Tuesday, November 25, 2008

socially unlinked

It happened again yesterday. I received an "invitation to connect on LinkedIn" from a friend. Another pal sent me the invitation to register about a year ago and 40 people have found me thus far. I have yet to search for anyone. My profile lacks anything of substance. I've only listed my name, place of employment, and alma maters.

I'm a pathetic social networker.

I've avoided facebook (although I may give in on this one, but seriously, do I need one more distraction in my life??) and twitter. I use shelfari simply for keeping track of the many books that I read and not at all for networking with other book lovers for reading suggestions. I recently signed up for a ravelry account, again, just for an easy way to organize my knitting patterns and projects and not to fraternize with other yarn lovers. I have a flickr account because that's the only way that I can upload pictures of knitting projects to ravelry.

A couple of months ago, I received one of the regular update emails from LinkedIn informing me who my "friends" had connected with. I was surprised to see that one of my friends was connected to Brad; I was unaware that he had signed up for an account! That night at dinner, Brad and I laughed about it, each of us surprised that we didn't know that the other had an account and that we weren't connected.

And now, two months later, have Brad and I become "friends" on LinkedIn? Of course not. But as a friend recently pointed out, how funny/weird will it be when Brad and I finally do link and all of our mutual "friends" will receive an email notifying them of our connection?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Italy revisited

Brad dragged persuaded me to see the newest Bond movie this weekend, but the opening scene in Siena, Italy changed my surly 'tude immediately. I sat up and paid attention, excited to see a place that we had recently visited. In the movie, the Piazza del Campo bustled with activity: horses racing, crowds cheering, and predictably, James Bond nearly killing himself and others about ten times while chasing a bad guy. Yes, the setting looked a bit more glamorous than when we visited in August, but we still enjoyed a glimpse of one of our summer vacation destinations.

Feeling nostalgic about Italy after the movie, we decided to spend a quiet evening at home and reminisce. I made Florentine steak and we sipped the Chianti that we brought back from Tuscany. We set a formal table, using our wedding china and the Venetian lace place mats and napkins that we purchased from the last remaining lace school in Venice. We wondered how our friend Hillary was doing. And we tried to come up with a valid excuse to go back. Like next week.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

when reading multiple books at once...

My latest knitting project: bookmarks of all colors, sizes, and styles!

Happy reading!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

card paranoia

From previous posts, you know that I abhor typos or grammatical mistakes on professionally printed invitations, cards, and other kinds of mass mailings. Specifically, on my blog I've addressed the appropriate use of an apostrophe and when and how to make last names possessive or plural.

Fun fact: my blog gets several hits a day because people google "make Davis plural", "last name ending in s plural", "plural of Davis", "correct grammar, plural name", "plural vs. possessive family last name". These search phrases have led five readers to my blog in just the past 12 hours. This topic is by far the most searched one that leads people to my blog. I'm heartened to know that some people are at least cognizant that apostrophe usage can be tricky. But I'm also preparing myself for the handful of holiday cards and end-of-year letters loaded with grammatical errors that Brad and I will certainly receive this year.

I ordered our Christmas cards yesterday and I nearly drove myself crazy double, triple, and quadruple checking them to ensure grammatical perfection. I even made use of Brad's scrutinous nature and he checked the card. And when Snapfish prompted me at checkout to proofread my card, I did it again. Because I know that if the cards arrive in the mail and I notice a mistake, I'll eat the $50 and reorder them before I will send them out with an error.

All of this for a mere 15 words on the darn card... thank goodness I only send one mass mailing of cards per year!

Monday, November 17, 2008

an unusual girls' weekend hangover

Soon after my college graduation, I vowed with my friends Dana and Kim to never miss a year of the three of us getting together, no matter where we lived or what life circumstances we faced. I vaguely remember us clinking glasses on an early trip to seal the deal. The first two years out of college were easy because we all lived relatively close to each other (but we still found reasons to take plenty of road trips on the weekends!). Distance and children have made the yearly commitment difficult, but I'm proud to say that we haven't missed a year since 1996! We've visited in Chicago, Indianapolis, Madison (WI), Iowa City, Champaign (IL), Springfield (IL), Athens (GA), Scottsdale (AZ), Las Vegas, South Beach, Pompano Beach (FL), New Orleans, DC, Stamford (CT), New York City, and Charlotte. We're already daydreaming about the cruises and fancy vacations we'll take together during our elder years!

