Monday, June 30, 2008

For Book Lovers

For those of you who love reading as much as I do, you have to check this out. While reading this blog, I learned that Entertainment Weekly has posted a list of the top 100 books published in the last 25 years that the editors deem worthy of the "classic" title.

Of the 100 books listed, I have only read 14, but I have 9 more on my "to read" list. I'm shocked about some of the books that made the list. Here is a list of books that, in my humble opinion, should have made it:
1. Middlesex
2. She's Come Undone
3. Memoirs of a Geisha
4. A Fine Balance
5. One Hundred Years of Solitude

How many books on the list have you read? What books do you think were overlooked? Any inclusions that surprise you?

A Jersey Gem

The great state of New Jersey has gotten an undeserved bad rep, probably because many people see little else in the state other than the turnpike (me included). But I recently discovered that downtown Princeton is a true gem.

Because 1) I am free from graduate school prison, 2) I am determined to catch up on 3.5 years of missed fun and social opportunities, and 3) I can now travel at a moment's notice because I have time on my hands, I decided to accompany Brad on a work trip to Princeton last week. His trip conveniently overlapped with his company's annual picnic, so I was able to see his satellite office at headquarters and meet a bunch of people that he works with.

The President of Brad's company encouraged us to make a little trip out of it, so we stayed downtown at a historic hotel right in the middle of the square. We ate at a trendy little ice cream shop and enjoyed coffee at another little joint. Downtown Princeton was just lovely and not at all what I was expecting. The university opens up into downtown, with one main street separating the two. It reminded me a lot of Athens, GA, where Brad and I completed our masters degrees, but while downtown Athens is a bit more alternative and crunchy, downtown Princeton simply oozes money. How convenient for the students that Coach and Kate Spade are right across the street! The city definitely knows and caters to its student clientele.

And the ivy. Oh, the ivy. I know that I'm a sucker for the ivory tower, but this campus was quintessentially ivy league. And every few feet we stumbled across a marker on the sidewalk noting that so and so from the class of 1863 or 1901 and 1995 donated that stone, or that plaza, or that building. My friends who work in development would have been salivating. I learned that while Harvard boasts the largest university endowment, Princeton boasts the largest university endowment per capita.

So I'm not ready to pick up and move to NJ just yet, but I will say that this trip completely changed my impression of the state.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The E-vite Loiterer: Part Deux

You will never guess what happened at the wedding that I attended this past weekend: I met the e-vite loiterer in person!

Gentle Readers, let me bring you up to speed. Shortly after I posted about the mysterious lurker on an e-vite group that I manage, I learned her full name and also that a friend of mine had added her to the e-vite initially. Okay, mystery solved. I still didn't understand why she consistently checked the e-vites and never attended the events, but I felt comforted that at least she wasn't some crazy, anonymous stalker.

Fast forward to this past weekend. I actually met the mystery lady on Friday night, but she was only introduced by her first name, and I didn't think anything of it. I spoke to her a good bit on Saturday before the wedding and during the reception. Later in the day, after the wedding, I heard someone mention her last name and I nearly choked on my cocktail! I went in search of her immediately and was all "Are you so and so?? I'm (Dr. Blondie), the one who sends out all of the (group that you don't attend) e-vites!" I think that I took her by surprise. But to her credit, she recovered well and we even hung out a good bit during the evening. And I had so much fun with her! She even promised that she'd try to attend our events in the future. (But regardless, the bottom line is that she does want to remain on the e-vites!)

Here's the weird thing: the two of us are both randomly connected to the couple who was married this past weekend, me with the groom and her with the bride. Our mutual friend (the one who originally added her to the e-vites) wasn't connected to this wedding at all. The irony of meeting the loiterer in such a random place nearly freaked me out, but then I quickly remembered that I've experienced strange encounters like this before.

When all of this happened on Saturday, I immediately felt a little remorse about calling her out in my earlier post. I wondered whether or not she had read it. Or if she would stumble upon it now after meeting me (I certainly didn't tell her about it. Readers, in case you meet her or know her, mum's the word, okay?). But like a good journalist, and for your entertainment, dear readers, I declared that the story must go on. So there you have it.

