2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,700 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 28 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.


How to Embarrass Your Wife in Public

We all have our guilty pleasures. Some of us like trashy reality shows or celebrity gossip websites. Others sneak junk food when no one is looking.

I happen to like boy bands. And by “like” I mean that that is pretty much the only genre I listen to.

I’ve seen the Backstreet Boys in concert six times (twice during the same tour, but it was the NKOTBSB one, so can you blame me? The answer is no, no you cannot.). The new One Direction CD is on my Christmas list. I have a “Boy Bands” playlist on iTunes that includes BSB, 1D, NSYNC, 98 Degrees, and Hanson.

My affinity for bubblegum pop isn’t really a secret — all my friends know and love me anyway. I follow most of these people on Twitter (and tweet them in desperate hope of one day receiving a reply…), and if I was about 15 years younger, my walls would be plastered with pictures of all of them.

However. This is not something I go around proclaiming to everyone I meet, nor is it something I want loudly exclaimed in the middle of a toy store. People tend to look at you funny when they find out you’re 32 years old and you still obsess over singing and dancing man-boys.

Hubby and I were at Toys ‘R’ Us this past weekend picking up Christmas presents for two of our nieces. The littlest one was easy to buy for: she’s almost 3 and she loves to take pictures, so we found a toddler-size camera for her that we’re sure she’ll love. The 9-year-old was a little bit harder for us to agree on. While we were debating between a Crayola fancy-light-up-drawing-tablet (my idea) and a $120 professional karaoke machine (hubby’s idea), “Best Song Ever” by One Direction started blaring over the store’s speakers. I was about 20 feet away when I hear my husband yell out, “Hey Erin! It’s your favorite song!”

Now that may very well be true, and he may have meant well, but it’s not something that should be broadcast for the whole Barbie section to hear. So I did what any mature adult would do in this situation: I walked away and pretended that I didn’t know him, ignoring the snickers and pointing fingers of all the pre-teens around me.

The Great Sock Debacle of 1989

I know this may come as a shock, but I was not one of the cool kids when I was in school. I know. It’s hard to believe that the chubby quiet girl with frizzy hair who liked to read wasn’t Miss Popularity.

I did incredibly socially awkward things like write a note to the most popular girl in my class (on stationery, no less) complimenting her penmanship and asking her to please consider teaching me how to write like her. Or there was the time that I noticed the boy sitting in front of me was eating a sandwich on rye bread and I was eating a sandwich on rye bread and OMG it must be fate, so I had my friend tell him that we had the same bread! To be fair to me, my friend should have realized how asinine that sounded and not gone through with it, but SHE DID. Oddly enough, the boy was not impressed by our bread kismet.

Despite all that, in third grade, I was invited to the birthday party of one of the most popular boys in my class. In retrospect, I realize that his mother probably made him invite the whole class to be polite, but still. It was a spring party, so it was warm out and we spent the afternoon playing in the backyard. We had three-legged races, tried to balance eggs on spoons, and played tag.

Then the boy’s mother had us all line up: boys in one line, girls in the other, facing each other. She had us all take three steps back and then we stood and waited. She brought out buckets upon buckets of water balloons and we had to pass them across the line to our partner without dropping them. After each catch, we took one step backward.

I was doing really well, which is surprising for me because my hand-eye coordination is seriously lacking, when all of a sudden the balloon slipped through my fingers and burst open right on my sneakers. My feet were drenched and I was the first one to lose so I felt like huge failure. It didn’t help that my partner was pissed about being out of the game now, too.

The boy’s mother rushed over and told me that I absolutely could not stay in wet socks the rest of the day, so she brought me inside and gave me a dry pair of her son’s. I was just happy to have dry feet again and didn’t think much of it until I got home and told my mother. She informed me that I had to make sure to return them right away after she washed them. My mother was very much about “doing the right thing” and apparently the right thing in this instance was to return the socks at any cost.

On Monday at school, I tried to give them back and he told me to keep them. After school, my mother asked me what happened and I told her. She told me to just give them back – he had to take them. I tried again on Tuesday with no luck and debated just throwing them out and lying to my mom. I was a horrible liar, so I told her the truth, which resulted in her driving straight to his house, marching up to his front door, and demanding that his mother take the socks back. I sat in the car, wishing to melt through the seat into the pavement, but I wasn’t nearly so lucky.

One Lovely Blog

Thanks to Missing Noah for nominating me for the “One Lovely Blog” award!

Here are the rules:

1) Thank the one that nominated you.
2) Put up the picture for the One Lovely Blog Award.
3) Tell everyone seven things about yourself.
4) Nominate seven other people and tell them that you have nominated them.

Seven Random Things About Me:

1. I had never met or spoken to anyone on my dad’s side of the family until this past June when I met my dad’s brother. We now keep in touch through email.

2. My husband and I met each other Freshman year of high school and started dating Senior year. We’ve been together ever since.

3. I have an irrational dislike for small pieces of paper like tags in clothing and receipts. Tags get cut out of everything and I don’t like touching small receipts.

4. I majored in Computer Science, Psychology, Comp Sci again, and finally Management Science in college. I also briefly considered majoring in English and Sociology. I may be slightly indecisive.

