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[about the author]

i actually like speaking in front of large crowds. freakish, eh?

i work crossword puzzles in ink.

i am the american nigella lawson. or maybe the american eddie izzard. can't decide, really.

i would be a really good mom, but i'm cool with being a really good aunt.

i am sometimes more perceptive than i would like to be.

i am fiercely loyal. sometimes, stupidly so.

i never play dumb. never.

i am way too hard on myself.

i am a change agent.

i sometimes cross that fine line between assertive and aggressive.

i am not afraid to tell people that i love them.

i am militantly pro-choice.

i am pro-adoption.

i know a little bit about alot of things.

i typically enjoy the company of men more than women.

i am capable of being really mean and nasty, but i fight it. hard.

i am a lifelong cubs fan. do not laugh.

i have been known to hold a grudge.

i have hips.

i am not my sister.

i am lousy at forgiving myself.

i am an indoor kind of gal.

i am a bargain shopper. to the point of obsession.

i am 32 flavors. and then some.

 
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[the blogger behind the curtain]

[100 things about me]



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[all content copyright 2007 by tequila mockingbird. seriously.]


 
9.29.2003  

i just had to push my luck
i wish i could give you an amusing synopsis of my most recent 8 minute dating excursion.

really, i do.

i wish i could tell you that i wore fishnet stockings which fed a neverending stream of moulin rouge references. or even hooker references.

but, alas, i cannot.

for i was not amused.

so, i will only provide you with a few brief shining highlights of the evening.

and, by highlights, i mean moments so stupifyingly painful that they stripped my foolishly romantic heart of any notion that true love might be found at an 8 minute dating event.

date #1
please note, this is actually date #1. not just the first one i'm telling you about, but actually the first date of the evening. the date that sets the tone. that gives you an idea of what might be coming. what might lie ahead.

sweet lord.

#1: so, what are you drinking?

me: a cosmopolitan. this bar used to make a really good drink called a red apple martini. i used to stop in after work and get one every once in a while after work, since my office is only a block away. but, they don't make them anymore, so it's cosmopolitans for me tonight. so...you're drinking an amstel i see.

#1: you know what's wrong with this whole "martini" thing that's so popular? it's all a big lie. those aren't martinis. they're just drinks that someone put into a martini glass. and people are stupid enough to buy it.

me: you know, you're right. technically, this is not a martini. but, i do think it's yummy, and it's boozy, so, what can i tell you?

[long pause while he just stares at me]

me: so...are you originally from the dc area?

#1: you know what's wrong with these speed dating things? women at these things...you don't know how to flirt with a man. how to let him know you're interested. i mean, come on! a guy's looking for a signal. he needs a signal as a go-ahead. to know that you're interested.

me: well, you could try giving the woman a signal, i guess maybe? like give her a signal and see if she's interested in you. give her the go-ahead, you know?

#1: yeah, right.

[now it's my turn to stare at him]

me: um. hmm. so...when you say a "signal," what sort of signal do you mean?

#1: you know! like, touching a guy.

me: you want a woman to touch you to let you know she's interested in you?

#1: yes.

me: don't you think that's a little premature? i mean, for eight minutes? i mean, i just sat down across the table from you. and, there is a table between us. so, i mean, maybe thinking that a woman who just met you is going to lean across the table and touch you after only knowing you for a few minutes...well, maybe that's a little more assertive than some women might be comfortable with.

#1: so you expect me to lean across the table and touch you, but you're not going to do the same?

me: oh no. let's be really really clear. i absolutely do not expect you to lean across the table and touch me. as a matter of fact, i'd just like to go on record as saying that i think that might be a really really bad idea.

[he stares at me again]

#1: do you eat a lot of oriental food?

[i stare at him as i am profoundly confused by this turn in the conversation and am trying to decide whether this is truly a david lynch moment or i'm really intoxicated.]

me: as a matter of fact...uh...i do. i really like asian food. all kinds, really. especially thai food.

#1: i hate asian food.

me: dare i say...perfect!

----

date #4
honestly, date #4 gets off to a rollicking start. there's banter. there are snacks. there appear to be shared interests. then, there is this:

#4: can i tell you something?

at this point, my chest gets tight. truthfully, the question "can i tell you something?" is always followed by something really really good...or really really...um...not good.

you make the call.

me: sure.

