Archive | September, 2011

Photo Friday: 38 Luftballons

I had been planning Dave’s 40th birthday celebration since January. I wanted him to have 40 gifts to open in honor of his 40th birthday.

I got the idea to decorate with balloons from Kim at Let Me Start By Saying. But even though I’m filled with plenty of hot air, I have trouble blowing up balloons. I also have a fear of balloons popping. So I went to the grocery store on the way home from work on Dave’s birthday and asked them for 40 helium balloons, all nonchalant-like.

Their response? “Are you sure?”

Thirty minutes later, I was finally leaving the store and I had trouble fitting through the doors. I had to walk about a half mile with the balloons and I learned some things about balloon transport:

1.) Tree branches pop helium balloons.

2.) There are more trees in my neighborhood than I remembered.

3.) If you decide to carry 40 helium balloons around, people will notice.

4.) When balloons pop, it will scare the crap out of EVERYONE nearby, not just you. Totally sounded like gunfire both times.

We had to pretend Dave turned 38, because two balloons popped on the way home. I had to walk in the street the last few blocks to keep them away from the trees.

Better shot of the balloons

Here’s Dave getting a kick out of me “wrapping” a picture of something he had already bought himself months ago. I agreed to “let him” splurge on some guitar-related things and there was no way that stuff wasn’t counting. I took pictures of each item and inserted each into a card for him to open.

Amused by my gifting things he already bought

Here’s the cute custom card I got him, depicting him with Chuck.

Custom card

What’s the most elaborate thing you’ve done to celebrate a loved one’s birthday?

My Favorite Person Turns 40

Forty years ago today, my late mother-in-law gave birth to my favorite of her five boys. Thank God they didn’t stop at four.

Nineteen years ago, I met and fell in love with Dave.

Five years ago, I attended a week-long seminar for work, led by one of the most respected experts in my field. I sat next to said expert at dinner one night. At one point, as casually as “what looks good to you on the menu,” the respected expert turned to me and asked,

“So what made you fall in love with your husband?”

If you don’t have a stock answer to this question, I suggest coming up with one just in case. I think Dave was as close to love at first sight as it gets, but I didn’t have a list of reasons why I fell in love with him. I just did. The question still hung in the air and my brain was stubbornly blank except for one thing, a thing that forced me to stifle a giggle.

I can’t even remember what I ended up saying, but I’m sure it was nonsense and disappointing. Part of me wishes I had just blurted out “because he’s good in bed,” even though that would have been 900 kinds of inappropriate in this context.

There was never any doubt I loved Dave. I chose Dave the first time I met him. I keep my feelings closely guarded for a little while to protect myself in case he didn’t feel the same. Luckily for me, he did feel the same and had no problem telling me so. I’m so grateful he chose me too.

I was attracted to Dave from the moment I saw him. The first time I remember seeing him, he was standing close by at a party in his suite so that others, including me, could sit and be comfortable. At 6’4″, I had to look a long way up to see him and the view was impressive. He made me feel all fluttery with excitement.

I could say he’s handsome or adorable or hot and all of those things are true. But I think the most accurate way to describe him is beautiful. His eyes are flecked with gold and looking into them calms me. He is this giant of a man who couldn’t be more gentle. I bought him a tee-shirt a few years ago that says “I’m a giver.” And it’s true. He thinks of others before himself.

When I met him, he often wore a hat that simply said “Happy.” I started calling him Happy and the name fit. Dave was an easy-going, generally happy guy. He was the perfect foil for me, since if I were wound up any tighter I might break a spring.

He makes wherever I am feel like home. Early in our relationship he told me he shows love for people through food. But he didn’t have to tell me that since it was a Saturday morning and he had come over to my room with croissants and hot chocolate. We snuggled in my bed and watched cartoons. Just typing that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside even though it’s been almost 20 years since that day.

I like to tease Dave about how he doesn’t do grand gestures, but being Queen of the grand gesture (like borrowing this idea to get Dave 40 gifts for his 40th birthday) I realize how much easier it is to do the occasional grand gesture than what Dave does for me day in and day out. He is the King of everyday thoughtful gestures. He does all of the cooking and he is excellent at it. He carries heavy things, reaches things that are too high, and drops me off when it’s really cold or raining.

