Monday, April 01, 2013

Day 19 – Something you regret, in great detail

I don't regret a lot in my life.  I have some minor moments of shame: skipping work back in college; not officially resigning from my job in Nice; not showing up to a job interview in Norfolk... (these all seem to be job-related).  In one previous post, I mentioned admiring my mother for not getting embarrassed.  I think that I may have inherited this from her, since I get over most of my embarrassing moments quickly.

Something I regret is not keeping in touch with my best friend from Montpellier.  Rachael and I were both assistantes de langue anglaise at the same time.  We lived about a block apart, and we did a lot together.  We saw Bridget Jones's Diary 2 subtitled in French together at the cinema; we went clubbing together at a student club in Montpellier where we saw one of Jube's middle school students; we shared a room during orientation in Meze and went to our medical visits together.  We complained about our friends back in the US who didn't send us e-mails, and then I did the same thing when I moved to Nice.  I wish I hadn't.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Day 18 – Your favorite birthday, in great detail

My favorite birthday was last year's, my 30th.  It was really great!  I have never been a big party planner, so maybe that's why my birthdays never were that great.  For this one, I started telling Jube early (from January of 2012) that I wanted something special for my "Big Three-Oh."  (I even mentioned having a big party in some Christmas cards.)  I actually referred to it that way in front of my dad, who mocked me mercilessly.  But I didn't let that discourage me!  I really wanted a big bash, but I also didn't want to do any of the work (wouldn't that defeat the purpose of a party?).  I had the "grandes lignes" ready for Jube: 

1. I made the guest list and gave it to him.
2. I told him I wanted a keg.
3. I told him what restaurant I wanted to go to.
4. I came up with the punny name for the party on my own.

After that, I let him take over.  It was soooo great.  BB flew in from out of town.  My parents drove up from Virginia (they arrived early, as usual!).  Everyone else showed up on time.  Even though the restaurant was kind of annoying (seating us late and serving us late), I had had enough to drink that it didn't bother me at all.  BB and my mom & stepfather spent the night at our place.  The next morning, we had homemade breakfast and mimosas. 

It was absolutely the best birthday celebration I ever had.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Day 17 – Your favorite memory, in great detail

This is kind of a weird prompt, don't you think?  Do we really have "favorite" memories?  I have some moments where I am so happy (or maybe just so contented) that I tell myself, "Remember everything about this moment.  You will want to remember this later."  One of those moments was the one I described a few posts ago.  Another was when I was fourteen or fifteen.

I had just started high school (I was a freshman or sophomore).  I shared a room with my cousin Shannon.  We had one of those bunk beds that could be changed around: a regular bunk bed, two twin beds, or one high bed and one low bed.  We had all configurations at one time or another.  The night of my memory, we had two twin beds.  Mine was in one corner, and hers in another.  My bed was pushed horizontally against the wall with the windows so that I could see outside.  The room was dark and quiet; Shannon was already asleep, or maybe we had just turned out the lights.  I think this is more likely, actually.  I was lying on my side, looking at the windows.  My dog, Merissa, slept in my bed.  She was also lying on her side, facing the windows.  I had my right arm and leg draped over her.  I remember feeling warm and happy.  I tried to match my breathing to hers.  I had actually read this in a short story, where a boy breathed in while the dog breathed out, and I tried to do it periodically, but her breath came too fast and I always ended up feeling lightheaded. 

The moonlight came in the window a little bit.  By this time, Merissa was "old" for a dog.  She was eight or nine, and my brother the Rooster had started talking about how "When she dies, I'll be able to get a beagle."  I was so content, snuggled up with my dog, that I thought to myself, "You need to remember every single little thing about this moment, right now."  Merissa was a terrier mix.  She looked like an Irish wolfhound, but smaller, or like a Norfolk terrier, but bigger.  Her hair was longish and wiry.  It didn't mat, and so we brushed her rarely, although she adored the feeling of a wire brush scratching her back.  In that moment, I stroked her side.  I put my nose in the hair on her head, near her ears (which had a different hair, soft and velvety), and inhaled her warm doggy scent. 

Merissa was an easygoing mutt.  I knew she didn't love my evening cuddles, but she would lie there for ten or fifteen minutes until she finally heaved herself up and out of the bed to curl up on the floor.  Sometimes I would hold her back, and she would subside back onto the bed, resigned to being loved.  On this night, I let her get up when she wanted to.  I rolled myself into the spot where she had lain, enjoying the lingering warmth.

She was a very good dog. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Day 16 – Your first kiss, in great detail

I am not sure how much detail I will go into here.  I will say that my first kiss was very nice.  The boy it was with touched my face.  He pushed back a strand of hair that had fallen out of my ponytail.  I could tell he was really nervous.  So was I.  I remember feeling hot and cold at the same time.  He said, "I think you are really cool.  I think you're the coolest girl I've ever met."  And then we kissed.

We kissed for a little while, and when we were done, he asked if I wanted a glass of water.  I said no, to be polite (I didn't want him to feel like he had to leave the room).  But it turned out he was being polite, asking me if I wanted a glass of water because he was going to get one anyway.  When he got back, I realized I was really thirsty and changed my mind.  He went back and got another glass (he gave me the first one). 

