Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's...Goals

Though New Year’s has never been my favorite holiday, I still can admit that there’s something exciting about it. It’s the opportunity for a fresh start and a chance to reflect on the coming year (while also wondering how Dick Clark manages to look so ridiculously young for his age).

I used to torture myself, writing lofty New Year’s Resolutions year after year only to be met with mixed results. Yet, I’m too sentimental to give them up entirely.

So, I’m not calling them resolutions this year. Instead, I call them “New Year’s Goals,” which seem much more tangible.

Goal #1: Running a marathon (aka "Proof that I am crazy") There’s always been a part of me that wanted to run a marathon, but I always dismissed it as something I could never do. Well, this is the year! And I’m determined to finish it, whether that means running across the finish line or crawling across it.

Goal #2: Finish my Master’s degree Even though I’m enjoying the program, it will be SO nice to finish. If all goes as planned, I will graduate at the end of July. And then I can erase phrases like “I would, but I have a paper for my Master’s class” from my everyday conversation.

I think that Goal #1 and #2 are quite ambitious enough and will keep me busy. But, when I’m tired from Goal #1 and #2, then I should focus on Goal #3…

Goal #3: Enjoy life. I think I do this most of the time already, but it never hurts to remember to relax, laugh, and enjoy the journey.

So, I think I’m in for a year of running, learning, and enjoying. Sounds like a great year to me!

Sunday, December 30, 2007


There are a few members of my family (extended family, of course) that I’ve heard say outright that they just don’t eat leftovers.

I’m not even sure how that’s entirely possible. My mind still races with unanswered questions: Are they gourmet cooks? Do they order take-out every night? And, more importantly, what happens to the remaining slices of pizza if they aren’t eaten for breakfast the next morning??

Husband and I are firmly planted on the side of leftover fans. In fact, we’ve eaten delicious leftovers two nights in a row: the first night was spicy chilli and the second night was a full turkey dinner. We might even continue on our gluttony for leftover goodness and eat leftover soup for dinner tonight, making it straight three days of no cooking and tasty homemade food - a tempting combo.

All the leftovers were courtesy of our recent visit home for Christmas. Besides the leftover dinners, we have a yummy assortment of cookies, pastries, and candy.

I still puzzle over the select members in my family with their no-leftover policy. They have no idea what they’re missing.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Best Gift of All

It’s not even Christmas yet, but I’ve already received the best gift I’ve ever gotten.

It’s not a new kitchen gadget or clothes or the perfume I wanted. It’s a gift that you can’t find at any store.

More specifically, the gift is a “he” - the tall, lanky goof of a husband that fills my life with love and laughter (and the occasional teasing about my near-obsessive cleaning habits).

And I’m so convinced that this is the best gift that I’m putting him on my wish list for next year, too.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Skip the Figs

Curiosity got the best of me. I’ve heard for years about this mysterious “figgy pudding” in the popular Christmas song. I figured it must be amazing, if a whole crowd sings: “we won’t go until we get some…”

I couldn’t remember ever eating a fig, except in a Newton. So, on a recent trip to the commissary, I decided to buy at least a small pack of dried figs.

Husband and I both tried them at home, looking at each other as we were chewing this infamous fruit, trying to decide what to make of it.

Husband’s verdict? “Eh, not so bad.”

My verdict? “Ew, not so good.”

Either way, I think you can safely skip the figs this year. And as for the people in the song and their figgy pudding? I guess that’ll be just another mystery of Christmas.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Husband and Holiday Shopping, Part II

[Note: What you are about to read is written from the perspective of Husband. It was not, in fact, written by Husband, so the perspective might not be 100% authentic.]

I thought we had come to an agreement. We’d get each other just one gift this year, making this crazy ritual called “Christmas gift-giving” finally simple for once. I already knew what I would get Wife. She asked specifically for Ralph Lauren perfume. Or was it Calvin Klein? Anyway, I can’t remember the exact name, but I know she said it was in a purple box. Works for me.

So I hadn’t given much thought to it all. I’d go out in advance (the day before Christmas – why rush?) and get the perfume, and it would all be done.

