more than 10 steps up the sidewalk when I heard someone yelling his name.

"Is someone calling you?" I asked.

He shrugged. "It's a common name," he said.

The yelling went on.

"I think someone's calling your name," I said.

The calling got closer and closer until finally a young lady was right behind us. He whipped around and dropped my hand.

"This is my friend... Sobrina..." he stammered to her.

She glared at him, then at me.

"Hi Sobrina," she said cooly, "I'm his girlfriend." Then she screeched out some profanities at the both of us before running off in the opposite direction, him taking flight right behind her.

I should have learned my lesson after three bad Sams, but I continued trying to date and the loser streak continued, each guy more loser-y than the last. One day, I forget how it happened, Jennifer and Vivien invited me over. Their apartment was unlike anyone else's apartment I'd ever seen before. It was cute and coordinated, and it definitely did not look like they had secured any of their furniture by being the first to drag the rejected sofas and bookshelves off the curb and back up to their apartment. (Which is how I got my desk and nightstand).

In contrast to me (a pile of exposed, jittery, over-anxious nerves), they sat relaxed on the couch, typing on their laptops and watching episodes of The Gilmore Girls. Sometimes they would watch episodes of Sex and the City and that was when I decided to stop dating all together. They would offer me slices of pie with fresh whipped cream. I had never known anyone in my entire life who had her own whip cream maker and I wanted to be a part of their lives. I had no idea what I was going to do after graduation, but they both had been accepted into grad school and seemed to be so very calm and cool and collected. How they were collected! They would wear immaculate outfits with adorable shoes, sweaters with small cats stitched onto the breast. I would often make notes about their wardrobe and one day I voiced how lovely I thought their attire was. It was late at night and they seemed flattered and then told me they were just wearing their pajamas. I have no idea what kinds of things they wore out during the day if even their pajamas were so refined, but I had to imagine they wore only the very best.

Thanks to them, to the breath of fresh air they were to me, I stopped trying to date any more Sams and my life has proved to be much better because of it.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Protecting My First Born

How I feel about kids is sort of how I feel about hair plugs or tattoos. They are nice enough, but I
just can't imagine them for myself. My plans for children don't extend beyond the fact that I know, at some point in my life, I will want some. That and that they'll be wearing striped leggings and the mini Crocs I'm saving for them in my closet (just in case Crocs is out of business by then). This is the extent of my motherly instincts. It's strange because it doesn't feel anything like my other life plans, like owning a house; wanting to have kids isn't at all like wanting to own a house.

When I think about owning a house, I imagine eating heirloom tomato salads under tiny white string lights in my backyard (something lovely, something like this), cooking breakfast in a gigantic, warm, open space kitchen and staying up late doing nothing in particular in a cozy living room. I can even imagine the smells, the furniture, the feeling. But when I think about having kids, all that goes through my head is reruns of The Brady Bunch -- kids that aren't mine and a mom who is not me.

It wasn't until last week that I got my first taste of something that may be my emerging motherly instincts. It was after yoga last week when I went over to DJ's to do the usual of eating and drinking of things in their fridge. I parked in the back of their complex, walked the mile or so in the dark to their apartment, and on the way, pulled out my iPhone and started playing Sally's Salon. Half way to their place, I realized with a panic that I was so engrossed time managing her salon, I hadn't been fully aware of my surroundings. Alone and in the dark, wild thoughts started running through my head. Someone could have beaten me up, someone could have kicked me in the shins and tore my car keys out of my hand, someone could have stolen my iPhone.

Then, when leaving work on Friday night, I found my arms over loaded with jackets, books, magazines, a water bottle and on top of all that, my iPhone. I had it all handled until I reached for the car door handle and, horror of horrors, my iPhone tumbled off the pile and skidded across the parking lot. I sucked in a breath so sharp and so fast, I thought a rib might break. My hand shot up to cover my mouth and a fear I had never felt before filled me. I couldn't look, I couldn't bear to see it... was it broken? was it... shattered? And worst of all, was I the cause of that? After regaining some composure, I braved a peek and to my utter relief, it was all in one piece. I picked it up, rubbed the pavement marks off of it's case and kissed it. Then I put it on the passenger seat and promised it I would never let it go like that ever again.

Is this just the start of it? How did you know when you wanted kids? Does something just click on one day?
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