A few days later I went to church (this was back when I was going to Catholic mass with my parents).  I was distracted the whole time.  I kept touching my lips and thinking about that kiss.  I remember feeling guilty, not for having sinned, but for thinking about how great it was in church. 

That was my first kiss.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Day 15 – Your dreams, in great detail

I have very realistic dreams.  Unfortunately, when I say realistic, I don't mean "it seemed so real, it was like I was really flying!"  Instead, it is more like, "I dreamed that my receptionist told me she is Israeli."  (She is actually Israeli.)  It is usually quite easy for me to remember my dreams.  Sometimes they are so realistic that I get them confused with what has happened during my waking life.

I often deal with stress by dreaming about the situation that is getting to me.  Before exams, I dreamed about sitting down, writing out the answers, and getting the exam back with a big red "A" on top.  Sadly, upon waking, I would realize that I hadn't yet taken the exam.  The same thing happens at work before a big event or meeting.  I hate those dreams.

Once in awhile I will dream about something impossible.  But even the impossible things are still "real."  I saw my dog again once.  She died in 2001, and it was heartbreaking to wake up and realize she wasn't actually back. 

Rarely I will have nightmares.  They usually involve lots of running and hiding, not killing or scary bugs or anything like that.  Once someone tried to run me over; another time, I was running from a floating mask.

Once I tried writing down my dreams in some kind of journal.  It started getting depressing when I saw that I had very little fantasy life!  My boss told me that she dreamed about her dog.  One day, her dog turned to her and said, "Why don't you let me free?  It is so horrible to be in this collar and leash all the time.  I never get to do what I want!"  I have never had a talking animal in any dream (except maybe my dad's bird, who talks in real life).  But on the whole, I will try to consider that my real life is satisfying enough.  I don't need to have crazy dreams!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Day 14 – What you wore today, in great detail

I am wearing a pink-and-black houndstooth patterned mini-dress with a gold zipper detail over black fleece leggins.  I am obsessed with houndstooth.  It is hard for me to resist trying on any houndstooth item I see.  I have so far managed to resist buying a winter coat in a houndstooth pattern, but I have dresses, jackets, sweaters, and scarfs already.  I am wearing black leather boots.  I bought them in 2004 for 60 Euros.  I remember feeling very decadent paying that much for them, but they have ended up as a great investment.  I have worn them to weddings, to work, in the snow, in the rain... the heels are getting a little less black as time goes on, but I still love them.

I am wearing long dangling earrings in silver and black (one silver triangle on top of one black triangle on top of another silver triangle).  They were a cheap purchase that I wear more often than I thought I would.  They give a kind of 80's flair to an otherwise normal look.  I am, as always, wearing my star sapphire ring on my left hand.  Finally, I am also wearing a black belt.  It is a fabric belt that came with a sweatshirt; the clasp is black plastic. 

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Day 13 – This week, in great detail

I will tell you about the week of February 11-17, since I am writing these in advance.  Sorry if you wanted something more recent!

Monday: I wore navy blue pants (they look kind of like jodhpurs), a cream shirt with a bird pattern, and a navy blazer with white polka dots.  I went to work, as usual.  I started listening to Brothers in Arms (no, BB, not the Dire Straits album!) in the car on the way to work.  Actually, I started by trying to listen to Le Pere Goriot, but I just couldn't get into it (especially knowing that I had a new SF book on deck).  On Sunday I had gone to Target, and I had to return something, so at lunch, I went to the local store.  I returned what I had to, and then bought more than I needed (shoes, shirt, skirt, Cheetos...) I was planning on buying lunch, but I couldn't figure out how to get into the parking lot of the Chipotle, so I just ate back in the office.  We prepared for a little Mardi Gras party the next day, hanging decorations, putting the coffee pot out in the lobby.  Jube and I watched The Bachelor on TV (Tierra was sent home to everyone's delight except hers).  We ate flounder with spinach and carrots while we watched.

Tuesday: I wore black pants tucked into purple boots, a white t-shirt, and a green blazer.  Mardi Gras colors, y'all!  Back to work. This afternoon we actually have the Mardi Gras party, with coffee, tea, and doughnuts (we tried to pretend they were beignets, but they were just from Dunkin Donuts).  I left work early, at 4:00, and drove to College Park for class.  We talked about Le Rouge et le noirAfter class I gossiped with a classmate for awhile before heading home.  I had chowed down on doughnuts at work, so Jube made me a salad and he had a sandwich.

Wednesday: I wore the outfit I wrote about for the "What You're Wearing" post.  Work!  We have a 2-hour staff meeting, immediately followed by a 1.5 hour committee meeting for me.  By the time I actually get into my office, it's practically time to go home.  At 5:00pm, it starts raining... and then it turns into a "wintry mix."  My 60 minute commute doubles.  At least I get a little further in my book on tape.  By the time I get home, I am ready to veg out.  Luckily, it is the season premiere of Survivor, and Jube and I eat while we watch it.  Because it is the season premiere, it lasts for an hour and a half.  This means we miss Modern Family.  We can see that it is snowing hard outside, and I hope for a snow day.  I head to bed to read, and I fall asleep right away.

