Thursday, November 30, 2006

She's Here!

The Girl arrived early -- November 6, 2006, and weighed 8 pounds, 3 ounces. She measured in at 22 inches as well. Considering I'm all of 62 inches tall myself, it's no great shock to me that she undershot her due date by more than a week. I mean, she just had no room to move! She came in a hurry, too. My water broke at midnight, and she was squalling at 3:06 a.m.

Did I mention that the labor was au naturel? Oh, I wanted an epidural. I'm a big fan of the conveniences of modern medicine, especially those that considerably reduce pain. But, a rapidly progressing labor + lack of information about my body chemistry on file + middle of the night = not administering the epidural in time and having to skip it.

Oh, the sadness I felt when I heard that it was too late for an epidural. Maybe I'm a wuss, but I'd been telling myself that I could hang on through the pain until the anesthesiologist pumped me full of numbing goodness. And then they said it was a no-go, and that I'd get to go through labor like all of womankind before me. Joy. Once again, I question how the human race has made it this far considering THAT is what women have had to endure to bring forth new life. Yikes.

One of my sisters-in-law said that she doesn't really remember the pain.  I remember the pain. Oh, how I remember the pain. How can you not remember the pain of passing a 13 inch head through an almost 4 inch (10 centimeter) opening? How are you not reminded of the pain during those first few weeks of recovery, when a simple trip to the powder room involves multiple implements, salves, and absorbant materials?

But, looking at my little daughter bundled up and snoozing just a few feet away from me, and I know it was worth it, and that I'd do it all over again.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

And the Clock Keeps Ticking

So, there's definitely only one babe occupying, um, me right now. And the sonogram tech thought that my due date is still pretty accurate, so we've put a pin in our calendar for November 14. I'm trying not to think of that as "the" day, but I'm a pretty deadline-oriented kinda gal, so it'll be tough in November 14 slides by with nary a contraction.

Ah well, she'll get here when she gets here. Judging by the amount of moving around that she does, though, I have to think that she's just aching for more space than my 5'2" frame can afford.

By the by, has anyone out there ever had a sonogram tech exclaim, "It looks like this baby has alot of hair!" I mean, who knew they could even see hair on a sonogram? I've only seen bones, cartilage, and internal organs. Nothing so ephemeral as hair! So now I get to wonder if she's got a cute thatch of fresh baby hair...or if she's got hypertrichosis. Since my family's devoid of carnies, I can assume the latter is out of the picture, but still..

Guess I'll find out in about 3 weeks!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

36 Weeks and Counting...

Today, Hubby and I are going to the Perinatal Center to take a peek at our little girly girl. It won't be a great opportunity for a sonogram picture because the poor friend is all kinds of squished at this stage of the game. That's not really the point of this visit, anyway. According to the doctor's prescription, the good folks who know how to work the sonogram machines are going to check and see if the baby's size matches up with my due date. If she's measuring larger than normal for 36 weeks, then they may move my due date up a bit. I've been consistently "measuring large" at my biweekly OB/GYN visits, so I'm not going to be all that shocked if they tell me I should really make sure that hospital bag is packed (don't worry, it is).

By the way, I've always measured large (ha ha) for my height. Still not something a girl needs to hear...

Regardless of which sonograms and bloodwork and other joyful medical tasks I need to accomplish (I'm not even going to TALK about's recommendation that I begin a regimen of perienum massage), I know I'm getting close to confinement in ye olde childbed. Why? 'Cause I had a dream that I had twins last night. Yikes. It's not at all possible since the other sonograms have show that there has been just one lonely baby inhabiting me lo these eight months. Still, though. A girl doesn't like surprises like that, even in the dreamscape.

I'll let you know if the last radiologist was just foolin' us last time when she confimed the one babe...

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Whoa, Shrinkage!

Shnikeys...I haven't posted since September 18th? It's not that I've been comatose, or sedentary, or catching up on TV (okay, well, I've been watching some TV since the 2006-2007 season kicked off). Just busy, I guess. Busy with stuff that is interesting mostly to me.

But I'm interesting to all y'all, right? Ipso facto, anything I do must also be interesting.

Don't worry, I'm just joshing you. I haven't gotten all bigheaded. Well, not in the figurative sense. (Have I mentioned that I had the 3rd largest girl's head in Parkville Senior High School's Class of '97? No? Well, file that factoid away).

Mostly, I've just been getting ready for the Second Coming. And by that, I mean the baby girl who is due to rock our worlds 'round about November 14th. We've got the requisite pink clothing, and the furniture we'll need is on order (or awaiting pick-up). This week, I'll pack the bag, send out some thank-yous for some lovely baby girl gifts my family and friends bestowed upon me and the babe, and maybe, if I can get my head around it, figure out how to start rearranging some of the Boy's paraphenalia to allow for necessary baby stuff on the main floor of the house.

See? I told you it was fascinating stuff.

Actually, the most interesting thing I've learned about pregnancy of late is that women's brains apparently shrink during the third trimester. A bold claim, some would say. An obnoxious, insulting claim, others might say. I say, "So that's why it takes me twice as long to figure out what to have for dinner." I came by this knowledge through a friend...she's the kind of friend you generally trust to share vetted info, but there's just enough doubt to make you want to look it up. All I've found so far to support this claim is this blog entry, but it references real publications, so I'm guessing the study in the article was really and truly performed.

I dunno...I kind of like having excuses for being a bit more fumbly lately in the synapse department, but I'd really like to reclaim the articulate person buried within my hormones. This is also the person who can spin an entertaining tale out of the mundane.

Ah well, the time is nigh. Anywhere from 4 to 8 weeks from now...

Thursday, September 14, 2006

These Are NOT the Kinds of Articles I Need to Read These Days

Cripes, 15 pounds? I'm hoping for less than 8; I'm measuring a little big for this stage of the game, so we'll see...

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Mocha Chocolatta Ya Ya

So, while I was typing my last post about having a big belly, I was snacking on a Twix. What can I say? Baby wanted some chocolate. Anyhoo, I get through my missive detailing how people can't stop staring at my belly, and I stand up to go to the ladies' room. Once in there, I take a gander at myself in the mirror and see a big ol' chocolate splotch in the middle of my shirt, directly atop my nearly-outtie bellybutton.

Hmmm. Maybe I'm just spilling stuff on myself, and that's why people are staring. Awesome.

My Eyes Are Up HERE

Per my OB/GYN, I am measuring at 32 weeks (I'm actually only at 31 weeks). Know what that means? I'm gettin' big, baby.

One of my favorite parts of pregnancy is watching people fight the urge to rake their gaze over my swollen middle. It's a hoot, because the folks who are doing it are desperately angling for subtlety. Oh, and how they fail. I'll bump into the mail distribution chica, for example, and she'll ask me how I'm feeling and furtively peek at my belly, then look back up at me, then back to the belly. And she's not paying the least bit of attention to what I'm saying. It's kind of like the kinder, gentler version of what Pamela Anderson must go through every bloomin' day of her life.