#4: normally, i wouldn't be attracted to you. you're not really my type. but, yet, somehow...for some reason...i find you fascinating.

me: oh. well. thanks. i mean....just out of idle curiousity, really...what is your type? i mean, what kind of woman would you normally be attracted to?

#4: oh, you know. i just want the same thing every guy wants. tall. statuesque. blonde. blue eyes.

me: that's it?

#4: well, that's a lot to ask for, evidently. i mean, ask any guy...that's not so easy to find.

me: no, i just thought there might be something else on your list. you know, like...oh, i don't know...smart? funny?

#4: look, any guy who's honest will tell you the same thing. that's why we prefer the three-minute dating thing to this eight-minute thing. eight minutes? too long. i know in three minutes if it's happening or not. heck, i know by the time you sit down at the table.

me: i see. so, let me make sure i understand. i am the antithesis of everything that every man finds attractive. and, yet, somehow, some way, you've managed to find me attractive in our...six minutes together? that's...that's something.

#4: i know. i can't explain it. i mean, it doesn't make any sense to me either.

me: well, at least you tried to explain it. and i'm really grateful. really.

#4: so, what do you think?

me: oh, let's not get into that.

#4: so, we're a match then?

and thus ends my 8 minute dating experimentation.

the good news is that the evening wasn't a total loss. i left with three phone numbers. all three of them women. they were fun, vivacious women and, at first, i was surprised that, like me, they hadn't found their true love that night.

but, hey, what can you expect? none of them were tall statuesque blue-eyed blondes either.
| [tell me about it] | [link to this entry]

9.25.2003  

hey...at least he didn't say i had a "sunken chest." man...that bit never gets old
i always say "truth is stranger than fiction." sure, someone else said it first. but that was a really long time ago, and they're probably dead by now. so, i claim it as my own.

shortly after the last 8 minute dating thing, i received an email from an online friend who passed along one of those "no way" kind of things that remind me that the world is a very very very small place.

i thought i'd share it with you to get you kids all excited about tonight's pending disaster.

screen names have been changed to protect the cool.

SuperCool: is the girl julia you mentioned who went on the dating thing tequilamockingbird?

WayCool: whoa, yes

SuperCool: you're not going to believe this, but one of the guys that i met on my dating thing had just met her

SuperCool: on her dating thing

WayCool: haha

SuperCool: i had read her post

WayCool: what did he say?

SuperCool: i think he was the pirates of the carribean guy

SuperCool: definitely not the cool guy

WayCool: that's really funny

SuperCool: yeah well i had just asked him if he had ever done the speed dating thing before

SuperCool: and he said that he did just a few days before ours

SuperCool: and i asked him how it compared

SuperCool: he said 8 minutes was too much

SuperCool: yeah i don't remember any of them, really

WayCool: so what makes you think you met the pirate guy?

SuperCool: oh we talked about the people that he met, and i asked him if he met someone with an unusual shirt, and he said he met someone who was wearing a pirate shirt

WayCool: hahahahhahaha



oh, yeah...i'm so ready for this thing tonight.
| [tell me about it] | [link to this entry]

9.24.2003  

blog on the run
sorry to be an absentee bloglord...it was a crazy day at work yesterday, and then again today.

so, just so you don't get the idea that i've completely abandoned you in favor of my grindstone job, here are a few thoughts that have bounced through my head today:

- my kicky new jean jacket will rock your face off.

- i've taken to wearing my glasses. with my new hair, i definitely have a total ashleigh banfield vibe going on. seriously.

- i'm torn as to which kid from the oc i would rather make out with -- ryan or seth. and i don't even feel ashamed about telling you that. heck, if i was honest, i'd probably even make out with seth's dad at this point.