My lesson learned? Be careful who you blog about, even when focusing on strangers. You never know when your paths will cross!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

My first, but hopefully not my last, book...

I was greeted with a surprise today when we returned home from our weekend away: a hot-off-the-press, hard-bound copy of my dissertation! It only took seven months to be printed, bound, and mailed to me.

Never have I put so much time and effort into something that will surely just collect dust from now on. However, I will display it proudly on our bookshelf. I can use it when I experience insomnia (although thankfully, it doesn't happen often). I hope that my next book will be much more fun to write (and to read)!

Literally, they took the plunge...

Brad and I spent this past weekend with our friends who were married on Saturday at a resort on Sanibel Island. Besides being a wonderful trip full of friends, sun, sand, relaxation, etc., etc., one of the highlights occurred after the ceremony and reception. The photographer took a few final pictures of the happy couple on the beach and then they ran into the Gulf of Mexico, fully clothed in their wedding attire, and literally, took the plunge. It was so fun to watch and I know that their pictures will be beautiful!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

B is for Bargain Hunter

If you're a reckless spender and your spouse is an uptight saver, or vice versa, most likely you've fallen victim to the number one cause of fights between married people: money. It is an adjustment to combine your everything with another person and doing so completely changes your perspective. Suddenly being spoiled with flowers or other treats every week doesn't seem as necessary if you know that your salary is in part paying for it. And knowing that I am accountable to someone else for every penny I spend certainly makes me think twice before I buy anything frivolous.

Luckily for us, Brad and I have very similar spending/saving habits and while we've commiserated about our finances plenty of times, I only remember us fighting about money once in our six years of marriage. It happened a few months after our wedding. It was one of the first fall-like days of the season that really puts you in the mood for new clothes. Brad was working and I was bored. After spending an hour staring at my desolate closet, I went out and bought a new pair of jeans and two tops. Even though I think I spent under $100, which was less than the amount that we had agreed "warranted discussion before purchasing" in our premarital counseling, Brad still flipped out on me when he got home because we didn't have a lot of money at the time and we had debts to pay. My arguments that "I had nothing to wear", "everything was on sale", and "girls are NOT like boys; girls DO need new clothes every now and then" made no headway with Brad.

Nonetheless, that episode helped me to develop saving and bargain hunting skills, which admittedly, weren't great at that time. At Christmas and on birthdays, I began putting all cash that I received toward funding my wardrobe for the year. I still continue this practice today and it works extremely well. Normally, between Christmas and birthday presents, combined with a couple of odd jobs that I do on campus for cash, I have enough money to buy new clothes each season of the year. And the better bargain hunter I am, the longer my money lasts and the more clothes I can buy. I don't spend money from our checking account on clothes that aren't necessary and I feel completely guilt-free when I come home with ten shopping bags because I know that I haven't spent a dime of our household income on any of it. Brad actually does this too and it works well for both of us.

This year, I've been hoarding my money since Christmas, knowing that I wanted to spend most of it on summer clothes (#1 priority: cute outfits for vacation pictures). I've been shopping like mad off and on over the past few weeks and here are some of the deals I've found that fill me with pride:
  • Large tote for the beach: original price = $39.99; I paid $6.99.
  • Pink Sandals that match a cutie-petutie casual dress: original price = $29.99; I paid $9.79. (NOTE: the dress was on sale too)
  • Khaki shorts (NOTE: I don't really wear shorts unless I'm running, but I do need a pair for an upcoming event and I just couldn't pass these up): original price = $39.99; I paid $4.73.
  • A brown/cream knit dress that is completely work/church appropriate: original price = $49.99; I paid $12.48.
Here are my tips for such handiwork:
  • Sign up for email and snail mail lists at your favorite stores. If you can deal with being inundated with coupons and sale advertisements for "preferred customers"weekly and sometimes daily, you can find some deals.
  • Hoard all coupons and study all of the sales to figure out how to get the most bang for your buck. Don't be afraid to ask the sales clerk how to best use your many coupons to get the best deal. A satisfied customer = a return customer.
  • Devote plenty of time to shopping (it's hard to bargain shop if you're in a hurry) and be prepared to drive to multiple branches of the same store if you have to.
  • Still no luck? Call me.