I don't know if they are trying to gauge how far along I am, or if they're hoping to catch the Nessie-like movement in my abdomen, or if they are tummy fetishists. I'm cool with it, though. I mean, at least their not cupping my belly without permission or anything. Now THAT would be a problem.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Curse of the Return Receipt

Return receipts have always rubbed me the wrong way. If you're not familiar with these minor annoyances, let me 'splain what they are. You get an e-mail. You open it. A dialog box pops open explaining that the sender has requested a return receipt, and asks if you would like to confirm that you received the e-mail. Now, I'm not one to hide behind lost e-mail and voice mail as an excuse for not having completed a task. But I would still like to operate under some veil of mystery when it comes to when I read specific e-mail messages.

When I get one of these things, I feel like the sender is telling me, "Hey, listen, I know we're all busy. I really need you to read this e-mail, though, and I don't want to pester you about it later. And you might claim that you never received it, and therefore take no responsibility for reading it and taking action. So if I ask you to confirm you received it, then you'll know that I know that my little e-mail made it's way into your inbox, and you will be compelled to do something with it."

I'll admit I might be reading too much into return receipt. As much as they annoy me, though, I accept them as an occasional part of the workaday world. Howevah...

Today I received an e-mail, complete with return receipt, from a co-worker about an optional charity event being organized by our office. It was a friendly e-mail, full of "I hope you'll join us" phraseology, emphasizing that this is not a mandatory event. But if it's an optional thing, why did the sender require notification that I received it? Isn't that the sort of tool you'd use with say, a contract? Or health insurance alerts? Now, I'm feeling implicit peer pressure to participate in the charity event. Or sponsor someone who participates. And I get the added bonus of feeling guilty about feeling resentful about helping out a good cause. I mean, what kind of ogre doesn't want to help out a good cause? Or nitpicks the medium through which the good cause is trumpeted?

Yowza. I clearly need to get going for the weekend.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

2006 Teen (?) Choice Awards

Channel surfing does not often unearth entertainment treasure. And it sure didn't on Sunday night, when I lingered on Fox's 2006 Teen Choice Awards for a few seconds. I'm definitely not their demographic, so it's no surprise that the squeals, the surfboards, and the hot tub (yes, the hot tub) were gigantic flags that I Am Too Old for This Show.

So are most of the award winners, when you think about it.

I work with a bunch of statisticians, and their desire to number crunch everything has rubbed off on me. I wanted to see just how old the current crop of winners are, and what the average age among them is (a full list is at the end of this post). Here's my methodology:

1) I took the list of the Teen Choice Award winners and hacked out anything that was for a project (movie, tv show, song), a group, or was obviously for an older person (Choice Parental Unit). The whittled-down list comprises individual artists only.

2) I looked up their ages on, and if it wasn't available there, I gleaned it from the interweb in general. These are not the most rock-solid resources, but hey, it's what was available.

3) The age I used is the age they were at the time of the show. If, for example, an actress turns 20 later this year, I listed her age as 19.

Wanna know what the average age of a Teen Choice Award winner is? 27.5 years old. It's nothing new for teenagers to idolize twentysomethings, and this is the Teen Choice Awards, not the Teenager Awards. And there are some actual teenagers who won. But still... I can't help but think teenagers are picking the folks that they want to emulate in style and behavior, and their choices happen to be firmly ensconced in their twenties.

Do I sound like codger or what? Anyway, here's the list of the Teen Choice Award Winners who fit the criteria listed above:
  • Movie Actress: Comedy: Rachel McAdams (29)
  • TV Actor: Drama/Action Adventure: Adam Brody (26)
  • TV Actress: Drama/Action Adventure: Rachel Bilson (24)
  • TV Actor: Comedy: Wilmer Valderrama (26)
  • TV Actress: Comedy: Alexis Bledel (24)
  • TV Sidekick: Allison Mack (24)
  • TV Personality: Ashton Kutcher (28)
  • Music: Male Artist: James Blunt (28)
  • Music: Female Artist: Kelly Clarkson (24)
  • Music: R&B Artist: Rihanna (18)
  • Hottie: Male: Orlando Bloom (29)
  • Hottie: Female: Jessica Alba (25)
  • Comedian: Adam Sandler (39)
  • Movies: Sleazebag: Bill Nighy (56)
  • Movies: Breakout (Male): Channing Tatum (26)
  • Movies: Breakout (Female): Jessica Simpson (26)
  • Movies: Choice Chemistry: Jennifer Aniston (37)
  • Movies: Choice Chemistry: Vince Vaughn (36)
  • Movies: Hissy Fit: Keira Knightley (21)
  • Movies: Liplock: Keanu Reeves (41)
  • Movies: Liplock: Sandra Bullock (42)
  • Movies: Scream: Keira Knightley (21)
  • TV: Actress: Mischa Barton (20)
  • TV: Actor: James Denton (43)
  • TV: Breakout Star: Zac Efron (18)
  • TV: Reality Star (Male): Drew Lachey (29)
  • TV: Reality Star (Female): Lauren "LC" Conrad (20)
  • TV: Choice Chemistry: Vanessa Anne Hudgens (17)
  • TV: Choice Chemistry: Zac Efron (18)
  • Music: Breakout (Female): Rihanna (18)
  • Music: Breakout (Male): Chris Brown (16)
  • Sports: Athlete (Male): David Beckham (31)
  • Sports: Athlete (Female): Maria Sharapova (19)
  • Sports: Action Sports (Male): Shaun White (19)
  • Sports: Action Sports (Female): Sophia Mulanovich (20)
  • Red Carpet Fashion Icon (Female): Jessica Alba (25)
  • Red Carpet Fashion Icon (Male): Nick Lachey (32)
  • Grill: Brooke Hogan (18)
  • V Cast Music Artist: Nelly Furtado (27)

Did My Dad Take this Picture of Tom Welling?

Driving to and from Philly via I-95, I spied with my little eye something fugly:

(image courtesy of

Everything that I could have said is already said at the PopWatch message board. But yikes, I had to highlight it for anyone who hadn't seen this abomination. Honestly, how do you make Tom Welling look like the confused-yet-skeevy guy at a party?

(BTW, the title of this post is a reference to my Dad's penchant for taking candid pictures, which generally result in the subjects of the picture appearing (a) openmouthed, (b) cracked out, or (d) sleeping.)

Can You Tell Me How to Get, How to Get to Avenue Q...

I'm feeling so very cosmopolitan these days. Sure, it's cosmopolitan-y-ness without the designer handbags and the latest cocktail, but I can swing with that. I mean, who needs Balenciaga or Vanilla Sky when you've got Mimi Maternity and Vitamin Water?

Anyway, the reason for my sophisticated glow, despite my nascent pregnancy waddle, is that Hubby and I spent the day in New York on Saturday. It's not like I was hobnobbing with Rockefellers or anything like that, but when you're in New York, there's a palpable sense of potential swirling in the air. And being immersed in all of that potential and possibility leaves you feeling like you're a little more "in the know" about life, the universe and everything. Okay, so it's not all that eye-opening, but we learned how much it costs to park in NYC, and that's something, right?