- did i mention i'm going to another 8 minute dating thing tomorrow night? yep, i sure am. and this time, i'm thinking of wearing an eye patch and saying things like "avast ye matey" all evening.

okay...more tomorrow. even if it means i have to quit my job to post something. and after the week i've already had here, that actually sounds like a fabulous idea.
| [tell me about it] | [link to this entry]

9.22.2003  

things i learned during my hurricane mini-vacation
even with 5-d viper super doppler radar, weather forecasting type people have no idea what they’re talking about. i was promised a category five storm, people. i was promised nature’s fury. i was told to…wait a minute…5-d?! oh, just forget it. there’s no way to have an intelligent discussion with people who believe they have 5-d radar.

you’re not fooling anyone when you say that you "have" to drink all the booze in your house because it will go skunky if the power is out for days.

if you’d like to take photos of the amazing blue and green lightning, you should try and do that before the drinking part of the evening.

perhaps it’s time to reprioritize when you hear yourself saying, “but what’s the point of having electricity if the cable is out?” and also: maybe stop with the drinking, too.

if you have power at your house, it’s best to just stay at home and eat whatever you have on hand. even if it’s split pea soup. or a can of black beans. whatever canned food you pushed to the back of the pantry, just waiting for the holiday canned food drives…just eat it. because everyone in the county is over at chipotle. seriously. every. one.

it’s good to spend your time off doing educational things. like going to see that movie underworld. i now have all of the information i need to make an informed decision if faced with the question of whether i would prefer to be a werewolf or a vampire. for the record, i’d go with vampire. for the following reasons:

- vampires get to wear cool sexy goth clothes and lots of eye makeup and live in a creepy goth mansion where they stand around looking all goth and sexy, smoking cigarettes with those really cool long black cigarette holder things and holding expensive-looking goblets filled with blood. werewolves, on the other hand, have to live in damp dark tunnels under the ground, which, from the looks of things, are completely lacking any shower facilities. they also have to wear icky clothes that look sort of shabby…and have faux fur trim.

- vampires get to drive cool exotic sports cars. werewolves seem to rely primarily on mass transit and vans.

- vampires have parties that are clearly going to turn into some sort of orgy for well-dressed goth people at any second. werewolves stand around in a circle and watch two werewolf guys fight each other.

- there are no hot werewolf chicks. point of fact, there appear to be no werewolf chicks at all. none. this is a problem.

- every time you try and turn into a werewolf some bad generic speed metal music starts to play really loudly. it’s not even bad moon rising. or werewolves of london. just bad faux rammstein. i think this is a real drag, that you don’t get to pick your own werewolf music. plus it totally blows your whole incognito werewolf thing. i mean, how you can you sneak up on someone as a werewolf if they already heard your bad faux rammstein music a mile away?

anyway, i hope you all survived safe and sound.
| [tell me about it] | [link to this entry]

9.16.2003  

twenty-seven
so, i was talking to a friend who was giving me advice that i gave to someone else earlier this week.

just write something unexpected. forget about what everyone expects, and just right something out of left field.

so...yeah.



did i ever tell you i really dig fondue?

yep.

i dig fondue.

so...yeah. fondue.

chocolate fondue
3 bars [about 3 - 3.5 oz each] of really good milk chocolate...i prefer lindt. you should too. especially lindt excellence extra creamy, if you can get it, although the regular milk chocolate will sufficiently rock.

1/2 cup light or heavy cream...i prefer heavy. you should too. 'cause if you're gonna go, why go halfway? or, rather half-and-half way? sorry. couldn't resisit.

2 T of appropriate booze...i prefer godiva liquer. you should too. unless you decide to use amaretto instead. or cointreau. in which case, okayfine. heck, you could even use kirsch if you wanna get all euro on me.

- break up the chcolate and try not to eat too much of it right off the bat.
- combine all the ingredients in a saucepan or small chafing dish.
- stir over low heat until the chocolate is melted and smooth.
- serve in a fondue pot or, if you're in a tight spot, a chafing dish over low heat. but, really, a fondue pot has a certain...vibe to it that you're just not gonna get with the chafing dish. seriously.

can't figure out what to do with your fondue?

get yourself some chunks of a big 'ol sarah lee poundcake. and some bananas. and some strawberries. and some marshmallows. and some graham crackers so you can have fake s'mores with the marshmallows. again, if you want to do the whole euro thing, you might try some profiteroles. you might even try some pretzels.

so, there you go.

how's that for unexpected?
| [tell me about it] | [link to this entry]

