Friday, January 30, 2009

You Have How Many Kids?

I was just reading something about that woman who just gave birth to a litter, um, octuplets this week. Apparently before she underwent the treatment to have this gaggle implanted into her uterus she already had 6 children at home. This insane family now has 14 kids, more than half of which are newborn. This woman already has 6 children. Now she has 8 newborns. For the next two years this woman will probably get approximately 3 minutes of sleep every night. She went through the newborn phase with 6 other children, and still wanted to give birth to 8 more all at once?

After I read the article I thought about the Wilson family from my hometown. The Wilsons had 14 kids (I think, I actually cannot remember the exact number of kids. But it’s definitely a number between 13 and 20). The Wilsons didn’t have 8 of the kids at once, like the octuplet lady. So, if my memory serves me correctly, and there were 14 Wilson kids, that means that Mrs. Wilson spent roughly 10.5 years of her life pregnant.

We used to drive by the Wilsons’ house, which was not a large home, and speculate about how many kids slept in each bedroom. Did their bunk beds have three or four levels? How many boxes of cereal did Mrs. Wilson have to buy when she did the weekly grocery shopping? And how big were those boxes? How on earth did Mr. and Mrs. Wilson get all those kids out the door and to school on time? One of the Wilson kids was in my grade; he was always clean and his clothes were tidy. It was obvious that Mr. and Mrs. W were not cutting corners. It didn’t appear that they said, “Ah screw it, get out of here, it’s almost time for the bus, you can wash your face at school.” The only way they could have pulled that off would be to start the showers at 3 AM, and they probably drew straws to see which kid would have to take the last, inevitably cold shower. Perhaps the Wilson home was a 24-hour operation, where shifts of kids did their homework, ate, slept and bathed in shifts at all hours of the day.

Looking back on the Wilson family, I wonder if those kids missed out on anything. I imagine that they had never gone on a road trip as a family. They didn’t own a school bus. If they wanted to go somewhere as a family they probably had to wait until the older kids were old enough to drive too. I imagine them in a 6 car convoy on the way to the movies using walkie-talkies and elaborate hand signals to communicate from car to car. “Is your father telling me to turn left at the next light, or steal 3rd?” Mrs. Wilson would squint through the windshield and ask the half dozen kids in her car. A puzzled look would pass across their identical faces, and they would simultaneously shrug their shoulders.

Eventually word would spread through school about another Wilson baby born. Kids in my class asked the Wilson boy in our grade “So, what’s the deal with your parents? Don’t you guys have a TV in the house?” He’d laugh and proudly show us pictures of his newest baby brother or baby sister. As we got older we began to regard the Wilson family as a bit strange. "Look at all those kids! What the hell?" we'd whisper in the halls.

I have noticed that after the hype of a multiple birth dies down, there seems to be very little news on the family as the children grow up. The parents take their gaggle of babies home, and we’re left to think that all is well with a half a dozen or so newborn babies. I had read somewhere that the divorce rate for couples with these multiple births is much higher than it is with couples who have just one baby. I certainly imagine how that would happen. I understand that bringing home one baby is stressful, let alone eight babies. I imagine that the stress of caring for one baby would set a husband and wife at each others’ throats, never mind having 8 babies waking up at all hours of the night and having to feed and clothe 8 toddlers as they leave a Tasmanian Devil x 8 style path of destruction through the house. It makes me wonder why couples try to bring so many babies into the world all at one time.

Yet, somehow the Wilsons stayed married all those years, through a decade or so of pregnancy and raising 14 or so children.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

Sometimes I Do Really Dumb Things

Last night, as I was getting home from work, I pulled my car up to the mailbox. I switched on the interior light, opened the box, reached in and grabbed the mail. I closed the box, put the car into “drive” and drove down the driveway and pulled into my spot in the garage. I turned off the ignition, closed the garage door and went into the house.

Sounds pretty normal, right?

There was one vital step I missed. The night before last, I got home from work and pulled the car up to the mailbox. I switched on the interior light, opened the box, grabbed the mail. I switched off the interior light, shifted into drive, pulled into the garage, turned off the car and closed the door. I got out of the car and went into the house.

See the difference?

This morning I turned the key in the ignition. My car wheezed and the starter clicked. The windshield wipers that were still turned on moved across the glass at a snail’s pace.

I called out to Todd, “My car won’t start, battery ran down, I am taking the truck to work, see you later! Love you, bye!” then nearly peeled out on my way to work.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Can I Take That Back?

Recently I saw an article on about workplace embarrassments. Luckily, I haven’t had any major embarrassments at work (or if I did, I've blocked them out). I’ve done stupid things like send the wrong document to the wrong client, and stuff like that. But nothing really humiliating that has made me not want to go into the office again, ever.

But I know someone who did. And it was big. And juicy. When I was in my 20s I worked for a variety of dot.coms in the Boston area. It was an interesting environment to work in. The big thing about the late 90’s workplace was that the management was younger and more laid back. People didn’t dress up for work, yet they worked with a cult-like devotion. At more than one of these places I worked I heard the phrase “We’re onto something big here, I can feel it!” uttered about whatever people-will-never-live-without-it service that the company was touting on their site. Ultimately many of the companies I worked for at the time failed. Despite the fact that they were “onto something big,” they lacked a revenue generating business model.

At the I worked for when I was 24-25, the management went through a radical change. One CEO was told where to go, and another was brought in. The new CEO brought in a devoted group of his followers, and the company that I had liked working for turned into a club for the new CEO’s cronies. The new VP of Sales was the CEO’s best friend, and actually had performed the wedding ceremony when the CEO married his wife. Yeah, they were tight. Meetings with these people left me feeling like I needed to shower afterward, and the people who were not in “the club” were left uninformed and “out of the loop.” And because of my penchant for not wanting to be “one of them,” I had intentionally stuck myself on the outside of this exclusive club.

One day the CEO and his best friend the VP had interviewed a woman for some bullshit VP position. I cannot remember the exact title, but it was something ridiculous like “VP of Business Motivation.” (These were the days, remember? Job titles were made up in an effort to make one workplace cooler than any other.) The VP of Sales sent around an email to announce that this woman would start in this new position in the coming weeks, and that we were to all make her feel at home.

The CEO replied to the email, intended for his best friend to read it, but stupidly clicked on the “Reply to All” button.