Thursday: No snow day.  I wear the red shirt I bought at Target on Monday along with gray pants and my navy polka-dotted blazer and blue boaters.  Before leaving for work, I drop the Valentine's day card on my pillow for Jube to find when he wakes up.  Once at work, it turns into a busy day.  I have a few appointments and check on statistics in the morning.  At lunch, my colleague Dharma and I go to "Power Yoga."  It is really intense (and we get a "yoga valentine").  Once back in the office, I eat lunch at my desk while going over those statistics.  I leave late on Thursdays to make up for leaving early on Tuesdays.  I am able to get a lot of work done between 4:30 and 6:00, since no one is in the office.  As I am leaving, Jube calls to tell me he received his Valentine's day marzipan in the mail.  He says it is very tasty!  As a Valentine's treat for me, we order Chinese food and eat it in front of Parks and Rec and The Office.  I have almost finished Brothers in Arms, and I am hoping that I will be able to download the next book in the series from the e-library before the next day.  Nothing tonight, although I am "patron 1 of 1" on the waiting list.

Friday: I wear gray pants, a gray turtleneck, a black cowlneck shirt over that, and gray shoes.  Before I leave for work, I check to see if the next book is ready to be downloaded.  No luck!  Once I get to the office, I hop in my boss's car and we go to downtown Baltimore for a local conference.  It is okay - at least I get a free muffin for breakfast!  We get back to the office at 12:30.  I eat lunch and my boss decides to take a personal afternoon.  I do some followup work, but by 3:30 it has dried up and I am also ready to leave!  Too bad I can't.  I get home and almost immediately leave the house with Jube.  We take the metro to DC, where we eat at the Bistro d'Oc. After dinner, we go to the Warner Theater to see Nick Offerman (the late showing at 10:30pm).  We don't get home until after midnight!

Saturday: Sleeping in is great! Unfortunately, my body seems to have gone crazy after yoga.  Everything hurts, including my throat.  Ugh.  I lie around for most of the day, although I do go to Trader Joe's with Jube in the afternoon.  After we get home I read a book and go to bed early.

Sunday: Sleeping in really is great, for once!  I wake up feeling awesome!  The day is cold but sunny.  I read in bed for a bit while Jube goes out to pick up bagels and do some grocery shopping.  In the afternoon, we go to Target where I return some purchases, and then to the library, where Jube uses my card to get some books on digital photography and I read a trashy magazine.  We then go to the University of Maryland to watch a women's gymnastics meet.  It is really neat!  Jube takes some pictures.

Then we go home where we eat dinner and I watch The Amazing Race. Then it's off to bed - but luckily, Jube has President's Day (or, officially, Washington's Birthday) off, and I took a personal day, so we don't have to get up early then either!  All in all, a fun weekend.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Day 12 – What’s in your bag, in great detail

I always carry a bag.  I even did a mini-post about my bag when I lived in Nice!  My latest bag is a big gray one I got from Zara.  I love it.  It fits just about everything I need:

Wallet - money and credit cards, of course!
iPod - with all my books on tape downloaded
Male-to-male connector - to connect my iPod with my car stereo (no Bluetooth for me)
My checkbook - in an awesome paper cover I got from the Sackler Gallery in Washington, DC
Small bag - with my nail file, chapstick, business cards, tampons, and rewetting drops
A spoon - to eat my soupy lunch with!
A pen - to sign those checks
Glasses case - with my sunglasses inside
iPad - I am going to class tonight, so I need my iPad to take notes and pull up my books.  The ipad is actually in a brown-on-brown patterned clutch to protect it from scratches.
Wireless headset - so actually, I do have a Bluetooth wireless headset so I can talk on the phone while I drive.

And that is what is in my bag.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Day 11 – Your siblings, in great detail

I have three people whom I would consider siblings: my brother, JW, my half-brother, the Rooster, and my cousin, Shannon.

Not counting Shannon, I am the oldest.  She is two years older than I am.  She moved in with us when I was in fifth grade, although she had spent summers with us since I was seven.  We shared a room.  She was my best friend and at the same time we distanced ourselves from each other at school.  She is tall and formidable with a Roman nose and fair hair.  I was always jealous of her--she seemed to make friends so easily, she didn't care about her grades.  She had boyfriends and I never did.  She seemed fearless.  She had one of the first Internet romances (in the early days of the web), chatting and phoning an Idaho boy.  She even went to visit him one summer.  (I overheard my mother complaining to my stepfather once about how we must have received the wrong phone bill - "long distance charges to Idaho? We don't know anyone in Idaho!  I'll have to call and complain."  I took her aside and said, "I think it is Shannon.  Please don't tell her I told you!"  I didn't want to betray my cousin, but I couldn't bear the thought of my mother calling the phone company and hearing it from them.)  When she graduated from high school, she joined the army.  Although she was discharged for medical reasons before she finished basic training, I always thought she was amazing.  She left Ohio before I went to college and lives in California now.  I haven't been out to visit her, but I want to, and soon!