He believes in me and supports me in everything I do. He gets up ungodly early to go to my races and be there for me at the finish line. When I ran my first race a couple of years ago, it was chilly and drizzled the whole time. He drove me there, stayed the whole time, waited for me at the finish line, and had homemade hot chocolate in a thermos waiting for me when I was done.

Dave also knows everything, which comes in handy. He read his family’s encyclopedia set growing up because he felt like it. His Dad and four brothers get into debates at the dinner table when they get together and they are all very stubborn, except for Dave actually. But they often defer to Dave’s knowledge, which makes me proud. He’s sort of become my encyclopedia and it’s actually disconcerting when he says “I don’t know” in response to something I’ve asked him.

But he’s modest. He generally only talks if he feels he has something important to say. That he talked to me rather freely from the very beginning was an early sign that he liked me too. My mother-in-law once told me Dave didn’t say a word until he was four and when he spoke, his first words were a complete sentence. I always thought that was so adorable and so Dave.

Dave is the only person who has ever made me feel as comfortable to spend time with as I am by myself. And yes, he’s good in bed. Maybe I should have just said that.

Here is a video I made to honor the first 40 years of Dave. I’m in love with the picture of him at 1:05. If I’d known him then, I totally would have hit that. I had all of Dave’s family photos digitized and it was hard to cull them. So a longer video, for the truly Dave-obsessed (i.e., me) can be found here.

Happy Birthday, Dave! I love you.

Photo Friday: Panera Chai Tea Latte FAIL

I realize it’s technically Saturday, but I got home late and since I haven’t gone to bed yet, I’m counting it as Friday night. The universe toyed with me today by making Friday feel like Monday. Fridays aren’t supposed to be overcast and rainy. There aren’t supposed to be Friday morning meetings that require a lot of preparation and getting up extra early to finish in time.

My planned reward for these Friday injustices was a chai tea latte from Panera. I’d say I love chai, but I don’t want to mislead you. I’m nothing if not accurate. I love the chai tea latte from Panera. I have tried chai from other places and they don’t do it for me. The chai at Starbucks, for example, tastes like dirty water with a slight hint of spice and a drop of liquid smoke. The chai at the overpriced little café in my building is cloyingly sweet and grainy. Panera’s chai, on the other hand, is creamy and delicately balanced between spicy and sweet. The fragrance is floral and intoxicating to me.

Like I’ve done hundreds of times before, I picked up a chai on the way to work, carefully carrying it on my long commute like a treasured prize, switching hands when the heat got too uncomfortable, guarding it against spills. As I finished my preparations, I looked forward to reheating and then nursing that chai during the meeting.

Panera had other ideas. Here is a picture of the abomination they gave me this morning. In retrospect, the girl who made my chai this morning was someone I’d never seen before and I didn’t watch her pour it into the cup today. The weight of it didn’t feel right as I carried it either. O Precious Chai, my meeting felt extra long without you.

Panera FAIL

Sweetness and Light

A narrow staircase led to the loft floating hidden above the rest of the room. Sparsely furnished with only a mattress and air, it still held the two of us comfortably.

Laced together, we drifted in and out of sleep with the clicking of the tape player reversing sides. Swirling guitars and ethereal vocals drifted up from below.

“You are the sweetness in my eyes…”

Right outside the open windows was a slice of brilliant blue sky, dotted with cottony clouds. Partially covered by a light sheet, a breeze scented with promise glided over our bare skin, adding its cool caress to our embrace.

I stirred and tightened my arms around his strong, yet yielding body. I could not quite fully envelop him as he could me. Burrowing deeper into him, his warmth radiated over me as I lightly slid my hands over his smooth skin. Resting my head on his chest, his rhythmic heartbeat calmed my own.

I breathed in his dewy scent. I felt the rise and fall of his breathing under me. As the gentle movement lulled me back to sleep, I saw spring green warmed by slanted beams of late afternoon sunlight.

“You are the juice I need for life
You are the sweetness in my eyes…”


This week’s RemembeRED memoir prompt: “We’re going to let narrative take a backseat. Choose a moment from your personal history and mine it for sensory detail. Describe it to us in rich, evocative details. Let us breath the air, hear the heartbeat, the songs, feel the fabric and the touch of that moment.”

