Wednesday, November 30, 2011


I was on the phone yesterday with my Creative Director from Yahoo! and he was talking about how he feels like he needs to make a concerted effort to get outside and enjoy this time off from work—because soon enough he'll be back in an office. Missing his own backyard.

He made me realize that I haven't been going out and enjoying mine enough the past few weeks, either. And it's certainly undergone some changes since my last post about it.

Mr. Wonderful's lemon-limoncello saplings have grown big enough that he had to move them into larger pots. We're still unclear on where we'll plant them when they become actual trees... Hopefully we'll be living on the vineyard by then!

We planted our autumn garden about six weeks ago and I'm very excited about the carrots. We didn't try growing carrots last year, but we got delicious purple ones from the farm share we bought. Here's hoping ours turn out as good as those ones!

The spinach is one of the first fall garden items I've actually eaten. We had trouble with our spinach crop last year, so I'm delighted that we're having success with it this year. And it was mighty tasty sauteed in olive oil!

Another thing I sauteed and ate: broccoli leaves. Who knew, right? I just read an article (I think in O Magazine) about things you might not think about adding to your diet that are good for you. Broccoli leaves was on the list, so Monday night I hacked off a couple and cooked them with my spinach. Healthy and surprisingly tasty!

The lettuce is a little scraggly, but we got some decent heads last year, so I think they'll fill out as the season continues. I think we planted about 10 of them, so we may be up to our ears in heads soon!

Although our artichoke plant flowered, died and then became so infested with aphids we had to hack it to bits, it appears to be making a comeback. I'm hopeful we get some good artichokes like we did last year. They're so cute when they're babies!

Over the summer, we must have had 8 or 9 tomato plants growing...until they got moldy and stopped producing. But in another part of the yard, this little rogue tomato popped up and it's still producing yummy tomatoes! We're now planning to move our tomato plants to this part of the yard next summer. I think it's the sweet spot!

Our apricot tree didn't fruit this year, which was extremely sad. But it looks darn pretty with all those yellow leaves on it.

Most of the leaves have fallen off the grape vines, but this little guy is still producing new stuff. I look forward to one day gazing out over rows and rows of these puppies in my backyard...

My picture doesn't do justice to the fig tree. Its leaves are bright yellow and look so pretty against the redwood fence. The squirrels stole most of our figs this year, but I did pick some early in the summer and ate them with crumbled blue cheese and honey. Doesn't get better than that.

My Creative Director was right about getting outside. After my little autumn photo shoot, I felt more centered. It's amazing what a little greenery does to the soul.

Monday, November 28, 2011

What Am I Doing?: The Mental Mantra of the Unemployed

 Each morning when I wake up, I lie in bed for a bit staring out
the window above our headboard. Apparently, I need to clean
some big smudges off of it. But I just can't seem to find the time...

It is 12:00 p.m. and I am still in my workout clothes. Haven't brushed my teeth. Won't take a shower until after lunch.

I'm having a hard time getting myself on a schedule.

It's not like I'm sitting around watching FoodNetwork all day. I definitely feel busy. I just don't fully know what I've been doing the past few weeks. Sure, I've regularly combed the job boards to see what's out there. I've emailed contacts about freelance. I've completed a draft of a manifesting workbook I've been noodling for 3 years. I've scribbled down scenarios and notes for a few different novel ideas. I've visited friends. I've spent time with family. I've filled two big Etsy orders. Done a whole lot of laundry and sweeping of the hardwood floors. 

But I don't really feel like I've been productive.

Particularly when I see someone I haven't seen in awhile and they say, "SO, what have you been up to since you stopped working?"

It's like I go blank. I have no idea what I've been up to. But I know it's been keeping me on my toes every day until Mr. W gets home from work at 9:00 p.m.

The questions from other people just underscore the big ones bouncing around in my own head. What am I doing? Who am I working on becoming? Where am I going to be in 3 months or a year?

So many thoughts flood my mind when I ask these questions, that I become paralyzed. How do you know which path is the right one to pursue? How do you know where you should be focusing your time—and how much time when you know some things might be pipe dreams that may not ever pay you your previous salary?

It all feels too large to comprehend. It pokes at my anxiety, coaxing it to come out and play.

