Saturday, December 15, 2007


I've decided to move to Wordpress like all the cool kids. I've imported everything from here and gotten it all set up over there. I don't love it yet, partly because it's less user-friendly than Blogger, although it has more options. I've changed my layout 20 times already and will probably change it again before too long - I would kill for a layout that has three columns, customizable color, and a customizable heading (because I love that photo at the top of this page), and Wordpress currently offers several combinations of two of those options, but none with all three. So, we'll start with purple and see what happens from there.

So, please change your bookmarks, blogrolls, and Google readers to and weigh in over there on the new look and suggestions to make it better!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Things to Be Happy About, Vol. 7

Happiness, it seems to me, consists of two things: First, in being where you belong, and second - and best - in comfortably going through everyday life; that is, having had a good night's sleep and not being hurt by new shoes.
-- Theodore Fontaine

Let's get right to it, shall we?

1. Make Way for Ducklings, by Robert McCloskey [I bought this for my niece when I was in Boston in March, and we read it two times a day for the four days I visited her afterwards]
2. Gerbera daisies
3. the smell of garlic sauteeing in olive oil [growing up, we'd walk in the house and say, "Smells great, Mom, what's for dinner?" and the only thing in the pan would be olive oil, garlic, and onion]
4. Socca, best eaten walking around the Sunday open-air market in Vieux Nice
5. the way wet leaves stain the sidewalk with their colors in the fall
6. when you and the bank agree on the amount of money in your account [my bank has said I have between $7 and $12 more than my checkbook says for more than a year; if I could ever get a consistent difference for 6 months, I'd just adjust it and move on, but it keeps changing]
7. decorating for Christmas, even if you're the only one who will see it
8. the runt of the litter

After my "alternative work assignment" day today, most of my Christmas shopping is done, I just need one more thing for my dad, and two things for my brother. Karen is coming this weekend with baby Caroline, and we're having a Christmas cookie baking marathon. I've choosen some pretty ambitious recipes, so we'll see how they turn out. I chose Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars, Double Chocolate Sable Cookies, Kris Kringle Cookies, and Coconut-Peanut Cookies. I may have bitten off more than I can chew, but the Nanaimo Bars are no-bake, and the Coconut-Peanut ones look pretty simple, so I'm hopeful. Karen has chosen traditional sugar cookies, which we'll roll out and use my extensive cookie cutter collection on, as well as Snickerdoodles (which, to my surprise and dismay, do not actually contain Snickers), and a cookie to be named later.

Hopefully the results will be great, and I can take a bunch to work to share and save some for my family on Christmas as well. What are you making this holiday?

(Please, people, I like it when you comment, that's why I keep asking questions at the end of my posts. Don't be shy, I like to know you're reading and what you're thinking - you can be anonymous if you want to. Jane, Lydia, Coll, Becca - thanks for keeping me company!)

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Movie Madness

The movies we love and admire are to some extent a function of who we are when we see them.
-- Mary Schmich

I was off yesterday, and today was kind of a lazy day, so I've been flipping through the channels just to see what's on. I came across three movies that will make me stop and watch them every time.

Yesterday, Mr. Mom was on AMC. I remember watching this movie as a kid and being terrified by the out of control washing machine. I don't think we saw it in the theater though; 1983 was a little early for my family to do that. Probably we rented it when I was about 10 or so. Everyone looked so young - Teri Garr, Michael Keaton, Martin Mull. I don't think you'd cast Keaton and Garr as husband and wife these days; she hasn't aged as well as he has, although he hasn't been in anything I've seen or heard about recently, so maybe he's old and gray by now, I don't know.

The best part of that movie is his descent into bearded, Young-and-the-Restless-watching, grilled-cheese-ironing madness. The day all the repair people come at once and the washing machine explodes (probably because he mixed the powdered detergent with the liquid fabric softener in order to "save a step"), and the vacuum cleaner ("Jaws") runs amok and goes after the "Woobie", and the middle kid catches the stove on fire? Pure comedy gold. I have to say, though, that the sexist premise doesn't really hold up today, but I dig Teri Garr's 80s-working-woman outfits: jackets with big shoulder pads and those blouses that tie at the neck. Nice.

Today, I came across Stepmom, just as it was starting, and I watched the whole thing. I adore Susan Sarandon, and Julia Roberts was great in this, a break from the usual comedy she does. I bawl like a baby at two points, without fail: first, when Jackie and Isabel meet in the restaurant and talk about the kids' lives without Jackie. Jackie says, "I have their past, and you can have their future," and it's so painful, watching a mother who knows she's never going to get to see her kids grow up figuratively hand them over to the woman who's going to be responsible for raising them in her stead.

The second is Christmas morning when Jackie has the kids come up to her room individually to give them each the gift she's made for them. The little boy, Benjamin, is played by Liam Aiken, and he's fantastic in this role. Cute, but not precious. His gift is a magician's cape that Jackie sewed for him, and it's got pictures of the two of them on it. He points to one of them in the hospital just after he was born, and asks, "Did you know I was good looking right away?" So sweet. But the part that really gets me comes after he asks Jackie if she's dying, and she says yes, and they talk about what it will be like after she's gone, how Ben can always talk to her because she'll be in his heart. He's quiet for a moment, and then he says, "Nobody loves you like I do." There aren't enough tissues in the house to contain me at that point. Sad city.

Later today, I was having a snack and flipping channels again, and Sixteen Candles was on. John Hughes, in the 80s, was it for teen movies. Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, and Weird Science. Any of those would freeze my remote in a heartbeat, especially Weird Science. Anthony Michael Hall can thank John Hughes for everything he has. (Huh. IMDb says John Hughes also wrote Ferris Bueller's Day Off. I didn't remember that, but now that I see it, it makes perfect sense. He also wrote Mr. Mom.)

