Friday, March 18, 2011

best first mate

Long, long ago I knew a person who watched me take four months to knit a sweater and said, "why would you go to all that trouble when you can just buy a sweater from Target for ten bucks?" That statement was the equivalent of hocking a fat, yellow loogie and spitting it directly at my face. Looking back, that particular relationship should have been over right then and there.

I knew that Jon was something special when he recognized how much I love to make stuff and began asking thoughtful questions about my craft du jour. He has come to give excellent logistical advice and opinions, and nowadays I almost don't want to start a project without consulting him. When I'm so bored at the electronics store with him that I want to take a quad-core processor and knock myself unconscious, I try my very best to remember how patient he is with me at the craft store when I take six hours deciding on fabric colors.

Recently a dear friend overseas had a baby. All she had said was that the nursery was going to be turquoise and black and that it would have a pirate theme. I decided to make the baby a quilt. Jon came with me to the fabric store and helped me choose a variety of turquoise and other blue colors. And then he came up with an idea that he justified with, "no self-respecting pirate goes around without his own pirate flag."

Here is the front, with its watery theme:

 Two of our wedding colors have come from swatches of this quilt. Photos by Jonathan Muller
Here is the back, a cutesy pirate flag for an adorable pirate:

I was really afraid my friend would be offended by the skull on something for her baby. Especially after the violent reaction my mom had: She decreed that no grandbaby of hers would wear anything with a skull on it. But Jon insisted that if you're going to do pirates, you should go the full jolly roger or just stay home. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

staying up late

Today is my mother's birthday. 6-0. For real this time.

Last year, her friends took her out and made her wear a plastic tiara and gave her a bunch of joke gifts. She didn't have the heart to tell them that official documents say she was born March 15, 1950 instead of 1951 because she was precocious and the family wanted to get her into school early. She never tells people that she went on to skip two more grades before high school. The only reason she even told me was because she wanted to deter me from skipping during elementary.

"The kids your age won't play with you because they think you're oversmart, and the kids in your class won't play with you because they think you're a baby." I guess book learning isn't all that counts after all.

I went over there after work with two gifts: a humongous one wrapped in a plastic bag with a bow and a small one in a gift bag with a fat rose printed on the side and decorated in glitter. The latter is for her, I was very clear to explain, and the former is for the house. I learned this lesson the year my father presented to her on her birthday a brand-new microwave and couldn't understand why she didn't take it out of the box for a month.

The smaller bag had another bag in it, one she can take to the gym after work every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I've been hunting down gym bags for weeks, and most of them are big enough for my mother to climb into--but all she needs is a place where her little T-shirt, yoga pants and size 5.5 wide-width New Balances can go for the 12 second commute from work to the fitness center. So I purchased a general craft-supply bag from the fabric store that's the perfect size (individual pouches for shoes!). It has a cute flowery pattern in cream and light blue, which are her favorite colors. I had carefully removed the tag because I was certain she would make me take it back because the promotional backpack embroidered with Hinckley and Schmidt suits her just fine and I ought to save my money, especially this year. I was right.

When she opened the big bag with the gift for the house, I mentioned that all of us pitched in together for this and got it on a tremendous sale. It's the 14-piece stainless steel cookware set a coworker had seen her looking at in the Macy's catalog. I made sure to find the exact one she had lingered over. She started going down the I'll-just-to-give-this-to-you-and-I'll-keep-the-old-stuff road, but I could tell she's thinking about maybe hanging onto this one for herself. I've got the receipt, just in case.

She says that the fact that I come home and let her feed me and watch Sasural Genda Phool* with her most evenings is a way better gift to her than anything I could buy at the store. I know she means that, because I feel the same way. I tried to explain that my trying to find a gift for her that will inevitably turn out to be something she doesn't need or even really want is my lame attempt to show her how much she means to me. Then the calls from India begin. I kiss her forehead and let myself out.


During the last couple of years, I've been listening to the podcasts from This American Life. From the beginning. In order. Tonight, as I stir the mushrooms and the onions at 12:30 a.m., I happen to be on the episode from September 14, 2001. It's the first show they did after the 9/11 terror attacks, and listening to how shell-shocked everyone sounds just takes me back to how I felt after it happened. One of the people interviewed had been on a floor directly hit by a plane and had somehow, by the light of someone's cellphone, found her way down the stairs and out of the Twin Towers. She had called her boss, her boyfriend and her mother from the office when the the door to the emergency stairs was locked, but after someone opened it and they were rushing down, there was no way, and no time, to contact them. What struck me hardest was that her family in Pennsylvania gathered with their minister and watched the towers fall on television--in their words, they had "watched her die." Her brother had even brought a suit and white shirt and tie with him because he expected there to be a memorial or funeral.

