Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Warning! Warning!

Last week I took my car in to a shop I trust for a routine oil change and tire rotation. I sat on their comfy leather couch and read a good book while I waited. Took an hour, and I was on my way. Thanks! See you in three months or 3,000 miles, whichever comes first!

That night I was driving home on the interstate around 9 p.m. My oil pressure warning light started flickering in the dark. Uh-oh. I kept watching it. Soon it came on and stayed on. My pulse quickened. At least twenty highway break-down horror stories flashed through my head at once. The next thing that flashed through my head went something like this:

Car 2 Years Old + Oil Change This Morning = Auto Shop Fucked Up

HATE KILL DIE, AUTO SHOP! MY HUSBAND HAS MAFIA RELATIVES! YOU ARE GOING DOOOOOWN.

And then,

SHIT.

I was too scared to stop on the interstate in the dark. I was less than two miles from my exit, so I decided to push on. When I exited I pulled into the first parking lot I saw and stopped the engine. Smoke started coming from under the hood. Fortunately I'd remembered to put our cell phone in my bag that morning, and the battery was fully charged. I made sure the doors were locked and dialed my home number.

Busy.

Tried again. And again. Hit redial 10 times.

Busy. Busy. Busy. Busy. Busy. Busy. Busy. Busy. Busy. Busy.

WHY ARE WE SO CHEAP WE SHOULD HAVE GOTTEN CALL WAITING GAAAAAAH!

I got out of the car. I tried to recall some of the moves I learned in my college self-defense class. All that came to mind was “Sweep the leg." Wait, that was Karate Kid.

I went to the back of the car and got out the 50-pound car emergency kit that M bought me. He had displayed it proudly on the dining room table so I would see it when I got home from work. When I spied it I said, “Wow! Did you buy me a new computer? A bowling ball? Uh... what is that?”

Silently I apologized to M for making fun of it. Then I cursed him for being on the phone when I needed him. Weren’t we soul mates? Wasn’t he supposed to sense my distress? Like Lassie! I looked around hopefully for any intelligent dogs that might have been patrolling the parking lot. There weren't any.

I opened the kit and got out the flashlight. I peered under the car and saw a suspicious puddle. I touched it, felt it, and smelled it. Yup, it was oil.

I popped the hood and pulled out the oil dipstick. Wiped it, reinserted. Pulled out and squinted at it. I quickly deduced that the reason the oil level wasn’t registering on the dipstick was because it was all on the PAVEMENT.

Got back in the car and locked the doors again, because by then I was pretty cold. Tried M again. Busy. Called my dad in Florida. No answer. Tried my best friend. No answer.

I looked through the emergency kit and hoped inspiration would strike. I found the first aid kit and looked at all the band-aid varieties. Wondered if there was a snake bite kit. There wasn’t, but there was a packet of Wet Naps. I cleaned the oil residue off my fingers. I tested the emergency whistle. It was loud, but M did not hear it. Neither did Lassie. That bitch.

I reviewed the instructions for what to do in case your car is submerged in water. Really, everyone should.

Finally! The cell phone rang and it was M! Angels burst through the cloudy skies and did a beautiful rendition of Ave Maria as they floated in circles around my car.

He came and got me. I reluctantly agreed on the way home that a midnight egging of the auto shop would not be the most mature response . He promised that he would stay home from work the next morning and help me take care of it. Not because he’s the man and all car-related issues are therefore his responsibility, but because he knows me well enough to know that car problems are one of the few things that make my anxiety swell to Swiss Alps proportions.

And you know what? He did.

And you know what else?

We still don’t have call waiting.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Ode to Kale

A new Thai restaurant recently opened in our neighborhood, so we enjoyed some wonderful food there on Friday night. On Saturday afternoon I made Crystal's ginger-peanut tofu salad wraps for lunch. That night we had Mexican (and tequila, of course) at a friend's house. Last night I made a delicious vegetable soup, perfect for a cold, windy night.

It was a delectable weekend.

Here is the recipe for the vegetable soup, from Bon Appétite. I found it when I was looking for recipes using kale. Kale has recently earned a place on my Top 5 Favorite Vegetables list, mostly because I love the texture and I feel so healthy when I eat it. I love to sautee it lightly in a bit of olive oil, fresh grated ginger, and minced garlic, with some toasted sesame seeds on top. Kale, how I love thee.