5. I used to curse like a sailor in grammar school when I was with my friends because we thought it made us “cool.” Oh, how mistaken we were.

6. I’ve never actually had a conversation with my mother-in-law because she speaks Spanish and I don’t. We both understand the other, but we’re also both too stubborn (self-conscious?) to try speaking the other’s language. Despite that, I love her and feel like we have an incredibly close relationship. I know I can count on her for anything.

7. I’ve been to a psychologist 3 times (each time a bad experience) and was on anti-anxiety meds for years. Without them, I don’t know if I would have made it through college sans nervous breakdown.

And now, I’m nominating:

My Crazy World

Brown Eyed Girl

The Margarita Philosophy

My Magic Shoes

These Are the Days

Banana Wheels

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Except it doesn’t feel like Christmas. At all. And it’s not for lack of trying, let me assure you. Our halls are decked, our stockings are hung, and we trimmed the heck out of our tree last night.

I used to be that completely over-the-top Christmas person, thanks in no small part to my mother and her infectious Christmas spirit. In high school, I would wear my red and white striped knee high socks with my uniform, wrap garland around my bun, and if my nails weren’t airbrushed with Christmas trees, then they were at least painted alternating red and green. With sparkles. My room was decorated with a miniature tree, garland was wrapped around my banister, and carols blasted from my stereo as soon as they started playing on the radio stations.

It wasn’t really the presents that made me excited (although they certainly didn’t hurt either), but it was the overall feeling of Christmas and the holiday season that got me going. The pretty sparkling lights, the happy music, the build-up to a day of food and fun with the family. What’s not to like?

Then my mom died.

I didn’t put up a tree that year or decorate at all. Hubby went to the store and bought pretty much the entire Christmas department at Target to try and cheer me up, but I made him put it all away because I couldn’t bear to look at it. We had Christmas morning at my dad’s like normal, except that we kept having to take breaks to bawl our eyes out or blow our noses.

My mom used to start preparing for Christmas months in advance. So when she died in mid-November, she had already bought several of our presents. The rest were delivered over the next few weeks, which was incredibly disconcerting to us to be receiving packages from her after she was gone. We put the unopened parcels in the dining room and finally opened them on Christmas morning. There was a package of tea for me, an Ireland shot glass for we’re-not-sure-who, and a charm bracelet full of Irish symbols for me. It was both traumatizing and comforting to be able to open presents from her even though she wasn’t there. We thought that was the end of it.

The following year, a package was delivered to the house addressed to her. It was two Irish ornaments: one for her and one for me, that she had bought in advance. We got two more last year. Also last year, my dad gave me a bunch of her Lenox decorations, one of which was a gingerbread house that we had never seen before. I opened it up and it’s personalized with my and hubby’s names on it. It was a gift she never got to give us. I imagine she was waiting until we bought a house, so it was fitting that we discovered it on our first Christmas in our house.

I don’t want to become the Grinch. I am desperately clinging onto whatever little Christmas spirit I can muster, for myself and for her. I know she would be devastated to see me so sad and struggling to find joy.

This post has been sitting in my drafts folder for days, and I just read a post over at Robin’s Chicks that completely sums up what I am feeling in much better words than I could formulate. It made me realize that I’m not alone in my feelings and that it’s not just the motherless (fatherless, sisterless, etc.) that struggle through the holidays.

Throwback Thursday: That Time I Got Into My BFF’s Boyfriend’s Pants

It was the summer of 1996; I was a couple months shy of 16 and my best friend, Christina, had just turned 17. I was spending two weeks with her at her mom’s house in the Poconos like I did every summer. The only difference this year was that one of those weeks overlapped with a visit from her friend Jodi as well.

I can’t tell you what we did for six out of those seven nights, but boy can I recall what happened on the seventh.

Christina was dating a boy named Mike, who was part of a large group of families from NYC we affectionately called “The Russians” because they were all, well, Russian. The Russians had concocted a plan to acquire some alcohol and have a party down at one of the small beaches on the lake. I, being my usual prudish and goody-two-shoes self, thought this was both terrifying and wonderful all at once. I had zero plans of actually drinking anything, but a party sounded like fun!

While we were waiting for everyone at Mike’s house, his grandmother produced a platter of homemade mini blueberry pies rolled in sugar. Jodi and I each helped ourselves to several, barely coming up for air before shoving the next ones in our mouths.

We finally made our way to the beach, Christina strapped with a backpack containing a case of Zima, you know, because we were so cool. We were hyper aware of any oncoming headlights just in case they belonged to the community security. We were all underage and we weren’t supposed to be out wandering around.

Once at the beach, we were joined by the rest of The Russians and everyone started to drink and dance. Jodi had more than several Zimas and was chasing people around, begging for more drinks. When they refused, she naturally started rolling around in the sand and crying about her dog, Skipper. I can only assume that at that point Skipper was no longer with us.