Except Wife, the overachiever that she is, had to do something horrible and ruin it all!

She came home one day from a shopping session and proudly announced that she had gotten 4 gifts for me. Yes, 4 gifts, which clearly violates our “one gift” policy. I did some quick math and figured that meant I had 3 (!) more gifts to buy her! I can’t be outdone by Wife for Christmas. That would break all the rules in the Guy Rulebook (2007 edition), not to mention it would probably leave her disappointed.

I mean, 4 gifts? [%$^*!] How am I going to come up with the remaining (and now required) 3 gifts?

I decided I might try to feel out the situation to come up with some gift ideas. (Heh…she’d never figure out what I was up to…) So I casually told her in the car one night that I had thought of a gift for her but it might be too practical.

And she says, “well as long as it’s not a vacuum.”

Well crap! There goes that idea. I don’t understand it. She salivates every time she sees a commercial for a Dyson. She herself even said how wonderful Dyson vacuums are (she borrowed a friend’s once) and she even did a pretend demonstration of her vacuuming with her invisible Dyson. And, what’s more, I know she hates our current vacuum. I’ve heard her complain about it almost every time she vacuums. So, the Dyson would have been a perfect gift! Why wouldn’t she want it?

Thankfully, the other night she took me shopping, and she actually pointed to the exact items that she wanted me to buy. Finally, I’m seeing some logic here in this gift-giving situation. She tells me what she wants, so I don’t have to hunt around for a gift she won’t like, and she ends up with the gift she wants. It’s perfect!

Oh. And she mentioned nonchalantly, after our shopping trip, that her mom used to buy herself her own Christmas gifts and wrap them up as if they were from her dad. This idea is genius! Her dad is one brilliant man for somehow ending up with this scenario. I’m going to push for this set-up next year.

Anyway, so I have a few gifts already. I’m still trying to think of one more gift idea, and I’m wondering - is it too late to convert to Judaism?

Husband and Holiday Shopping, Part I

I had almost become convinced that Husband wasn’t really afraid of anything. After all, his chosen profession is that of a fighter pilot. And if doing near-death stunts in the sky doesn’t scare him, then I would have never thought anything else would. Especially something that seems benign to me…like Christmas shopping.

I realized it one night last week when we were in the car, driving to a nearby restaurant.

I hadn’t given much thought to what he might be considering for Christmas gifts for me. I’m the overachiever that had all our Christmas shopping done over a week ago. Gifts for parents, grandparents, friends, other relatives – all done. So I figured that his part – picking up a couple things for me – would be easy. Not so fast, I learned in the car.

“So, I thought of a gift idea for you, but I figured it might be too practical,” he started.

He was evidently fishing for some approval for his potential gift idea, without wanting to reveal the gift.

“What’s too practical?” I asked him. “Like clothes?”

“Nope, not clothes,” he replied. “Something…else.” I guessed a few other things, to which he replied no to all.

Then, finally understanding his nervousness about gift-giving, I tried to console him. “Well, as long as it’s not something like a vacuum, I think you’re fine.”

He laughed nervously and I noticed his face getting red.

“You were going to buy me a vacuum??”


Oh boy.

This guy is in some serious gift-giving trouble. And, not just that, he is scared. I never noticed it before, but whenever we would talk about exchanging gifts, he’d get a strange look of dread, like he was about to undergo surgery to save his life.

I talked to him later, offering some ideas that might help. I listed a few things that I could always use, like pajamas or stationery. I even named a few of my favorite stores, including Border’s and Kohl’s. They were all great suggestions, except that it only generated more confusion for him, requiring me to explain exactly what stationery is (matching envelopes and paper for letters) and give both the definition (the greatest discount haven on earth) and location (just down the road) of Kohl’s.

But, not to worry. I actually took Husband to a couple stores last night to show him specific items that I might like. And then he made a trip to the checkout to purchase said items while I looked at other things, pretending not to notice.

So I offer my final gift-giving advice to Husband here:

- Being my husband is gift enough. Please don’t worry about gift giving. Honest.