White Bean, Kale, and Roasted Vegetable Soup

3 medium carrots, peeled, quartered lengthwise
2 large tomatoes, quartered
1 large onion, cut into 8 wedges
1/2 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick wedges
(I used the entire squash, because butternut is also on my top 5 list!)
6 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 cups (or more) vegetable broth
4 cups finely chopped kale
3 large fresh thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
1 15-ounce can Great Northern beans, drained


Preheat oven to 400°F. Spray rimmed baking sheet with oil spray. Arrange carrots, tomatoes, onion, squash and garlic on sheet. Drizzle with oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Bake until vegetables are brown and tender, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes.

Transfer carrots and squash to work surface. Cut into 1/2-inch pieces; set aside. Peel garlic cloves; place in processor. Add tomatoes and onion; puree until almost smooth. Pour 1/2 cup broth onto baking sheet; scrape up any browned bits. Transfer broth and vegetable puree to large pot. Add 5 1/2 cups broth, kale, thyme and bay leaf to pot; bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered until kale is tender, about 30 minutes.

Add beans and reserved carrots and squash to soup. Simmer 8 minutes to blend flavors, adding more broth to thin soup if necessary (I added two cups). Season with salt and pepper. Discard thyme sprigs and bay leaf. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to simmer before serving.)

Serves 6.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Good boy, Alex!

M came home last night with the mail in his hand. When Alex ran up to greet him in his usual frenzy of excitement, M handed him a piece of junk mail (a product announcement from one of our investment firms) and said, "Go give this to Mommy!"

Alex clenched it in his teeth and ran straight to me in the living room. M and I swelled with pride at our dog's obvious intelligence.

"Good boy, Boo!" I squealed. "Who's the smartest boy in the world?" As I reached out for my mail, Alex jumped up on the couch and proceeded to rip it to pieces.

We knew that Alex likes to rip up cardboard boxes. When I use up a box of brown sugar? I just toss the box over the counter and he takes care of it. He nearly faints from excitement if we buy new shoes because he adores those paper balls that they stuff up in the toes. Christmas morning is three solid hours of ripping and shredding ecstasy!

Well, now we know how to dispose of that pesky junk mail.












Apparently Alex doesn't think much of Fidelity Investments.

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Saturday, February 18, 2006

Photo jumble...


Candles on My Cake-- in action. (The color of the fingers
is Flash-Induced Corpse White)



Alex practices his "supremely bored" look.



Bearette's Minestrone soup



Mmmm....



Happy Valentine's Day

Friday, February 17, 2006

Naked but with plenty of good reading material

I got three inches cut off my hair last night. When I told my hair stylist what I wanted, she literally did this:

CeCe: Gasp! (clutches chest as though having myocardial infarction*)

When I get around to getting a haircut every two months or so, I tell her, "Just a trim!" or, "One inch.... maybe one and a half, tops." I'm pretty same-same. She almost lost it three years ago when I told her I was growing my bangs out, maybe because I'd had them since I was six years old.

So when I told her to take three inches off, she said, "So I'll take 3 off the longest part in the back, and 3 off the shorter layers in the front?"

I squeezed my eyes shut and whimpered, "Yes."

She was very proud of me. I kind of felt like a badass after.

But today I feel naked without all of my hair. Yes, that's what the "naked" in subject line refers to; I am fully clothed (you dirty birdies). It does feel strange, but I can brush my hair so much faster now. Really, it's like .5 seconds and I'm done!

In other news, I am listening to The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing on CD, and I have a feeling I'm going to suffer from withdrawal when I get to the last disc. I'm also reading Dog Days (Ana Marie Cox), which is kind of eh, and Behaving Like Adults (Anna Maxted), which I'm liking a lot. When I checked out the latter from the library the 60-ish library clerk looked at the title and said, "Behave like an adult? No thank you."


* Can you tell that a certain someone is taking a medical terminology class? Hmmmmm?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Overheard in the Ether:

I feel a little bit fancy because I went out and got a manicure during my lunch break today. I’m not accustomed to getting manicures. Something about paying $12 for something that will only last a few days tastes a little sinful to me. And I’m hard on my hands—I do all kinds of naughty things without gloves on. Like using undiluted bleach to clean the bathroom floor.

Cringe.

Today my dry, cracked, bleeding cuticles (even my fingers hate the cold!) stared up at me from the keyboard and cried, “Why? Why did you butcher us with the cuticle scissors last night? Why can’t you just admit that you are a dumbass when it comes to anything beyond a nail file and clear, goof-proof polish?”

