Question of the Day

Today’s question comes from my formspring page. I’m not sure if someone actually asked me this, or if maybe formspring just felt bad for me because no one was asking me anything, so they threw one out there for me to answer. I don’t really care. It’s a good question.

What are your long-term plans in life?

I kind of thought we’d start out with things like, “What are your favorite pizza toppings?” or “How DO you get your hair to be so awesome?” but no, we’re going straight for the big guns. Mama, is that you again? Do you really think you’re going to get a satisfactory answer to this one? I’ll try.

I got out of the planning business a long time ago. I don’t know how many of you know this about me, but I started out in undergrad as a music major. I had plans, see? I was going to be a music therapist. But then that fell through, and I haven’t done much planning since. My college advisor asked me one time what my five-year plan was, and I think I just stared at her blankly for a minute before I either started laughing or broke down in tears. I just could not envision my life five years out. I still can’t. I haven’t even tried since then, and five years is really not that long, so as far as long-term plans go…well, you got me. I have no idea.

I do have things I want to do, but I don’t have a time line for them or anything like that. I’m working toward some goals, but I don’t know when I’ll achieve them, and I’m not trying to plan my life out too much because (a) there are so many things I can’t control, and (b) where’s the fun in that? I really like the spontaneity I’ve got going and the freedom I have to change things up at a moment’s notice. But for those of you who really want a more concrete answer to this question, the things I want to do are as follows:

  • get married
  • have kids (although I’m really interested in adoption, so I might get some kids rather than having them myself)
  • publish books (multiple)
  • continue to see new places in the world
  • build my savings account back up
  • pay off my student loans
  • eat delicious food
  • own a home
  • live off of writing and teaching (although I could still do the Census for fun)
  • enjoy whatever life throws at me because somehow, it all has the potential to be beautiful

Who’s next? Keep ’em coming!

Census: Day 3

If you haven’t already guessed, “Census: Day 2” was AKA’d as Ode to a Government Pen. Here’s what happened today.

The whole time I’m sitting there at the community center, there’s an after-school program going on. The first day, the kids basically ignored me, but now they’re more and more curious about what I’m doing there. Yesterday, they were asking me all kinds of questions about the census. And they must have noticed me doing a lot of writing (with my government pen), so today two little girls came up to my table, and the following scene took place:

Kid #1: (Fiddling with my government pen) Do you have to write stuff down?
Me: Only if people come to ask me questions about the census.
(Both girls, standing in front of me, raise their hands straight up into the air, arms fully extended.)
Kid #1: I got a question.
Me: Oh yeah? What is it?
Kid #1: How’d you get your hair to grow like that?
Me: I dunno. It’s just how God made me, I guess.
Kid #2: I got a question.
Me: Shoot.
Kid #2: Who curls your hair?

Zurich – Washington, D.C.

I arrived in Zurich rather late and realized immediately that I’d forgotten that I don’t speak German. Not a bit. I don’t know how to say “train station” or “airport” or “hostel” or “help.” And yet there I was trying to figure out how to get from the airport to the main station so I could take the #7 tram to my hostel.

After much confusion and bewildered staring at the train ticket machine, a woman offered to help me. In English. I got a 24 hour ticket, which I didn’t really need, but it wasn’t that expensive. Shoot, it was probably cheaper than the one-way ticket from the Rome train station to the airport there, and I got to use it to get from the airport to the main station to the hostel, and then from the hostel back to the main station and to the airport again the next morning. That’s what I call a deal.

The hostel turned out to be super-nice. Probably the best hostel I’ve ever stayed in. It was clean, had good breakfast AND sheets included, and I had cute lil roommates – Pia, a German cook and Alice, an Australian wanderer who sounded exactly like Yosemite Sam when she talked in her sleep. About Paris Hilton. Good times. I didn’t sleep very well, but I figured that would actually work out in my favor. I’d be sleepy the next day, I’d nap on the plane, and then the jet lag wouldn’t be so bad.

On my way to the main station, I stopped off at one of the THREE H&Ms within about two blocks. I would have gone to all of them if I’d had time, but I was kind of pushing it as it was, so I just went to one.

I made it to the plane just in the nick of time and took my seat next to a bald girl who was listening to some world music with a very strong drum beat. Turns out, she was this chick, Gemini Award winner, Christine Ghawi. We hit it off immediately with a conversation about environmental responsibility. Then we realized that was a really serious conversation for two people who didn’t know each other’s names, so we introduced ourselves, and then we started flirting with this older gentleman flight attendant, who would later give us each a free cup of Chardonnay. I wish I could say he gave us glasses of Chardonnay, but he didn’t. We got plastic airplane cups, but the wine was good.

