Friday, June 22, 2012

Thing Number Thirty-One | Joy

I never would’ve expected Skype to bring me joy.

I don’t think of myself as a techie-girl. I love my iPad and iPhone but I know I’m not utilizing half the features they offer. I’m on Facebook but I’m not on Twitter—I don’t tweet. I’m not very computer-savvy. I couldn’t put together a PowerPoint presentation or draw up an Excel spreadsheet. Jon handles our on-line banking. And I never expected to be a video-chatter, especially since I don’t even really like to talk on the phone.

But, then, I also never expected the Harlows to up and move to Aurora, Illinois, just outside Chicago. I guess I thought our dearest friends would live in the same place forever and we would keep on hanging out together and going on trips together and seeing movies together and doing all sorts of fun stuff together. Then Michael got a job with the New York Stock Exchange in Chicago. Well, hey, none of us saw that coming.

Our closest friends, our buddies, our sweet godson and his parents moved to Illinois. Darn it.

Jon and I couldn’t afford to be flying back and forth to O’Hare on a regular basis so we had to figure out something else. And that something else was Skype. Now we set up Skype-dates in advance and we usually talk for about two hours. All of us. Jon and me sitting side by side in front of the computer in my scrap room. Michael, Becca, and Ethan sitting in front of the computer at their place in Aurora. And we talk and talk and talk. Ethan usually brings stuff to show us. Today, he was all about the glow-in-the-dark dinosaur (“It’s a carnivore, Auntie Marie”) on his shirt and he’s a little worried that it will use up all of its glow-in-the-darkishness before we have chance to come see it in real life. He is so four. He was also all about his digital camera. Becca says he’s got quite an eye for photography and has taken lots of really cool photos. He was also eating dougnuts (made by Michael) and sweet rolls (made by Becca and him) and showing us those. During previous Skypes, he’s showed us his favorite trains and we’ve read books. Yep, if you hold the book up nice and close to the webcam (you also have to hold it pretty still) then the person on the other end up of the conversation can see it and read it (if the print’s pretty big).

If you’d told me, ten years ago, that I’d be video-chatting with friends who live in Illinois I’d have laughed and said, “Yeah, and I’ll be driving a flying car.” Well, Skyping’s a reality. Now I just need a flying car. I’m pretty sure that would bring me joy, too!

Thing Number Thirty | 3:35PM

3:35PM and I’m standing at the Rite Aid (formerly Thrifty’s) ice cream counter, waiting for my scoop of chocolate brownie (kind of bummed that they were out of my favorite:  rocky road).

Today is the last day of school for teachers. The kids had their last day of school yesterday (Thursday) and today is a teacher workday. Most years, I’m frantically trying to finish stuff up (get one last signature, finalize one last IEP, call one last parent) but this year I was pretty much ahead of the game. I stopped therapy last Friday and used this week to close down two sites (Coombs and Hoffer) and tie up any last preschool or IEP loose ends. Kimberly (Hoffer SDC teacher) and I were so grumpy with Amanda (district OT) because she found an annual review we’d missed (how the heck did that happen?) so we had to hold that meeting on the last day of school for kids and then she found that her services had been entered incorrectly on an IEP (why the heck was she just figuring that out now?) so I had to dash the IEP amendment over to the parent (who is one of my favorite people and works at my favorite preschool) and get her to sign. I wasn’t case managing either of those, so it wasn’t really my stress and I got that last signature as a favor to Kimberly who is the case manager and was stressed.

On the last day of school for teachers I finished my mileage. I tossed out a lot of junk from the cupboards at Hoffer to clear room for Jon, who was bringing a bunch of his therapy materials over because he will be taking over Coombs and Hoffer next year. I double-checked that all my IEPs were affirmed and attested. I gratefully received two jars of canned apples, one jar of canned tomatoes, and one bottle of plum wine from Amanda (which definitely mitigated my grumpiness with her). I typed up my tests and materials request for the 12-13 school year. I had lunch (the Boys & Girls Club brought in Jose’s) with the teachers in the cafeteria. I went by Coombs and turned in my key, then stopped by home and picked up Jon and his stuff. We unloaded his boxes at Hoffer and I showed him the space I’d cleared for him. I made sure everything was put away and my computer was turned off, then I covered my desk and shelves with sheets. I turned out the lights and turned in my keys.

