Tuesday, October 31, 2006
C'mon...you remember what I taught you last year, don't you?
I came home from work yesterday and told Nick my news. My company lifts the dress code for one day every year in the spirit of Halloween fun...and, while I had personally elected to not stray down that particular conviviality, my team elected otherwise and I marvelled and revelled both at the dual mischievousness/genius behind the plan.
So I tell all of this to Nick. I continue on, "See, it's really just an excuse for us to show up in tees, sweatshirts, and jeans to work without getting in trouble." Besides, when the question was posed, What if they send us home?, there was a general shoulder-shrugging, I'm struggling to see the downside, response.
Nick, I am sure, heard little of this as he was jumping like a Mexican bean and tackled the stairs in a way that would make a mother grimace in almost certain future injury. Stairs need not know that sort of excitement. Stairs need calm, boring people. In a match of stair-climbing, I trump my domestic partner ten, nay, one-hundred fold. Ask anyone.
I follow slowly, as though I am walking through mud or climbing a treadmill at 15% grade. I begin to change from my work apparel for our run. Yesterday was probably the last nice day of the year, kissing the high 50's in the afternoon. The rest of this week will be lucky to see 45°. Meanwhile, the Latino pod showered me with something fiery and reflective, cheering, "You're so lucky you know me!" His eyes were Christmas.
My team decided to go today as Badger fans. I am decked out in a Ron Dayne jersey and Nick has scattered roughly 20 baseball caps around me as I type this morning, encircling my neck with an unused 1999 Rose Bowl ticket, a miniature stuffed Bucky Badger and a terrible towel tribute to Barry Alvarez from November-last...and I realize now that Nick has lived his entire life for me to go to work today as a Badger fan.
Nice of him, no?
And, as I publish today's entry, he jumps-all-but-slides down the stairs with another hat, having had a story behind each that he has presented thus far (including one that he warned has been well worn and I probably don't want to put anywhere near my head, says he with a scrunched nose), "I thought I was missing one! I got THIS one when we won...."
Sunday, October 22, 2006
We parked a good ways away from the Border's entrance last night—Nick tells me it is protocol to do this with a new vehicle during its first month in your possession. I grumble incoherently as I tie the cords to my hood and walk quickly through the cold, 35° rain. Passing a bumper sticker, he reads aloud, "Body piercings saved my life."
Then, a moment later, "Oh, I get it." A short period of silence ensues as we give thought to the sacrifice traded for our salvation. Not much time had passed before Nick admitted his first (mis)understanding of the sticker, and couldn't understand how nipple rings could recue anybody.
Saturday, October 21, 2006
So, one of the perks to me buying a new car was Nick's chiseled-in-stone rule of "newest car parks in the garage". I live in Wisconsin. It gets cold. It snows. It frosts. I'm a wuss with cold weather. So I have to live on 5 pretzel sticks three times a day and sell my services on these suburban street corners every evening after work just to realise my goal—it's worth it for the damn spot in the garage.
You know, and at first I was all like, "No, I couldn't...it's your condo, your mortgage...the garage is yours, the end." He rescinded my termination of his garage policy (can you tell I've spent all of 2006 working in the insurance industry?) and I stewed to myself that I just wouldn't park there. It was the right thing to do.
Then it got cold, and I remembered how I didn't like the cold, and how Wisconsin typically gets colder, often even below the mid-forties...and I decided to be generous and let Nick sign over his place in the garage. Sometimes I'm too nice for my own good, but what is one to do?
Last night, we stopped by the lot where today I will sign the papers enabling me to call a spicy little compact "mine". I showed Nick the equivalent to what my car will look like, as mine has been shooed away to an undisclosed location, probably for prettying up...although it really didn't need much help if I do say so myself. Nick seemed tickled for me, really excited about the car...which isn't an easy place for Nick to arrive, I'll have you know. Nick is what I call "particular". He gives honest opinions.
And, when back at home, he looked at Mazda's site and all of the configurations available for the model soon-to-be-mine. I sat in the same room, slightly dozing where I reclined only to be startled into full wakefulness with his cries of dismay. "What!?—what!?" He twisted his neck toward me with a pained expression and tells me that the car is too long and won't fit in his garage.
We'll just see about that.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Today was a big scary day for me. I'm less than two days away from driving a brand-spanking-new, arrived-on-the-lot-last-night Mazda. New things are always difficult for me...it's the unknown that unnerves me...and also what thrills me. For the first time, I was seeking purchase of a car not as a wife, a daughter, or a woman left with nothing and desperately needing a way to get around. My aunts stepped up to the plate and said, "I'll help you through!" I was grateful. It would have been something I would have asked of my mother.
