Sunday, August 24, 2014

There's a Hair in My Toothbrush, and Other Thoughts on Living Together

It happened again this morning. But this time, I noticed just before I stuck it in my mouth.

One of my fiancé's long, curly hairs was entwined within the bristles of my toothbrush.

I have no idea why that keeps happening.

First of all, let me point out that Billy has extraordinary hair. It's one of my favorite things about him.


Billy and his mane. Fantastic!

But between the two of us, we can leave a lot of long hair around. I can't tell you how many times I've started gagging, only to pull out my toothbrush mid-brush and find one of his gorgeous hairs wrapped nauseatingly around in it. 

I've noticed some other things since he moved in five months ago, ranging from blissful to bizarre. 

Here goes:
  • Good: Living with the right person is just great. Every day when I wake up, my favorite person is there. It's like waking up during a really good vacation, and thinking, "Oh boy! A new day!"
  • Also good: After living alone for so long, I can't believe how much easier life is with a second set of hands. I love when I come home and discover that chores got done while I was out. Amazing! Now I can see why primitive peoples came together. Division of labor is a wonderful thing. (And necessary, because twice the number of showers and dirty dishes makes twice the dirt.)
  • Bad: Forget about any sense of mystery. Every experience is now shared. Even when you have to puke. :(
  • Fantastic: There's a good side effect to breaking down those barriers. It made me feel more more secure. For example, it's been 22 years since I've been comfortable enough to leave my house without makeup. There was a time when I couldn't even bring myself to check my mail without at least a smudge of eyeliner. But Billy knows what I really look like … and if he thinks I'm cute enough to go out to breakfast with, I don't mind rolling out of bed and going for pancakes, as-is.
  • Not so good: In addition to discovering your partner's quirks, you might realize that you have some, too. Apparently, my whole life, I've been scraping my teeth on my forks. I did not even know that was a thing.  I thought I was just eating. Now I know. (I'm still not sure what's so bad about it, though.)
  • Important consideration: If you're going to live with someone, you should definitely like the way they smell. I've had trouble with roommates' personal smells in the past. Lucky for me, Billy's smell is the perfect combination of clean and rugged. When he opens the bathroom door after a shower, our whole apartment fills with this manly smell that makes me want to kiss him, hard.
  • Definitely bad: Your craziness has an audience, always. As a single girl, I would sometimes recognize days in which I should not interact with others. On those days, I would pour myself a glass of wine, sit in a hot bath, then put myself to bed. Now my crazy days are Billy's problem. (Which is why you should definitely live with someone who can make you laugh at yourself.)
  • But when all else fails: You can  dance! I think this is the best thing we've got going together. Any worry can usually be put into perspective by knowing you have someone to dance around the dining room table with. 
And if you can find yourself a musician who plays pretty songs on his guitar all night, you're really in for a treat.


Pros and cons and toothbrush hairs and all, I think I'll keep him. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Love is What I Got


Tonight, during a conversation that briefly brought up exes, Billy told me:

"It took me less than a year to realize that I wanted to marry you. Actually, I think it took less than three dates. I knew that quickly that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with you. Whether you wanted me to or not."


My family

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Single-Shaming and the Unmarried 30-Something

When you’re female, over 30, and unmarried, being single becomes part of your personality. At least, according to other people.

Strangers make assumptions about you – some worse than others. They might decide that you’re not ready to leave your adolescence behind. (You’re immature.) You can’t settle down with another person. (You’re selfish.) Or maybe you can’t find anyone who will date you. (You’re crazy.)

Especially if you like cats.

This is my cat.

By the time I was 32, I started making jokes about my spinsterhood. I did it to cut people off at the pass. If the topic of my being unmarried came up, which it too often did, I didn’t want to look like I was sad about it. Instead, I made jokes about being undomesticated and proud.

But somehow, my being single was a topic that everyone seemed to have an opinion about.

A younger woman asked me why I didn’t just marry my boyfriend. I didn’t tell her that it was because I suspected he was lying to me. (He was.) A man I worked with stopped into my office after every holiday and coyly asked to see my ring finger. “Do you seriously think people get engaged for EASTER? I demanded, the last time he did it.

But the worst instance of single-shaming came the day before my 33rd birthday.

I had to work late to attend a meeting. During that meeting, I volunteered a suggestion … helpfully, I hoped, and in complete earnest.

But my boss used that moment to shame me. I guess she thought my suggestion was strange, or less relevant than I thought it was. So in front of our Board members, my peers, and the staff who reported to me, she joked,

“And that’s why you’re still single.”

I felt myself deflate. Her words stung like a slap across my face. I sat there, shocked, angry, and embarrassed, and waited two hours for the meeting to end so I could slip away. I went home to my empty apartment. 

My boss had no idea why I was 32 and still single. It wasn’t because I couldn’t get a date, or because I was picky (as she would later claim that she’d meant). It certainly wasn’t due to any lack of trying to find someone who would love me.

I was constantly trying not to be single. Growing up, I took it for granted that I’d fall in love and get married. But instead, I met guys at bars, through work, on Match.com and OkCupid, and it never worked out. I dated rich guys and poor guys. I tried a long-distance relationship, I lived with a man for a year. I let friends set me up on blind dates. I went out with guys in Mercedes, guys on motorcycles. Younger guys, older guys, dads and drug addicts, artists and accountants. I was trying my hardest.

But I was still single.

The day after that meeting, I turned 33. My mom and our friend planned a nice birthday for me, with lunch, presents, and a walk around a pretty lake. I smiled in the sunshine, but something dark and sinister lurked behind every thought. 