Hubby and I try to worm our way into the Big Apple once or twice per year. Our excursions would not entertain the Boy in any conceivable way (theater? museums? walking around?). So we dropped him off at his Aunt and Uncle's pastoral abode in northern Maryland (I'm serious about the pastoral business -- they have chickens), and E-Z-passed our way up the Eastern seaboard and into Manhattan.

Since we parked the car around lunchtime, we hoofed it over to Famous Famiglia Pizzeria to grab a few New York slices. After that, we caught Avenue Q at the Golden Theater using tickets Hubby had given me for my birthday. We kinda knew that we wanted to hit the theater while I could still see my feet, and I picked Avenue Q because it's a, um, mature spin on Sesame Street (one glimpse at the song list will tell you that the show is really, really not meant for kiddos.). SinceI've been watching buckets of Big Bird for the past year and a half, I figured it'd be fun to see the darker side of puppeteering. And by darker, I mean sexed up, existential, and grubby. You know, like me.

We pretty much laughed our heads off. Hubby grasped more of the jokes than I because Sesame Street was an integral part of his childhood, whereas I can only remember watching Captain Kangaroo and the Great Space Coaster. In retrospect, this is probably due to my being left in the care of older siblings who were way more interested in other daytime TV fare, like General Hospital and Phil Donahue. But I don't think anyone's going to pen a musical based on those shows anytime soon, so I'll make due with a riff on Sesame Street.

Sidebar: Know what was refreshing? There weren't any kids in the audience. I don't generally find the absence of children refreshing, but I get a little twitchy when an adult brings a kid to a show that is not kid-friendly. So it was nice to see that some people know how to follow the rules and shield their kids from adult material. I know, I know, the show was advertised as a mature audiences kinda show, so parents would be nutty and/or abusive to bring their issue. But that didn't seem to stop parents from bringing some little 'uns (and in some cases, tiny 'uns) to local screenings The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Panic Room, or Miami Vice, among others. Maybe the ticket prices have something to do with it...

When the intermission bell clanged, I hustled to the ladies' room. There was no bladder urgency, but I'm of the opinion that at 27 weeks, I should try and prevent urgency whenever possible. I was about twelfth in line, which meant that I'd be back to my seat in plenty of time. So I was casually staring into space when an usher approached me and said, "Ma'am, are you having a baby?" My first thoughts were, "Uh, not right now," and "Cripes, did he call me Ma'am? He's older than me!" Instead, though, I just said, "Yes." And Usher Man instructed me to follow him to the front of the line. I demurred, saying that I was fine, but he pulled me ahead anyway. I expected to get a bunch of eye daggers -- women can be pretty touchy about cutting the line for the bathrooms -- but the ladies were accomodating and stepped aside.

And people say New Yorkers are rude. Then again, these could have been mostly tourists like me. Eh, either way, I was grateful. There are some perks to a rounded tummy, I guess. So ladies, if anyone with the power to get you to the front of a bathroom line asks you if you're in the family way, say YES.

After the show we meandered around Times Square, nearly going into seizures from all of the neon and blinking lights. But it was kind of a hot day and I could feel my ankles threatening to swell, so we picked up the car and headed home. My favorite part of the picking-up-the-car experience were the potted plants in front of the garage. Apparently, a new layer of paint had just been swiped onto the pots. But I guess I'm just assuming that the pots, and not the trees, had been painted because the "Wet Paint" sign was taped to the mini-trees inside the pots.

Sidebar 2: There really ARE Starbucks on almost every corner of Manhattan. At first, I thought maybe we were circling the same block dozens of times because I'd always figured the preponderance of Starbucks in NYC was an urban legend. Nope, it's no legend. A Starbucks store locater search reveals that there are 127 of them within a 2 mile radius of the Golden Theater. Is that what they call market saturation?

After a pretty non-eventful drive back down the NJ Turnpike and I-95, we were home again, home again, jiggity jog, around 10:00 p.m. That is not a very swingin' time to get home and leap into bed, but I'm willing to make some concessions.

And really, the cosmo thing continues, because we're going to see another show tomorrow night. That's right, Washingtonians -- Hubby, the Boy and I are going to see the Wiggles LIVE in concert. Jealous?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Darn, Just Before I Was Tapped to Be a Presenter

According to this Washington Post article, it looks like the lavish goodie bags bestowed on celebrities for presenting Academy Awards, Emmies, Grammies, etc., are a thing of the past. Well, unless the celebrities are willing to pony up the tax dough.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Baby on Board

I'm finally showing. At six months, it's really about time. Honestly, I was about to sling one of those "Baby on Board" window cling thingamajigs 'round my neck so that my co-workers knew I wasn't just packing on a few pounds. I know I'm not supposed to care what other people think, but women spend large chunks of time worrying about weight, so when the scale creeps upward, even when it's for perfectly good and natural reason (you know, like growing another person inside of you), I still felt a wee guilty for the thickened waist.

But I'm over that now. Sure, I still think I look like this sometimes. Not all the time, though. And the recent spate of celebrity reproduction has brought sweet phrases like "baby bump" into common parlance. It's a beautiful phrase, one that makes you think of a woman, normally proportioned in every way, with one teeny swollen area. I mostly think of myself that way, especially since I'm exclusively sporting generously cut maternity fashions these days, which seemed designed to draw attention to the bump, rather than camouflage it.

One critique of maternity clothes: they are almost all, to an item, designed to accentuate the bustline. Now, I understand that there a bunch of women out there who are thrilled to have added a cup size or two courtesy of the gestational process and want to show 'em off. I, on the other hand, sport cleavage even when I'm wearing a turtleneck and am not hopped up on pregnancy hormones. So, Mimi, Motherhood, A Pea in a Pod, etc., could we calm it down a little with the generously scooped necks so that I can dress appropriately for work?

Luckily, generous family members have given me a bunch of lovely, demure maternity clothes. But whenever I go out shopping on my own, all I find are low-cut tops with spaghetti straps. That's a whole separate issue -- I mean, if you're struttin' around with a bigger bra size, don't you require extra, um, support? And spaghetti straps don't exactly have the girth to cover more industrial straps, my friends.

There's one other tale to tell as a result of my increased size... Since I'm officially in all kinds of maternity clothes (the really obvious kind that tie in the back), and I'm all kinds of round in the middle, inquiring minds around the office want to know if I'm in the family way. My co-workers have been pretty circumspect -- they start to ask, then stop themselves, then I interrupt and tell them that yes indeedy, I'm expecting and am due in November. You should see the relief on their faces. I mean, who wants to ask someone if she's pregnant, and then find out that she's NOT? That's embarrassing for everyone involved and within earshot of the conversation.

Now, I thought I had my bases covered as far as the office grapevine goes. Since I haven't been at this job for very long, I haven't cultivated the kinds of friendships where you would run up to someone and announce that you have a baby on the way. So, I told my boss and my HR director at the end of the first trimester. My sister-in-law works here too, and she knew way back when as well. About two months ago, I made it a point to tell the two biggest office gossips. I figured that these folks would spread the word for me, but nope. Who knew that an office full of women would be so hush-hush about something like this? But my belly is doing the work for me. Good thing, too -- I was afraid that when I took off in mid-November, people would assume I quit or got canned when they passed by my darkened cubicle.