I'm not so well versed in all of the ways of the world...and now that I know of pride's silliness, I can admit so freely—because nobody is so well versed in all the ways of the world, nobody. I was a wife and a caretaker...before that, a daughter and a student. This has been a year to define my own title.
I bought Aunt Rose's old car when she took advantage of the employee discounts in the late summer of 2005. She sold it to me cheap, and I ended up sticking more than double what it cost over the course of the last year—damages from that fender bend not included, obviously. It is a healthy car, thanks to me being like this with Bruce—easily the most approachable, teddy bear of a mechanic around. But, the '96 Contour is approaching its eleventh year of existence and at that age where more and more systems require maintenance, replacement was imminent.
I'm car stupid, I admit it. Stupider than stupid, if you want the unvarnished truth of the matter. I was giddy the other morning when I kicked something getting into the car and the warning chime to tell me the lights were on and the door was open actually worked! It stopped working by that afternoon, and I spent the better part of five minutes in the parking lot at work, randomly kicking at the floor and opening the door while the headlights shone. It was working again this afternoon, a week later...and I didn't kick it once!—but perhaps it knew today's agenda and sought to vie for a spot in my favor.
I've researched this car for months, this and a small selection of others...but this sang to me above the rest.
Dude, the seat raises! You pump it up like a barber's chair! The steering wheel not only tilts, but telescopes out! It's totally a short-person-loving car! I sat inside one of them and when asked if I wanted to test drive, I declined. "I know what I want. A test drive won't make or break that."
The salesman who initially quoted me an offer last Wednesday half-smiled. "In eight years," he said bouncing the key in the palm of his hand, "I've never sold one of these to someone who didn't first take it for a test drive." I proclaimed that I would be happy to be his first. My aunts, totally of the same mindset chimed in that in all their years of car-buying, they've never test-driven one of their vehicles. Brenda alone has had something like 11 or 13 car buying excursions...Debbie did not supply a number.
Steve seemed disbelieving of this record and widened his eyes perceptibly. I chirped in, "I buy my shoes online, too." Brenda added that she did the same and he seemed slightly disturbed all while accepting that he was dealing with a crowd of a different sort altogether. He promised he would tell stories of me, of the woman who bought a car without first test driving. I smiled to myself...with an act of seeming nonsense, I became noteworthy—it was all too fitting.
The car odometer currently reads 8, and when Steve told me he was going to fill it up with gas before turning it over to me, I told him the mileage better be under 10 or the deal is off, Bucko. He laughed and shook my hand, agreeing to my terms. We had the guy in charge of the sticky financial stuff agreeing to meet us for beer later on and I knew at once that car shopping with my aunts was better than a whole pound of Peanut M&M's© in one sitting!
When I met them, my aunts, at the restaurant for lunch, the waitstaff all knew it was car-shopping day. Brenda thinks they were bored. I think it was more a case of my aunts being talkative. I found it funny when the salesman left the office at one point and Debbie said, "Is he irritating anyone else!?" Brenda and I shook our heads—but I was quick to qualify that we had indulged in a little lunchtime adult beverage consumption while Deb stuck to straight lemonade. That might've been the deciding factor. It also might explain why Debbie's curiosity centered around what my interest rate would be and Brenda's around why my license background was redder than hers.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Finally, an open spot appeared at the end of the curb. Pulling in like a pro, he brushed from his chin the last bit of crumbs from breakfast—it's Monopoly season at McDonald's, you know...and there is nothing more American than a gluttonous hunger in the name of financial gain. Breakfast on the go? No problem, with pleasure. He grabbed his cappuccino, I, my coffee, and we all but bounced from the SUV.
The air was electric. I had never been, and the sizzling air took my breath away. We sauntered on almost jaunty rubber feet down the misleadingly quiet streets. The air was crisp, almost biting, but the sun shone and washed over our faces and made me, by all shadows' appearances, very tall indeed.
I felt tall...excited. The thrill of something new is indescribable, and, unfailingly, it melts the world away. You're no long a this-many-years-old person who's been through this-life-event-and-that—you're just you in all of your purest glory. I felt like a little kid who didn't want to blink for fear that I'd miss something truly spectacular in that split second. Gradually, sounds reached my ears...voices, music, laughter...joy.
Nick, already holding my hand, tugged me along as I gawked around at the gatherings of people. He had foretold the night before that I would be drinking well before noon this day, and I laughed sardonically at his play for a joke. And, as we rounded a corner, tossing our empty java cups in a wiry trash receptacle, he led me to a beer garden. "Guess what time it is?" he smirks. I shrug...when faced with such newness, time becomes the x-variable...and like much of the algebraic equations on those grimy-once-glossy textbook pages, completely fruitless to solve. I submit a guess at 10:30.
