Filed under: everyday stories

well, hello there.

Over the weekend, we had some people over for dinner and board games and lots of tequila, and one of them suggested that I needed to be blogging again. One of the people, I mean. We had a lot of dinner, tequila, and board games, but none of the three made any suggestions to me whatsoever.

Anyway. It’s not something I hear all the time or anything, but every once in a while one of the few remaining loyal readers will mention it and it just echoes what I keep telling myself. I need to get back to this. It was a healthy habit that brought me lots of joy, and these days I actually have some stories to tell again.

So here we are. These are all the words I could manage to put into sentences over several hours today. But you have to start somewhere, right? And here is where I begin (again).

Onward and upward.

3 Comments December 10, 2012

dancing about architecture

Two years ago, my best friend went to sleep and never woke up. His remains were not found for two days.

This week has been on my mind for ages, a huge obsidian block in the middle of my springtime, a chasm of sadness that I know I must navigate each year. I dread it and yet it feels important to me to do it – as if I had any choice. Of course, I would much rather have Frank here.

So I’ve been really apprehensive about this week’s arrival, counting down in my head the events leading up to his death. Today he was at Gregg’s. Today he talked to Maria. Today he is decomposing. It’s kind of horrifying and brutal to contemplate and I’ve worried about its ability to stop me in my tracks when what I most need to do is keep moving.

The week approached like a tidal wave, inexorable and crushingly destructive, and I braced myself for its impact. This year, maybe, I would keep my head above water.

And then, against all odds, a series of events stacked up that have caused this week to become what I can only describe as spectacular.

Several weeks ago I won tickets to see David Sedaris do a reading here in town. He’s one of my favorite authors and our budget just couldn’t justify the cost of the tickets, so I was moping. And then I won them on the radio, and off we went, and it was exactly as funny and interesting as I hoped it would be. We waited in line for an hour and a half to have our book signed afterward. We arrived at his table at 11pm, near the end of the signing, and the first thing David Sedaris did was welcome me to his golden okra chest. And then he laughed and wrote that in my book. And then he offered me some of his fried okra, and I’m actually kind of sorry I declined because I was freaking starving and that looked like some killer okra. And a love for fried okra is among the most Southern of my Southern qualities. Then, David Sedaris astutely observed that I’d dragged Seth along, but that he was very patient about the whole thing. He asked if we were married, Seth said, “not yet,” and David Sedaris whose whole name must always be used as far as I’m concerned asked why the heck we weren’t married yet. Then apologized for being awkward. Then asked again. And we stuttered out some excuses and he kind of leaned back and, even though David Sedaris doesn’t know us from anyone, he said something like, “You guys are good together and I can tell you’re going to make it.” It was completely awesome and we thanked him and told him our dirty nun joke, which he rewarded with two of his own dirty jokes, and we were on our merry way.

That alone would have made this a great week. But then Tuesday came, and you guys, Tuesday was seriously badass.

Old 97s were in town. I freaking love Old 97s, I’ve never seen them live, and the minute their new album dropped I told Seth that this meant they’d surely be touring and I felt Charlottesville was a likely stop and that WE WOULD BE ATTENDING NO MATTER WHAT. I mean seriously, they hadn’t even announced a tour yet and I already knew there’d be a Cville date. Because I’m magic. So Seth was like yes, whatever, and then the announcement came and I squealed louder than I did when Mom surprised us with New Kids on the Block tickets in 1990. EEEEEE OLD 97S!!!

Then we looked at our budget.

We were broke broke broke, broke as a joke. We kept putting off the tickets in the hopes that our next paycheck would have more wiggle room, but alas, car repairs and vet bills and optometrist visits just blew massive holes in our “discretionary” fund over and over again. And since I’d won tickets to David Sedaris, I wasn’t eligible to win again from our local radio station. So I moped.

On Monday, the morning host on our station of choice posted a thing on Facebook telling people to email him if they wanted a chance to meet Rhett Miller. And within 30 seconds I think I had written a novel-length plea and fired that bad boy off to Brad. A few hours later, he responded: we were in! We’d been put on the list for a private acoustic studio session with Rhett. I figured it’d be a good consolation prize for not getting to go to the concert.

So Tuesday afternoon rolled around and we headed to the station for the session. I hadn’t been to their studio before and expected we’d be with 20 or 30 people on folding chairs outside the booths where the sound engineer and the artist would be. Imagine my surprise when we and 6 of our newest friends were ushered into a very small studio…and Rhett Miller was a foot away from us.