I didn’t sleep at all on the NINE-AND-A-HALF-HOUR FLIGHT to Washington. Not a wink. I yawned a lot. I felt tired. But I couldn’t sleep. So there went my master plan for beating jet lag. I did, however, get to watch 500 Days of Summer, The Time Traveler’s Wife and the tail end of Inglourious Basterds. I hadn’t seen the first two yet, so that was good, and the third is just good, so that was good too. I still can’t get over how amazing that guy was. I really hope he wins something.

Anyhoe, I got to DC, and after a ridiculously long customs line and a MAD HOUSE at baggage claim, I finally made it out of the airport, where Rachel had just arrived to pick me up. We spent a lovely weekend together, playing Legos with Annabelle and watching the new Disney movie (I liked it), and now I’m back in the airport. Ugh.

I’m not over the jet lag yet, and I’ve learned now that even though you go to sleep and wake up at normal times, that doesn’t mean you’re over it. However, I’m hopeful (with fingers crossed) that because I’m so tired, I’ll be able to sleep on the flight to Portland and beat the jet lag down. This plan sounds fatally familiar. Time to board.

Character Arc

It’s rare that you actually get an opportunity handed to you so simply in life to take a look at who you are and how you’ve changed. Under normal circumstances, you have to make a lot more of an effort to take time out and think about such things, and most of the time, it just doesn’t occur to you to do so. But taking three months out of normal circumstances to do something so completely different really puts you under the magnifying glass to yourself if to no one else. It allows you to see yourself in a different way, to see parts of yourself you’d never noticed before, and to evaluate and re-evaluate who you are and where you’re headed.

I guess a similar thing happens whenever you experience a big life change. When you graduate from high school and college, when you get your first job, when you lose your first job, when you get married, when you become a parent, when you pack up your life and move far away, whenever you’re new at something, it grows you. It stretches and beats you in the process, but you always come out wiser and more aware.

And that’s what has been happening to me over the past three months. It’s been such a wonderful experience, and I could not be happier that I did it or more thankful for having had the opportunity. I don’t think any of the changes I’ve gone through have been apparent in either pictures or blog posts, though, so I wanted to highlight just a few for you. In the story of your life, I think it’s important to take inventory of where your character is every now and then, how she’s grown, and what she knows now that will help her in the future.

  • I’m quick to judge and blame and criticize and do anything else that will make me look better than someone else, but I’m getting better at recognizing it when I’m doing it and putting myself in my place.
  • I’m lazy. I’m lazy, and I’d prefer to stay that way. I want a job where I have some accountability (from a boss, a class and/or a clock) because I know it’s the best way for me to get anything done, but I don’t want to get up before 9:00 in the morning to do that job, and I don’t want to work later than 7:00 p.m. I know that this means I either need to suck it up and go to bed earlier or suck it up and force myself to work even without the accountability afforded by a more standard work environment. I just haven’t decided which it’s going to be. Don’t let me be a sloth, y’all. Even if all the rest has done wonders for my mid-section.
  • I wear much tighter clothes. No, that’s not entirely true. But I do own far tighter pants now than any I’ve ever had before, and I like ’em. And maybe I purchased a tight miniskirt in Rome that I also very much enjoy. And maybe I wear the pants inside my boots like the Italians, and maybe it makes me look hot. Maybe. I’ll let y’all decide when I get home.
  • I don’t feel normal if I don’t write every day now. It doesn’t have to be anything special or lucrative. It just has to be words on a page.
  • I like wine. Who knew? Maybe I’d just not had very many good wines before, but now I’ll drink pretty much anything. I still prefer white, but I’m starting to appreciate red more.
  • I still don’t like beer or coffee or meat.
  • I still like scarves.
  • I am no longer afraid of toddlers. I’ve been very lucky to have Savka to practice on because she’s pretty easy. You just let her splash around in the bidet for a while and then put in a Dora DVD, and she’s good to go.
  • I don’t want to move every 3-5 years. I want to have a place I can call home, a place I can live and love and build deep friendships and stay for more like 20-40 years.
  • I have a new appreciation for Chinese food.
  • I’m ready to go. It’s been great, and I’ll be sad to leave all the new friends I’ve made here, but it’s time.

I might not post again until Friday or Saturday when I get to DC. Wish me safe travels, and I’ll see y’all soon!!!

Dolly Goes For a Ride

So I live with a toddler, which is sometimes annoying and messy, mostly when she’s sleepy and fighting it. But most of the time, she’s pretty cool. At the moment, she’s really into Band-Aids, so usually around or after dinnertime, she’ll go to the bathroom and get one to put on somebody’s invisible boo-boo. She takes it out of the wrapper and gets it all ready, and then she puts it on someone’s finger or arm or face – wherever the “boo-boo” is. Then she shows it to whoever else is around and says, “_______’s gonna feel all better,” drawing out, with compassionate emphasis, the “all better.” It’s very sweet.