And I said, “Lo! Do not despair, cuticles. Forgive me, for I have sinned. To repent, I will produce many loaves and fishes from this worry stone on my desk.”

My cuticles said, “How about some goddamn lotion?”

And so I had to one-up those uppity cuticles and go for a manicure.

I emailed M to tell him about my lunchtime extravagance.


Liz: I finally got fed up and went to get a quick manicure during lunch. They fixed me up real nice. The color I got is called "Candles on My Cake". :-)

M: I’m glad to see that you were willing to spend a little money on yourself, and that they were able to patch you up. I like the name of the nail polish...are your nails: pink, yellow, and blue? ha ha...

Liz: Actually- they're on fire, and just when I think I've blown them out, the flames come back.

M: Must be "Trick Candles on My Cake".

Liz: Hee.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Crazy busy

That about sums up my life this week.

In my spare moments (3 a.m.?) I am reading a little gem called "May Contain Nuts: A Novel of Extreme Parenting", by John O'Farrell. It makes me laugh out loud. Has anyone else read it?

Back to the crazy...

Monday, February 13, 2006

"You" only has three letters-- is it really necessary to shorten it to "U"?

I was at one of my step classes at the gym on Saturday morning and I was working it. It was the last song of the hour, the final three minutes of the class, and the song was Kelly Clarkson's Since U Been Gone. I was tired, sweating, and dying of thirst, but I was an aerobicizing maniac. And you know what?

I LOVE that song. And I'm not even embarrassed about it!

As I was jumping and turn-stepping and doing my repeaters I was unabashedly singing along.

Since U been goooone
I can breathe for the first time
I'M SO MOVING ON
Yeah, yeah!

I so wished I was just coming out of a bad break-up so the song could be my personal soundtrack. But somehow, the fact that I've been in love with the same guy for 11 years didn't stop me from strongly imagining that I had just walked away from some TOTAL ASSHOLE who ripped my heart out and walked all over it.

I was pissed. And as I pounded my step, sweaty and red-faced and with bits of my hair sticking straight up, I WAS GETTING JUSTICE FOR EVERY WRONGED WOMAN IN THE HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

At the end of the class a guy everyone calls Dr. Bill came up to me and said, "It looked like you really enjoyed that last one, Liz."

"I'm so moving on, Bill."

"You're leaving your husband?"

"I'll start with just leaving the gym."


Yes, Dr. Bill is a real doctor and to my knowledge has never played one on TV. Alex's vet also attends classes with me. May I say that it is comforting to know that the man who watches over my little pup can do a kick-ass lunge? It is also very comforting to know that medical emergencies for either humans or pets can be promptly addressed during step aerobics class.

U know what I mean?

Friday, February 10, 2006

You look lovely from behind...

Here's the other library encounter I promised to share.

I used to work in a different library where an elderly Indian man would come to visit me at the desk. He liked to come in and read the Wall Street Journal. He'd stop by, say hello, and shuffle slowly to the periodicals section.

After a while I noticed that he was watching me whenever I passed through the periodicals area, his brown eyes just barely visible over the top of the paper.

One day he stopped at the desk and told me that I had a lovely neck.

"I'm sorry, how can I help you?" I asked. I thought I must have misunderstood him.

"Your neck- it is very long and nice."

"Huh?" I pulled the wings of my shirt collar closer together. "Uh... I really don't think anyone's ever said that to me before. "

"You are welcome," he said, and bowed.

A few days later I went into the periodicals room to help a student with a microfilm reader. I bent and struggled with the machine for a few minutes, finally fixing whatever the problem was. As I straightened and turned to leave, I saw the man sitting across the room from me, his eyes peeping over the top of the Journal.

As I passed by I heard him say, "Hello."

"Hello," I said cheerily, and kept moving toward the exit.

"You know," he said, "You look lovely from behind."

I stopped. Turned slowly towards him. Said, "I'm sorry?"

"I said, you look lovely from behind. As well as from the front, and all around."

I said nothing. No words would come out of my mouth.

Finally: "I have to go."

And I went back to the desk, where I shared the story with a co-worker.

Her eyes widened. "Are you scared of him? What if you see him outside?"

I told her I was pretty sure I could out-run him.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Love goes toward love as schoolboys from their books...