He played three songs and bantered with the hosts, and it was completely awesome to be up close for the session, which you can listen to here. We hadn’t been told much about what would be allowed, so I didn’t think photos or signings or anything would be cool. But they were!

After the session, we got to take photos and a professional photographer was in taking photos too. Rhett signed CDs and such for us, and then he asked us if there were any songs we’d like to see on the setlist. HOLY CRAP! I asked him to play “Murder (or a Heart Attack),” one of my favorites. And he wrote it down along with the other suggestions. We left the studio basically floating through the air, and the minute we hit the parking lot, Seth and I were like, “okay, now we have to go to the show.”

We made a quick huddle and an agreement to skip groceries this week and get by on Ramen and PBJ, and I ran down and bought the tickets.

That night, we drove to the concert through a torrential thunderstorm, and when we arrived, we snagged a spot on the front row. Seriously. I told you this week was freaking awesome, didn’t I?

So we’re on the front row, along with some of our friends from the session. And the band comes out on stage and they are exactly as awesome as I thought they’d be, and Rhett Miller actually recognizes us from the stage and kind of waves and raises his eyebrows at us while he’s playing, and we’re in the front row at an Old 97s show and Rhett Miller just waved at me from the damn stage and I’m pretty sure I’m going to die of the awesomeness.

It was way better than that NKOTB show. My parents were right about them.

So hey, is this long enough yet? We went home, and we were happy and half-deaf and exhausted. And then yesterday I continued the awesomeness by giving a guest lecture on arts fundraising at the university.

Today is kind of what I think of as The Day, when it comes to Frank. Today, he is gone. And I miss him still, and I will always miss him. But I can’t help but notice the timing of this fantastic, surreal week I’ve been having. Frank had a novel in progress he called The Architecture of Coincidence. Despite a general lack of belief that he and I shared, this week has been different for some reason. And I’ve wondered if maybe, just maybe, there is an architect after all.

3 Comments April 14, 2011


I have wanted tall boots for about a billion years, but I have what shoemakers like to call “extended calves.” They’re thick, okay? Maybe fat. They’ve been thick/fat forever, long before I myself qualified as thick/fat. So that made finding boots really difficult, especially when my budget was so small.

So I have this weird habit of buying something and then, only after plunking down the cash, going online to look up its reviews. I have no idea why I do this, but it happens all the time. Like maybe I need to have my life choices validated. If only I could look up online reviews on the friends I choose and whether or not I said the right thing at the right time, although I fear the answer in both cases might make me feel bad.

I happened across some really great ankle boots at Target toward the end of last summer, and while I was validating my choice by reading reviews, I saw another boot on the site that I might have liked even better. And those reviews were STELLAR, frequently comparing these boots favorably to a certain style of Frye boots that retail for over $200. These boots? $50.

cheap boots!
expensive boots!
The cheap boots are on top.

So I immediately snapped up two pairs, in brown and black.

And then I was all nervous about how to wear them so I left them in the closet for like 4 months.

And then, gradually, I started to break them in. And I freaking love them. I only rarely wear the black ones, as it turns out, but I wear the brown ones several days a week with a skirt or a dress and a little sweater or something, and I might look like a total douche in them but every single time I wear them I feel stylish and comfortable and I’m pretty sure I rock it.

So here I am, all awesome, feeling trendy in a pair of boots when for heaven’s sake I’m freaking surrounded by UVA students wearing much more stylish and expensive boots, but these boots fit my fatty fat calves and they were fifty bucks. Therefore, I am cool.

A month or so ago I went to do a site visit at a place where I was hoping to plan an event, and the very very nice and sweet staff member assisting me was about my age, and wearing the boots. At some point in the visit, I decided to both compliment her and bond with her by complimenting her on what a great deal the boots were, and how excited I had been to find them at Target, and so on and so forth. So I’m gushing about our shared love of $50 boots, and she gets kind of red and kind of quiet and says, “I didn’t get these at Target.”

Oh shit, I think. She’s wearing the $200 Frye boots and they look freaking exactly like mine.

So I immediately and quite awkwardly and unintentionally diss her very expensive designer boots by telling her, out loud, that they look freaking exactly like my shitty Target knockoffs.

And she’s like, “Normally Target is way more my speed, but I’m getting married and wedding planning has been really stressful and I wanted to do something nice for myself, so I saved up and splurged on these boots.”

And now I’m an even BIGGER asshole, because I have unintentionally dissed fancy boots that she SAVED HER MONEY TO BUY AS A STRESS REWARD TREAT THING. Also, she was very cute and nice and had very nice thin calves. And I made her doubt her designer boots.

