List #167: The First Cold Night at Home

It must have been the snow flurries that came down this morning, or the fact that it didn't quite might it to even 40 degrees. But tonight feels like winter.

It was easy to come after work and put on pajamas. Even easier to cook comfort food. And it was sweet to sit down at my own dining room table and address Christmas cards. I turned off lights this evening and it's the glow of Christmas lights in the room that's warming the living room as I write this post. And well, it's all really a wonderful way to end what was a very stressful morning and a busy afternoon.

But this cold winter night is exactly when my mind starts to wander. I start to miss someone. Though honestly, at this stage on this particular night I can't really put my finger on who or what I miss exactly. It's an amalgam of personalities.

  • The friend who lives far away but always makes me laugh
  • The loved one who can't write letters 
  • The past lover who could always make me feel sexy
  • The person who has known you forever and doesn't mind if you cry for a few minutes
  • The man who let you put your feet under him on the couch to keep warm
  • The city that loved you when you were younger
  • The absence of absence of panic when you realize finals are upon you
I don't really know what I think about all of this. But I do know that I'm going to cover myself in blankets tonight and just be glad that the first few days of December are going to bring some warmth.

I just wonder, dear readers, what the first blast of winter feels like to you. 


Letter #47: Christmas Greetings via the USPS

Dear Readers,

I want to make this holiday season a little brighter this year. And since the the best way to feel good about the holidays is to celebrate the joy of giving, I'm going to try something new this year. See, I always send out cards to my friends and family. I love the whole experience of Christmas cards: picking out the perfect card, writing a personalized message with a special pen, buying stamps, and sending them in the mail.

We hear so much these days of how the Post Office is failing, how we're slowly losing our skills in handwriting, and how people aren't taking the time to write letters anymore. And for these reasons, sending Christmas cards is all the more special. Also, my Dad works for the Post Office and is retiring at the end of the year. Why not honor his hard work, in a way, by sending out more personal letters.

So, taking a cue from many bloggers and online ideas, I'm offering to send you a personalized holiday card. If you'd like a card from me (and you know you aren't already on my Christmas list) fill out the form below. The only thing I ask in return is that you promise to send out at least one extra card this year. If you don't send any, send one to your grandparents or another relative. If you send many, send one more to someone who makes a difference in your life. Perhaps that person is your friendly librarian, bus driver, janitor, the mail clerk that helps send your packages, or person who bags your groceries. The point is to just spread one more ounce of holiday cheer. Maybe the more we spread, the happier this holiday season will be.

Feel free to share this post with others. I'd just like to have everyone who is interested submit their information by Wednesday, December 5 so that I can write the cards and get them mailed in a timely manner!

List #166: Things I Love about the Holidays 1

The holiday dread that I was experiencing earlier this week is settling. I'm sure I will have a few flair ups on the road between now and New Year's Eve. But maybe it won't be so bad. And I've decided, in an effort to both find the joy in the season, and to find some holiday fuel for this blog. That I'm going to write about the things I discover this holiday season that make me happy. Normally I would just write one list of such items and call it a day. But I don't think I know all of the things that I love about the holidays. Maybe I'll find a few new things and rediscover others that I just take for granted.

First on the list? Nutcrackers.
Just a peek at the collection that is now sitting on my living room window's ledge. 

This afternoon I was over at my parent's house and had the opportunity to start to pick through the family's LARGE Christmas boxes. My mom is a teacher who loves cute little things and throughout the years she's has acquired a lot of holiday decorations. But at the bottom of the decoration bin was a tupperware bin filled with my Nutcracker collection.

I've been collecting Nutcrackers since I was in the second grade. See for a number of years in my youth, ballet was a huge part of my life. I danced at the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater until my little brother was born when I was 10. And for three years, I got to perform in The Nutcracker. My first year, in second grade, I was technically too young to join the cast but was asked to audition specifically. That year I was barely 7 but I got to perform on stage at the Benedum and even boarded a bus twice for trips that took the ballet on the road. I remember wishfully wanting the tall, blue Nutcracker on display inside the ballet studios (they had assorted ballet items for sale) and how my friends and I would gawk at the glass case during rehearsal breaks. Remember, we were in grade school and went to PBT for twice weekly dance classes and then spent 6+ hours in rehearsals on Saturday for the Nutcracker  When dress rehearsals and fittings came along, I missed school and had early dismissals for performances. Then on Christmas Day, I opened a thin box to find the same Nutcracker that had disappeared from the case a few weeks before (and left all of us girls heartbroken and curious). I still have him, and he's in the window right now, the only Nutcracker without a beard because I loved him so much every Christmas that it fell off sometime in the late '90s and was never glued back on.