My brother JW is two years younger than I am.  We are close in age but dissimilar in temperament.  It was with JW that I experienced the most sibling rivalry.  I am pretty easy-going and (as I have mentioned) I try not to take myself too seriously.  When I get angry, I get over it fast.  JW on the other hand takes life very seriously.  ("Life" of course includes himself.)  He gets angry quickly and ferociously, and can take awhile to come down.  Despite our differences, we share a sense of humor, often enjoying the same TV shows and jokes.  Like my father, he loves auto racing.  He is tall, dark-haired and -eyed, and loves dogs, specifically Brittany spaniels.  He studied Philosophy, Classics, and Religion in college, although now he works for a nation-wide grocery chain.  He loves meat and bacon, but is married to a vegetarian.  It has forced him to learn how to cook his food, which can't be a bad thing!

My brother the Rooster is the one I mentioned who moved to Puerto Rico this year.  He is seven years younger than me, and we have never had a fight.  I babysat him a lot when we were both younger, and I'm afraid I introduced him to a lot of things that were too mature for him... we watched The Highlander together, and I took him to see Tombraider on IMAX on opening night.  He won a copy of the PS2 version of Tombraider 3 by doing a "stunt" in front of the theater - basically running and throwing himself on the ground.  I think he won because he was the youngest one there.  He has worked many jobs, most of them in food service, most of those in gourmet restaurants.  He is a great cook, and has taught me how to make my own pasta and not to be afraid of butter.  The Rooster is a bit of a hippie, and I just can't convince him to shampoo. condition, and gel his beautiful curls, so they end up as dreads most of the year.  I am hoping to be able to head down to PR to see him.  I may have finally convinced Jube to brave the Caribbean!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Day 10: What you wore today, in great detail

I love clothes!  I love the way you feel when you're in an outfit you love.  I don't consider myself a very creative person; my outfits are really where I "express myself" the most.  In fact, I remember that before second grade, I wore dresses every day.  My mother made most of them, and I loved that. It wasn't until I got into middle school, though, that I really started caring about clothes in a more specific sense (rather than, "it's a dress/pants/shirt, I guess I'll wear it today").  Throughout middle and high school, I wore primarily clothing I bought at thrift stores.  It definitely let me develop a unique style, although I am not sure it was the most flattering one!  When I moved to France I discovered that the second-hand quirk I preferred didn't work as well as it used to.  (Not coincidentally, I also started my first "real job" and had to look at least a little bit professional!)  Since then, I have become more conservative in my clothing, but (I like to think) still unique.  So what am I wearing today?

I am wearing a black-and-white striped tunic with a visible orange zipper in the back over straight black pants. I have on black socks and orange loafers with tassels.  In my ears are some of my favorite earrings, dangly ones made with coral and onyx.  Worn at my natural waist is a small belt, black with a little bow made of metal. On my right hand is a ring I bought in high school from Global Villages.  Supposedly it is from Nepal, and has two five-pointed stars cut out on each side, with a large glass stone set in the center.  It is a big ring and I wear it on the middle finger of my right hand, my largest finger.

Finally, on my left hand, I am wearing what I consider to be my wedding ring, a silver ring with a star sapphire and small baguette cut diamonds.  The setting is old-fashioned but beautiful.  It was my great-grandmother's, and my mother gave it to me on my sixteenth birthday.  Soon after I got it, one of the prongs broke and the star sapphire fell out.  Luckily I was able to find the stone, but for years I carried around the two pieces and never wore it.  I asked Jube to get it repaired for me when we lived in Nice, and he did.  It came back gorgeous, polished and whole, and now I wear it every day.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Day 9: Your beliefs, in great detail

Golly, my beliefs.  I hesitate to get too deep (I don't think I'm a very deep person), so I guess I will mention some rules I try to live by.  They are not in any particular order.

1. Don't be ashamed of what you like.  I made the decision to be open about my low-brow taste in entertainment a few years ago.  It is harder than it seems, at least for me!  I try to be honest about liking reality TV - I love The Bachelor and Survivor, and I used to watch marathons of The Real World.  I even watched the whole DC season on the internet, even though it is definitely the worst season I ever tried.  With books, it is more difficult.  I have no problem admitting that I like science fiction/fantasy.  I have a much more difficult time admitting that I like reading romance novels.  But I am trying hard to get over any feelings of embarrassment - not embarrassment at reading them, but embarrassment at admitting to people who think I'm intelligent that I like reading them.

2. Don't take yourself too seriously.  I developed this rule when I studied abroad in Spain.  At first I was so embarrassed by my Spanish language skills that I would barely talk. But that means that I couldn't really meet anyone, or go out to dinner, or buy anything.  And I also realized that even if I totally screwed up, no one knew me!  No one cared but me!  I now apply this maxim to almost any interaction I have.  Buying a bra?  No one cares what size it is!  Eating French fries?  No one is looking at my plate but me!  And even if someone does care about those things, it doesn't affect me at all.