All of these movies are ones I must have come to by way of slumber party movie marathons (although I remember seeing Ferris Bueller at the drive-in with my uncle and my brother one summer in Buffalo), because they all came out before I was 10, which I find hard to believe, but IMDb assures me that it's true. They're so iconic, and so much a part of my history as a teen ("We are what you see us as," from The Breakfast Club, was popular as a yearbook quote when I was in high school in the early to mid-90s) that I feel like I must have always known about them, but that can't be true.

Anyway, I love Sixteen Candles. Despite the terrible fashion, I think it really holds up as a portrait of high school angst, as do John Hughes' other films (minus the "perfect woman" Gary and Wyatt cook up in Weird Science). I loved Dong, I loved Joan Cusack as the girl with the back brace and head gear, and most of all, I loved Jake Ryan. Didn't every girl dream that the handsomest guy in school would grow tired of the perky, perfect blond and suddenly realize she exists and give her the perfect kiss? My favorite line in the movie comes from Sam's (Molly Ringwald) dad. She's sad about Jake - he doesn't know she exists, and it hurts, she says. "That's why they call it a crush," her dad tells her. "If it were easy, they'd call it something else." So true.

There are other movies, too, that will make me stop what I'm doing and watch: Legends of the Fall (and I make no bones about the fact that this is my all-time favorite movie; I own it, I can recite every line, I've seen it a billion times, and I sob during every viewing), St. Elmo's Fire, Field of Dreams, Stand By Me (the theme music - not Ben E. King's "Stand By Me," but the melody that plays at the end when Richard Dreyfuss reads the news about Chris - haunts me, as does River Phoenix's acting), The Shawshank Redemption (I can hear Morgan Freeman's Red narrating in my head, even now), Eight Men Out (I'm seeing a trend towards John Cusack; this is probably my favorite role of his).

So what does it for you? Tell me, if you will, what movies make you put down the remote, stop what you're doing, and settle in?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Things to Be Happy About, Vol. 6

There is no duty we so underrate as the duty of being happy. By being happy, we sow anonymous benefits upon the world.
-- Robert Louis Stevenson

So let's delve into my bag of tricks (or Happy Notebook, as it were) and see what we come up with this week, shall we?

1. tree branches covered with ice
2. finally getting the courage to start a conversation with that cute Spanish guy you followed halfway across Salamanca
3. a down-to-the-wire sporting event [not unlike Monday's Patriots-Ravens game, even if it did turn out the wrong way]
4. winning a game of Scrabble against your grandma for the first time [my grandma is a serious Scrabble player, and she does not go in for any of that let-them-win-because-they're-kids stuff, so the first time I won, it was a big deal]
5. singing a duet in a big concert with your best friend
6. Polaroid cameras
7. changing leaves against a bright blue sky
8. auctions [I don't know about where you live, but in Central PA where my parents live, auctions are prime people-watching venues, and you've never seen people spend so much money on a basket in your life]
9. Grand Central Station

What else is new? Well, my boss just announced today that I and each of my co-workers get a day off every week for the rest of the year, including this week, so that's pretty cool. We're calling it "a day on which you report to work elsewhere, and your assignments are at your discretion" because he can't really give us the day off, but he still wants to reward us for our kick-ass productivity. It's code. Shhh. Of course, I'm the juniorest of all my co-workers, so I got last dibs on the days I wanted, and it's kind of annoying to have off on a Tuesday or a Thursday because you can't make a long weekend out of it, but I'll take it.

Sunday, I've been invited to my boss's house for brunch, and according to his latest email, "this would be the perfect time to have our annual round-robin gift exchange." Good holy god, I hate those things. If this is one of those White Elephant things where you pick a gift and open it, then the next person can either pick an unwrapped gift or steal the gift you already opened, I might cry. No matter what I buy, I always feel I've contributed the inferior gift, and I hate the "stealing" part of the whole thing; it makes me uncomfortable. I'd so much rather pull a name from a hat and just buy for that person. So, the limit is $20, and there are 6 of us participating - 4 women (including myself), ranging in age from 26 to 50, and two men, one who's 25 and the other (my boss) who's in his late 50s. What the hell do I buy? I'm thinking wine glasses from Pier One. Any other ideas?

Speaking of Christmas, I still have not started shopping, so that's kind of stressing me out. I have multiple items in my Amazon shopping cart, I just haven't pulled the trigger and purchased them yet because some people (who probably don't even read this) haven't bothered to send me Christmas lists, so I can't be sure if I've chosen wisely or not. In years past, I've been finished by now and on to wrapping them, but since I have to work for a living these days, the time seems to have evaporated much more quickly than I anticipated. Anyone else not finished or not started yet? Make me feel better by commenting, please.

I went down to Richmond this weekend to see my niece and nephew (and my brother and sister-in-law, but who am I kidding? Bring on the babies). I'll tell you what, there's nothing like spending time with people under 5 to make you forget your troubles, that's for sure. I laughed more on Saturday with the two of them than I probably have in the past month at home. I adore them beyond all reason, and just as soon as I come up with fake names for them, you can be sure I'll bore you to tears with tales of thier abundant cuteness.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

I Could Be Friends With These People

There is nothing in which people more betray their character than in what they laugh at.
-- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

My grandmother sent me this video this afternoon. The title is Best First Dance at a Wedding Ever, and I have to agree. Apparently this is the hot video at the moment, because I that hear the couple is going to be on Ellen. Given her penchant for dancing, that doesn't surprise me at all.