Friday, August 11, 2006

No, No..Don't "Git-R-Done"

Several times now as I zoom around the beltway, I've spied a pick-up truck with this decal affixed to it's back window:

To be perfectly honest, I've never really understood decals, bumper stickers, etc., on non-commercial vehicles. Maybe I'm not that confident in my opinions, like maybe tomorrow I'll suddenly be anti-feminism or something. This unwillingness to serve as a billboard is probably genetic, come to think of it. My Dad's turning into a scary die-hard conservative Republican, and even he could only commit to taping an Ehrlich/Steele campaign bumper sticker on the inside back window of his car during the last gubernatorial election.

But I really, really can't understand someone who's so devoted to the ethos of Larry the Cable Guy that s/he's willing to devalue a two-ton truck. Since these kinds of decals are often semi-permanent, I can't help but wonder if someone thought, "If I distill my life's philosophy to one phrase, one image, what would it be?" and then settled on "Git-R-Done."

Flags, no matter how tacky they may be, make sense to me. Those Christian fish, they make sense to me too. And I smile everytime I see an "Eve Was Framed" bumper stickers. These images and phrases do represent a higher philosophy of one sort or another.

But "Git-R-Done"? What does that even mean, anyway? Is it kind of a neo-redneck version of Elvis' "Taking Care of Business"? That seems to be the case...the top entry for the phrase in says that it means "Go do that" or "Finish this." If that's the case, why isn't it "Git-It-Done"? I know I have a tendency to be a bit of a grammar hound, but by using an "R" in the middle there makes me think that it's a contracted form of "Get-her-done." I can't help but thinking that it's vaguely sexual in its connotation.

All of that is a high-falutin' way of getting to this assessment of the phrase: "Yuck." And STILL, I have to wonder why anyone would think that was a cool thing to slap on the back of a truck.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Latest Phrase to Ban

Lately, I've been hearing buckets of soundbites that go something like this:

"There's a WAR going on in the Middle East. Don't you have better things to worry about than [insert trivial concern here]."

Fair enough. This resonated the first sixty dozen times I heard it. But, because of the frequency with which it's uttered, the phrase is starting to lose it's oomph. So can we please reserve it for the times when we really need to make a point, and not to put the holier-than-thou smackdown on people who bash an element in a flick, or complain about the weather, or an aching hip joint?

Saturday, July 29, 2006

What's In a Name?

So, Hubby and I are slugging through naming options for the little girlfriend who is due in November. Man alive, is it tough. Decisions about nursery decor, prevalence of pink in outfits, etc. -- these are easy, because these can be changed. But a name...that's something that's going to partially shape who she is. So we have a couple of ground rules:

1) Nothing that starts with "M" -- my name, my sister-in-law's name, and "Mom" and "Mommy" all start with "M," and I think Hubby's brain would explode trying to call everyone by the correct name.

2) Nothing that, phonetically, has only one syllable -- since our last name is only one syllable, the "flow" would seem kind of stuttered.

3) Nothing that ends with a "V" or an "F" -- this is due to the elision factor. We don't want someone to think that the kid's name is., for example, "Livon" instead of "Liv Vaughan."

4) Nothing that encourages teasing. Now, this is a toughie to predict. We can weed out the ones that rhyme with loads of unfortunate words (i.e., Vicky), or can be converted into a Bart Simpson telephone joke (Amanda, Anita).

5) Nothing that was wildly popular in the past couple of years. We don't want our child to be, say, "Abby V." because there are three other Abigails in her class.

6) The first name will not be the same as a living relative. Why? Because then the living relative becomes, say, "Big Mary" or "Old Mary," and I don't know that it's all that fair to do that to someone.

7) And finally...something that has a deeper meaning. And I'm not just talking about honoring family members' memories. We look up the meaning of the name. I don't want to name my daughter something that sounds cool just to find out that it has really nefarious etymology. I heard the name Aradia the other day, and was curious about the meaning. Yeah, I don't think I'll name my child after the goddess of witches.

Looking for insipiration, I checked out the Social Security Administration's list of the most popular baby names from 2005. First of all, I'm inordinately sad that people seem to name their children after unusually named celebrities (Charlize, #906) or popular liquors (Alize, #825). And there are incredible deviations in spellings, which I'll forgive due to the slim possibility that it's a "creative" difference. But deep down, I think about how these kids will realize at some point that their parents just can't spell very well. I mean, "Destini" should have a "y" at the end of it, "Shyanne" is all wrong -- it should be "Cheyenne," and don't even get me started on "Abigayle."

And second of all, I giggled when I saw that both ''Mary'' and ''Jesus'' were evenly ranked as the 73rd most popular name last year.

Oh, and we're not planning to share our pick 'til the actual birth since we've already spilled the beans about her being a girl.

Thursday, July 27, 2006


To spruce myself up for Little Bro's wedding, I treated myself to a french mani/pedi. Well, that's not true -- I finally used a gift certificate my pals gave me for Christmas, so I guess they treated myself.

Anyway, this mani/pedi has staying power. It's nearly a week later, and there's nary a chip or a scrape to be found in the classed-up surfaces of my digits. And they've taken some abuse, let me tells ya.

On Tuesday, I installed an under-counter radio (a gift from my in-laws -- see how generous my friends and family are?) in our kitchen. I totally felt all Rose the Riveter when I caught a glimpse of my gussied up hand clutching my Mikita power drill. Which, if I recall correctly, was a Christmas gift from one of my older bros a coupla years back. Man, I hope I'm caught up on my thank-you notes.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Petite vs. Women's

So, why is it that the "unusually sized" women's apparel is grouped together in remote corners of department stores? Sure, it makes sense that the first thing you see are the clothes for women who range from 5'4" to 5'8" and wear sizes 4 to 14 -- if you're trying lure people in to take a gander at your wares, you want to cast a wide net. I just found it odd that when I was foraging for appropriate wedding dresses over the past couple of weeks (the kind that would show that I was pregnant, not just putting on a few pounds) I had to duck into shadowy areas of the store. To a shop, it pretty much went: average, petite, "women's," maternity, and then, oddly enough, junior miss. I don't see the logic here, either in arrangement of size or age. It'd make more sense to me if they organized everything on a graduated scale, kind of like paint samples. Maybe they think they're helping us avoid confusion? Though, I gotta say, I'm not likely to pick up a belly shirt with the word "Heartbreaker" stamped across the front just 'cause it's close to the petites.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Wedding Whammies: Part II

There's some wacky guiding principle in my life that I can't ever have just one social thing to do on a weekend. I may have zero hangouts planned, or a multitude. The former is preferable to the latter, because if its the latter, there is much running around here there and everywhere. As my friends get older and plunk down some cash for their very own patch of real estate, we find ourselves moving further and further away from each other, kind of like a Hoberman sphere. If we plan to hang out with two different friend entities (friendities?) any given day, we could honestly go from Laurel, MD, to Springfield, VA, back to, say, downtown Baltimore, and then back to Laurel.

Such is life in Metro DC.