9.15.2003  

don't know what you got 'til it's gone
there's nothing like being sick -- i mean cough-up-a-lung-there's-an-alien-baby-getting-ready-to-shoot-out-of-my-forehead sick -- to remind you of all the good parts of having a boyfriend.

when you're there on your couch, too weak to turn the channel even when starting over is making blood come out of your eyes; when you're berating yourself for not paying closer attention to what it feels like to not be sick; when you're wishing your mutual fund had stock in kleenex or tylenol...this is when you are most likely to cry because you don't have a boyfriend.

because nobody is there to rub your head.

or make you hot tea with honey.

or even call you honey.

no one is there to tease you about how pathetic you are when you're sick.

or ask you why in the hell you watched those five minutes of starting over that made your eyes bleed.

someone to tuck the blanket in around your feet and put his hand on your forehead to see if you still have a fever.

don't get me wrong. there are a lot of things i've come to appreciate about being on my own again.

like watching mary tyler moore reruns while sitting on my couch in my underwear and my teen girl squad camisole, eating kraft cheese & macaroni right out of the pan and drinking diet cherry coke out of the two-liter bottle.

like not making my bed today if i don't feel like it.

like programming my stereo to play stayin' alive 15 times in a row while i make whatever i want for dinner.

like hanging that matisse print in the dining room and that other matisse print in the living room and that hopper print over the bed. because i like 'em.

but, there are just as many times -- maybe even more -- that it's a lonely kind of feeling.

when you wish there was someone there in the morning to kiss good-bye. someone who would pat you on the ass, and tell you that you smell good.

someone to miss you all day long.
| [tell me about it] | [link to this entry]

9.12.2003  

that shark has jumped
about two weeks ago, all the cool blogger kids were playing this “ask me five questions” game. and, uh, through complete fault of my own, i missed out on that.

the lovely and amazing sassy little punkin did indeed send me the requisite five questions.

and, uh…i…uh…didn’t answer them.

until now!

so, i think i’m supposed to include the rules here. even though i don’t think anyone is still playing the game now. because i suck.

so, yeah.

the rules:

um…right.

i think you’re supposed to leave a note in the comments if you want me to ask you five questions.

then i'll send you five questions. and it won't take me two weeks to do it. i swear.

and then you post the answers on your site. and, again, just do as i say, not as i do and try and get them up before the holiday season is upon us.

and include links.

and stuff.

oh, hell, i don’t remember the rules, honestly.

so, anyway, now, the questions asked of me by the lovely and amazing sassy little punkin:

1. aside from basic operational knowledge, how would you rate your understanding of how technical things work? could you (though i'm not requiring you do!) with confidence explain how a camera, a vcr, the internet, for example, work?

yes.

wait, that was non-responsive. well, let’s see…i can program my vcr to record in complex way [e.g., two consecutive shows on different channels, the same show every wednesday], but i have no idea how the image gets put on the videotape. i know what iso is and how and when and why to adjust it…but i don’t know how the camera captures the image and makes a picture. the only thing in the list that i really do know inside-out is the internet. i know how it works. but they made me learn that for my job. so, you know…that might not really count.

did i answer the question?

i guess i’d say i’m about a 5 on a scale of 1 to 10.

2. how do you feel about convicted criminals receiving degrees while incarcerated? what about marriage or profiting from books or films about their lives while they are in prison?

i’m a pretty liberal gal in most regards. but, i have to admit that i do have a problem with prisoners profiting from books or films. presumably, those books and/or films would include the acts for which they’re incarcerated, and i don’t really see how you can look at imprisonment as punishment if you’re profiting from it. plus, i find it offensive to the families of the victims [assuming there were victims]. as for degrees? i say, more power to them. marriage? ditto. knock yourselves out there.

3. what are the elements of a great movie?
that’s tough to say. i love movies, and can find something to like about most. of course, good writing is critical. i think editing might be more important than directing. but, i sometimes think that it’s the intangibles that really make a movie…chemistry between actors, or a particularly charismatic character or actor, or a story that somehow touches something close to your heart…i think those things explain why some people love movies that others find fairly unremarkable.

man. what a cop out answer that was.