Watching this video makes me hopfeul for this couple's marriage, actually - they seem really at ease with each other and obviously have a great sense of humor about themselves (how many brides have you known who would freak out at the idea of such foolishness on "the most important day" of their lives?). I hope it brightens your day just a little bit!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Because I Love You

We confess our bad qualities to others out of fear of appearing naive or ridiculous by not being aware of them.
-- from Thoughts in a Dry Season, by Gerald Brenan

One of my favorite blogs is Above the Law, and I read it faithfully. (You may remember an earlier post on Big Law bonuses that was sparked by the bonus coverage on ATL.) Every once in a while, Lat posts something that makes me laugh out loud. Today was one of those times. He posted the following, prefaced with the information that it is a real cover letter received in response to paralegal job posting at a legal staffing agency. It seems almost too "good" to be true, but it had me dying laughing in my office today, and because I love you all, I thought I'd share it with you:

Hello there,

I am not a paralegal. But, I type 85 WPM and used to be executive assistant and have multiple skillsets, easy to train, that honestly set me $1000 over the salary of a degreed political science bachelors degreed person. Sadly, she was aggressive and began reading Hitler's methods and worked her way to stop my success with her deception.

The compliance lawyer finally figured out what she was doing and wound up getting rid of her. She now works in buying and selling electrical components somewhere. So, I have no way to measure her value or mine within this paralegal field. I'll let you be the judge.

I envy her in some ways, as she knows how to get where she wants to go. I just like to take my time and be a team player, not a bulldozer, which is a rare thing from what a Criminal Justice professor advised me, when I thought of obtaining a paralegal bachelors degree. I am aggressive, just can't bulldoze people over. He was unsure if I'd make it in that field because of that personality feature I have.

I'd rather love people and nurture them to their success. I don't have that other bulldozing personality trait in me, to stop other's success. I can bulldoze aggressively to help people succeed. So, honestly, I do not know how you would value me in that way. I thought that was important to mention as I don't know precisely how you'd need someone to be.

I've had some compliance experience. The compliance experience was basically data entry making edits to documents and having strikethroughs show up on the document of removed verbage. Honestly, I thought it was pretty basic to be a paralegal, as they had told me that was paralegal work. Surely, there has to be more to it.

If you require research, I can do some of that. But, reading volumes of legal documents that a law student would be required to absorb and interpret, to me, would require more of a lawyer than someone with my experience. But, I am willing to help you, if that is what you need.

If you are in a bind, let me jump in and help you out. I can jump over there to help you out if you are in a bind, rather quickly, while you are looking for someone else that may be more qualified. Or, I may be precisely what you need if you show me what to do. Again, I don't know what you would need. So, you'd have to let me know what you would need help with.

The ad you wrote seemed that you were in urgent need of help, right now. So, I thought that my offer would help you. I hate sitting home studying all day and submitting the neverending resume search for employment anyways. I have a degree. It's not a bachelor's yet, I'm working on that piece. I have an associates and hope to start my own business someday on the side of real estate appraisal. But, this economy is dicey for anyone to train in the field. So, I'm sitting here doing nothing of value. I can't stand not making a difference and working.

So, let me know your thoughts. If you need me, let me know. I'll come right down and begin now. I'd love to be of assistance. My hours of availability are 9:00am - 5:00pm, Monday through Friday.


You're welcome.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Things to Be Happy About, Vol. 5

You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.
-- Albert Camus

This is going to be brief. I'm having a very difficult time personally right now, and just when things seemed to be looking up a little, I got blindsided by something else. I do think it's important to still try to focus on the little things and remember that things were not, and won't always be, as bad as I feel like they are right now.

I would like to say, also, a very heartfelt thanks to my "invisible" friends, who have surprised me with their kindness, support, and generosity over the past several days. I'm not surprised that they are kind, supportive, and generous - I've seen them show it over and over again - but I am surprised that that their kindness, support, and generosity were so freely extended to me. (You may have heard that I have a hard time making friends and tend to be insecure.) I really can't tell all of you what it means to me, but I thank you.

So, here's this week's list:

1. when you all of a sudden have a funny thought and laugh out loud
2. old couples who are still obviously in love [not unlike this couple, on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France]
3. having friends all over the world
4. sitting next to someone good on a plane
5. big raindrops
6. babies fresh from the bath
7. sneaking out without getting caught [not that I ever did this]
8. catching snowflakes on your tongue
9. the mountains of Virginia
10. a really comfortable bed

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Dentist Appointment Redux

"It isn't always how you look. Look at me: I'm handsome like anything and I haven't got anybody to marry me yet!"
--Brian, age 7

My apologies for the delay in providing details. I spent most of yesterday sadder than I expected over this, after having to be “up” for Thanksgiving with the family. I don’t know how I can have come so far from the teenager I was in almost all areas of my life, and yet still be so much the same when it comes to men.

Caveat: this is long. I tend to be an over-analyzer, so I hate to leave out details. Skip to the last few paragraphs if you just want the bones of what happened.

Anyway: I was ready. My hair was cooperating, I was wearing new jeans that looked great and my boots that make me feel like I can do anything. I was nervous, really nervous. Luckily, it’s a 10-minute walk from the Metro to his office, so I was able to burn off some of that excess energy, so when I got there, I wasn’t talking a million miles a minute and pacing in the waiting room.

I didn’t see him before I went in the exam room. The x-ray tech came in first and took a hundred x-rays of my teeth, and I’m sure you all know how stupid you look with that thing clamped in your mouth. The door to the room was open because the tech had to keep leaving the room to take the x-ray, and the whole time I was praying he wouldn’t walk by and see me like that. Yes, I know he’s a dentist, he sees everybody like that, but still. I put a lot of effort into looking good, and the last thing I needed was for his first look at me to be that. This scenario also repeated itself later when I was hanging out in the room with those stupid fluoride trays in my mouth. At least the door was closed then.