"NINE-FIFTEEN!" he cries with his wide, sparkling eyes. He toasts his Bloody Mary to my Honey Weiss, and I nod quietly to my mother looking down at me and then again as I order a second. She'd be enjoying this, this foray I've had with living here in 2006. I can see her laughing so clearly, loosening the buttons at my neckline and rumpling my shirt. If we learned anything with Cancer, it's that life is serious enough on its own...for Pete's sake don't add to the mess!
Football. I was going to see my first Badger game, and the Homecoming game at that! I try to tell people that I don't like sports, but there's just no cloaking the fact that in the past several weeks of watching college football, I truly get into the game. I'm not proud, but there you have it. I'm outed. Be gentle with me.
I was into all of it—the sounds, the scents, the traditions—the existence of a fifth quarter! I think it was within the first five minutes of play that I leaned into Nick and said, simply, "I get it." Nick is a Badger fan through and through...disturbingly at times. I'd never understood the allure of college sports where the players cycle so frequently...but I understand now—for it's so much more than a game.
I wore a smile well into the night, and of course the 48-12 win didn't hurt the excitement one itty bit. But, I was tired. I whined that I shouldn't be so tired because I did absolutely nothing all day—Nick said in a relaxed, "I've done this before" mentoring way, "Games take a lot out of you." And, with that almighty proclamation, we spent the night like sober little drunkards, half passed out on the furniture and only resisting an early night because it required the task of climbing stairs. It was such a wonderful day.
But, I must stand firm that while I get the draw of game-day excitement, I don't necessarily understand why Nick found it necessary to re-watch the game on ESPN once we got home (he TiVo'd it) and then again on the late PBS broadcast with local announcers. His mother is the same way when she goes to a hockey game, I'm told. Nope, don't get that one at all.
And I don't know how the pretty hi-def ESPN recording came to play the other morning before work when I wanted to fold a quick load of towels before heading out...no idea whatsoever. (clears throat) So...uh...look! Over there!
Sunday, October 15, 2006
After a somewhat exhaustive effort, a referral to a non-plan geneticist was finally approved by my HMO. The importance of going to this non-plan geneticist?—he was the very same such professional that saw my mother two and a half years ago...and as a testament to her winning personality, both he and his assistant remembered her fondly, offered sincere condolences on her passing, when I spoke with them over the phone. We weren't thinking the approval would go through, and from the side of her mouth, an administrator at the hospital relayed that chances were that the geneticist would slip me under the door, free of charge if that be the case. See, my family doesn't just have a rare genetic disorder—oh-ho-ho!—we have the distinction of having a rare mutation of a rare genetic disorder. My mother is somewhat famous in the medical community's library—you might know her under the stage name "Subject X". Good read.
I took the above self-portrait last Thursday I think it was, planning to display the new hair, stating how Nick didn't seem to be overly gaga with the darker shade and chunky highlights...and how I didn't care because I got a totally unsolicited compliment on it from Brenda the other day and that's all I care about. (Gotta go with the fashionista of the family on that one.) I didn't get around to posting it, though, because I was so taken aback by the change in my blue-with-a-bit-of-hazel eye...which has now become my hazel-with-a-bit-of-blue eye. Sad. Every girl of Scandinavian descent wishes for the eyes...the icy Norwegian blues of my father. It isn't often that one looks at their own eyes, and I did not notice the transition.
So, along with my long list of questions—Can we get a group/family discount on pelvic scans? Do I really have extra organs, and if so why couldn't I have gotten an extra inch or two of height as compensation? Where do tailbones go when they run away? And the eyes, dear lord, the eyes...please tell me they aren't going to go all mustardy or orange one day. My grandmother, the 100% Norwegian biddy, always thought I should get a blue contact lens to hide the icky hazel DOT in that right eye...thank God she hasn't seen me lately. Honestly, if I've got no choice but to be all messed up on the inside, can't I at least look normal on the out?
Thursday, October 12, 2006
"What causes an echo?" she once quizzed me.
Thursdays, typically my half-day of the week—providing a medical appointment doesn't force me to muck my schedule up...you know, like that date I have with the CT Scan machine penciled in on the first Monday in November. Today, I wanted to dive into Mitch Albom's latest offering—For One More Day. You see, I so dearly loved its predecessors Tuesdays with Morrie and The Five People You Meet in Heaven. I read them both in one sitting—and I'll grant you, they aren't exceptionally long pieces to read...but I couldn't have put them down to save my life. It's rare to find a piece of art that awakens something so deep and raw within you, so deep and raw that it begs for a salve that you cannot provide without knowing how the story finishes, how the ache goes away...and perhaps how it never will.
