Monday, November 30, 2009

The Telephone Game

When I was a kid, I remember playing the Telephone Game. The one where we sat in a circle while the teacher thought of a silly statement to whisper into little Johnny's ear. Something silly but always a little off, a little unsettling. The teacher might whisper, "The pony is planning for a picnic." Johnny would then repeat this, or whatever he thought he heard, to the person sitting next to him. She would then repeat in a whisper what she thought she heard to the person next to her, and so on and so on until the very last person in the circle would break the whispering and say the distorted message he heard out loud: "Jack and Jill fell into a pail of water, but the little engine that could did not." It might just seem like fun and games, but this past weekend it occurred to me that this game might have been trying to teach us all a lesson.

The lesson is when you hear something weird or that just doesn't sound right, don't hold it in. Disperse it, lighten the load, tell someone else. Each time you tell someone your uncomfortable story, that person will have to process it and prescribe meaning to it, so that you no longer have to be the sole person thinking about it. If you tell enough people, you could even afford to stop thinking about it all together, which is useful, especially if the stories you have to share are grim.

And these are just the types of stories my sister likes to tell best.

This Thanksgiving, I heard all about the crazies and the zanies and the truly disturbed, and many of them were stories she had heard on the 11 o'clock news. While eating slices of turkey and mashed potatoes, I nearly choked when she told me about the guy who jumped out from behind a clothing rack in her local Target and ejaculated in front of a woman pushing a baby stroller. I thought about asking her to resume telling the story after I had finished my gravy, but then I couldn't wait to know -- what did she do???

Then there was the third cousin of her best friend's boyfriend who was a pharmacist and who was held up at gunpoint for $4,000 worth of Oxycodone just the other week. And the weird part, get this, was that he was walking around the store shopping and reading Us Weekly in a full on ski mask with gloves and a terrible red plaid shirt (not the cool kind either, but the scary anti-social unabomber kind) for a full half hour and no one thought to say anything to him, like, "I wouldn't believe everything you read in those magazines." No, no one did anything of the sort, they just let him read the magazines and proceed to hold up a very considerate (so I hear) pharmacist.

There are the truly gruesome stories, like the one about the pregnant woman from the city two cities away from hers who went to meet someone off of Craig's List out of an interest for a used car seat for sale. When the pregnant lady arrived, the seller killed her, cut open her womb and took the baby as her own. These are the stories that get to me, that leave terrible red images in my head, ones that I cannot leave alone. I will try, in vain, to tell Alan in order to get rid of some of the terribleness, but he cannot stand for any story which involves the slightest brutality to women or children, so to tell him a story involving both would mean he would lock himself in the bathroom. So I must quietly suffer until there is someone new to tell, someone who has not been sitting next to my sister and the pumpkin pie.

On Sunday, as we drove home at 3 AM along the dark, quiet, eerie freeway, she decided to tell me about the recent evil spirit that had taken hold of so and so's mother-in-law, and when she tells me I can feel my arm hairs raise. I think about how frightening it would be if she were to all of a sudden become possessed herself, and what I would do if she did, all while stuck in a car on a dark, quiet, eerie freeway alone with her. And in the the most serious way I could, I looked at her and demanded, "Why did you have to tell me that?"

Smells Like Christmas Spirit

Do you remember these?? These 25 paper rings, often made of construction paper of the green and red variety by elementary school children? Do kids still make things like this? Or do they create really complex Christmas countdown chains on the computer now?

I haven't seen one of these since the early nineties when I would make them myself, and surprisingly, tonight the Christmas Grinch Alan suggested we make one.

Where should I put this in my cube? Perhaps I could just drape it around my neck, removing one ring every morning as I fix myself a bowl of cereal?

Giving Thanks 2009

Being back at work after a 4 day weekend wouldn't be so hard if Thanksgiving was actually a restful holiday. But with my family in town from Oregon, things were a bit hectic. Overall, though, it was fun and delicious, so I think we can safely say: mission accomplished.

The night before Thankgiving, Nathalie whipped up a mean red velvet.

