A Commuter's Conflict

There's a funny little exercise that plays out every morning when I get off the train in the morning. The gang of probably 60 people that rely on the corporate shuttle from the train station to our offices first shuffle along the train platform, wait at the crossing for our train to leave, and then herd ourselves on the 5 buses lined up on the other side of the tracks.

There is usually a morning greeting to the folks you know. Inquiry about the weekend activities. Grunt about it being only Tuesday. Brief comment about the weather.
But there's one guy who doesn't really know anyone, he's a temporary contractor, but boy, is he interested in saying hello to you. This is the funny part of the commuting ritual.

Over the past week, I've watched him eagerly introduce himself to people on the platform, people crossing the tracks with him, and then the unfortunate soul who ends up spending the 15 minute ride to the office park sitting next to him. It does not matter if it is the morning or the evening, this guy wants to be your friend.
He is kind, but has an eagerness that is disconcerting. He brings a missionary zeal to commuter pleasantries. "What's your name?" "What department do you work in?" I timidly fear that his next question might genuinely be, "Are you ready to accept Jesus Christ as your lord and savior?"

Poor guy, he's not doing anything wrong. You can probably tell I'm conflicted about this. Why be so grumpy towards someone who's just trying to be friendly? But yet, I dreaded his nearing proximity to me.

After watching him for at least 4 rides back and forth this week, I knew my solitude was running out. He'd turn to me next. It was only a matter of time. He'd spoken to nearly every other person already.

Sure enough, this morning I thought I'd made it through the ride to work unperturbed, but as I was scooping oatmeal into my little bowl in the cafeteria, a shadow lurked in the periphery.

"Hey, good morning for oatmeal isn't it?"

He got me.

It Begins

We took our first steps to home ownership this past week. Well, maybe not first steps.

If this were a camping trip we were going on, I'd say that we'd started packing our bags, and looked at brochures on potential camping sites. (I met with a mortgage lender, and we spent a Saturday driving around with our realtor.)

I learned that even though the lessons of the mortgage crisis should be ringing in our ears at ridiculously high decibels right now, we can still get approved to purchase a home far, far more expensive than we really need. The kind of home where if we got a flat tire one month, we'd probably end up defaulting on the mortgage.

We laughed at the fireplace in one new rehabbed condo that looks like one of those fake torches you find at Spencer Gifts.

Jason discovered a perhaps overly discerning eye for the way a front door looks. He was ready to nix one property for its goofy big street name and number. (I agree, it did look out of rhythm with the feel and facade of the building, but coaxed him to to keep the condo under consideration.)

We nodded approvingly when we saw our realtor firmly take a builder to task for listing a bathroom as a master suite when it was not.

I stomped on floors in the model above as Jason ran to the model downstairs to listen for how thin the floors were for noise.

I came home not knowing how to compare the places we had seen. This one had a great private deck where you can see the Hancock tower. The next one had a brilliantly sunny living room, but a tiny master bath, just as small as my tiny Philadelphia apartment bathroom, where when you stood at the sink, the backs of your calves hit the toilet rim. Then what about that place with the California closets, but no deck?

We do have the option to consider buying our current apartment, which might be perfect if I could only pick the building up and move it across the street so that our living room faced south instead of north. This is a terrific place in so many other ways, and it'd be our forever home without hesistation, if we were moles. I just wish there were more sunshine. Turing on the lights just is not the same as glowing, warm sunlight. But if that's my only objection...? The non-mole in me must consider this.

A Perfect Time for Tulips

Jason sent me a bouquet of pink, red, and yellow tulips this week at work. Regular readers will know that I adore flowers! (I once dated a guy who explained over dinner that he disliked cut flowers because 'why did you have to kill something to give someone a gift?' While I academically admired his noble point of view, I knew a little then that he wouldn't be the one for me.)
This time of year seems perfect tulips. As the advance scouts for the spring and summer flowers that follow, looking at my tulips when it's 0 degrees out reminds me that spring will come sometime.
I'm fascinated by parrot tulips too. They're like the free-spirited, hippie little sister to the prim, perfect tulip.