I meant to read a portion of the book last Saturday before Jeff and Kara's wedding. I arrived at the church early with Nick, who was one of the groomsmen. I figured I would have a few hours to watch the sand seep through an hourglass...but it was not to be and I found myself instead with the taller, fuzzier, more male members of the wedding party...drinking beer and playing euchre. How girlie am I?
So today was the day I dedicated to Mr. Albom, in a locale that called not for me to tidy up, to hit the gym, nor to scale mount dirty-clothes. At the heartrending conclusion, I was only too relieved to have read the story in a public place which was perhaps my rescue from an afternoon enshrined in a weepy wistfulness and longing for what can never be. It is a story of a man who lost his mother, a man who's made choices he's not proud of, a man who tries to kill himself—and then he sees her, his mother, again. He spends a day with her, he says the things he never got around to saying and learns the things he never got around to learning. I never wanted to be a suicidal, alcoholic, baseball-has-been so much in all my life—or at least not in the last few years. Oh what I wouldn't do for one more day.
I sipped on cappuccino and read...it was one of the best afternoons of my life, and I am filing it away with another reading afternoon that I treasure, one that Mom treasured and mentioned often. It was so simple, too...an early summer Saturday afternoon, we spread a blanket beneath one of the trees in the backyard...brought our beloved house cat out on a leash, and the sweetest, stupidest, most loyal dog ever, Blondie, rested next to our assembly. The four of us sprawled there under that tree, the gentle breeze stirring our hair, and my mother and I read...and we talked...and we read some more...and we enjoyed. Simple, but idyllic, and everything one hopes for life to be, all in this simple moment.
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour...
My mother gave me eternity in an hour.
The lessons we learn with life are nothing when compared to the lessons we learn with death, and it is perhaps only with loss that our eyes open to all that we have. I lost my husband two days shy of a year ago, and my spirit broke. Nursing me back to a smile, Mom blessed me with those more profound gifts during her life.
It's just a sound, really. A hum interrupted by open lips. But there are a zillion words on this planet, and not one of them comes out of your mouth the way that one does.
Read. This. Book.
Friday, October 6, 2006
I became a pop culture sponge towards the end of my high school career, markedly later than my peers who had been carrying around magazines with the glossy images of prepubescent heart throb Jonathan Taylor Thomas when I was otherwise occupied with The Beatles Anthology.
Multimedia was my poison, and I built an impressive collection by the day I moved into my dorm. To this day, I attest, my friend-making ability existed solely on my highly borrowable amassment of both VHS and CD entertainment...of course, regular care packages from Aunt Debbie filled with homemade cookies or muffins that smelled so good one was forced to cry didn't hurt, either. You have to share food in the dorms—mandatory...or they kill you. There is nothing scarier, mark my words, than a craving deprived, under-rested, over-studied female who smells chocolate. Oh, I took plenty of hits for the team.
College was my first exposure to broadband internet. I had a laptop that I loved so much I almost dressed it up and held conversations with the device...ok, maybe I still held conversations, but I left the doll bonnet in the drawer. I remember buying what seemed like a 1,000 foot ethernet cable just so that I could walk around the perimeter of the shoebox we called home for nine months and remain online. Woo. I was big into that daredevil excitement stuff.
Needless to say, early aughts, high speed internet...what follows can only be Shawn Fanning and the glory of Napster. God I loved Napster. I loved free downloading. I loved absorbing new music without liability—I purchased a staggering amount of music during my foray with Napster, just staggering. Oh, Larsy-boy...I'm so disappointed in you. You were dissing Metallica fans when you criticized those that downloaded your music...tsk tsk. Bad for business. Besides, aren't you rich enough anyway? Because of you, I wanted to denounce my Danish heritage...luckily Hans Christen Andersen trumped you, drummer boy.
Shawn Fanning was my age. A guy my age did this, brought music to the world in a free context. Take a hike, JTT...my heart is taken.
I so clearly remember Sarah and I embracing our love of rock, head-banging to Disturbed...then swaying with fake lighters to the Fred Durst/Staind Family Values Tour of "I'm on the Outside". New CD mixes were created weekly-plus, and Sarah expressed disdain often that I never created a CD without a Creed song somewhere in the line up. We spent a lot of time together in a car, Sarah and myself, and she had this kick-butt stereo. We carpooled every weekend, the hour-plus ride home every Friday night...and the two-hour plus ride back to school every Sunday. Her foot always seemed to lose the lead during our time at home.