By 2:30PM we were at the DO so I could finish my check-out. I asked Bonnie for my 12-13 calendar, so I could fill it out, and my timesheet, neither of which she had. We had to wait for a while so she could get them. While we were waiting in the conference room,

Amanda and Jeanett came in and we talked about MAA billing (I’d already completed all my MAA and LEA billing-ha!). Finally, Bonnie brought in my paperwork and we got it all completed and I checked out. After a round of good-byes and have-a-good-summers, I looked at Jon and said, “Let’s go get ice cream at Rite Aid.” Dad used to take Ann and me to get ice cream from Thrifty’s after school, so it seemed like the perfect ending to the last day of school of the 11-12 school year. Jon grinned and said, “Sounds great.”

Which is why at 3:35PM I am standing at the Rite Aid ice cream counter, waiting for my scoop of chocolate brownie.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Thing Number Twenty-Nine | Smell

My first scent was Colors de Benetton, which was the scent every “cool” girl was wearing when I was in high school (every cool boy was wearing Drakkar Noir and if I catch a whiff of that, I’m immediately transported back to a variety of high school dates and dances). Luckily, I actually loved the way C de B smells.

Now I wear Chanel No 5 parfum almost exclusively. It’s the only perfume I’ve found that doesn’t give me a headache. Plus, it reminds me of my mom. I don’t think she ever wore perfume during my childhood, preferring soap and hand lotion for her scents, but in the bottom drawer of her dresser was a tiny bottle of Chanel No 5 parfum in the iconic white box with black trim and there was the teensiest little bit in the bottom of the bottle. When I was a kid, every so often I would open the drawer, pull out the box, slide off the top, gingerly remove the stopper from the bottle, and breathe in. That’s all, just take a breath. Then I would restopper the bottle, put the top back on the box, put the box away, and close the drawer. Something about the box and the bottle and the fact that it was kept tucked away was all that was glamorous and expensive. Chanel No 5 parfum came to represent womanhood and all the good things that came with it to me. When I was in high school, Mom would let me put the tiniest dab of Chanel No 5 on my wrists before very special events, like the prom or when I was on the homecoming court. I also wore Mom’s Chanel No 5 on my wedding day.

My parents gave me a bottle of Chanel No 5 parfum for my 30th birthday (it’s still achingly expensive) and I put a dab behind my ears and at the base of my throat on special occasions. Like my mom, I’ve found that I prefer the smell of soap (I like Soft Soap on my hands and any of the clean, citrus Bath & BodyWorks scents on my body) and hand lotion (Philosophy Inner Grace) for my daily scents. I especially can’t stand to have any kind of intrusive smell near my hands because it affects the way I smell food when I’m eating.

Jon wears cologne fairly regularly. When we met, I think he was wearing Ralph Lauren’s Polo but that’s never been one of my favorite scents so I switched him pretty quickly to Abercrombie & Fitch’s Woods which is my all-time favorite guy scent. Sadly, it was discontinued. A & F produce a similar scent but it doesn’t smell quite the same and I hate the company’s branding so I’m ok with Jon wearing something else. But I was so sad when he used up the last of it. We’ve looked for a similar scent and the closest we’ve found is Cordovan by Banana Republic. It’s not the same but it’s similar and I love the way it smells on him.

But the best smell of all on my husband is deodorant (Right Guard Fresh), soap (Ivory Sensitive Skin), and sun. I love the way he smells when he walks in from having been doing something outside. It’s the best smell in the world to me.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Thing Number Twenty-Eight | Drink

Water. For years and years I took it for granted and kind of avoided it. I preferred soft drinks or lemonade or tea or almost anything other than water. Why? No good reason; water’s just kind of bland. It’s a nothing sort of drink. It’s just, you know, good for you and healthy and stuff.