Rich description is not one of my strengths, in writing or other communication so I decided to challenge myself by participating in this prompt. The title and the quoted song lyrics are from the following Lush song.

Photo Friday: Peace, Love, and Red Pandas

Have I mentioned I love red pandas? Oh yes, yes I did! It makes me die a little inside to know they are vulnerable.

But September 17th is International Red Panda Day and I want to help spread the word. In honor of the occasion, I have posted my favorite pictures of actual red pandas below. But first, here is my own personal red panda. In my other hand is the awesome “Peace, Love, Red Panda” bracelet I got from the Red Panda Network. I became a member yesterday and I only wish I could do more to help.

Look at that fluffy face (the stuffed red panda, not me!)! He’s saying, “go check out the Red Panda Network.” You can also like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter @RedPandaNetwork.

Peace, Love, Red Panda




I stake out the far corner of the dressing room, but there is nowhere to hide since I’m sharing the room with two friends. Crouching over to shield myself from view, I feel naked before I even undress. I wish I hadn’t grabbed an outfit to try.

My friends chatter away and their preoccupation allows me to change. I assess the skirt and blouse in silence. Under no illusion about how I look with these 15 extra pounds, the mirror tells me the truth. The outfit does not perform any miracles. But it fits. It is comfortable. I would actually wear it. It’s passable.

As I start to change back into my own clothes, one friend asks for feedback on her outfit. When I turn my attention to them, I realize she is trying on the same blouse as me.

My other friend answers before I can. Looking at both of us, she tells my friend, “It looks good on you,” before turning back to me to say, “but Tracy, it makes you look pregnant.”

I involuntarily bristle and can feel my face contort into a grimace of pain. Stung, my instinct is to flee, but where would I go? My feet are stuck to the floor anyway. All I can do is stare at her. I’m speechless. What seems like a flicker of regret passes over her face, so I wait for an apology.

Instead, she lets out a little laugh and adds, “Maybe it’s the skirt, the blouse might look better with something else?”

An uncomfortable silence falls over the dressing room. They both look at me expectantly. It’s my turn to say something.

I turn back to the mirror and study my appearance again. Still the same. I look the same in this outfit as I do in most others. Half-formed tears tickling my eyes and throat, I gesture to myself and manage a weak, “this is what I look like.” I try and fail to keep the hurt out of my voice.

She stares back at me blankly and says nothing. The room is now stifling, the air stale and warm. I desperately want out. When our other friend says she needs a different size for something, I grab the item from her hand and am out the door before she finishes saying, “are you sure?”

When I step into the cool air of the store, I can breathe again. I shake my arms as if the hurt and anger were rain drops I could fling off of me. Tears blur my vision as I look for my friend’s item. A beam of sunlight shines through the store’s doors. A fantasy of walking out, of being done, overtakes me.

My car isn’t here. My purse is still in the dressing room. I am not wearing my own clothes.

I squeeze my eyes shut to stop the flow of tears. I find my friend’s item and start walking back to the dressing room. I take a deep breath. I have a long day ahead of me. I stay, but I’m no longer really there. 


I’m linking this to Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop, in response to the prompt: “Write about a time you wanted to disappear.”

Mama’s Losin’ It

A (very) few of you might find this post familiar. I had originally written about this for a prompt to write about a fight, but the original post never felt right because a.) there was no fight and writing about what I could but didn’t say in anger didn’t make me feel any better and b.) the person I’m most angry with is myself. When I saw the Mama Kat prompt, I finally understood what was wrong with the original. To pretend I have a sense of humor about this:

If My Mom Ate An Apple In The Forest, I Would Hear It

Mom called me at work on Friday all excited about something she’d seen on Regis and Kelly.

“I know what’s wrong with you,” she said.

You see, I’m extremely sensitive to noises, like those made by people eating (and breathing if we’re being honest here). We’ve spent years thinking I was just an intolerant bitch, but as it turns out, I have a disorder (Misophonia)!

And Kelly Ripa has it too! Maybe we could get together and bond over our common affliction. We could throw a big party, use her fabulous Electrolux kitchen appliances to cook up a feast, then be forced to leave in a huff when the guests insisted on actually eating the food. Damn people and their infernal chewing!