Happy shopping!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Please do not disturb

Brad had some major drama on Tuesday night. And much to my chagrin, I slept right through it.

I'm an early bird when it comes to retiring for the night. I love, love, love to go to bed early. I normally begin fading around 9ish, and I really enjoy being in bed with the lights off and asleep no later than 10 p.m. (In my defense, our alarm clock goes off at 5 a.m. most mornings, and even going to bed at 10 only gives me seven hours of sleep each night.) It doesn't happen very often, but I try to take advantage of an opportunity to go to bed early when I can. Although my early retiring habits have somewhat worn off on Brad during our six years of marriage, many nights, like a child, he fights it and stays up a little later than me.

On Tuesday night, I was in bed sound asleep when our neighbor called around 10 p.m. to tell us that he just walked past where our car was parked on the street and he noticed a huge sinkhole that was spreading all over the sidewalk and on parts of the curb (most likely caused by the ferocious storms earlier that evening). Brad, worried that our car was parked too close to the hole, came into our bedroom, grabbed his keys from the nightstand, shut the bedroom door, and left to move the car. What he didn't notice at the time was that he had already removed his apartment keys from the keyring in preparation for running in the morning (he only carries his apartment keys when he runs... not the entire key ring). So focused on the car and the sinkhole, he failed to notice that his apartment keys were missing from the ring.

Soon after he went outside, he realized that he was locked out. But he didn't worry because he had his cell phone and he figured that he could just call me and I would come out to let him in.

Except, it didn't turn out to be that easy.

He began calling my cell phone (which, mind you, is on 24/7 and was located in my open purse, about three feet from the bed) at 10:12 p.m. on Tuesday and continued to call for at least forty minutes with no luck. He pressed our (loud) door buzzer numerous times and called our home phone, but in my comatose state, I didn't hear either one (I blame the bedroom door being shut). Our neighbor who lives below us found Brad outside and let him into her apartment where he proceeded to borrow a broom from her and bang on her living room ceiling, which is our bedroom floor, in hopes of waking me. No such luck. He even tried to throw rocks at our bedroom window (which is three stories from the ground). Finally, he called and woke up our landlord, drove to his house to pick up an extra set of keys, came home and let himself in, drove back to the landlord's house to return the keys, and then drove around the neighborhood searching for a parking place because it was so late. He finally made it to bed around midnight.

The alarm went off at 5 a.m. on Wednesday and I bounced out of bed, all ready for our run. I hadn't had such a good night's sleep in weeks. I felt thoroughly refreshed. And I was completely clueless about what had happened the night before, until Brad glared at me and said, "we had some drama last night after you went to bed...".

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Just a little catcher in the rye-ish...

When it rains, it pours.

Two days ago, I found out about my new cousin. And just yesterday, one of my best friends gave birth to her first baby, a boy, whom she and her husband named Holden.

When she told me the baby's name, I racked my brain... Holden... Holden... where have I heard that darling, but somewhat unusual name before?

And then it dawned on me: Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye. How could I forget about such a colorful character?

I have no idea if my friend Kim has made the connection or even if she's read the famous classic. But I definitely intend to ask her as soon as I can.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Twice blessed

I want to counter my earlier post today with what I hope you will find an inspiring story about hope and life.

My uncle Steve (age 45) and his wife Nancy (age 42) have been married for nearly 20 years. After 12 years of trying to have children with no success, they adopted my cousin, Peter (who is now 8). This adoption was a long time in coming and I won't even tell you about all of the heartbreak, fruitless leads, drama, and expense that they endured before Peter finally came into their lives. Two years ago, at age 40, Nancy found out that she was pregnant, but unfortunately, she lost the baby during the first trimester. At that time, they already had the ball rolling again to adopt a second baby, but then decided not to when Nancy became pregnant. When she lost the baby, they started over again to get the 2nd adoption underway.