Eric mixed martinis and looked suave.
I oversaw the preparation of the mashed potatoes (a.k.a. making sure that Joseph and L.B. peeled the potatoes correctly, Scott grated enough cheese and that Eric made it to the store for the bacon and parmesan cheese).

My parents chowing down after their 11 hour drive!

Grandpa and 1/20 of his grand kids.

Before Nathalie arrived on Thanksgiving, someone had beat her to the punch of assembling her cake... From the look of it, it may very well have been the Cookie Monster, or someone else with big furry hands.

But it was still super moist and delicious.

Sophie and Stan -- my parents are big fans of the letter S


Pictionary - boys against girls

Aunt Sisine and Alan

The best part about getting through Thanksgiving is that now it doesn't feel quite so wrong to be enjoying Christmas trees, lights and decorations now that we've all had our fair share of turkey.

Saturday night Sophie and I walked around ogling beautiful things before we took a break to eat some cupcakes. Earlier that day, when we first left the house, I slipped on my shoes and walked outside. She followed me out, and as soon as she did, she stopped and said, "Wow, this is like... summer vacation!" I looked up to see what she was talking about and noticed the clear blue sky and the streaming rays of sun. Ah, she was right. It did almost feel like that. But then I felt the nippy 68 degree chill on my face and wrapped my scarf around me tighter. Meanwhile, Sophie took off her jacket and went back inside to put on some flip flops.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

New crush: Erin Kaplan

My favorite show lately is The City. The beautiful clothes, the behind the scenes look into working at a magazine and the ridiculous drama -- what's not to love? I have developed a crush on Erin Kaplan, and tonight I found out that she, like me, is also 26 and is Elle Magazine's youngest Director of Publicity ever. Then I found this article titled "The Many Faces of The City's Erin Kaplan." A good, very funny read for fans of the show.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Makings of a Nerd

Thanksgiving is coming up upon us, and I can already smell it. If I were part of a more traditional family, I would wait to say my thanks on the actual day of Thanksgiving. But seeing as how we are more than anything an eclectic collection of refugees and perfectionists, I will get it out of the way before then because we don't give thanks. We may each be quietly thinking our thanks as we eat our mashed potatoes, but there is no great show over it.

On the few occasions that I have gone to someone else's Thanksgiving, there have been actual moments where everyone at the table will join hands (and it doesn't matter if you've just met the person next to you) and take turns explaining what they are thankful for. In situations such as these, I often find that people hold back on all that they are grateful for, summing it up on their turn with something like, "I am thankful for this wonderful meal and the lovely people I'm about to share it with." Following suit, I might mention my thanks for the gravy or the great versatility of potato skins. But I probably would not go into detail about what I'm really thankful for.

So here, sans the turkey, the dressing and the plates and plates of sweets that I will eat until it becomes too uncomfortable to sit upright, is an abbreviated version of my Thanksgiving thanks (hold the sentiment). It starts with a recent weekend when my friend Thai and I went out for drinks. We were meeting our friend Vivien who was visiting from out of town. But we weren't just meeting Vivien. We were meeting Vivien and some of her other friends. Friends Thai and I hadn't seen since high school, or worse, junior high. "Be cool," I thought (a thought, I noted, inherently uncool people often chant quietly to themselves).

But the night wasn't all that bad, and I sipped my drink all cool-like, like "Oohh, look at me! I'm drinking a drink! Through a tiny straw! I have come so far from that 16 year old frizzy haired kid I was!" And then I popped my collar in a burst of Fonz-inspired energy. I was feeling pretty cool, even a bit sophisticated, when one of the guys I hadn't seen since high school draped an arm around my shoulders. I asked if he remembered me from high school since we didn't really ever hang out together. I wanted to tell him my name in case he didn't know it. That way, when we ran into each other in another 8 years, we could say hi and avoid any of that awkwardness that happens when one person forgets the other person's name.

To my surprise, he said he did remember me.

"Ohh?" I said. I was pleased. Maybe I was more popular than I gave myself credit for. I have always been rather modest.

He added, "Yeah, you were really nerdy. Super nerd! You had those thick glasses!"