Now I have Nutcracker nesting dolls, Leprechaun Nutcrackers, and even one that looks like Father Time. And for the first time, they are on display in my own little corner of the world. I just hope the cat doesn't ruin them.

And as for the Pittsburgh version of the Nutcracker that PBT puts on now? I am not a fan. It lacks a orchestra! And is hardly the wonderful blending of Company dancers and students it once was. Since they changed the focus of The Nutcracker, I've found other Pittsburgh Holiday Traditions to enjoy. But I still love finding a new Nutcracker to add to my own collection of memories each year.

What about you readers, do you collect anything that is significant during the holiday season? 


List #165: Giving Thanks 2012

We're suppose to be thankful this time of year. And though I'd like to say that I'm thankful every day of my life, sometimes it's a struggle. I know that as a whole my life is very blessed and that I am one very fortunate woman. But oh, how easy it is to focus on what is missing versus what is right in front of us.

And though I was just declaring that I'm actually excited for the holiday season this year (unlike last year's complete dread) the forces of the holiday beasts started to take over sometime around noon. Thanksgiving can be the start of a lot of alone time, a lot of money, a lot of wishing and wanting that goes unfilled.  Even right now it doesn't even seem that I can get my girlfriends together for one night of fun and entertainment in a simple manner. A lot of the holiday season might be another uphill battle for many of us. I certainly wouldn't classify my holiday spirit as grinchy, but it's not exactly an easy ride of carols and bells either.

But tomorrow, I am going to try my hardest. I'm going to enjoy a homecooked meal, family that is close and loving, and finish the night off with one of my favorite Christmas movies. I'm not going to pout, I'm not going to fight. Because I will remember that I am thankful for:

  • Healthy parents that are still near and here.
  • Two brothers that are both funny and supportive.
  • A large, extensive family that has its quirks but always comes through.
  • A job that I feel passionately about and gives me a purpose.
  • A job with benefits.
  • Coworkers that have become friends.
  • Friends that feel like family.
  • A kitten that is always excited to see me when I walk in the door.
  • Books.
  • That I'm fortunate enough to travel.
  • My own place to hang my hat.
  • Gchat.
  • Warm blankets on a cold night.
  • Parks and Recreation. For being funny and showing that a smart, successful woman in her 30s can still find love.
  • The wonderful new people I get to meet in a city that has known me forever.
  • Jimmy Fallon Singing:
What are you thankful for this year, dear readers? Share it in the comments! and have the happiest of Thanksgivings! 


List #164: Confessions (Part II)

  • Until recently I had no idea that Maroon 5 had so many members.
  • Harrison Ford is nearly what, 80? And I still think he is extremely sexy.
  • I won't be bringing anything to my family Thanksgiving dinner.
  • Disclaimer: My parents insist that I don't bring anything. 
  • I really want to watch Homeland. But I don't have Showtime.
  • I'm building hatred for people who won't remove their election yard signs.
  • Ever since Hurricane Sandy, I've been finding Chris Christie much more appealing.
  • Sometimes I watch Sister Wives
  • I think my cat is at his cutest when he is snuggled up and sleeping.
  • I've fallen asleep during  a Sunday night (or Monday night) Steelers game.
  • My bedroom is either completely clean or completely a disaster.
  • I really struggle with putting laundry away.
  • But in my defense, I don't even have a dresser.
  • My favorite thing about Thanksgiving dinner are the side dishes. Vegetables!


List #163: Music that Makes Me Happy (The Forever Edition)

You know how sometimes your iPod really gets that you need the solid tracks that always makes you smile? Or how Pandora sometimes plays for an hour and never makes you press the thumbs down button? It was kind of one of those weeks around these parts.

What make music makes me smile all of the time?

Juvenile ~ Back Dat Ass Up
I'm on the ten-year reunion committee for my college class. We're planning a lot of fun activities. And if you started college in 1999, there is no way this song wasn't played a few thousand times.

Wilco ~ Heavy Metal Drummer
I talk a lot about how important it is for someone to understand that I *might* dance to Wilco in the kitchen on occasion. Actually, the room doesn't matter. I will dance to this song.

Sara Bareilles ~ King of Everything
Poppy tunes that remind me of how awesome I am. And how not-awesome I once felt, but how I no longer feel that way. Will always make me smile. 