And, to the ladies, I offer this:

- You might get something from your husband this Christmas that you're not crazy about. It might be something like a deep fryer, when fried foods usually make your stomach sick. [Hypothetically, this might have happened to me for my past birthday.] But, be grateful for the gift, knowing that he probably agonized over it and spent a lot of time thinking about it. And, if you do end up with something “too practical,” like my husband’s first idea, at least you can get rid of your old vacuum!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Dumpster Diving

I’ve always considered myself to be frugal. But, the realization that I was, in fact, really cheap didn’t come until one day last week when I found myself head first, nearly diving into a dumpster.

There’s a good reason for my dumpster-diving adventure, though. And yes, it involved saving money - $6.99 to be exact. Most people probably wouldn’t even venture near a dumpster for less than 10 bucks. [Hence, the “I’m-really-cheap” realization.]

I decided that our too-small dwelling had no place for the small box of Christmas lights that I had bought a couple weeks earlier. I figured I might as well return them.

So I set off to return the lights to the store and run a few other errands. I threw a couple bags of trash into the dumpster before I proceeded on my way.

I got into the car and looked around to make sure I had the bag with the box of Christmas lights that I wanted to return.

No bag.

I thought maybe I had forgotten it in our room, but I clearly remembered bringing it with me, along with the bags of trash.

And that’s when I realized. I inadvertently threw it in the dumpster!

For some reason, I felt a frantic sense of urgency to snag the bag out of the dumpster as quickly as possible. There really was no hurry since I knew that the truck had already arrived that day to empty it. (It served as our too-early wake-up call at the crack of dawn.) And there was really no danger of anyone “stealing” my bag of Christmas lights, since no one else was around. And besides, who else would be crazy enough to jump in the dumpster to take it?

But none of these rational thoughts occurred to me, since I was focused on saving my bag of Christmas lights - and the subsequent $6.99 in refund money.

I tried to reach down into the dumpster to take the bag of lights, going even as far as leaning half-way in, head first, reaching for the bag. But the bag sat innocently, too far below for me to reach.

I raced to my car, opening the trunk, looking for something to stand on to rescue the bag. I found a small box that looked like it might work. I brought it back over to the dumpster, standing on it, still too far away to grab the bag.

So I thought for a moment, and then I ran upstairs to our room, taking a wire hangar. I ran back downstairs to the dumpster in the parking lot, twisting the wire hangar into some sort of crude bag-grabbing device to aid in the rescue effort. And it actually worked!

I pulled up the bag, complete with the box of Christmas lights and the receipt still safely inside. I returned the lights to the store, which was much more uneventful than the preceding.

And what confirms that I’m really that cheap? I’d do it all again, if I had to. Although, to be on the safe side, I’m thinking that it might be better to make the trip to the dumpster next time with nothing else in hand but the trash.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Dinner Invitation

Sometimes inspiration for good stories seems to just show up. Like at our doorstep. Literally.

We had just finished eating, and we heard a knock at the door. I was over by the sink doing dishes, and Husband went over to answer it.

I glanced over and saw a tall guy at the door, and I went back to doing the dishes. I figured it was a friend from Husband’s class that lives in the building.

I heard only small bits of the conversation, which sounded like talk about a dinner. But, I then clearly heard Husband say: “Well, this is awkward.”

There was some nervous laughter, the conversation abruptly ended, and Husband closed the door.

“Was that a friend from your class? Did he want you to go to dinner?” I asked Husband, curious about the encounter.

“Nope, he wanted to ask YOU to dinner.” He said, laughing.

“What??” I asked, confused.

Then I finally understood. That guy wanted to ask me out on a date! And, what’s more, he inadvertently asked me on a date – through my Husband!

We laughed for a few solid minutes about it at Random Guy’s expense.

Husband recounted the conversation to me, and I guess it went something like this.

- Random Guy: “Oh, I was going to ask her to dinner [pointing at me], but I didn’t realize you were here.” (Translation: “I think your wife’s a babe and I wanted to ask her out, but I didn’t realize she was married.” Ok, so, I’m embellishing a bit, but bear with me… :)

- Husband: “Well, this is awkward.”

End of conversation.

