Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve 2009

Getting ready to leave the house to start the 2009 New Year's Eve celebration. I'm celebrating already - I went to Kohl's in a desperate last minute attempt to find black heels that I could wear with a new dress (I hate heels. Never need them. Until I need them. And then its too damn late). Or boots. They had nothing. Christmas had cleaned them out. And then, on a shelf, mixed in with shoes I would never glance twice at, was one pair of Aerosoles knee boots, in my size, in black. Only one pair. And they were 50% off. It was a sign that it was finally time to buy myself some slutty-ho boots. And since they actually zipped (with a slight struggle) over my (ahem) "athletic" calves, I just about ran to the check out.

I'm wearing slutty knee boots to ring in 2010! Yay 2010!

I'm going to squeeze one more workout in before 2009 ends, then Prof and I are going to dinner at a time suitable for only the over 65 crowd, so we can get our asses to the symphony, where we will pretend to be cultured (and I will probably just stare at my boots thinking how cool they are) and drink champagne. After the cultured part of the evening, we are heading to his friends house to debauch at a party wishfully dubbed "Live Nude Girls, 2009." (Note to everyone out there - if you put the word Nude in your Evite, most of your friends will never get it because the spam filter will get to it first).

Its going to be a good night. As long as I can get those boots zipped one more time.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The way we were...

In just another day, we are ringing in a whole new decade. Bye bye oughts. Hello teens! Is that what we are going to call them? At any rate, I did a whole lotta growing and changing in the 00's and found myself thinking about what my life was like 10 years ago, as we desperately searched for our old Prince albums so we could get our dance on like it was 1999.

In late December 1999, this is what life was like:

I had just bought my house and moved in with P. Rex. We had been here for about a month. Everything was new and fresh. We didn’t have a washer and dryer yet – Sundays were spent at my mom’s house robbing her of hot water and electricity so I didn’t have to hang out with the poor people at the Laundromat. I guess I didn’t realize it, but I was the poor people I didn’t want to be hanging out with.

I made less than $27,000 a year at my entry level public service job. With that $27,000 I paid my brand new mortgage, student loans and credit card loans, while finding the money to buy cheap IKEA furniture and food. And gas!

But gas was no big expense. I drove my red 1989 Dodge Omni 5-speed 60 miles round trip to work, but gas was something like $1.25 a gallon, and although the car companies want you to think that cars that get over 30 mpg are a new thing, that friggin’ car averaged 35 mpg and it hauled ass. Finding money for fuel was never a problem, but finding money to keep that damn car running sometimes was. The paint would leach off and leave a ring around the car every time it rained, and the horn would randomly go off as I was driving down the road. Or pulling into parking spaces. Or sleeping (my neighbors loved me). I eventually unplugged the horn and prayed I would never get myself into a tight spot (safety first!). For the record, we were so poor that Prex didn’t yet own a car, and commuted 60 miles round trip (in the opposite direction) on his motorcycle. All. Winter. Long.

OMG. I SMOKED CIGARETTES! I just remembered that, when thinking about that damn Omni. The Omni smelled like a big mobile ash tray, because I refused to ever (ever!) throw a butt out the window. I much preferred to let them accumulate on the floor.

Clearly, in 1999, I was a slob. And slovenly. And lazy. And overweight. I had not yet run my first mile. I didn’t know the difference between a kayak and a canoe. I don’t even think I owned hiking boots. Yet, P.Rex and I fancied ourselves outdoorsy. Yeah. And delusional.

I also thought a good meal out involved Taco Bell or Macaroni Grill, the restaurant where they give you crayons to color on the table with. I had no idea how to cook food. I had yet to learn how to sauté, let alone knowing how to use garlic as a potent culinary weapon. I think our diet mostly consisted of pizza take-out, sub shop take out, then Chinese take-out, then Chinese leftovers. Guess you wouldn't be surprised that I was doing battle with acid reflux, would you? I couldn’t stomach medium salsa or anything that even remotely smacked of spice. Indian food? Forget it. Thai? I didn’t even know that was different than Chinese.

As we got ready to ring in 2000, all my friends from college still lived nearby. And I actually saw them on a regular basis. We partied like it was 1999 (with that Prince album someone miraculously found in a box somewhere). Except, I totally forget where it was that we partied. Seriously. Who forgets where they rang in the new century? Me, apparently.