Now you’re 33 and still single.  


As it would turn out, the very next day, everything changed. I met a man who would quickly become my best friend. A blissful year after that, he proposed to me, and soon I'll join the ranks of the married. (I also ditched that job and boss.)

But I feel a greater solidarity with my single sisters than the wives of the world.

Because I know amazing single women who both want and deserve love. Women who are more interesting, creative, and self-assured than plenty of married people that I know. These are women who have used their time alone to take art classes or write books or rescue animals. They teach, they travel, they’ve mastered the delicate art of going to a party by themselves. They may develop rich friendships, or become devoted sisters, daughters, aunts, or even mothers. Or maybe they use their time to read, cook, get strong, or dream. These are some of the world’s greatest women.

There are also plenty of amazing women who don’t want -- or need -- love. Like their more hopeful counterparts, they are becoming more and more awesome while they get better and better at being single. 

So if you encounter a woman and find out that she’s not married, don’t ask her why she doesn’t just fall in love and get married already. 

Ask her what she likes to do. Where to get the best meal or glass of wine in town. If she loves her job. Where she’d like to go on vacation. Ask her what she’s excited about. 

She’s going to have something to say.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

How I Fell So Hard, Part 2


To be brutally honest with you, I always wanted love more than anything else in the world.

But that kind of longing can take a toll on a person. It made me take chances on strangers. It made me give my time and trust to people who didn't deserve it. After a while, it made me feel hopeless, unlovable, and bitter.

The hardest part was that even though I was constantly searching, I was also holding out for someone extraordinary.

I knew that if I found him, he'd have to dazzle me immediately. He'd need to be sharp, and funny, and stand out from everyone else. He'd have to keep me guessing, because nothing turns me off faster than ordinary chatter.

(I hoped he'd be handsome, too.)

And somehow, if I found that man, he'd have to do something to keep from scaring me off.

Thankfully, my friend Jessica saw it from afar -- my perfect match was actually out there. She introduced me to her friend Billy. (See: How I Fell So Hard, Part 1)

Billy is incredibly handsome, and wickedly smart, and I have absolutely no idea what is going to come out of his mouth, ever. But he's also doting, and gentle, and he wears his enormous heart on his sleeve.

And that's why his blue eyes and rock star cool didn't scare me off … because he spent our first date just making sure that I was happy.

And he's spent the past year doing that, too.

But here's the best part.

It was July 5. Billy's band was playing. Everything was exactly as it was a year ago … the guys playing my favorite music at the Hard Rock Cafe, my friends singing along and pulling me to my feet to dance.

But everything was also different. Since that first show last summer, Billy moved in with me. Now, I try to put myself to bed at a responsible time but I always end up lying awake, giggling in the dark at his jokes. I wake up in his arms. I come home to his amazing cooking. I watch him take care of my pets, and I see how happy he makes them. And I learned that even when one of us is being exhausting, the other one will always say something to make it right.

But anyway. The band was playing. They stopped halfway through the show to pull raffle tickets for pairs of tickets for the upcoming Sublime show.

When Billy gave me my raffle ticket in advance, I thought, "I don't want to see Sublime." But low and behold, his friend Brian pulled my number, and I won the second drawing.

And when I went up on stage to collect my winnings, the love of my life got down on one knee … and asked me to (please!) marry him.

Yep. I'll marry him.



And then, the band asked me what I wanted to hear. I picked "Alive."

Since then, a few friends have done really sweet things for us. We've received cards, well wishes, and celebratory dinners. I feel guilty accepting their congrats. I already got what I always wanted -- a dazzling, talented, kind-hearted man. And a perfect diamond ring too!

All things change.

Let this remain. 

xo


Sunday, April 13, 2014

What's left to figure out

Last night

This morning I woke up in Marietta, Ohio with my very own rock star. 

Then we found exactly the kind of breakfast place I like to find in a small town … one with a counter for side-by-side sitting, good coffee and simple folks.

Breakfast at the "Busy Bee"

My weekend was so perfect, it played out like a fairy tale. It has me thinking.

A year ago at this time, an acquaintance asked me what I wanted my life to look like in six months.

A said voice inside my head immediately yelped like a banshee: "I WANT TO LOVE SOMEONE!"

But I didn't say that. Instead, I shrugged and replied, nonchalantly, "I guess I'd like to be a better blogger."

But being single was making me kind of crazy. I had a huge amount of love to put somewhere. It manifested in all kinds of ways -- rescuing animals, worshipping bands, being a devoted friend and daughter. But no one was pushing my hair out of my eyes for me when I rolled over to kiss them on Sunday morning.

Longing for that kind of love was starting to consume my every thought.

Now it's a year later and I'm blessed with a boyfriend who loves as large as I do. It's all encompassing in exactly the way I wanted it to be.

I found it!

So …

Now what do I want?

It's a big, scary question. Not what to I want to buy, or what do I want to have. But what do I want, next, in life?

I know it will involve making him happy, making our life together, and making myself and the people I love happy. It will be about figuring out a life in terms of two.

But what else?

It's very liberating to think about what comes next.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Right this very moment...


At this moment, I am sitting in my gorgeous hotel room in a new city while the love of my life and his band prepare to play downstairs. 

Soon, I'll go downstairs and dance while they play my favorite songs in the world, and afterwards, I'll race back upstairs to sink into our bed and his arms. And even though I'll have spent the whole night watching and adoring him, he will make me feel like I am the amazing one. 




