Tuesday, December 18, 2007

are you there, blog? it's me, erin

The last week or so has caused me to realize how grateful I am that my husband is NOT a high-powered workaholic executive. Sure, the convertible might be nice, but it turns out that having a husband who’s around is nicer. I am sure of this by my experience of the opposite.

This week is finals week for Mike- finals week of his first semester in a doctoral program. I’m not sure I remember what he looks like. No, I am exaggerating completely- but the long hours of staring at a computer screen/giant Greek lexicon (nerd) until he nearly goes blind have been a great reminder to me of how great it is to come home and hang out with him, and talk about our day, make some food together, whatever. I am so glad that this finals week time is not the norm. Of course, the semester of comps is going to be a different story. Possibly a much worse story. I am taking applications for Husband Substitute, a position that will need to be filled in the spring of 2009 (and by that I mean applications from girl friends, so stop judging me).

What is most frustrating is that I can’t do very much to help Mike. Back when we were both in college, at least I could study along with him, and commiseration is a help, right? Plus, we were studying basically the same subjects and working on many of the same projects. But now, I don’t know how much help I can be when it comes to a doctoral paper on the kingship of Saul and how it relates to ancient Judaism versus modern Christianity- at least beyond the realm of some paltry grammar edits. Now, I feel that all I can do is offer to make him some food, or put his laundry away. (Although this may be something that many dutiful wives already do for their husbands, we have a different setup- all the clean laundry gets dumped on the bed, and then we dig out our own and put it away. I would venture that this is a good system, since I can earn some brownie points just by putting away his laundry when he’s busy.)

It’s definitely a tough week for him, and I am trying to keep busy as well, just to promote the whole “aura” of productivity. But I will be none too pleased to celebrate with him when it’s done- at least until the end of April, when round two begins.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

carry on my wayward son

It's been a long time since I've considered myself a fan of South Park, but I happened to catch last week's episode, and was so glad that I did. I laughed so hard that I was crying. Really. Tears coming out of my eyes. For anyone who has played Guitar Hero, or has lived in Colorado, this is hilarious. But even for those who have done neither, Thad Jarvis is still incredibly funny.

Check it out...go to 7:53 if you just want to see Thad-

Thad Jarvis is my hero.

Monday, November 05, 2007

hello again!

Wow, it has been a fragillion years since I wrote anything on my blog. I guess the main reason is that I have taken a lesson from other bloggers, and refrained from blogging about the thing that I would be most likely to blog about, which is also the thing that is the most dangerous thing to blog about. And when you have negative things to say in a blog about this thing, usually it's better to just keep your dang mouth shut. And that's that. Hope you know what I'm talking about. And no, it's not my marriage. My marriage is real good.

Beyond the negative comments that I will not be making, all is relatively well. We are definitely getting into our routine, and getting used to being New Yorkers again (or at least living among the New Yorkers). I think our social lives have totally benefited from being out here- it feels like we've already made (or reconnected with) a lot more friends than we made in our two years in Wyoming- although we do miss the Wyoming group a whole lot. And how fun is it to get together with friends to watch the Rockies get pummeled from a pub in the Bronx, or try authentic kielbasa at a Bohemian beer garden, or smoke sheesha in Little Egypt? Well, I will tell you, it is very fun.

One thing that I looked forward to so much was a public transportation commute, which affords built-in reading time. So now I can think back on the handful of books that I've been able to read in the last couple of months and provide some recommendations. Number one among all of them: What is the What, by Dave Eggers. I picked up this book almost in disappointment, as I was looking for Eggers' more popular book, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. But What is the What is one of the most beautiful pieces of literature I have ever laid eyes upon- I recommend it wholeheartedly. It actually made me cry! Well, that's usually not difficult, but these were a different kind of tears. Not like the "I've come to know this character so well and now I feel emotionally attached when I find out that they have a terminal disease" tears, but the "society, or the human experience in general, is just so beautiful and disgusting all at the same time" tears. Please, read this book. I'm now reading AHWOSG (as it is lovingly referred to at the top of each page), and so far it is good also. I can't even think of what else I've read lately. That's just how good What is the What is.

My mood has changed entirely with the long-awaited entrance of fall. It seems like it took forever here, and I was very grumpy because of the heat and humidity, but all has since become right in the world. I think I have seasonal affective disorder, only in an opposite way than what one might usually think. (Is it an accident that the acronym for that is S.A.D.?)

The ways in which people happen upon my blog are more than a little amusing to me. Here are some phrases that people have searched for on Google that have brought them to my site: "super cool wow", "facebook statuses", "lahm bajine", "victor garber".

It is my dream to start a knitting blog someday. The google phrases that would bring people to it would probably be a little more run-of-the-mill, although I think I'd like to design a "Victor Garber" scarf, just in case.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

looking for my home

There have been so many blogworthy tidbits in my life recently, but not having the chance to get them down in an actual blog in a reasonable amount of time has caused me to forget most of them. I only know that they were there at one time.

The coming of the fall season has put me in a generally joyful mood- Mike and I have decided that October is our favorite month, for the following reasons: 1)the weather begins to cool off, and sometimes there is rain, and leaves are falling; and 2) the holidays are getting closer and closer, but not so close that they will be gone too soon. This second reason is especially exciting when there is the anticipation of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Rockefeller tree, the shop windows full of holiday cheer, the Empire State Building standing tall amidst a light sprinkling of snowflakes.

Can you tell that I'm feeling wistful this evening?

There are certain things about this new life that have been bigger adjustments than others. I'm really trying to stay optimistic and feel grateful for the opportunities we've been given, but I'm having a hard time settling into these next four or five years that will be relatively unchanging, at least in the basic ways. Every time someone hears that we've moved from Laramie, Wyoming to Westchester, New York, their eyes get wide, and they say "woooow". But really, they have no idea. It's not just the climate and population density that are different, it's the attitude and the entire way of life. I knew that New York could change a person, but sometimes it still scares me how quickly I settled into the selfishness and lack of concern for anyone around me.

I'm not exactly saying I miss Laramie. I've just got two extremes going on here. Hopefully some day I will adjust, and then my blogs can be about some other subject.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


One of the most difficult things about being anywhere new is the prospect of making new friends. At least for me. I wasn't a military kid or anything like that, so I never had to adapt to the life of re-creating my circle of friends every few years, and from the time I was 6 years old, I lived in the same house and grew up with the same general friends and classmates. Plus, I can be painfully introverted sometimes. I tend to enjoy my time alone quite a bit, but there are definitely times when I just want to call up a girlfriend and hang out.

Lucky for us, Mike is much more determined to actively establish relationships (we would have never started dating otherwise, considering that he thought that I hated him when we first met and got to talking). And lucky for us, some of our past NY acquaintances are still in the area and have made our adjustment much easier.

We are about a 5 minute drive from the seminary that Mike got his Master's from, so we have been over there several times for services, and just to hang out. Last night I went to a women's group that meets on campus, and was really happy to find a group of very welcoming women whose company will probably become the highlight of my week. But I have been actively observing myself in this capacity, and comparing my own actions to Mike's and to others', and I really think I have got some serious self esteem issues. I've noticed that I tend to automatically assume that I am bothering someone if I try to spend time with them or get to know them, and usually I don't initiate any contact with people I don't know very well, thinking that there's little chance that they'd want to spend time with me. When I say this, I realize that it's pretty absurd and basically debilitating, but I just can't get past that nagging feeling.

I can say that all of the closest relationships in my life have been the result of either proximity, or because the other person didn't put up with my weirdness and insisted on getting to know me. This is definitely something I need to get over, and I am thankful that I'm married to someone who is really completely opposite in this regard.

Even just sticking with this women's group and telling myself that I can be a valuable part of it and probably make some great friends will be a good step in the right direction. It's so crazy that I have to talk myself through something like that, but I guess we all have our quirks.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

life as a celebrity stalker/scarf-maker

Although we do not yet have a couch or a bed frame, I am beginning to feel fairly settled here in New York. Apartment is good. Job is good. Things are generally good. And one of my favorite things about New York City happened, 3 times, on Friday. No, I did not get mugged 3 times. And no, I did not eat 3 Coney Island hot dogs. I had 3 celebrity spottings- in one day. In about 3 hours, actually.

The first spotting was somewhat orchestrated, because I knew that there was a major fashion show going on in Bryant Park all week, and Bryant Park is only 2 blocks from my office, and I stumbled upon the show during my lunch break on Thursday. So, like many other people, I hung around outside the main entrance to the show towards the end of my break, first on Thursday, then again on Friday. On Thursday, no one really caught my eye, although I think I may have seen David Spade's brother, who is Andy Spade, who created the fashion line Jack Spade, who is also married to Kate Spade, the famous fashion designer. (It's amazing what a little Google research can reveal.) So anyway, I went back to the show on Friday just in case something interesting happened. And boy, did it ever. I was only there for about 5 minutes when a black Suburban pulled up, and out comes Carrie Underwood, as I live and breathe. Ok, so she's not exactly the number one celebrity I would have chosen to spot, but it was cool nonetheless. And hilarious to see the reactions of those around me- this 10-year-old nearby was nearly convulsing, and a guy next to me, who was about my age, couldn't wait to tell his friend Tyler, who apparently was going to go #2 in his pants when he heard who he just saw. Then there was the lady behind me, who had no clue who Carrie Underwood was, and when she found out, couldn't figure out why everyone was making such a fuss. Funniest response of all. My impression- I'm not much of a fan of hers anyway, and I didn't like that she was smacking her gum, or that she had about 2 inches of makeup on her face. But as always, the spotting itself was pretty exciting.

Spotting #2: on my way to Grand Central to go home that afternoon, I was walking up Park Avenue, which I usually avoid because for some reason that route just annoys me. And I was even more annoyed when I saw a huge crowd that was going to slow me down- until I realized that the huge crowd was watching a movie scene being filmed. Starring none other than Kelly Preston and Robin Williams. I was about 10 feet from Robin Williams, the best part of which was the fact that he is a great character in one of the greatest movies of all time, Good Will Hunting. I tried to take a picture on my cell phone, but was very rudely pushed aside by some lady who said I was going to ruin the shot. Yeah, try filming a scene for a movie one block from Grand Central at 4:30 on a Friday, and see how well it goes.