This weekend, though, was supposed to be different. This weekend is Little Bro's wedding weekend, and that's the only thing we signed up to do for obvious reasons. Since kids aren't invited to the wedding (and, frankly, we wouldn't want to bring the Boy since we would actually like to have grown-up conversations, dance, and not worry about the availability of a changing station), we arranged a babysitter six weeks ago. Hubby's sister agreed to wing in from the Stinking Onion to babysit the Boy on the big day. Since this is a big job -- three hours of awake time including dinner and the bedtime routine, followed by three hours of being around in case he wakes up screeching -- we weren't all that comfortable hiring a local sitter who doesn't really know the boy. This houseguest/babysitter thing was going to be perfect -- we wouldn't have to worry about cutting out of the wedding early, or trying to convince anyone to let the Boy sleep over, or cashing in a tremendous favor that we couldn't repay.

Which, of course, is why it was destined to fail.

Hubby's sister sprained her knee last night, poor thing, and even if she were in a condition to travel, would be in no condition to chase after the Boy. Heck, I'm in no condition to chase after the Boy, and both of my legs are working just fine. So now, we are left frantically searching for a sitter who meets these criteria:

1) Has met the Boy;
2) Is comfortable with diaper changes;
3) Can stay late/stay over/won't mind us showing up at his/her house late to pick up the Boy.

Did I mention we need to find this person tonight? That's possible, right? To find someone to do a six-hour babysitting stretch with 24 hours' notice?

Looks like I might be flying solo at Little Bro's nuptials. Sigh.

UPDATE: I won't be going to the wedding stag after all! Huzzah! A friend of mine who knows the Boy pretty well turned out to have a bit of a hole in her dance card this evening, and she will watch him. She's really friendly about it, too, saying, "Now I actually kind of feel like I'm involved in the wedding in some way." Phew. Blessed are our friendships and our families, for they really take the sticky out of sticky situations.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

I Don't Mind Change. Really, I Don't.

My first foray into the world of full-time gainful employment was at a college marketing company. There, I learned all about brand loyalties -- how and when they are formed, and what you can do to encourage them one way or another. The president of my company would repeatedly paint the picture of a college student as fertile ground for marketing because s/he is pseudo-independently making decisions about which toothpaste, detergent, deodorant, etc., s/he should buy for the first time. I say "pseudo-independently" because he also painted a picture of the modern college campus as incubator, with student life administrators doing anything and everything to keep the kids within the hallowed halls and picturesque gates of the school.

Having worked at a college, I can attest to this. I mean, is it really the best practice to encourage staff to stay 'til 2:00 a.m. on the first night of study days to dish out free bacon and eggs, also known as "Midnight Breakfast," in an effort to keep the kids from toddling down to the strip of bars and pubs serving discounted beer? What beefy lacrosse player is going to say, "Ya know, screw the $1 long necks. I need some scrambled eggs." The kids who were already going to be on campus, studying or lounging in dorm rooms, are the ones who will take advantage of the free food.

But I digress from my backstory. Most of our brand loyalties are formed in childhood. Most of us just stick with whatever our parents bought. I'm kind of susceptible to marketing, though, because my parents always bought either generic brand goods or goods that were on sale. So typically, I don't care which dish soap or laundry detergent I'm using. I only committed to Tide and Downey after I got married because that's what my husband (adamantly) prefers. Well, and I use Dreft because parent I know uses it to clean their little 'uns' clothes, and I've become convinced that the Boy's epidermis will slough off instantaneously if traces of any other kind of detergent touches his delicate skin.

I could bore you with brand marketing strategies to overturn the "I buy this because I've always bought it" mentality before progressing to the next part of my tale. But I got bored with it about a paragraph in, realized I'm not writing a text book, and deleted the many words I'd devoted to it.

Here's the meat of the story: I smell different. Why? Because the very day that I ran out of my trusty unscented Dove deodorant, I received a sample of the new Degree Ultra Clear for women. "Praise be," I thought. "I don't have to buy deodorant for another two weeks."

So now, I keep inhaling this fruity, shower-fresh smell and realizing that it's me. Which is weird. Am I a fruity, shower-fresh kind of gal? These are not bad things to be, but if I can smell me, that means that other people probably can, and I have to figure out if this is a good thing. Ultimately, though, I think I'll jump on board the Dove wagon again. Why? Because everytime I catch a whiff of my Degree sample, I think about my underarms. And it's just distracting to think about your armpits all day long.

Ha! You read that whole thing! You can't unread it. Now you'll be thinking about my armpits too. Behold the power of blogging!

Monday, July 17, 2006

This Would Be Easier if I Were Worried about Twigs and Grass

My nesting instinct is out of control. What's my evidence? I've always taken pride in home and hearth, but my to-do list is bubbling over, and my domestic activities have fallen outside of the normal realm of tasks.

To wit:

1) Over the weekend, the family and I went to Lowes to pick up a variety of annuals to plant in the flower boxes on my deck. Am I an earthy person? Nope. It's not like I have a black thumb or anything like that, but pressing plants into pots has never really been my thing. But there I was, smooshing little purple and pink plants into black soil.

2) Two nights ago, I dreamed about a lock on our sliding glass door that hasn't worked since we started hanging our hats in our lovely little townhome. Well, it worked long enough not to be included in the "seller must make these repairs" list when we bought the place. Anyway, when we found the lock was more of a non-lock, Hubby and I jury-rigged a solution (also known as a fireplace poker lodged in the base of the stationary part of the door), and that has sufficiently kept prowlers at bay. So it wasn't exactly paramount that I solve this not-really-a-problem. And locks do not often take center stage in my theater of dreams. But there I was, in a semi-conscious state, thinking, "I bet if I just took a look at the locking mechanism, I could figure this out."

Sure enough, the next day, all I needed was a Philips head screwdriver to loosen and reposition the catch, and VOILA! A functional lock. We'll still use the good ol' iron bar, of course, but there's something reassuring about a lock that, well, locks.

3) For my birthday, which is in a scant few days, I have requested gift cards to various home improvement stores so that I might procure some of the items after which I've been lusting: roman shades for the living room, room darkening shades for the little ones' rooms, and, if I really score huge, new bathroom sinks and/or fixtures. But this isn't the limit to what I want to do to my home. Here's a sampling of what I'd like to do to prettify (or at least update from 1979, when the original everything was installed):

- Paint the master and guest bathrooms, and the downstairs rec room and hallway.
- Rearrange the furniture in the rec room so that the Boy can run his little legs off without running into sharp wooden furniture.
- Add a border to the walls in the master bedroom.
- Install new floors in the kitchen, foyer hallway, powder room, and both upstairs bathrooms.
- Refinish the hardwood floors in the dining room.
- Re-paint (maybe even replace) the handrails and guardrails on the steps to the bedrooms.
- Install new light fixtures for the kitchen and the dining room.
- Install sconces in the dining room.
- Pick up some ART for crying out loud, for the big blank walls in the kitchen, dining room, and basement.
- Install a chair rail in the dining room to set it slightly apart from the conjoined living room.
- Install a new front door, one that lets a little light into the hallway.
- Install new kitchen counters.
- Paint the door to the basement to wipe out the scrapes from some of the Boys' dolls' heads (this was during his "knock on the door with whatever's in your hand" phase).
- Shave down the width of the door to the storage space under the stairs in the basement so it shuts all the way.
- Purchase bins that fit on our built-in bookshelves where we can subtly store the Boy's sundry toys.
- Replace the door knobs on all of the interior doors.
- Deep clean and, if necessary, replace the grotty tile and shower door frame in the master bathroom.
- Oh, and I want to install the last little pull knob in our kitchen.