Ok, so x-rays, x-rays, x-rays; cleaning, cleaning, cleaning. Every time the door opened, my heart jumped, but it was never him. Finally, all that other stuff was done, and the hygienist left saying the dentist would be in in a minute. I got up out of the chair, ostensibly to throw my tissues away, and she told me “Oh, just leave it on the tray, we’ll get it later.” What I really needed was lip gloss, though, so I lied and told her I just needed some Chap-Stick since my lips were dry after all the cleaning and flossing and flouriding. I will not see my future husband with naked lips, no sir. Luckily, there were mirrors on the wall, so I was able to fluff my hair and make sure there were no errant specks of toothpaste on my face before he came in. So nice of them to provide that convenience!

So I’m sitting in the chair trying not to panic, and in walks the Dentist. Oh my god, you guys. I had almost convinced myself that I had inflated his hotness and his funniness over the last four weeks, and that he couldn’t possibly be as handsome and funny as I remembered. But he was. He comes in all, “Hello, Counselor,” which made me laugh and led to a discussion of how long it took him to be comfortable calling himself Doctor. Then I asked him about his accent. I noticed it last time, but I couldn’t place it. He asked if I was good at geography. I told him I'm not, and that, in fact, I’d only just learned that the Philippines were in the Pacific somewhere (which is true, and I don’t care if it’s embarrassing; he thought it was funny). He said “I’m Latin, but I don’t speak Spanish.” I guessed Brazilian, and I was right. I could just die. Do you have any idea how beautiful Portuguese is? I could honestly listen to it for the rest of my life and die happy, without ever understanding a word.

Ok, anyway, back to the story. So he’s looking at my x-rays, we’re talking, and next thing I know, he’s running his fingers all around the inside of my mouth and making me stick out my tongue (oral cancer screening, you know), which is making me laugh, because I’m, for lack of a better word, giddy from being so close to him. He asked me what was so funny; I told him I felt like I was in a dog show, which made him laugh. Then he’s pressing on my sinuses and my neck (I don’t know; he was feeling my glands or something?), and look, I know he's a dentist and he does that to everyone, but the size of the crush I have on him? I was a happy girl.

So we’re coming to the end of the appointment, and I’m getting nervous. The nurse or whoever was in the room with us at the end, and I knew I couldn’t just ask him with her there. I thought about asking her to excuse us, but I just couldn’t do it. He asked me if I had any questions, which was the opening I’d been waiting for. Some of you know I had a whole thing planned out about how I was going to ask him to recommend another dentist, and when he asked why, I was going to say, “Because I wanted to ask you to have dinner with me, and if you say yes, well, I think it’s weird to go on a date with your dentist. And if you say no, I’ll be too embarrassed to ever come back here, so either way, I’m going to need a new dentist.” Instead, I just smiled and said no.

He got up and asked me about my plans for Thanksgiving, and we talked a bit more, he shook my hand, and then he left. I was at the counter waiting to check out and the receptionist was talking to me, but I was totally distracted. I was thinking that I was a chicken, and that I’d regret it if I didn’t ask him, and I was trying to figure out what to do. Finally, he came back in the hallway, and I asked him to go back in the room, saying I needed to talk to him.

So we’re standing there, he’s all handsome and whatnot, smiling at each other. Right then, I was hardly nervous at all. It was just something that had to be done. I said, “So I had a whole spiel planned, but I’m going to bag it and just ask you if you’d like to have dinner with me sometime.” His smile got real big, then he blushed a little, and said softly, “I’m flattered, but I’m seeing someone.” I smiled, shrugged, and said, “I thought you might be, I just wanted to ask.” And that was that.

I went back to the reception area to pay and fill out a reminder card, but my hand was shaking the whole time. I don’t really know what I was feeling – sad, definitely; disappointed; a little surprised, even; and embarrassed, too. He came up from behind me, put his hand on my back, and when I turned to him, he said, “You know, you made me blush.” I laughed and smiled, but I don’t think I said anything. One of the receptionists asked how I’d done that, but I didn’t answer. I wished everyone a happy Thanksgiving and left.

I’m not going to lie: walking back to the Metro, a few tears escaped. There was so much energy and emotion leading up to that moment that it had to go somewhere. I was beyond proud of myself that I’d done it at all, but I was so, so disappointed that it turned out the way it did. I had considered the possibility that he had a girlfriend, of course, but I’d convinced myself that whatever happened between us last time, the spark, or whatever, meant that he probably didn’t. I know I didn’t make it up; there’s something there. All we do is laugh through the entire appointment; I bet we’d have a blast on a date.

So I’m sad. And it’s going to take me a minute to move on. And probably, if I’m honest, I won’t really move on, at least not yet, or not entirely. Because I have to go back in February.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Hey, It Doesn't Hurt to Ask, Right?

Nope. But sometimes it hurts to hear the answer.

He's seeing someone.

Details Friday, probably, if anyone's interested.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Things to Be Happy About, Vol. 4

If only we'd stop trying to be happy, we'd have a pretty good time.
-- Edith Wharton

It's Thanksgiving this week, which makes this feature especially apropos today, I think. I love Thanksgiving; it's my favorite holiday, and it has surprisingly little to do with food.