3. a.  Always be polite in written communication.  Saying "Dear" and "Sincerely" go a long, long way.  I always get better results when I apply this rule.

3. b.  Don't be afraid to stick up for yourself on the phone.  If you're getting a raw deal, complain about it!  You can always be polite in your follow-up "thank you" e-mail.

4. Keep in touch with your friends.  This one has been learned by tough experience.  Don't be proud; if they don't respond, still keep in touch.  You never know what is going on in their lives.

OK, I think those are my main rules for living.  At least, I think they are good rules to have. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Day 8: A moment, in great detail

While cooking dinner, we run out of creme fraiche.  "Don't worry," I say, "I'll go get it."

I leave the apartment.  Our apartment is on the ground floor of an old building.  In between our door and the entrance lies a fire door.  There are two apartments and the door leading to the inner courtyard on my side of the fire door; on the other side are the mailboxes and a beautiful lobby with marble slabs on the floor and a sweeping staircase.  I have never gone up the staircase, I have never even put my foot on the bottom stair.  On this afternoon, I walk through without really noticing anything about my surroundings.

Outside, I walk about two blocks to the epicerie, a little Casino.  The day is bright with the late-spring sun, and the pavement smells a little bit.  It doesn't smell bad, really, just like a hot day, kind of a pleasant scent.  I walk up my street to the main road, Gambetta.  I will soon learn that there is a boulevard Gambetta in every city in France, but for now, it's the only Gambetta I know.  It runs along the Arab neighborhood, so every afternoon small stores set out bunches of cilantro and mint, the necessities needed for almost all North African meals.  It is lined with sycamore trees.

On my left I pass a kebab shop.  It is Jube's favorite, because they make compact burrito-like kebabs with fries inside.  It is not my favorite. It is set inside a shop with pretty mosaic work.  Just past the kebab shop is the Casino epicerie.  It is full of the necessities for French meals - wine, yogurt, lardons, butter, charcuterie, and creme fraiche, of course.  I pick up a small pot and check out.  I pay with cash since the shop won't let you pay with a credit card unless your total is at least 5 Euros.

On my way back, I walk more slowly.  The sun is still shining, but since I am under the sycamore trees, the light is diffuse and green.  I think to myself, "Remember this moment. You are living in France, you just stepped out of your apartment to pick up something you needed at the corner store.  You'll never feel this way again."  I take a deep breath, smelling the pavement again, and then I hurry again to get back to our apartment.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Day 7: Your best friend, in great detail

I am not sure who my best friend is.  I could tell you who they were throughout time... Marie from elementary school through freshman year of high school... Robbie in high school... Lizzie and Catherine in college... maybe even Lorene in graduate school.  But after that, how do you define a "best friend"?  Doesn't the term seem weird once you get past 25?  And I am not going to define my husband as my best friend, Bachelor-style.

I will describe my oldest friend in great detail.  My oldest friend is Blanche.  We met in girl scouts - her mother was a troop leader, so even though she was a grade above me in school, we interacted on a regular basis.  In middle school, the librarian introduced me to Anne McCaffrey's young adult books, and I fell in love.  On the bus home, I described how great they were to my friend Marie.  Blanche popped her head over the seat in front of us, looking back.  She broke in, "You know, there is a whole series based on that!"  Marie and I uncomfortably smiled at her.  But after that, Blanche and I would exchange books and book recommendations.

At home, I could find the whole Mission: Earth series by L. Ron Hubbard.  My stepfather told me I wasn't allowed to read them, but I sneaked them to school where I would lend them to Blanche.  We read them surreptitiously and trade theories about just what, exactly, was being satirized.  I'm still not sure about why I wasn't allowed to read them or what was being satirized.  I can't believe I read all ten of those books.

We continued our book-trading through high school, taking time in our friendship to create a live-action role playing game about vampires that no one ever played (including us).  I don't think either of us would have said we were best friends, but we were friends.  We went to each other's parties and whispered about crushes and kisses.  Somehow, out of all the friends I had, once high school ended, Blanche and I kept in touch.

Although I got progressively less nerdy, Blanche doubled down.  She gave me a ride to the Columbus airport once, the day after The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King opened in theaters.  Of course we went to see it, so I was dead on my feet checking in.  When we get together, we play board games or watch SF.  We also have lots of heart-to-heart talks.  We may not seem to have much in common anymore, but we can still toast our friendship with Benden wine and gossip about old acquaintances.  We are comfortable together, and I think we will be friends for a long time still.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Day 6: Your day, in great detail

As I do most Tuesdays, I wake up at 6:30.  I immediately get out of bed.  I can't lie there for too long or I don't have any free time.  So I'm up and out of bed by 6:32 at the latest.  On my way to the bathroom, I turn on my Senseo coffeemaker (yes, I may have mentioned this wonder device before!).  It takes about a minute for the water to warm up, so while that's happening I use the toilet, comb my hair, and wash my face.  Back in the kitchen I put my mug in the coffeemaker and brew the coffee.  While it drips out, I get dressed back in my closet (no lights on except for the closet lights).  I almost always pick out my outfit the night before because I like to take my time choosing, and time is at a premium in the mornings.  Once I'm dressed, it's back to the kitchen to put cream in my coffee, and then I get back in bed (still in the dark) and check my e-mail.  I usually get back in bed by 6:45 at the latest, and then at 6:50 I make myself get back up.  Today I'm out of bed by 6:55, a little late.  I wake Jube by telling him the time (il est sept heure moins cinq) and then I am out of bed for good.