I am aware -- and appreciative -- of the fact that I am present in a rare window of time. Right now, everything is perfect. I love my boyfriend, and he loves me too. I love my family, and best of all,  they are healthy and happy. I have the cutest dog and cat in the world, the sweetest and funniest friends, a nice place to live, a brand new car, and a job that pays me well to write for non-profits. 

It's as though every box is checked off. 

"Are you happy right now?"
"Strongly agree."

I've been through just enough to understand how how rare and fleeting these moments are. 

And I am so grateful to be right here, right now. For however long this lasts, I will be forever grateful. 


Sunday, January 12, 2014

Sunday with My Boys

The scene on a perfect Sunday afternoon:

Billy and I are both in our Pearl Jam shirts, ready to go out to run errands. Billy strums his ukulele while he waits for me to put my shoes on. Porter the Beagle assumes I'm getting ready to take him for a walk, so I say, "No! This is not for you." And Billy, without a word, changes the tune on his ukulele to "Not For You."



Tuesday, December 31, 2013

In 2013 I:

  • started off the year at my lowest point. 
  • needed a distraction so I fostered a sick Beagle.
  • nursed and then adopted the Beagle!
  • went to Chicago and saw Pearl Jam at the legendary Wrigley Field show, which didn't let out till 2am after a 3-hour rain delay.
  • was in two fairly major car accidents. 
  • saw Pearl Jam--at Eddie Vedder's feet--in Pittsburgh, the first stop on their tour.
  • followed Pearl Jam to Ontario, Phildalphia, Baltimore, Dallas and Phoenix.
  • held Eddie Vedder's hand when he leaned out into the crowd in Phoenix.
  • saw my beloved uncle for the first time in too many years. 
  • quit my job of more than 10 years.
  • started a new career in the corporate world. 
But most importantly..

  • fell in love with a man who made me immediately realize that I had never truly been loved before. 
  • got to be a part of his life, which includes the sweetest mornings in his arms and the most exciting nights, watching his band on stage.

What a year! But things aren't done changing in my life. 

I'm ready.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

I Start a New Job Tomorrow

Tomorrow feels like the first day of school. For the first time in over a decade, I am starting a new job.

So long, old life! You were strange and sometimes wonderful.

My head is spinning. I'm curious about every little thing that's going to happen to me tomorrow. And I guess that's the source of my anxiety today…not that I think I can't do this, but rather, right now, I can't even picture my tomorrow.

I've spent much of today just trying to imagine what my new desk will look like, and what we'll talk about at lunch time.

(What will I talk about at lunch time? People seem to think I'm fun, but not everyone gets me at first.  My plan is to just be nice and see what these people are like. They're a creative bunch, so these should be my kind of people, right? … See--I'm not going to get any sleep tonight.)

The last time I started a new job, I still lived with my parents, didn't know how to drive car, and wore long, straight hair down to my butt. (I brushed it to death, every morning.) I was a 22-year-old, and a very young one at that. I didn't know how to sound like an adult on the phone or contribute to a meeting.

But over the next decade, I'd learn how to run meetings, hire good people, and make sure great people could succeed. So this time, with a whole phase of my career under my belt, I'm going in to my new job as someone who's supposed to be an expert.

Sometimes I feel nervous about that. It's a lot of pressure.

Other times, I feel a sense of relief--because I chose this job because it's what I'm good at doing.

I guess there's nothing left to do right now except go to bed and wake up curious but ready.

Wish me luck!





Wednesday, December 4, 2013

How I Grocery Shop When I'm Sad vs. How I Grocery Shop When I'm Happy. See Also: Leaving on a High Note

How I Grocery Shop When I'm Sad:

(It might go something like this.)

Where do they hide the boxes of bread crumbs? Ugh. I just want to get out of here. People walk too slow. Why are there so many PEOPLE?! And look, every register has a line. Geez. Dummies, everywhere! I don't even want this stupid food! ARGHH!

How I Grocery Shop When I'm Happy:

(This happened today.)

Mmm, look at these beautiful lemons! They smell so good, too! I'm going to buy some. I wonder what recipes have lemons in them. I'm going to start cooking more. That sounds really nice. I want to try one of these over here! Mmmm!



What I mean to say is, when I'm sad, the world seems too irritating to endure. Every exhausting timesuck--lines, traffic, plaque buildup, dirty laundry, soap scum, dust, work, meetings, car repairs, other human beings. It's all such a drain.

But when I'm happy, the world is bright and exciting. There are new things to see, limitless experiences to have, and I actually like other humans. Instead of feeling like, "Why is this happening to me?" I feel like, "I get to do this!"

Right now I'm very happy, because I am in love, and also because I quit my job.

I think I quit it just in time, because I've been burning out for a while. It recently hit me that while 70% of my work is my dream job, I am no longer able to tolerate the remaining 30% and remain a happy person.

I become a dick.

I walk around my workplace hoping that no one will share their ideas with me. I hope that I will be excused from meetings. I hope events will be cancelled. I hole up in my office. I get easily frustrated. I try to go unnoticed. Mostly, I rush around, because I want to finish my work and be done with it, but everyone else gets in my way.

But since I submitted my resignation and two weeks notice, I've been reminded of some of the things that helped me love my job for over a decade. Those "things" are mostly people, which is interesting since I get to work with animals.

Today was one of my final days at my job, and I was stunned by all the kindness I received, and from unexpected sources. I got sweet emails, heartfelt hugs, cards, tokens of friendship and even baked goods.