I'd have to say it was a good start to the weekend, especially after 3 days in a new job that seems to be going pretty well. Apparently, I really like routine, and I don't think I'm too good at creating it for myself, because I have felt so much more purposeful since I started the job. I have a lot less free time, and yet I'm getting so much more done. Go figure.

I also taught myself how to knit, and I am loving it. Just found out that the oldest yarn store in Manhattan is 9 blocks from my office. Loving that. I love to crochet, but knitting is much more versatile and will allow me to make things that are actually wear-able. And I picked up this book (Stitch n Bitch, which I highly recommend to anyone who's interested), that has an introduction about how knitting goes through ups and downs in popularity, but has always been a way to create things and to be fairly resourceful (I now love to look at sweaters in stores and consider the possibility of making them myself). I love thinking about how this craft connects me with centuries of women, and how it makes me feel like I can be more self-sufficient than I had ever thought. Plus, it's just a great way to unwind. I'm working on a practice scarf right now, but socks and sweaters, here I come! All in all, life is being pretty good to me right now.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

entirely random and arbitrary

Last night, similar to the last many nights, it took me forever to get to sleep. And in my sleeplessness, for some unknown reason I was recalling a conversation with Mike recently when we were trying to figure out if there were any New Jersey sports teams. Because I couldn't sleep, and because McSweeney's lists have to be one of the best ways to waste some time, here is what I came up with last night:

The Top 5 Failed New Jersey Sports Team Names:

The Hackensack Hackey Sackers

The Manahawkin Mohawks

The Newark Guys With Too Much Gold Jewelry

The Atlantic City Gamble-aholics

The Jersey City Orthodox Jews

Anyway...I don't know what it is, but it's something. Some of my other recent, Big Apple-inspired musings:

Men cannot achieve even an inkling of masculinity when they wear form-fitting capri pants. And maybe they don't want to.

It is absolutely not ok that 80's fashion is back in style. And I use the word fashion loosely. Any era that I lived through should not yet be making a comeback. And in the case of the 80's, never would be too soon. On the other hand, 50's-era dresses are completely welcome.

Loudly discussing the reactions of your bowels during a recent vacation is certainly not appropriate train etiquette.

In other news, I have a job now, and I start next week. Praise the Lord from whom all blessings flow.

Monday, August 20, 2007

to us

Tomorrow marks two years since Mike and I got married, and it's nice to be making plans that involve Central Park and maybe a Broadway show, because have I mentioned yet that we moved back to New York? And that New York is great? Yeah, I think I might have mentioned that.

And in honor of two years, two years that have been really great, and comfortable, and educational, and genuinely good, I would like to relate something that I have discovered about myself. Something that makes me laugh a little bit. I told this to Mike recently, and I think it's sadly true- I have become a pansy since getting married. I just can't put it any other way.

Before we got married, even when we were dating, and of course when I was single, I was pretty good at being independent, I think. I did a pretty good job of adjusting to whatever city I was living in, of moving myself around and getting to know the lay of the land, and being by myself on occasion, and sleeping in bed by myself, and all that comes with being on your own. I found an apartment in Brooklyn on my own, I drove, and pulled over to look at maps, and drove some more, I was fine being in a house by myself late at night, etc, etc. But now, now is very very different. Of course I know that I could still do all of those things, but I really don't want to ever find an apartment on my own again, I hate sleeping in bed by myself, and I get a little nervous being alone at night.

But if being a pansy means being happily married, then I'll take it. All of the give and take that comes with marriage is certainly very different than anything I ever knew before, and people can explain it to you all they want and it won't sink in until you know it yourself. I think it gives me a completely different sense of self. I'm not myself anymore without Mike as part of the equation. And that's not to say that I lost my identity, or did something that would make a feminist cringe, I just became part of something bigger.

I love that we have inside jokes, I love that we can be silly together, I love that he is my family, I love that it's difficult sometimes, I love that two years has changed us and also kept us so much the same, and most of all, God-willing, I love that we have so much more to look forward to.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

start spreading the news

Finally on the other side of all the anticipation. Well, at least most of it. We've been back in New York for an entire week now, and, all things considered, life is good. After a long 3.5-day trek from Laramie, Wyoming to Tuckahoe, New York, with a few friends along the way and a jam-packed little Honda Civic, we pulled up to our building about midday last Saturday.
I almost feel like we live in San Francisco- the walk down to the building's door is like a 75 degree angle. Should be interesting come mid-winter. But the area itself is great- I had forgotten how great, even though I came over here several times when we last lived in New York.

Across the street is a tiny grocery store, across the other street are a laundromat, a bank, and a Carvel ice cream, and on the next block are Starbucks and the train station. You could not ask for a better location. The library is less than 5 minutes away, and we've got Chinese, Mexican, Japanese, Italian, Indian, and Thai food all within a quarter-mile radius. Plus two diners. And a pizzeria. Holy cow.

The apartment itself is pretty great, too. Lucky for us, the last tenant was pretty bad, so we get new carpet, new kitchen tile, new varnish on the doors, etc. Moving in pretty much sucked, so combining our feelings of not wanting to do that again anytime soon, and our love for this place, it looks like we could be here for a while. Which is a really great feeling.

Moving was made much less easy when it became apparent that I had a cold and started to really feel terrible. All I wanted to do was sit in front of the air conditioner and not move for a very long time, which was pretty difficult considering that for a while there was nowhere to sit, and being anywhere further than 3 feet from the AC unit was pretty much hell. But the cold is over, the apartment temperature is much better, and we have a few pieces of furniture- which means that I can finally say that I really do like where we're at.

But our hurdles are by no means over. I still have not found a job, even though I thought that I had one in the bag until I got an email- addressed to Casey- saying that they had chosen someone else. Professionalism at its best. I have a few possibilities to pursue, and I am really hoping that maybe next week at this time I'll be getting ready for my first day somewhere- but who's to say. In the meantime we're holding off on buying more furniture, and I continue to remind myself that this part is always the scariest, until you look back from a steadier place and shake your head at how anxious you've been.

A few reviews that I can make since the start of our adventure: The Secret Life of Bees is a wonderful book, and it was a great cross-country read. The sort-of Catholic religion that was portrayed in the book, and a 14-year-old's take on it, was really interesting and amusing. We also watched the movie Shooter last week, and although this wasn't exactly my pick, and I wasn't expecting it to be a masterpiece, it turned out to be worse than anything I could have anticipated. Beyond being a pretty crappy and cliched action movie, it turned the main character into a hero for having the same kind of intentions as a terrorist, and it really bothered me to see that glorified under the guise of patriotism and American kitsch. Two thumbs down from Erin. However, Bourne Ultimatum made up for all of my negative feelings towards action films, because it was...awesome. And as one wise woman said last night, it's not difficult watching Matt Damon either. I was always just a lukewarm fan of the movies, but this one tied everything together so well and so cleverly that I just want to go back and watch all 3. Lucky for me, my husband has always been a fan, and I'm sure we'll have the full collection of movies in our possession...and watch them many, many times.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


After several very long reading sessions over the last few days, moments ago I finished the final addition to the Harry Potter series. I won't be giving up any information, so don't worry...but let's just say, I'm in awe. What an incredible story, what a brilliant woman who has given it to the world. And this coming from someone who scoffed at the hype for several years before finally giving in and picking up the first book, only to be instantly hooked.

There are so many nuggets of goodness in these books, so many things I would love to spend hours working through and trying to explain, yet I don't want the magic to be taken away in over-analysis. So I let my thoughts just simmer, as I shake my head in incredulity at the depth in these novels. This is certainly on par with other classics like Lord of the Rings- with many of the same adventurous quests.

I found myself both laughing and crying at so many points in this last book. I felt somewhat silly, especially when I realized that Harry was born in 1980, which meant that he's my age! As if he were a real person, I wonder what he's doing now! But it's just another amazing thing about the books- they truly suck you into their world.

I thought I would be heartbroken, coming to the end of the last book, but it ended in a way that I could feel nothing but satisfied, and grateful that J.K. Rowling had the sense to maintain the magic within just 7 books. And I know that I will read all of them several times over, and never grow tired of the story.

Brilliant, just brilliant.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

life together

"What greater thing is there for two human souls than to feel that they are
joined for life - to strengthen each other in all labor, to rest on each
other in all sorrow, to minister to each other in all pain, to be one with
each other in silent, unspeakable memories at the moment of the last parting."

George Eliot, Adam Bede

I just used this quote for a square on a quilt that we're sending to a friend who is getting married, and I really like it. Especially since George Eliot has probably become one of my favorite authors. It's nice to be reminded of the bigger picture.

Monday, July 09, 2007

I'm currently sitting on our couch, ignoring the work that I am trying to finish before my time's up at my current job, reminding myself that I also need to help Mike with some packing that's got to be done soon, and as usual worrying about the millions of things that still need to fall into place before we feel "settled" again. I've been staying away from my blog lately, because I know this is the only topic I feel like discussing, and I know it's only interesting to me. But here I go again.... I even typed in "New York" on Google images just now, and found this great photo:

This shot reminds me of everything I love about this place...the nightlife, people walking everywhere- even in the streets, the classic yellow taxi, and the energy that is just constant in a place like this.

We are just three weeks away from leaving Wyoming, and it has not sunk in at all.

I want to say that I am not very sad at all to leave Laramie, but I think part of that feeling is the typical psychological pull to separate ourselves from things that we know we'll have to leave behind anyway. In my expert opinion. However, I really don't think I'd want to come back to Laramie- I certainly would not want to settle here. I'm just too much of a city girl.

All in all, I think the move is going to be great, especially once we have a few more details figured out. There's a part of me that feels this pull to be anchored in one spot, and to have the next ten years planned, and to have steady incomes, and to do all of the things that are part of the stereotype. And yet a bigger part of me still really, really enjoys the adventure. I can feel that part being slowly overtaken by the more practical side, so I'll just resist it as long as I can.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

26 candles

So, we're having a farewell party at work tomorrow (June 21st, also a very important day as it is the day of my birth) for me and the other 4 (yes, 4) people who are leaving their jobs in the next couple of weeks. And my coworker who provides the goodies for these parties asked if I had any goodie requests. I automatically thought of this cake that she makes, that I remember having when I was younger- it's chocolate cake with some cool whip on top, and bits of toffee on it, and caramel or something on the bottom that makes it absolutely delicious. And apparently better than sex for some people, because apparently it is called better-than-sex cake. I've heard of this cake before, but didn't realize that it was this cake that I love. Although, I'm sure there is more than one cake that has been called better-than-sex cake, because it's a funny name, and maybe people just aren't feeling too satisfied in that department, who knows.