The first thing to arrive in my email inbox was an Outlook request from the CEO that said he wanted to withdraw his email. I deleted that. Then the actual email from the CEO came through a second later. Naturally, my curiosity got the better of me, and I wanted to know what CEO said that he so desperately wanted to withdraw.

Then I heard it. A gasp from a co-worker on the other side of the cube wall. An “Oh my God!” from another down the row from my desk. A giggle from another cube on the other side of the hall after that. I opened the email, which left me with my mouth hanging open:

“Hey Bob,

What a great ass on her! Imagine getting a piece of that!”

The CEO never left his office for the rest of that day. The VP of Business Motivation started her job a few weeks later, and I wonder if anyone ever said to her “Don’t worry if you make a mistake on the job. Just bend over and shake it, and all will be forgiven.”

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009


“Doesn’t he know you at all?” Brent asked me on the phone and laughed. I returned to my dorm room senior year of college, and called my friend to tell him about my dad’s hare-brained request from that morning.

I had gone home for the weekend. I didn’t go to church with my parents, and they returned from 8:00 mass to have breakfast with me. My parents are very religious, and attended a mass said in Polish every Sunday morning at the very same church in which they were married. Dad still sings in the choir, as do my uncles, and over the years he’s made friends with the people he’s sung with since before electricity.

Dad sat across from me at breakfast and said, “I was talking to Mrs. M. this morning after church. She’s organizing the Polonaise Ball this year. She wants you to be in it.” The Polonaise Ball is kind of like a debutante ball for eligible Polish girls. Supposedly being asked to be in it is some big honor. But it was an honor that made me bristle as scooped up scrambled egg and spread it onto my toast.

“A debutante? Me? Are you kidding, Dad? There’s no way…” I sat across from the table and tried to get Dad to recognize me. I am his youngest daughter. I hold my high school record in the unfeminine shot put event. I had stopped shaving my legs in some rebellion against “The Man” and was probably clad in a pair of men’s jeans, a humongous flannel, and faux Doc Martens. I was the daughter who ran a drill press in his shop when I was on breaks from school.

“What the hell was I supposed to say to her?” he asked, as if the concept of saying “My daughter’s not really into that kind of thing” was such a foreign concept. “And now,” he added “I will have to face her every week. How am I supposed to say no to her and see her at church every week?”

“Wow, she must be pretty hard up for girls, if she’s asking for me,” I snorted. “Dad, just tell her I am not interested. Please. There’s no way I am doing this.”

“No, I will not tell her. If you don’t want to do this, you’ll have to do it yourself. But don’t just ignore her request. I don’t want her asking me about it every week,” he growled at me.

I found Mrs. M’s number in my parents’ address book, wrote it down and shoved the piece of paper in my pocket. I drove back to school, an hour and a half away in Rhode Island, and tried to come up with a reasonable excuse as to why I couldn’t possibly be included as a Polish debutante. Most of the excuses that I rehearsed in the car started with “Are you fucking crazy? Have you seen me lately? At the moment my hair is magenta! Surely we can agree I am not Polonaise material.” I knew I had to do better than magenta hair.

I walked into my room, and picked up the phone and dialed. “Mrs. M? Hi, it’s Beej. How are you?”

“Oh, honey, how are you? I haven’t seen you in so long!” she replied, excitedly. I was sure that the last time she’d seen me was at the choir picnic when I was 10. I had skinned knees from playing too hard. As a senior in college I had skinned knees from falling down after partying too hard.

“Listen, I am calling about the Polonaise Ball…” I began. I don’t remember how I worded it. Nothing I rehearsed in the car sounded right. I decided when I dialed the number that I would just wing it. I think the words “painfully shy” came out of my mouth, and the words “couldn’t possibly stand up in front of a room full of people while wearing a gown…” also popped out. At least feigned shyness couldn’t be covered over with hair dye, and couldn’t be shaved off my legs.

“I wish you’d reconsider,” she said, soothingly. “There are so many benefits you’ll miss out on of you don’t go. You won’t be introduced properly to the Polish society as an eligible young woman…” I bit my tongue hard to keep in my disdain. My brain was pounding with ‘You mean I’ll miss out on the chance for my life to revolve around making cabbage-laden food for some Polish guy who wears sandals with black socks? Oh damn!’

“Thank you for the opportunity, but I think I will have to pass. Thanks for thinking of me,” I quickly blurted before hanging up the phone. I stared at it for a few minutes, as if it grew a layer of mold in the time I was talking to Mrs. M.

I dialed Brent’s number and heard him laugh. "Hey, you're lucky I am not doing this. I would probably make you go with me, and you'd have to wear a tux," I laughed back. Then he stopped laughing.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

They Just Know

Dogs are amazing creatures. Without being able to speak our language they communicate with us all the time. They bark at the door when they need to go out. They raise their hackles and let out a low grumble when they hear an unfamiliar noise outside. They raise a front leg, cock their ears and point at something they want to draw our attention to. Their eyes glow when they are happy, and they wag their tail. They dance at the sound of my voice.

But they are also very intuitive. They know that when Todd puts on a flannel, it’s the weekend. They get excited because they know that they will probably go somewhere fun with us. Griffen knows what my exercise clothes look like, and when I put them on he knows he’s going for a jog. (Except for lately I’ve been faking him out and doing the 30 Day Shred at home. He doesn’t like it when I do jumping jacks or jog in place. He dances around me and barks hysterically until I pause, give up on the exercise for the moment, and close him in the other room.)

My cousin told me that her chocolate Lab, Jada, sleeps across her stomach. Then my cousin got pregnant and though she wasn’t yet showing, Jada refused to sleep on my cousin’s stomach anymore. Jada knew that she was no longer welcome across my cousin’s abdomen and took up residence at my cousin’s feet. She picked up on perhaps a hormonal change in my cousin--perhaps my cousin was excreting a different pheromone that Jada understood.

Todd’s been under the weather these last few days, and Griffen has not left his side. When Todd’s lounging in the living room, Griffen gently jumps up on the lounge and cuddles with him. He looks at Todd with sympathy, and gently licks Todd’s face and hands. He doesn't do the "I-am-so-excited-you're-here-I-love-you-now-will-you-take-me-outside-and-throw-the-frisbee-for-me!" endless tongue bath that he doles out on weekend mornings. He makes no demands on Todd. He doesn’t spread out and covertly take up more of the chair. He curls up in his spot, rests his face on Todd’s arm and sighs contentedly as if to say “It’s OK, my friend. All is well.”