Before long, I felt like I was walking on air. I was so happy--I could smell the sweetness in every lemon, to go back to my grocery store example.  Suddenly, faced with the realization that I had no reason to ever see these people again, I wanted to hear everything they had to say. I wanted them to tell me their stories. I wanted to remember them. I suddenly felt like I had all the time in the world to sit with the people I've been lucky enough to meet.

It's all so sweet, it makes me wish I hadn't resigned.

But if I hadn't quit, I'd be a different person this week. I'd be rushing around. I'd be impatient. I'd be a bit of a dick.

So I'm going to take all of these happy feelings and leave my job on a high note. I'm so happy that I met so many amazing people, and got to be a part of so many truly cool projects.

And I'm glad I'm leaving before I got too jaded and mean and see it that way.


I'm out! 


Saturday, October 5, 2013

Well This is New: Blogging from the Bar

My new relationship has come with a fun new life. This really, fantastically, hit me at about 1am this morning, when I was 3 hours from home and dancing till my feet and neck burned as my boyfriend's band played. 

The band closed the set an hour later with a cover of my favorite song in the world. I finally relented and kicked off my high heels while the band--the very band I used to follow to bars all over town--dismantled and packed up. Then Billy, my own personal rock star, carried me to the car. Billy and I spent the night in a hotel that was, under its pleasant surface, shockingly filthy, and I still felt like the luckiest girl in the world. Especially when I pressed my head into his chest and fell asleep ...as other people were starting to wake up.

He has another gig tonight, so I'm writing this blog from my stool at a smokey tavern. Our fun life together has only just started, but I can see now that it comes with something new: being the lonely lady at the bar while my rock star unravels cables and does other sound checky things. He keeps tending to me--trying to bring me more pumpkin ciders or whatever else he can think of--but I still get to learn to make a comfortable space for myself in Girlfriend Land.

Tonight, another girlfriend is supposed to come alone, so I'm excited by the prospect of insta-bonding with a fellow Girlfriend of the Band (GOTB?). Last night I just walked up to the other solo girl in the bar. We had a blast shaking our butts and were Facebook friends by the end of the night. 

So, even though I am blogging alone (one of my other favorite things, actually), in a bar, like a weirdo, I can't believe I get to do this. Because soon, the band will start, and I get to watch my very favorite musician in the world, and I know he'll make eyes with me, and then he'll take me home. 


.... Update!
Billy found a nice girl he knows and brought her to me, and now the band is playing.
Happily signing off and posting this now from the Girl Table. 


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

How I Fell So Hard



I met a man named Billy. 

But it felt more like I recognized him. As soon as our mutual friend introduced me to him, I thought, "Finally. There you are."

I watched him play guitar in his band that night. I stared at him for hours, right up until the moments when he looked back at me, and then I got embarrassed and looked away. When we parted ways a few hours later, I was counting on Billy to find me again, and he did. 

Billy and I stayed up late every night that week to talk to each other. After what seemed like forever (probably three days) he finally asked me out. 

So, we went on a first date. I tried not to get too excited about it. I hate first dates. I always pull out the same stories. I always force the same laughs. I almost always get the guy to like me, and then, to my chagrin, I have to let him down gently or else psych myself up for a second date--which is always much worse. I hate the whole awkward routine. 

But then I had my first date with Billy. 

He was waiting for me at the bar, with a water and a straw carefully angled towards my empty seat. I sat down on the bar stool--facing him. Without even meaning to, I stayed that way all night, leaning in to him, eagerly telling him things and taking in every word he had to say. 

Our date was perfect. Billy is gorgeous, but nervous enough to convince me that he doesn't know he is. He's funny, and appreciative, and doesn't bother making idle small talk. We talked for hours, and when I realized that I kept leaning closer and closer into him, I apologized. That's when he put one hand under me and pulled my stool up against his. We were almost intertwined. I felt dizzy. 

Billy took me to my car and kissed me goodbye, and when my knees started to buckle, he caught me. 

His band was playing across the state the next night, but we kept in incessant contact until our second date the following day. We went to dinner, bowling, and finally, because it was very late but neither of us wanted to go home, we went to Sheetz and to Wal-Mart, where we picked out food for Billy's cat and had a pillow fight. 

That second date was an exercise in polite restraint...going through the ritual of getting to know each other despite the fact that both of us knew we were all in. He made me feel exhilarated, adorable and uncharacteristically fearless. All of this means that I finally got to be myself -- my undiluted, starry-eyed self. 

A day or two later, Billy and I walked my dog through Frick Park and sat down at a sidewalk table in Regent Square, where we ordered dinner. At dusk, we started walking home. I held on to my adorable little Beagle with one hand. Billy took my other hand in his and folded me into a long, sweet, mid-summer kiss. For a second, I stepped outside of myself and tried to really see what was happening to me. That girl, on the sidewalk, with the Beagle she always wanted and a man who made her feel so perfectly adored, was me. It seemed like I was watching myself from inside a dream. 

Billy and I have not left each other alone since we met. Since that night, I've discovered that I sleep the soundest when I'm in his arms, and that no one else can entertain me as well as he can. I love watching him interact with other people, and the friendly, gentle consideration he shows them. 

When he talks, and moves, and plays his guitar, I feel like I am drenched with delirious adoration. And when I remember those early dates, I can't believe that -- as excited and hopeful as I was -- I didn't even know him yet. I would come to find that he is even kinder and more loving than I could have possibly imagined.