A couple weeks ago, I was having heart palpitations when I left the house. As soon as I got in the car, I started thinking, "What if I run out of money? What if I never get a job?" This happened more than once. A far cry from my previously cocky attitude.

And the thing is, I don't need to be worrying about these things. Financially, I'm fine. And if and when the right job comes along, I'm sure the Universe will swoop in and hand it to me.

In the meantime, I think I need to change the questions I'm asking myself. Instead of "What am I doing?" maybe "What am I going to do today?" Instead of "What if I run out of money?" maybe "What if I end up making more money than I ever dreamed of?" Maybe that'll help with the paralysis. And the well-meaning questions from friends.

I will remind myself that things take time to work themselves out. And that one day I will wish I had the luxury of waiting until noon to brush my teeth.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I Am Thankful for Children: A Follow-Up to My Last Post

I suppose I should have said "we" are thankful because Mr. Wonderful is right here with me on this. We love all the kids in our life, so I thought Thanksgiving would be a perfect time to call out a few... Particularly after my last post that was all about how we're choosing not to have kids. We don't need any because we have all these awesome ones around!

• My eldest niece who got an incredible score on her SATs but sometimes chuckles like Napoleon Dynamite and gets very tongue twisted. I can always count on her to laugh at my jokes and make snarky remarks with me in the corner at parties.

• Mr. W's oldest niece who was sweet enough to give up her bedroom for the entire weekend when we went to visit St. Louis recently. I know Mr. W thoroughly enjoyed sleeping under all those Justin Bieber and Taylor Lautner posters, and I'm sure she enjoyed the teasing we did about her throwing parties while we were out.

• My second-oldest niece who is always a jubilant little ray of sunshine. Although I often tell her to shut up when she's walking around singing, I do admire her upbeat attitude. She was the earliest adopter of Mr. W when I brought him into the family and I'll always love her for that.

• My third-oldest niece who Mr. W always says reminds him of me. She's all arms and legs and flailing. Just like I was. But she's smarter. I once told her Mr. W and I were going to a wine class and she said, "What are you going to learn? Ohh YOU DRINK IT - how interesting!" Smartass.

• Mr. W's youngest niece who can fill any empty space in a conversation and will always let me draw and color with her. She did once tell me that I smiled too much, but I won't hold it against her. Especially because she owns a Zac Efron doll.

• My youngest niece who provides us with hours of entertainment at most every family gathering. She recently acquired an invisible boyfriend who she says she met at the gas station. His name is Daniel. I wonder if he's coming to Thanksgiving...

• Mr. W's god-daughter who was the only non-niece in the kids portion of our wedding party. She drew a picture of us before the wedding that I keep in a frame. I don't think we're wearing clothes in it, which is part of why I love it so much.

• My cousin's two little boys who, last time I visited her house, stripped naked to do a dance for me before I left. She recently asked them what they wanted to be when they grew up and the 5-year-old said, "a zookeeper or worker at the La Brea Tar Pits with the woolly mammoth bones." The 3-year-old said, "a race car driver in an orange car." Brilliant.

• Mr. W's cousins' kids who we get to see lots of cute pictures of on Facebook but don't get to see too much in person.

• My friend's little boy who refers to me as "Mawissa."

• The twins I nannied for—when they were 2 months and then again when they were 3 years.

• The kids I babysat for who grew up and now have their own babies who are all absolutely adorable.

• All my friends' and extended family's little ones in this state and others—Utah, Arizona, Colorado and Texas. I don't get to see them often enough, but hearing their funny stories always brings a smile to my face.

• And lastly, the cute little faces I get to see on some of your blogs. I always get a huge kick out of your kids' stories, too.

Mr. Wonderful and I will get to enjoy a night of mayhem with my four nieces tomorrow. We'll be delighted to pay witness to all their antics and probably totally exhausted when we leave them.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Better Selfish Than Sorry

When I went to Boston and DC a couple weeks ago, all I took was my purse and a backpack. For an entire week. My sister packed a rolling suitcase, carry-on and a large purse, scoffing at my über compact packing. But, as I explained to her, I love the freedom that comes with less baggage. I love being able to weave in and out of crowds without a giant trailer in tow. I love that I don't have to deal with more than what's attached to my own body.