I’m not sure who was more shocked about the whole thing. This poor guy who had probably worked up his courage to ask who he thought was a single gal for a date. Or us, who found a random dude at our doorstep asking me out for dinner, after I clearly already had both a Husband and a dinner.

I realized later that I had seen this guy exactly once before. It was in the parking lot earlier in the day. I was getting out of my car, and he passed by me as he was taking out his trash. The ultra-brief conversation sounded something like this.

- Me: “Hi, how are you?”

- Random Guy: “Good, how are you?”

End of conversation.

[Side note: I’ve never considered myself good at small talk, but maybe I need to reconsider after inspiring a date offer from such a brief exchange…]

Now, I don’t know anything about this guy, but this has got to rank as his worst pick-up attempt ever. And it might even be a strong contender for his most embarrassing moment ever, too. Asking out a marriage gal is never good for your dating life. But, asking her out through her husband is infinitely worse!

So, I think this scenario leaves a couple of life lessons.

Lesson for me: Appear less-enthused while making small talk with strange men in a parking lot. Better yet, think twice about making random small talk with strange men in a parking lot.

Lesson for Random Guy: If you do happen to show up on a married couple’s door looking for a date, for goodness sake, LIE and say that you have the wrong door! Honesty will only get you embarrassment - and a secured spot for your story on a blog.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Holiday Heat

We are having a most unusual dilemma this Christmas season.

We are hot!

I’m not talking about the slang meaning of “extremely attractive.” (We only wish that was our dilemma…) The hot I’m referring to the “I’m-so-hot-I’m-sweating” sense of the word.

Outside temperatures reach 80+ degrees during the day, which is certainly welcome and preferred over anything below zero or with a wind chill factor. We certainly would be rejoicing about our good fortune, if it weren’t for the archaic heating/cooling system in our room.

Like most government buildings, the system is either on “heat” or “cool” and never the two shall meet. Our system is now stuck on the heat cycle, leaving us broiling in our tiny oven of a room. [I think that, perhaps in a weird foretelling of the future, Nat King Cole was referring to us as the holiday chestnuts roasting on an open fire in his famous song.]

The thermostat has no functional purpose except to taunt us. Even if we set if for 45 degrees, the system does not have the cooling power to inch below the balmy 85 degrees that it is now.

And, in a way that defies science, our room is hotter than the outside temperature, even when we open all the windows. We do have a floor fan, but it’s high-maintenance tendencies require us to run over and pick it up every hour when it decides to tip over.

But, perhaps the most amusing part of this “too hot” scenario came from an innovative solution from Husband. I heard him in the bathroom last night fumbling around, as he was getting ready for bed. He then announced with pride, “I found the solution for the heat!”

He emerged from the bathroom, hair and body completely drenched, with his white t-shirt and shorts clinging to his body. He announced, “I’m ready for bed!”

“I’m going to be so cool tonight!” he said, smiling to himself.

There are probably a lot of really good reasons why he shouldn’t have done this (the sheets will get drenched, he might actually get sick from this), but for some reason I didn’t say anything. Perhaps I was too hot and tired to object.

We know that in a few days the temperatures will drop. We might actually feel reminiscent about our holiday heat wave when we’re bundled up in winter coats. In the meantime, we’ll be figuring out new ways to stay cool and puzzling over how “Baby, it’s cold outside” could be written about the same (hot) season we’re in…

Thursday, December 6, 2007

O (Charlie Brown) Christmas Tree

We have a Christmas tree this year that is highly reminiscent of the one featured in the Charlie Brown Christmas movie.

It’s actually a real tree, and yes, it’s incredibly small. [The above picture is the proof.] But it definitely adds a touch of Christmas in our equally small place, so we are perfectly content with it.

When I went to purchase it, the cashier said to me: “Is this all?” in a tone that implied “Is this really all you’re buying for Christmas decor?”

“Yes, that’s all,” I told him.

Then he said, “Please tell me that this isn’t your only Christmas tree.”

I hesitated for a second, “well, actually…” and I started to say no, but then settled on confident “…yes, it is.” Then I explained that my husband and I were living in a small apartment.

“But we have other Christmas trees. Did you see the 4-foot ones?”