In my family, we go to my grandfather's house in Maryland. Usually - and this year is no exception - it's my grandfather and his wife, my parents, me, my brother and sister-in-law and their two kids, an uncle, some cousins, and a great-aunt or two. We gather sometime after noon and congregate in the kitchen, eating appetizers (because if there's one thing there's not enough of on Thanksgiving, it's food), or in the living room. Sometimes there's football on, sometimes not, but even when there is, no one's really paying attention.

My favorite part is that everyone has their own "thing" to do: my grandfather's in charge of the turkey, his wife does the stuffing (and when my great-grandmother was alive, this always started the great stuffing v. dressing debate - for the record, it's stuffing when it's cooked in the turkey, dressing when it's cooked on its own). I'm on mashed potato duty, my mom does vegetables or dessert, my dad's cousin makes homemade bread. The men in my family make the gravy. My grandfather taught my dad who taught my brother. Thank god my brother had a boy; now I'm set for gravy for the rest of my life!

Ok, so it is about the food, I lied. But it's more than that. It's that we have these traditions that revolve around the food. I don't know how any of them started - convenience, I suppose - but I do know that, like that Visa commercial where the hapless customer tries to pay with cash and effs the whole process up, Thanksgiving would be chaos without everyone playing their roles. I love being in the kitchen with all that activity going on around me, but knowing I only have to worry about the giant pot of potatoes in front of me and making sure I accurately report at what time they'll be done so everyone can plan accordingly.

This year, though, I'm also attempting an appetizer and a dessert. I plan to make them at home before I head up to Maryland, so as to minimize the disturbance of the aura in the kitchen. We'll see how it goes. Maybe I'll even win the post-dessert marathon game of Hearts for once.

So, in honor of Thursday, here's a short, Thanksgiving-themed Things to be Happy About:

1. cranberry sauce still in the shape of the can [yeah, we have no pretensions when it comes to cranberry sauce]
2. big Thanksgiving dinners
3. when everyone has their "specialty dish" to make at Thanksgiving
4. family traditions
5. homemade ice cream
6. the "elegant" salt and pepper shakers [this is from a story my great-grandmother used to tell about my grandfather when he was a boy; they went shopping for salt and pepper shakers and he asked if they could buy the "elegant" ones. They did, and we use them to this day]

I hope you'll share some of your Thanksgiving traditions with me in the comments - I'd love to hear about them!

P.S. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that by this time tomorrow, we'll know for sure whether I'm a chicken or not. Dentist. Tomorrow. 4 pm. I'll post an update either way, I promise.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Car Sickness, or, that Feeling You Get When the Monthly Payment's Due

In less enlightened times, the best way to impress women was to own a hot car. But women wised up and realized it was better to buy their own hot cars so they wouldn't have to ride around with jerks.
-- Scott Adams

So it's done! I traded in my nearly worthless, inspection-failing, 10-year-old Saturn SL for a 2006 berry red Saturn ION2. I dig it so much. It's the newest car I've ever owned, and it's so pretty. Here's a picture. Ok, that's not a picture of my actual car; that's a picture of the car I almost bought this summer, which was a 2007 ION3, but mine looks just like this (except the interior is gray, not tan like this one). Plus, this one has fewer miles on it than that one did.

Between this summer and Monday, I test drove four or five IONs, and ended up buying from a Saturn dealership, which was my preference. I was very happy with the level of service I received from them, which is part of the reason the only cars I’ve ever owned have been Saturns. I still have the balance of the factory warranty on the new one (about 10,000 miles or 18 months), and since I calculated that I will probably only drive about 6,000 miles this year, I'm pretty well set in that department. And, I think I got a pretty good deal, so I am a happy camper.

Things I love about my new car:
1. Power steering
2. Power windows
3. Power door locks (Sensing a trend? My old car was so manual, you practically had to push it to get where you wanted to go)
4. It's automatic (I wavered on this a bit; I love driving stick, but in DC traffic, it's a pain in my ass, so I'm giving it up)
5. Keyless entry! And a key fob! I can freak people out by making the interior light turn on from far away!
6. It's MP3 compatible - now (I assume and hope; I'm not technical and I didn't ask and haven't read the manual yet) I can listen to my iPod through the car stereo!

Things I am not so psyched about:
1. Having a monthly car payment when I only drive my car on weekends (public transportation around here is great, and there's no commuter parking at the nearest Metro station, so I generally don't drive on weekdays).
2. I almost doubled my car insurance payment, since this one's obviously worth more than the other one.
3. I had to leave behind my Universidad de Salamanca sticker because it wouldn't come off in one piece. (I also had to leave my law school sticker and my undergrad alumni sticker, but those are easily replaceable, though I probably won't bother.) I really would like to replace it - I have such good memories of that time - so if any of you feel like searching the internets on my behalf, I'd appreciate it. I did a brief Google, but my Spanish is so rusty the University of Salamanca site makes almost no sense to me.

All in all, though, I think the pros outweigh the cons (key fob!). I am looking forward to the drive to my grandparents’ house for Thanksgiving in complete, automatic transmission-ed, iPod-ed, ease and comfort.

Oh, and a big congratulations to all my law school comrades who just found out today that they passed the New York bar exam! I never had any doubt! Now get back to earning those six-figure salaries!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Things to Be Happy About, Vol. 3

It is only possible to live happily ever after on a daily basis.
-- Margaret Bonnano

Sorry for the lateness of this post; I've been dealing with car-related issues all day. The cost of fixing my 10-year-old Saturn so that it will pass inspection is three times what the car is worth, so I am about to become the proud owner of a 2006 berry red ION. I almost drove it home tonight, after test driving it yesterday, but I didn't get financing confirmation until too late in the day to get insurance, so I have to wait until tomorrow. I am not wild about having a car payment again, especially since I drive my car approximately one day a week, but I am psyched to have POWER STEERING again, baby! Wooooo! Pictures to follow.