Anyway...I am excited for the better-than-sex cake. And maybe tomorrow night I'll get a sex-on-the-beach cocktail, you know, just to fit the theme. Because it's my birthday. Did I forget to mention that?

Leaving this job is going to be sad. Probably the best boss I have ever had- and I am happy to be able to say that, but sad to be parting ways. I've learned a lot in this job.

But at least tomorrow is my birthday.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

call me vanilla

Considering that it snowed in Laramie only a week ago, ew, I was pretty happy to walk out of work today and realize what a beautiful day we're having. Not too hot yet, just perfect.

I also realized that I desperately need some sun. It's already June, and I look as pale as if it were the middle of winter. It's weird, because I used to tan really easily as a kid, but now I'm either white or red, unless I devote a lot of time and attention to being brown. My brother, on the other hand, merely thinks about the sun and suddenly turns two shades dark. I think he's like Puerto Rican or something. Maybe the reason why I want to call him Pablo instead of Scott (hi Pablo!). He got my mom's genes-- genes I used to have, which I have apparently traded in for dad's genes, genes that don't get tan. Kind of a bummer, but as long as I don't start naming dogs after dead French generals, I guess I'll live with it.

I'd like to lay out and work on a tan, but I'm afraid I may cause traffic accidents. Not because I'm laying out and distracting men while they drive, but because the glare off of my white skin might be blinding.

Here's a nerdly image for you: pasty white girl laying on a beach towel, reading Harry Potter.

Friday, June 08, 2007

getting the monkey off my back

I just performed the necessary online steps to make a (HUGE) final payment on my college loans. It feels a little strange, and not as satisfying yet as I thought it would be. Considering that I just transferred a major sum of money from our bank account to the powers that be at Sallie Mae, I half expected a pop-up window, or something, saying "um, are you sure you want to do that??" But no, they sterilely accepted my payment, just as always, with no "congratulations" or "thank God that's over with, right?" But I know that as soon as the transaction is final, and I realize that I can take the "make loan payment" reminder off my calendar, this is going to feel dang good.

I would celebrate, but now I can't afford to.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

i could use a drink. or an antacid.

Lately, I'm not doing so well at handling the many-things-to-do-at-once phenomenon that is my life. I'm pretty sure that at any moment my brain is going to shut down entirely and I'm going to be reduced to watching the movie Princess Bride. Over, and over, and over again.

I've got all the work stuff of course. With a major event in less than a month. And lots of people I'm supposed to be coordinating the event with who are never available to talk to me and who never return my calls or emails. They have made me dislike an entire town in the state of Wyoming, that's how bad they are. Plus, I need to be ready to pass this office on to my replacement, and train them well enough that they have at least a vague sense of what the heck they're doing when they take this position.

On top of this, I've got to find a job in NY. Yes, call me Captain Whiney Pants, because this is certainly one of my biggest whines these days. We also need to find a place to live. A place to live which will be our living place for possibly the next 4-5 years. That's longer than I've lived anywhere since graduating high school, and I want to enjoy the living place. We've got to find said living place, or at least living place candidates, from very far away. Then spend too much money to fly out there to pick one.

Oh yeah, and did I mention that I will (hopefully) be taking my first trip to Lebanon in July? This is assuming that the situation isn't too bad over there. But assuming that it is not, we'll leave for Beirut about 5 days after I finish my job. I can't complain at all about this trip, because it will be so good to go over there, but the timing isn't exactly ideal. I'm hoping that my jet lag isn't too bad, because when I get back, I'll have about a week on my own to get everything in order and ready for moving. Then Mike will get back from a trip to Vienna, and we'll probably leave for New York just two days after that. There is also a good chance that I will be starting a new job just days after we get to New York, if not our first day there. Let's all say a collective "eek".

I shouldn't have even acknowledged how stressed I feel right now. My stomach has begun to churn.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

super cool dance dance wow!

I've joined the craze. A couple of weeks ago Mike got me a Dance Dance Revolution mat and game for our Xbox. I am a jumping, stumbling, hip-shaking fool. If anyone saw me trying this thing, they'd have a good laugh- but I don't care, bring me some more of those electronic-sounding remixes.

I'm not so sure that this is the best kind of exercise for me, because I think that I have kind of crappy knees. Every couple of years, I will somehow manage to lock my entire leg, so that it is the most unbearable feeling in the world to try and move my leg at the knee. I did this back in the fall, and couldn't move until I had taken about 10 pain killers and warmed up my leg with a heating pad. And after I sit through a movie at a theater, my knees are so creaky that I look like I need a walker to get out of the theater. Cycling is supposed to be the best exercise for bad knees, but a used DDR mat and game are much cheaper than a stationary bike or a gym membership. And I like DDR a lot more- an hour of exercise goes by pretty quickly on that mat.

Another problem might be the stomping noises that go along with this game- something that downstairs neighbors might not appreciate, especially in New York. We'll see how that goes- is this a good enough reason to make a first floor apartment a priority?

My dream is to some day go to an arcade, act like I have no idea what I'm doing when I walk up to that DDR machine, then show up all the little 15-year-old punks who spend their lives on these things. It's like something out of a movie, right? But first I have to get past the stage of clumsily stabbing my feet at the different marks, feebly attempting to have some rhythm and balance.

Friday, May 18, 2007

i threw up in my head

Song lyrics that I have misunderstood entirely and replaced with nonsensical versions of what I hear:

Smooth Operator (Sade): "smooth operator" became "smooth of a red R"

What's Love Got to Do With It (Tina Turner): "what's love, but a second-hand emotion" became "what's love, but a sack in handy motion"

Tiny Dancer (Elton John): "lay me down in sheets of linen" became "lay me down and she's so gladly"

And finally, the best, all-time craziest lyric replacement I have made, one that Mike will never let me live down, and will always serenade me with whenever the song comes on:

Dolphin's Cry (Live): "love will lead us, alright, love will lead us, she will lead us" became "Lolita's alright, Lolita's shape will meet us"

The only reason I admit these is because they really are hilarious even to me, and I KNOW that everyone has done this (feel free to share your own lyric blunders!). The thing I can't figure out is why people will come up with lyrics that make absolutely no sense (mine being the prime example).

And if you want to get a laugh out of some other lyric mishaps, I discovered a site called Kiss This Guy (in reference to the Jimi Hendrix lyrics "kiss the sky", I think from Purple Haze).

My favorite misheard lyrics by far are, instead of "Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednago" (a Beastie Boys song), "smack my midget and then we'll go".

Good times.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

am i roger ebert? you bet i am.

I watched Little Miss Sunshine for the second time the other night- I hadn't seen it in like a year, or whenever it came out in theaters- and I loved it even more this time around. The characters are so endearing, and the crap they go through, while possibly exaggerated at times, is still so much more life-like than so much of what else is out there. Or maybe I am a crazy person who can relate to other crazy people- also a logical explanation.

If you're reading this and haven't seen the movie, I might spoil it for you- although it's not necessarily the plot that drives the movie, I'd say it's the characters' reactions to events.

Right off the bat, all of the main characters are introduced in a sort of montage, and each one is dealing with a situation that seems somewhat larger than life, when in reality each situation could be a part of anyone's life. Dreams of becoming a beauty queen, drug abuse, attempted suicide, an awkward attempt to be a teenager who stands out, and a grand career aspiration that is forced into mediocrity. I love one of the first scenes when the family sits down to dinner- a family consisting of 3 generations related by blood and marriage, and a dinner consisting of a bucket of chicken, Sprite, and a salad that the mother insists be eaten. I can completely relate to the "bucket of chicken" dinners, the family convening from completely different places, and the dinner conversation that is hilariously odd for so many reasons.

The whole movie is a string of events that force the family to deal with each other and with their own struggles- in a way that is a lot less cheesy than what I just described. The best and most comical scene of the movie is the young girl, Olive, performing her dance routine for a beauty pageant. The routine turns out to be essentially a strip dance to the song "Super Freak", and it dawned on me when I watched the film the other night that it was a perfect commentary on the child beauty pageant phenomenon (I could only come to this conclusion after getting over the first-time shock of seeing a 6-year-old do what amounts to a strip-tease). The other girls in the pageant are spray-tanned, hairdoed, and slathered in makeup, and Olive stands next to them, looking and feeling like a "plain Jane". In all reality, the pageant parents have no grounds to be upset about Olive's dance, because it is really just the logical extension of the entire pageant mentality. I LOVE the way this scene played out, it was perfect. Satire at its best.

Of course, the movie ends with everyone feeling a little changed by the events of the weekend, and probably feeling a little closer to each other. But their problems are by no means solved, and on Monday they will have to face them again. The movie was realistic in that way, and on a level that I think a lot of people can understand and sympathize with. Oh yeah, and the horn that won't stop honking just about makes me pee myself every time.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

into the great wide open

My head is so far up in the clouds these days, it's just not even amusing at all. It's the reason why we bought like 6 things at Walmart last night, including avocados, parsley, tortilla chips, and a baby shower gift- and then got Chinese takeout for dinner. It's the reason why I spend way too much time looking at job prospects and nowhere near enough time on the rest of everything else. Mike's plans for the next 4 years are fairly well mapped out, and now it's my turn to figure out what I'm going to do.

I should be very happy that good things are happening- like Mike getting into a program with funding, and me having good jobs to consider and possibly even take, but I'm really nervous, and it's coming on pretty quickly. I have never been the type to get anxious about a move or a change, but I can tell as I get older that I will feel good about settling into a place, and a career, and so on and so forth. I know that even 4 years will pass quickly.

I am very grateful for these opportunities, and I doubt I would have shed tears on the plane leaving NY last time if I'd known that I'd be back soon. Every time I see Manhattan on TV or anywhere, I remind myself that it will be home again shortly. I already have plans for Spamalot, and The Daily Show, and The Colbert Report, and Trader Joe's, and the Japanese place in Tuckahoe, and the Mexican place in Greenwich Village, and....who knows how many other places. I think the problem is that right now, I think there's still too many uncertainties, and too much to finish here in Wyoming, for me to feel ready. Hopefully that will happen soon enough.