“Yes, I saw those….but you don’t understand, it’s a really small apartment,” I explained. He laughed and so did the lady behind me in line.

I can’t imagine the image that left him with of an actual apartment that was large enough to hold two people, but somehow didn’t have any place (not even on a table?) for a 4-foot Christmas tree.

Sure, our place could hold a larger tree, but I didn’t want to explain the much-too-long real explanation of how we were only living there temporarily, and we weren’t sure (at the time) where we were spending Christmas, and this small one would suffice just fine, etc.

So he wished me a Merry Christmas and I took my little tree home.

It’s definitely a humble tree. But isn’t that what Christmas is about? A humble beginning.

And just like for Charlie Brown, for us our tree is just right.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Running in ‘08

I’ve decided to run in 2008.

No, not for political office. (That’s not such a stretch, since one member of my family has already run for office in the past year.) But the running I’m talking about is in the literal sense.

Running a marathon.

It’s a big deal – for me, at least. I know that people run marathons every day, and I once met a lady that ran a 50-miler. Even though she seemed nice and normal, I secretly wondered if she needed psychiatric attention for willingly putting herself through such physical torture. She said her motivation was for a cheeseburger. Now that must be the most amazing cheeseburger on the planet to inspire that kind of workout.

I digress. Back to the marathon. There are a million reasons why it’s crazy for me to run a marathon, but here are the top few:

1) I hate running. I’ve complained to everyone I know (and even people I don’t know) at some point about how I just hate to run. Some people mention a “runner’s high.” I think those people either must be lying or on drugs when they run. Though I have run at various points in my life, I’ve certainly never ran for more than 4 miles at one time, not even close to 26.2.

2) I’m not athletic. I’ve always considered myself more brains (read: geek) than brawn.

3) Most of my embarrassing moments involve some sort of running blunder. I once lost my balance once on a treadmill after closing my eyes for a brief moment (don’t ever do that, and please don’t ask me why I did), creating a commotion loud enough to command the attention of every person in the gym who stared in disbelief of my klutziness. Another running classic involved me actually vomiting after a run for a required fitness test in college, horrifying and grossing out a track full of people that I had just met. But the vomiting occurrences became a frequent part of running of these tests, so much so that my family would ask me: “Did you throw up after that one??” And then they would congratulate me if I hadn’t.

But for whatever reason, in the past couple months I’ve thought about running a marathon, and it somehow has become a goal that I can’t shake.

I thought about it a lot during our move throughout the many days of driving. At the precise moment I was wondering if I should run one, I saw a billboard advertising a local marathon. It was, quite literally, a sign. I took that to be my nudge to make it a real goal. (And thank goodness the sign wasn’t advertising a “gentleman’s club,” or my goal for 2008 might have turned out altogether different…)

So a marathon it is. I don’t plan to run it until next fall, giving myself plenty of time to train. Perhaps by the next presidential election I’ll have completed my goal!

[By the way, I’m Tootie, and I approve this message.]

Sunday, December 2, 2007

house shopping

This weekend confirmed it. Buying a house is a lot more fun than selling a house.

We got the royal treatment. The realtor chauffeured us from house to house in hopes of finding one we’d like. The sellers, if present, greeted us warmly and invited us to look around. One overly ambitious seller, an older man dressed in a too-tight shirt and jeans, gave us a personal tour of the entire home highlighting all the details. “How nice,” we said, when really we were thinking, “it smells like smoke in here!”

One house, with fresh vacuum tracks and fragrant candles lit throughout the home, reminded me all too much of the hard work and desperation involved when we were selling our condo. In that moment, I felt bad for strolling around and ogling their home, especially since they would realize later with disappointment that we were not their buyers. For other sellers, I didn’t feel as much pity. Like the ones that for whatever reason decided it was not important to leave the electricity on in their home, which left us with a tour experience similar to one that Stevie Wonder might have.

Our home shopping experience yielded us with one questionably-acquired orange. [“Please take one,” the realtor insisted, pointing to the orange tree in the back of one home. “They’re just going to go to waste,” she added.] But more importantly, it ended with us putting an offer for a just-built home. It’s exciting. And humbling, too, since it is nicer than anything I thought we would get.