And it puts a smile on Todd’s face every time.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Photos from the Georgia Aquarium

At last I've gotten off my lazy butt and cleaned my memory card from my camera. I took 204 pictures of the exhibits at the Georgia Aquarium, here are the best.

Zebra Turkey Fish

Open mouthed whale shark

Turtle in flight

Todd snapping a pic of the reef exhibit with his cell phone. This exhibit was very impressive. When you walk in, the reef is in front of you, floor to ceiling. Above you, the glass curves, and there is a wave machine right above as well. Every 2 minutes the machine creates a wave, and the music playing in the exhibit swells every time the wave crashes. Beautifully executed.

Todd petting a ray.

Saw fish

Sea horses

Dozing otters

Dah.... DUNT! This is a silouhette of a whale shark.

Octopus against glass


Belugas having lunch.

Baby hammerhead

Alligator with reflection.

Alligator above and below.

Alligator distorted.

9 ft ray, or a jumbo jet, it's up to interpretation.

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Who Are These People?

I’ve always had a bit of a rebellious streak. It used to drive my mom crazy when she’d go to a parent-teacher conference and my teacher would say something about how I deliberately didn’t follow directions. My mom would come home from the conference and ask “Why do you do that? The teacher tells you to do something and you do the exact opposite.” Then of course I wouldn’t answer her question, just to do the exact opposite in that situation too.

Largely I’ve tamed the behavior that used to make my mom crazy. Though there are still times when I’ll do the exact opposite of what was asked, for any number of silly reasons. Over the course of my career I’ve purposely opted out of activities at work just so I didn’t have to be “one of them.” At the gigantic insurance company that once employed me, I routinely tossed out the morale boosting mail out of my mailbox before reading it. When asked to take one of the dozens of required online courses, I didn’t bother to read the course material and instead just jumped to the exam at the end and guessed at the answers until I got them right. At another place of employment I was awarded a red polo shirt with the company logo on it after passing my 90 day probationary period. Never one to wear clothing emblazoned with the logo of my employer (with the exception of my own company), I left the polo in its cellophane wrapper in the bottom drawer of my desk until my last day. I gave it to my office mate before heading to the elevator with my box of stuff.

I view morale building activities with suspicion and disdain. When presented with a dress code, I test the limits of it until my employer gives up on asking me to dress to the code. When given required reading at work, I toss it aside until it ends up, unread, in the trash or in a drawer after a desk cleaning binge.

I was just given a required reading assignment by my employer this week. I bristled as the book was presented to me. I felt a “baaaaah” sound try to escape my lips as I imagined my co-workers in sheep’s wool clutching their copy of the book and quoting it at every possible moment. I set the book aside on my desk, with the intention of never cracking it open. The all familiar and comforting suspicion and disdain came flooding back to me as I consciously set the book aside—in a prominent location to make it look like I was actively reading it, yet not so prominent that it’s not in the way.

Then I picked it up.

Then I opened it.

I thumbed through the pages, resisting the urge to snort and roll my eyes. “Oh great, more touchy-feely business crap…” I thought to myself. Who cares what color my parachute is, or who moved the cheese? Why are people moving cheese instead of just eating it with some crackers, anyway? Then I straightened my shoulders and said “What the hell, Beej. Give it a whirl. You do love reading, after all.”

Over the last few days I read two chapters of this book. Somewhere in chapter two, the author talked about wanting to build a workplace at which people were excited about working for. He wanted to create a workplace at which people would wake up and get excited about going to work. I’ve known dozens of entrepreneurs and managers who said this very same thing.

Are there people out there who actually do this? I thought back to the gigantic insurance company that once employed me. I recalled the bland row after row after row of cubicles, and pictured mine with the pink flamingo lawn ornaments on the top of it—the only flash of individuality and color in the vast expanse of the cube farm. I wondered about this concept when I worked there. Were there people who went to gigantic insurance company truly excited about getting to work? Were there people who worked there who were actually and sincerely excited about insurance?

I like my job right now. My workplace is probably the only place I’ve worked in the last 10 years that I’ve actually liked (other than my own company, of course). The people are nice. The work has purpose—there is more purpose to what I do now than there ever was in marketing widgets, insurance, or developing content on a technology news web site and whatever else I’ve done in the last ten years. Does that mean that my alarm goes off in the morning and I leap out of bed excited about going to work? Hell no. If I hit the lottery the first thing I will do is quit my job and live my life on my own terms. I’ve always viewed my job as a means to support my lifestyle and as nothing more. I do the work, I complete my tasks, and overall I like dealing with my clients and I try like hell to make working with me fun and easy. But at the end of the day, I do this job so I can afford to do other things.

So, who are these people who get excited about waking up and going to work? Are you one of them? I am genuinely interested in what makes you excited about going to work?

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Whole Lotta Anxieties Rolled Up In One Dream

I think the winter blahs are hitting me pretty hard. I am having the damnedest time getting out of bed in the mornings. I start work at 8, so that I means I need to be out of the house by 7:30, latest 7:35. It takes me about 35 minutes to shower and get ready. I also like to eat, make lunch (not war), put the dogs out for morning pee and feed them before I leave the house.

Lately this has been my wake up routine.

6:00 the alarm goes off. Hit snooze.

6:09 the alarm goes off. Hit snooze.

6:18 the alarm goes off. Todd groans. Turn alarm off and tell self “Get out of bed at 6:20.” Doze off.

6:23 wake up with a start. Tell self “Get out of bed at 6:25.” Doze off.

6:34 wake up, glance at clock, groan.

6:42 actually swing feet out from under covers onto the floor. Fumble in the darkness on the way to the shower while rubbing eyes. Shower, dress, make self look presentable,

7:15 Glance at watch on the edge of the bathroom sink. Mutter to self “Holy shit, I gotta get moving.” I open the back door and release the hounds with a “If you don’t come right back and I am sending your asses to the pound. I mean it this time.”

7:17 I am lucky, they come back and tap on the glass door to be allowed in. I shower them with treats, praise, and most importantly, breakfast. Sometimes they don’t come back. Sometimes I have to put on my dog chasin’ shoes and tromp through the woods to get them to come back. My dogs don’t respond to threats. They’ve heard it all before. Chasing them knocks a good 5-10 minutes out of my morning, depending on how far they’ve gotten and how cooperative they are feeling. I scramble around the kitchen making lunch, eating my own breakfast, and getting my act together for the day.

7:35 I go back upstairs to take vitamins, brush teeth, put shoes on, and kiss Todd goodbye.