Feel-Good Friday

When I'm feeling discouraged or road-raging, I think I should just watch these Liberty Mutual ads. Again and again.
Perhaps I have an increased susceptibility to this advertising, working in marketing (or the snake oil selling dark arts, some might suggest) myself, but I think my heart actually swells and warms a little watching these thoughtful "Good Deeds" ads. The music is a perfect woeful but hopeful lullaby anthem. (The perfect mood music for late night plane rides headed home.)
The commercials reflect the easy feel-good glow you can get by doing a small daily good deed.
Not sure if it counts, but last Friday night a guy was trying unsuccessfully to get our bartender's attention, I noticed and the next time she looked our way, I pointed instead to him. He waved gratefully.
At the grocery store (one of two aforementioned trips last Saturday) the guy in the next line over was 25 cents short, three of us were practically competing to find a quarter to donate. I lost the quick draw contest.
I'm not sure that I scored a good deed today. Except maybe not gloating when the Columbus Bluejackets beat the Chicago Blackhawks at the hockey game we went to tonight. This was also a self protection instinct though, as many of the hometown fans were a little grumpy and didn't need a target for their disappointment.

Patience: Working on It

I sometimes admittedly let the little things drive me up the wall. And when two of the identical, irksome thing happen in one day: AAARRRGH. Why do I do it? Why allow myself, a big adult girl, get stuck on something like less than $5 worth of groceries.

$1.79 of a plastic ice scraper and $2.20 in smoked salmon to be specific.

We made two trips to the grocery store on Saturday. It must have been an impulse like the squirrels have to bury their nuts for wintertime nourishment. The first very bitter cold day of the year inspired me to look at our staples and discover that unless we were planning on riding out a snowstorm on 5 different kinds of mustard, I needed to go to the grocery store. (The second trip was prompted by Jason's judgment that I did not buy enough snacks. Not a single new addition to his snack cabinet.)

We discovered that the ice scraper that we'd bought must have been left at the end of the conveyor belt after checkout when we needed it to (obviously) scrape off the windshield that night. It was not a disaster, we have another one, but it's perhaps the newly-married spirit that has left me feeling useless when I sit inside the warming up car as Jason scrapes by himself. Two people should have two ice scrapers! And I kind of destroyed by Banana Republic card in my attempt to help last week.

Then Sunday morning I woke up ready for my poppy-seed bagel, chive cream cheese, tomato and smoked salmon breakfast bagel. I hungrily piled my supplies on the kitchen counter...but could not find the salmon. Not in any of the drawers of the refrigerator, not even accidentally placed in the freezer! It also must have been overlooked at the end of the conveyor belt.

Seriously, two shopping trips and each one had an item left behind by the baggers!
I am not proud of the immediate thought that comes to mind: how hard is it to put things in bags!!? (This is not a fair criticism, since some of the baggers are mentally challenged and they probably try. And the rest of them are high school kids who maybe aren't trying because they are bored to death. The only half decent one is this guy who looks like Mo Rocco and Jason insists he's courting me, after he struck up a conversation about Supreme Court Judges while I waited for Jason to pay. He later found me in the UPS store and inquired if he knew me from somewhere else besides the grocery store. After I explained where I worked, he queried my ability to lobby on his behalf as he's submitted a few patent applications to my company, because he's really an inventor!)

I thought I could change myself, learn to let go, it's only like $4. People make mistakes; I make mistakes. But I am immensely more satisfied tonight after stopping by the grocery store, presenting my receipts and being invited to pick up another of each of the missing items.

Now if only they'd let me return that chive cream cheese. It was a big disappointment. It was one of those products where you wish they'd used artificial coloring to make the chive pieces green, instead of the twiggy brown bits that made it onto my bagel this Sunday.
It occurs to me that maybe it's not "patience" I'm talking about here. Maybe forbearance? Please use the comments as a thesaurus to help me. Whatever it is, I likely need more of it.

You Are Beautiful

I saw this on an extended friend's blog, and I love its serendipity and good intention.
You Are Beautiful
The intention behind this project is to reach beyond ourselves as individuals to make a difference by creating moments of positive self realization. We're just attempting to make the world a little better....Projects like these make a difference in the world by catching us in the midst of daily life and creating moments of positive self realization.

