family


I cashed the check, and wrote them a newsy note thanking them and giving them life updates.  As many of you noted, I’m certain that they were not trying to be snarky jerks with the note, that it was just an ill-conceived and poorly executed attempt to reach out.  They are nice people, just a little brusque.  (My godmother, for example, once counseled against going to law school in Chicago, also known as the city where I grew up, because “God, Chicago is such an effing backwater, you might as well go to law school in Nebraska.”  Helpful!)

Am I the only one who feels like a total moron when writing chatty letters with life updates? It feels narcissistic, to assume that people are going to care where I went on my three-day weekend or what my plans are for this summer.  I know that family and friends want these updates, so I’m working on getting better about writing more regularly, but I struggle to write them without feeling life a doofus, is all I’m saying.

Speaking of feeling like a total doofus:  I had the first ticklings of a cold on Saturday morning, made worse by all the dust I kicked up doing our annual spring cleaning.  How did I respond to those tickings of a cold?  Did I take to my bed early, rest, push fluids?  No! Instead I went to a bar where a friend and I were cohosting a birthday party, drank more adult beverages than I have consumed in a single evening in at least a year, and ended the night with an embarrassing, if predictable, Very Serious Conversation with a friend, complete with crying from both parties.  Needless to say, I woke up Sunday morning with a full-fledged case of Death By Headcold.  If you need me, I’ll be the one snurfling into a kleenex and pounding gatorade.

OY, you guys, the week I had last week.  Just, oy.  The SHORTEST day I worked all week was 15 hours, if that gives you any idea.  And I was working off-site, so I had to drive, and there was much gnashing of teeth as I sat in traffic every morning and evening.  Plus, as an extra-special treat, my car broke down on Wednesday as I was driving home from work at 10pm.  I dragged myself to the shop at 5am on Thursday to get it fixed in time to drive to work, and then on Thursday afternoon, less than 12 hours later,  a kid smashed into it as it sat helplessly in the parking lot of the school where I was working, so now it needs to go get fixed again. It got to the point, honestly, that when the very-essential-to-our-project printer ran out of toner as we were wrapping up at 8pm on Friday night, all I could think to say was “where is my plague of locusts?  I’m ready! Bring it!”

This weekend was spent largely doing things for which there was no time during the week, such as doing laundry so I can have a clean pair of underpants, and shopping for unspoiled milk.

Saturday night we did manage to roust ourselves from the deep divots our asses had formed on the couch to get all dolled up for a charity gig my mom is involved in.  They have an annual gala, and my sister and I usually get invited to help round out a table.  Its fun, and it gives John a rare chance to wear his tux.

True to form, at 3pm on Saturday I found myself wandering in and out of department stores downtown, caught in a futile search for a dress that (a) was not heinous and (b) did not cost $400.  I called my sister to complain about my plight and it turned out she was half a block away, stuck in the same retail hell.  We met up in the hosiery section of Macy’s (she needed some shapewear, a category which would probably help me immensely but of which I am inexplicably afraid) and both decided that we’d just give up the hunt and wear something we already had.  In my case, that meant a very blah, but totally acceptable, black knee-length dress.

I showed up at the event, got a cocktail, and went to say hi to my mom.
“Oh, you girls are so adorable!” she said.
“Huh?” I said.
“You and your sister! Are dressed alike!”

(pause)

“Not on purpose!”

Sure enough, when my sister walked over a few minutes later, we were wearing the same damned dress.  People kept commenting on it, assuming that we’d planned it.  One woman remarked how much she loves it when siblings dress alike.  I like it, too – when they’re FOUR.  Not so much when they’re 28 and 30.  Then it’s just weird.

So that is how I got to spend my Saturday evening sitting at a table at a gala with my sister, dressed as some cocktail attire version of the Doublement twins.

When I was an 18-year-old college freshman, I sent my mother an email. “Dear Mom,” it said,

“I don’t know quite how to say this to you, so I’m just going to say it.  Remember Cory, my RA who lives down the hall?  Well, he and I have gotten really close, and a few weeks ago we started dating.  He’s amazing, I think you’re going to really love him, and I’m really happy.  The thing is, the school has a rule against RAs dating people who live in their dorm, and they found out about it, so they’re going to move me to a room in a dorm down the street.

Don’t worry, Anne [my roommate] won’t have to get a new roommate- they’re letting her keep our room as a single for the rest of the year.  And there was some girl who got homesick and dropped out in this other dorm, so there’s a space available over there anyway.  So starting next Friday, my address will be c/o [Other dorm name].”

Then, because I was 18 and it was a Thursday, I went out with Anne to a party, got reasonably drunk, and totally forgot about the email.  I was young, and happy, and that’s what you did on Thursday in college- you went to parties and got drunk!