7:40 I pull the car out of the driveway, and set my GPS for work as the destination so I can see the estimated arrival time at the office. It says “8:03” and I curse under my breath. But I’ll still do something time consuming like pull into the library to return my books to the drive up chute on my way to work. Because there’s no way I could possibly do that after work. Nuh-uh, no way.

Last night I dreamt that I overslept. In the dream I opened my eyes and the clock read 8:30. I fumbled for the phone, called my boss to tell her that I overslept and I wouldn’t be in until 2. I assured her that I’d be in at 2, and would take the day as a PTO day and still work the final 3 hours, you know, just to be fair. She told me to come in by the back door so that the big boss wouldn’t see me come in so late.

Then I wander outside and see that the neighbor, whose house I can barely see in real life, has deposited a number of broken down cars on their lawn. I am completely pissed about this, and storm into the house to discuss the matter of critical importance with Todd.

At some point my cousin had come over and dropped off her toddler son for us to babysit. In response to my tirade about the neighbor, Todd stood up, walked into the other room, and retrieved the toddler.

“What the hell is that?” I asked. Um, a penguin?

I left the house at 1:30, to make it in to work by 2. God knows what I did with the entire day in that dream. I think I spent it agonizing about the neighbor’s broken down cars, the toddler in my home, and the fact that there is no back door at work.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009


I don’t like discussing politics, and I sure as hell never considered writing about them on my blog. Mostly it’s because I fear I’ll look uninformed when I express my opinion, despite my CNN, NPR,, and addictions. Today I am deviating from my usual political hermit crabness, and will write my first politically themed post here on A Life of Adventure, so there you have it—history in the making.

For the first time since the Clinton administration I am excited about presidential politics. When I was a freshman in college I voted for the first time. I stood inside the booth and flicked the lever next to Bill Clinton’s name. I stood there for a moment looking at all the buttons, names and levers and felt the butterflies in my stomach wake up. The second time I voted for him, in 1996 was when I first lived on my own. I registered as a voter in Massachusetts, and I walked to a local school a few blocks from my first apartment and pulled the Clinton lever again and hoped for another Clinton victory. My wish was granted.

I have come from Republican parents. While my brothers have largely carried on the Republican gene, my sisters and I are more left-leaning. When home from college, and in the period between college and moving out of home, I worked for my dad at his machine shop. I worked with my brothers and my sister on a daily basis. It was my job to do anything from answering the phone, drilling holes into pieces of metal, entering data into an ancient amber screened computer system whose information was backed up to tapes at the end of every day. I spent most of my time working in the office along side my die-hard Republican Limbaugh listening brother, Walter. Part of my duties was to answer the phone during the 12:00-12:30 lunch period. Walter usually ate at his desk, and blared the first half hour of Rush Limbaugh while he ate and while I was held prisoner in the office, chained to the ringing phone.

“Listen to this guy, Beej,” Walter prodded, “he’s the God of politics. He’ll teach you something.” So I listened. And I hated every minute of it. But I still listened and tried to give it a chance.

“If he’s so smart,” I began, “why doesn’t Rush run for President? All I hear his him bitching about this and that, and then telling everyone over and over how smart and great he is. I don’t really hear anything interesting here.”

“Then you aren’t listening. You’re what’s wrong with this country. You elected that idiot we have in office now,” Walter sighed, referring to President Clinton.

“I don’t think he won by only one vote. In fact, I think he won by a lot of them,” I replied, cheekily.

“You know what I mean, it’s people like you that elected him” he growled, and bit into his sandwich. I gazed at Walter’s blue eyes, an anomaly in my brown-eyed family, and not for the first time wondered if he was adopted. There was no way to logically infer that we’d come from the same womb.

On a November morning in 2000 I stretched on the floor of my gym as I watched the news. I didn’t stay up the night before to watch the election results. I couldn’t bear to. Still a Massachusetts resident, I cast my vote for Gore, and hoped for the best. I watched the drama unfold with the election results in Florida, and bit my nails down to nubs hoping for a miracle. I did the same in 2004. It’s not that I was a Gore fan, or a Kerry fan. I would have voted for a panda bear if one ran against Bush. The choices for President for those two elections didn’t interest or inspire me. “At this point, I am voting for the candidate I dislike the least,” I would dejectedly sigh when the conversation turned to politics.

In November, Todd and I watched the election results roll in. At the top of each hour, the newest tally was presented from which ever state closed their polls. We watched politically themed movies like “Black Sheep” and “American President” while we waited to be updated every hour. We cheered every Obama victory. We watched McCain’s concession speech, and commented on how classy it was. We sat up and watched Obama’s victory speech, and giggled excitedly. We barely slept that night for the excitement.

I’ve been listening to the preparation of the inauguration on NPR in the mornings on my way to work. More than once I’ve felt the slight sting in my eyes as I feel like I am about to cry out of joy and excitement. For the first time since my first time voting I am excited and inspired by my country’s President. Mr. Obama, please don’t let us down. There are a lot of us out here rooting for you.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Two Dumb Things I Did Today…

…and it’s not even 9:00 AM yet.

Last night I set out my clothes for today. I usually do this because, (A) sleeping husbands don’t like it when I barrel into the room post-shower, throw open the closet, turn on the light and stare slack-jawed into the closet for a good ten minutes while I figure out what to wear. (B) It saves me time, and I don’t have to make any decisions about what to wear when I am not completely awake yet. I get out of the shower, dry off, slather myself with lotion and dress in whatever I set out last night. Really it’s a great system. Usually.

Last night I set out a red sweater I bought at a Gap outlet some 3 years ago. It’s one of my favorite things to wear. It’s not often when a sweater is this flattering. I love the way this one clings just right, but not too much. I also set out the pair of my new Levi’s that I bought a few weeks ago, whose waist falls just about an inch south of my belly button. I cinched them just over my hips with a belt, and then eventually headed out the door. I sat in the car and felt the cool air draft down the back of my jeans. I leaned forward and pulled my thankfully long enough sweater and jacket over the draft, and slouched a bit to keep myself warm as I drove. Now I have to slouch all day at my desk, because I couldn’t be bothered to go back into the house and change. Luckily my chair doesn’t have a space between the backrest and the seat cushion, so I can hide behind that. Note to self, do not sit on the stability ball today. Also don't forget to tug on the back of my jeans every time I stand up, just so I don’t unwittingly moon the office today.