"Oh yeah... I did. Are you sure that was me?"

"Yeah, we had history class together. And I think English. And you had those thick glasses -- they were so thick!"

I tried to remember if my glasses really were that thick, but all I could conjure up were images of really hip looking plastic rimmed glasses.

"So you thought I was a nerd just because of my glasses?" I asked. I still couldn't believe that my glasses alone could sway someone's opinion like that. I mean, I was a nerd, but he could have at least mentioned the fact that I co-founded the recycling club with my cousin Nathalie or that I was vice president of the Math, Engineering, Science Achievement club. But really? Just the glasses? Were we really that shallow in high school? I was a nerd, but at least I was a nerd with some decent nerd street cred.

I was disappointed to find out that my nerd status was bestowed upon me based on my looks alone, but I was happy, thankful even, that high school only lasted for 4 years.

Advice Nurse

After spending all of Saturday laying on the couch, blowing my nose and counting the hours until I could take more cold medicine, I figured that I would wake up refreshed Sunday morning, like in a Nyquil commercial. When I woke up coughing and reaching for more tissues, I thought "This has gone far enough." Maybe I didn't have meningitis or the flu, but something serious had to be going on to explain how I was not getting any better after a whole week of drinking plenty of fluids and getting rest.

I decided to call the advice nurse listed on the back of my health insurance card and told the registered nurse on the other end my symptoms. She proceeded to ask me a series of questions -- my answers to these would help set the direction of treatment.

The questions started out normal enough and turned gradually more and more startling.

"Do you have a runny nose? Watery eyes?" she asked.

"Yes," I answered, "and yes."

"Are you coughing up a thick yellow or green mucous?"


"Could you be having a heart attack?"

On and on until I had to wonder if she perhaps was trying to tell me something, a terrible unpleasant something that had come up on her screen:

Patient has likely contracted a rare but deadly illness caused from neck strain while watching television in the lateral position for too prolonged a period and from consuming lethal amounts of orange juice in combination with Dayquil liquicaps. Sudden heart failure will occur imminently. There is nothing that can be done. Remain calm.

But when she ended by telling me I could take care of this on my own at home, I figured those scary questions were probably just the standard questions advice nurses ask everyone. Like your race or gender or if you're a veteran.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Celebrating Our Talents

In many a good relationship, each person will bring something unique to the partnership. The trick is to nourish these differences, to foster a trusting environment where each person feels his/her talents are appreciated. Not to toot our own horns, but Alan and I do a pretty good job of this. We recognize that we possess complementary skills, and it is our celebration of these differences that makes the foundation of our relationship.

For example, Alan is a fantastic runner. He can run and run and run, and then when he's finished with that, he can run some more. I, on the other hand, yearned to be a good runner, but after running in a few races over the years, had come to terms that these knees were made for walking. Still, though, if we were ever left to fend for ourselves in the Sub-Sahara, his running technique would come in handy in chasing down prey for our dinner. This is not something to be taken for granted, so whenever I can, I let him know that I appreciate his knack for running. One year we were training for the Wharf to Wharf 10K and decided to go on a run around the lake together. As I huffed and puffed along, Alan bounced along beside me. Every few bounces he would sprint ahead and then double back to keep me company for a bit. Sometimes he would offer helpful tips like, Right foot, left foot or Relax or Lengthen your stride! After about 20 minutes of Alan's incessant cheerleading and energetic running (as I willed my body not to drop dead), I let out a scream like I had never screamed before. I mean the man was not even breaking a sweat. I had to do something, but notice that I did not tell him to stop running. After all, I like to be supportive.

While Alan is the runner in the relationship, I am not without my talents. I can find anything Alan's misplaced, as long as it's in the duplex. Have you seen my left shoe? he might ask. And there it will be in plain sight, wedged right behind the toilet. Or if he can't find his sweater, I will locate it hanging on the dish towel rack. This week he has been desperately searching for his reading light, a clever little invention that clips right onto his night time reading and that saves me from harsh overhead lighting while trying to fall asleep. On the fourth day of his searching, I finally decided to lend a hand out of pity for his poor detective skills. As I positioned my glasses on my face, he taunted, "Oh, you think you're so smart, do you? You think you can find my light, huh?" And after letting me know he appreciated my help, he slipped into the bathroom to finish brushing his teeth.