It was, of course, April 1, 1997, and I thought it was HILARIOUS April Fools’ joke to play on my mother.  I would now like to go back and kick my 18 year old self in the ass because I can only imagine the aneurysm my poor mother must have had when she read that email.  It was juuuuust plausible enough that it probably never occurred to her that it might be fake.

I had originally intended to call her right away after I sent it, but I think I got her voice mail, and I wanted to tell her in person, and then I went to the party and forgot all about it….

The next morning at 8am I was awoken by my mother, trying valiantly to keep her shit together but clearly frantic, saying in a rush “don’t worry, sweetie, we’ll find a way for you to stay in your current dorm, there’s no way they can make you move, and shouldn’t this Cory boy be the one who has to go, if anyone?”

Oops.

(This email hoax turned out to be especially funny when, two months later, I started dating Rocco, a different RA who was even older than Cory (a 5th year senior to my freshman) who I proceeded to date for three and a half years.  Haha!  Prescient!)

I look back on this little episode and am stunned at my own brazenness.  I mean, if you had met my mother, and seen how she can get when she’s frantic, you would realize that it was a seriously ballsy April Fools’.  I remember at the time, Anne couldn’t quite believe I was going to send it, but I was 18 and feeling my oats, so to speak.

Nowadays, I HATE April Fools’ (I LOVED Swistle’s post it idea, and copied it as soon as I saw it, so I think I fell for fewer this year than normal).  But generally, I am pretty gullible anyway, so an entire day devoted to fooling people like me just seems mean.  I went through the entire day yesterday casting suspicious glances in the internet’s general direction (except for first thing yesterday morning, before I realized what day it was, when I totally wished a friend congratulations over facebook on her FAKE APRIL FOOLS PREGNANCY.  NOT NICE.)

Any of you play, or fall for, any April Fools’ jokes this year?  What’s the worst one you’ve ever perpetrated or fallen for in your life?

There is nothing more annoying, I know, than someone whining about jetlag. “I’m so tiiiiired,” they complain. “I’ve been on vacaaaation, and now I’m so tiiiiiired.”

It just feels like the worst combination of whining and gloating.

So I won’t do that.

I will, however, gripe a little about our wretched flight home, which featured:

  • middle seat for John, behind woman who kept her seat reclined for the ENTIRE FLIGHT
  • seats in nearly the back row, where we were apparently sitting on the engine, it was so loud
  • strong evidence suggesting that the person who had occupied my seat before me had horked all over the floor, making it less than tempting to shove our carry on bags down there
  • a drinks cart that ran out of diet coke before it got to us
  • an hour delay, plus 25 minutes of slow circling in the air before we landed at O’Hare
  • no movie. (Stupid MD80s. Worst planes EVER.)

All of this is a long way of saying: my hair is a mess, I’m not wearing makeup, and I’m going to work in jeans.  I hope they’ll forgive me.

While I keep reading of other offices that are easing gently towards Thanksgiving, and people who are already on planes to go visit far-flung family, my work has decided to schedule a huge! very important! requiring a tremendous amount of preparation! meeting for….tomorrow.  Wednesday.  The day before Thanksgiving.  Swell.

So people in my office are running around like crazy, everyone scrambling to finish projects, (or at least finish them enough that they can report at the meeting without looking like a total doofus).

I am no exception, since I have no fewer than FOUR things about which I am expected to present tomorrow.  (Upside of being a staff attorney: you get to work on lots of different projects with lots of different people.  Downside of being a staff attorney: you get to work on lots of different projects with lots of different people and are expected to be the one to write up all the summarizing documents and present out at big meetings.)

So it’s a leeeetle hectic around here right now,  and that’s unfortunately distracting me from my favorite thing to do in the week before Thanksgiving: plan menus.

See, my family are amazing, lovely, wonderful people, but we have some dietary restrictions.  Sister can’t eat gluten.  Father can’t really eat much salt or fat.  Mother (god love her) appears to not like flavor, and prefers all foods to tend towards the bland.

Since my parents live close by, tradition dictates that we eat at their place, which means my bland mom has control over the menu.  For her Thanksgiving, I try to plan at least two things that I can bring that I will love to eat but will be consumed by people other than me.  (Seems kinda rude to bring something that only you can/will eat.)  This year I’ll be doing roast asparagus and an apple-cranberry crumble with gluten-free topping.  Not bad.