As I ate breakfast in the kitchen, packed my lunch, put out and fed the dogs, I made a grocery shopping list. When I went back upstairs to brush my teeth, Todd was in the shower. I brought my list with me and I asked him “Hey, I am going to do the shopping tonight after work. Is there anything you need?” I wrote his items on the list. I stuffed the list into the back pocket of my possibly-too-sexy-for-work jeans, kissed him goodbye, and hit the road. On my way to the car I have to go down the basement steps to enter the garage from the basement. At the top of the basement stairs, just off the kitchen, we hung hooks on which we put a dozen or so reusable shopping bags. Just 30 seconds before I walked down the stairs, and right by the bags hanging just at eye level, I was talking about the shopping. I thought about hitting the Stop N Shop in Podunk on the way home. I thought about fresh fruit, loaves of bread, ground turkey, and all the things I need. Yet I walked down the stairs right by the bags hanging on the hooks, which I insisted that we hang there so we’d never forget to bring bags to the market. Halfway to work I realized I’d forgotten my bags. Dammit!

So, the choices to solve the bag dilemma are:
1. Go home after work, get the bags, then drive the five miles back to the supermarket, ultimately spending about 20 minutes or so going out of my way to get the bags.

2. Go to the supermarket, which is on the way home, and use paper bags and after they’ve served their purpose in bringing the groceries home, use them to start fires in the fireplace.

Internet, what would you do?


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Former Self, In Cardboard

When we moved into this house, on March 31st, 2008, we lobbed a load of boxes into a room that is just to the right at the bottom of the cellar stairs. This room is unfinished. The prior owner put up ceiling tiles on roughly 1/3 of the ceiling, and put of 2x4 studs against portions of the foundation in a half-assed effort to finish the room. A single bare light bulb in a socket in the center of the ceiling illuminates the room. There is no light switch, and a slight twist of the light bulb is how we turn the light on and off in that room. Toward the end of moving our stuff into the house, this became the “Oh screw it!” room. Boxes of our stuff were stashed in the room in exhaustion at the end of the move. "Oh screw it, just throw it in there, we'll sort it out later" was what we said over and over in the days of the move. The boxes contained stuff that we wanted to keep but hadn’t yet decided where it would all go. Books, photo albums, two bean bag chairs originally purchased for movie nights at the dive shop—back when we owned the dive shop.

I originally envisioned this space as expanded pantry space. Todd, in his love of cooking, has been accumulating a crap-load of kitchen stuff. He now owns a slow cooker and a pressure cooker. He has lots of stock pots. He has foil roasting pans. All of these things are not used in our daily kitchen use, and we both would prefer to stash them away somewhere so they are not underfoot. I imagined this room would eventually contain racks that contained cleaning stuff, Todd’s kitchen implements, dry and canned goods, etc. We stood in the doorway of the room, looking at the enormous pile of stuff on the floor and speculated about the future of this room.

“Well, I got what I always wanted, the workshop. What’s something you’ve always wanted in a house?” Todd asked me. The way he smiled at he told me that he already knew the answer. He knew I was taking one for the team by suggesting that we turn the room into a big-ass-walk-in pantry. “How about you get the gym you always wanted.”

He excitedly walked into the room, stepped over the debris that is our stuff, and pointed. “We could dry wall in the walls, finish tiling the ceiling, put a flat screen over there, a treadmill over here….” Todd has an amazing knack for visualizing a space that I’d never seen in anyone else.

“Are you sure?” I asked him. “I mean, imagine how much we could store in here.” I stepped into the room and pointed. “Racks over here for all your big pots, a big huge cabinet over here for food…”

“No, I know you’ve always wanted a gym. I want you to have what you want too.”

Over the last few weekends I’ve been going through the boxes in the room that will become my gym. I vowed that I will not just move whole boxes into other parts of the house. I will unpack each box, and find a home for every single thing inside. My pile of papers, notebooks and texts from graduate school ended up in a pile as I unpacked the boxes. I finished my Masters nearly six years ago and since then I have not cracked open a single one of the texts I had accumulated, nor have I re-read my papers and the notations from my professors, nor have I perused any of the notes I scribbled during lectures. I knew that they had to go. I couldn’t imagine all the trappings of my former life as a graduate student taking up space in my house.

Before I recycled the pages from my notes, donated my old texts, or flat out threw away anything related to my graduate degree, I sat in one of the bean bag chairs and I read my old papers.

I don’t recognize the person who scored a 96 on a Consumer Behavior mid-term exam. I recognize her handwriting and I remember how she quizzed herself using flash cards as she walked from the Back Bay train station to the classroom on Tremont Street in Boston. She didn’t stop quizzing herself until she could rapidly recall the answer to every single question on every single card, and then she shuffled the cards and flashed them to herself again. And then again after that. I sat in my soon-to-be home gym and read the answers on the test, and wondered what part of my brain still might store that information. I held my hand over my handwritten answer and I tried to access that part of my brain and answer the question. Today I cannot answer the questions nearly as well as I had back in 2002.

Between the years 2000 and 2003, my Masters program took up a lot of space in my life. I went to class, I met people, I created presentations, and wrote papers. I studied in every spare moment. Friends and family asked me “So, how’s school going?” all the time. Normally, it’s the act of thumbing through old pictures that make me marvel at my former self. I marvel at how long or how short my hair was, or the definition in my quadriceps from my captain-of-the-college-track-team days. But this time it wasn’t something I could easily point out in a picture. I held quantities of information in my brain that I no longer think about, even though for three years the acquisition of that information was my entire life.

Who was that person that I dug out of a cardboard box? And who is the woman now who threw that person into the recycling bin?

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Unemployed in Rhode Island? Listen Up

Recently a friend of mine posted a job opening on the local job web sites. The other day he frustratedly showed me the resumes he received in response. Let me just say I am shocked at the lack of effort these job seekers have put into their resumes and cover letters that they sent. The unemployment rate in Rhode Island has reached something like 9-10% , the second highest rate in the US.

Understandably my friend was flooded with resumes. There are more candidates than jobs right now, and the competition for employment is very stiff. This means that job seekers should be playing on their A game right now. Right? Not from what I saw in my friend’s inbox.

When my friend showed me the resumes he’d received, I sat there with my mouth hanging open. I lost count of how many cover letters didn’t even bother to acknowledge my friend in a greeting. There was no “Dear Mr. Smith” or “Dear John,” or even “Dear Hiring Manager” greeting at the top of the email, despite the fact that his name was in the ad in the form of “Send your resume to John Smith.”