Anyway, on to this week's list:

1. Memphis Belle (movie)
2. the sights and sounds of an airport or train station
3. a cappella music
4. auctions
5. finding out you're going to be an aunt
6. Fantasy Football
7. cold sesame noodles
8. the time right after you put the babies to bed and go downstairs to clean up [I used to baby-sit a ton when I was a teenager; this was my favorite time because I felt so grown up]
9. rosy cheeks from walking in the cold
10. a cup of tea just before bed
11. cute boys who sing
12. being someone's secret admirer [I'm a big fan of the anonymous gesture]

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Weekend Update

That is the best - to laugh with someone because you both think the same things are funny.
-- Gloria Vanderbilt

The "date" was a success! We went to see Lisa Lampanelli at the Warner Theater in DC last night, and I laughed my ass off! She didn't tell a single joke I can repeat in polite company; I mean, the political-correctness factor was non-existent. I spent a good deal of time thinking, "Oh my god, I can't believe she just said that! Holy crap, and I laughed at that! What is wrong with me?" But it was all in good fun, and, as Hot Wings would say, it's funny because it's true. I haven't laughed so hard since I can't remember when, and it was fantastic.

Afterwards we went to a bar for a couple drinks and just talked; there were 7 of us, 5 from work, plus a husband and a sister. It was good company, and I'm starting to feel like I might have found a place where I fit here. That's my biggest struggle whenever I start something new. It took me until the beginning of second year in law school to find it there; first year was such a struggle for me, personally. After last night, I'm hopeful that it won't take me quite as long here.

I've been a busy bee today. I love weekends; I get so much accomplished. During the week, I get home around 6:15, go to the gym for 45 minutes, come home, make and eat dinner, then watch TV or screw around online til 10 or so, then read and go to bed. I don't ever feel like I have time to do stuff, so everything that needs doing gets done on the weekends.

Today I went to the DMV to finally get my Virginia driver’s license. You’re supposed to do it within 30 days of moving, and I’ve been here three months. What can I say? And it only took an hour and a half. Then I took my car to be inspected so I can register it here, since I’m planning to stay in Virginia forever (or at least until love or wanderlust leads me elsewhere). Again, you’re supposed to do it within 30 days of moving; good thing they don’t really enforce that rule. My car failed both the emission inspection and the safety inspection. My check engine light is on, and that . . . means the computer in my car isn’t talking to something else in my car, so they can’t be sure the emission information is correct. Or something. I don’t know.

My horn died an abrupt death about two months ago, which is why my car failed the safety inspection. I noticed it wasn’t working, and Karen, who was visiting, clued me in that I’d probably blown a fuse. She also found the fuse box in my car and gave me a new fuse from the well-stocked glove compartment of her van (I should maybe learn something from this). I honked the horn, and the new fuse blew immediately. We put in a larger amp fuse, and when I honked the horn again, my poor car gave the most anemic sounding beep you’ve ever heard in your life. Like a dying goose, only one who’s trying not to disturb the other, living geese with his dying. It’s so pathetic. It does nothing to deter the jackasses around here who regularly cut people off. I have to get it fixed it so I can honk properly and stop giving people the finger instead. (I kid.)

I also put together the desk and bookshelf that I was so happy to see delivered on Tuesday, and can I just say, I LOVE THEM. SO MUCH. I've got them both exactly where I want them, and I am typing away at my new desk, and then I look over at my bookshelf, with my barware finally out of the box and on display and my artfully arranged photographs, and I could just die of contentedness. Things like this make me so happy for some reason. Would you like to see it? Of course you would. I don't believe in digital cameras, though, as you may know, so you'll have to settle for the online catalog picture. Mine are all black, and it looks so great, even if I do say so myself. They're set up just like this, right next to each other, except in reverse order.

I did a number of other things today as well that I won’t bore you with, but trust me when I say you’d be impressed with my industriousness. I’m about to make dinner, watch the Friday Night Lights I taped last night, and then I’m ordering Knocked Up from Comcast on Demand (which is my favorite invention) and preparing to laugh my ass off again. At this rate, weigh in on Tuesday should be amazing.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

One is Silver, the Other's Gold

Don't make a habit of collecting little keys that lock out the things in your life that scare you. They lock you in.
-- Unknown

So, I have a date. Don't get excited: it's not with the Dentist. It's with a friend from work. Who's married. And a girl. We live in the same apartment complex and often end up on the shuttle home at the same time. We've been talking, and she's very nice. I told her about the Dentist; she thinks I should go for it. She told me about her husband, who lives in Florida, and her brother, who just shipped out to Iraq.

I've never been good at making new friends. Nearly all the people I'm really close to have known me for 5 or more years, and most of them go back farther than that. I don't know what it is, really, although more than one person has told me - once we've become the kind of friends that can say these things to each other - that when they met me, they were afraid of or intimidated by me. This used to surprise me, because I generally don't think of myself as a scary person, or someone people ought to be intimidated by. Truth be told, I'm pretty insecure about a lot of things, and it takes a good deal of puffing myself up to even get out the door most mornings.

A friend from law school, who I adore, recently asked me to be in her wedding. I accepted, of course, and I’m honored, but it truly shocked me to be asked. I didn’t get, even though she’d said so plenty of times before, that she thought of me as such a close friend. I thought of her that way, but something in me didn’t really trust that it was reciprocated (and if she’s reading this, I’m sorry about that).