I can't wait for each new day with you, Billy.






A Suggestion for Trader Joe's, on Behalf of Unmarried Women

Conversation I Had with Two Other Unmarried Women at Work

"Cooking sucks when you live alone."

"Tell me about it! You make a pot of chili and you end up defrosting the leftovers for a month."

"I have to separate my slices of bread because one end of the loaf will get moldy before I eat my way to it."

"And don't even get me started on produce."

"Oh my god! It's a goddamn race to finish the salad-in-a-bag before it turns to slime."

"Right? I've just come to terms with the fact that I have to buy a whole new cream cheese every time I want to eat cream cheese. I know the one in my fridge will be growing green fur by now."

"Trader Joe's should have a single-person aisle with single-serving everything. Tiny mayonnaises and little blocks of cheese."

"It can be called The Forever Alone Aisle."

"And it can be located next to the cat food."

Exactly.









Sunday, August 11, 2013

Guy Smiley and Here is Your Life

Recently, I desperately needed to be cheered up.

I called my friend V because he can make me laugh, and so he did, immediately, when he referred to my Beagle as my little "Guy Smiley."


And here is your Here is Your Life host, Guy Smiley!

Instead of rehashing the horrors of my day, which never helps as much as you think it will, V and I launched right into recalling every detail that we could about Guy Smiley, the muppet, and his Sesame Street game show, "This is Your Life."

I remembered that Guy Smiley always got caught inside the stage curtain as he made his way out to the camera, and he would flail around in that distinctly Muppety way until he burst out (An early Kramer?). I also remembered an episode in which a tender-hearted loaf of bread was brought onto the game show (under the guise of being delivered to be made into a club sandwich) so she could be reunited with long-lost friends.

"Loaf of bread, here is your life!!"

I went home and YouTubed it, and realized then that the writers of 1980's Sesame Street were out of their minds.

Such a thought never even occurred to me when I was little.



In that episode, a loaf of bread with long eyelashes arrives on the set of the game show and asks how many slices of herself will be needed.

But Guy Smiley surprises her by, instead, bringing out the baker who baked her. (The studio audience coos when the baker shows a picture of the bread in her formative state, just an "adorable little recipe.")

Guy Smiley then promises to reveal the loaf of bread's best friend, another loaf who once sat on a grocery store shelf beside her. (Loaf of bread winces in anguish when she remembers the day that someone purchased that neighboring loaf and took her away.)

Guy Smiley then produces that long lost loaf... sort of. That loaf of bread has since been turned into two sandwiches and two plates of French toast, which, inexplicably, now have their very own personalities and even speak French!

But the best part might be when Guy Smiley announces that the show will be providing the loaf of bread with...a charm bracelet...so she'll always remember the day!

What? That's nuts!

But I remember watching the loaf of bread's show when I was little, and taking it perfectly seriously. I also remember the episode in which the oak tree is reunited with the cloud who rained on him, and when Guy Smiley visits a museum to surprise a painting of a bowl of fruit, which has eyeballs and is overcome with emotion when the paintbrush who painted him shows up.

I wonder if Sesame Street --and these very shows-- contributed to my steadfast belief that all things have feelings. When I was little, I believed that everything had feelings, and I thought that everything longed to do what it was meant to do. This is how I formed irrational attachments, and wept when my parents traded in our old car (I was sure it was devastated to be sent away), and wanted to rescue every garage-sale stuffed animal. I'd feel sorry for every lost and lonely glove, who surely felt useless and humiliated without its mate. I was convinced my first bicycle felt abandoned when I outgrew it.

Today, I know that's absurd, but I still feel sorry when I, say, send one of my purses to the secondhand store. I wonder if it casts a sad glance back at my other purses and thinks, "But what did I do? Wasn't I pretty enough?" And I hope it has a nice life, with someone who likes it and takes it to lots of places.

See what you did to me, Guy Smiley?

.......................

In other news, here are my current favorite things:

Taking my dog everywhere. I'm going to be really, really sad when summer is over and I can no longer socialize by making my friends join me at parks, or restaurants, bars and coffee shops with patio seating. Right now, if you want to see me, you also see my Beagle.

I guess most people leave their dogs at home most of the time. My dog knows that unless I'm going to work, the sound of my keys jangling means that we're headed for adventure, and he gamely hops into my car's back seat. He even knows the sound of a Subaru being unlocked vs. the sound of any other kind of car.

He's up for anything, except staying home alone. And he is the most perfect, amiable little sidekick.

Let's go play!
Related: Food Trucks. The biggest summer food trend, especially for people with dogs, is getting delicious food out of the window of a truck! A different truck comes to my neighborhood every Monday and I am especially fond of the Pittsburgh Taco Truck, with its amazing avocado cream, and Oh My Grill, which serves gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches and dipping sauces.

I also love the crepe truck:

and I love that Porter can come along when I dine this way.
I would like to invent a salad truck, who would have a dazzling array of toppings on various lettuces. Things like chick peas, hard boiled eggs, avocado, artichokes, cheeses, slivered almonds, and homemade dressings.

Also, still, Pearl Jam, who played two wonderful shows in London, Ontario and Wrigley Field, Chicago, in July. I'll see those guys in Pittsburgh in October for a long-awaited hometown show.






Thursday, August 1, 2013

Dog-Friendly Dining in Pittsburgh

Dear local dog owners,
Will you help me add to this list?