It reminds me of the graffiti'd train overpasses in our neighborhood growing up. There was more often the 'tagging' of someone's name, but it was always a pleasant surprise to look up and see something like "I love you tracy."
And I like the idea of an unexpected interruption of the inner dialog that is saying, "You need to go to the gym," "You should call your aunt," "You're never going to finish in time," and then a stranger's voice whispers, "You are beautiful."

Wardrobe for My Dream Life

For this season's Project Runway, the "accessory wall" is sponsored by Bluefly.com. So, like an obedient little consumer, I find myself browsing Bluefly.com while watching PR.
Musing in my head about the idea of wearing a new, fun evening gown for our wedding dinner this June, I find far too many options for just one night.
And I wonder,
In what life do I get to wear this?
With these little shoes?

Or maybe this? (w/ a lovely little red shoe, for the receptions at the Embassy?)

And where are my "Real Housewives of Orange County" weekend cocktail parties to wear this one to?

This inspires me. I was at the mall the other weekend (yawn, I know) but I looked across the racks and saw this girl who clearly had fashion and "dressing up" in mind every day. She was wearing a cute pink floral print dress, black boots, and a fun plaid wool jacket. (It sounds a little motley, but with her plastic frame 'nerdy but adorable' glasses, it worked.) Another woman even said it aloud, "I love your outfit." I tried to step in closer to the rack of clothes I stood by, a poor attempt at camouflaging my jeans, hoodie, and lace-ups. I was dressed like I had been expecting to paint a room that day or maybe clean out horse stalls, not go out in public.
My closet has fallen into the 'look good when it matters to your career' workday clothing, and 'be comfortable' weekends. I've also had the crossroads moment when I spied someone from work at the mall, and tried to hustle up into a store. Can't have them find out my secret double life as a weekend stablehand.

Yeah, Like I Said...

The NYT Week in Review has a far more eloquent debate of the issue I fumbled with on January 8th, "Rights vs. Rights: An Improbably Collision Course." (Although, if the point is that the same racism and sexism at loggerheads situation happened in 1869, I'm not sure we can claim surprise that it's happening again now.)

Read it and imagine the voices of Frederick Douglass and Elizabeth Cady Stanton as commenters to the blog.

And good news, I can vote EARLY! Seems ironic in a town like Chicago, but I stopped listening to Jason telling me about his new hockey stick when the commercial came on television promising me that I can vote as soon as Monday. Confirmation came in a mailer in yesterday's mail. It's like Christmas coming on December 15th.

A Place to Call Home

The clock might have always been ticking, distantly, in our ears, but a phone call a week ago Friday started it pounding. Our lease is up at the end of April, and our landlord is ready to sell.
I'm feeling excited, anxious, worried, and intrigued.
Uncertainty has flown in like a bird onto our windowsill, chirping curiously, "Whatdo you want to do? Buy this place? Move? Move where?"

First I was alarmed and worried. Someone was calling and talking about taking away our HOME.

Then I got excited, all the possibilities of new rehabbed condos nearby. A perfect time for buyers, with the market so terrible; especially first-time home buyers who have no previous home to unload. The empty apartments inviting us in with their shiny modern conveniences like granite countertops, iPod hookups, cherry cabinets. We might find someplace even better than where we live right now.

My feelings sunk as we started to look at a few of the listings. Postage stamp sized decks, small mouse nook living rooms where I'm not sure our couch might even fit, and a doubling of our walk to the train station. Our place is looking a little better.
And it's tempting to consider what we could do with the money we wouldn't have to spend on movers. Having rented for so long, I'm attracted to the sense of permanence and control. Not worrying about the rent going up next year. When something's broken, being able to fix it the way you want. (Pointed example is that I would take down the granny fan our landlord brought in when the original one died.)
Buying furniture that is uniquely suited to this space. Small little things like putting up bedside lamps on the wall. (Without the worry of how big the hole will be and if it'll be deducted from the security deposit.)
PAINTING the walls with COLOR!!