Well, after years and years of drinking anything but water, I am now trying to drink mostly water. When I drink more water, I get fewer headaches. My lips are less likely to chap. My heels don’t crack as easily and my skin looks better. It’s not just propaganda:  water actually is better for me than anything else I can drink.

It’s taken some retraining, however, to adjust to reaching for a glass of water before I pop open a soda can. I had to get used to the flavorlessness of water. Yes, I know you can add water flavorings but I really hate those. Talk about bland with a hint of something fruity. I either want my water plain or a truly fruity drink. In restaurants, I usually order water with lemon but I don’t know why. I guess it seems more refreshing and somehow cleaner that way. But at home, I take it in a glass, no ice. I like to drink water straight from the fridge or at room temperature. We keep a Brita water-filtering pitcher in the fridge and that has definitely helped me to drink more water. I pour a glass (I generally use one of my “cow” glasses from Crate & Barrel) and leave it on the counter, drinking from it throughout the day and refilling it as necessary. I usually have some left in my glass when I go to bed and then I finish it off first thing in the morning and start over.

The hardest thing was eliminating my lunch-time soda. I’ve been carrying a soda in my lunchbag ever since I started working, usually a diet Sunkist. But now I fill a water bottle and take it instead. I try not to use disposable water bottles, although I keep them around the house for Jon and for guests, but I’ve broken two reusable water bottles already. In fact, I need to go get a new one.

I don’t just drink water, of course. Here are some of my other favorite drinks:

Breakfast:  a tall glass of half non-fat white milk and half low-fat chocolate milk. If it’s winter, I may substitute a mug of Earl Grey tea and if I’m sick I sweeten that with honey.
Lunch:  well, yeah, this one is water.
Dinner:  a soda, either diet Sunkist or diet Coke. Sometimes water if I’ve already had one soda since coming home from work. If it’s summer, a glass of lightly sweetened iced tea.

My favorite restaurant drink is the Freckled Lemonade with light lemonade at Red Robin. I don’t drink alcohol. Mind you, I’ve tried and I realize there are strong health benefits associated with red wine, but I honestly just can’t stand the taste.

Thing Number Twenty-Seven | Hobby

Elementary School:  reading (e.g., The Chronicles of  Narnia, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiller)  |  playing the piano  |  collecting stickers (mostly Sanrio; we kept them in sticker books we’d made from waxed paper)  |  collecting jelly bracelets  |  collecting charms for our plastic 80’s charm necklaces

Junior High:  reading (e.g., Sweet Valley High, Choose Your Own Adventure)  |  playing the piano  |  talking to boys

High School:  reading (e.g., Agatha Christie, any teen romance I could get my hands on)  |  playing the piano  |  cross-stitching (I made Christmas stockings for Ann and me)  running (not sure it was a hobby but I lettered in cross country and track)  |  flirting  |  dating  |  collecting all the “designer” clothes I could convince my parents to buy  |  taping favorite songs from the radio

College:  reading (e.g., Ngaio Marsh, The Lord of the Rings)  |  playing the piano  |  scrapbooking (I just popped my photos and ephemera into those horrible “magnetic” albums where the adhesive turned yellow and added some journaling on bits of stationery)  |  cross-stitching (I made an elaborate sampler for Mom and Dad as a thank you for putting me through college) | flirting  |  dating  |  falling in love  |  developing my own style  |  making mix tapes  |  baking cookies

Adult:  reading (e.g., Harry Potter, Josephine Tey, CJ Box, Jon Krakauer)  |  playing the piano  |  archival scrapbooking (ahhhh, so much better than before)  |  dating my husband  |  staying in love  |  shopping (bad hobby, bad, bad, bad)  |  playing with my dog  |  baking 5 minute artisanal bread  |  organizing

Some hobbies change, some stay the same….