And how did I make a special play list for New Year’s Eve 1999? By carefully selecting songs from my CDs and painstakingly transferring them to a tape (that’s right. I said “tape”) on my super sweet Sony RX 70 mini hi fi component system, after spending hours considering the correct sequencing. And once the tape was made, I could copy it with the high speed dubbing feature. High speed dubbing!

And, wherever I was on New Year’s Eve, I was taking pictures with my 35 mm camera. My 35 mm film camera. Remember those? You had to load the film in, then rewind it after taking 24 or 36 pictures. Take the film out, deliver it to the nearest drug store, fill out a bag for each one, wait a week and pray that there was at least one picture taken of you that didn’t make you look like a drunken crazed lunatic (p.s. there never were).

As we get ready to ring in a new decade, I am ten years older, twenty pounds lighter, totally smarter and way more funny.

I’ve been in my house for an entire decade. Prex is gone, as are the several thousand other boyfriends who saw action here. The walls have all been painted, many more than once. The basement is filled with way too much crap I never use. Gardens have been built, destroyed, and rebuilt. A new deck was built. Windows were broken and repaired (sometimes) and neighbors have come and gone. Its probably time to replace the washer and dryer we scrimped and saved for. And before the night is out, this starter house will have big girl sustainable wood floors.

Wood floors that I can pay for because I make way more than $27,000 even with the recent pay cut. I don't want to rub it in for those of you who don't have it, but expendable income is a really nice thing. Its something I definitely didn't have at the beginning of this decade. The cash, might I remind you, only exists because I never moved out of my starter house and I never popped out babies who like to be clothed and fed.

I did buy a new car though. And it likes to be fed. And clothed (yes, the car has a bra). And as the new decade begins, the new car is almost as old as the omni was last decade, and is starting to have just as many quirks. Still running pretty good for a 9 year old VW with 192,000 miles.

Yes. If you include the miles on the omni during 2000 and the first part of 2001, I drove over 200,000 miles this decade. That's 20,000 miles a year. And 6,666 gallons of gas (I'm not making that number up.) So much for my carbon footprint. And expendable income.

All my college friends moved away, to more exciting lives in NYC, Boston, Indianapolis, Utah... We are still great friends, but I miss the days where we actually hung out and did things without a month long planning effort. I was lucky enough to find really great local friends at work and in the neighborhood who have gotten me through the majority of the decade. But, with husbands and babies, even though they are geographically close, it still takes a month of planning to get us all together (or at least an intense morning of reply to all emails).

I quit smoking at some point, and started running. And bought my first kayak. And then second kayak. And third, and fourth... And despite talking about it for years, I still have yet to rig some pulleys to store them under the deck, or in the basement.

I learned how to cook. I learned how to eat and love spicy food. I learned that all white wines don't taste like ass, and learned that there was more to red wine than chianti and merlot (wine taste thanks to expendable income. See above).

And even though my iPod is circa 2002, at least I'm not making mixed tapes anymore. And the bad photos are gone. I learned the chin down, eyes up method. And learned how to use the delete button on the camera. The waterproof, underwater, digital camera (amazing!).

There's so much more that happened this decade. A cell phone! A laptop! Social networking! My first real international trip. And my second, and my third. And the whitewater kayaking. And the death. And growth. And learning how to be a good friend and a good neighbor and a good daughter. And finding myself. And then, finding the Prof.

(I know. I want to barf too, but it had to be said. Its really nice to be ending the decade with him)

I don't think that 1999 Susan could have ever imagined 2009 Susan. I hope she would be pleased.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Grief Calendar vs. the cynic

Hospice keeps sending me stuff in the mail. Little letters of encouragement. Bereavement tips. Info on their annual quilt (with patches made out of your loved one's favorite shirt, blanket etc.) and Christmas angel tree. Reminders that they are they for us...

It all gets immediately recycled.

Its gotten particularly bad as the holidays have approached. I just went through a pile of mail and found something they sent after Thanksgiving that contained the "December Grief Calendar - Hope for the Holidays." The calendar contains an action for every day in December to help you through "this difficult time" and remember your loved one. The Grief Calendar lists things like "draw a picture of a bird, symbolizing the soaring spirit of your loved one" and "draw a picture of a wreath, symbolizing that there is no beginning or end to love." My personal favorite, for Friday December 11: "Write the word "hero" and the first name of your loved one."