"Where did you last leave it?" I asked. I scanned the bedside table. Nothing.

"If I knew where I left it, I wouldn't be looking for it!" he laughed, as if I were the most ridiculous person he had ever met.

"Oh, is that so?" I asked, buying some time. I could hear him gargling, so I decided to look in the space between his side of the bed and the wall. A place almost too painfully obvious for his reading light to have fallen, a place where a rational person would first look... a place where Alan's reading light would be. I reached my hand in and pulled out not only his reading light, but the book he had also misplaced from weeks ago. I held the light in the palm of my hand, and waited for him to come out of the bathroom. When he finally appeared, I stared at him and said, "Bow to your master!" I said it in a way that indicated I appreciate your talents and as he did a series of bows at the foot of the bed, I could tell he appreciated mine as well.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The FluOldItis

A few weeks ago, I was at the doctor's office when I decided to get a flu shot. It made me feel light and airy but also semi-indestructible. The sore upper arm muscle at the injection site reminded me that I now had an extra immunity, and it made me brave. I dared the sniffly to sniff upon me and rejected hand sanitizers all together. It was this flu-hubris -- flubris, if you will -- that caused me to end up in bed for the past 2 days. I was playing with fire hanging around the cold-stricken and eventually I got burned.

A quick search on WebMD today indicated that I had the symptoms of both the flu and the common cold and that meningitis was a real possibility. I would have called the advice nurse or something sensible, but all my body parts seemed to have been filled with bricks of lead. All tidily piled inside, most notably in my upper back, near my neck (the meningitis was having a party), in my arms and in my legs. In my head, a really angry teenager with long hair and bad skin played the snare and followed it up with lots of maddening crash cymbal action. When I asked him politely if he might be able to take it down a notch, perhaps even just to give us a bit of rhythm on the high hat, he shoved his drum sticks through my nasal cavities. And this makes it difficult to breathe properly (aka quietly through my nose), so that at night I believe Alan must have nightmares about Darth Vader coming to bring him over to the dark side.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Jennifer & Mike's Engagement Party

This weekend was my friend Jennifer's engagement party which was just like a mini wedding. It included traditional Vietnamese engagement ceremonies and a lovely mini garden reception.

There wasn't an official memo, but we all seemed to have gotten the message to wear yellow.

The flowers got the memo, too.

The flowers all over the house were gorgeous.

Cute, cute swan pastries

The hanging flowers and lights outside were so magical.

Participating in the tea ceremony was fun. Mike and Jennifer served teeny tiny cups of tea to guests two at a time.

Look how coordinated they are!

The beautiful couple.
Congratulations Jennifer and Mike!
Speaking of tea, today Alan made me a cup to ease my sore throat. He was quiet in the kitchen for so long, I got up to go see what the hold up was. And apparently he was planning on inviting the entire neighborhood over for tea:

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Perfectionist Behavior

Yesterday after yoga class, while I was in their neck of the woods, I dropped in on Denise and Justin. Mostly I wanted to give Denise her birthday present, but then we got to talking and then it became kind of hard to stop. One topic led to the next and after a while we found ourselves talking about perfect people -- the kind who have it all, who make life look so easy, the ones who are just so happy. Primarily we were talking about how no one likes perfect people in all their perfectness. We even started giving examples of perfect people we disliked or who had too many fortunate situations placed before them. As Denise and Justin weighed in, I really felt myself connecting to them both on a new level. These were my cousins and they just understood me. They were on my side. Too bad the world wasn't full of cousins, the kind who understand you completely, the ones who know how aggravating perfect people can be.

I was becoming lost in thought -- maybe we could do something impactful, something big, like starting a new Facebook group with the express purpose of "Disliking Perfect People," a big group of non-perfect people just like us -- when Denise turned to Justin, an index finger poised contemplatively on her cheek.