Thing Number Twenty-Six | Covet

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary lists two definitions for “covet”:

  1. to wish for earnestly
  2. to desire (what belongs to another) inordinately or culpably

I covet (definition 1) a beach house. I don’t covet (definition 2) Jen and Dean’s beach house, even though I love it and it’s in the perfect beach town (Oceanside, CA).

I would love to have a beach house. I really would. I wish for a beach house earnestly. I am praying for a beach house. (Silly? I don’t care.) We are looking at our finances to see if there is any way to get a beach house. But for right now, it’s not possible so I’m still wishing earnestly.

We are basically homebodies. We do best with a home base. But we also like to get away for short trips during our vacation time (and people who work in the public schools get lots of vacation time) so a vacation property makes sense for us. Jon prefers mountains and I prefer beach as a getaway destination. Mountains, however (as I have pointed out), come with snow. Snow means driving with chains, protecting pipes from freezing, and generally weather-proofing a house. Beaches, on the other hand, are laid-back. The weather is temperate. This is So Cal so there are no hurricanes. I lobbied hard for beach vs mountain and I think I’ve finally turned him to my side.

I am not picky in regard to this imaginary beach house. It does not need to be on the beach. It just needs to be close to a beach. It does not need to be beach-themed, in fact, I would rather that it weren’t. It doesn’t even need to be a house; a condo would be fine. It does not need to be in a fancy city like Newport or Huntington Beach. We are not OC people, so it would be better if we weren’t in an OC town. Which is why Oceanside is perfect. It’s just south of Camp Pendleton so it’s got a working class (i.e. military) vibe as opposed to a leisure class (i.e. ladies who brunch) vibe.

My imaginary beach house isn’t possible right now. It’s not possible yet. But it might be in the future. We are talking about staying put in our “starter” house and saving towards a vacation property. We are looking at where we put our priorities and our money. We are starting to actively pursue this dream. Sure, it will take a while and, yeah, it may never actually happen. But it feels good to work toward this. I can just picture us, hand in hand, walking on the beach….

Thing Number Twenty-Five | Outside

the garden structure at the North Hollywood or Burbank (can’t remember which) apartments, that we accidentally flooded  |  going up a ladder with a beekeeper and meeting the bees that were living in the wall of our apartment building  |  playing Star Wars with Scott Road’s Star Wars action figures in the flower beds  | Yosemite vacations  |  playing outside at Jen’s house with the orchard and the rabbits and the poor dogs that had to be penned up because we were afraid of them; why were we afraid of them?  |  never going into Grandma’s backyard—scary!  |  loving Grandmother’s backyard, filled with all those poppies and the bougainvillea that grew over her roof and made an LA police helicopter think her roof was on fire when it was in full bloom  |  the playhouse in our backyard that Dad built from my Avon commercial earnings—loved sleepovers in the loft  |  reading inside too much and being kicked out of the house to go get some vitamin D  |  swing sets and plastic pools  |  plastic poncho slip-n-slides  |  picking up pieces of roof  as a punishment  |  summer camp at Forest Home or Pine Summit  |  standing in line at Knott’s Berry Farm or Disneyland, long before the advent of misters  |  going up on the roof with Dad to hang out while he was fixing the swamp cooler  |  going up on the roof with Dad to watch meteor showers  |  weeding the sideyard garden  |  cheap dates with Jon to city parks  |  much more expensive dates with Jon to out-of-state parks  |  watching our house go up on the parcel of land we’d chosen  |  designing our backyard (it’s still not perfect but, hey, work in progress)  |  walking from our house to the circus in the adjoining field  |  watching Beasley wiggle through the fence slats of his enclosure  |  playing with Beasley in the backyard  |  stargazing in the backyard  |  barbecuing in the backyard (one time Justin called the fire department)  |  watching the 4th of July fireworks from our backyard  |  taking care of our backyard—love my roses and trees  |  missing Beasley in our backyard