THIS IS NOT A NORMAL AMOUNT OF TASKS TO CARRY AROUND IN YOUR HEAD. The irony is that I can't really DO most of this myself because pregnant women should not mess around with, oh, let's see: paint fumes, heavy lifting, plumbing, bacteria nests, and electricity. Among others. And I can't really ask Hubby to do this stuff either. It would cost us thousands to hire contractors to do it. So, the likelihood that most (if not all) of this stuff will be completed is, oh, I don't know, nil.

You'll note that all of the sentences in that last paragraph started with "I want," and not "I need." As a self-actualized, mature human being, I recognize that there is a slight priority difference between, say, cute new doorknobs and groceries. So I'll bide my time. But I warn you, I can't even watch HGTV without the green-eyed monster invading my sensibilities. Candice Olson, feel free to ring me up and invade my house ANY DAY.

4) At last count, I've spent three hours trolling websites looking for the perfect bathroom sinks. I like vanity sinks, the kind that have cabinets underneath, because storage is a premium for me. And when I say "storage" I mean real, honest-to-God storage. Not wicker baskets posing as storage. Baskets should be used to transport things, not house them.

5) I'm twitchy unless we have a stocked fridge and pantry. Like there's a chance we'll be housebound in July or something...

So, yeah, I think the nesting instinct has kicked in. Just a little.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Pregnancy Week #22: The Joy of It All

I present to you, in visual form, this week's pregnancy indignities:

Yep, pregnancy's a magical thing. By the way, that's not actually me in picture #1. Just think a little rounder, and you'll have an accurate mental image. Shiver. Not that I want y'all to have an accurate mental image of me nearly in flagrante.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Oh, You Crazy Boomerang Kids

Lately, I've been fascinated by generational differences...probably because I'm starting to notice them in the generation that follows mine. Courtesy of Wikipedia, here's a breakout of the names and time spans of the latest and greatest generations:

1961–1981: Generation X
1975–1985: MTV Generation
1981–1986: Boomerang Generation
1977–2003: Generation Y
1986–1999: Internet Generation
2001–????: New Silent Generation

Born in 1975, I fall squarely into Generation X. Click on the links above to check out the traits and characteristics are for each generation; it makes for pretty fun reading.

Anyway, I just kind of figured that generational differences are all about the cultural context in which we self-actualize (i.e., grow up). Since the only constant in life is change, then the cultural context, one of the chief intangibles that molds our identity, also changes. Ipso facto, people growing up in different cultural contexts will be different. Congratulating myself on a pretty tight, if inconsequential, axiom, I didn't think about it much beyond that.

Then I became a campus bureaucrat, and I started working with students who fell into that venn diagram of Boomerang Generation/Generation Y. And the functional differences became more obvious. Some students assumed that there were no uncharted waters with regard to activities they wanted to conduct, so they wanted to talk it over ad nauseum. Others would spend hundreds of dollars out-of-pocket to fund these activities, and then not understand why I couldn't pay them back out of petty cash. Still others thought that the practicalities of planning an event thoroughly didn't matter, provided the purpose of the event was a good one. There was nothing negative in my perception of this -- I just figured they were learning the ropes of operating within an organizational structure.

But then I visited a website that I frequent, and saw this conversation thread on a message board. The gist of the article is that the kiddos that fall into the Boomerang Generation end up living at home through their mid-20's, oftentimes after living away from home for a couple of years, primarily because they came of age in a pretty crappy era. They started graduating from high school in 1999 (hello, dot-com bubble burst), and, if they went to college, started graduating in 2003 (hello, 9/11, war in Afghanistan, war in Iraq, global nosedive of sentiments toward Americans, faltering economy, etc.).

So, yep, I'll grant that it's hard out there for Boomeranger. BUT, I noted in the thread that there were some accountabilities that are not being owned. So I present to you, in all of my cranky Generation X apathy, my wildly speculative and generalized open letter on what this generation is not admitting to itself:

1) Your parents made you the central focus of family life -- multiple after-school, weekend, and summer activities, and countless hours spent in minivans schlepping kids around. So its only natural that you think that you are, in fact, the center of the universe. Understand that world events are not conspiring to keep you from achieving the modern American dream of gainful employment, no credit card debt, and home ownership.

2) Jumping off from #1, your mediocre accomplishments were lauded as metoric accomplishments. If a kid does well on a test, well, sure, pat him on the back and slap that 'A' paper on the refrigerator. But that kid shouldn't get a bike as a reward for doing that which he should do. This probably led you to believe that as long as you do what's asked of you and don't mess it up too badly, then you deserve praise and rewards.

3) And while we're bashing parents, lets go for another one: parents of the Boomerangs can probably be accused of doing too much for their children. This all comes out of love, and wanting your children to have a cozy life at home, because the world will deal them some harsh realities soon enough. I get that. But if you give your kids whatever clothes and gadgets they want, and you don't teach them how to balance a checkbook, or how to save and earn interest, what does that teach them? That luxuries are de rigeur, and that money is something that you don't have to worry about.

All of these things lead into my thoughts on the Boomerangers expectations about education...

4) You expect that a college degree will net you an awesome job (awesome = way more moolah than the US median income). Get real. A college degree is the new high school diploma. Sure, the crest on that diploma can make a slight difference in how highly your application is rated, but not much. Wanna know what the real important thing is? Experience accrued while getting a degree. If you have a graphic arts degree coupled with an internship, paid or unpaid, working for a local newspaper, well, that's a helluva lot more compelling than a kid who churned out a fake menu for a school project and had weeks to complete it.

This is especially true for anyone who earns a liberal arts degree. Nobody, including employers, know exactly what a liberal arts degree prepares a student to do. Well, that's because it doesn't prepare you for anything practical. A liberal arts degree ideally teaches you a little about a lot, and teaches you how to think critically, and how to write passably. But it does not tell an employer, "Hire Mary. She'd be really great a technical writing since she was an English major." Nope. You need to draw that connection for them by having invested some labor into that field through internships.

I respect those that seek a degree in a field that is renowned for low-paying or high-risk jobs. It's not that some low-paying jobs shouldn't have gobs more money thrown at them (hello, educators!). But how can you be bitter when your History degree from Prestigious University doesn't get you a $50K per year starting salary? Didn't you know that this was going to happen?

Along these's kind of understandable how the Boomerangs might think that a college degree is the end-all/be-all since the operations higher education morphed from a non-profit model into a business model. Translation? Colleges will provide you with the opportunity to get pretty much any kind of degree, so long as you can fork over tuition. Check out this table of degrees conferred by degree-granting institutions. A Bachelor's in Turf Grass Management? A Master's in Interior Design? A Doctorate in Dance? These are fields (no pun intended with respect to that turf degree) are ones that you learn through DOING, not through books. Seek out apprenticeships, or internships. If these things don't exist in your field of choice, it's a FANTASTIC indicator of how easily you will find a decent-paying job in the field, even if you have an advanced degree.