On the trip, we met a lovely man who was one of my brother-in-law's coworkers. He wore an Indiana Jones-style hat. He was in his late 50s or early 60s and was one of the friendliest people we encountered.

But as we sat chatting with him one night in the hotel bar, the topic of children came up. Specifically, whether Mr. Wonderful and I were going to procreate. I told him I thought we would probably skip that step.

"You know what you are," said the man who'd known me a mere 4 hours. "You're selfish."

Now, I could have gasped and fled the bar or retorted with some sort of scolding remark. But I'm used to people reacting this way when I say I don't think I want kids.

Even I am guilty of asking people after they get married, "do you guys want children?" I think to some degree, we're all conditioned to expect each other to do it. And I think our parents' generation is particularly so. Which is likely one of the reasons Indiana Jones responded the way he did.

But as I explained to him, I think the flipside of child-bearing is often far more selfish.

There are women out there who get pregnant simply because they "want someone to love." There are couples who dive into parenthood despite the fact that they do not have the means to properly support a child. There are moms who devote more time to pedicures and pilates than they do helping their children with their homework. And don't even get me started on the stupid 19 Kids and Counting people. There is NO way that mother and father can give each individual child the attention it deserves.

People like me and Mr. W who may spend our lives spoiling our nieces and friends' children: we are not selfish. We're realists. We realize that we prefer things the way they are now and that kids just may not be in the cards. And by the way, we may be doing a favor for the entire world, as overpopulation continues to be a problem.

It would be nice if others could understand this perspective better.

Just as I am genuinely happy any time I find out someone is having a baby (except for maybe the Duggar family), I would love it if other people were happy when they found out I may never have kids.

I wish that people could see that we all have to choose how heavy a load we want to carry. And for me, at least right now, a single backpack is all I want.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Old Lady Washcloth Face and the Curious Case of the Funky Tongue

Mr. Wonderful's overly sensitive olfactory system went into overdrive again recently in our house. You may remember the washcloth incidents mentioned here and here. Well, the latest involved a halitosis issue.

One night, we were kissing goodnight and I thought his breath didn't smell its freshest. Trying to be nice, I continued with the kiss and then went to bed. But the next day I couldn't help myself. I told him I thought maybe he'd been dehydrated or something and that he should drink more water before going to bed.

"You have bad breath a lot of times, too," he told me.

I asked why—if it was such a regular thing—he'd never mentioned it. He, too, wanted to be nice. I asked if he thought my halitosis was the result of dehydration. He asked if I had forgotten to brush my tongue. Come to think of it...I had...

"Stick it out and let me smell it," he insisted.

Such romantic pillow talk.

Long story short, my tongue was the culprit. So I've been trying to remember to brush it thoroughly every night before bed. But there are still some nights I forget. I know, dental hygienists everywhere are crying right now.

I decided to try to devise a memory trick, training my brain to think of tongue brushing every time I looked at my dental floss container. Despite being a sporadic tongue brusher, I am an avid flosser.

Apparently Mr. W thought I needed even more of a reminder. Because when I came home from my east-coast trip last weekend, I discovered this:

Yes, that's a little hand-drawn tongue and toothbrush on the lid of my dental floss. Thank you Mr. W. I will never come to bed with halitosis ever again.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Fall Leaves and Freezing Buttholes

 The parks were all incredible in Boston. We don't get autumn colors
like that in California.

If you read my blog last week, you already know that I was on an east-coast college tour with my 17-year-old niece, older sister and brother-in-law. As goes with those sorts of trips, much hilarity, extensive snarkiness, and some good-hearted shouting at each other ensued.

My niece and I never tired of teasing my sister on the trip. Often her mouth moves faster than her brain, so she provided us with countless verbal gems to work with—and has really done so throughout most of my life. "Freezing buttholes" is one of her famous quotes. I think she might have meant to say she was freezing her butt off, but it came out the other way. 

We used that phrase quite a bit on the trip, as our wimpy California skin wasn't quite cut out for the wind chill in Massachusetts. "Snow bitch" also got used on the trip. Big sister once called me that when I guessed a Wheel of Fortune puzzle before she could. We have no idea where the "snow" part of that one originated. And then we had our favorite line from last week: My brother-in-law was preparing to turn right onto a street, but there was an older woman crossing in front of him. Instead of saying, "Be careful of that lady" or "there's someone crossing the street," my sister shrieked, "Watch out for mama!" 