Really? Does anyone actually do this b.s.? Its like Stewart Smalley himself graduated from personal affirmations to bereavement counseling and calendar development. I spent December 11 hauling 50 pound boxes of sustainable wood (giggle) from unsustainable SUV to living room. I found that to be much more therapeutic than writing "Hero Dad" on my refrigerator. Then having to vomit up my lunch.

Its no surprise that a cynical, unsentimental person like myself would be sickened and horrified by the Grief Calendar. I am sure, that there are people out there, somewhere, that would find this useful. And don't get me wrong, the hospice people are just trying to help. But every time I get their mailings, I feel bad about myself. Because I'm really not grieving. Particularly now.

Remember my migraines? Daily, unrelenting, disabling headaches? Gone. Poof. Almost like magic - right after dad passed away. The stress of caring for him went away, and so did the headaches. Granted, I've still got a lot of stress dealing with his house and the estate and money and bills, but I haven't once taken a day off work or canceled social plans because of a headache since we buried him.

And the holidays? So simple this year. And so unstressful. Holidays with my dad were never pleasant. When I was younger, he was prone to fits of rage during the holidays and we were always on edge until the tree came down. In college, he was downright scary during the holidays and for several years in a row, I spent Christmas Eve in tears because of something he said or did. When he was older, and I had moved out of the house, and his mother had passed away, Christmas was just a sad event and we spent time with him mostly out of pity and obligation. He really made an effort in the last years of his life, but the scars of my childhood holidays will never leave.

And so, now that I'm done making fun of it, the December Grief Calendar goes in the recycle bin. And I'm going to Kohl's, because part of the reason that this holiday has been stress free so far is that I had convinced myself I didn't need to buy things for people. Now, the Christmas panic is setting in. Where's my Festivus pole?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Snow Day

I'm freshly showered, wearing black underthings and am snowed in with my boyfriend. Too bad he is busy playing Halo with his best friend who struggled up the street in the driving snow to take a break from his wife and three snow covered kids.

Eh. I guess you can't have it all.

The East coast is mired in a major snowstorm - the first one we've seen here in several years, so people are going ape shit. The weather dude is calling it the "Beast from the East." Seriously. But whatever, it is a great chance to sit in and do absolutely nothing. Which I really need to do. And having a boy to do it with is an extra nice bonus. Also a bonus, the fireplace, which just got lit.

We stayed in bed extra late this morning - no reason to get up because we weren't going anywhere in either of our small, compact cars. We watched some 24-hour a day snow reports "They are out of shovels at home depot, Cliff! That's right. There is a shovel shortage..." Then shoveled the driveway and sidewalk. Then, went sledding.

He was a bit skeptical at first. Me: "Let's go sledding!!" Him: "I haven't been sledding since I was 12.." "The snow isn't good." "Its too cold" It took a little working up to it, but we went walking with my plastic boat sled from 1987 and my inflatable tube sled from decades ago (can't believe it still held air) and found a street with a decent hill to sled on, which happened to be right in front of his Halo friend's house. It was slow going. The snow is powdery and dry. And we are heavy and old. These things did not go real well together. But after slowly making a track, we had ourselves a nice slick run. Too bad it ran into a mailbox and a car. Whatever.

We were sledding for maybe an hour and a half, maybe two, and then ran out of steam. I mean, we are adults after all. Walking uphill in the snow is exhausting! And it was freezing. And after numerous faceplants into a snowdrift, my scarf was filled with snow and making my neck cold. We drank some spiked hot chocolate at the friends house, and made our way back to Prof's.

The Halo game is over and his friend has left. Prof is now strumming his 12-string guitar and the fire is burning. And I'm blogging. I'm silly. Think I'm going to grab a glass of red wine and make some use of this storm.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Born to Blog

I was destined to be a dating blogger.

Last week, I started going through piles of paper at my dad's house. The things that got kept in that house are amazing: stacks of letters from various neighbors and relatives from when you still had to put a stamp on something to send an update on your life; report cards; scripts from middle school plays; school newspapers comprised of crossword puzzles, interviews with teachers and gossip printed on dot-matrix printers and.... my 7th grade class journal.