5) Be aware that you will not have the same lifestyle as your parents when you graduate from college. Ask them what their lifestyle was like when they were in their early twenties. They probably got the occasional utility shut-off notice, had to live in a dive apartment with four other people, ate cereal for dinner a couple of nights a week, and only went to the movies when they cashed in the change jar coins. It took them years of work, of savings, of paying down debt, to get to a place where they live comfortably. Why should your experience be any different? By the way, the longer you allow your parents to subsidize your lifestyle, the longer you need to abide by their codes of ethics, their opinions on how you live your life, and how you spend whatever money you do have. You can't take money or shelter (or both) from people and ask them to hold the side dish of commentary -- it just doesn't work that way.

Now, I know that the laundry list above does not apply to every Boomeranger and his parents. And I know that there are reasons that, even though some of them do apply, you can't help needing to live in your parents' basement. I lived at home for a year after I graduated college, because I was getting married and saving money to pay for the wedding, so I get that there are definitely some circumstances beyond your control.

Just don't ride the gravy train forever, is all I'm sayin'. Figure out which of your choices got you to where you are. You don't need to feel remorseful about 'em, especially if you were following your passions. Just, if you want to improve things for yourself, make a plan to do it and don't harbor bitterness that the world doesn't work a little differently. Figure out what you've got to do to make it work for you, or make your peace with the fact that it doesn't.

This is Crotchety GenX Fogey, signing off.

Monday, July 10, 2006

A Really Nasty Case of Strep, or, How I Found Out I Was Pregnant

Back around the holidays, Hubby and I had a conversation about the amount of sleep we were getting. Ultimately, we decided that 8 hours a night is just too much, and that the only way we could ensure that peaceful stretch of slumber would be shattered thoroughly was to have another baby. So, we threw caution to the wind.

In February, I thought I might be pregnant. Now, I had often laughed at the commercials for the early home pregnancy tests. It's not that I think a woman's being a little hyper if she wants to know if she's pregnant 5 days in. It's that the commercials feature smiley, happy-go-lucky women. Now, if you want to know if you're pregnant that soon, chances are you're going to be really, really anxious because you either (a) desperately want to be pregnant, or (b) desperately want NOT to be pregnant. Either way, I think the women in this commercial should probably look a little drawn, a little tense, pace the room, whatever.

Having said that, I think I fell into the former category. I'm a scheduler by nature, and a whole host of conversations, doctor's appointments, plans, etc., need to happen depending on how many lines show up on a piece of plastic. So I took the home pregnancy test. And it came up negative.

Oh well, I thought. It could be a false negative. Guess I'll find out for sure in two weeks when nature takes her, um, courses.

Well, I was right that I would find out, but not the way that I thought I would.

About three days after I took the pregnancy test, the Boy came down with roseola. And then I came down with a ridiculous case of strep throat. You can read all about it here. (How narcissistic is it to reference one's own work?) A couple of days into my strepitude, I went to the doctor, 'cause that's how I roll. The in-house throat swab came back negative, so they did a souped up throat culture that needed to be sent out, but the results would take a couple of days to come back. So I loaded up on antibiotics, and took to my bed. Or couch, as the case may be.

When the throat culture came back, it was ALSO negative for strep. So the doctor made me come back to be tested for MONO. So there I was, on a Friday night, in one of those prompt-care-but-not-an-emergency-room joints, waiting to have my blood drawn. The doctor I saw that night asked me if there was a chance that I could be pregnant. That's when I realized I was a day or so late. I guess I'd just figured my body was giving me a break because it was riddled with the pox, so why chuck menstruation on top of that?

My answer to the doctor? "Um, a slim chance." I explained that we'd just started, uh, not preventing conception, but that a home pregnancy test had come back negative. Since a slim chance is still a chance, and they were going to draw blood anyway for the mono test, I decided they might as well do a pregnancy test as well.

It took FOREVER to get the results back. I was hanging out on an exam table, feeling woozy from whatever was lurking in my system. The only reading material available in the exam room was a brochure on the chain of physician's blah-de-blah, one of which I was patronizing. I read it about three times. Despite my anticipation, I seriously debated taking a nap. I was seconds away from laying my head down on the papered table when I saw a shadow, and then sneakered feet, under the curtain. When the doctor drew the curtain back, I sat up straight.

"Well," she said, "your mono test came back negative."

I let that piece of good news wash over me. It was like the opening act for the band you're really interested in.

"But," she continued, bursting into a smile, "your pregnancy test is positive!"

She immediately thrust a sheaf of printouts at me -- the positive pregnancy test results, a, uh, helpful three paragraphs on what I should do now that I knew I was pregnant, and a prescription for a safer antibiotic for what had to be strep throat, despite all of the negative tests.

The whole drive home I was smiling. When we found out about the Boy's imminent arrival, the Hubby and I were hunkered over one of those pregnancy tests, waiting for the hands on the clock to scissor off the proper amount of time before we checked for the telltale lines. But this time, with this baby, I got to know first. There's something delicious, and appropriate, about being the one to tell your husband that he's going to be a daddy again.

Minutes after telling him, we told the Boy. I still don't think he quite understands, but that'll come in time. I'm sure it'll only happen once there's a squalling infant stealing his parents' attention, but hey, that's OK.

And that, my friends, is how I found about about my second baby.

She'll Be a Girl!

My posting has been spotty and pretty blah of late. Well, I think it has been, and that's what counts, right? There's a reason that my little scribbles have been less than entertaining. The truth is, I've been holding back. Since the beginning of March, I've been carrying around (both literally and figuratively) a wonderful, big, wonderfully big secret. Baby #2 is on her way!

It's silly how much I've wanted to write about it, but I censored myself because we were keeping everything under wraps 'til I got past the first trimester. Honestly, when you prevent yourself from writing about the stuff you REALLY want to write about, well, everything else just seems forced by comparison.

Then there was the small matter of telling the folks at work, the friends, the family, etc., prior to sharing the news here. Nothing personal, but I didn't want the folks who pull up my blog because I happened to have hosted a Monica Lewinsky photo here a couple of months ago to find out before, say, my mother.

Wow, the Catholic guilt that would ensue...

Anyhoo, now I'm going to post a few little blurbs about various experiences along the how we found out about Pinky (that's what my mother-in-law and sister-in-law have decided to call the baby 'til she's here and we've slapped her with a name).

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Caution: Show Dogs

On the exit ramp from 695 onto Dulaney Valley Road, I spied something like this on the back of a minivan:

The one I saw also featured a silohuette of some frou frou pup. Here's the thing, though: shouldn't we exercise caution because we don't want to injure the people inside the car? It makes sense to slap a caution sticker like this on something that doesn't typically carry precious cargo, like a cardboard box or a suitcase or something. But on a car? And for dogs?