I was stunned to see how many cover letter that started with “I seen your ad on” I seen your ad. Or worse yet, “I seen your add.” What?

Then there were the blatant misspellings. The “I spetiolize in Microsoft Office…” instead of “I specialize in…” The “I complited my program at the University…” instead of “I completed my program…” Well, if you were so damn good at Microsoft Office, perhaps you would have known that there was a spell check feature in Microsoft Word, right?

In response to an ad for a Computer Technician position, a candidate reported that he can “do computers good.” Well, that’s nice. Let’s try doing English now, shall we?

And what happened to citing the job description in the cover letter? For example, “I see that you are looking for a marketing specialist. I have 5 years experience in marketing and public relations…” No, instead he got a lot of "I seen your ad, here's my resume" emails. Delete! Delete! Delete!

I have had my share of employment dry spells, and in those times I have composed hundreds of cover letters. In my last bout of unemployment I averaged at least 1-2 interviews per week, and I sent out 1-3 cover letters and resumes per day. Each cover letter was written specifically for each job, and I spent hours painstakingly composing, proofing and editing each one. I will now share with you all what I have learned.

1. Use spell check. Then use it again. Then when you’re done with that read your cover letter to yourself out loud to make sure that it makes sense.

2. If you lack confidence in your writing skills, ask a friend or family member to help you proof read your cover letter and resume. What’s more embarrassing? Having to ask for help or sending a cover letter riddled with spelling errors, typos and nonsensical sentences?

3. Learn the name of the hiring manager and use it. For example “Dear Mr. Smith” or “Dear Ms. Jones.” If you are unclear about the spelling of the hiring manager’s name, try looking it up on the company’s web site, or call the company to ask an employee how to spell it. If none of that helps, either address it to “Dear Hiring Manager” or “Dear Sir or Madam.” Also, pay close attention to how they spell their name. I once made a dumb mistake of addressing an email to “Teresa” while the hiring manager’s name was “Theresa.” On the phone she asked me “Would you say you have a good eye for details?” Of course I answered yes, and she said “Then if you are good with details, you probably already know that you spelled my name wrong.” D’oh! Bye bye job interview!

4. The hiring manager wants to know in the cover letter how you will meet their needs. Read the ad. Then take the required skills from the ad that you know how to do and write in your cover letter that you know how to do them. For example, if the ad says that they want someone who knows how to write a press release, and you know how to do that, say so in your cover letter. “In my past position at Such and Such, Inc. I have composed numerous press releases and other marketing materials…”

5. Do not assume the gender of the person you’re sending it too. I once made the dumbass mistake of assuming that Lee Smith was a man, so I addressed it to “Mr. Smith." Wouldn’t you know it? Lee Smith was a woman. And she probably threw my resume straight into the trash. If I couldn’t be bothered to do a little research on Lee Smith, then I probably wouldn’t do a good job, right? I remember at my internship in college my boss, a VP at a public relations firm, was a woman. She routinely received resumes addressed to “Mr. Johnson” even though she was “Ms. Johnson.” She didn’t bother to read those resumes, and they went straight into the trash.

6. Be polite in your cover letter. The words “please” and “thank you” will go a long way. For example “Please feel free to contact me at your earliest convenience to discuss the position and my credentials…” or “Thank you for your consideration, I look forward to hearing from you.” Don’t say “Call me on my cell to schedule an interview…” You’re in no position to command the hiring manager to do anything. You are, however, in the position to ask the hiring manager to call as their busy schedule allows.

7. When attaching your resume, name it something like “Resume of Your Name.” My friend had received attached resumes that were named “Document.rtf” Not only does this file name not label what’s in the document; it makes it look like you are sending the hiring manager a poorly executed email virus. Help the hiring manager keep your resume straight from all the other ones he/she is getting by using your name as the file name. I’ve used my name and the position as the file name “Jane Smith-Marketing Specialist” as well. (This file naming method also adds a level of subliminal advertising. Maybe the hiring manager will get used to seeing my name with the position by seeing written that way.)

8. Keep a log of where you have sent your resume, which employers have called you back, and which ones you’ve visited for interviews. Keep track of dates, the names of the people you’ve spoken to, and what you spoke about. Print out the ads and job descriptions for the positions that you have applied to, and keep them in a folder. When the hiring manager calls you back you will need to have the job description in front of you so you can speak intelligently about the job and why you are qualified for it. In this market you need to sound like you are prepared at all times.

These tips might not land you the job, but I can guarantee that they will help keep your resume out of the trash can. If you can stay out of the trash can you just might get the interview, which is your biggest chance to impress the hiring manager. But first, you have to impress them with your cover letter and resume.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Forty Nine in Dog Years

It wasn’t that long ago when we got the phone call. The voice on the other end asked, “Do you have a lab puppy named Griffen?”

“Well, that depends,” I replied, tongue in cheek. “What has he done?” Back then it wasn’t uncommon for us to get phone calls that started with “Do you have a lab puppy named Griffen?” Even though we watched him like a hawk, occasionally he escaped. There were the mornings when I’d put Griffen out to do his business before I had to leave for work. Then he’d get the idea to take off up the cliff-like hill behind the houses on our street. His claws helped him bound up the hill like a mountain goat, while I crawled up the hill cursing his name as I tried to get him to “Come here, NOW!” He stood just out of the reach of my arms, and irritatingly backed up whenever I managed to get close enough to grab his collar, or the scruff of his neck, and drag him home. There were the afternoons when I’d come home for lunch and find that the spirit of Houdini possessed him, and the end of the dog run in the back yard no longer had a dog clipped to it. I would race into the house and check the voicemail. Sure enough, there would be a message that said “Um, hi? I have a Lab puppy with this phone number on his tag. Will you please call me back?” Then I’d call back and learn about where he ran off to. There was the time he followed a jogger home, and ended up three miles away.

“Well, it’s kind of hard to explain,” the caller said tentatively. “But he’s here, just so you know where to get him.” The voice explained that they had Griffen in custody five houses away. Todd and I grabbed a leash and walked to the house.

“Oh look! They have a black Lab puppy! That’s why he’s here, he wanted to play,” I pointed out. When we got closer we realized the truth. It wasn’t that they neighbors had a black Lab puppy. It was our pale yellow, just about white, Lab puppy covered in the thick mud from the tidal flat across the street. The tide was out, and the bed of thick dark mud was exposed.