We must have quoted that five dozen times during the trip. Anyway...

I hadn't been to D.C. in 13 years and I forgot just how much I love all
the buildings and monuments there. Such a great city!

We started out in D.C. and I was fortunate enough to be able to meet up with GeekHiker who is on a cross-country road trip right now. He is camping outside of the city center and took the metro in to join my niece and I for pizza one night. Of course, he and I had to have a couple drinks after dinner so we could discuss the ins and outs of dating. But that's a post for another time. 

GeekHiker wasn't the only blog friend I met up with, either. In Boston, I got to finally (after 4 years) meet Brookem and her Manfriend for dinner. What a treat that was! Those two are so darn cute and funny together. And they were so nice to us after we complained endlessly about how confusing the streets of Boston were. (Seriously, we drove around Harvard for an hour trying to find the bookstore. My niece and I were literally ready to suffocate ourselves with our rain coats.)

Me and Brookem. She's so cute—total fashionista. I had outfit envy when I saw her. 

The conclusion of all the college-touring was that my niece loved Georgetown and Boston College the most. If she gets in and becomes a student at one of them, she'll be the first person in our family to go to school outside of California.

Georgetown was one of the most gorgeous schools I've ever seen. Felt like Oxford.
And of course my niece was smitten because it reminded her of Hogwarts.

Selfishly, I'm hoping my niece ends up at UCLA or Berkeley. The thought of her being so far away gives this snow bitch a chill. Freezing buttholes style.

Friday, November 11, 2011


What a neat date it is on the calendar, right?

Today is actually more than just a cool day for me. It's Mr. Wonderful's and my 4th anniversary of our very first date. Sadly, Mr. W has to celebrate all alone this year because I'm on vacation with my family. Although he might have mentioned something about this anniversary not counting anymore anyway because now we have a wedding anniversary to observe instead.

But it's been 4 years! FOUR YEARS.

That's crazy long. I always think about how high school is four years. And college (for most people...I was on the 5-year plan). At the time, that felt like an eternity. But now, years just fly by. I wonder if my parents who have been married for almost 48 years feel like it has flown by.

In our 1461 days together (there's a leap year in there, right?) we have done more than I've ever done with any other person I've ever known in my life. We've traveled to 10 countries, we've run a half marathon and completed a Muddy Buddy race, we've tried making cheese, we're in the process of trying to make wine, we've flown - just the two of us - in a teeny tiny plane, we've ridden on a motorcycle together, we've rowed around a pond in a rowboat, we've rollerbladed at the beach, we've both gone topless in a foreign country, and we've laughed almost every day we've been in each other's company. Not bad for two goofy control freaks.

Mr. W, I'm very sorry that I'm not with you to celebrate this now non-anniversary.

Thanks for helping me make that list up there nice and long. I look forward to assembling another one four years from now.

Happy 11.11.11!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

When Time Off Comes at Just the Right Time

Nearly 7 years ago, I quit a job at a crazy office that smelled like pot smoke lots of mornings and was riddled with (what I believe were) drug-induced or withdrawl-induced psychotic breaks (not by me). Of course, the company sold for 62 million dollars a few months after I left and all the employees got big bonuses. But that's beside the point.

I left my position with not much money saved and no solid freelance gigs lined up. It was a stressful few months as I tried hard to keep myself afloat, but it afforded me something I would never have gotten had I not chosen to quit: Time.

A couple months into my career shift, my grandmother developed a pulmonary embolism. I can't remember how long she was in the hospital, but being job-free, I was able to go visit her almost every day. After surgery, she was moved to a nursing home to recuperate and I will always remember making jokes with her there the last time I saw her. Sadly, she threw a clot just a few days after she had checked into the nursing home and she passed away.

I will forever be grateful that I was out of work and got to see her so many times in those final days.

During that same period of time, my dad had to go in for gallbladder surgery. Again, because I wasn't working, I got to sit with my mom and sister in the waiting room and giggle at his anesthesia-hazed ramblings when he came out of the operating room. I was really thankful I got to be there with my family during that.

