Thursday, July 28, 2011

Making memories

I love reminiscing. When my childhood best friend came up this past weekend to visit, we spent hours laughing about funny things that happened when we were kids. Songs for us are a big thing, great for jogging memories. Carpooling to school, sometimes her mom drove and we listened to Mary Chapin Carpenter; sometimes mine drove and we listened to Billy Joel's River of Dreams album. Lottie always thought my mom was so hip for listening to popular music. I'd never have admitted it then, but she was - and continues to be.

I digress, however. I'm feeling nostalgic these days. I went for a run this morning and my nostrils were assaulted by the smell of diesel exhaust. It's not something I particularly enjoy, but today I experienced a memory so strongly that it almost seemed physical. When I lived in France, I took the bus everywhere. I'd get on early in the morning to go teach, I'd get on in the middle of the day to head into town. That bus smelled EXACTLY like the diesel exhaust this morning. Today I'll be missing France and my host family, and I'll be grateful that I live in an area of New York that somewhat resembles that area of France.

I do wonder - what will my scent memory of my current village be? The scent I most strongly associate with DC is the air before a summer rain storm, when it sort of smells like ozone and the promise of puddles and worms on the sidewalk. France, clearly, is diesel exhaust - but also l'odeur des champs, the smell of the fields when the farmers would spread manure. And now, I'm not sure but I think it might be the scent of thyme mixed with grass when the lawn gets cut. Lawns all around our area are a combination of thymus vulgaris (common creeping thyme) and a variety of fescue grasses.

We'll see. One day we'll move away and I'll suddenly catch a whiff of thyme and grass, and will be magically transported back to our little house in the village. For now, I'll enjoy the actual aroma!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The importance of carrying cash money.

Yesterday was stressful. You don't really need to know more than that. As a result of the stress, I exited my parking space at work a bit more quickly than necessary, and ran over the curb. This is not a particularly unusual occurence.This, however, is:
 Honestly, I hit a curb at least once every six months. I truly believed that it was impossible to get a flat tire because of it.

Clearly I was mistaken. Cue more stress. After a approximately 572 hours on the phone with AAA, I had just enough time to run to the restroom at Target before my knight in yellow armor showed up. He brought with him his two sons, aged 7 and 9ish. They were helpful, funny as all get out, and lightened my soul immensely. I was grateful they were there. And then I thought, I should tip them.

Only,  I never carry cash. At one point my grandmother gave me a little coin purse with a $20 bill in it because I admitted to her that I nearly got stuck on the New Jersey Turnpike because I didn't have the cash to pay the toll. I've tried to keep a stash in the car in case something like this happens, but often I find myself dipping into it to buy something. Like at a garage sale - you know, cuz they don't take debit cards.

I hemmed and hawed - I wanted to tip the little guys, but wasn't sure I had small bills. I could just give the dad a larger bill, but I didn't think the kids would react the same. A little digging, however, revealed small bills in a corner of my wallet. And now I have put small bills into my coin purse. Because the looks on those kids faces as I handed them their own tips? Made my day. Thanks, kids.

(also, thank you spare tire for getting me home safe and sound, albeit feeling like an idiot)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Today is brought to you by the letter...


Recently I've been really playing the field when it comes to radio stations. I have 12, count 'em, 12 presets in my car. It is amazing. Sometimes I push the buttons for so long that my arm gets tired and I have to use a pencil so I don't have to reach as far. Yes world, I really am that lazy. Preset number 3  is the local oldies station. Typically I skip over it, because their djs annoy me. But when nothing good is on the other stations, it's usually my fall back.

Don't get me wrong, I really like oldies. I grew up listening to oldies. I can sing from start to finish a whole lotta oldies. Especially this one, though:

I tell you, that song came on the radio and I was magically transported back to my parents' living room. To the brownish tweed couch, the clear lucite stacking tables that I would use as backrests on the floor, and hands down one of my favorite Sesame Street clips ever.

Although now that I see it again, it's a touch creepy.

Monday, July 18, 2011

In which I really, truly face some fears.

Changes are afoot. I'm a big believer in the power of the jinx, so I won't go into any details, but: life as we know it could be dramatically different in a short while - in a good way.