For those of you who don’t suffer from Misophonia, let me describe it for you. I already made reference to it in this post. But I wrote that before my diagnosis.

My Dad was always the worst offender. The sound he made while chewing, which I always referred to snottily as “chomping,” was absolutely unbearable to me. Once I made such a fuss about it at Elby’s Big Boy, he stormed out of the restaurant and walked home. If he thought my Mom and I would stop eating our meal to go after him, he didn’t know us very well. I was a little afraid of what he might do when we got home, but mostly I was relieved to eat in peace.

According to my Mom, Kelly Ripa has to leave the room when her husband eats a peach. Honey, join the club. When my Mom eats apples, I could cheerfully kill her. She likes to cut them in quarters and savor each piece to maximize my torture, because she’s sweet like that. The sound of the crunching and the smacking rattles a nerve inside my brain. If I can’t leave the room, I fixate completely on the noise and pray for it to stop.

Sometimes she calls me while sucking on hard candy. I think she does this just to irritate me. She’ll be talking and all I can focus on is the sound of the sucking. When it’s my turn to speak, instead of responding to what she said, my response is usually, “What the hell are you eating?” And she’ll say, “fuck you.” The love runs deep.

Even my beloved husband is not immune to my Misophonic venom. He is the youngest of five boys and learned early that you eat quickly or you might not get enough food. I cannot reason this imprint out of him. I say, “there are only two of us and you’ve made enough food for six people!” But he is an eating machine. He often puts a new bite in his mouth before finishing his previous one. This creates a sound I can only compare to what I imagine it would sound like to swallow a live rat. Sometimes I have to wait to eat until he’s done so I can enjoy my dinner.

Once I knew I had a disorder, I looked it up on the internet. I knew I’d found my peeps when I read Lucy’s comment “It makes me sooooooo angry like I could shoot people in the face!” and laughed out loud. OMG, like me too! I was glad and somewhat disturbed to find so many others with this affliction. I was also glad Lucy mentioned she’s receiving therapy. Not surprisingly, not everyone found Lucy’s comment amusing. “Rugbyman,” who has a stepson with this affliction, apparently doesn’t think getting shot in the face is funny at all. Oh, dude! Don’t be so prickly, when we say we want to shoot you in the face, we are just kidding…sort of.

Photo Friday: Vaseline Glass

When we were in Ohio in June, the menfolk in Dave’s family spent a day golfing at their annual tournament (the winner receives a trophy depicting a golfer and a toilet and is expected to display it proudly). During the golf tournament, I tagged along with the ladies for a trip to the Tiffin Glass Museum.

The Museum displays vintage pieces in one room and items for sale in a small adjacent room. Luckily for my wallet, the pieces I liked most were all in the “not for sale” part of the Museum. Tiffin Glass was one of the producers of color-changing “Neodymium glass,” which they unfortunately called “twilight,” even though it has nothing to do with 100-year old vampires living as teenagers. Twilight glass changes color under different light. The museum docent demonstrated that twilight glass looks lavender under incandescent light and ice blue under fluorescent light. He told us people used to buy it thinking it was blue because most stores use fluorescent light and then be upset when they got their piece home and found it to be lavender. 

But there was another, even cooler, dual-colored glass there. Vaseline glass looks yellow normally, but turns neon green under black light because it contains uranium. Although my sister-in-law was disappointed to find out that the vaseline glass salt cellars she wanted to buy weren’t actually made by Tiffin Glass, she decided to get two anyway.

In the car on the way home she read the tag on the glass and said that the manufacturer (Mosser Glass) was located in Cambridge, Ohio.

“That’s where Chuck came from!” I exclaimed.

“Well, then you should definitely have one of these,” my sister-in-law generously offered.

So that was really nice of her. I really should have just bought a piece of this glass myself, since I was so impressed with it. I was just stymied by the black light part. But I got a cheap little handheld black light and here are the photographic results!

Just my Canon Speedlite flash:
Vaseline Glass

Under black light:

Vaseline Glass Black Light

Along For The Ride

Do I miss my childhood? I miss four things about being a kid: my Gram, the close relationship I had with my older brother, summers being something special, and the excitement of Christmas. And maybe MTV playing music videos.