"Hmm... Maybe we shouldn't send out those Christmas cards with the pictures of us in Hawaii and Japan," she said.

"But we took those pictures with the Christmas card in mind!" Justin said.

And then I knew that I had been mistaken. In fact, I was not in the presence of those who could rally and join me in my anti-perfect ways. I was with two people who plan their Christmas cards months and months in advance, while they are on a few of their many vacations in exciting and tropical regions of the world. And here they were pretending to be non-perfect people.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Case of the Me Toos

In our elementary school, sex education became a part of the curriculum in fifth grade. We learned about our changing bodies, about the beauty of a woman's menstrual cycle and about something I never fully comprehended but had read about once in a Judy Blume-type book -- a wet dream. Lots of natural processes and changes were going to happen (or were happening) to us, our teacher promised, processes that would not actually happen to me until many years later.

The girls in the class viewed the impending changes as an exciting event, one that should be highly anticipated and discussed on end. Over the next few weeks after sex ed, each girl watched the others for signs that indicated their womanhood was upon them. No one wanted to be the last to mature, the one left out of the new group forming of those who had blossomed. It was almost as if we expected that puberty would transform us from ten year old caterpillars to beautiful majestic Monarchs. We were all on the verge of flight, and soon it became all we could talk about.

During recess and lunch, we discussed the topic of training bras: who had gotten their first training bra, who wore real bras, what color bras we had. Jenny was a grade up than the rest of us and she wore a real bra, a real bra that was not purchased in the kids section of Macy's. The rest of us wanted to wear real bras too, but for most of us, and especially for me, there was no real reason besides vanity to wear such garments. It didn't matter that I didn't need one, wearing one was the ticket that got you into the cool kids circle and that allowed you to credibly weigh in on other recess matters. It was one of my earliest memories of having a case of the "me too's," wanting something purely because everyone else wanted/had it and I needed to want/have it too.

This week I felt an inkling of something familiar before I realized that it was another case of the me toos. Lately it seems as though everyone and anyone who I went to school with, or even everyone who ever went to school period, is getting engaged and married. And it must be because of this, because of this new forming cool kids club, that all of a sudden I wonder when I am going to get engaged. At worst, my mom has figured out how to project her thoughts into my brain, cleverly disguising them as my own. But then, of course, I realize that that is not the real me thinking these thoughts. After all, even though I don't want anything lavish, the idea of a wedding just isn't real to me yet, not until we can think about how we are going to work our monthly budget out so that one day, and many pennies later, we can get Mariah Carey to sing at our reception.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Valve Control

Somehow it is November, which is impressive. I do not remember what it was like to be in the middle of September or October, but here we are now on the other side. Being on the other side has provided me with resolve. I have resolved to shut off the valve that brings me things to worry about, to contemplate, to tend to. When I'm not careful about the valve, the pipe it's connected to overflows and items that seem more important than they really are wake me up 2 hours before I need to be up to tell me to pay attention! And the water bill! Don't forget to pay the water bill! There is more, but the list could go on forever, so suffice it to say that I am taking a break for the rest of the year from worrying about things that can be worried about at a later date. It's much easier than I imagined it would be, and I find simply ignoring unpleasant subjects or worrisome events to be a perfectly acceptable solution to solve the problem.

But then there are things that need to be dealt with immediately. Like when your landlord tells you that she is going to conduct a walk through of your duplex and that she expects it to look as good as new.

Now, I have never been much of a bigot, but I'll admit this, I am starting to hold something against landlords. We are forever being warned never to trust lawyers and never to trust skinny cooks, but what about landlords? I am not nearly important enough or devious enough to have met enough lawyers to make a fair case for the professionals in the occupation, but I have seen the "never trust a skinny cook" saying printed on an apron before which must make it true.

Recently our landlord sent us pictures of what our duplex looked like when we first moved in. The set of pictures included a pristine white bathtub, without the permanent black sludge trackings across the bottom that the previous tenant had kindly left us. And right beneath that picture was a picture of what the wood kitchen counters and sink looked like when I first moved in. Except our kitchen counters aren't made of wood, they are made of a special sort of linoleum that is pretending to be a sort of sad marble. Which makes me pretty sure she is trying to pull the wool over our eyes on this.