When Christina and Mike left, I told Jodi and she immediately became overly concerned, as drunk people tend to do, so we went after them. Jodi sang show tunes and inspected ditches on the side of the road in case anyone had fallen in, and I tried to keep us heading in the right direction. At a turn we saw headlights. Jodi panicked and sprinted into the woods on the side of the road. Not knowing what to do, and not wanting to lose her in the middle of the night, I followed her… right into a waist-high swampland of mud.

I stood there in shock for what seemed like an hour, but as soon as the headlights passed, we managed to walk out and get back on the road. We walked down Mike’s driveway and just as we came into the porch light, he and Christina saw us and burst out laughing. Jodi had gotten away completely unscathed, but I was dripping mud everywhere and completely frozen from the waist down. None of us had any clothes to change into, and it was 3:00 am, so I did what any girl would do in this situation: I accepted a pair of my best friend’s boyfriend’s jeans.

I spent the rest of the night cleaning blueberry bits that Jodi projectile vomited off the white walls and carpet while Mike’s grandma yelled at us all loudly (and I can only imagine, rudely) in Russian. If nothing else, it stopped me from drinking until I was well into my twenties and capable of buying my own cheap alcohol (and keeping it down).

Inferno by Dan Brown

It only took me about a month, but I’ve finally finished Inferno by Dan Brown. I can usually fly through his books in a week because they’re so fast-paced, but pesky things like sleep and work kept getting in my way this time.

If you’ve read The DaVinci Code, Angels and Demons, and The Lost Symbol then you’re already familiar with everyone’s favorite smartypants symbologist, Robert Langdon. And if you’re not then get yourself to a library, stat, and read DaVinci and Angels. You can skip Symbol — I don’t think I even finished it, it was that hard to get through (although, my husband loved it, so to each their own).

Inferno brings us to Florence and Venice, which was enough to make me like the book. Anything set in Italy is instantly fascinating to me — I love reading books and watching movies that are set in places I have actually been. I haven’t traveled much, so anytime the few places I have been show up, I get all kinds of excited. I’m also a bit of a sucker for art history, and obviously books, so the combination of Italy/Dante/and Renaissance artwork is a winning trifecta of awesome.

This book is written pretty much exactly the same as the others: fast-paced, with cliffhangers at the end of each short chapter to make you want to keep reading despite it being past one in the morning on a weeknight. And when I say short chapters, I mean short chapters. Some are only a few pages, so before you know it you’re on Chapter 96 and you feel like a speed reading champion.

Robert Langdon wakes up in Florence with a head wound and has no idea how he got there or why. He’s almost immediately thrust into a wild life-and-death chase through town with a strange, bald female doctor he just met. He and Sienna race through Florence trying to evade the police and what appears to be the US government, trying desperately to piece together the few remnants of memories Robert can muster. He is once again in a position to save the world from a madman and has to solve riddles and clues left behind before time runs out.

I highly recommend Inferno if you’re a fan of intrigue and suspense. I don’t want to give too much away, but I did tell my husband that he has to read it ASAP so that I can discuss it with someone, so if you’ve read it, let me know!

Next on my list: re-reading To Kill a Mockingbird. I’m on Chapter 2 and I’m already loving it tons more than when I read it in high school!

Dear Christina

Dear Christina,

It’s been two years now since you’ve been gone. There have been countless times when I’ve wanted to text or email you, so many times when I’ve thought to myself that it’s been too long and we should have a sleepover soon. Then it all comes crashing back that you’re not hanging out in your apartment watching anime and you’re not only a phone call away.

There are times when I’m at peace with your death because we were able to talk about it so much and because I was able to say goodbye. We don’t have any unfinished business.

Then there are times when I remember how much you suffered, not just during those last two months, but from the moment of your accident onward. I still struggle to understand why it had to happen. People do stupid things every single day and walk away without a scratch. Why did your bad decision have such catastrophic results?

Every so often I’ll Google your name to see what comes up. Right after you passed, there were tons of blogs and articles written about you and how you chose to end your suffering. A lot of people who didn’t have a clue who you were thought they were qualified to judge not only you, but all of us left behind for “letting” you go through with it. I can’t tell you how much their words hurt. They actually thought that none of us cared enough to let you know that you were never a burden or that we never tried to stop you. They knew absolutely nothing about your life other than what they read in a poorly written “article” that skewed the truth to make everything sound so much more dramatic than it really was. Yet they thought it was OK to call you names, to criticize you and your family, without thinking that maybe your loved ones would read those words and they would cause even more pain.

Sometimes those people made me feel like I didn’t have the right to grieve for you. I mean, after all, you chose to die, right? As if that somehow negates the fact that you’re gone and not coming back.

I’ve grown stronger since then. I realize that those people don’t matter. Their opinions don’t count. I am justified in my grief and it’s OK to miss you and feel sad.

I wish that I could talk to you. So much has happened since you left and I feel incomplete without my best friend. I know you’re OK and I know you’re with my mom and Shavon and everyone, and that does give me a tiny bit of comfort, but I’m selfish and I want you here. I want things back the way they used to be.

You left a lot of requests behind, and I hope I’ve made you proud. I admit that I’ve only read your goodbye letter once, the day you died, because I just can’t handle to read it any more than that. I took your words to heart, though, and I’m trying my best to follow your advice.

I miss you.