4. i’m an only child. what is it really like to have a sister?
at the risk of sounding cliché, it is a blessing and a curse. growing up, the five years between us was a gaping chasm. there was no bridging it. period. i resented my sister growing up. we had little disposable income, and splitting it between two girls was excruciating. we competed in unhealthy ways. didn’t support one another. didn’t really communicate at all, actually. unless, of course, beating counts.

now, i can’t imagine my life without her. we laugh about the days when we didn’t get along. we appreciate one another now. love each other unconditionally. see the value in each other, despite the undeniable truth that we are very very different. i also love the fact that my sister has given me the gift of being an aunt and a godmother to my niece. she is an amazing child, and i am so in love with her that it makes me giddy.

my sister’s very existence is a source of enormous strength to me. her love for me and her best wishes for me make me smile. knowing that we will lean on each other through the hard times to come is comforting. knowing that, even if i never marry or become a mother, i will still have a family around me when my parents are gone is reassuring. she is my rock. and i think i am hers too.

5. ben and jerry's have created a flavor in your honor! so, tell me, what are the ingredients of my pint of tequila mockingbird ice cream?
hmmm. well, it’s definitely nutty. and then there’s probably a layer of dark chocolate – which is a little bitter and sharp. but underneath that layer is the part that is really surprisingly sweet. not everybody gets to that layer. some people get put off by the nuttiness and the bite. i don't know...i guess i’m just sayin’ that it’s definitely not plain vanilla over here.

lightning round bonus question:
what is your favorite katharine hepburn movie?
easiest one in the list…the philadelphia story. hands down.

so, there you go. feel free to ask me to ask you.

even if none of the cool kids are doing it now.

i mean, i'm still wearing leg warmers over here. clearly, i care not what the cool kids are doing.
| [tell me about it] | [link to this entry]

9.11.2003  

where i was when
there are a million stories. a million answers to the question "where were you when?"

my story begins on a clear blue september day, not unlike today. not so unlike september 11th, 2001.

i gazed out the window, watching the early fall breeze rippling through the leaves, wishing i could bail on my politics of war class when my professor walked through the door. i watched as she went to the blackboard and wrote a discussion topic on the board in cursive hand:

describe the next world war

most of my classmates offered thoughtful and well-reasoned scenarios, the majority of which involved the middle east.

i raised my hand reluctantly. my answer was a little different.

i said that i believed the next world war would take place here, in the united states. that the next war would be fought in our streets and in our skies. that, eventually, the united states would fall prey to the same type of terrorist acts that were already far too commonplace in other countries – hijackings, suicide bombings. that one day, citizens of this country would feel the same fear in our everyday lives that citizens around the world had felt for years. that we wouldn’t be safe anywhere anymore. that our nation had, somehow, been lucky enough to avoid such incidents thus far, but that i did not see how it was possible for that to continue long term.

the room was silent.

----

when i received the email from my boyfriend, my chest tightened. a plane had hit the world trade center.

a plane.

i knew, somehow, immediately. without seeing the images. without any details. i knew. in some way, i guess i had been waiting for it for a very long time.

as i tried to log on to cnn to get more information, i had a very bad feeling. their site was jammed.

by the time i was able to access their site, the second plane had hit.

soon after, my co-worker’s phone rang. it was his wife.

“the pentagon exploded. there’s smoke and fire. we heard it. i’m scared. what should i do?”

----

“julia, you ride the metro, don’t you?”

“yes.”

“it’s shut down. i’m leaving. i’m getting out of downtown. i know you live in maryland, and i’m heading toward virginia, but if you want a ride out of the city, come with me. right now.”

walking out onto the sidewalk that morning, the sunlight was blinding. the sky was beautiful – piercingly blue with perfect, white fluffy clouds.

there were people everywhere. streaming out of buildings. huddled together talking. on cell phones. everyone frantically scanning the sky.

as i stood there taking in the scene, i realized that we were not going to get out of the city. not right away, anyway. that we could be trapped in the downtown traffic for a very long time. and i couldn’t help but wonder if it would turn out to be too long.

as we made our way into the traffic and out of the city, i noticed how quiet it was.

despite the cars, despite the crowds of people, it was so quiet.

no one honked a horn.

no one blocked an intersection.

ordered chaos.