Much to my surprise and delight, my uncle called me out of the blue yesterday with the news that last Wednesday night, they received a phone call from the organization that handles their adoptions. They were told that their new two-month-old son would be ready for pick up 36 hours later, on Friday morning!! While they knew that they had completed all of the paperwork and other steps, they had no idea that their second son was on his way. I know that they are used to the unpredictable nature of adoptions, but they basically had one full day to prepare for their new little one. But prepare they did, and Daniel Joseph has now found a wonderful new family.

On the phone, my uncle laughed about how he had already done the math and figured out that he will be 63 years old when Daniel graduates from high school. Uncle Steve has a lot of energy; I told him that I believe that he's up for the challenge.

A tribute to B Dubs...

One year ago tomorrow, a truly remarkable person on our sports teams passed away unexpectedly. His name was also Brad and he was a dear friend to my hubby Brad. He was also 36 years old, engaged to be married on November 3, 2007, a marathon runner, a gifted and funny writer (he used to entertain us with hilarious press releases after some of our most embarrassing losses), and probably one of the kindest and most genuine people I have ever met. He died of a heart attack, and his roommate came home and found him in the shower. Supposedly he had gone running that night, called his fiance (who was in another state at that point), and decided to take a shower and go to bed, except, he never made it to bed. Brad never saw it coming and no one else did either.

Our friend had lots of nicknames on our team (we used to have three players by the name of Brad, so nicknames were a necessity!): B Dubs, BW, etc. One of my favorite memories is when my Brad and Brad W. made an awesome play together during a game and the rest of us would cheer, "Yay Brads!!". The Brads loved it too:).

Our friend also held a striking resemblance to Chris Daughtry. When Daughtry was big on American Idol, one of our teammates faithfully told our friend each week, "Hey, you did great on Idol last night!" I think that I liked Daughtry so much partly because he reminded me of Brad W.

Today I'm also thinking of Amy, his fiance, and how her life so drastically changed on that day. She went from planning a wedding and preparing to move to the DC area and start her fabulous new job with the Secret Service to planning memorial services, and trying to figure out her future home and job. She decided not to move here, and I don't blame her. I do pray though, that she has been well supported and has found some sort of peace in the last year.

Brad W. was one of those rare people who you just felt thankful to know. Brad and I will never forget him or his friendship. And we will always be thankful for the gummy bears that he fed to us during mile 14 of the Marine Corps Marathon in 2006. I believe that those gummy bears helped us to finish the race.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

6 down, 4 to go

Brad and I celebrated our 6th wedding anniversary over two days last weekend. On Saturday night, we enjoyed dinner at one of my favorite restaurants (my turn to pick this year!). Not to sit idle on our actual day, after church we went across the Bay to our favorite crab shack and enjoyed the beautiful weather and our first Maryland crabs of the season. Like we do every year, we also perused our wedding album, reread the comments in our guest book, and watched one of our wedding videos. This is the first anniversary that I remember us commenting on our "baby faces" and Brad's plethora of bright red hair, which is, to his chagrin, slowly but surely thinning and fading. I keep telling him that if he overlooks the lines on my face and permanent bags under my eyes (I blame my dissertation 100%), I can deal with a receding hairline. Such is love!

One of the unique and fun aspects of our wedding six years ago was that we created a time capsule that included guests' comments, well wishes, and predictions for our life together. Each guest completed a very brief form where he or she made guesses about things such as where we would live, our occupations, whether or not we would have kids and if so, how many, and what we would have experienced by our 10th wedding anniversary, which is June 1, 2012. After the wedding, my mom collected the forms and sealed them in a package for us and I've been eagerly anticipating opening up the time capsule ever since! I hope to send a prize to the person who made the most accurate predictions. I can't believe that we're over halfway there!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Six years of bliss...

Happy anniversary, Sweetheart! Thank you for making the past six years the happiest of my life. Six years seems like six months. Where has the time gone?

Cheers to the beginning of year seven! Love you!