New lights for the kitchen:

New lights for the hallway with a tidy, fitted, contrasting stripe:

A fun color for the master bathroom:

Bedside lamps:

Losing the ubiquitous plastic blinds:

Maybe a real dining table, a new bed:

With all that I have in mind, I might have to add a hefty allowance to the price of our new home. And convince Jason's dad, an electrician, to come help us with the multiple lighting dreams I have.

Never too Late to Resolve for oh-8

It's only common sense that Baby New Year should take baby steps. This is my guiding principle for the New Year's Resolutions.
No crazy goals like losing 10 pounds, making it to Director-level, or giving up caffeine. I prefer the little daily things that you can remember, do fairly immediately, and feel accomplished.

1. Sit up straight. Stand up straight. Good posture does a lot for conveying authority and beauty. Might make me look thinner too.
2. Drink more water. A good habit, and I'm sure there are more studies underway to tell me that it'll do great crazy things like lower my cholesterol and make my horoscopes come true. In an indirect way, it might help with the aforementioned caffeine addiction by displacing that habit beverage once or twice a day.

3. Take vitamins. After I worked on a drug for macular degeneration, I went into a good six months of faithful vitamin taking. Read enough articles and you can convince yourself that vitamins will make all the difference.

4. Take the stairs. Start with going down; then start going 2 floors up; eventually climb all four floors up, with the 20 lb backpack, at 8 am in the morning.

5. Eat smaller portions.
I saw on the news the other night that people will gobble down 27% more mac n' cheese if it's called creamy mac n' cheese. We will take 25% more pasta from the buffet if their plate is 2 inches wider. I may consider eating dinner off of my dessert plates.

6a. I hesitate, because I'm such a happy little lump on the couch when I get home from work (when do you think I do all this blogging?!), but I might try getting to the gym once a week, on a weeknight. I'm fairly ok on the weekends, but getting a weeknight in the mix would probably do a lot for my heart and my hips.
6b. Buy the running shorts AndraSue advised me of, and see if running might be something I like. Once the temperature gets above 45 around here, which will probably be April.

7. Make business travel more fun. Travel more for fun. Consider adding a day onto business trips for a tourism visit or to see a friend. Take Jason with me. (The corollary resolution for the Husband is to make him get a passport! Even if kidnapping and dragging to the post office blind-folded is required.)

8. Floss.
Especially after 2007's dental problems. And maybe find a new dentist too.

Those are my optimistic commitments for the year. No promises, but best efforts will be made.

And we might also be buying our first home. More will no undoubtedly be posted about that adventure.

Itching for Super Tuesday

It drives me *crazy* to watch other states get to vote before me! New Hampshire. Again, why?

For the first time, Jason and I find ourselves in hardening disagreement regarding our preferred candidates.
He: Obama.
Me: Clinton.
Not that I oppose Obama. And in fact, I like Richardson a lot too.
In fact, when I took the blinded Washington Post quiz to see which candidate I aligned with most on the issues, it was a near dead heat between Richardson, Clinton, Obama, and Edwards. I highly recommend this quiz, if you have a half hour at home to read and consider carefully.

It struck me how similar the Democratic candidates positions mirror each other.
It also delighted me to have such a robust panel of candidates to consider. And not just picking the least likely to lose. (Which was not, after all, John Kerry.) All of whom, I think, will represent a positive change from what we've had for the past 8 years. But this may be why it's come down to personality and charisma.

In a competitive attitude, Jason was nearing delight to report that Hillary Clinton cried yesterday. "It's falling apart!" he nearly squealed with glee. (I'd like to point out to my husband that I sympathetically took no such pleasure in watching Ohio State fall apart last night.)

Today I watched the clip. And I liked Hillary more. She was honest, raw, and passionate. Yes, I want someone who, when they're under stress and having a tough day, redoubles their passion and commitment.

There was also a pretty good op-ed in the NYT today by Gloria Steinem. She made an interesting historical point that African-American men got the right to vote a half century earlier than women. I've wondered aloud at the prejudice that prompts people at tables next to us in restaurants to say things like, "I just can't see a woman as a president. I don't think other leaders would take her seriously." To say the same thing about an African-American would prompt disapproving glares from other patrons, but I felt like the only one ready to get up and throw a drink in the face of the idiot who said that about Hillary. Watching a Mccain supporter ask, "how do we beat the bitch?" and him chuckle in return, drove me up a wall.
What force is stronger in America: sexism or racism?