----

an old woman stopped and sat down on a bench, holding her face in her hands. as she sat there, two young men, both pierced and tattooed, stopped and kneeled to talk to her. one of them gave her a bottle of water from his messenger bag. the other took a seat on the bench beside her and put his arm around her shoulder.

people passed their cell phones to strangers who didn’t have one…although none of us was able to get through to anyone.

the silent exodus of women in suits, carrying their prada heels and men with their ties untied came to a simultaneous halt as the sound of an airplane overhead was heard.

like children playing the game of gossip, information made from car to car through open windows...

”i hear there’s a plane making its way up the potomac.”

“the second tower is down!”

“there’s a fire or a bomb at the state department.”

----

as i entered the red line metro station, i suddenly realized i was the only person there.

i boarded the train. alone.
at the next stop, another passenger boarded, but only one.

he came and sat across the aisle from me.

“are you scared?” he said.

“i am.”

----

it wasn’t until hours after the first plane had hit the world trade center, that i saw my first images of september 11th.

the fire.

the jumpers.

the smoke.

the horror.

last night, as the images were played again, i felt the same things i did on that bright clear blue day.

the shock.

the fear.

the grief.

i would give anything to have been wrong on that bright blue september afternoon all those years ago.



[ed. note: i encourage you to read tom junod's piece in the september issue of esquire magazine. the story is titled “the falling man” and it is about the five-hundred pound gorilla of 9/11 – those individuals who jumped to their death from the world trade center. his article is, in my opinion, an important piece, addressing a topic that was swept under the rug with, probably, the best of intentions. it is also beautifully written and heartwrenching.]
| [tell me about it] | [link to this entry]

9.08.2003  

you'd think i could come up with something better than this
but you'd be wrong.

see, tomorrow is my one year anniversary. or blogiversary. or whatever you want to call it.

and i'm sure i'm supposed to have some fabulous recap/year at a glance type post. or some really eloquent and heartfelt note of thanks for all of the wonderful support you guys have given me over the past year. and some finely crafted words about how much i appreciate anyone and everyone who has stopped by here to read even one single solitary word over the past year. and how it's all really overwhelming and flattering and very very cool.

and i wish i had it in me right now to write those things.

but, i'm going to be honest.

i have the word head cold ever. ever in the history of head colds. this is the worst one. ever.

you know that part in minority report where tom cruise pulls the plug on that tank filled with disgusting milky looking slimy white stuff and he and samantha norton go shooting out the bottom along with all the slimy milky white stuff? well, that's how i feel right now. like someone pulled some sort of plug on my head and tom cruise and samantha norton are going to come shooting out my nose at any moment.

and then tom cruise will take me to the mall and buy me some truly horrific striped gauchos at the gap.

and the reason none of this makes any sense is because i have the following ill-advised cocktail coursing through my veins:

- one dose of tylenol sore throat medicine
- one dose of tylenol sinus medicine
- one dose of tylenol cold & flu medicine
- two excedrine migraine tablets
- most of a chloraseptic lozenge

but, you know, i had a rice krispy treat for lunch, so it's not like i took all that stuff on an empty stomach.

so, celebrate without me, kids. i'm heading home to curl up in every blanket i can find and self-medicate myself into a coma. the next time you see me, i'll be one year and one day into this whole blog thing.

and, for the record:

every day i continue to be humbled and flattered and amazed and overwhelmed by the kindness and encouragement i receive from you through your comments and your emails. when i started this thing, it was primarily as a way to keep in touch with a friend without us clogging our respective email boxes.

somewhere along the way it took on a life of its own.

it rekindled in me a love i had forgotten over the years -- a love i had hidden away and buried because i was afraid of not being good enough. because it wasn't safe. because it wasn't easy. because so many want to, but so few get to. because it threatened to become a distraction from my "real" job and my "real" life: my love of writing.

this page, this experiment, this...whatever this is, reminded me of the pure joy i feel from the act of creating -- even something mediocre. from the stringing together of words. from the telling of stories and having those stories heard.

for all of this, and for more than i can ever really adequately explain in my drug-induced stupor, i am grateful to all of you.