I tried to make some little joke about how her boots would probably last her ten years and mine would fall apart by next fall, and later on she emailed me to say that we needed to do a boot check every now and then to see how they were holding up. She was very gracious. But boy, did I feel stupid.

1 Comment April 12, 2011

love the one you’re with

At the start of this year, a funny thing happened. I consciously avoided making many actual resolutions, and in the process I found myself embarking on a flurry of positive activities instead. How does that work? I don’t really know, but I’m liking the sense of control and stability it is giving me.

When I was thinking about resolutions, the one I kept wanting to make was along the lines of “work out more, lose some weight, etc.” I even told some friends that my single resolution for 2011 was to run the Four Miler. I was training for it last spring and I had to stop because my eardrum exploded and then I got mono. So I thought, I’ll get back to that goal and do that and it’ll be fine.

I might still run that race. In fact, I hope I do. But it’s not as big a deal anymore because the decision I’ve replaced it with turns out to be far more important.

As my life has become busier over the past few years, I have become a casual reader of blogs at best. I cruise around daily or so and skim some regular sites, but I am not nearly so active a reader and commenter as I once was. So in my blogosphere rounds over the last few days, I ran across this guest post about body image at C. Jane’s blog. And I skimmed it just like I skim everything lately. I didn’t give it any extra attention or read it with any extra purpose, but somehow, that post really got under my skin and seems to have begun putting down roots. And if what I’m going to attempt ends up working out well, I will have Janna and C. Jane to thank for it.

This year, I’m going to try a radical departure from every approach I’d ever tried before. This year, I am going to love the body I have.

I know, I know. It goes against everything we know, everything we’re taught. I’m fat, after all. I’m fatter than I’ve ever been. I should count my calories. I should schedule a workout regimen so ferocious I want to die. I should hate and hate and hate this body until the only reasonable option is to change it to a better one. But fuck that.

I have pretty, thick, dark wavy hair that glints red in the sun. I have eyes that shine gold in certain light. I have pretty pale skin that flushes pink sometimes. I have really soft hands. I have strong legs and a fantastic rack and curves that won’t quit. I’m dead sexy, and I’m not going to waste another moment looking for things to dislike about myself.

I am going to buy clothes that fit well and make me feel and look beautiful, and I don’t give a shit if that means they come from Lane Bryant. I am going to walk the dog because it’s fun to explore the world with him. I’m probably going to run that race because this body is strong and can totally do it, and if it turns out I feel like doing something else that weekend, I will. I am going to continue to refuse to buy reduced-fat cheese and sour cream because the real thing is ten thousand times better. I am going to dance more because shaking my ass makes me feel awesome. I’m going to take pictures and be in pictures with my friends and family and put that shit all over Facebook, and you know what? I’ll probably have double chins and weird facial expressions and unflattering poses, and I’m not going to care anymore.

So many things about my life are so good right now. I am surrounded by people I love who love me back. It’s high time I started to love myself, too.

4 Comments January 7, 2011

dog school failure

In news of the completely unsurprising, I’m a perfectionist and an overachiever and all of those other horrible things that make oldest children trend both toward the successful and the annoying. And I have this dog. And if you’ve been following along at home, you might have noticed my belief that my dog was born with above-average intelligence, just like his mama. Kindly disregard with me the following points:

  1. I am not the dog’s actual mother.
  2. The dog, in fact, shares none of my genetic makeup.
  3. In fact, the dog is not even of the same species as I am.
  4. If nurture beat nature, then no smart, involved parents would ever have dumb kids. But it happens.
  5. And really, science should tell us that there’s no reason whatsoever that my dog should be smart just because I wish it were so.

So yes, these shall be the points we have agreed to ignore. I, for my part, was staunchly ignoring these points in early October, when I waltzed into Petsmart’s Beginner Dog Training with my blindingly intelligent brown dog, the perfect outer reflection of my perfect inner self, the one who would ace the shit out of that obedience class simply because I wanted it more than any of the other eight dog parents in the ring.

About ten minutes into the class, I had dropped my inner confidence that Bean was the most likely to succeed in favor of a desperate wish for Bean to at least not be the worst dog in class. Please, don’t let Bean be the worst dog in class.

And thank the sweet Jehovah above, Bean was not the worst dog in class that night.

He was the second-worst.