Dana and I flew down to Charlotte this past weekend to visit Kim, who gave birth to her first baby this past June. While this visit with an infant in tow was a bit more relaxed than previous trips, we laughed as we retired at 11 p.m. after happily vegging out at Kim's house both nights in our comfy pants and t-shirts. At one point, we realized that we had talked for 20 minutes about grocery shopping and the pros and cons of Safeway, Giant, Harris Teeter, and Trader Joe's. Suddenly our nights out in South Beach until 4 a.m. seemed like fuzzy memories. Did we really do that?

I'm hurting today after the trip, but not because we painted the town red like we did when we were younger. I accompanied Kim to her gym on Saturday morning and endured 75 minutes of boot camp with her! Now keep in mind that Kim is an athlete. She's in phenomenal shape. She ran a 10 mile race at a 7:30/mile pace. She went hiking the day she went into labor. She began exercising again the day after she and Holden arrived home from the hospital. Now look at me. I can run long distances, but that's about it. I can't do a push up to save my life (as the boot camp instructor bluntly reminded me this weekend).

This boot camp class kicked my fanny. While I kept up with everyone else, and I even enjoyed the running portions because I felt comfortable, I have been paying for it for the past 54 hours. This pain nearly rivals post-marathon aches. I could barely move on the flight home yesterday and an older man on the plane had to lift and lower my suitcase for me because I couldn't raise my arms high enough.

After the class on Saturday, Kim sheepishly admitted that she participated in the class up until early May of this year. And she gave birth on June 9th. Can you imagine a 35-week pregnant woman in a boot camp class? That's my friend. And despite her baby belly and (minimal) extra weight at the time, she still did better in the class than some of the other members. I asked her how she did a push up with a pregnant belly, but she giggled and said that it wasn't that bad.

After hearing that, I feel like a real wimp complaining about my own aches and pains! I hope that Kim will be a bit easier on me during next year's trip.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

wally love

Does anyone else adore author Wally Lamb?

She's Come Undone is one of my favorite books. I love, love, love it. I felt as though the author (who I could NOT believe was a man) spoke directly to me throughout the book. While Dolores Price, the protagonist, experienced different family circumstances and challenges than I have and do, Dolores's journey toward normalcy, whatever that means, really resonated with me. Or, maybe I'm just attracted to stories about extreme family dysfunction, which I fear may be evidenced in my book club's upcoming selection in January, which I chose.

I also liked Wally's (we're on a first-name basis, you see) I Know This Much Is True. People argue about which one of his books is actually better and I've concluded that readers tend to favor the book that they read first, which is true in my case.

Anyway, the exciting news is that Wally FINALLY has a new book out, as of two days ago, and I CAN'T WAIT TO GET MY HANDS ON IT!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

worn out already

Due to a series of evening work commitments this week, I chose to come in a bit later this morning so that my workday wouldn't feel quite so long. But I still awoke at the crack of dawn, and I'm already starting to feel as though I've put in a full day. Here is what I accomplished before 10:30 a.m.:
  • The normal 3.5 mile run
  • Brad and I chatted with and admired one of our park friend's pictures from World War II. Ellis is a darling 84-year-old veteran who faithfully runs/walks/shuffles around the park every morning. We've become fast friends.
  • I visited a body shop to obtain an estimate for repairing the paint scratches/gouges on our car that occurred after someone backed into it (thankfully, the driver left a note).
  • I stopped by two libraries to track down new books for Brad and me.
  • I picked up some more milk to get us through the week.
  • I went to three different stores in search of the sugar-free candy that Brad's grandmother loves. I finally found it at my last stop. Kudos to CVS in College Park!
  • I donated some old clothes/shoes.
  • I withdrew cash for my upcoming trip this weekend (more on this later).
And now, off to a meeting to begin my actual work day!

Monday, November 10, 2008

sucess = no meltdowns or poop explosions

I survived my first tour of duty in childcare at church yesterday. And I do thank you, gentle readers, for your plethora of advice. I laughed at how each person recommended a different age group, which tells me that it's really all about one's personal preference. I plan to sample all of the rooms over my next few shifts so that I can determine my favorite.