On Sunday, as Alan and I took turns getting high off of our liquid gel cleaners and throwing every ounce of muscle into scrubbing off the tar from the bottom of the tub, I thought that maybe I would lead the movement to help bring truth to the people. Yes, I would get started on having "Never Trust A Landlord" printed on aprons ASAP.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

This Is Your Brain on Drugs

Saturday morning came and there was something different about it, something I hadn't felt in a few weeks. After eating a breakfast of eggs, biscuits and gravy, and burning my left hand in the cooking effort, Alan and I had a kind of conversation we hadn't had in a long time.

"What do you want to do today?" he asked.
"I dunno. What do you want to do today?" I asked.

This went on for an animated half hour or so (well, as animated as a conversation consisting of 2 lines could be). I was just about to ask him what he wanted to do again, when he cut in to suggest, "What about hiking?"

And that was what was different. Alan had suggested something he wanted to do, but more importantly, he wanted to do something. For a couple of weeks at least, he had been an eggshell. It had been hard to explain this to people, hard to put it into words the crippling kind of anxiety he had been feeling, the dark hole he had fallen into, the disinterest in everything. For a while, a trip to the grocery store, a night out at the movies, even the idea of doing any of these things overwhelmed him. So together we would sit in our small duplex, watching TV. After going more than a year without any TV at all, we had buckled, had decided the TV's illuminating, noise-making glow offered a special sort of protective magic. When there was nothing left to say, nothing else I could offer to help, we would watch sports, the Food Network, movies.

But on Saturday, he had wanted to go hiking. So hiking we did. And then we made mac and cheese to reward ourselves. And then we watched a terrible movie with Mark Ruffalo. And then today, I was half afraid to wake up, but today he was okay too. And we spent three hours cleaning the bathtub together. Then we got steaming bowls of ramen to reward ourselves and on the way there he said, "This is fun." And, even if it's just temporary, I could not be happier for the advances in science, especially in pharmacological drugs and their brain chemistry changing properties.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Echo Design - Cold Weather Accessories

This season I've been in the market for a new winter coat. But I've decided that I won't be buying one unless it is exactly what I'm looking for. This is because I am trying to save some pennies and because a good coat can be quite expensive.

So instead, I've been ogling other cold weather accessories which don't offer up quite the same amount of warmth, but can be just as good looking as their torso-covering counterparts. Echo Design has lots of lookers this season:

I am in love with these classy looking gloves with a great minimalistic ruffle and button detail.

Here's another sassy number.

For those who don't like wearing turtlenecks, but who want to be nice and toasty when it's cold outside, just look at this floral neckpiece. This one, I need.

And hopefully, once I have enough pennies saved, I'll have somewhere to put up this lovely wallpaper.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Not Knowing Doctors (not really anyway)

My doctor likes wearing heavy gold jewelry which includes the slightest touches of leopard print. When I met her for the first time a year ago, I thought "how cool, how funky," and I almost instantly liked her. Since then I have seen her twice more and always she is wearing the gold leopard jewelry. But aside from her colorful taste in accessories, what impresses me about her is her memory and the fact that she seems genuinely interested in my well-being.

During a recent visit, she asked me how things were in my life. Now, this may very well have been the first time that a medical professional has ever asked me that question in my lifetime. Usually doctors come sweeping in with their starched white coats and ask, "What can we help you with today?" Right to the point, no nonsense and definitely no leopard print. I told her about Alan and the cancer and she remembered from a previous visit back in March, and I wanted right then and there to know her better. Here was a woman who knew all about me, all about my history with exercise-induced asthma, my allergies and my family history of breast cancer and high cholesterol. Sure it was all written down and checked off on the sheet of paper I filled out when I first checked in, but the bit about Alan was not.