But we did see Spiderman 3 last Sunday, and probably over 50% of the audience was kids. We sat next to a bunch of them, and although I was tempted to be apprehensive about them being noisy, it turned out to be the college guys on the other side of us who were the most annoying. The kids were great during the previews- the first being one for the Transformers movie, which I had no idea about until that preview. As soon as the preview started, there were collective gasps across the theater, and whispers of "Transformers!" Then, a preview for Shrek 3 came on (another movie that I knew nothing of until a couple of weeks ago), and the kids all giggled at everything in that preview. It was great- I'm going to make sure to see that movie in the theater as soon as it comes out, merely for the giggles. I really miss knowing all of the happenings in the kid world, and I can't wait to get in on the scene again.

I also got my hair cut last weekend, and discovered the most amazing piece of technology ever created by human hands. Behold the CHI. A ceramic hair straightener. My hair felt like it had been kissed by angels. I couldn't stop touching it the rest of the day! I dropped a very un-subtle hint to a certain husband of mine that this would be the most perfect birthday present- the CHI is not a cheap angel-kissing product, nor are its counterparts, the Sedu or the Solia. Not that I did research or anything.

Anyway, this is my life presently.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

cheer, cheer for liberty high

Every once in a while I will do a check-up on MySpace and look for alumni from my previous schools to see who's new, and who's going to throw me for a loop when I find out that they've now got 3 kids and are on their second marriage. It's, seriously, a lot of fun. Especially looking at alumni from my high school, considering that I haven't seen most of these people in 8 years (holy crap).

It's weird, though, the way that things will come back to me after years and years of not thinking about them at all. Having someone as a science lab partner, having lunch every day with the same two girls for like a whole year, but then not even keeping touch later, heck- I can't even remember a lot of last names anymore. But a lot of creepy high school feelings come back to me quickly in my nosy little search. I even begin to worry what other people might think of me if/when they spot me on that alumni list. Do I look better than I did in high school? (I REALLY hope so.) Do I seem as happy and satisfied as I feel? How many people actually remember me? I can't believe that there is still a part of me that really wants to feel accepted and liked by my high school peers, almost a decade later. Maybe I would have had a chance to escape those feelings for good, if it weren't for this crazy phenomenon called MySpace.

But it is pretty amusing to see what people are up to these days. Some people haven't changed at all- the guy who was obsessed with school spirit way back then is, well, still obsessed with school spirit. A couple of the super popular girls are living up the single life in big cities, some with drink in hand. But some have surprised me. Some people who I thought just pretended to be nice to everyone in high school so that everyone would like them- it turns out that they're actually, genuinely nice, as far as I can tell. But some of the people that I thought would be a huge success haven't really done much of anything and don't seem to have changed much at all. I can say that it looks like several of the girls from my class have had boob jobs. Congrats to them on that, I guess. Nevetheless, it still amazes me that all of these people have had almost 8 years of experience beyond the day when we graduated and looked forward. Many of my classmates are married and have several kids now, or they've got these great jobs, or they're at least older. And maybe fatter. No matter what they've done, they're an 8-years-later version of how I knew them, and it's just plain weird to me. It's weird to me to think how much I've changed, too.

One thing that I hope to remember and to pass on to my children: your high school girlfriend/boyfriend/crush is not necessarily the ultimate model of love in your life. I don't know how many times I've found old crushes and thought "what in the world was I thinking??" I can't count how many times my mom has reminded me that I thought I could never love anyone except my 7th grade crush. What's funny is that he's probably the closest of all of them to Mike. But still- who I've become today could never, ever have worked well with any of those guys that I was head over heels for, and I'm so glad that I didn't have the chance to make any crazy decisions at a way-too-young age.

In the last year or so, the subject of high school reunions has come up in a couple of conversations. I really don't know if I'd want to go to my reunion. High school wasn't horrible or anything, but experiencing those weird insecure feelings all over again makes me feel kind of silly and awkward. For some reason I still can't convince myself that the people I went to high school with aren't 10 times better than me.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

mr. rock tells it like it is

A friend recently wrote about the whole Don Imus scandal, and mentioned the double standard that comes when rappers are allowed to say incredibly derogatory things about women. It reminded me of this great piece from Chris Rock, and I just had to post it. Warning: it is of course incredibly crude, but considering the content, I think it's justified.

Friday, April 13, 2007


Every now and then (or maybe a little more frequently than every now and then) I glance at Craig's List to see what kinds of apartments are available for rent in the New York City area. I have found some places that I would love to go and look at, but unfortunately it is too early to really be pursuing something, especially when most of the places advertised now will be available by May 1st.

However, I have learned a few things about searching for housing in this way, things that I had forgotten since the last time I looked for a place to live in NYC:

1. Writing a headline in all caps is about as appealing as listening to a used car salesman scream about his Cadillacs for sale. Water view sounds much nicer than WATER VIEW, I promise. Indoor voices on Craig's List, please.

2. "Cozy" can sometimes be a euphemism for "make sure you don't make any sudden movements, else you're liable to smack your head into a wall or swing your arm around and break a lamp". I learned this one from Mike. And considering that I managed to break a lamp cover with my arm the other night in our very spacious living room, I don't think cozy is the best idea for us.

3. Grammar is important when describing a place. Consider the following:

If you are interested in these living quarters Please leave:

# you can be reached {PLEASE LEAVE}
# Of occupants Salary

A comma would have been really helpful in that first sentence, and after the second "PLEASE LEAVE", I began to wonder if the one posting this was trying to send subliminal messages to the voices in their head.

4. Some people are willing to rent out the one and only bedroom they have and sleep on the couch, they are so hard-pressed for money. I actually didn't forget this piece of advice, and I doubt I'll ever forget the conversation I had with a woman: "this apartment has a really nice bedroom, plenty of space and everything. I sleep in the living room." "Did you say you sleep in the living room?" "YES. It's not a problem, okay? You'd barely even notice me." I feel like my life is richer, having that conversation to reflect on.

I have to say that I am ecstatic to not be apartment-hunting on my own this time. Or moving. Last time I borrowed a friend's 16-passenger van, loaded all my crap into it, and drove it from Princeton to Crestwood, then from Crestwood to Brooklyn. I honked at a guy who cut me off during that trip, and for a split second I was pretty sure he was going to get out of his car and have a word with me. Talk about having your life flash before your eyes. But this time around, at least I'll have the deacon to protect me.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

times they are a-changing

On March 31st, just before Holy Week, Mike was ordained a Deacon. This last week has pretty much been a blur. Holy Week is always an intense time, but when your husband is also making his way through his first week of clergy service, and you spend more time in church than you do anywhere else...phew, I'm still exhausted.

But what a beautiful time it has been. The ordination service made a lot of people in Casper (and a lot of Mike's family) overwhelmingly happy and proud and excited about where Mike is headed. When the deacon vestments were pulled over Mike's head, I was a trembling mess of tears and joy. I know it's hard for many to understand, especially if they are not religious, and even if they are and their church has deacons, because the Orthodox Church just has a whole other approach to the deaconate. But I'm not going to get into that here.

Of course this is all fairly new to me also, having been Orthodox for only 5 years. I feel a little strange holding the hand of a man in a collar, and I blame it on these Western notions that are still stuck in my head about celibate clergy. I don't know why they're still stuck in my head. I was never Catholic, and I've spent plenty of time around married priests and deacons. Maybe I'm worried that people will think I'm involved in some sort of scandal when I have my arm around the waist of a man who surely must have taken a vow of celibacy. It's a little funny to me to think about the kind of reaction we might get when we're out together.

Anyway....life is changing quickly, and I'm trying to keep up. Deacon Michael just sent in his official acceptance of an offer to the PhD program at Fordham University. Which is in the Bronx. In New York City. Which means we're moving back. In only a few months. And I will again be living in New York. Near Broadway. And Chipotles as far as the eye can see. And yellow taxis. And people yelling. And lots of culture and things to do. And humidity. Oh, sweet humidity. It has not sunk in completely that we will be back there, but I do get butterflies in my stomach just to think about it.

One huge blessing is that we are headed to a place that is teeming with the kinds of jobs that I am looking for. I've decided to pursue development research and writing, and hopefully take it into a freelance situation where I can work from home and decide my own schedule. Then maybe, just maybe, someday we can have some babies, and I won't have to leave them in daycare all day, but we'll still be able to afford crazy extravagant things like diapers and food and clothing. It's almost too much to hope for.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Shamassy Irene

It feels like adding a new post to my blog is somehow pushing Eric aside, allowing him to become a part of the past and allowing me to move on with my happy, carefree life. I've been nervous to write anything, but I also didn't want to dwell for too long on the sadness of losing a friend, because rejoicing in who he was and living my life accordingly seems like a much better way to honor him. So I think that I need to acknowledge him one more time in this space, and in some vague way acknowledge what I've learned through his death.

Some individuals who read my blog won't have any idea how the thoughts that follow are related to acknowledging a friend's death, but that's okay, because hopefully my thoughts will still be important and relevant to the lives of those who read this.

My husband is going to officially become a leader in the church (a deacon) this Saturday. The prospect of this is much more sobering than I expected it to be. Of course, we are both overjoyed, and it is wonderful to have people come up to us in church with congratulations and hugs and smiles, and I am so proud of him and I deem him worthy (axios!). But after seeing how power in the church can be abused, I am fervently praying that neither one of us will ever take this role for granted, or forget what it means to be looked up to by many others. Obviously no one is perfect, and we will need to own up to mistakes humbly and with repentance. There is just a part of me that fears the kind of mistakes that never go away, the kind that tarnish the lives of many forever.

I had to have a conversation with a psychologist during the arduous process that comes with the pursuit of church leadership in the Orthodox Church. All of it centered around my relationship with Mike, and whether or not I supported him in this decision. I remember telling the psychologist that I didn't want to anticipate this new responsibility with "rose-colored glasses", but at the time I don't even think I fully appreciated what that means. No, I don't want to be a complete pessimist, and go through life in fear of how we might stumble. But I'm trying to remind myself to place above all else honesty, accountability, and diligence. I find myself praying all the time for diligence. It's not enough to make a good decision or to stick to something now, I have to keep it up. I will never forget one priest's advice about how diligence is a day-to-day decision, although now sometimes I wish that I could forget.

