Sunday, March 30, 2008

day off

After a month of working/hustling on this condo stuff every single day, we slept in, then watched two movies on TNT while waiting for the replacement microwave (the one we got looks like it had been dropped from a great height and the resulting dent won't even allow us to fit it into the space where we need to mount it).

All this sitting around is putting me into a panic; with all that go-go-go, doing this feels a little bit insane.

Currently, we're wondering if paying a professional to move our own furniture around, lending us art and a few tchotchkys for three months and recommending paint colors for a high price is really what it takes to sell a place, or if just doing the paint recommendations at a lesser price is better. Our realtor wanted us to get listed last week, but it's taking awhile longer to get everything together. In the time since we last checked, there are SEVEN other comparable units in our building up for sale, some of them on higher floors. So now I'm thinking using a certified stager is a better use of our money than doing it myself and guessing wrong. But I don't know for sure, because the women who came by for an assessment seemed to like all the stuff I had already picked out. Were they just kissing up so I'd sign with them or am I capable of choosing my own stuff? God only knows.

I can't wait until this is all over so I can get back to watching TNT all weekend without feeling guilty.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

moving is tough on moms

This weekend, when my parents were helping me move stuff in and appliances out of the condo with the U-Haul and my dad and I were wrangling over the title of Most Bossiest, I said something to them in the heat of the moment that they needed to hear, but not from me. 

My mother was interjecting that when we move all my brother's stuff home from college in a few months, my dad and I better not be arguing like this. I replied that bickery situations like this were exactly why my little brother isn't moving home, so it wouldn't be an issue anyway.

My dad was in the heat of battle and probably strategizing his next argument for why his way of doing things was far superior to my less-experienced take. My mother, however, looked like someone just slapped her in the face. She stared at me in shock long enough for me to see her eyes well up with tears. The she snapped, "Good for him! That way he won't have to deal with all this nonsense." She got up and abruptly left the room.

My brother has told me on several occasions that he doesn't really want to leave Mobile for home in Chicago. This completely boggles my mind, because he's looking into working in the sports industry and Mobile doesn't even have any professional teams, while Chicago has more than most cities in the country. It's true that he's got some really good buddies down there, but he's still tight with his boys from high school, most of whom still live up here. There's some other poppycock about the weather, but I don't consider that a valid reason. Granted, living with my parents isn't always a picnic, but I've found that the benefits far outweigh any periodic negatives. Besides, as I've been telling him for years, I need him to come home because I'm moving—we are like a wrestling duo, and the time has come for him to tag me out of the ring because those two cannot be left alone unsupervised.

I have been in on the discussion my brother's not moving back here for months, but he hasn't said much to my mom other than that he hasn't decided. And he really hasn't. In the back of my mind I'm hoping for him to come home. I think my mom just assumed it, so it was a jolt to hear the contrary. I can still picture the expression on her face when she heard and that just makes me want to cry.

It's certainly not easy for a mom to say goodbye to her baby, knowing that things will never be quite the same. But no matter how old you are or how far away you're going, seeing your mother cry is one of the most heartbreaking things there is.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

just when you think you've thought of everything

You wake up, late for work, only to realize that you have shower curtains but no shower-curtain RINGS.

Thank goodness H is resourceful.

Also, after less than 24 hours in the new place, I have a greater appreciation for my parents and all that I haven't had to worry about during the last few years since I was in my own apartment. Only having to do one-third of the chores will certainly be missed.

It's also really easy to take everyday things, such as a refrigerator, for granted. Until you have to improvise.

The new appliances don't come until Thursday.

Other than that, I think things are going well. Hopefully the place will start to come together and we can get on with finally being able to relax. But the fifteen-minute walk to work and seeing H in person pretty much whenever I want makes it all worth it.

Monday, March 24, 2008

H gets in today. Hopefully he'll stay awhile.

"The idea of this would actually make me want to live in California."

"So that's all it would take? A full-blown Microfarm? Why didn't you say so!"