But I think that's the problem - my insecurity causes me to put up a tough front because I don't trust people not to hurt me. I think it got worse after I lost my hearing, too, because so much changed for me, and people I thought were my friends stopped calling and fell out of my life as if we’d never shared anything at all. I spent the majority of my time in the two and a half years between losing my hearing and leaving for law school by myself. And it wasn’t always by choice; often it was by inertia – I didn’t try, and they didn’t either (the exceptions, and there were three, know who they are). So when I ended up in law school, surrounded by people all the time, I was out of practice and completely overwhelmed. It was just easier to be alone.

But some people made the effort: my suitemate first year, we’ll call her Hot Wings, was a pal literally from day one, always good for a beer and a laugh. Surfer Girl stopped me in the law school library bathroom during the second week of classes, we talked for 20 minutes, and we’ve been friends ever since. The Bride, I met her just before second year at Law Review orientation, and we were stuck like glue the whole year. Third year we were both so busy, and we didn’t have any classes together, so we didn't see each other as often, but it didn’t matter. Without the three of them, I probably wouldn’t have lasted the whole three years. But it took me a long time to really believe, and accept, and understand that they’re my friends. I’m working on this, and I think I’m getting better at it.

A couple of weeks ago, standing in line for the shuttle chatting, Work Friend (shut up - my fake-name-making-up skills were depleted in the previous paragraph) handed me her business card, on the back of which she'd written her cell phone number and her address here in the complex. She told me some people from work were going out that weekend, and asked if I wanted to go, but I had to go down to Richmond to get sworn in, so I couldn't make it. I thought she was just making conversation. Earlier this week at work, though, she IM'd me and said there was an extra ticket to a comedy show on Friday night, and would I like to go. I said yes. She emoticon-ed a smiley face.

I feel nervous, but hopeful. It’s a date.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Things to Be Happy About, Vol. 2

Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn't know you left open.
-- John Barrymore

If you're wondering about the history of this feature, see the original post. Comments from me in brackets.

1. Pro baseball players who wear the traditional short pants and long socks
2. mojitos
3. Gerbera daisies
4. listening to a new album over and over
5. 4-inch peep-toe pumps
6. the Santa Fe Chicken Salad from The Cheesecake Factory [I liked this one so much, it's in the notebook twice!]
7. the top of the Empire State Building on a clear day
8. someone who doesn't have to do anything but stand there in order to be sexy
9. having your 18th birthday fall on a Friday
10. having your 30th birthday fall on a Saturday
11. inside jokes
12. the paint mixer at Home Depot
13. old farmouses
14. breakfast for dinner

In other news, T-minus 15 days til the dentist.

Also, Fed Ex rules. I ordered a desk and a bookshelf last Thursday, and they were shipped Fed Ex. They weigh 49 and 50 pounds, according to my shipping invoice. I live on the third floor. Last week, I had to go to the Fed Ex shipping depot to pick up a package that weighed a mere 5 pounds because I was never home when they came to deliver it (because, you know, I work), and they wouldn't leave it (I live in a building where you need a pass key to get in the main door), so I was expecting to have to go pick these packages up, too. I got home tonight at 7:15 to find two giant packages leaning against my door! I don't know how they got in, and I don't care; I'm just psyched I didn't have to leave them in my car and wait for the next time my brother comes to visit to help me carry them up here!

Friday, November 2, 2007


"I'll never be a rich man, but what happy man ever was?"
-- Jacob, November 1, 2001

You know, I don't worry that much about money. The truth is, I make a comfortable living; I have everything I need, and plenty of things I want (more than necessary, if you believe my mother), and enough to give a little to causes I care about. Don't get me wrong - I have plenty of bills, and I'll probably be in debt til I die for law school, but it all seems to work itself out somehow.

I didn't become a lawyer for the money, and working in the public sector, I don't make the kind of money that makes people think lawyers make a lot of money. I knew when I went to law school that "Big Law" wasn't for me - I'm not interested in 80-hour work weeks, billable hour requirements, corporate law, and wearing a suit every day. I went to school near New York City, though, so many of my classmates went the BigLaw route, and when I first heard that they were making $160,000 right out of the gate (my friends aren't bragging; big-firm salaries are public knowledge), I had a momentary pang of "Maybe I was a little hasty." But I like my job, and I like my life here, and I am grateful that I haven't yet had to work a weekend or a late night (though it's probably inevitable that I will before I leave this job).

During the past several weeks, however, Above the Law has been reporting on year-end bonuses in BigLaw, and the numbers are just staggering: $35,000 for first-year associates (pro-rated, since they didn't start until after the bar, but still); second-years are getting that much, plus "special bonuses" of $10,000 or more. It's mind-boggling, and part of me can't help but think how much easier things would be with that money.

The larger part of me, though, knows I would never really want to do the work required to earn those bonuses. And they do earn them. It's not like they're sitting in their offices, updating their fantasy football teams or shopping at Pottery Barn online (and if it is like that, don't email me; I don't want to know). The people I know in BigLaw are super-smart, they like their jobs (for the most part), and they work their asses off, and they're worth every penny those firms will pay them.

But I'm just sayin': Christmas is coming. I accept gift cards.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Tuesday's Things To Be Happy About

Happiness isn't "out there." It's "in here."
-- Unknown

In the interest of full disclosure, I admit that I am cheating a little bit with this post, but I wanted to have a regular feature here at HMITH (Yes? No? I can't decide whether I like the acronym or not), and this is what I've come up with.

When I was a senior in high school, my dad went on sabbatical from his job to do research at the University of Barcelona. My mom and I went with him for the fall semester. When I first got there, I was miserable and I cried every day. I know it sounds stupid and ungrateful, and the adult that I am now can see that, but then all I could see was that I'd had to leave my friends, my boyfriend, and all the things that senior year means, to spend four months all the way across the ocean where I didn't know anyone except my parents.