This truly is a fallen world, but have you noticed how that makes the good stand out so much more crisply? Certainly I have known church leaders who continue to show me good, even in times when I feel I can barely find it anywhere. I pray that God will allow my husband and I to stand out crisply, as so many others have done for us.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


. Eric,

This is how I want to remember you. Having fun and being a goof. Making Mike a little uncomfortable.

I hadn't seen you since the day this picture was taken, and honestly I don't really know where life had taken you in the last year or so. But that didn't make the news any easier. Of course we always say this, but I wish I had gotten to know you better when I had the chance.

What I will remember is riding the train to Manhattan with you and Mike and Jacob, and I said how much I liked Anne of Green Gables, and of course I got blank stares from the other two guys, but you wholeheartedly owned up to the fact that you loved Anne of Green Gables growing up.

And I remember going to that sports bar near the seminary, and complaining about my job situation, and you were great at listening and being sympathetic.

And I remember watching the Simpsons with the regular group in the basement of the Germack building, and every time there was something written, on a sign or something, you'd read it out loud. It annoyed me a little bit. But then I noticed myself doing it, so I ate my words.

Your loved ones are really going to miss you. May your memory be eternal.

Friday, March 09, 2007


This has been one of the popular ads on MySpace lately. It scares the bajeezus out of me every time I see it- I actually try hard to avert my eyes. I don't know what the heck they did with photoshop to come up with this picture, but this girl is barely a human being anymore. She looks like some sort of crazy alien whose fingers could stab someone to death and whose legs are made of plastic. I swear, it really creeps me out.
And what the heck does alien lady have to do with mystery shoppers? The marketing people aren't even trying to hide the fact anymore that sex sells better than anything. This is what I'm getting from the ad: become a mystery shopper and you too can wear slinky black clothing and have long fingers with painted fingernails- even aliens can be sexy.
That's pretty much what every internet ad does these days (although the alien life form part is pretty creative, I'll give them that). It's especially a problem on MySpace. What the heck am I going to do when I've got teenage kids? It scares me.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


Wednesdays during Lent are typically church days for the Orthodox. In the evening, the Presanctified Liturgy is celebrated (presanctified meaning that the communion is prepared on the previous Sunday).

I wasn't able to go to Presanctified during the first week of Lent, but I did go last Wednesday. During the service, Lent just kind of crept up and hit me on the head. Of course, I knew it was Lent as soon as Lent started, and many of the changes that come with Lent continued to remind me of that fact, but participating in the Wednesday service brings it all home. The atmosphere (a smaller church crowd, dimmed lights, psalm after psalm being recited, a lenten potluck afterwards), combined with the fact that this service is observed only during this time of year, puts everything into a certain perspective.

This is the sixth Orthodox Lent/Easter that I am taking part in (only the fifth as an Orthodox person), and I am amazed at the progression it has taken in my life. Progression seems like an ironic word to use, because Lent is pretty much the exact same thing every year. In general, all of the Orthodox services seemed strange to me at first, because they don't really change much. The liturgy unfolds in the same way every week, with only a few hymns changing each time. Shouldn't people be bored by this? How do you learn anything? And yet I have learned so much more in the last 6 years than in my whole life. It's the same with the Jesus prayer, a prayer that many use as a meditation (see The Way of a Pilgrim if you're not familiar with it, or Franny and Zooey if you're not into religion books-- just don't pass out trying it). I think it's that sense of focus and simplicity that lend so much to the repetition and constancy. And there is a humility about it that makes it more than just a mindless religiosity.

But I am getting away from what I was trying to say. This time around, I have more excitement for holy week than ever. Yes, I've always had some excitement, but with that always came a little bit of dread about the number of services, and the length of services, especially leading up to the Passion. Now, all I really think about is this week that is so much more meaningful to me than any other time of year. It feels more like the new year than January 1st, because it is the time when I actually feel recharged- spiritually, mentally, and physically.

I realized in reading an article on the Greek Orthodox website that it's pretty ironic (and amusing) that a discovery of bones in Jerusalem would be hyped up during the lenten season. There was a show on last Sunday (produced by James Cameron-- yes the James Cameron who did "Titanic") trying to make the argument that these bones they found were most likely Jesus', and the bones with his were most like Mary Magdalene's. I'm not in too much distress over the status of my faith when all this comes out- partly because I have heard enough of the rebuttal to the show to know how flimsy the research is, and partly because I'm more willing to trust hundreds of years of church tradition than the production of a guy who made a movie with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. But the article I just read was titled "Why do You Seek the Living Among the Dead?", a reference from scripture that is said millions of times in church, and is more poignant during this time of year than any other.

In a few weeks it will again be clear that Christ is risen. Truly He is risen.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

confessions of a recovering nanny

I went to the Internet Movie Database website a little while ago in search of something, and an ad for a trailer on the front page caught my eye. It was for the movie version of The Nanny Diaries, a novel (not-so-loosely based on someone's real experiences) about a girl balancing school and a nanny job in Manhattan. As hilarious as the trailer was, I am a little apprehensive about seeing the movie.

I actually read the book while I was a nanny in New York, and I think my emotions about it at the time (a mixture of very very dark humor, profound sadness, all-too-real commiseration with the main character, and jealousy that she still had a life at school) would come back too sharply if I were to re-read the book, or see the movie.

Nannying is an enigma. Most girls I've met who have been nannies have some pretty bad war stories under their belt. The only ones I know who can truly say they enjoyed it (and I don't mean a consistent, part-time babysitting job- I mean either live-in or at least full time) are pretty much off their rocker. One example: I babysat for a baby girl in Denver one time, and part of the reason I was there was because the main nanny was looking for someone to help her out. That's never ever a good sign, when the main nanny needs help. For one child. But I think she was cutting down her hours. So I get there, and she gives me this run-down that is part interview and part instruction. She tells me about all of her philosophies on nannying (or what looked to me like wannabe parenting). When the baby cried, she ignored her for something like three minutes, to establish the fact that crying was not the way to get attention (because an infant has so many options). The baby was not allowed to watch more than 15 minutes of Baby Einstein per day, and must be "stimulated" by a walk around the neighborhood. Then this girl asked me what my zodiac sign was, because I guess your planets have to be aligned in a certain way in order to be a good caregiver. I should have left right then and there, but I agreed to watch the baby for an evening.

When I went to actually babysit, the baby's parents were the ones to greet me- imagine that. While mom was getting ready, she asked dad to show me where the baby food was. Dad did not have a clue where the baby food was, and I ended up finding it for him. I also got introduced to the baby monitor that was actually its own channel on the TV, along with the monitor-of-the-front-porch channel. Then mom showed me the changing table, including the baby wipes that had their own warmer, so baby's butt didn't get cold in the process of being changed. And even though I was almost positive that someone (probably crazy nanny) was going to watch a video of me after I left, I still let the baby watch an entire half hour of Baby Einstein, and I'm pretty sure I didn't ignore her when she cried. I was never asked back. Darn.

Almost none of my experiences were good ones. Once I was left out in a car with a kid to wait while his mom had a drink with her friend at a restaurant. That same mom had apparently hired me while she was visiting her sick mom in Denver, and had not told her husband that she hired a nanny because he was I guess very much against it (he told her this while he was in rehab for alcoholism), and when we pulled into the parking lot of the hotel she was staying at, she thought she saw his car and completely flipped out. She started swearing and told me to stay in the car and come up with a story as to why I was there. It turns out her husband wasn't there at all (as that would have required escaping from rehab), but I was pretty much done after that. I also had the parents who were way too worried about their kids- like making sure they only ate whole grain pasta, and not painting their nails because of the chemicals. And then there were the parents who didn't seem to understand that they had to be the responsible ones, and as a result their kids pretty much climbed the walls and screamed all day. Within my first 10 minutes of watching 3 kids, one of them had gotten so mad about something that he crushed a Christmas tree ornament in his hand.

Most of these were temporary jobs, or jobs that only required 10 or so hours of my week. But then I decided to take on full-time nannying when I graduated college in order to pay off a chunk of loans and have the ability to live in a big city. Yes, I did pay off a good portion of loans, and yes, I got to see New York in all its splendor, but I really doubt I would do it again if I could go back. I was a live-in nanny, and for 5 days a week, usually about 6:30am to 6:30pm, I was responsible for 4 kids. It was without a doubt the worst time of my life. I should have known that I wouldn't like it, because I had never really liked any nanny job. I don't understand why parents would have kids and then be gone so much, or why a couple with two kids really needs a babysitter so they can go grocery shopping. My mom trucked all 3 of us along when she went to the store- it's manageable. So why in the world would I take a job doing something I disagreed with? I can't answer that question. All I know is that I was capable of breaking down into tears at any moment of any day- and I did, often. The kids were fully aware of the fact that they barely saw either of their parents, their life and their rules were inconsistent, and I barely ever felt like I had any control of any situation. I don't want to get into too much detail, because that wouldn't be very nice of me. And part of it was on me, as I didn't tell the parents a whole lot about how I was feeling. But I was supposed to commit to a year in that job and I only just barely lasted 10 months. It was bad.

So- this nanny movie coming out- I hope I'm able to laugh at it. I'm not yet at the point where I can laugh at that last nanny job. The warmed-up baby wipes, yes; the 5-year-old screaming on a regular basis that she hates her mom or hates me, no. I still notice myself sometimes getting very angry very quickly at petty little things, and I don't think that it's a coincidence that that started after that experience.

But Scarlett Johansen is in the movie, and she's cool.

Monday, February 26, 2007

fast cars

So, the night before we headed down to Denver to leave for our Europe/Middle East trip back in December, I made a quick last-minute run to Walmart. I needed airplane munchies and a hat and scarf that would keep me warmer than my homemade versions. And since there are very few places in Laramie to find clothing, Walmart wasn't exactly a bad option.

I was pretty disappointed and a little panicked when I checked the section of women's hats/scarves/gloves and found some picked-over remains from the holiday season. If I remember correctly, the only hat I could find was a very fluffy pink beret, with matching scarf and gloves. Even if I had known at that point that I would soon be in Paris, there is no way in Hades that I would have ever willingly worn a pink fluffy beret, anywhere. I hope that the Parisians would have beaten me over the head with a baguette.