Then I drive to work.  It takes about an hour, and I want to get in by 8:00.  I used to dread my commute, but since discovering books on tape (and that I can download them whenever I want), I actually look forward to my drive.  Right now I'm listening to The Hallowed Hunt.  

At work, I open my office and turn on all of my lights.  Mid-February is a relatively busy time for me, so I work hard all day.  But on Tuesdays, I leave at 4:00pm to attend a class - the final 3 credits in my French master's!  (I hope...)  Class starts at 5:00, so I get to listen to more of my book on the way to College Park.

Sometimes class is interesting, sometimes it's boring.  Today it is both - student presentations (mostly boring), class discussion (mostly interesting), and of course the 15-minute break that all French students insist on.  At 7:30 I head home, and I walk in the door before 8:00.

Jube is really great and very supportive, so he makes dinner on Tuesdays.  It isn't done today by the time I get home, but he finishes it while I lie around drinking seltzer water and moaning about my day.  Tonight we eat pork (Belle-mere's recipe), and since there isn't much on TV we watch an episode of the Daily Show on the internet.  Then I read in bed for awhile.  Since I have a week before my next class and I am burnt out on French, I read a trashy novel.  Jube plays the guitar for awhile.  He comes and gets in bed around 10:45, and I get up to brush my teeth.  I go back to bed, and then at 11:00pm I finish this on the iPad and turn out the light.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Day 5: Your definition of love, in great detail

OK, I think this is kind of a stupid prompt.  I don't think that my definition of love is that different or that much more interesting than anyone else.  If you asked me what "meaning" means, that would be different.  So let's get deep and talk about defining love.

Love is the feeling you get at six o'clock in the morning when you get dressed in the dark so you don't wake your spouse.  It's when you let the other person play video games while you cook dinner.  And you can feel this way about plenty of people, and I think that's really great, that you can love lots of people. 

So maybe your definition wouldn't include anything about video games or cooking or waking up early or whatever, but it's all the same feeling. 

Monday, February 04, 2013

Day 4: What you ate today, in great detail

Eating is something that I do well, I think.  I talk about food a lot in my daily life, and I have become a good home cook.  I'll tell you what I ate today, and then I will talk about the one American meal we make better than anyone else in the world.

I wake up at 6:00am and get out of bed to go to the bathroom.  On my way, I detour into the kitchen and start my Senseo* coffeemaker.  I drink my coffee with half-and-half in bed.  I usually get dressed first and then surf the internet on my iPad while I drink it.

At about 10:00am at work, I have a little snack.  Sometimes I have nuts or dried fruit or both, but today I had a "thin" peanut butter granola bar.

I had a late lunch today because of a staff meeting that ended at 1:00pm.  I ate leftovers from a Mexican restaurant outing - a chile relleno stuffed with cheese and beef plus some rice and refried beans.

For dinner, I made a leek and potato soup**.  I used my new immersion blender (I love it).  I also had ravioli with homemade pesto***.  For dessert, I had a slice of apple pie.

Something you should know about me is that I love American breakfasts.  One thing that French people ask often is about a "typical" American food, and it used to be really hard for me to think of something.  I would mention clam chowder and Maryland blue crabs, but that was as far as I could get - until I thought of an American breakfast.  It's also the one thing I think we do better than any other place I have ever been.  I love breakfast so much that on weekends, I beg Jube to go to the diner with me.  There are four diners within 10 minutes of our place, and I know their best features (the Tastee Diner in Silver Spring, for example, has free refills on hot chocolate and good pancakes, but the homefries aren't very good and their combos are expensive, while the Woodside Deli always has a weird weekend "special" like pancakes with sausage gravy, so it can be risky to go there).

Jube loves to save money, though, so he has learned how to make amazing potatoes at home.  A typical Saturday looks like this:

Wake up "late" around 8:30 or 9:00 and make coffee with cream.  Then lie around the apartment for awhile reading.  Convince Jube to make brunch once we get hungry around 12.  He will make:

1. Bacon
2. In the bacon grease, the home fries.
3. Eggs.  I like mine over easy, and he likes his sunny side up.
4. Toast (this is usually for him, I don't need anything else).
5. I make another cup of coffee for myself.

*I love my Senseo.  For some reason these machines didn't take off in the US, but they did in France, so whenever I take a vacation there, I buy some special coffee pods.

**Slice 4-6 leeks and saute them in butter on medium heat until they are soft.  Throw in 3-4 medium potatoes, quartered and unpeeled.  Add a splash of milk or cream (or half-and-half) and then add enough water to cover the vegetables.  Lower the heat and cover the pot.  Let simmer until the potatoes are soft.  Blend the mixture (like I said, I used an immersion blender, but you can also use an upright blender) and add salt and pepper to taste.