Then I moved away, RIAA got all pissy with the free downloads and put this major kibosh on things. I became a cultural hermit and watched Golden Girls marathons on Lifetime.
But this year, my former self has reemerged...partly due to Nick's own love of music, partly because of my puppy dog love for James Blunt. It is fitting, then, isn't it, that Nick gave me an iPod for my birthday...and that I discovered iTunes. And, darn that Amazon.com free shipping on purchases of $25 or more! That's like three CD's at Amazon prices! Oh well...one does what they must.
But this has created a new quirk in my relationship with Nick, a one-upmanship as I complain that my CD case no longer fits all of my CD's. I tell him I must have well over 200 discs, and he, with his dander visibly up and at attention, proclaims he has that and then some. It feels a bit like Yours, Mine & Ours...two large collections living on different floors and unwilling to so much as look at one another. I'm not too bothered...he bought me the new Five for Fighting album a few nights ago...and while one might say that should be grouped in a "ours" collection, I'm adding it to mine and getting a leg up on 'im.
Tuesday, October 3, 2006
There are perks to working in the same building as my aunt, but perhaps none so singular as my ingression to that twinkling beacon on the top floor known to the laymen as her desk.
I've mentioned the drugs before, haven't I? Brenda has a stockpile of drugs...everything over-the-counter-treatable from heartburn to headaches. One will find neither a shortage of chewing gum there—nor of lipstick, gloss, balm, and salve.
A lint roller, anti bacterial wipes, and deodorant are stocked in her wares, and I've been known in the past to steal a granola bar here and there. I use "steal" lightly, naturally...as when I met with her last week and admired her box of Lipton Herbal Peach Tea (Me: "Mmmm. I bet that's delicious!"), she said in her virus laced hoarseness, "I think it's yours." She chuckled, picking up a bottle of the Tylenol cold syrup I first romanced last January and have pledged faithfulness for all the viral attacks of my life. "And I'm finishing your cold medicine," she taunted. That's ok...I figure it's only fair. She has this splendid pair of minty-lime green sandals that clothe my feet like a dream...I used to borrow them all of the time, even when I wasn't wearing a speck of green, minty-lime or not. I wasn't so hot at asking first.
Today, frustratingly enough, I noticed a nail beginning to tear. I do not typically have a problem with taking a machete to my nails and hacking them down to size, but I have a wedding to attend this weekend and dude I totally know everyone is going to be staring at my right thumbnail. I quickly emailed Nick: "IS THERE SUPER GLUE AT HOME!?" His reply was sketchy and I considered my options when inspiration struck: Brenda.
I emailed my aunt, pleading for a rescue attempt. Finding her fully equipped with nail glue, I sped to her desk and nearly genuflected in my gratitude. Excitedly, I rushed back to my desk and contacted Nick to relay the continuation and subsequent conclusion of my saga—because he has nothing better to do during the day then listen to his girlfriend get all upset over a broken nail. Like, duh.
In his reply, he seemed to understand the extent of my aunt's stock, and even went so far as to inquire what she didn't have stocked at her desk. I was forced to reply—as it is a glaring oversight on her part that I have noted many a late Friday afternoon at work—, "Beer, sadly enough."
Monday, October 2, 2006
It's Monday night, and even I can admit that saying, typing, thinking, and even romanticizing the word "Monday" followed by "Night" feels wrong with out a "Football" to bring up the caboose. Not that I watch the games, mind you, but because of where I was raised. Ah, Wisconsin!—the lesser known Canadian annex next to Minnesota—Wisconsin that might as well get giggly on punch between Christmas and Easter because there's seriously nothing else to do. I grew up in a place full of drunkards and die hard Green Bay Packer fans.
The Packers in the eighties: can you say, "suck"? Like worse than now? When they used to have The Battle of The Bays as a tongue in cheek tourney because nobody seriously cared who won: the worst team in the NFL, or the second worst.
Perhaps the scent of rancid ale and the shouting of slurred profanities contributed to my modern-day forced-disinterest in sports. That being the case, I showered as Nick began watching tonight's game. When finally I quit the bathroom—after the myriad primping things women must do—I found the quiet of the condo disturbing.
No shouting, no ear splitting volume of a washed up sports has been dissecting the play all uppity like he was Moses staring down the Red Sea—I mean, I loved it, but was Nick all right? This silence from a man who yelled so loud at a Badger game a few weeks ago that I had to leave the house was unsettling. I hastened to finish moisturizing my face and neck to get to the bottom of this incongruity. Then, something happened that allowed me to breathe easier.
A yawn. A loud belly-yawn.
That's right, I remember now...The Packers were playing tonight.
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