But I dream about hosting my own Thanksgiving, where I am in charge of the menu, and can make whatever wackadoodle version of Thanksgiving classics I want.  This year, the menu would be:

Appetizers:

  • Spinach artichoke dip with homemade pita chips
  • Pomegranate salsa and tortilla chips (if you are looking for a delicious, different winter appetizer for Thanksgiving or holiday parties, email me.  Seriously.  This salsa is AMAZING.)
  • Crostini with brie, honey, and pears
  • Champagne Cocktails

Main:

  • Adobo Turkey with Red Chili Gravy
  • Stuffing made with actual onions and actual butter (this is the saddest one for me about our Thanksgiving- stuffing without onions and butter is a travesty.)

Sides:

  • Mashed sweet potatoes
  • Cranberry sauce with pear and fresh ginger
  • Brussels Sprouts Gratin
  • Popovers and homemade crusty wheat rolls (I like contrast.)

Desserts:

What about you all?  What are your favorites?  Any dishes you’re dying to try when you finally get control of Thanksgiving?  (Or is that just me?)

Today is, among other things, our third wedding anniversary.

We rang in our anniversary last night in our car, driving home from Michigan where we’d been working as poll watchers/legal monitors. We were frantically twisting the radio dial to find NPR stations as we drove down I-196 and then I-94, back to Chicago.

As we drove through Grand Rapids NPR called Pennsylvania, and we started to get guardedly optimistic. We were around Holland when they called Ohio and we started to feel pretty good. They called New Mexico, and Florida, and Virginia started to look good, and Indiana turned in the right direction, and by the time we reached the Indiana border NPR had called the election for Obama. We listened to McCain’s concession speech as we drove through Gary, and sped into Chicago as Obama was taking the stage. We parked by a friend’s house in Hyde Park, ran upstairs, and toasted with glasses of champagne as we watched the end of his speech. It was the first part of any election day coverage that we’d seen on tv.

While I feel a pang of regret that I did not get to experience the much talked-about CNN holograms, it was worth it.

In the precinct where I was working yesterday, there were 122 votes cast in the 2004 presidential election. Last night’s final count was close to 1,000. The poll worker who was running the tabulator machine asked each voter “have you done this before, do you know how the machine works?” and probably 3 out of 5 said no, they didn’t know how it worked, because it was their first time voting. Ever. Looking only at the young people and the people of color, first time voters were more like 9 out of 10. I watched people with babies strapped to their chests wrangling toddlers tangled in their legs as they voted. I saw some who were in ill health, for whom it took real effort to stand long enough to fill out their ballots. I heard a few quietly tell poll workers that they couldn’t read and needed someone to read their ballot to them. When I voted, I took my lunch break one day, walked a block to the county building, and was in and out in half an hour. These people had to work so much harder than I did to cast their ballot. And again and again, I heard them say the same thing: “this election is too important not to vote.”

I’ve gotten less than 9 hours of sleep over the past two nights. We stood for most of the 13 hours the polls were open in Michigan yesterday, subsisting on coffee and a few slices of the free pizzas Papa John’s dropped off for the poll workers. We drove more than three hours each way for less than 24 hours in Michigan.

I am, in short, exhausted. Emotions are running a little close to the surface. So you’ll forgive me for being sappy, but I’m tired and it’s my anniversary and so I’m taking this moment to say this: I feel profoundly grateful today. I’m grateful to have had the chance to witness first hand a small piece of the amazing thing our country did last night.  I’m grateful to live in a country where such things are possible.  And I’m grateful to live in it with someone who I love more than ever after almost 8 years together, someone who shares my passion for the issues that were at stake in this election, and who, like me, thinks that poll watching is an exemplary use of a vacation day. John, I should warn you now- I didn’t get you an anniversary present. (Sorry about that.) But I think somehow, even without presents, we’ll always remember our third anniversary and the pretty amazing thing we got to celebrate on the same day.

Tonight we leave town for the weekend, off to the far eastern exurbs of Los Angeles to hang out with John’s family, and to celebrate his grandmother’s eightieth birthday.

I know there is a lot of stuff on the internet about how stressful and difficult people find their inlaws, and I want to say for the record: I am really fortunate. John’s parents and siblings are warm, welcoming, loving people, and they have made every effort to integrate me into their family. I love them.

But is it possible to love them and still have a jangled nervous feeling about the prospect of a visit? The purpose of the visit- grandma’s birthday – means there will be a large gathering of extended family. John’s family is large, (very large), and much of it is conservative, (very conservative), all of them are vocal, (very vocal), and several of them find my chosen career path and noticeable lack of offspring perplexing (very perplexing). I am feeling A LITTLE ANXIOUS about spending the weekend before election day amongst a very large very conservative very vocal crowd which is very perplexed by my life choices.

I plan to address this anxiety by self medicating the best way I know how: with my mother in law’s super creamy spinach artichoke dip. Also cookies. And leftover Halloween candy. I can only hope my mother in law stocked the bowl with Baby Ruths this year.

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