The Team Leader initially placed me in the 12-17 month room, the walkers. I took one step inside the door and a tiny blond girl immediately blocked my path and reached up to me with outstretched arms. I glanced furtively around the room to see if another care giver would jump in. But it was obvious that the little girl wanted me to pick her up, so I did, walked across the room, and deposited her in front of a pile of toys. She jumped up, stretched out her arms again, and so the cycle began.

This darling girl stuck to me like glue and I have no idea why. One of the other women joked that it must be a blond thing. When I tired of holding her, I sat down on the floor, hoping that she would play with the nearby toys, but she crawled into my lap instead. A little boy toddled over with a book in hand, seeking a reader. After he claimed my other leg and I began reading, a third child, drawn to the reading like a magnet, plopped down in the middle of my lap. The three kids fought over who would turn the page and my lap was so crowded that I couldn't even really see the book. But I do love seeing others experience the joy of reading, so I was happy to charge onward.

After about 30 minutes with the walkers, the Team Leader moved me to the crawlers (6-12 months) because this room lacked the requisite number of volunteers. Things were pretty quiet there. Although a whimpering child latched onto me right away (and who I held for the rest of my time there), two of the children spent the remaining two hours playing 100% independently. Neither of them ever cried or needed to be held. I was amazed!

While the volunteers in the walkers room experience several meltdowns and one poop explosion, I fortuitously escaped all of that. That is, until December 7th, when my next tour of duty begins.

Friday, November 7, 2008

helpless infants or tenacious tykes?

I volunteered to serve in hospitality at church because I believe that, 1) refreshments play a crucial role in any given situation, and 2) it's my comfort zone. I simply love to cook and host. I worked my first set-up shift last Sunday morning before the service and I conquered a new challenge: making coffee for hundreds of people. (Fun fact about me: I have never consumed a cup of coffee in my life and I have certainly never prepared it before, especially not for a crowd!)

Our church is an extremely young one. I estimate that the average age of members (adults only) falls in the late 20s or perhaps 30. As you can imagine, babies and young children prevail. The number of volunteers in childcare can't keep up with the ever increasing birthrate. After Brad and I had been members for a few months (the legal waiting period), we were quickly solicited to assist in childcare, which honestly, scares us both to death.

Brad is an only child and has spent very little time around children. He has never changed a diaper and he's probably only held a baby a handful of times in his life. While I cared for my much younger siblings, it's been 20 years since I changed a diaper. And I rarely babysat when I was younger, so I lack experience caring for non-family members' children, especially the young ones. Plus, I suspect that people are overly particular about everything having to do with their children and previous experiences with some sassy ones have scarred me.

I will work a 2.5 hour shift in childcare for the very first time this coming Sunday morning. Volunteers who arrive early get their first choice of age group, but I have no idea which room to pick. Here are the options:
  • 6-11 months (or possibly younger than six months... I'm not sure)
  • 12-17 months
  • 18-23 months
  • 2 years old
  • 3 years old
One friend at church advised me to choose the 18-23 month room because the children have moved past their parental separation anxiety by then and can entertain themselves, but aren't overly disobedient. Another friend suggested the 12-17 month room because they "can walk and are still cuddly, but they can't talk and thus can't be too sassy."

I can tell that this impending duty weighs heavily on my mind because recently I dreamed that while working in the nursery, it took me 45 minutes to change one kid's diaper because she kept rolling/crawling away!

Advice, please. A two and one-half hour shift sounds like an eternity.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

on being cheap at a nice restaurant

I admit it. I do love to save money. While I wouldn't necessarily call myself a penny pincher, it does make my day to stumble into a bargain. And I try to take advantage of nearly every deal that I discover.... case in point last Friday night.

I mentioned that Brad and I celebrated my one-year anniversary of freedom at one of our favorite restaurants on Capitol Hill. When I visited Two Quail's web site earlier that day to look for the phone number, I saw a nondescript link tucked away in the corner on the home page that said "specials" or something like that. Thinking that it would include the featured appetizer, entree, and dessert of the day, I clicked on it. Instead, I discovered a coupon for a free entree with the purchase of one.

I was overjoyed! But I immediately felt a little embarrassed at the thought of using a coupon at a nice restaurant. Two Quail's prices aren't outrageous, but it's expensive enough that we only dine there on special occasions. Two salads, entrees, and beverages can easily cost a couple over $100.