She also talks CONSTANTLY, and I don’t know if that’s just what toddlers do or if some do it and others don’t. If you’ve had toddlers, maybe you can tell me because some day, I’d like to have kids, and I need to know what I need to prepare for here. Is there any way you can train them to process things internally?

On an only VERY loosely-related note, a funny thing happened yesterday. As you know, Carla and Joe moved into their house right before I got here, and they’ve been unpacking everything ever since, so the boxes have been piling up in the basement. Well, they called to have the boxes picked up, and the guys were supposed to come this afternoon while Carla was at work, so I was going to stay here and wait for them.

They came, got the boxes, and left, and then about ten minutes later, the bell rang again, and this time it was the police. And here, let me explain something about the fortress in which I live. There’s like a ten-foot-tall iron gate surrounding the whole joint, and it opens two different ways. There’s a big part that slides open with a remote control, and there’s a smaller, just standard doorway-sized gate that swings open with a key. Or you can buzz it open from inside the house. So when people come over to the house unannounced, they have to buzz from outside the gate, and you can pick up a phone inside and talk to them. When the police arrived, I went out to the gate to talk to them because they were only speaking Italian, and the only two words I could understand over the phone were “ma’am” and “street.” Not that I’d be able to understand Italian better outside the house, but you know, with body language and all, face-to-face is just easier.

So I went out, and there’s the police with a dolly left by the box-moving guys out on the street. And I wanted to explain whose it was, but they didn’t speak English, so I just said, “I don’t speak Italian,” and then I indicated that the dolly was not mine, and they put it in their car and took off.

I guess if I’d been thinking, I could have brought it back inside the gate in the hopes that the movers would come back for it, but now that I’m thinking about it more, that might have invited questions from the police that I wouldn’t have been able to answer, so I think I did the right thing.

Well…

A few minutes after that, I went to pick up Savka (the toddler–there’s the link to the beginning of the post) from school, and as we were walking home, the movers pulled up on the side of the road to ask me about their dolly. They spoke a little English, so I explained that the “Polizia” had come and taken it away, but there are at least three different kinds of law enforcement officials that I’ve noticed, and I have no idea what the difference is between them all. There’s the Polizia and the Carabinieri and something else that I think is kind of like the highway patrol, so it didn’t really come into play, but the movers wanted to know if the Polizia had come or the Carabinieri, and I had no idea. And they were all, “What color was the car?” Clueless. “Was it blue or white?” No idea.

It reminded me of a scene from some movie that I can’t really remember. All I know is that there’s a bunch of kids waiting for their college acceptance letters, and they’re on the phone with their parents when the letters arrive, and they’re all freaking out asking them if the envelopes are big or small, fat or skinny. If you know what that movie is, do let me know.

Anyhoe, the Carabinieri station was about a block away from where we were, so the two guys who’d gotten out of the truck started walking up that way, and I suppose the driver was going to make a U-turn and go meet them there. I took Savka home and hung up laundry to dry. Then we drew chalk pictures of stick figures in a “park” and watched Barney.

Baby Don’t You Cry, Gonna Make a Pie

I’ve just made this pie (thanks, L*Joy!!), which is now cooling on the table, and a variation of it that is currently in the oven. We’ll see how they both go. I’ve no doubt that the recipe is good, but in the first one, I was slightly confused and only used half the prescribed amount of almond butter. And in the second one, I forgot the dash of salt, and I didn’t have enough blueberries for a whole one, so I chopped up three apples to add to the mix.

Katherine put the apples in a baggie with some lemon juice, maple syrup and apple pie spice (cinnamon and nutmeg), and we let them sit in there for a little while. Then I added them to the blueberries just before I removed them from heat and put them in the crust. So we’ll see how that goes.

I’m taking the blueberry one to a potluck in about an hour, so keep your fingers crossed that it tastes ok (I’ll let you know). And as soon as I take that other one out and let it cool for a second, I’ll give it a little taste test. Stay tuned…

And in the meantime, I have felt very Waitress-y all afternoon baking these pies, and I’ve decided, following this experience and a retirement conversation Adam and I had yesterday, that when I retire, I want to bake a lot. A LOT. I want to bake good things and weird things and experimental things. I might even make a recipe book if I come up with enough things that don’t suck. I just want to be that sort of cooky old woman whose house always smells like baking, and who always has a little somethin’ for the neighborhood kids to “steal” off her windowsill.

And also, I want to kayak if my hips are still up to the challenge. And take Salsa dancing lessons. And ride a bike through China.