Dog-friendly restaurants in Pittsburgh:

City East

Regent Square 
Biddle's Escape - coffee shop - porch - year round
61B - sidewalk ordering and seating - seasonal
Dunning's - sidewalk tables - seasonal
Thai Cottage - sidewalk tables - seasonal
Square Cafe - sidewalk tables - seasonal
Map Room - sidewalk tables - seasonal
Park Pizza and Cream - sidewalk ordering and seating - ask for the order window in wintertime
Food trucks visit Animal Nature every Monday and Biddle's Escape every Wednesday, summers only!

Squirrel Hill
61C - coffee shop - patio - year round, though chairs may be stacked in wintertime
Te Cafe - sidewalk tables, but not much room - seasonal
Tutti Fruiti - one sidewalk table - seasonal
Silky's - two sidewalk tables - seasonal
Aladdin's - sidewalk tables - seasonal

East Liberty 
Panera Bread Bakery Square patio - year round
Coffee Tree Roasters Bakery Square - patio - year round
Social Bakery Square - patio
Dinette - sidewalk tables - seasonal
Station Street Hot Dogs - patio - year round
Whole Foods - patio - year round
Verde - side patio

Shadyside
Oh Yeah Ice Cream - patio - year round
Mercurio's
Noodlehead
Cappy's - 5-6 sidewalk tables
China Palace
Girasole - patio
Soba - side patio
Brasserie 33 - sidewalk tables

Larenceville
Coca- sidewalk tables - seasonal
Round Corner Cantina - not back patio, but front tables on Butler Street
New Amsterdam (when they have the garage door up)

Highland Park
Park Brugge
Tazzo D'Oro

Bloomfield
Silky's

Oakland
(Will someone inquire about The Porch and report back?)

City South

South Side 
Double Wide Grill patio

City North

Atria's, Federal Street (PNC Park) - patio
Bettis Grills - outdoor tables
Redfin Blues - patio

Suburbs

Il Pizzaiolo - Mt. Lebanon
TCBY- Brentwood 
Hartwood Restaurant - Glenshaw


Links to other resources (I have not confirmed these places)

BringFido.com - Pittsburgh
CBS Pittsburgh's List of Best Pet-Friendly Restaurants 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Today I Did a Zip Line Course

And it was fun!



Today my girls Krista, Jessica and I did the course at Go Ape in Pittsburgh's North Park.

I don't see myself as overly prissy, because I like snakes and water slides and mosh pits. But I spent my first 30 years as an "indoorsy" type and I didn't realize what I was getting in to when I agreed to do this.

First, I thought there was going to be a lot of soaring around like a bird -- maybe I'd pop my little harness on, a muscular man would give me a gentle push into the sky, and I'd flit through the treetops, Facebooking the whole thing.

Krista clued me in to the fact that the suspended rope course was actually going to be challenging, and that I should maybe plan to wear workout clothes. At that point, I read Go Ape's website and realized it was going to be a treetop obstacle course. But somehow, when I read about the check-in "cabin," I still pictured more of a lodge. With changing rooms and cedar lockers and a place to select a fluffy white towel. I joked about looking for a smoothie bar but really, that would have been nice.

It wasn't like that. Jessica helped me find the place (I'm bad with suburbs; North Park swallows me.) by directing me the the folding table on the side of the road where you sign your life away. They actually, during your 30-minute training (most of which I spent practicing opening and closing carabiners for the first time in my life) remind you that mistakes could result in "fatal accidents." Hello!

But other than some mulch in our hair and a little brush burn on my thighs from a clumsy landing, we badass animal welfare workers did really, really well!

The courses start with a rope ladder up the side of a tree. This was actually the most awkward part for me because I wanted to shimmy up the tree faster than my safety equipment wanted me to. I had to keep yanking the rope and pulley system that I was attached to.

Krista on the damn rope ladder

Then, up in the air, Krista, Jessica and I would gather on the platform and freak out, especially if we had to choose whether to take a "difficult" or "extreme" path to the next tree.



I have never been afraid of heights, because I just can't picture myself falling to death. So, I was surprised when I stepped onto the first treetop platform and felt a wave of vertigo wash over me. The entire tree swayed a little in a woozy way. But then, just like with every other uncomfortable moment in life, you say "Can't deal with that right now" and push through the moment. And so we did.

You do have to keep track of yourself to keep yourself safe. Little signs remind you to always stay attached to something, which meant that you'd detach and attach your harness every time you moved from a ladder to a bridge to a zip line.  At first, I felt like I was going to forget what to attach to or get myself caught up in something. But after a while, we were all monkeying from tree to tree without having to over-think it.

I'm a very impatient person, though, and twice forgot to attach myself to my tree. But then, having survived anyway, I'd just attach to the next thing, like a rope bridge that was suspended across the sky.





Each section ended with a ride down a zip line to the ground. These were fun, especially the last one, which was long enough to allow a couple seconds for looking around and thinking, "I'm flying!!"

The landings were awkward. The most graceful way to land is into a running stop, which I think I did three times. The other time, I went face first and stopped when my thighs dragged across the mulch landing strip. Ouch!

But the best part was the part that some other guests tried to psych us out about. One girl told us, "My friend said she'd never do the Tarzan jump again, and she is a real hardass."

I thought, "Oh no, a hardass?" I like getting massages and pedicures and petting kittens! Am I tough enough for this?

But Krista bravely led the way to the Tarzan jump -- a free-fall off a platform, into a rope wall that you then climb back up into the trees. The first step into nothing was definitely scary (especially if, like me, you doubted your own ability to attach yourself to things). But after you man up and leap into the air, it isn't scary at all!