"WITH solar panels?"

"Argh!!! You got me. I'll be on a plane on Monday."

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Maybe the Easter bunny will bring me some lamps

For all of you wondering about the Great Move, here's probably WAY more updates than you care for:
  • Tenants are out. I got the keys, the place is getting cleaned as we speak.
  • Ordered new appliances (stainless is a must in this market) 
  • Got an exorbitant price quote on hardwood; getting a second opinion. However, I kind of really want it. But I don't want to have to pay for it with my teeth. (Perhaps that expression only works in Hindi.)
  • Bought barstools with the same style of stitching as the couch at a pretty good deal—no exchange/no return—proceeded to puncture a hole in the back of one with the door of my car on the way home. The store stuck to its policy. I nearly cried.
  • After looking at three bazillion comforter sets, I finally chose one (blue w/ brown accents) that has a very subtle leaf design. (Thanks for the coupon, H's sister!)
  • Found a west elm rug for the living room that has a similar leaf pattern (look at me tying things together subconsciously)
  • Will be buying a nightstand, coffee table and tv console today after work. (fingers crossed)
  • Stumped trying to figure out what kind of desk* will work in a space like this:
From the door to the heating post is 32", the post sticks out 14" and from that corner to the wall is 26.5". The line on the carpet is where the edge of the bed will likely be, approximately 38" from the parallel post-wall. Yes, I realize how ridiculous this space is.

  • H's shipped stuff will probably be delayed; trying to find something for him to do in the empty place waiting all day for the furniture/appliances—perhaps assemble furniture?
  • Trying to figure out which accent color will look good on the wall behind a blue bedspread and dark brown nightstand. 
  • Trying to find decent-priced metal-ish pendant lights to hang from/replace this awkward-looking track light over the kitchen bar:
  • Packing. What exactly defines "essential" anyway?
  • Moving furniture in/old appliances out in a U-Haul excursion with my dad (cause for stress in itself, as we are both made of the same stubborn, know-it-all DNA, which only flares up when dealing with one another) on Saturday.

Who knew getting a handful of furniture to make a place "show" ready would be so damn frustrating? If I were just shopping for us, this would be a lot more fun. But trying to pick stuff I like that'll appeal to a variety of buyers, as well as work wherever we end up living next is downright mind-boggling.

On top of that, I have to find a hotel in Mobile for all of us to stay at for my brother's graduation, a task we talked about doing months ago that has somehow slipped through the cracks. And work. Gotta find time for that, too. Oh, and that little holiday thing going on this weekend, too. Perhaps the family wouldn't mind joining in on some freight-elevator rides to celebrate?

*any suggestions would be greatly appreciated

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

even if it means they call me Dork

I remember trying to explain the Auntie thing to H when he and I were first dating. I confessed to feeling weird about the idea of calling people who are older than me by their first names (even now I only do so at work). What's with all the awkwardness? I blame the motherland. 

Where my family's from, everyone has a very specific title; you never have to say "My father's younger brother's wife," you say "My Chachi" (or whatever the word is depending what area you hail from). And while learning them can be tricky, using them makes things easier. Especially when you employ my no-embarrassment method of addressing any unrelated elder as Auntie or Uncle.

Sepia Mutiny had a tribute post to the Auntie today and one commenter mentioned that he feels more warmth and affection when his cousin's children address him as "Mama" (mother's brother) or "Chacha" (father's brother) than if they were to just call him "Uncle."

I feel exactly the same way. In fact, I've been telling my brother for years that my kids will call him "Mama" no matter how much he protests. My brother, however, thinks that sounds ridiculous and would prefer that my children call him by his first name, or "Uncle." He swears that if I make my kids call him "Mama" he will make his own children address me as "Dork."

So I guess that just proves that personality has just as much to do with people's choices as culture. But it's interesting how people choose which practices to keep from what they knew as children. And the comments on that Sepia Mutiny post show only a small variety of how many choices are out there. 