The honor of worst dog went to Chopper, a little rat terrier or something with an extremely laid-back, friendly dad who had no damn clue what to do with his incessantly barking, aggressive maniac of a dog. As Bean stole other dogs’ toys and drank other dogs’ water, I didn’t even care because at least he wasn’t as bad as Chopper.

So imagine my deep dismay when Chopper dropped out of dog school a few weeks later, leaving my sweet idiot Bean to claim the worst dog honor all by himself.

I knew loose leash walking would be a challenge for Bean. I knew that if I stopped every time he pulled the leash, we would probably finish our three laps behind the other dogs. What I did not know was that we would only make it through 1.5 laps of Bean dragging me sweaty and teary-eyed and exhausted, stopping only to hike his leg on a stack of cat litter and then to eat something random off the floor. We got back to the ring, where all the smart, obedient dogs and their owners were waiting, and Bean pranced in looking like an Olympic gold medalist. I, dragging behind him, looked like a Cathy cartoon.

I freaking hate Cathy cartoons.

So let’s call the next few weeks a trying time, to say the least, in my relationship with Bean. The next week, we walked into Petsmart for training and he promptly hiked his leg and peed all over a display of Beggin’ Treats. Somewhere in that time frame, I took him to the dog park alone. He obsessively chased and humped a little dog named Claire, whom I swear to God was asking for it, while I tried in vain to keep up with him so I could correct him every time he clumsily mounted her shoulder or the side of a picnic bench. Finally, Claire’s owner said something snippy to me and I dragged my idiot dog out of the park in tears, him whining all the while because if I could just give him one more chance he was SURE Claire would like him back this time. As he dragged me around the sidewalks of an outdoor shopping center one afternoon, some little kids claimed in giggles that he was “just like Marley” and I fought the urge to punch them right in their adorable little mouths.

And not a single Tuesday went by where I didn’t consider skipping dog school.

Bean loved every minute of dog school. He loved dragging me around the store and he loved when he and current dog crush Jack would whine adoringly at each other from across the training ring and he loved stealing toys off the shelves and rolling on his back right in the doorway of the store while I meekly asked the cashier if her scanner would stretch far enough to scan the stolen toy in his mouth. As person after person stopped to compliment his shiny coat and his sunny personality, I began to evaluate their clothes and what they were buying to see if I could send him home with them. I wouldn’t be the first person to abandon my dog in Petsmart, right? It’s full of dog lovers. Surely someone would take his dumb ass home.

The other dogs learned “leave it” and Bean barked at ceiling tiles. The other dogs trotted obediently beside their owners while Bean dragged me around and tormented the aquarium fish and small pets. The other dogs came running when called, while Bean stopped off to raid a display of stuffed reindeer. The other dogs “stayed” for minutes at a time, where Bean had no use for anything that required his attention for more than three seconds. In fact, when he realized that sitting to stay meant no treats for a while, he also decided that “sit” was an obsolete command. I dressed for embarrassment and failure, and counted the weeks until I would never have to set foot in that store again.

And then, on week 7 of 8, we had a new teacher – our third, at that point. We filled her in on what the second trainer had been teaching us and she asked us to go out into the store and practice having our dogs sit for greetings. About five minutes later, she realized Bean had no intention of sitting ever again and the poor patient shopper-volunteer was probably wondering if he’d ever get to go home that evening. Trainer #3 took me and my failure of a dog aside and worked with us for twenty solid minutes, made suggestions about a better training harness, and stayed with us after class to fit him for the new harness and walk around the store in it.

It was the first time in seven weeks that I really felt like we were being assisted and not just left alone to suffer. So I screwed up my courage and asked her what to do about my dog.

She talked about how smart and willing to learn he was, and said that she could let us graduate from the class next week, but felt it would do a disservice to both of us if she did. She said we could take the class again for free, that she would be our trainer, and that she would work with us consistently until he had the skills he needed. She might have been telling me Bean was smart just to make me feel better, but it worked, and I went home feeling more hopeful than I had in weeks.

I had decided to let my dog fail obedience school and I couldn’t have been happier about it.

Of course, I still had to come in for the graduation test in the eighth week. As we sat there reviewing concepts and preparing for the test, I looked up for maybe the first time in weeks and realized that of the nine dogs who began the class, only four of us remained. The other five had dropped out week by week while I was busy keeping my head down and plotting my dog’s demise. And of those four, only two passed the test.

Stop right there. This isn’t a movie. Bean failed the shit out of that test.

But it’s okay. We’re going to go back and try again in January, and Trainer #3 gave me some stuff to work on in the meantime, and I think maybe this time we’ll do a little better.

6 Comments December 13, 2010

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