I vaguely remember having to write in the journal, but I don't remember the teacher who made us do it. It looks like every few days, we were assigned a topic to write about. It is so utterly interesting to read through what 7th grade susan thought of life. I remember 7th grade being the worst time in my life, but there is no real indication of that in what I wrote. Either I was putting a happy spin on my life, or I was truly delusional.

On October 22, 1987, we were apparently asked to write about our most embarrassing moment. For your reading pleasure, here it is, completely unedited and unchanged:

"I was most embarrassed with Mark R. (the biggest drip in the whole school) kept sitting with me on the bus and told someone he liked me.

For one thing, he wears his jacket rolled up over his elbows 'till its like short sleeve length. He tries to act all cool. With his hair, well I don't know about his hair. Yesterday I asked him if he was going to the Halloween dance. Yes. I'm going. I'm going to be very embarrassed if he comes up to me. I don't know what I'll do. He'll probably pester me through the whole thing. Uuuggh! I am going to DIE!

I mean, Mark R.! REALLY!"

I mean, really! I've been saying snarky things about boys in writing since 1987. And my writing style hasn't changed a whole hell of a lot; except I say things like hell. And fucking.

And if that wasn't funny enough, I will leave you with this, from November 17, 1987:

"If I could meet somebody famous, it would be Kirk Cameron. Why? Because he is Sooooooooooooo Cute! He really is, but he probably wouldn't be too fun to have around, all this cuteness probably went to his head."

Oh. My. God. If I only had known what was going to happen to that dude.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Disconcerted

You will be glad to know that soon, very soon, I will no longer bitch every other day about how my carpet smells like cat pee. But tomorrow morning, the garbage men (ahem, I mean, sanitation engineers) are going to be plenty unhappy with me because a big mound of cat pee carpet awaits them.

It is out of my house. Gone. Ripped up. I am living on subfloor. And it blows.

I turned the living and dining rooms upside down this weekend. It was like I was packing to move, except the only thing leaving is the cat pee. All my pictures, cds, videos, clutter, plants, more clutter and books got put into boxes and carted to the basement (also slightly cat-peey) or the guest bedrooms. Some furniture got moved out, some just got realigned. The end result is that I feel like I'm living in someone else's house.

Its so weird. Downstairs is empty, and sounds hollow when I talk. There is nothing left down there that screams "Susan!!!". It could be anyone's house. Anyone's beat up couch. It is quite disconcerting. It feels sad somehow - like I'm leaving. But I'm not. I don't know why the empty floor is freaking me out so much. I tried to sit and watch tv for a little bit, but I couldn't. The tv is in the middle of the room. The lights are in weird spots and the echo is awful. I just don't want to be in there.

It might be extra disconcerting because this process is going to begin soon at my dad's house. The carpets have to come up, the furniture has to be given away, my first car is going to get hauled away to the car squasher and my pink, horrific childhood room is going to get painted beige.

My installer is coming next week (please, please, please let him not postpone my job) to put in hardwood (smirk) floors. Just in case you are curious, I'm going with carbonized bamboo. Its sustainable wood (snort. giggle.) and really, the only reason I even bothered to mention it was so I could make that bad wood joke. I'm clearly running out of material.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A collective Aw

I'm free.

Last night, we had a class "celebration" on our final night of fall semester. I turned in my take-home final (12 pages of inspired bullshit) and endured 45 minutes of small talk with my classmates, followed by 45 minutes discussion on "what you got out of this class."

Frankly, not a whole hell of a lot (although there were snacks). So I'm glad its over.

As we were leaving, my classmates invited me to join them at the local wine bar. I shook my head and said "Sorry, I have a dinner date." An entire half of the room collectively said "aaaawww!" I rolled my eyes. Come on people! One of my classmates was actually a T.A. for Prof several years, so she is pulling for us. And always asks me about him.

Prof walked down from his office to meet me outside class, and as I was looking for him, my classmates were quizzing me. "You are dating a professor?" "Who is it" "Yadda yadda." "Nosy nosy." All of a sudden, Prof's actual name was dropped and suddenly, I had a classmate's arm around me. She had an adoring look in her eyes. "He was my favorite professor EVER!"