He wagged at us, and his tongue rolled out of his mouth as it formed the signature Labrador doofy grin, as if to say “Hey guys! What are you doing here? I met some really nice people, wanna see?” He shook, and flecks of mud splattered from his body.

Griffen became acquainted with the neighbors by crashing through their screen and rolling on their Oriental carpet. Of course, he performed this acrobatic feat after he’d rolled in the tidal flat. He looked at us with the gleam in his eyes that we’ve come to call his “Puppy Eyes.”

We profusely apologized to the neighbors, and reimbursed them for the damage caused by our wily puppy. Griffen was a challenging puppy. He got bored easily. The separation anxiety got to him when we went to work, and he destroyed parts of our house in response. He ate the better part of the bathroom door. He ate the underside of our box spring, then eventually the sides of the mattress and peed on our bed in response to being left alone. He learned how to open the fridge and help himself, and to this day cannot be left unrestricted in the house while we’re out. He pulls cakes and freshly baked loaves of bread off the counters and devours them.

Yet this dog brings so much joy to our lives. When I get home from work he dances out of excitement to see me. He lives for the Frisbee to be tossed just one more time. He groans in anticipation as he watches me put on exercise clothes, because he knows that he’ll get to go on a jog. He patiently waits by the back door on a Saturday morning, because he knows that we’ll take him for a ride. And he will go anywhere with us, he doesn’t care if he has to wait in the car, he just wants to go along anyway. He leaps on the bed in the mornings and licks us endlessly as if to say “Good morning, I am so happy that you are still here!” He drops a tennis ball into my lap and stares at it, willing me to throw it for him. He will stare at it for minutes at a time while he patiently waits.

Today, Griffen is seven years old. For the last seven years this dog has made me smile or laugh every single day. I cannot imagine a life where I wouldn’t pet his silky fur and scratch his floppy ears. And I cannot imagine a life where I wouldn’t get woken up with a cold wet nose in my face that makes that snarfing sound with a rapid exhalation.

It strikes me as unfair that dogs only live with us for maybe a dozen or so years. Griffen has already lived seven of those years, and they went by so quickly.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Extra-Marital Affair

Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you my boyfriend. Jack Bauer.


I never thought I'd look forward to Mondays.


Monday, January 12, 2009

Just What We Needed

On Sunday I looked out at the fresh inches of snow that fell overnight. I looked back at the still warm rumpled covers on my side of the bed and thought to myself, “Now, what if we just blew them off, stayed in, and tested the durability of our couch all day today.” Unfortunately that’s been my motivation this winter.

It used to be that we’d spend entire weekends, in the freezing cold, restoring the boat. We’d fire up propane heaters, strip down to t-shirts in the heat, and work on whatever the project du jour was. I have memories of sanding every single inch of teak on the interior of the last Sabine. I have another memory of scraping off the teak decks in the new Sabine. I remember replacing entire water systems, re-wiring lights—which I discovered I am extraordinarily bad at, seeing as how the light over the galley sink no longer works and is likely shorted out. Then at the end of the day, we’d pile on our layers, put out the propane heaters (when we weren’t leaving them on until the fiberglass cured if we happened to glass that day) and head home for a shower and dinner. We’d return to work on Monday exhausted, muscles sore, but one step closer to being able to sail in the spring.

Lately we haven’t been spending weekends that way. Some of it is sheer laziness, but most of it is that we don’t have those kinds of boat projects anymore. The projects we have to do now require the work of professionals. In February, Sabine is going into the shed for a professional re-fit. She’s getting painted, woodwork getting varnished. She’s getting an anchor windlass installed so that Todd won’t have to pull up the anchor by hand anymore. Hopefully, after February our radar system will no longer be classified as “decorative” and will actually become functional as well.

On Sunday I pondered falling back into bed, and trying out a day in the life of a Labrador. (Eat, sleep, move to another spot, sleep, get a drink of water, sleep, roll over, sleep, eat, sleep.) But then I remembered we made plans to introduce on of my co-workers and his girlfriend to geocaching.

There’s nothing like introducing others to a sport to get you out of the house and invigorated again. We love taking new people sailing because it’s fun to watch them hold the wheel at the helm and wonder at the concept of being propelled by the wind. It’s fun to field their questions. “What’s that rope do?” That lifts the main sail. “What’s with the propane tank?” That’s what we use to barbeque our dinner.

On Sunday co-worker Dennis and his girlfriend Nikki tromped through the snowy forests of Podunk, RI and found three geocaches with us. We watched the dogs bound over the snow, and slip on the ice patches. We walked single file across a frozen pond, holding our breath as we wondered if any of us would fall through. We marveled at the stone foundations of old houses we spotted in the middle of the woods and speculated at their age, what the house may have looked like, and where the occupants may have gone. We found the caches, wrote in the log books, joked, laughed, and took in the fresh winter air.

Thank you Dennis and Nikki for forcing us to go outside for an entire winter day. It was just what we needed.


Friday, January 09, 2009

Welcome to Point B, Population Me

I am 34 years old, and spent so many years of my life trying to get from point A to point B. Point A was always the undesirable spot I was in at any given moment. I always longed for something else. Some glorious point B just on the other side of the fence, where cushy green grass glowed in the sun just waiting for me to skip across it barefoot without having to worry about dog poop.

When I was a kid, I wanted to be 16 so I could drive a car on my own.

When I was 16, I wanted to be 18 so I could be in college and out from under my parents’ roof and their 10:00 curfew.

When I was in college, in Rhode Island, I wanted to be abroad. When I was abroad (as bitchen as that year was, and how much I knew that I was in a decidedly spectacular point A) I was ready to be post-graduated and living on my own.

When I was post-graduation and living on my own, I longed to have a boyfriend. When I had one of my lousy post-college boyfriends, I longed to be single. When I was in the working world, I lusted after school supplies on the store shelves every September. When I was working at one job, I kept my eyes peeled for some other, better job. When I landed the other, better job I wished I to worked at a job that had purpose and meaning and largely checked out of the one I had. Then I stopped paying attention in meetings; I stopped writing things down that I had to accomplish. Then I’d find another job and repeat the cycle.

I’ve always wanted something I didn’t have or to be somewhere where I wasn’t at the time. It had nothing to do with material objects. I don’t care about a lot of that stuff. My wandering eye constantly made its way over to the want ads, to the apartment listings, to the magazine articles and books about people who were living lives that were way cooler than mine.