I did find a cute fleece scarf, the last of its kind, but I still needed a hat. My next thought was to check the men's section, since I was thinking a beanie would be a good choice. All I could find were baseball caps, and that definitely wasn't going to do the trick. So I finally found the little boys section, which turned out to have a selection of all kinds of beanies for like $5, that miraculously fit my noggin. Having decided against the Spiderman hat, I picked out a plain black beanie that had a little emblem on it, which I assumed was just the brand of the hat. And because I didn't have a whole lot of other options, I happily purchased the scarf and hat I found at Walmart 3 days after Christmas, and wore both for the majority of our trip.

Last time we got together with my family in Loveland, I wore my beanie. At one point, we were standing outside talking, and my dad points his finger in my direction and says "Porsche". I turned around, thinking there was one parked in the parking lot, until it dawns on me that he's pointing at my hat. Turns out that the little emblem on my hat is the Porsche emblem, and I had no idea.

For some reason it's really amusing to me that I bought a "Porsche" beanie without even realizing it. Heck, I'm guessing that any little kid who wears the hat would have no clue what the symbol was. But maybe if anyone recognizes it, they'll just look at me with a little more mystery than they might have. I only wish that it could have been the Mustang symbol.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

my bum is on the faaaacebook

Facebook statuses that I could put on my Facebook profile right now, and they would be completely accurate:

Erin is missing Mojo Catering.

Erin wishes it were the weekend right now, except that the weekends always fly by, and she never gets as much done as she wants to.

Erin feels very, very blah today.

Erin thinks that maybe the first week of Lent is kicking her in the teeth, just to make sure she's really ready for it.

Erin should feel joy for Lent, and maybe she does, but it's used up all her joy and left her with no joy for much of anything else.

Erin wishes she could remember the quote from John Chrysostom that was in last Sunday's church bulletin.

Erin hopes the dean's office opens back up soon so she can heat up her spaghetti.

Erin needs to make banana bread with the brown bananas.

Erin wishes something would happen that would get future plans in gear again.

Erin should suck it up and stop being so mopey, because even though she's only been feeling it today, it's already getting old. She should also consider actually putting one of these statuses on her Facebook, but probably won't. Which is actually good, because really she should be working right now.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

excuse me while i take my osteoporosis medicine

A few months ago, when I was looking for some crochet information online, I discovered a magazine. A magazine devoted entirely to crochet patterns. And not the kinds of patterns that grandmas choose to make afghans to adorn the backs of their rocking chairs, no, these are much more modern patterns including sweaters, stuffed animals, cool blankets, etc. I was instantly mesmerized.

I requested my FREE! copy, and soon after, I subscribed. I still eagerly await the days when I will come home from work and a new edition will be waiting for me, so I can pore through the contents and try to decide what in the world I might crochet next. Granted, there are a few negatives involved in me getting this magazine. For one, I have officially crossed over to the dark side. I'm one of those people, the annoying crafty people who devote an entire room to their craftiness (ok, so far I've only got a corner of a closet, but we live in a small house). Secondly, not all of the patterns in this magazine are as "hip and modern" as they claim to be. I'm sorry, but I'm never ever going to think that a mustard-colored fuzzy bolero jacket is cute. Never. Ever. And third, the worst of all, I have somehow been characterized by the mailing powers-that-be as a granny in a rocking chair, crocheting doilies. About once a week now I will get some little brochure or catalog containing patterns for hideous-looking afghans, lacy doilies, and now, it's not even ending with the patterns. Now it has moved to catalogs for general old people products. I'm 25 and a half, and I am getting mail that caters to women who are 85 and a half!

I have proof. Two days ago I received a catalog from this company. Some of the things in the catalog I couldn't have come up with in my wildest dreams, like the extremely frightening "Slimming Shapers" or the thing that makes me wonder how much time people really have on their hands, the "Hair Cutting Umbrella". Unfortunately, I can't get the pictures to save as jpg's, or else I'd have a field day with all of these products on my blog. But if you really want to laugh, I suggest going to the website and just doing a little bit of browsing. And I thought Sky Mall could get outlandish.

But you want to know what the worst part of all of this is? I'm slowly giving in to all of it. The prospect of all of this octogenarian mail doesn't keep me from wanting my crochet magazine. I have plans to teach myself knitting this summer. And I actually thought that this doggy sweater and the doggy wearing it were painfully cute.

I guess, at this point, it's useless for me to fight it.

Monday, February 12, 2007


It's been several years since I watched the Grammy's, but I watched them almost all the way through last night, and this is what I've concluded: I'm becoming old and crotchety, I am missing out on a lot of the new stuff, but I still like to shake my boot-ay.

I only got to see part of The Police and their reunion, but it only took a few seconds to remember how Sting's voice can melt a girl's heart. Rarr! I would go to that concert in a heartbeat, but if The Police are in fact doing a tour, I'm sure the ticket prices are way overpriced. And Mary J. Blige was holy-cow-incredible!! Her solo performance was actually emotional for me, and apparently for the audience, too. She even upstaged Ludacris with her back-up vocals on his song (at least in my opinion)- I was very impressed, and very happy about her awards.

Anyway, what makes me realize that I'm getting older, is my use of phrases like "the music these days" and "can you believe My Humps was nominated??". Don't get me wrong, I like Fergie-Ferg, and her humps, but not because either is Grammy material. And I actually felt sorry for Smoky Robinson and Lionel Richie when they were flashingly upstaged by some dude named Chris Brown that I had never heard of before last night. And John Mayer? Please cut your hair.

It seems like only yesterday I was rolling my eyes when my mom would say things like that, and now I have become her. Yikes.

And I don't think my lack of knowledge on some of the new artists is really my fault. We really don't have a good radio station here, or cable, so I am missing out on a lot of what's coming out. This will all most likely (hopefully) change by the fall, when we will be most likely (hopefully) living somewhere else. Where we might be living continues to be on my mind, especially as our possibilities narrow and become more clear, but I am determined to keep my mouth shut until we know more. Or at least keep my fingers shut (?) and not mention it on the blog, because I actually do talk about it a whole bunch. Sometimes I think that I will probably get thrown back into the mainstream music full-force when I've got kids who are old enough to press a button on the radio (if my kids are anything like I was). But the kind of music I will be forced to listen to will be the next decade's Cheetah Girls and Yellowcard, if nannying has taught me anything, and only a 13-year-old girl can appreciate that kind of hooey.

All this being said, I've come to realize that probably nothing will ever pull me away from a good beat. By far the best performance of the night was Shakira and Wyclef doing Hips Don't Lie, if only because it made me want to get up and dance. Shakira did this weird combination of belly dancing and Latin dancing (which makes sense since she's half Lebanese and half Colombian). I would LOVE to be able to dance like that. Of course, I'd love to have abs like that, too.

But the best part of the night was the confirmation that the Dixie Chicks received in their FIVE awards. Yes, 5. Including best album, best country album (hah, suckers), and song of the year. It was great to see the risks they took with their "response" album be received in such a positive way.

Mike and I noticed how new rock music must be in a bad place right now, or something, since most of the nominees for best rock album (Tom Petty, Neil Young, RHCP) were all much older bands. Hopefully some new bands will make their way onto the scene, and not suck. I really don't like the weird, punk, whiney-voice bands that have been coming out lately (see: Yellowcard).

In any case, I'm glad I watched and got myself a little more up to date on what's popular these days. Yes, it is very surprising to see acts like Justin Timberlake, Black Eyed Peas, and James Blunt (bleh) be the headliners these days, but we will see how far they go.

Friday, February 09, 2007

hot topic

The latest news on Ted Haggard has got me thinking. Thinking about homosexuality, and religion and politics clashing, and the Christian church in all of its not-exactly-glorious glory.

Of course, Ted Haggard was a pastor in Colorado Springs who was forced to acknowledge his "dark side" when a male prostitute revealed their ongoing relationship to the public at large. This all happened just 3 months ago, and now Haggard has made a statement saying that he has realized that he is completely heterosexual. And he is going to be a psychologist.

Yeah...I'm not so convinced. First of all, what kind of a qualifier is that, to say you're "completely heterosexual", and why is it so important? And how could it possibly be true after 3 years of an illicit relationship with another man, within just 3 months of being put on the spot for it? Did they drain the gayness out of him with a tube? Does he have a split personality? I'm afraid that all of the assumptions underlying this man's Christian viewpoint have forced him into a corner, where he can either find a new way to repress his feelings, or be more honest and just completely lose his family, his friends, and his mind.

I don't feel qualified to make any kind of statements here about the general Christian stance on homosexuality, but I get so frustrated to see people make arguments in this backward manner, where the conclusion is already there, and we just have to justify it. For example, "homosexual marriage is wrong, and we can see that's true because so many homosexuals have promiscuous relationships or relationships that end". (Um, has anyone checked up on heterosexual relationships lately?) Or, from a different perspective "Christians are idiots to believe in God, because obviously God doesn't exist". I had a professor last year, who was so determined to be right about God and science, that it didn't matter what kinds of arguments he used to reach his atheistic conclusion. At least think through what you're saying before you say it- seriously. I have no respect for this type of debating, no matter what someone's conclusion is. It becomes obvious very quickly that you don't know what you're talking about, when all that matters is this one thing you're sure you believe in.

And this is what I think Mr. Haggard, and other Christians, are doing with many arguments. It is absolutely not an option for him to consider a homosexual lifestyle, so he must try to extract it at all costs. But how safe is he from the situation he just got into at the end of 2006? It reminds me of the movie Saved, and the attempt to "reprogram" the gay character, even if it means that his girlfriend sleeps with him and ends up in the midst of a teenage pregnancy. We can't consider the possibility that there might be another option to this whole dilemma.

I remember a guy from Focus on the Family coming to speak in chapel when I was in college, and he's essentially a "reformed homosexual". He spoke to us about how, growing up, he lived a gay lifestyle, but was basically cured of it and brought into Christianity. In some ways, I guess I'm happy for him. The way he described it, he was obsessed with his weight, was doing drugs, was sleeping around, and according to him this all stemmed from a bad relationship with his father. So if he was able to overcome a bad family relationship and live in a healthier way, then good for him. But of course his Christian mentor saw no other way to reform him than to cure the homosexuality part itself. I just wish Christians would give this more than 3 minutes of their time. And some do, but many don't.