As I sat there waiting for her to write new prescriptions for me, I thought how odd it was that she should know so much about me and yet for me to know nearly nothing about her except for which ones were her favorite earrings. I considered asking her about her life. "How's the hubs?" I might ask. Or maybe I could squeeze in a fun fact about leopards or the production of precious metals. But before I could say anything, she turned and asked if I might like to see a psychologist to help me deal with things.

I told her that that might help, especially when it feels as though my heart might beat a hole into my chest, then I laughed nervously. Another doctor who will know all about me, but who I won't know anything about in return? A sort of strange concept. Maybe he/she will also like leopard print jewelry, maybe we could bond over that.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Seeing Things In A New Light

The other day I was sitting on the couch and noticed a twig sticking out of our mail recycling bag by the front door. Unless I've been misguided my whole life, twigs don't normally walk inside of their own volition, so I asked Alan if he knew where it came from.

"What's this?" I asked.

"What's what?" he asked.

"This," I pointed at the twig.

"Oh that," he said, as if I had just asked him what ice was doing in the freezer. "I found that on my walk today. It reminded me of a magic wand."

And then I excused myself, as my insides bubbled over with laughter.

I can't help but wave it around while saying things like, "Bippity, boppity, boo!"

Family Love

The weather has started cooling down, and when that happens, something inside of me starts screaming that the holidays are near. Alan would argue that in another life, I was a Christmas elf, and I would have to agree. Holiday sweaters, Christmas music, lights, decorations, wrapping paper, hot cocoa, trees, wreaths -- if it can be wrapped, placed under/on a tree, decorated, is warm, snuggly, sparkly, magical, cozy or expresses sentiments of world peace or joy, I am all for it. I don't even really care about the presents.

One of my first memories of holiday magic goes back to when Nathalie and I were about five. It was Christmas time and we had gotten our hands on a pack of gummy bears. And somehow we discovered that if you didn't gobble them right up, if you practiced patience first and sucked on them for just a second, you could pull them back out, hold them up in the light and watch them glisten. From our hideout behind the couch, we could see the Christmas tree in all its tinseled glory. And that was when I knew that I liked Christmas.

Since then, winter holidays have always reminded me of the goodness of spending time with family. At a recent dinner with cousins, I was reminded of this special goodness once again.

3 of the cousins, David, Joseph and Eric, were headed to Vegas to spend Halloween in sin-city style. This led to a discussion of pick up lines -- which ones were good and which ones were bad. I remembered something someone had said to me the last time I was in a Vegas club and advised them not to say anything like it. It was my 24th birthday, and we were all waiting for something exciting to happen when a guy bumped into me hard. I said "excuse me" and apparently that was an open invitation for confrontation. He looked down at me, a lowly minion of many, and said, "Man, you look fucked up." He didn't mean it as a caring stranger would. This wasn't a "Slow down on the drinks there young lady!" kind of comment. The way he said it made it clear that it was more of a "Whoa, girl! Who let you leave your hotel room looking like that???"

I was just about to launch into the part of the story where I left the club and spent the rest of my birthday crying into a giant margarita at the slot machines, when Denise interrupted my train of thought. She was laughing so hard she could barely sit up in her chair. (Example 1 of the value of family -- they are always willing to laugh with you, if not shamelessly directly at you).

When we moved on to discuss Halloween plans (and after Denise regained composure), Denise asked if I was going to wear my Twitter costume out on Friday night. I said that I planned on it and that it seemed to have gotten a good response from the crowd the other night at the Tweetup, the networking event devoted to Twitterers. Eric agreed, and then he said, "But you know, it's not going to do so well when you're in a normal place." (Example 2 of the specialness of family -- they are candid and genuine and they hope you wore waterproof mascara because there is no sugar coating).

I was about to escape to the sanctuary of my duplex to reconsider if I should wear my costume and to think about the state of my appearance. At least if I was a tore up looking Twitter bird, the shabby walls of my duplex could comfort me without judgment. And I know it's shabby. Joseph told me so. I believe the conversation went like this.

"I really like your place, Sobrina," said Joseph.
"Thanks, Joe!" I said, trying to contain my happy grin.
"Yeah, someday, I hope to have a shack like that, too."
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