This past summer, my sister told me she was planning to take my oldest niece to look at colleges in Washington DC and Boston, tacking the outing onto one of her husband's business trips and asked me if I could go with them. Sorely disappointed, I told her I didn't have enough vacation time.

Then I got laid off.

And guess where I am right now? Yup in the beautificent old eastern side of the country with my niece and sister (actually I'm writing this before we're there, so I'm really just in my living room...but I wanted to give you guys something to read while I was away).

I feel so lucky for the opportunity to spend time with the people who matter during my "time off."

I think that may be one of the biggest keys to getting through job changes—or any changes, really—appreciating every minute of the good stuff. I hope I have lots more memories like this to look back on if I ever end up tethered to a desk again.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Warning: The Whiteboard Has Been Compromised

A few weeks ago, Mr. Wonderful and I were out for a morning training run when the subject of my impending layoff came up and he offered what he thought was some friendly advice. He told me I should make a list of all I wanted to accomplish during my time off because it could pass by quickly and I might regret not getting certain things done.

I, of course, interpreted this as him trying to micromanage me.

So I got really snippy and told him I didn't need him watching over me, making sure I wasn't sitting on the couch in my pajamas all day watching HGTV with a Dr. Pepper in hand. I have this tendency to get extremely defensive when I feel like someone is pressuring me or trying to boss me around. Which, Mr. W was not at all.

In fact, he was only telling me to make a list because the last time he was unemployed, he didn't map out his to-dos and then when it was time to go back to work he realized there were lots of things left undone that he had really hoped to accomplish. (He told me this while holding me by the shoulders and staring intently into my eyes so that I knew he was being sincere and not authoritative.)

The funny thing was, I probably would have made the exact list he was talking about anyway. But, thanks to his suggestion, I sat down at my favorite little whiteboard and penned out all the things I hoped to get done during my "transition" period.

Earlier this week as I slid into joblessness, I picked up the whiteboard to reexamine my list. I read through each line and then noticed a new one scrawled at the bottom in someone else's handwriting...

 I had to crop it to hide his real name, but it says: Practice BJs on Mr. W.

I have to wonder if his intention in telling me to write a list was simply so that he could add that to the bottom of it. He, of course, has no idea how that appeared on my whiteboard... I'm sure one of the cats wrote it.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

It's a Marathon, Not a Share-athon!

When Mr. Wonderful and I signed up to do the Healdsburg Half Marathon, both of us were concerned that his knees might not be up for the task. He experiences pain just about every time he goes more than a couple miles or tries to run downhill. I, on the other hand, haven't had any issues with my knees during any of the training for my four prior half marathons. Which is why I was shocked when my leg decided to gimp out on me this past weekend.

We had just passed the mile 7 marker when the outside of my right knee started to ache. I figured it was just tight or a little tweaked from some of the rolling hills. But with each mile we completed, it hurt more and more. By mile 10, it felt like there was a dwarf running my my side, hammering it with each step I took. Sounds like a new show on TLC—The Little Hammersmiths. Anyway, the pain was sharp and constant. I was literally grunting with each step.

When I saw the mile 13 sign, I was beyond done. Mr. W, trying to lighten the mood, said, "At least we can go in for double knee replacements together!"

"Can you not talk to me until we're done?" I said back.

I'm pretty sure he wanted to respond with "Fine beeyatch!" but instead he just went silent.

As we recounted the story to some friends the next morning over breakfast, the wife shared a similar story with us about a time she was sick. Lying on the floor, she called out to her husband (who was sleeping) to tell him she felt ill. He rushed to her side and began rubbing her back.

"Don't touch me," she told him.

"Can I get you anything?" he asked.

"Don't talk to me," she answered.

Defeated, he got up to go back to bed.

"Don't leave me!" his wife cried out.

Crack up.

I was thinking about her situation and mine on the (very) long drive home from Napa and I think I came up for a reason why we sometimes need silent support.

This may be a woman thing, or maybe just a me thing, but when someone talks to me I feel like I have to answer. When Mr. W touches me, I feel compelled to respond. So when I'm in pain or grumpy or starving, it's not that I don't want him talking to or touching me—it's that I don't want to have to reciprocate in any way. Because I'm hurting and pissed about it.

Fortunately Mr. W forgave me after we crossed the finish line. Still not sure if it was my improved attitude or the free wine tasting that prompted that...