To attempt to be entirely honest with myself, I try to think through different situations that I could be put in and see how I would react to them and why I might react that way. To be completely honest, I don't think I would be devastated or anything to find out that my kid was gay (which is actually a pretty big statement coming from a devout Christian). But also to be completely honest, I don't think that I'd feel comfortable being in a church where members were gay, and fine with it, and practicing, I guess. I definitely don't think I could handle gay clergy. And trying to figure out why I feel that way is a big mystery. Is it because it's just a basic Christian assumption with no backup except history and tradition? Is it because I just really can't imagine an Orthodox Christian church having to deal with this? (Although I am positive they have had to deal with this, I just haven't seen much of it.) Or is it because of some underlying genuine aversion to the idea, which is grounded in more than just circumstance? God, I know how many people I could potentially offend by saying all of this, but I think it's important to be honest and hope that it will stir up some sort of respectful dialogue with people who disagree with me.

I guess all I know is that I'm glad I haven't had to deal with it personally. I really don't know what Ted Haggard is going through, and so I can't judge him too harshly. But I hope that he's not being forced into a corner that he can't maintain. And I hope he thinks twice about becoming a counselor before he's spent more time really learning something from this experience- something I don't think could happen in 3 months, especially when he wasn't the one who decided to reveal the issue in the first place.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Victor Garber Part 2

And here is Victor Garber playing the very serious Jack Bristow on Alias. He's no longer the savior of the world, but the CIA agent who tries to kill his Russian spy traitor wife, Irina. I don't know why, but the difference cracks me up.

Victor Garber Part 1

Here is Victor Garber in the 1973 film Godspell...

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

anonymous complaint

Letter to the person who laughed at me yesterday when I slipped on the ice:

Dear young man with the stupid face and the stupid laughs coming out of your stupid mouth at my expense,

You are a stupid head. At least I didn't actually fall, so neener neener. What if I had? Would you then laugh even harder? Would you pee your pants? Because that would be funny.


Someone who thinks you're stupid.

Monday, January 29, 2007

a case of the mondays

Why is it that, without fail, the grass is always greener on the other side? My life is a walking cliche. Last semester I was swamped at work, longing for the day when my to-do list would be tiny and I could actually take a deep breath. Now that that is actually the case, I am bored to tears. All I want to do is go home and curl up with a book. I am actually afraid to finish everything, because then what will I do?

I doubt that will happen. I'm sure I'll find something to do. But boy am I dragging.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

around the world in 2 weeks

I have been holding out on my blog for over a week and a half now, simply because I did not want to write anything else before recapping our amazing trip to Europe and the Middle East. I did begin a post about that subject, in Word so I wouldn’t lose it because I knew it would be long. But I have already written 3 pages, and I’m on day 3. So I left it for a while, realizing what a time-consuming project it was going to be. And in the meantime, specific memories of the trip are already leaking out of my brain and slipping out off of my earlobes.

So here is my solution: write a more concise recap of our travels, and realize that it may not matter to me ten years from now about how I didn’t sleep very well on the plane. I’m sure I’ll remember that anyway.

To begin with, we arrived in London on a cold Friday morning- a day earlier than expected because of the crazy crazy snow in Denver. My body and mind were so confused by the sheer exhaustion of traveling mixed with the overwhelming excitement and curiosity of being in this new place that I had imagined for so long. We went straight to the bus terminal to find the “Oxford Tube”, which got us to Oxford in a little over an hour. The ride itself didn’t hold too many sights, at least nothing more than green trees (green trees! I forgot they existed!) and strange European cars that I had never seen before. I like the Peugeots and the Smart Cars. And although I wish there were Smart Cars in the U.S., I can’t imagine what horrors would ensue when a collision between a Smart Car and an SUV inevitably happened.

When we got to Oxford, we walked about 1/10 of a mile to the guest house where we were staying, St. Michael’s (fitting, I guess). The middle-aged woman who owned it let us pick out which room we wanted, and we ended up in a room with twin beds and a small sink and television. Yup, we were a regular Lucy and Ricky. We spent our first half-day just taking in all of the architecture. Mike showed me several of the colleges and other favorite places of his, as he had spent 3 months there back in college. We went to the huge bookstore Blackwells, and a small café where I got a lunch consisting of a fried-egg and bacon sandwich and my first real English tea. The tea was of course the best ever, but that could have just been psychological. And for dinner we got “donner” meat at a kebab van, and ate it in the cold wind and drizzle, and it was gooood. Later in the evening we went to Mike’s favorite pub, The Lamb and the Flag, to look at a map of London over beer and soda water (the soda water was mine, of course). That night we were back at the guest house getting ready for bed by 7pm, and the shower I took, the first in like 36 hours, was THE BEST OF MY LIFE.

Our second day was pretty difficult for me. My body didn’t enjoy adjusting to the time difference and the crazy sleep schedule, nor did it like the smell of bacon and sausage frying first thing in the morning. But I tried to ignore it and got on a bus for London. Big mistake. Big. Huge. After a horrible bus ride, an hour or so of Mike waiting for me to wretch in a McDonalds bathroom in London, another hour of hiding out in a fancy hotel lounge where I napped on a couch to try and feel better, we were ready to see London!

Mostly we just walked around and saw sights like Hyde Park (hey! I lived near NEW Hyde Park on Long Island!), and Trafalgar Square- a day before the New Year’s Eve festivities, and Big Ben, and the London Eye at night. Then we headed back to Oxford, and I’m sure wandered around there a little bit for the evening, although I already forgot exactly what we did. At some point we ended up at another pub, The Eagle and Child, where C.S. Lewis and Tolkien used to hang out. I loved the atmosphere there- a nice old pub with lots of big wooden tables (like most there). One thing I do remember is watching a little bit of British TV each night, although half the time they’d be showing American movies like Kindergarten Cop or Man in the Iron Mask. At one point we watched a show where a bunch of people competed to see who knew the most TV trivia, or, who is the biggest couch potato. Not so sure I would have wanted that honor.

On Sunday, New Year’s Eve morning, we walked to the Orthodox Church in Oxford (where Bishop Kallistos Ware presides, for anyone who knows who that is). It is a nice, quaint little church, and it reminded me how much I love Orthodoxy for its constancy and feeling of coming home, no matter where you are. I struggled much more than I thought I would for the first few days of our trip, being in a different culture and being so far away from what I’ve always known. But I think the church helped resolve that for me, hearing those familiar liturgical words and being surrounded by icons. I can’t express how great that was.

By then I had given up on finding any British cuisine that I might like, so we went to Pizza Hut for lunch, saw some more of Oxford, and celebrated the ushering of another new year. We decided to go back to church for a New Year’s thanksgiving service, and on our way, stumbled upon an Anglican evensong service. So, although we had just intended to go pub-hopping that night, we ended up also church-hopping a little bit. There were only a few people at the Orthodox Church, and Bishop Kallistos said some very nice words, and it was the best way I can think of to start 2007. At midnight we were back at The Lamb and Flag, and inadvertently sat in the perfect spot to watch some fireworks outside the window.

On Monday, we left Oxford after breakfast with all of our things and headed back to London. We checked into a Holiday Inn, and I began a fresh onslaught of nagging to Mike to find out what my Christmas present was, a present he had promised me I would get while we were on our trip. But he made me wait until the afternoon to find out. So we walked along the Thames, and stopped by the Globe Theatre, which was probably one of my favorite sites in London. We crossed the Millennium Bridge to St. Paul’s Cathedral, and wandered around for the afternoon. At some point we went back to the hotel for a break, and Mike finally gave in to my nagging. He “gave” me my present by handing me a map to Paris. Paris, the city I have dreamed about since I was little. The city with French people, who speak French, and eat delicious French food. I almost cried. Then I REALLY almost cried when I found out that we weren’t just flying in for the day on our way to Rome- we were staying for two…whole…nights. My husband is the most wonderful man alive. Oh yeah, and he had planned a dinner cruise there. On the Seine. Seriously, do you understand how close I came to peeing my pants?

Needless to say, I was a giddy little girl for the rest of our last day in London. We spent some time in Herrod’s, the famously big department store, which reminded me a lot of the Macy’s on 34th Street in New York. All I really remember now is their big counter full of cheese, and their other big counter full of chocolate- the two main food groups, in my humble opinion. It’s probably becoming clear now anyway, but food ranks very high on my list of important categories with which to rate a city, and Herrod’s probably rescued London for me. Final impressions of London: meh. It was nice, and I certainly would like to spend more time there, but I like NYC and (I was soon to find out) Paris more. London didn’t have the “character” that the other two have: it’s almost sterile-feeling. So, apparently I like dirty cities with good food. I’m odd like that.

On Tuesday morning we headed out early to catch our two-and-a-half hour train to Paris. The weariness of traveling was beginning to catch up with me, and I had a hard time keeping my eyes open for that ride. Luckily the view was mostly English and French countryside, albeit a beautiful countryside. When we arrived in Paris, we had some difficulty getting metro passes on the automated machine, and ended up having to ask the information desk for them. The woman we spoke to didn’t speak much English, and I was quickly put into the situation of having to use the leftover French I remember from high school. I managed to spit out the right words, and get us each a two-day pass. I know this is a small feat, but I really was excited to have actually communicated with someone in another language, one of my favorite languages even. There were many more experiences like that in the rest of our visit, and luckily I never embarrassed myself too badly.

So, we headed to the hotel and checked in, and then found a small restaurant for lunch. I ordered the first thing that my eyes caught on the menu, that’s how much faith I had in French food. And I was definitely not disappointed. I got this salad, with a spectacular dressing whose ingredients I don’t think I could ever guess, with pieces of bread that had 3 different chesses melted and crusted all over the top of them. I am not exaggerating when I say it was heaven on lettuce. With as much as I looked forward to French food, I can say that I completely underestimated it. Every single thing that I ate was magnificent.