What kind of nightmare that must have been for so many people: To see the building where your loved one was sending a fax or typing an email just crumble to the ground right before you on your living room tv. And to truly believe they were dead, even if it was just for half an hour. I've never had to deal with a major loss. But I catch myself thinking about it all the time. In fact, the fear of someone I love being snatched away from me is like a shadow, constantly following me around, tapping me on the shoulder every time people talk about something tragic on the news or in the lunchroom. I don't foresee myself being able to keep on living, let alone get out of bed if something like that were to occur. I was made aware of how fragile life is when I was four years old; and I don't care if I tell them 400 times a day but the people I love will never wonder how I really felt about them.

It's 1 a.m. and I'm stirring the vegetables. Jon has likely been eating beef stew for lunch every day for the last week. He can wake up to something new. If the chopping sounds haven't awoken him already. Ira Glass is talking about how everyone is United We Stand right after the terror attacks, but it's weird how in a few years things will get closer back to normal. Ten years later, they have.

The phone rings. My aunt is calling my mom from Mumbai, where she's in the store hunting for wedding outfits for me. I had thought, oh I'm going to be all Indian-y for my wedding, my aunt can get the stuff from India! No brainer, right? Except I don't live in India, so I conveniently forgot that the Hindu-to-Christian ratio there is pretty much exactly the same as the Christian-to-Hindu ratio in the United States. Translation: Not a lot of white saris available in India because Hindus wear them to funerals and Christian Indian brides have started wearing western gowns these days. I've essentially made my aunt go looking for a needle in a haystack. I think this will have more than made up for having missed all those birthday parties in the backyard and all the birthday parties I may have in the future. She describes the outfit in general terms and I start to panic. I ASKED her to do this. She's put effort and love into the task. I am going to wear whatever she picks out, and I'm sure it'll be nice... I stopped myself from that line of thinking and said, "If my cousin approves of it, go ahead and buy." My cousin has great taste.

So here I am, rambling on as I used to do at 3 a.m. in college when I had a paper due the next morning. My mom is 60, but it seems like she's still 45. That would make me 17, which is about right when I stop and think about how confused I STILL AM about my career path. At this moment, my Aunt is probably in that labyrinthine mall we went to that one time with all the sariwallas sitting on cushions unfurling stuff that will probably take an hour to re-roll later. She is finding my wedding dress. And I'm totally OK with it. Because, honestly, as long as I get to marry Jon, the only thing that matters is that I have the people I love around me that day. So I can put my arms around them and tell them that I love them so very very much. And how I'm thrilled that they will be sharing my happiness, and I hope they will be there to share in my sorrows as well. Because I know those will be there, too. They're just hiding around the corner, ready to strike me down on a random Tuesday morning.

But for today, I am thankful for what I have. God bless America. And God bless my mom.

*My foreign-language soap opera is the only thing exempt from my Lenten No-TV vow this year. Jon can watch sports.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

tough love

Wedding planning has been frustrating. It's been well-documented that I freak out when having to make decisions. The fact that we made the biggest and most crucial decision--finding/choosing each other--makes me feel so accomplished that I want to sit back and watch the rest of this thing plan itself.  Oh, it's not going to? Crap.

I've shied away from talking about the nuptials because it gets boring for other people within about 45 seconds (I feel lucky to have a whole 20-minute window with the groom before his iPhone sneaks out of his pocket). There is little to report because we only have the bare bones checked off so far. Shh, don't tell the dozens of people who continually ask me how the planning is going. And don't get me started on the-knot-dot-com reminding me that THERE ARE ONLY 191 DAYS LEFT UNTIL YOUR WEDDING! YOU HAVE ONLY COMPLETED 13 OF THE 175 TASKS THAT YOU HAVE TO HAVE DONE! YOU ARE SO TOTALLY SCREWED!

The thing is, I NEED this kind of mean personal trainer or I'd be dilly-dallying around with color swatches until the week before.

Now, don't get me wrong. Getting married? Awesome. Making beautiful things like escort cards or invitations? Super-rad. Having a big old party with most all the people I care about? I couldn't BE more excited! But calling fifty people (who are likely trying to take all my money) to get price quotes on [insert costly item here], comparing, deciding and then setting up a time to meet with them and choose? ANNOYING. And that is the limbo in which I am currently stuck.

Thank God for my friends and family, who have been so generous with their time and efforts to help. They're all ready to rock, but the underlying problem is that Jon and I still have to a) decide what we'd like to have and b) set the budgets. Sadly those two things are directly dependent on one another. And this would be a lot easier if our communication didn't consist mainly of text message, email and/or dry-erase board.

But it'll get done. Jon suggested we give up television for the next 40 days (check back with me in April to see if I'm even still alive) so that we can better manage our time and get stuff checked off the list. At this point, I'm ready to do anything to make the-knot-dot-com shut the hell up. Even give up The Daily Show for awhile.