***Put the leaves of an entire package of fresh basil into a food processor.  Add salt, pepper, 1-2 cloves of fresh garlic, a big handful of pine nuts, a big handful of Parmesan cheese, and a little bit of olive oil.  Turn on the food processor and continue to add olive oil as needed.  Taste your mixture and adjust to your preference.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Day 3: Your parents, in great detail

My parents are really great people.  I have almost always appreciated them for the great people that they are!

My mom is the second of nine children.  You may know her as Helene who comments on my blog.   She is tone deaf and says she's bad at languages.  She does "speak" ASL fluently, though, which I think is really neat.  Something I really admire about her is how fearless she is at speaking her mind.  When I was younger, I didn't love this trait as much, since she "embarrassed" me in front of my friends a lot.  But now, I just hope that I can be the same way some day.  My mom loves reading, and she passed it on to me.  For Christmas for the past few years, I have given her a book that I really loved.  Sometimes she will also love the book (Doomsday Book), and sometimes she will not (Pillars of the Earth).  But either way we can usually have a long talk about it!  She is also my travel buddy.  So far, she has come to visit me in Spain and France when I lived there, and she paid for Jube and I to meet her in Norway.  We have also gone to Guatemala and Russia together.  On our Russia trip (which was a cruise, by the way), everyone kept commenting about how great it was to see a mother and daughter who got along so well.

My dad is a music teacher who plays the piano and sings.  Because of him I have loved music all of my life.  He is a born storyteller, like most of his family.  He tells us stories about his past (like the time he played "mutiny on the Bounty" on Easter Sunday with his Jewish friend, who wanted to be called Fletcher Jew instead of Fletcher Christian); on camping trips, he tells us made-up stories based on trucker songs or flatulence.  He also loves car racing, but is kind of a snob about it.  He really likes open-wheel road racing, although he makes an exception for the Indy 500 of course.  With Dad, my brother and I watched almost all of Jackie Chan's oeuvre; with my Dad, we learned about comedy classics like Blazing Saddles and Spinal Tap, along with some more serious ones like Harold and Maude and Dr. Strangelove.  So my dad made me into a woman who knows more about F-1 than the average American, who can recognize Saint-Saens's "Carnival of the Animals" in part because of the movie Herbie Rides Again, and who is almost always ready to launch into a long and complicated joke at the smallest encouragement. 

My parents divorced when I was 2 years old, so I can't remember a time when we all lived together.  My mom remarried when I was 6.  My stepfather is the first of ten children.  It is because of him that I grew up in Ohio - before the age of 7 we lived in the DC area.  It is because of him that I was baptized and confirmed as a Catholic.  It is because of him that I learned how to hold a knife and a fork properly, and what not to order on a business lunch (nothing smelly like garlic, no finger food like French fries, and nothing potentially messy like pasta with sauce).  Our relationship has always been contentious, but it has grown into a loving and respectful bond.  We share parts of our senses of humor, and I am very happy to have him in my life.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Day 2: Your first love, in great detail

Jube is my first true love, but I can tell you about my first true crush. 

In high school, I was the "Queen Nerd" (according to my brothers).  I was in marching band and In the Know, pep band and all of the school musicals.  I had a great time in high school, actually!  In my senior year, I was the drum major of the marching band, and one of the trumpet players caught my eye.  His name was Randi*, and for some reason, I really liked him.  We went out almost every Friday between the end of school and the beginning of the football game, and we went on a couple of dates.

I created handmade cards for him, colored with crayons.  I was grounded for the first and only time of my life for spending too long at his house after one of our Saturdays out.  For Christmas, he gave me a snow globe that played "Memories" from Cats. 

We never kissed or held hands.

The summer between my senior year and starting college, I wrote him a letter explaining that I had once had a crush on him.  He could have had a girlfriend, but he blew it!  I used the word "dearth" in the letter, and in a moment of passive aggression I included a vocabulary flashcard with the word's definition on it.  I am still very ashamed that I actually mailed him the letter.

The summer after his senior year, a boy in my high school died in a car accident.  He was supposed to be Randi's roommate in college afterward.  I hadn't thought of either of those boys since I had mailed the letter (I met Jube during that first year at college). 

Since then, I have thought of Randi once or twice.  I didn't know much about him then, and I know less now.  But maybe that's the way of all of our first crushes.

*The name has been changed, since I use pseudonyms on the blog.  But believe me, this was a teenage boy whose name ended in "i."

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Day One: Introduce Yourself

I am going to do this 30 Days of Posts thing.  It is supposed to happen during a month with 30 days, and you do a daily post.  But I'm going to do it as it comes to me, which I think is better.  They are writing prompts, and mostly all about me.  Sorry about that.

I am anonymous on my blog.  I call myself "Gem," which is not really similar to my name, but which is short and easy to remember.  Introductions are always strange.  What do you tell people about yourself?  What does that say about you? 