To avoid some of the potential shame of having my coupon rejected, I immediately placed an anonymous call to make sure that the coupon was valid and to ask if we had to dine before a certain hour to use it. Once we arrived at the restaurant and claimed our favorite table, which we love because of its location in the front bay window and its romantic privacy curtains, I stressed about what to do with the coupon. Should I mention it to the waiter before we order or when the bill arrives? What if the coupon only works with certain entrees? What if I mention it too early, but then he forgets and I have to embarrass myself all over again and remind him when we pay the bill?

I decided to flash the coupon when we ordered just in case we had to meet certain stipulations. Our waiter was so gracious about it that I quickly felt at ease. Ten seconds of shame was definitely worth saving $25 on our meal. And my duck breast tasted even better because I knew that it was free!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

lessons learned at the polls

1. So many people in my precinct have a last name that begins with a letter in the same window of the alphabet as I do. Or at least we all showed up at the same time this morning to vote. I arrived at 7 a.m. and actually made it out in just under an hour (better than I expected during prime time), but I spent at least an extra 20 minutes there because the check-in station serving the S-Z last names was slammed. The volunteers constantly pulled people in line after me to go before me because they were registered as Adams or Dawson or Henry or Mitchell or even Roberts. Who knew that the end of the alphabet was so popular in terms of last names?

2. The "I voted" sticker never adheres to anything I wear. No matter my shirt's fabric or texture, the sticker likes my long blond hair the best, which is where I find it hiding out most of the day.

3. Entrepreneurial kids really capitalize on days like today. Some kids and moms from a local school sold coffee and baked goods to the voters waiting outside in the cold. They enjoyed their monopoly with a relatively captive audience (at least for a short time).

election day hives

I often jest about a number of situations that are certain to guarantee me a hive outbreak, but the joke is now on me. Late yesterday afternoon, I discovered some swollen, itchy, painful patches on my hands and arms. I'm now fighting the urge to itch my feet and stomach. My body is definitely at war with something. I woke up on Sunday morning with a strange, colorless rash on my neck.... and now the hive thing.

This malady brings back memories of my only other encounter with hives, which occurred when I was eight or nine years old. Immersed in a school read-a-thon to raise money for multiple sclerosis research, I dreamed one night that I acquired the disease, lost my vision, and could no longer read. I awoke in a panic, and my hands flew to my face as I felt swelling around my eyes and lips. A glance in the bathroom mirror revealed my disfigured face. I ripped off my clothes to find my body covered in bright red bumps. A trip to the doctor revealed that my hives symbolized an allergic reaction to penicillin, which up until that point, I had consumed by the gallon to fight a chronic ear infection.

I think that I know the perfect cure for my condition today: a free, star-shaped donut from Krispy Kreme just for displaying my "I voted" sticker!

Monday, November 3, 2008

not Kevined out yet

While I'm on the subject of books today, Everyday I Write the Book blog has announced an upcoming online book club discussion about one of my most recent literary obsessions: We Need to Talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver.

This book still haunts me, despite reading it over three months ago. The writing, the characters, the rich description, the plot... they all got under my skin, which is, in my humble opinion, a mark of a true masterpiece.

If you've read the book and wish to discuss it, sign up at Everyday I Write the Book. Or call me and we'll meet for coffee.

The winning streak continues...

My recent win at the BlogHer Conference must have brought me luck because I recently won another contest!

Being a huge advocate and supporter of public libraries, I only purchase books if:
a) I've already read the book and it makes my very stringent, highly prestigious list of top 10 favorites (this is still a rare occurrence... I only own copies of one or two of my favorite books. In a small city apartment, I value space more than books. And overcrowded, cluttered spaces are sure to give me hives.)
b) I've read an entire series and I genuinely believe that I will it read again (e.g. Harry Potter)
c) it's a book club selection, but despite monumental efforts, I can't secure a copy in time at any library. In this case, I normally buy a used copy on amazon and then I sell it as soon as I've finished it.

But who doesn't enjoy the stiff, crisp pages of a brand new book? So I do occasionally enter contests on book blogs that I read in attempt to garner some free goods.

And I finally won! Everyday I Write the Book blog recently raffled off three copies of The Four Seasons by Laurel Corona. I have no idea what the book is about, but historical fiction is my favorite genre and I adore Venice, so I have my fingers crossed!