and, of course, to al gore for inventing the internet, without which none of this would be possible.

so, if you're a relatively new reader here, or even if you've been with me all along these past 12 months, i invite you to take a few minutes today and read one of the posts from the "remember this one" section over there on the left. it's not shakespeare. it's not even steele. but, it's what i've been doing here for the past 12 months.

and i hope you've enjoyed reading it as much as i've enjoyed writing it.

thanks....
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9.04.2003  

all the way up to the moon...and back
she didn’t have the easiest of lives.

her mother died giving birth to her younger sister. her father in a coal mining accident. her stepmother, true to the cinderella stories, sent her and her sister away to live in the state-run orphanage, telling family they had fallen ill and died.

the orphanage was a working dairy. up before the sun, working all day. it was three years before they were found and rescued by their mother’s sister who had never believed the stories.

she married young.

she was a hard woman. a mother of four. a mother who worked outside the home when most didn’t.

she wore stiletto heels with pointed toes. blood red lipstick.

she chain-smoked lucky strikes.

she never learned to swim.

she always paid cash.

she sent halloween cards.

she made the best beef stew in the world. the best applesauce, too. pie crust to die for. fudge that made you weep with joy.

with the birth of each of her ten grandchildren, she knitted a tiny, perfect little sweater. ice cream colors. with tiny perfect buttons with little animals on them.

she loved the cubs. strong black coffee. musicals. gregory peck. cyd charisse. anagrams. big band music. rhubarb. chinese checkers.

she taught me how to cook. to do my own taxes. to walk in high heels. to play poker. to stand up for myself. to believe in myself. to clean my windows with vinegar and newspaper. to ice skate. to love a good debate. to get involved in politics. to do the lindy. to do a cartwheel. to parallel park.

in the end, the cancer spread to her brain. which meant her moments of lucidity were few. i sat by her bed for hours, listening to her talk to me about anything. about nothing.

“i think we’re going to miss that train.”

“i cannot remember where i put that damn magnifying glass.”

“could you hand me the green beans?”

as a substitute for conversation, it had become our ritual – my ritual, i guess – to read to her. one of my favorites was a children’s book -- guess how much i love you by sam mcbratney. it’s the story of a little rabbit and his father and their love for one another. the little rabbit searches for a way to tell his father how much he loves him –as wide as his arms can stretch, or as high as he can hop. but, each time, his father is able to outdo him, stretching his arms wider, hopping higher. the little rabbit finally tells his father that he loves him “all the way up to the moon,” and falls asleep as his father whispers in his ear, “i love you all the way up to the moon…and back.”

the last time i saw my grandmother, it was hard to leave. somehow i knew it would be the last time i ever saw her. sometimes you just know.

as i leaned down to give her a kiss, i whispered in her ear, “gran…i love you.”

she smiled and took my hand in hers. she looked up at me with her green eyes and i knew she knew, too.

“all the way up to the moon?” she asked.

“and back,” i said, wrapping my arms around her.

she died that night.

that was two years ago. there isn’t a day that goes by that i don’t think of her. i don’t think there ever will be.

tomorrow morning, i leave for the shore. there, i will meet my mother, my sister, and my aunt. to do what we have done before. to say good bye.

hopefully, no dust buster will be needed.
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9.02.2003  

the last to know
everyone knows.

everyone has noticed.

the way they don’t look each other in the eye most of the time. the way that, when they eventually do, they seem to forget everyone else is around.

the way they lean in close to talk to each other. about everything.

the way his hand sometimes comes to rest on the small of her back.

the way it lingers there for just a few seconds longer than it should.

the way she looks at him when she thinks no one sees. including him.

the way she looks away when he catches her.

the way she says something under her breath and no one hears her. but him.

the way she closes her eyes when he hugs her good-bye so she can breathe in the way he smells.

the way he notices.

her toenail polish.

her perfume.

her faraway look when she’s wishing everyone else would just leave. leave them alone. alone together.

he says they’re just friends.

he says he doesn’t know.

doesn’t know the way she feels.

doesn’t know the way he feels.

doesn’t know what we’re talking about.

doesn’t know what he wants.

everyone knows.

but him.
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