I guess I will do more of a "blog personality" introduction.  This blog is really focused on my life in France.  Although I haven't lived there since 2006, it is still a very important part of my life.  I am now a French citizen, and it forms a big part of my identity.  I speak French with a southern accent, which helps disguise any grammatical errors I might make. 

I am a professional administrator. I keep my work life very separate from my blog, which is, I think, a huge part of why I haven't posted much since starting my career.  I love my job, but I don't feel like I can talk about it here.  It's in a field that is always changing, allows me to learn new things every day, and it lets me feel like I am doing something helpful for other people.

I love reading science fiction and fantasy, although for a short period between graduate school and now I didn't read much of anything at all.  I am getting back into it now, and it is reminding me how much I love it.  My new job includes with it a two-hour round-trip commute, so I have been listening to a lot of books.  I like watching movies less and less, though.  I used to know about all of the new releases and watch quite a few of them, but I have been to the movie theater only once in the past year.

I talk about Jube a lot on this blog.  Hopefully I don't do it quite so much in real life!  We are both introverts, so we spend most of our free time together.  We even go grocery shopping with each other most of the time!

This was a brief introduction to Gem... I do wonder how much of "me" it captures.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

2012 - The Year of No Posts

Yeah, no posts in 2012.  I really want to get back into semi-regular blogging, because I realize how much I love going back and reading my old posts.  So here's another New Year's meme like the one I did about 2009.

1. What did you do in 2012 that you've never done before?
I led a study abroad trip to France!

2. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Le Parisien and his wife had a daughter. Jube and I are tonton/tatie now!

3. Did anyone close to you die?

4. What countries did you visit?
I went to France, Spain, and Russia.

5. What would you like to have in 2013 that you lacked in 2012?
I am hoping for a long vacation with Jube.

6. What were the highlights of 2012?
I turned 30 in May.  I led that study abroad trip to France, which was awesome. I got a new job in August, which was super exciting! In June, I went to Ohio for a wedding and got to see all kinds of old friends.  My brother moved to Puerto Rico.  And of course, I can't leave the highlights of my year without mentioning going to Russia with my mom!

7. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Starting this new job.  It is a promotion and has a lot of new responsibilities.

8. What was your biggest failure?
I should have finished my master's project, but it's not quite done yet.

9. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Nothing serious.

10. What was the best thing you bought?
I guess it would have to be my tickets to Russia!

11. Whose behavior merited celebration?
I have been really impressed with my brother (who moved to Puerto Rico).

12. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
No one, really.

13. Where did most of your money go?
My new job has a longer commute... more money on gas.  I love buying clothes and plane tickets, too.

14. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Leading the trip to France.  I danced around my office and my apartment for awhile after that.

15. What song(s) will always remind you of 2012?
"Neutron Star Collision" by Muse.  Thanks, Twilight. 
16. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder?
No difference. Still basically happy with my life!

ii. thinner or fatter?
Probably a little bit fatter.  I lost a lot of weight in 2011-2012, but since starting my new job I haven't been able to work out a lot.

iii. richer or poorer?
Richer :)

17. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Working out.

18. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Stressing out.

19. What was the hardest thing you did this year?
Changing jobs.  Starting somewhere new has been a real culture shock experience.

20. What was the best thing you did this year?
Went to Russia.

21. Did you fall in love in 2012?
I stayed in love! 

22. How many one night stands?

23. What was your favorite TV program?
Parks and Rec.  I love, love, love this show.

24. What was the best book you read?
At long last, I took the advice of one of my best friends and started reading Lois McMaster Bujold.  I fell in love with Shards of Honor, although I have been assured that it is not even her best.

25. What were your greatest musical discoveries?
I don't think I made any musical discoveries.  Maybe... well... no, I have no idea.  I don't think I listened to any new bands or bought any "new" music.
26. What did you want and get?
A new job (sorry to keep talking about it, but it was the big event!).  Also, I turned 30 and Jube gave me the best birthday party I've ever had in my life.

27. What was your favorite film of this year?
Two Days in New York

 28. What did you do on your birthday and how old did you turn?
I turned 30.  I kept pushing Jube for a party, and he delivered in a big way.  My good friend BB came down from Ohio, and tons of friends came to my place.  We even had a (mini... pony?) keg.  After they came over to our place, we went to a Mexican restaurant and pigged out.  I got a little bit drunk, but it was all worth it!

29. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
I loved my previous job.  If I could have changed one thing, I would have loved my new position to be at my old employer.
30. What kept you sane?
My colleagues, my husband, and books on tape.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept for 2012?
Wear jewelry.  I don't wear makeup or high heels very often, so finding ways to make my natural attributes work for me was/is important.  Also I love wearing colors, especially if they clash just a little bit.
32. What political issue stirred you the most?
Gay marriage.  Go Maryland, the first state to legalize marriage for all through a legislative referendum!
33. Who did you miss?
I saw almost everyone I miss this year, although not my cousin who lives in California.  I miss my little brother now that he's off to the US Commonwealth.
34. Who was the best new person you met?
My new colleague Dharma.
35. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012.
You have to take risks, even if they don't turn out exactly the way you want.