I like to think of myself as a laid-back gal with a propensity for excessive enthusiasm. In my mind, I'm not a worrier; I don't obsess over minutiae; I handle the valleys of life with grace and calmness. In reality, though, I'm a bit of a tornado of emotions. I am trying so, so hard to take the relaxed road in the face of this change. This approach fits my mental view of myself, but my actual self? She's freaking out a little bit. She doesn't like risk. She doesn't like change - unless it is fully self-directed and can be called to a halt at a moment's notice. She doesn't like putting it all out there and being at someone else's mercy.

But really, this kind of change is good. It's teaching me that it's ok to ask for help, that it's ok to be scared, that even if I can't control every aspect of it, I can control those aspects over which I have control. And so I fall back on a prayer that, though adopted by 12-step programs, was written by a theologian in the early 1940s and distributed to US army chaplains:. Even though I don't ever get into religious beliefs in any format - verbal, blog-al or otherwise - this one? It's a good one.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

Friday, July 15, 2011

An introduction.

I'm fairly certain I have at least mentioned Winnie, our 2nd cat. She has evil eyes; I'm positive she plots my death for at least two hours a day. Winnie is small, weighing in at only 7.5 pounds. Tucker, the other, tops out around 17. You'd think skirmishes between the two of them would be unfair, but it bears repeating - she is evil. Strategic, this one.

And also, of questionable intelligence.
This is a small window in our bathroom. While both cats enjoy sitting in it when open, only Winnie can actually fit her limbs inside the window frame. Here she sits, enjoying the morning sun. Literally 1 second after I took this picture (you can tell because she's already started moving and hence is blurry), she decided to exit the window. Like any normal cat, she leapt down. Unlike most normal cats, though, she got her foot

So there I was, sitting on the porcelain throne, with a cat dangling spread-eagled from the window not 6 inches in front of me. Oh god, the noise she was making at 7:30 on a Sunday morning. It should have been illegal. I picked her up with one hand and kind of smushed her back into the window frame. Eventually I collected myself, and she extricated her paw.

We swore never to speak of it again.

I lied.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

So this is why I don't live in DC anymore.

Growing up in Washington, summer was always an adventure. Hands down my second-favorite summer memory was when we lost power for what seemed like the entire month of August. In reality it was probably only 3 or 4 days, but when you're 8 that seems like an eternity. A sizeable thunderstorm swept through the city, knocking down trees and power lines. There was a huge tree! Down! In Sarah's front yard! Ohmigod I could not contain my excitement. I thought it was just super to have a dark dark house. I think I even remember our babysitter spending the night, and I definitely remember having dry ice in coolers and eating a lot of drippy popsicles.

My first favorite memory of summer in DC would obviously have to be walking to get ice cream at 8:30 on a weeknight. 1. Ice cream. Specifically bubble gum from Swenson's, or cookies and cream from Lee's. 2. 8:30 on a weeknight and it was still light out. 3. We got to catch fireflies and shoot shooters on the way home. Does anyone else remember these?
 According to google, they are the cotyledons of the buckhorn plantain, a common turf weed. According to my dad, if you loop the stem around in a figure 4, you can shoot the head of it at people.

Of course, once I got older and had to actually go places, I realized that the summer weather that produces storms and ice cream cravings also produces an uncomfortable level of heat and humidity. When I was in it for extended periods, the heat didn't bother me too much. But now that I've fully acclimated to New York's cooler, less humid weather, mornings like this one slay me.

When we rolled out of bed around 5:50, I was hopeful that it wouldn't be too hot. It looked overcast. And with the AC cranking all night long (I am a princess. I don't sleep if it's above 72. Don't judge), I had myself convinced that it was as cool outside as it was in the bedroom. Cue my surprised face upon stepping out the door.

For the first half 10 minutes of our 4 mile run, I was feeling ok. There was a breeze, it was blowing in the right direction, and the bugs didn't seem to be too bad. But I swear after the 8th 1st mile that somebody turned off the exhaust fan.

Take a gander at this nifty chart, courtesy of
 You'll see that the humidity when we started was around 74%. That reading must have been taken from the top of a hill, because there is NO WAY that the humidity was only 74% where we were running. Stupidly. In a valley.

M. said he both the dog and I needed a cattle prod. You know it's bad when the uber energetic dog is poking along. Once we got home, Gus got a nice cold blast of water to the belly. And then both he and I laid on the wood floor in front of a box fan for ten minutes.