We moved there in mid-September. In October, my parents enrolled me in a Spanish high school so that I could meet people my own age and have something to do every day. That single choice changed everything about my trip. I made so many friends, and finally had things to do that were interesting to me (back then, museums and stuff just didn't cut it), and I literally stopped crossing off the days til I got to go home on my calendar. In November, I bought a little notebook - it's got graph paper in it, which makes me smile, because that's just how they do it in Europe - and decided to start making a list of, and I quote from the "title page" I created, "Things to be happy about, reasons to smile, the little things that make life worth living, etc. . . ."

I've kept it up, on and off, over the past 14 years (almost to the day - the date on the title page is November 5, 1993), and it now has more than 1400 items in it. Reading back through it is like looking at a time capsule of my life at particular points. I can tell, almost without a doubt, where I was when I added any given item, and sometimes, stream of consciousness is obvious because there will be a whole series of related items that take me back to another place altogether (camp, for example). It turns out, too, that some of them don't quite make sense to me anymore (Nail files? Really, Mel? Must have been a slow news day).

Anyway, I thought I'd pick 10-20 every week and share them with all of you, in the hopes that you'll get to know a little bit more about me and that they might bring a smile to your faces as well. So without further ado, here is the inaugural edition of Tuesday's Things To Be Happy About (comments from the current me appear in brackets):

1. adorable foreign boys that you can only look at and laugh at because you can't speak their language
2. a completely erased blackboard - no stray marks left to annoy you
3. brothers
4. realizing that teenagers everywhere are pretty much the same
5. wishing on the first star you see
6. electronic mail [ha! how long has it been since people called it that?]
7. pineapple juice
8. when you were little, pretending to be asleep in the car so your dad would carry you up to bed
9. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
10. dogs with curly tails
11. long-sleeved t-shirts
12. the way ballet dancers run in toe shoes
13. reading a long book in one day
14. finally grasping something and realizing that you won't have to take Math 115 pass/fail after all
15. champagne bottles with the black labels you can write on

Hope you enjoyed this - I'm looking forward to your comments!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Dentist

"You only got one life; you can't sit around waitin' for your next life to start."
-- Lucille, Crazy in Alabama

I think I'm going to ask out my dentist. Do you think that's weird? I mean, he's only my dentist in the sense that I saw him for the first time about 10 days ago, after I got decked in the mouth by a line drive while pitching softball at a work picnic, and I have to go back to see him for a follow up in about 3 weeks.

We laughed and joked through the whole appointment; when I told him I'm a lawyer, he said, "Well, nobody's perfect." When I complimented his garden, which I could see from the exam room window, he said, "Would you believe me if I told you I did it myself?" I said, "Sure, I'd believe you. [Beat] Is it true?" He cracked up and said no. The first thing he asked me after he introduced himself was whether the male co-worker whose name I listed as having referred me was my "better half." He touched my arm several times throughout the appointment. He doesn't wear a ring, and my co-worker later told me he thinks he's single. I think I'm going to ask him out. Part of me really believes he might say yes. Part of me thinks the "follow up" might be a complete fabrication on his part. Most of me thinks I'd better not get my hopes up.

The thing is, I really suck at stuff like this. If you know me in real life, you know that I turn into a giant puddle of dork whenever the moment comes that I have to talk to the guy I have a crush on. I blush profusely, I look anywhere but at his face, I stammer, I talk around what I want to say instead of just coming right out and saying it. It's really unbelievable. Somehow, I got to be 30 without knowing how to ask a guy to have dinner with me. And I don't know what I'm so afraid of: so he says no? Big effing deal, right? At least I put it on the line.

I want to get better at this, I do. I promised myself when I moved and started my new "real" life post-law school that I would stop waiting for things to just happen to me. There are things in life that I want, the big things - a husband and a family - and I finally understand that I have to make them happen for myself. But it feels really scary.

I have a plan for asking out the dentist. I have three weeks to psych myself up.

Or out. Bets?

Friday, October 26, 2007


My life's an open book
and it starts on chapter nine
-- Harry Connick, Jr., Reason to Believe

Ok, so . . . blogging. I've been thinking about it for a while now, and just yesterday my friend Karen and I decided that we would each start a blog. We decided we'd give ourselves the weekend to come up with catchy blog names and, maybe, pen names. As in most things, I tend to be an overachiever, so I came up with my blog name this afternoon - although it might actually be more of a sign of boredom at work than anything else. I decided against a pen name, and instead will reserve all my fake-name-making-up skills for the people I talk about, which is how most of the people whose blogs I read (see side bar) do it. Might as well copy the best, you know.

As for the name of my blog, well, it took me a while (by which I mean I agonized over it for a couple hours). I know the blog name is pretty important, and I wanted to be sure to choose a good one. I even googled "how to choose a blog name." Really, I did. None of you who know me will be surprised by that. Anyway, Hear Me in the Harmony means a couple different things to me. It happens to be my favorite Harry Connick, Jr., song, and also I fancy myself a bit of a singer. But more than that, I thought it was a good name because it sort of symbolizes adding my voice to the larger chorus of bloggers out here on the internets. I'm happy to finally be among them, and I hope you enjoy visiting with me.

My blog, like many others that I read, will just generally be about my life and what's happening in the world. I don't promise a laugh a minute or clever turns of phrase or serious discussion about world politics. Don't get me wrong, there might be some of that, sometimes, but I don't want to set the bar too high, you know. It's just me. I'm glad you're here, and I hope you'll come back.