I’m not secretive about not being a kid person. Not a very popular opinion, I know, but at least I’m consistent. I didn’t like kids even when I was a kid. I didn’t like being a kid.

Kids have no control over most of what happens to them.

Other people made my choices. My room was painted pink. I hated pink. I wanted my hair long. My Mom insisted on keeping it short. I cried every time she had it cut.

My older brother would babysit me during the summers. Mike wanted to play tennis with his buddy one day. He wouldn’t let babysitting cramp his style. Guess who had to go with them?

I couldn’t think of anything less fun than walking two miles in the blazing sun to watch sub-amateur tennis. Mike suggested I ride my bike. Did I mention the route was uphill? Huffing and puffing within a few blocks, my little legs couldn’t keep the pedals turning. So I had to walk two miles uphill in the blazing sun while pushing my bike.

Once at the courts, guess whose job it was to retrieve every unforced error (and there were many)? We still talk about that little outing.

On the other hand, I couldn’t think of anything more fun than baking (and eating) cookies. I asked to bake all the time and Mom rarely agreed.

“Why not,” I would whine.

“Because I don’t want to make cookies,” she would say.

“But I’ll do it,” I would insist.

“No, you’re too little. I’d have to help you and I don’t feel like making cookies right now.” Mom clearly identified with Hillary Clinton on making cookies.

Even as a preteen, I still wasn’t allowed. Although, I did almost set our house on fire twice during high school, so maybe she was right to keep me away from the oven.

Kids are annoying.

Kids have no self-control. Maybe because they have no say in anything else, they figure they might as well make everyone else miserable too.

I remember refusing to go to bed one night for my Gram. I danced around, sang at the top of my lungs, jumped on the couch, and generally acted like an escaped mental patient. Gram’s look said, “I’m too old for this shit.” Although she probably thought it in Polish.

I felt exhilarated and terrified. You see, I knew I was tired. I could barely stand up. But I had wired crazy kid brain. My misbehavior felt like something I watched happen rather than something I chose to do. I felt sorry for my Gram and I actually annoyed myself. I was powerless.

I can look back on my childhood fondly now. But I don’t really miss it.

This little uplifting piece was inspired by the memoir writing prompt at Write on Edge. The prompt asked us to use the image of the crayon for inspiration and to begin the post with the words… “I miss my childhood…” I feel the need to point out I wouldn’t have colored in pink even if that crayon were the only one left in the box.

Photo Friday: Presque Isle

I went to Erie for a visit two weeks ago. I decided I would take pictures at Presque Isle on Sunday morning for my Happy Fun Time. I awoke to the sound of rain. Dave, Chuck, and I went anyway, and by the time we parked the car, the rain had stopped. But the sky was grey and unappealing and the light was horrible. Of course, once we’d given up on the picture taking, the afternoon sky cleared to a bright blue with huge fluffy clouds.

Eureka! “We’ll go back to the beach at sunset,” I proclaimed. The fluffy clouds would make for an awesome sunset, photo gold! Except for the enormous cloud that parked itself right on the horizon, mostly blocking the sun. I also hadn’t realized how badly my camera needed to be cleaned either until I saw these pictures. I didn’t even bother to Photoshop the dust spots out, because I hate Photoshop, because I’m trying to recover from perfectionism, and because you might as well share in my disappointment. Here’s the best sunset shot.


I love running on the trail at Presque Isle. On this trip, I was able to fit in two runs. The second was on my birthday, so I decided to run a tenth of a mile for each year of my life. I guess the disappointment of the earlier photo shoot made me throw the camera in the car, just in case. I usually run on the bay side, but ended up on the lake side for a short time and saw this.


When Erie pulls shit like this, it makes me wish I lived there. After my runs, I try to make time to check out the lake. I always linger a little longer when I know I won’t be back for awhile. So after I took this picture, I climbed up that slope of sand and stood and stared at the water like I always do. And I said goodbye for now like I always do. And I might have shed a tear like I always do. And I laughed at myself while walking back to the car like I always do.

Damn it, Erie. Why do you have to be so charming right as I’m about to leave?