James ~ Laid
It reminds me of being young and free in a country where I couldn't speak the language. Saturday night beers and walking home with pizza in a box. I was so young. 

Actually, there are tons more. But these are funny ones that really, should kick off a jamming weekend. 


List #162: Those People You Want to Avoid

  • The Old Boss. This is the one that put you threw hell before you had enough strength to quit. It's the boss that bullied you, gave you grief when you took a sick day, and may have even forced you to sign an unfair contract. It's the boss who wrote you passive aggressive notes and never answered any of your question directly. It's the boss who asked if you'd be challenged at your next adventure when you put in your recognition. Not that any of this matters anyway because you heard through this grapevine went and did the same stuff to others after you left and may or may not be having a little bit of a breakdown. But still, it's the not the boss you want to run into at a restaurant. Ever.
  • The Flame that Extinguished. This isn't the person who broke your heart. But definitely the person you want to take your heart, but refused. They are the one who, despite all of their good, used you in ways for their gain. But also because you let them. They are the person who could have had your greatness, but just wanted it on their terms without compromise. They are the one who kept shoveling excuses in your direction and you kept letting them dig deeper. They make you sad, but not devastated. Because there is nothing you can do to convince them otherwise.
  • The Friend from Back in the Day. Maybe they are a friend from grade school, or high school, even college. But at one point in both of your lives, you two were peas in a pod. Tying up the landline and telling each other everything. But these days your lives have grown so apart and you're no better friends than you are with half of the assorted crowd on Facebook. It's not ill-will between you. Just time and life changes. 
  • The One Who Broke Your Heart. Most of don't get through life without getting a little gutted. And eventually we move up and on. And our lives are so much better than they were back when that person was in them. But so much of this moving and upward depended on them vanishing from the folds on your life. You got a point where you had nothing left to say to them and then they simply weren't part of your version of the city anymore. 
And time marches on and all of these people (and many more) aren't in your life anymore. And it feels different and light and though not always good, mostly good. But in actuality, these people are out there. They haven't left your world completely and sometimes they are circling around the same places you are. And then one day, you run into them on the street. You hear they are having drinks with people you know. You happen to sit next to them in a crowded restaurant. And you find yourself wondering just what in the world you do with them for a few moments of the new part of your life. With so much to say and so little to say at the same time. What you'd say if given a world where words don't cut forever, or what you'd say if there were no repercussions in revenge or anger or love or indifference. But you know better. You are better. And life keeps moving.


List #161: The Ups and Downs of a Week

  • Getting excited for election day
  • Being unable to escape from campaign ads
  • Feeling super nervous on election day
  • Growing Angry at polling volunteers who give wrong information
  • Biting nails as the polls close
  • Drinking as the results roll in
  • Hands in the air as Pennsylvania turned blue
  • Cheering as the electoral college gave it to Obama
  • Waiting up to listen to President Obama's speech
  • Falling asleep on my couch waiting
  • Still waiting
  • Not being all that impressed with Romney's speech
  • Waiting some more
  • Crying during President Obama's speech
  • Crushing on Michelle Obama
  • Loving the First Family
  • Waking up overly tired
  • Going to work sick
  • Half sick days and naps
  • First dates
  • Cider and beer
  • Emails to sit in limbo while one contemplates
  • "Are you kidding me?" Gchat messages received
  • Cat snuggles
  • Baby showers
  • Conversations about where to buy diapers
  • Closet cleaning
  • Dress wearing
  • Forgetting that it's a 3-day weekend
  • Loving a 3-day weekend


List #160: Daily Dating

I am a firm believer that first dates should occur on a weekday. This may not be true in the younger years of our love life. But as adults with a full-fledged career, an active social life, family, and the inability to stay up as late as we once were able, the weekday date is a wonderful idea.

In fact, I've only broken it once during my adult dating career, and though it was worth it at the time, in retrospect I should have stuck to my rule.

It's hard to date as a true adult. There is too much to balance, too much or too little at stake, too much baggage that everyone brings to the table. But I kind of love a first date. Even with all of the stress, there really is nothing to lose with that first meeting. No one is in too deep and no one's feelings are terribly hurt if something doesn't happen. Sure, it stings our pride a little bit. But heartbreaks don't happen on first dates.