And there's something fantastic about getting sweaty outside, locating your own center of gravity and learning to trust your muscles.



On the way home, I thought about how gym class used to be the worst part of my school year. I would fake cramps, "forget" my gym clothes or beg my journalism teacher to write me a pass to get out of it. Sunday nights would turn gloomy as I remembered that the horrors of gym class awaited. It was sheer torture, because I believed I was too unathletic to keep up with the kids in my class. I didn't understand the rules of baseball, hated competition, couldn't connect my bat to a goddamn thing and I always seemed to smack the volley ball wildly, or a second too late.

I wish someone would have seen that I was a wiry, tireless girl and suggested a sport that I might actually have fun with. I wish they would have let me play on a rope course, learn hula hoop tricks, try archery, take a hike or just run around. There are plenty of ways that grownups exercise that I might have liked. Instead I'd cower in fear in the deep, deep outfield...waiting for the sweet relief of English class, where I would be on top of my game again.

Anyway, now I'm happy at home with my Beagle, enjoying the iPhone videos Jessica made of our day. You can hear the ridiculous sound of me laughing, helplessly, in every one! Whoopsie!

I'd also like to say that the smell of sunscreen gives me an instant mood boost. I put it on and my brain shakes off its cobwebs and thinks, "Beach." I don't think I've ever worn sunscreen on a day that I had to do something that was a drag.

If you want to try going Ape, click over here, and then tell me about it!



Tuesday, July 2, 2013

When Banjos are the Sound of Silence

Last night, I took my dad to see Steve Martin and his bluegrass band, the Steep Canyon Rangers.


We had lots of fun.

I think my sense of what's funny was born from my early exposure to Pee Wee Herman and Steve Martin. My parents used to play his stand-up on their record player, and I remember laughing at my mom imitating Steve Martin long before I understood what was so funny (or so brilliantly unfunny) about the jokes themselves.

(She'd reference this one a lot. A request like "Please pass the pepper" could result, at our dinner table, in a giggled "Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you!")



But while I grew up appreciating goofy humor, I didn't appreciate bluegrass music. There was simply too much of it around.

My dad played bluegrass music, loud, all the time. He played it on CD's, DVD's, tapes in the car, and he'd claw hammer it out on his own banjos right in our living room--always oblivious to whatever was going on around him.

I remember sitting in the back seat of the family car, eager to get in on my parents' conversation in the front but not making anything out over my dad's tape recording of Flatt and Scruggs' My Long Journey Home, blaring out of the car speakers. That goddamn two dollar bill song.

My dad even went through a phase in which he believed that playing music at your musical instruments could open and condition their wood, or something like that, so he he would line up his instruments in an attentive row and play bluegrass at them when he wasn't even home.

There was no escape. In my house, bluegrass was the sound of our silence.

Meanwhile, I craved electric guitars. I hated it. My mom said she did too, but joked that she wouldn't be a "bluegrass widow" and actually followed my dad to concerts.

I didn't start to soften on bluegrass until I was 24, and briefly moved from one dinky apartment into the one located above my dad's music shop. By then, my dad was successfully running his guitar, banjo, and mandolin store, and I rented just up the stairs over his storefront.

On quiet afternoons and evenings, the sounds of finger-plunking and jam sessions would filter up through my floors. Suddenly, I'd feel almost as safe and soothed as I did decades ago, when my mom had a pot on the stove and my dad played Earl Scruggs for the instruments in our empty basement.

And now, I have Steve Martin -- and my dad, also named Steve -- to thank for a fun night last night, one in which I tapped my toes and chair-danced and enjoyed the bluegrass tunes every bit as much as Steve Martin's goofy jokes in between.

Best of all was spending time with my dad, who almost never allows himself any fun outside of his music store. When I asked him, as we waited for the curtain to go up, what his favorite concert of all time was, he said he didn't know. I rattled off lists of my own -- best set list, best performance, most fun at a show.

Then, this morning, I received an email from my dad.

"The show was funny, and the music was very good. But most of all, being with you was special. You asked me which was my favorite concert? Last night was."

Aw.
My dad.

And, it turns out bluegrass tunes can play the songs in my heart, too.




Friday, June 28, 2013

How 53 Chickens Made Me Feel Better

I love you, Chicken. 

I didn't feel ready for the world on Tuesday morning.

The cat and I uncurled at the sound of the alarm, but the space beyond my bed seemed too harsh, too unsympathetic--a grinding sameness that I had not signed on for. There was nothing I could do but resort to autopilot and plod into my morning routine.

On my way to work, I called a good friend and announced that I'd like to come over for a hug. My friend invited me inside, so I stopped, parked, and, for a few quick minutes, left the world that seemed so daunting. I kicked off my shoes and folded myself into a long, much-needed hug. The simple embrace lit a flicker of something good. Then, I plunged back to my workday commute.

When I got to work, I approached the door gingerly, as though I could cup my hands protectively around that tiny spark of happiness. But almost immediately, a surprise sound echoed through the building -- a piercing, perfect, cock-a-doodle-doo.

I burst out laughing.

This week, the organization that I work for was called to assist in the rescue of 61 birds. This is how I came to meet 53 chickens for the very first time.

That Tuesday morning, those of us who "had some spare time" were invited to help with the mass cleaning of chicken cages. I wanted to laugh at that suggestion. We're not an organization that allows spare time, and the weight of relentless deadlines was part of what had made the day feel so daunting when I woke up. Still, chicken cage cleaning sounded like an adventure I couldn't pass up.