Ok. Pie #2 is out of the oven and about to enter my mouth in 3..2..1..

Oh sweet success and jubilation, that is some good pie. The pinch of salt in the crust definitely would have helped, and the flavor of the crust just takes a little getting used to because there’s no butter in it, but it’s really good. Feel free to come over and have a slice, but bring your own vanilla ice cream.

It Must’ve Been the Rum

I dreamed just now that I’d befriended a family that had two sons. The sons were significantly younger than me, but somehow, we’d still grown up together. The younger one was probably 11 or so, and the older one was 18 or 19. I don’t know how we’d grown up together. Maybe I was younger in the dream. Anyway, the older one and I had memories of playing together as children, but still, I know I was older than they were because I had some sort of authority over them. Not sure how that worked.

Anyhoe, we were at what I thought at first was a high school football game, which would have made sense considering the crowd and the fact that everyone on the sidelines was wearing football gear, but it actually turned out to be a high school ultimate frisbee game.

Well, the boys got the idea that I needed more spirit, I guess, so they snuck up behind me with some green hairspray and sprayed stripes in my beautiful locks. I don’t know if they’d been getting on my nerves for a while or what, but apparently this was the last straw. I took the little one and left him with his father, the coach. Then I took the older one and made him stand facing the fans in the stands with his arms crossed behind his back (as if that’s even possible), holding the railing.

He, of course, would have none of it, and the moment I left, so did he. I felt bad about humiliating him like that, so I went to find him and apologize. I found him up on a roof somewhere, talking on his cell phone, and the whole time I was apologizing to him, I was trying to find a chair to sit in that wasn’t broken. I finally found one right as I finished my spiel, and right then Yam (from Caswell) came in with a ceiling fan he’d bought for my grandmother’s house. It was a super-high-tech kind of deal that she would NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS put up in her house, but we told him it was cool.

Then he sat down on the sofa that had magically appeared on the roof, took off his shirt and suddenly turned into George Castanza in the episode of Seinfeld where he poses for the racy photos.

Well, the next thing I knew, George Castanza and the 18-year-old (whose name I don’t know) were reading through a script the kid had written, and it was then that I knew everything was going to be just fine.

Will It Swell?

For those of you who’ve been pondering lately the swelling capacity of various body parts, allow me to enlighten you. Be warned, however, as this might be more than some of you ever wanted to know about me.

I had a wonderful weekend with my friend Rachel, her husband Greg, and their ridiculously cute daughter (my goddaughter) Annabelle. Annabelle’s birthday was yesterday, so I went up to see her, and she peppered the weekend with all kinds of adorable phrases like:
* Beth. Open the door. I’m cute!
* You can’t eat poo poo, right?
* I like bad guys.

That last one may prove to be troublesome later on. We’ll see. Anyhoe, we had a good time together, and on Sunday, I drove up to Arlington to have brunch with the lovely Mrs. Emily Furr Hogan and another friend of ours from WILKESBORO!!!!!, Julie. Brunch was delicious, and then, because it was such a beautiful day in our nation’s capital, we decided to take ourselves on a tour of all the monuments and memorials downtown. And I do mean ALL of them (…almost. I think the only one we skipped was the Vietnam one).

**TMI ALERT IN EFFECT STARTING NOW**

Now this is a fine idea if you are either (A) wearing pants/shorts or (B) thin enough that your thighs don’t touch. If, however, you are wearing a skirt and suffer from what we in the industry call “chub rub,” well friends, walking three miles in a skirt in 85º weather is not the best of plans.

By the time I got home (five hours later), it looked like I’d superglued a raw hamburger patty to the inside of each thigh. And knowing how I feel about beef, you can all imagine how pleased I was with that. Luckily, I’d also gotten a nice little farmer’s burn, so I already had the aloe out. I slapped some…well, no, there was no slapping. I gently smoothed some onto my swollen thighs and burnt arms and hit the sack.

The swelling had gone down significatly by this morning, but they’re still quite tender. And I cannot even begin to tell you how sexy those burn lines are going to look with the sassy red halter dress I’m wearing to Jeani’s wedding on Saturday. Hooboy, look out downtown Raleigh!!

DLF, I owe you one

I just got a text from DLF telling me to go to this website, and y’all, IT. Has MADE. OUR night! This one in particular, we just do not understand AT ALL. If you can explain to me why a family would find this acceptable under any circumstances, I would love to hear it. This one is also intriguing. I love the sly look on the mom’s face, like she has a secret she’s keeping just between her, her black bunny ears and that reindeer. I don’t know why she’s the only one with black bunny ears, but I like it. And the kid in the back looks like he just farted. Or maybe he knows his mom’s secret. I bet the reindeer told him.