I'm banking on the hope that my children will be adorable, so even if they were to call my brother something like "Uncle Doodyface" he'd just chuckle and say, "Just call me Mama." 

Monday, March 17, 2008

it's just not St. Patrick's Day without a little blarney

St. Patrick's day is a major celebration in Chicago, with everything from parades to drink specials that last anywhere from the actual day to several weeks around it. They even dye the river green every year. It's cool because you don't have to be Irish to partake, and I love seeing green everywhere. The Mardi Gras beads and boingy shamrock headbands I could do without, but who am I to judge? 

This year St. Paddy's falls on a Monday (today), so festivities have been in high gear all weekend. I was in the city at Ri and C's house because our Italian-who-works-in-U.K. friend, Valerio, was on this side of the ocean for a rare visit. I hadn't seen him in several years and was also looking forward to seeing his wife, but she's hanging out in Paris while Valerio is here. These people are international jet-setters and I'm hoping that my limited exposure to them will give my cool points a boost until I can get back on a plane again. Plus Valerio is absolutely hilarious, with his frank and jolly way of telling stories; his words carry an adorable Italian accent, peppered with the American slang he picked up during college in the States.

Ri and C live in a high-rise that overlooks Lake Michigan—parking is tough, to put it nicely. Many of the guest of honor's friends from around town stopped by to say hello, calling from the lobby to have the doorman buzz them in. Two of his roommates from college arrived, and were on their way up as Valerio regaled us with stories about how they had hosted some wild parties. Something about drunken shenanigans that led to them having to throw the couch off the balcony and keep their remote control in a plastic baggie after one legendary incident.

As the stories got crazier and crazier, we began to wonder what had happened to his friends. They had been buzzed up nearly 45 minutes earlier; surely it doesn't take that long to get into an elevator and press number 42.  And just as the speculating really began, there was a knock at the door.

Jim* and Joe ambled in, holding beers. There were two tipsy girls in their early twenties sheepishly bobbing around behind them in the hall (I couldn't see them from where I sat, but one was described as a 6-foot-5 "giantess").  The boys had been partying at the St. Patrick's Day parade all day and feeling amiable, so when the girls bumped into them in the lobby and asked them up for a drink, they said What the hell, and went.

Apparently giantess and company had been living it up all day, too, and after about half an hour, Jim and Joe became aware of how tipsy the ladies were and began looking for an exit. The girls came along to our party upstairs and Ri even invited them in to join us, but they awkwardly retreated and went back to their own condo.

About 30 minutes later, Valerio was describing the time some sorority girls dressed him as a woman for Halloween. He had not committed to the costume enough to shave anything other than his face, so long, dark hair showed through the "leg stockings" and peeked out from the opening of his shirt. "Man, I was HUGLY!" he said, with a twinkle in his eye.

We were laughing so uproariously that we didn't even notice the door open. All heads swung around to face the giant girl who had come back upstairs, this time with a giant yellow Labrador tucked under her arm, and invited herself in.

"Um, Joe?"

"Hey there! Do you want something to drink?"

"Uh no, not exactly. My friend, well, you see it's her birthday today, so she guilt-tripped me into coming up here and telling, I mean asking, you that um...Wow, I didn't think everyone would be listening..." [rapt silence and continued listening]

"Go on."

"Well, um, so it's her birthday, so uh, well...Um, she wanted me to tell you that...We're in 3308... All night."

"Uh, thanks."

"Okay, bye." [she leaves, and Joe's ears have turned the color of an unrequited Sweetest Day carnation]

We're all staring at each other incredulously. Why would she just open the door without knocking? Why didn't she at least take him out into the hall to make that kind of proposition? And most of all, just how drunk were those chickadees? Joe said there wasn't some great connection or anything; how many invites were they giving out that night anyway?

Prankster that he is, Valerio thought it would be funny to tell their other roommate John (who was on his way from another party) that we were in unit 3308 as a joke. You know, just to see what would happen. Poor John went there and discovered the giantess crew, who was even more plastered by then. He quickly realized he'd been duped and found his way up to our party.