The chickens had arrived in poor health, and were covered with lice that I could actually see crawling all over the birds. The chickens smelled terrible -- a sweet, sweaty, not-quite-garbagey scent. I followed instructions to put on scrubs and to wear a new pair of rubber gloves between each chicken. Then, I got to either wipe out soiled cages or take on the fantastic job of holding chickens.

Holding chickens--in some cases, impressive, imposing-looking roosters--is much easier than picking one up. I have yet to successfully do that. Their wings can break if you struggle with them, so, terrified that I'll break a chicken, I panic and back off as soon as they start to squirm. One time, by Wednesday, I came close to pulling a rooster out of the top of a two-story pen. But, he spun and struggled against my face, which caused me to release him and then smell chicken all day long. His smell was actually smeared across my cheek.

However, none of this is meant to be read as a complaint. Once one of my co-workers would hand me a chicken, I'd hold him and feel mesmerized. Each time, the chickens would struggle and fuss and then, properly pinned against my chest and supported underneath, they'd surrender. From there, I could feel the warmth of their bodies in my arms. I could actually feel their hearts beating against mine.

I learned how to soothe a flustered chicken by gently stroking around its head or chin. Sometimes, my co-workers and I would find ourselves unconsciously swaying as we held our chickens, as though we were rocking babies. My friend Christy's chicken actually nestled into Christy's bosom, laying his head across her chest and slowly closing his eyes.

Christy and I walked her sleepy and my restless chicken over to a window, upon which both chickens craned their necks in focused curiosity, trying to see what was going on outside. Christy and I looked at each other in shared delight. She said, "They're actually looking out the window." The chickens were scared, confused and not feeling well. It meant something to us that we were giving them a small but meaningful moment.

The chickens are all headed to local farm sanctuaries, where they'll spend their lives clucking and crowing and eating and digging in hay.

I'm really glad I got to meet them. And now that I've mastered chicken-holding, I'd like to go volunteer somewhere where I can practice chicken-picking-up.

Once again, I find that the best way to recover from sadness is to help someone who's worse off than yourself.

See what it looked (and sounded) like to clean the chicken cages:

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The 4 Ingredients That Will Always Make Me Fall in Love with a Piece of Music

All of my favorite music has at least one of these four ingredients.

1. Lyrics that tell a story.
I think the best songs have some point to them besides being catchy. Don't give me a cheesy love song (or if you're going to, at least make me laugh). Sing me a story with characters, plots, and messages.

I look for lyrics that illuminate my own feelings. I'll award bonus points to songs that rally me, inspire me, pull me up, dust me off or convince me that I'm going to be okay.

When my (lousy) boyfriend of 11 years moved out, I felt confused and conflicted, but I played the subtly happy song "Tears Dry on Their Own" and wrote a music video in my head, starring me twirling around in my newly empty, sun-kissed apartment, finally unburdened with all the cobwebs of our misspent decade.  I appreciated how Amy Winehouse gave a name to the feeling of "inevitable withdrawal." I didn't love my ex anymore, but I still had to bear the withdrawal of our breakup as I learned how to be alone for the first time as an adult.

When Amy sings, "He walks away; the sun goes down," I don't picture darkness but rather the glorious glow of a blazing sunset.



Another example: One of the greatest stories I know is about a human being who is Given to Fly.  Here's what Eddie Vedder says about that beautiful song:

"[I imagined the song as] a 20-page cardboard children's book with a line on each page and a picture to go with it. It's a fable, that's all. The music almost gives you this feeling of flight, and I really love singing the part at the end, which is all about rising above anybody's comments about what you do and still giving your love away. You know? Not becoming bitter and reclusive, not condemning the whole world because of the actions of a few."

2. Grungy guitars that rock out.
I can't resist them. I feel them in my belly. They make me want to burst into a run. They make me want to shrug off my last board meeting and my last deadline and joyfully headbang like the mammal I am.  I can appreciate the perfectly-executed licks of a classical guitar song, but I'm not sure how long I could sit and watch someone coax them out. I want to watch a person grab their guitar and shred it like they're purging the demons within.



I know it's been overplayed, but to this day, I can't fathom how someone can hear the opening chords of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and not emphatically agree that the song is a cosmic gift from the universe. It's just perfect. Whether they were ready for it or not, something otherworldly just clicked the day Nirvana came up with that one.



Same thing, right here:



3. Beautiful vocals.
This one seems too easy but, oh well. I'll bliss out to Rob Zombie for Reason #2 but give me Eddie Vedder's soaring, honeyed baritone to soothe my troubled heart. It hits me like a Klonopin right in my soul.



4. Music that has heart.
I need to feel like music is sincere, like it was born because the artist had to write it whether anyone would like it or not. I like music that is confessed. I like songs that purge anguish as a means to finding light.

I think that's why I like Jill Sobule so much. I go see her every time she comes to town, and Jill has a way of making the entire room fall in love with her. She's cute and funny, yes, but also, Jill's heart is present in every one of her songs.

I always felt like Kurt Cobain's lyrics, as flippant and bitter as they seemed on the surface, were painfully self-aware and of brimming with heart.

.........................................

A piece of music doesn't have to have all of these ingredients, but if I love it, chances are it will have at least one.

Pearl Jam corners the market with all four, which is why seeing them live takes me to staggering heights of sheer bliss.

I'm going to close with a song that has Ingredients #1, #3 and #4. This is a song that put four whole years into perspective for me, and makes me cry every single time.