In fourth grade I remember planning to be the first woman president when I grew up. But then, having a quick second thought and a flash of memory from Social Studies class, I declined that pursuit, with the hope that by the time I was eligible to become president (age 35) some other woman had already made it to the White House.
I thought it was reasonable.
But Clinton's my last chance.
"Just not this woman," Jason replies, "but, don't worry, a woman can make it to the White House."
"When?!" I reply, "How old will I be? Will my daughter have to see the same dream fall apart?"

Maybe I'm more depressed and dismayed after also watching Benazir Bhutto killed. I remember when she was elected to leadership in Pakistan when I was a little girl.

Finally, another opinion I agree with, on the Huffington Post.

I Question the Political Establishment

Why do Iowans caucus?
Why are they the only ones who do this?
When did they start doing this?
Why do we allow them to continue doing this?
After listening to so many overly-respective, 'never lose our intellectual curiosity' NPR stories about the Iowa caucus process: how it works, what it means if you show up at 7:01 pm instead of 7 pm (you are shut out), and how folksy Iowans take it so seriously; it was SO refreshing to hear my rock radio station DJ say, in between songs by the Stone Roses and Arcade Fire, "the Iowans are starting their odd political process tonight, which has gotten way too much attention from the media."
I feel so annoyed that we let the Iowans tell us who we can vote for later. (All respect to the one friend I have from Iowa.)
They aren't like me!
They don't represent me!
They picked Mike Huckabee!!!
I'm honestly so glad that Obama was trying to draw out the college students in Iowa; I can only hope that a lot of Grinnell students came back early from break to offer a point of view near my own.
I hate being excluded from important decisions.

Close Your Eyes, and You See People Falling

This is just a little insane. Or maybe what's more insane is my OCD compulsion, the little voice in my head saying, "No, no, over to the right, to the right, drop them there!"
I played too much Tetris in college.

How That One Ended

Here are a few pictures that show my answer to the dilemma of feeling like we were living in a fish bowl. I asked the readers of Apartment Therapy for their help and ideas, and someone suggested blik wall graphics. Even though I've used them on the walls before, I never even thought of them as window dressing.
It's been too cold for us to venture outside long enough to check the vantage points and visibility.
If this doesn't satisfy, I found a decal that is actually a venetian blind. (Of course, I can't find it now anymore online. Humph.)

A Quichette Postponed

Our NYE party at one point looked bleak, as snow was falling and two parties called in their last minute regrets saying they were sick. And there were quite a few who RSVP'd yes, but never showed. But it made us enjoy the company of those who came all the more.
In the end, we had enough to eat most all of the food and form a few rock bands, to play along with the XBox "Rock Band" game that one guest brought. (2 guitars, one drumset and one microphone for an at-home karoke-like experience.)

Such was the tizzy of keeping a party humming that I did not cook up the mini quiches I had prepped. Until this morning though, when I woke up with the "I may be too old for this" headache and craved some breakfast. With eggs and cheese and a flaky toastiness to it, why can't a quiche be breakfast?
It was tasty, and thanks to Juliet and Ann for the last minute telephone support last night when I realized during my prep work that there was no oven temperature on the recipe (375 was perfect) and no exact measurements for the fillings (that worked out ok too.)

I had to pause and reread again the last paragraph of a NYT article today that discussed the apparently traditional contemplation of the road not taken, the person you could have been, during New Year's. (And the healthfulness of this activity.)

"Widen the screen just a little, in fact, and a particularly prominent and disturbing lost self can be seen as merely one guest in a room full of permutations, good and bad. And each of those selves must have an idealized doppelgänger of its own.

Granted, it may be hard to make the case that one of those is the person capsized on the couch, recovering from last year’s last party. But give it a few days. Ghost-busting is possible, but best done without a hangover."

I probably missed the philosophical meaning of this parting sentence. I was just caught by the apt description of being "capsized on the couch", which is where I stll find myself snuggled in this evening. Half maybe due to headache, half due to childlike grudge towards having to go back to work tomorrow. Blech.

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