We spent the rest of the evening swapping stories about crazy times in the past. Valerio told us about singing Karaoke in Tokyo at his wedding reception. An Italian uncle gave a speech in Japanese and a Japanese uncle gave a speech in Italian, and Jim admitted that they had made him cry. John said he's still paying for bottles of champagne they enjoyed at the six-star hotel where festivities were held.  And we shared some of our own stories from Italy. Everyone resolved to meet up sometime in an exotic locale—other than Chicago, of course. A good time was had by all.

I can't help but think about how fun it was to relive those old memories. Something about telling it as history makes our experiences so much more impressive than they had been when we were going through them. Whatever it was, I'm looking forward to hearing Valerio tell the story of the indecent proposal on St. Patrick's Day weekend in Chicago in the years to come. But I'm pretty sure Joe won't be coming to any more parties in that building.

What I failed to mention is that Joe** made a big deal about how embarrassed he was, going on and on about how he's going to be known as "That Guy" from now on and how this was incredibly humiliating (which is why I put as my first postscript that he really didn't have anything to be embarrassed about). We couldn't figure out why he was being so dramatic about it; even when he left early and we all were like Oh we know where YOU'RE going and he put on such a front: "You guys can follow me downstairs if you want! I SWEAR I'm not going to 3308! You can watch me leave the building even!" Geez, dude, relax.

It turns out that he DID go down there. After we had left, Valerio, Jim and John told Ri and C that this guy is only a cousin of a friend and tags along with them. The guys wanted us to know that they are not like him and they aren't cool with that kind of stuff—mostly because Joe is married. I'm not going to make soapbox judgements about how people live their lives, but suddenly this story just isn't that funny anymore.

*Some names have been changed to protect the Embarrassed, even though there really wasn't anything to be embarrassed about.
**Joe's real name is Brian. He was *embarrassed* enough to make a big show for us, so I feel okay about sharing his name now.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

And I will neverevereverever do it again.

After nine months, I finally managed to miss the bus. On a day I woke up earlier than usual! (Figures.)

Standing on the corner at 7:03 am, I wasn't sure what to do. My first instinct was to cut through some back yards and try to catch the bus as it came back around out of our subdivision. But I think I hesitated too much because as I headed that way, I heard it rumble past. Then I tried to head toward the main entrance to our neighborhood, and watched it sail away on the other side of the elementary school—there was no way I would have been able to cross that soccer/football/tag/ring-around-the-rosy field in time. 

I had heard that there was another bus, at around 7:30 am. But the one I normally get is the only route that passes through my neighborhood. There is a busy street that separates our subdivision from another one, so I figured I'd head over that way. Unfortunately, I have no idea what route it takes over there because my bus picks those people up before they get to me and drop them off after I get off. 

I had my Pumas on, so I figured I'd give the 3.5-mile walk a try. I've always been curious as to how long it'd take me to hoof it, it wasn't terribly freezing out this morning and I do a lot of walking downtown as it is, so it probably wouldn't be an issue. So I set off, holding a single-serving pizza box with leftovers from last night's dinner. 

The thing about walking in the city is that there's so much to look at, you don't realize you're exerting any effort. But trudging past the field used in the header for this blog (which is a barren expanse of dirt at this time of year) wasn't nearly as interesting as downtown Chicago. I plodded along. I didn't realize until it was too late that the flimsy cardboard pizza box was coming open at the side and after a thump, I saw my lunch face down on the concrete. So I had to take a detour to find a garbage can.

I got about 3/4 of a mile away and was waiting on the corner for the WALK signal when my bus pulled up to the light. I guess it pays to be friendly, because my driver was on his way back from dropping off my normal crew and recognized me. He waved. I said Screw walking, and skirted through the cars at the light to get on. I had to ride through the entire route, so now I have a good backup plan in case I miss the bus again. The weird thing is that I got on the bus about 40 minutes later than I usually do, but because I didn't have to wait long for a train, I got to my office only ten minutes later than I usually do.