And personally, I think the beauty of a first date really happens before the two parties meet. Like so many good things in life, the anticipation is really where the excitement lies. And quite frankly, best served in the middle of a work week. Each hour fueling the energy to the apex moment of meeting:

9:00 am:  Announce to coworkers/friends that you have a date tonight. You don't tell the whole office, just the ones who you consider friends. They'll be the ones who cheer you on and ask how it went in the morning. They can also be great at calling to check in emergency situations in some circumstances. But hopefully you're the type that doesn't really need to use those excuses all too often.

10:00 am: Check your personal email to see if your best friend responded to your email to her late the night before. Respond to whatever she says and tell her you'll call her when you get home.

11:00 am: Nothing really happens in this hour. You're just looking forward to lunch and getting work done.

12:00 pm: Eat your lunch. What you have depends on your plans for later in the evening. Just drinks? Better load up on a big lunch. Dinner? You'll go with a light sandwich or hummus or soup.

1:00 pm:  Either respond, or send, an email to the first date confirming the time and place of meeting. You mention that you hope he's having a great day.

2:00 pm:  More work.

3:00 pm:  Reference the date in a text message to another friend. Or tweet about it something of the like. Friend will ask if you're excited and you reply nonchalantly that yes, you are. But it's only a first date and who knows what will really happen.

4:00 pm: Wrap up as much work as you possibly can.

4:45 pm: Excuse yourself to the bathroom. This is where you fresh up your make-up, fix your hair, make sure your outfit still looks cute.

5:00 pm:  Leave work. Everyone wishes you well. You head to the meeting place. Try to arrive early, bring a book to read, stay cool.

6:00 pm-ish:  Date arrives. Put the book down. You've got nothing to lose.

So what do you think readers? First dates on the weeknight? Care to share any of your favorite dating tips? 


List #159: Rock the Vote

I turned 18 in 1999. I was a freshman in college and Bill Clinton was our President. And that means my  first ever Presidential election was in Bush vs. Gore.

On the eve of Election Day 2012, I've been doing a lot of thinking about that road that brought us here. Mine is a generation that was thrust into uncertainty. An election that wasn't decided for weeks, followed not-so-far after by 9/11, wars, the Patriot Act,  the great recession, and political parties that have grown further and further away from compromise and respect. Sometimes I wonder why all of the harsh words fly over social media when one person declares their political leaning, but then I remember all that we've experienced. How quickly it seems our world was turned around and how very often it has felt that the bottom is just moments from falling out from underneath us.

I'll be voting tomorrow. And I hope will be too. And I'll my Election Day experience to the list that has come before.

Election 2000, Bush vs. Gore
Meadville, PA
I was a college sophomore and filled out an absentee ballot as soon as it appeared in my mail slot. I was utterly convinced my candidate would win. And I watched results come in with my roommate and friends from down the hall. Sitting in a cramped dorm room, cheering when the news organizations declared Gore the winner. Waking up stunned when the news had changed. I don't remember much of the week after the election. I was too busy studying and drinking and doing all of things college students do. But when Gore finally conceded I remember thinking that the air had already been blown out of us.

Election 2004, Bush vs. Kerry
Agrinio, Greece
Again, absentee ballot. This time I had joined ex-pat groups and only got my news filtered through Greek TV and the Herald-Tribune. In my world it seemed as if there was no way that our country would elect Bush one more time. Sure, Kerry wasn't exactly what anyone had pictured when they thought Democratic Leader. But he wasn't Bush. I spent hours of conversation spent trying to the confidence in my country. And then hours after explaining my disappointment, having friends pat my back and tell me that they may not like the American Leader, but they still loved Americans. I watched the results come in all night long through a static-y CNN International station, eating take-out, and under the blankets in my living room/bedroom. And promising myself that the next election, I would make a difference.

Election 2008, McCain vs. Obama
Pittsburgh, PA
I made good on the promise to myself back in 2004 and volunteered for the Obama campaign often. It was easy because I had left my teaching job at the start of summer, had yet to start graduate school, and was only working part-time. So I spent Election Day 2008 out with the guy I had just started to date, knocking on doors, making sure people were voting, and falling in love. The new guy and I watched the election results on his couch, eating Chinese take-out, and crying when the results came in. We knew the world was about to change. Just not how.

And tomorrow I'll be working all day. Keeping my political leanings quiet as the professional librarian that I am. It's not too hard to figure out who I'm voting for if you see me on a daily basis and pay attention. I'll be voting after work and may just treat myself to take-out as I watch the results come through from my couch. I'll be staying up late, of course.

So, no matter the side with with you align, vote. I may feel strongly one way and you may feel strongly another. But it doesn't matter if we don't find ourselves exercising our right. And please, let's just start being nice to each other again.