In my last bout of unemployment, I asked myself “So, where is point B? What does it look like? How do I really get there? What do I want it to be like?” Then I looked around and realized that the current situation was point B. It was the culmination of 34 years of trying to get to point B. Every single point A that I had tried like hell to get away from was actually a point B that I had arrived at from some other point A. (Did your head just explode?)

I came to a few interesting observations. Yeah, I am a rather unoriginal guitar player. I am a three chord wonder. I listen to other players (Willy Porter, I am talking to you) and think, “Man, I’d love to be able to do that with a guitar. He has six strings and ten fingers, just like me. I should be able to do that too.” But then I realized that other people who have heard my songs have said to me that they’d like to be able to express themselves like that. And I can take those three chords, mix up the progression, change the rhythm, play them faster, play them slower and come up with a new song with a different feeling and another message. And that’s pretty damn cool.

I look at other women and think, “Man, I’d love to be that thin.” But then I realized that women who are bigger than me look at me and think that.

I look at people who have sailboats that are nicer than mine and who have traveled further in theirs and think, “I would love to have that boat and go that far.” Then I look at my own boat and think “Yeah, she still needs a lot of work. But she’s all mine. I haven’t yet sailed to places like Martha’s Vineyard, but I have sailed to other places that other people haven’t been.”

I read other blogs, and take glimpses into other people’s lives and think “They have a way of taking something mundane and making it into something hilarious, or something meaningful, something beautiful and something I crave when I am looking for entertainment.” Then I just think, “Then you need to get better at writing if you want other people to be interested in what you have to say.” So I experiment. I get personal and give you all a closer look at who I am. Then I swoop out again and I keep you behind the hedges so you can’t see in. I haven’t decided where I want to put you guys yet. I am not sure I want you all with your hands cupped around your eyes peeking into my windows waiting to see me naked, but I know it’s not so much fun for you to be hanging around at the end of the driveway either. But it’s OK to leave you out there once in awhile, and it’s also OK to invite you to the door too. But am I good enough at that? And is that enough for you? Some days yes, and some days no. It’s the “no” days that make me look at other blogs and think, “Man, these guys are always so ‘on.’ Why can’t I do that?” without even realizing that I’ve had a few “on” days, myself.

So here I am, at point B. And yes, it’s a probably point A for me to start from so I can get to some other point B. I am always plotting, always searching, always comparing, always yearning, always creating and always on the look out. Will I ever arrive at point B and think “OK, here I am. This is it. This is where I’ve wanted to go all this time?”

I don’t know.


Thursday, January 08, 2009

Only in My Dreams

I heard the shower running as I knocked on the bathroom door this morning. It was 7:35, and I needed to take my vitamins, brush my teeth and hit the road to get to work for 8:00.

“Come in,” he hollered from under the stream.

“Good morning, honey,” I called out to him as I reached into the closet to grab my vitamins.

“Oh, so you’re not yelling at me anymore?” he asked.

“This is the first I’ve spoken to you this morning, when did I yell at you?” I silently wondered if I was too abrupt in my “Honey, you need to get up, it’s after 7 now! Come on, let’s move!”

“You yelled at me last night.”

“When did I yell at you last night?”

“In the middle of the night you told me that you didn’t want that clown in your house. Or something like that. There was definitely a clown, and he definitely offended you.”

“I hate clowns,” I said in what I hoped was my defense.

“Yeah, I know. Apparently you hated this particular one. A lot,” he smiled at me as I opened the shower door to lean in and kiss him good-bye.

“Sorry I yelled at you. But really, you should know better than to bring clowns into the house.”

Bawling out my husband is something I do quite a bit in my sleep. Of course, I have no recollection of it in the morning. He gets a big ol’ “Fuck off!” when he has the nerve to do something offensive like roll over. Then there was the night where we were late. I rolled over, grabbed him and said “We’re late and we have to get the tickets. Come on! Let’s go!” I don’t know where we were going. But we had to go right then. And the tickets! Oh, we still needed to get tickets to where ever it was we were going. He managed to talk me out of going to where ever it was we were going, and I fell right back to the kind of deep sleep that makes me forget whatever I had dreamt about.

Then there was the time when a pair of shoes royally pissed off my sleeping self. I sat up, turned to Todd, who still had his reading light on, and said to him with my most deadpan expression. “I really don’t know why these shoes are news.” What? Shoes? In the news? Of course, I fell right back asleep as if what I’d said was completely relevant and entirely called for. I wonder what that dream was about, I wish I could remember.


Monday, January 05, 2009

“I Think Christmas was a Long Red Glare”*

I am back from my blog hiatus otherwise known as Christmas. I took the week between Christmas and the New Year off, and haven’t been into the office since the 23rd.

I haven’t been to work in something like 12 days. Twelve whole days of not having to rush out of the house, late, and speed at 80 miles per hour for the 11 miles I am on Route 95. Twelve whole days of not having to beg the dogs to hurry the hell up and do their business because their incessant sniffing of our entire 2 acre lawn is making the clock move faster and me later. (Let me tell you, an 8 AM start time at the office is one big bummer, for more reasons than I can list right now.) Twelve whole days of doing whatever the hell I want whenever the hell I want to.

Let me tell you what the whatever the hell I want and whenever the hell I want to has consisted of.

On the 23rd I barreled out of the office, nearly laying rubber in the parking lot as bits of pavement flew out from under my tires nearly pegging my employers square in the face. I hooted, hollered, and nearly called out “So long suckers! See you next year!” out the window of my car. I went home and wrapped the insane pile of presents.

On the 24th we woke up at 7, and wrapped presents until, something like, a million o’clock. Then we drove to my brother Kaz’s house for Christmas Eve, which was entirely lovely.

Christmas morning found us driving to Vermont, an uneventful 3 hour ride which involved grumbling stomachs and scratch lottery tickets on which we didn’t win anything. We arrived at my in-laws house, unloaded all the presents from the back of the truck, and chilled out as we waited for family to arrive for Christmas dinner and presents.

The next few days were a blur. I slept, I read, I played with kids, I hung out, I didn’t use the Internet. Then Sunday found us back in the car driving back to Rhode Island, me in the passenger seat with a whole week without work stretched out in front of me.

I cooked my man some meals. I exercised. I took my time showering and getting dressed every day. I read. I burned an obscene volume of firewood. I cleaned out a room in the basement that I will convert into a home gym, because I always wanted one. I worked on my book, doing endless round of edits.

And now, back to reality. Tell me, what’d I miss?

*Dar Williams, "February."