Too bad I'm moving to the city in two weeks, after which the lessons learned on this particular excursion will be completely useless. And so it goes.

Monday, March 10, 2008

milestone: year 3

This weekend I went to dinner with ri and kaiya to catch up. It's been quite a while since we've had quality time together, and ri said something to the effect of You know, I feel like I find out more about you from reading your blog than from sitting across from you at dinner like this. I wasn't sure if I should be sad or glad about that. Granted, it's easy to wander off on a tangent while discussing marriageable characteristics portrayed on The Bachelor. But more importantly our time together is so limited that we often spend it all just getting everyone up to speed on what's happening in our respective lives.

I feel like I need to have a catching up of sorts here, what with all the crazy crap going on that I haven't had time to explain. Let me start with how I missed the third anniversary of this blog last Friday. Which is surprising even to me.

Normally, I post snippets of what people might have missed. I'm too exhausted for that. And here's why: 

Back in 2004 I started working in the dungeon. I was living with my parents and sleeping in same bed I had grown up sleeping in. And while the 36-mile commute wasn't the best—what with the parking and all—I felt a lot better pulling into their quiet cul-de-sac at 4 a.m. than I would have parking on a Chicago city street and walking alone to my own apartment. Plus, I had the whole house to myself because when I was awake, they were asleep or at work. And eventually, the steep discount on rent allowed for more frequent trips to see H.

The dungeon thing was a two-year gig with an option to stay on. Certain factors indicated that I had a pretty good shot, so I purchased a tiny piece of high-rise property that would turn my commute into a seven-minute walk or a $4 cab ride. But because long-term dungeon was not a done deal, I allowed the person who had been renting it to stay there until I found out, even though the rent did not cover all of the mortgage and assessments.

Then the economy started to turn. The dungeon didn't work out after all and I was done by New Year's Day 2007. I didn't find a full-time right away, so I was freelancing and wrangling with tenants. (Apparently, sympathy and being considerate are traits that successful landladies do not have.) And even though I technically had no holes in my resume, I wasn't eligible for unemployment compensation and started freaking out about covering the bills. I was told employers would be scrambling to snatch me up when they saw I had a big-name dungeon on my resume, but the industry on the whole was hit very hard and there were few takers and a lot of talent to compete with.

So I visited Miami. Then Detroit. I courted people in New York and Los Angeles. And then I snagged a full-time gig in Chicago. I was relieved that I wouldn't have to sell my place and could still be local to deal with tenant drama. And live with my mom. And still be able to afford plane tickets to LAX.

Then I got laid off on my birthday. Our last day wasn't until November, so there was a cushion to figure out what to do next. 

Looking for a job and not knowing when or how much the next paycheck would be during most of 2007 was not fun. The stress brought on some health issues, too. So I decided to make the leap and join a startup business. Unfortunately, while the tiny high-rise condo is not far from the startup, the place and all of its high-end niceties is a bit out of my current price range. Especially now that the current tenants have broken their lease and I have no rent to count on.

So this is the plan: 
  • The current tenants are moving out next week 
  • H is moving here the week after that
  • We will stay at the place, renovate it ("Um, stainless-steel appliances and hardwood floors are STANDARD now, Cadiz") and put it on the market—Hopefully this will be my absolute last stint as landlady. Ever.
  • Instead of paying 5K for three months to have professionals "stage" the place with rented furniture and accessories, I'm trying to buy stuff that will make the current digs look nice and can also work with wherever we end up moving after (when?) it sells. 
  • Hopefully H will have an easier time landing a full-time gig than I did.

All of the above has pretty much overtaken my thoughts (and kept me up at night) for the last few weeks. I'm extremely excited to be in the same zip code with H. It's pretty much the only thing that's keeping me sane. But it's a big step for us; this weekend he's selling most of his stuff. I think I might be more sad that he's parting with it than he is.