That afternoon was very cold and dreary, but we walked around to see a few things and to find the dinner cruise that Mike had planned. And when I caught my first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower from afar, near the Seine, I actually gasped. That’s how much of a nerd I am, and that’s how wonderful it was to see Paris. We began to realize after walking along the river and trying to ask someone for directions that it was going to be difficult to figure out where to go for the dinner cruise. So we began to give up on that idea and come up with other options. Then we walked over to the Eiffel Tower, took lots and lots of pictures, and walked around other sites from there. We ended up at Notre Dame after a while, and I decided later that it was my favorite church in the whole trip. It is gorgeous, and huge, but not gaudy or overdone. Sitting in there, I couldn’t help but think about Victor Hugo, and his Quasimodo. I joked later that I should have yelled “Sanctuary!!” while we were in there, but I think it would have only been funny to me and maybe two other people who had happened to see the Disney rendition of the classic novel. But seriously, to be in the city that Monsieur Hugo wrote about, where he created Jean Valjean and all of his other amazing characters, was quite the experience.

When we tried to find the metro stop near Notre Dame, we came upon a couple of adorable little streets, completely accidentally. They were cobblestone, and full of restaurant after restaurant, and creperies. Mike decided to stop for a crepe, and after we ordered one we watched a man pour batter onto this big round hot plate thing, and even it out with a little wooden utensil, then flip it over after only a minute or two, then add some nutella and fold it up. My Lord, that was one of the most delicious things I have ever tasted in my life.

That night, after discovering that a restaurant that we had found on the river was closed, we decided to go back to the area near Notre Dame, which is called the Left Bank. We walked by one restaurant where the owner was standing outside and talking to people as they walked by, trying to lure them in. He quickly found out that we were American, and convinced us in English to eat there. So we sat on the patio under a heat lamp and ate all kinds of delicious food and drank delicious red wine. I remember that I had a small piece of steak with Roquefort, and prawns with avocados, and mousse au chocolat. Mmmm….my mouth is watering now just thinking about it. This is almost embarrassing to admit, but after that we both got a crepe with nutella. Again. They were just so good, we wanted to have as many as we could while we were there.

The next day we went to breakfast at a little boulangerie. Yes, I am talking about food again. We both got pain au chocolat and a café. And after dumping some milk and a whole bunch of sugar in mine, I loved the café. We spent the day going to the Champs Elysees, the Arc de Triomphe, the Moulin Rouge, and then searching for a bookstore where Mike could get a French book for practicing with French translation. We sort of accidentally ran into the Sorbonne, and spent a few minutes hanging out there. That night we headed back to the Latin Quarter and found an equally delicious restaurant. I had some real French onion soup and loved that, and some roasted chicken. Dang, those Frenchies can cook.

We did stop at the Louvre, but never ended up going inside. I would love to go back at some point and just spend a week going there every day. People had told me it was a huge museum, but seriously, it’s huge.

On Thursday morning we said a sad goodbye to Paris and got on a train for Milan, then Rome. We spent the whole day on one train and then another, with a short stop in Milan. We arrived at our hotel, Villa Benedetta (a hotel for Catholic travelers), late in the evening. Rome was the main reason for the trip, as a friend of ours- Father Christophe, a Vatican diplomat- offered to put us up in this hotel if we wanted to visit. It was nice, and probably the biggest room we had had since starting the trip.

Our first attraction on Friday morning was the Colosseum, which was fairly close to our hotel. It was huge, of course, which is good since it’s called the Colosseum, and you don’t need to be going around advertising falsely. The best part was these “Roman soldiers” standing outside, waiting to take pictures with the tourists. They actually had breastplates with fake muscles on them. It’s good to know that Americans aren’t the only ones who will shamelessly exploit tourist sites to make a buck. Anyway, then we spent several hours in the Roman forum ruins, which were incredible to see. We headed over to the piazza where the Pantheon is, and found a restaurant off of the piazza where we got delicious margherita pizza and red wine for lunch, and also listened to the musical stylings of an adolescent accordion-player. We also went to the Basilica San Paolo, where Saint Paul’s tomb is. It was supposed to be made more available to viewers sometime recently, but we weren’t sure if it had been yet or not. All we could see was a small tunnel that leads to the tomb- I hope that’s not all that they’re doing. In any case, it was a beautiful church, and it was truly amazing to be in an area of the world where biblical history actually took place.

After St. Paul’s church we headed to the Vatican, and after going through security, went inside St. Peter’s Basilica. That place is massive, and overflowing with religious art and artifacts. I can’t say it was a place that I liked all that much. Mike said that some people have described it as a museum in itself, but I say let it be a church, and put the museum stuff in a museum. It just didn’t feel like a very humble place to me.

The next morning we went back to the Vatican because that day (January 6th) happened to be Epiphany, and Epiphany is a huge celebration in Rome. We got to St. Peter’s Square just as Mass was beginning, with the Pope presiding. The service was being broadcasted on jumbo screens outside, but we still got in the long line to go through security again and get inside. It was, of course, packed in there, and Mike stood in a mob with arm held high to get a few shots of the Pope. I couldn’t have seen anything unless I pushed myself to the front, and considering that I was in a church, that didn’t seem conducive to the whole Christian idea. So I stood on the side and did some people-watching, figuring that I could just look at pictures later.

Later that day we went to the Spanish Steps, but I don’t think that I could see any part of the actual steps underneath the throngs of people walking or sitting on them. And considering that we had spent a week already walking for hours and hours each day, I really didn’t care if I didn’t walk up what looked like about 1,000 stairs. So we went on our way, seeing more sites, and having gelato (which, by the way, is good, but it’s no crepe with nutella). That night we found an Epiphany festival, which was full of food, games, families, and even a belligerent drunk guy. They also have this tradition about a witch named Befana, who brings candy to the children on Epiphany if they are good. They had Befana dolls at the festival with glowing red eyes, and I was more than a little mystified by the entire thing.

On Sunday morning we decided to take a commuter train to Lido, an area on the coast of the Mediterranean, about 45 minutes from Rome. We wandered around and realized that the town either doesn’t really exist when it’s not the summer, or they just completely shut down on Sundays. We finally found a little bit of life in one neighborhood, and had lunch at the one and only restaurant that was open, then headed back to Rome. We spent a leisurely last afternoon and evening checking out some more ruins, and a 4th century church, and some souvenir shops. On our way back to the hotel we got ourselves pizza, and ate it while walking back to the Colosseum where our metro stop was, and decided that there was no better way to spend our last night in Rome.

On Monday morning we headed to the airport via commuter train, and flew to Frankfurt, then Dubai, then Abu Dhabi, to see Mike’s parents. This last leg of our trip was an entirely different culture and group of people, and I think was the perfect way to end our trip. We didn’t actually get to the hotel where Mike’s parents live until about 1:30 on Tuesday morning, but we were so glad to set our stuff down in a suite that was bigger than our house in Laramie. We had a king-sized bed, a kitchen with a fridge and microwave and dishwasher and wash machine, and a bathroom that you could probably play basketball in. And a huge TV with lots and lots of channels. So, we got a good night’s sleep, and in the morning had fresh juice (so fresh that it’s almost like a smoothie with no ice added) and Lebanese foods like zahtar and lahm bajine (no idea how to spell that in English letters- but I promise it’s good stuff).

That day Mike’s parents took us to Dubai, a bustling city that was barely anything 30 years ago. We went to a shopping area that models the ancient Arab souks, with all kinds of souvenir-type gifts, and rugs, and clothing, and even a Cinnabon. Then we had lunch at the hotel that is shaped like a sailboat, the Burj Al Arab. Wow, I never ever expected to eat anywhere that fancy in my entire life. Rooms at this hotel go for at least $3,000 a night. Guests can borrow a car from the hotel- and I mean a Bentley or a Maserati, not a Ford Focus. We ate at the seafood restaurant, which is under the water, and houses a massive aquarium. It was absolutely some of the best seafood I have ever tasted. Once we rolled ourselves out of there, stuffed with lobster and prawns and scallops and sea bass, we walked around on the beach a little bit (something Mike and I both missed terribly), and then went to Starbucks to meet up with Mike’s cousin and his cousin’s fiancée.

That night, although none of us had entirely recovered from the huge lunch we had, we went to a Lebanese restaurant in Abu Dhabi. It was quiet at first, and we sat and munched on basic Lebanese foods like, hummus, falafel, sambousik, etc. But, as the night went on (after we had ordered some sheesha), more people began to show up, and a guy got ready to play music in the front of the restaurant. Then a belly dancer came out and danced for like an hour, and Mike’s dad sat and chatted to a man sitting at the table next to us, whom Mike and I later found out was a sheikh, a nephew of the royal family, and the head of the national bank. It was the quintessential Lebanese experience, and the weather was perfect, and the entire evening was perfect.

The next morning we stopped by a smaller Lebanese establishment for fresh juice, then went shopping for souvenirs, and a CD of Arab pop music for me. We met Mike’s dad for lunch, and sat outside in the gorgeous mid-60’s weather (although many people who live there pointed out how it’s never that cold). After that we walked to a nearby mall, which I can only compare to Cherry Creek on steroids. First of all, it was huge, and second, I couldn’t have afforded to buy anything in that place. But we did do a little more shopping in a place that Mike calls the French version of Walmart, Carrefour. And their produce section puts anything I’ve seen in the U.S. to shame. There was an entire area of sacks full of spices and dried fruits, some of which I had never even heard of. If you ever have a chance to try candy chick peas, I know it sounds weird, but eat them. You will definitely like them.

That night we ate at the smaller Lebanese restaurant and had shawarma, which is chicken or beef from a spit, similar to Greek gyro meat. Our flight left Abu Dhabi at 1:10 in the morning, so not too long after dinner we headed to the airport. And although we ran into problems with a flight being cancelled from Frankfurt to London because of wind, our itinerary only improved because we got a direct flight from Frankfurt to Denver. That flight was alright, aside from Coughy McHackerson sitting behind us, who didn’t stop for more than 30 seconds for the entire 10 hour flight. We got two movies, the first being The Illusionist, which was alright. The second was Flicka, and all I can say is that I must have been bored to have watched that whole thing all the way through. Bless Tim McGraw and his attempt at acting. I tried to tell someone here in Laramie about how disappointed I was with having a horse movie on our flight, but when her face lit up at the title, I realized that she wasn’t going to sympathize with me.

All in all, I’d say it was a wonderful way to begin what I hope will be a lifetime of traveling. So much for trying to make this short, but if you’ve made it this far, congratulations.

Now back to our regularly scheduled blogging.