A Polish man with twinkly blue eyes likes to stop and chat with me when he comes to the library. He is a Ph.D philosophy scholar, looks to be 40-ish. Extremely intelligent. Soft-spoken. He likes to tell me about his beautiful country.

When the library received a new set of philosophy encyclopedias, I offered him the old set. His eyes lit up. He kept the volumes clasped to his chest as we talked for another 20 minutes. Finally, it was time to go. He headed for the library’s exit but turned suddenly and came back to the desk, leaning down toward me.

“I will never forget this day,” he said quietly, “And not just because of these books!”

And with that he turned and disappeared through the door.

I think I sat there with my mouth hanging open for a good half hour. Somehow that was the most romantic thing that had ever happened to me outside of my marriage.

The next week, he came in again. I was friendly but tried to act like nothing out of the ordinary had happened. He asked my assistance in finding a book in Polish. As I searched the WorldCat database he knelt on one knee in front of the desk to watch.

In came another librarian.

“Wow!” she chirped. “Liz, it looks like you’re being proposed to.”

We both turned beet red.

It's been a month since he's come into the library.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

great expectations

You and a friend of many years seem to be missing each other lately. Things feel “off”. Despite the fact that you now live only 30 minutes apart, you feel more distant than when you lived thousands of miles away from her.

It feels like there are issues lurking, but your friend says everything is fine.

However...

You feel like you are walking on eggshells. Every exchange and encounter can easily become hypersensitive. You worry that something you say will be taken the wrong way. Sometimes you fear that your friend, even while laughing and talking and hugging you goodbye, has anger and resentment and sadness just below the surface. Somehow this feels much worse than an all-out, knock-down fight.

You feel inadequate, because despite the fact that you used to provide therapy for a living, you are at a loss for how to fix this.

You also realize that you have written this entry thus far in the second person, because that makes the whole thing easier.

You realize you must stop this use of the second person.

You and I agree.


I like to be direct about what is bothering me. I like for people around me to do the same. Please try to do it in a constructive, respectful way, but really-- nothing bugs the hell out of me more than ignoring the elephant in the living room.

But in this case, I feel like the elephant is tangled up in lots of emotions that cause pain for my friend. If I try to push the elephant out, I am messing with painful stuff. Stuff that isn’t really mine to mess with.

At some point this becomes exhausting, and more than once I have wondered if we are trying to resuscitate something that should just be allowed to slip away peacefully.

It would be easier to do that.

On the other hand, the expiration of our friendship would seem like such a gigantic waste. And I’m afraid of not having it anymore.

We’re getting together soon and I asked her to please think about whether there are any elephants that might need to be eradicated. Or at least gently prodded.

I think I am counting on this being a pivotal experience. Tell me I shouldn’t have expectations like that.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Put this on the refrigerator, Mom!

Okay, everyone. I feel the need to announce that I just sewed a button on my shirt, while wearing the shirt, while also sitting in my office and checking my email.

Huh? HUH?

(applause)

Thank you! Thank you! I'd like to thank my mother, who taught me how to sew, and my boss, for acting like nothing was out of the ordinary when she saw me doing this, and Ann Taylor, for providing the shirt, and myself, for not losing the button two weeks ago when it fell off...

(cane appears stage left and yanks Liz off by her neck)

(APPLAUSE!!!!!)


Guess what? My shoes came last night. In five days, including the weekend! I ordered them from a DC-based business called Simply Soles (www.simplysoles.com). Not only did they arrive quickly, but there was a hand-written note inside from Rebeccah, the general manager, thanking me for my order. I think I am in love with you, Simply Soles. I know my husband really loves me because he saw how much I spent on those shoes (never you mind) but agrees with all of you about their extreme cuteness.

When M got home last night he found me in our bathroom standing on the toilet, drinking sauvignon blanc, painting the walls Glacier Lake blue and rocking out to Deana Carter. Would you believe that I actually paint better when I've had a glass of wine?

Monday, February 06, 2006

In which I cry big, minty tears...

I bought a little container of Ice Breakers "Liquid Ice" breath mints. What you cannot tell from their web page is that each mint is a tiny round ball approximately the size of a BB, filled with some kind of icy-blue liquid. They roll! All over the place! The container says it contains 30 mints and I think I have gotten three of those successfully to my mouth. The rest are lurking in my mottled blue office carpet.

Just now I was standing up to leave my office and I tried to pop one in my mouth. It escaped my fingers. I sat down on my chair to look for it.