Tonight our startup company is having a launch party to celebrate little guys everywhere (but mostly just us). Things are going pretty smoothly and hopefully in time we can build a bigger and even stronger business. The newspaper gave us a small mention, so that's a good start. I'll be toasting to new beginnings.

But that's not all there is to celebrate. Three years of blogging! I'd just like to thank every one who reads what I write here, especially those whom I don't get to see or talk with often. It means a lot to me that you take time out of your day to stop by and comment, and you always give great advice. You guys are the best.

Much love, 

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

when your boss dreams about your boyfriend

"You want to freak out your man? Tell him I had a dream about him last night."

"Really? What happened in your dream?"

"H and I were dressed up like Aquabats and trick-or-treating."


"Yeah, and it was like a messed-up Batman and Robin; you know, because I'm not too much taller but I have more mass than he does. And it's not like we were little kids, we were our age now."

"That's hilarious. I'm totally going to tell him that! How'd you guys make out with the candy? DId you get a good haul?"

"You know, it's funny; we weren't even getting candy, we were getting little things like pins from Rainforest Cafe, bumper stickers and other things you pick up here and there. I probably had those on my mind because I saw a bunch of that stuff lying around the house last night." 

"And we were just talking about how you both like the Aquabats. However it's weird that you somehow sensed that H doesn't like candy. I'm starting to wonder if you're more excited about the idea of him coming out here than I am." 

Monday, March 03, 2008

victory smells like basement parties and beer pong

One of the highlights of my trip to Los Angeles was a Guitar Hero party—something I hadn't been looking forward to because:

a) I spent eight of my formative years learning to play the cello. I figured that having played an instrument where you have to know where to place your fingers without markers while swinging a bow would make holding down five colored buttons and strumming a flap on a plastic guitar incredibly easy on the very first try. I figured wrong.

b) I had never really played the game save for one time in the electronics store where I was kicked off the virtual stage and smirked at by a some real-life teenagers.

c) The party was being hosted by H's friend that I had beef with last October, though I'm pretty sure he didn't know it. And it's a good thing: I've since chalked the whole thing up to me not understanding boys and I'm long over it. He's still invited.

H seemed to think all I needed was a little practice. So before the party, I spent about 45 minutes going down the list on Guitar Hero III while no one else was in the room. I royally sucked. My timing was off, I got booted off songs, but I was improving. By the time the party was in full swing, I reluctantly decided to participate in the contest, but made sure to tell everyone I met that I had never really played the game before that day.

The party was held in H's friend's basement, with a gigantic floor-to-ceiling screen upon which a ceiling projector showed the picture. The tournament was broken down into three categories: easy, medium and hard and they had prizes, the best of which was a gift card to the electronics store. I put my name down in the Easy column and was convinced that I'd win by default until someone else moved her name down from Medium to Easy so I'd have a little competition. The pressure was on.

A pretty sweet setup if you ask me.

The thing about me is that I work better under pressure. Which is probably the reason I ended up in a career that requires a lot of last-minute finesse and on-the-spot do-overs. And it's also probably why I keep the amount of pressure I put on myself cranked up to high most of the time. I was determined to win. And I did.

I edged out my competitor on "Slow Ride," which wasn't even one of the songs I had tried in my practice session. And the prize was fitting; as the only Out-of-Towner, I was probably the one who'd appreciate it the most. Plus, I was cheered on by a couple of people who made me feel so welcome that I forgave the guy I had beef with purely by association.

Of course, it did help that he awarded me this for winning.

At this point in my life, my repertoire on the cello has likely dwindled down to just one song: "Hot Cross Buns." Sad, I know. I can't say for sure if any of that training set me up for saving face at that admittedly low-stakes Guitar Hero Tournament, but I'm going to go ahead and say it didn't. Because that way I can tell people that if I can do it, anyone can.

Rock on, my friends.