It was SO funny. You could tell that her opinion of me changed instantly as soon as she found out who my boyfriend was. Before I was Prof's girlfriend, I was just this annoying, outspoken and cynical adult student that she had to endure during class. Now, I'm Prof's girlfriend and worthy of respect and adoration. I should have name dropped way earlier in the semester.

Its rare that people have liked me more because of who I was dating. I've gotta find a way to exploit this.

Monday, December 7, 2009

What is Quorn, you ask?

This post will serve to lend credence to Kiwi's comment that this blog is slowly turning into a food blog. So my love life has become stable and secure and happy and healthy and I have absolutely nothing to talk about except what I shove in my mouth (get your mind out of the gutter, you dirty, dirty person you). Its only a matter of time before Prof and I fight, or break up, or have babies (that one is for you Elena) and then, this blog will become interesting again. Until then...

I apparently mystified some of you with my constant reference to this thing called Quorn over the past week or so. And I can't let you go one more day wondering what you are missing out on.

Quorn is a meat-substitute that is deeeeelicious. Its a chicken-like substance, without any of the chicken guilt. It comes in breaded nugget form, breaded cutlet form, unbreaded cutlet form, chunk form for stir frying, and a petite little roast. I think I recently saw some kind of fancy cheese stuffed form in the freezer section too. Its low fat, low calorie, no cholesterol and high in fiber. What could be better than that?

Well, it has a couple problems: One, its more expensive than your typical garden burger variety meat substitutes. Two, its made from fermented fungus.

That's right folks. I had an orgasmic thanksgiving experience eating fermented fungus.

The company prefers to call it "mycoprotein", for obvious reasons.

Rumor has it that in the 1970's crazy survivalists started messing with alternative protein development (think soylent green) and stumbled onto some strange soil fungus that they cultivated and grew and put barbeque sauce on. It was sold overseas for decades, but only made its way to the U.S. about eight years ago. Apparently there were rumors of severe allergic reactions (started by Garden Burger, maybe?) and that kept them out of the U.S. market for quite a while.

Tofurkey used to have the corner on Thanksgiving meat replacement, but it never really did anything for me. The fake meat was gelatinous, the stuffing it came with had a texture I could never quite place, and it sometimes tasted like licking a salt cube. But Quorn is good, despite being made out of fermented soil fungus. It has texture. And taste. And its not too salty. And it makes a damn fine leftover sandwich.

And I ate the last of mine for dinner tonite. I guess Thanksgiving is finally over.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Leftovers

The crappiest thing about riding mass transit to and from my Thanksgiving celebration this year was not the angry black woman sitting next to me, or the smell of the bus bathroom, or the riots, - it was the distinct lack of leftovers I had in my baggage.

The day after Thanksgiving we munched on leftover (and delicious) rosemary biscuits before I hopped on the train, but that was it. No leftover Quorn and veggie gravy could be packed in the bags. No cranberry sauce! No mashed potatoes! No sweet potatoes! No heavenly brussels sprouts. No homemade stuffing! Not having to battle turnpike traffic and wonder whether my car was going to survive another road trip was nice and all, but...

I really like leftovers.

So, I got a bug up my ass on Monday and made leftovers for myself. Boxed stuffing, quick cranberry sauce, and brussels sprouts with parmesan cheese (I know that many of you have already heard me talking incessantly about these brussels sprouts, but I can't shut up about them). It was ok, but it left me wanting more.

So, I did it again on Thursday night, this time with Prof. I fantasied about stuffing and sweet potatoes all afternoon, and on my entire commute home. I realized I was being ridiculous - who gets excited about Thanksgiving dinner a week after Thanksgiving is over? Me, apparently. And luckily, Prof too.

I haven't cooked that much in my kitchen for years. All four burners were going at once, plus the oven and the toaster oven. Nothing was overly complicated or difficult, it just required a little pot planning. And it was so worth it. Particularly considering that Prof and I didn't spend actual Thanksgiving together. Quorn, cranberry sauce (not in the shape of a can), stuffing, those brussels sprouts I can't shut up about, sweet potato casserole and pumpkin pie (frozen Sarah Lee. I'm not freakin Martha Stewart. I can't do it all). Mmm...mmm...mmm...

And I still have leftovers.