And smelled something minty.

Yes, I have a little mint explosion spot on the back of my pants now. Lovely.

WANTED: Square breath mints that defy gravity and do not have liquid centers. No more of this mints-gone-wild shit.

Super Bowel

I was embarrassed on Sunday morning when I was caught by two neighbors looking oh-so-fine in my I Love Lucy pajama bottoms, my puffy black winter coat, my skiing rabbit mittens, and my feet stuffed into M’s huge sneakers (because my feet can slide right in without any unlacing, see?). Before I took Alex outside I debated about whether I should get dressed first. Nah, I thought, no one will be outside at this hour.

Not only did two neighbors come outside just as I got to the street, but as I was trying to hurry Alex to a less-visible location he decided to squat and slowly do his business. Which, really, the only way I could have looked worse was if I were standing next to a pile of steaming dog poo.

Check! Thanks, Boo.


Neighbor Tom: Hey, Liz!

Liz: Oh… hi! (turns sideways, thinking pajamas may be less visible that way. Realizes that shoes look much bigger from side. Faces forward again.)

Neighbor Tom: Getting ready for the Super Bowl?

Liz: Uh…. Well, you know, not at this very moment. (Gestures at the pooping dog. Why do I gesture at the pooping dog?)

Neighbor Sandy: Hey, you two! Getting ready for the Super Bowl?

Liz: Uh… (Should I pick up the poop now? Or wait? Or do it now? Or… wait?)

Neighbor Tom: GO STEELERS!

Alex continues to poop, walking in little hunched-over circles.

Liz: GO, ALEX!

Neighbors Tom and Sandy: ????

Liz: This is really a lot of poop for him.


And in related news, I spent an hour watching the Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet yesterday. The cuteness was almost lethal.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Thoughts?

I need some feedback on a pair of shoes I am thinking about buying. You should know that I will not necessarily listen to you, but I will at least consider any opinions offered.

I don't really care for shopping and I don't usually get all squealy and excited over shoes, but I found these online and I think I might be a little excited.

These would be for work. Too clunky? Too librarian? Or are they really cute, like I'm thinking they are? Help. I'm wondering if this is like the time in 6th grade when I thought it would be cool to wear my Barbie's wrap-around stole on my side ponytail.

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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

PLEASE listen to the FOLLOWING inSTRUCtions!

I called my health insurance company today because I have an appointment with a specialist on Friday. Although it was authorized by my regular doctor, the insurance company felt the need to send me a letter that more or less read like this:


Dear Unvalued Customer,

Yeah. So the guy was all, "Do you have a ticket to the gun show?" Then he flexes his biceps for me and says, "Well, how do you like these guns?" And I said...

Um, excuse me? Can you please finish my letter? I have important health decisions to make, and I'm depending on you.

What the...? Sigh. Tiffany, I'm gonna have to get back to you. I have to finish writing this intimidating letter.

So anyway, we received your doctor's authorization to visit the specialist. But remember, it is YOUR responsibility to memorize every single word of your health insurance handbook. If you FAIL to do so, you could receive a bill for services that will deplete all your retirement savings and force you to sell your home.

This means that you'd better make sure that this specialist is approved by us. Also? Even if he is? We're only saying it's okay to go SEE him. Any of the following will require additional advance authorization:

1. He speaks to you.
2. You speak to him.
3. You stop breathing and he performs CPR.
4. Pretty much anything else.

And don't even TRY to be sneaky and get more than one month's worth of birth control pills from him, or we will cut you, bitch.

Sincerely,

Your Loving HMO
xoxoxo


Okay, so maybe I am exaggerating a little. But when I took the bait and called them today? This is the recording I heard:

Hello! We are happy to. ASSIST. you. today!

In order for us to assist you, you will need to enter the identification number that is found either on the lower right-hand corner or mid-left-hand region of your insurance card.

Or, if your card is pink, your identification number might be in microscopic print on the back.

Please listen carefully. to the following. OPTIONS!

Press 1 if your ID number contains only numbers.
Press 2 if your ID number contains only letters.
Press 3 if your ID number has two letters at the end.
Press 4 if your ID number has a letter in the fourth position.
Press 5 if your ID number has five X's at the beginning.



I pressed 8 just to see what would happen.

I'm sorry, we did not PRE-AUTHORIZE that selection! You will. receive. a bill in the mail, SUCKA.