Monday, March 07, 2011

milestone: year 6

Wow, SIX years of Do They Read Obituaries in Hell. Here's what you may have missed:

The next thing I remember was that I was having a really vivid dream and woke up to one of those scenes from a movie where silhouettes standing over me were starting to become clearer. I was lying on the floor. There was an ice pack on my neck and on my belly under my shirt, they had a fan on me and the guy was telling me to rock my knees back and forth. And way off in the distance, I heard someone say, "Get me my purse! I have to call her mother!"

I get to see my mom's smile during the day, and if things are quiet enough I can catch the sound of her laugh as I'm walking by. I cannot explain the boost I get inside when I hear it--as if there IS a chance that things may turn out okay after all.

Random comments about Encyclopedia Brown vs. Nancy Drew that started it all: 2
Miles of separation in March 2005: 2039
Initial text messages—determining how all future children will be named: 6

My CSI training tells me that either you're a hacker and you're spoofing Jon's IP address OR you're at Jon's computer.

After the fraudulent votes (I guess we had three) were thrown out, we placed 70th with a total of 764 votes. AND THAT IS DAMN IMPRESSIVE, FOLKS, considering there were what I believe to be thousands of other entries to choose from.

"You know, 'Women's Sizes.' That's where all the men go to buy their women. They have them in all sizes."

As the sun came up through the floor-to-ceiling windows we got the last of our stuff out of the condo. It was sad. That place was the last remainder of my old professional life, ten years of slogging crap hours for little pay doing what I enjoyed and hoping it would eventually pay off. All those weekends not going out with my friends, of living with my parents so I could save to buy a place of my own. And it's all vapor, now.

"C'mon, you know me. I bite off more than I can chew with EVERYTHING I do. But then I somehow manage to chew it all."

And now I can add balloon-animal artist to my resume.

It's just business. But when business is about one of the most important days of your life, it's hard not to take personally.

Thanks for reading!!

Sunday, March 06, 2011

it's a preference, not an orientation

"Your hair is getting long, Cadiz!"

"Yeah, I guess it is. My mom and I are going to cut and donate our hair after the wedding."

"What is Jon going to say about that?"

"He'll be fine. In fact, he prefers short hair on women. And glasses."

"So he likes lesbians?"

Friday, March 04, 2011

a major award

My brother travels a lot for work, and often gets assigned to towns around the U.S. I'd never heard of, such as Truth Or Consequences, NM or somewhere near Cadiz, KY (I wish I could find that pic of the "Cadiz Laundromat" he sent me). He has to dress nice. But I guess because of the flights and hotels, there isn't too much leftover to pay the employees a whole lot. I guess he racks up airline miles, so that's a plus.

At the end of 2010, he called me to say he'd won an award from his company: "Most Traveled." Apparently, my brother had spent 40 weeks on the road, at 21 separate project sites. He was out of town for most of the year, but he made the most of it by taking side trips on the weekends. He's called me from the Staples Center, Vegas, the top of the Space Needle and from the Houston Rockets' game. A few times he even made it home to see us.

I'd asked him to send me postcards. At Christmas he handed me a stack of picturesque scenes from everywhere he'd been--not a bit of handwriting on a single one. That kid. Here is the lineup* of where he was, with side trips in parentheses:
10/4/09 Clinton, MO
10/24/09 Sibley, MN
10/31/09 Schuyllkill, PA**
11/15-22/09 Benton, KY
12/6/09 Dallas
1/16-23/10 Sibley, MN (Chicago)
2/6-14/10 Winnfield, LA
3/20/10 St. Clairsville, PA (Pittsburgh)
4/17/10-5/1/10 Truth Or Consequences, NM (Las Vegas, Los Angeles)
5/15-22/10 Okmulgee,OK (Chicago)
6/10/10 St. Croix Falls, WI
6/26/10 Chillicothe, MO
7/11-24/10 Lubbock, TX (Washington D.C.)
7/31/10-8/14/10 New York City
8/22/10-9/6/10 Walla Walla,WA (Seattle)
9/18/10-10/2/10 St. Croix Falls,WI (Chicago, St. Louis)
10/10-15/10 Watertown, NY
10/17-22/10 Rosemead, CA (Los Angeles)
11/1-5/10 St. Croix falls, WI
11/7-12/10 Coldwater, MI
11/28/10-12/17/10 Monticello, AK (Chicago, Houston)

The company gave him a little certificate along with his award, which was a $5 Starbucks gift card. I'm sure he took his time to figure out just how he was going to spend it.

Apparently I overlooked this postcard, which was in the pile of blank ones:
Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX

And here was the verbose message on the back: 

"This is some statue on campus in their Quad I guess."

* I tried to check the spellings, but sorry if I misspelled your town.
**he wanted it noted that it was 14 straight 12-hour shifts