Rain, Rain, Go Away

You know your day isn't going to be particularly good when you get a call at 1:30 a.m. from your local municipal government, and when you answer the phone, a robotic recorded voice informs you that voluntary evacuation procedures are underway.

Aren't we always able to evacuate voluntarily?

Anyway, most of the flooding is south and east of where we live, so I don't think we'll need to find another place to sleep tonight. But I've got to keep frantically searching various newschannels for any updates because Laurel, MD, is apparently a Brigadoon-ish kind of town as far as the newspapers are concerned. Even the local paper hasn't uploaded any alerts on their website. I know the Laurel Leader is a weekly, but come on! Isn't this kind of stuff supposed to get the blood of a cub reporter pumping?

For what it's worth, as of 1:04 p.m., the city is still recommending evacuations of low-lying areas, but they are not mandating it.

Look at me, serving the good people of my 'burg with news they can use.

Friday, June 16, 2006

How Not to Look Like a Hillbilly

So, I was watching this interview yesterday, and I was inspired to scribe a few simple rules for how not to look like a hillbilly. I'm not gonna reveal my muse, but I feel for her. She's (a) young, (b) in the public eye, and (c) still in that stage of her life where she feels like if she admits having made a mistake, she'll irrevocably lose some of her pride. Of course, what she ends up losing is the appearance of integrity and an understanding of personal accountability, but hey, see (a). Someone needs to share with her that it's OK to make mistakes since you learn a lot from mistakes too, but we have to acknowledge when we make mistakes or we never improve ourselves.

Sorry about getting all Dr. Phil on you there for a minute. Especially considering that this is just a shallow piece on physical appearance.

Full disclosure: I'm about two generations removed from hillbillies (white trash, trailer trash, whatever epithet you want to sling), so I'm familiar with this particular type of woman.

Ready? Here we go:

1) DON'T walk around guzzling a beverage. Doesn't matter what kind. A smoothie, a Coke, a beer, a venti mocha latte: these are not accessories. Food should be consumed in relative privacy, at a table, in a car, on a picnic basket, wherever. Just not when you're cruising the mall or running errands. I mean, can you really not go for an half an hour without liquid sustenance?

2) DO maintain your roots if you color your hair. I don't care what color with which you rinse your crowning glory. Go for platinum blonde if you so desire. Just don't let it get to a point where your strands resemble Jell-o 1-2-3.

3) DON'T chomp on gum when you are serving in a professional capacity. In a meeting, when cutting hair, when being interviewed: ditch the chew. You want minty fresh breath? Go for a Tic Tac.

4) Speaking of gum, DON'T use a shade of lipstick that looks like it belongs in a candy aisle. Other make-up choices to avoid during daylight hours: blue or frosted eyeshadows, radically unnatural shades of nail polish (only if you bite your nails to the quick and we can see the jagged nubs in chiaroscuro with the fakey color), and body glitter.

5) DO acknowledge your body size, regardless of the reason. You might be pregnant, or have a disability that keeps you from exercising, or have an allergic reaction that causes you to swell. Doesn't matter. Even if they make mini-skirts in a size 18, that doesn't mean you should wear them. Same goes for bikinis, camis, thongs, hot pants, and tube tops. Now I know that some people will take offense and say we should be proud of your bodies. To them I say: you can be proud of something without displaying it to the universe. I would say that dressing in the most flattering clothes possible is how you show pride in yourself.

6) On topic of clothes...DO wear at least one thing that fits properly. If you really want to wear a hobo-chic baggy shirt, go for the jeans that fit like they are supposed to, not an excessively big pair of dungarees. If you really want to sport a too-tight skirt, skip the second-skin top and slap on something flowy. This shows that you might actually be trying to accentuate an asset instead of delude yourself.

7) And again on the topic of clothes...DO understand that bra straps are not an accessory. If you can see 'em, you need to rethink your outfit.

8) If you happen to also be a Mommy...DO attempt to ensure your child is wearing the following while out in public: shirt, pants, socks. It doesn't seem tough, I know, but some people are under the impression that all babies are adorable, and all people will coo over them even if they are just wearing a diaper. Anyway, under the age of 1, shoes are optional. And when inside, hats are optional. One more baby-related item: when in public, DON'T change your baby's diaper anywhere other than a changing station. Exceptions may be made, of course, but only if you've looked for a changing station and there are none to be found.

That last one got a little more behavioral, I guess, but it tangentially deals with what a kid wears, which is a reflection on the Mom, right?

Anyway, I'm not saying this stuff to be mean, necessarily. In art class, they called it constructive criticism. There's this tendency among girls today to happily proclaim that they are liberated, that they know their own minds, and that they don't care what other people think. That's laudable, it really is. But I think you still have to have a firm grasp of how certain actions and personal choices are perceived, and how that might impact your standing in a community. Ultimately, it really isn't anyone's business or right to judge another person. That's between them and their Higher Power (if they have one), or, in some cases, the judge sitting on the bench.

Man, I went all Dr. Phil again. I've gotta stop that.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

You Need to Be a Geek if You're Going to Make Pop Culture References

In the post-Howard Stern era, I've been zipping around the radio dial in search of a go-to talk radio show for my commute. I wasn't one of the goober Howard automatons who listened to all four hours every day, nor did I want to jump on the Sirius bandwagon. As DC loyalists, we subscribe to XM in one of our cars, home of Ron and Fez. I can't stomach the notion of paying another $10 a month just for Howard.

I'm sure lots of citizens who belong to the iPod nation will think this is nutty. Why would you rely on radio to deliver a program when you can orchestrate what comes through your car speakers?

'Cause I don't want to create four-wheeled incubator and inoculate myself from the outside world. I'm a little paranoid that something big will be happening in the world, and I won't know about it 'til I get to work because I was ignorantly grooving to Erasure's "Chains of Love" or laughing at a Ricky Gervais podcast. So I'll listen to a little NPR, a little Washington Post radio, and, in the mornings, I'll flip between Elliot in the Morning and the Junkies.

I like these two shows because, unlike other local radio morning "talent," they don't:

1) Use all kinds of bass and echo on their voices;
2) Download "jokes" or interesting lists from what has to be a DJ filler website that no one outside of the biz knows about;
3) Sound like they hate what they do;
4) Talk about how funny the "Blue Collar Comedy Tour" is;
5) Sound like they smoked 400 packs of cigarettes that morning.

Don't get me wrong, I know that Elliot smokes like a chimney, but he doesn't have that "my throat has been scraped raw" voice...yet.

But here is a minor something that has GOT to stop on both shows: if you are going to make pop culture references to TV, movies, music, or celubutards, I am BEGGING you to get the names, titles, circumstances, etc. right. I can't take it anymore. I know I'm a fanatic about that stuff, but Elliott, what if I said I really liked that hockey player Alexander Ovechsky? And Junkies, what if I insisted that LeBron plays for the Pistons? Wouldn't you tear your hair out?

Elliot's a little better about this 'cause Diane's apparently a gossip hound (what's up, home subscription to US Weekly?). But when y'all start talking about how you want to see a movie, but you can't get the title right, you kind of sound like my Dad. Oof, and then you start arguing about it, and no one comes up with the right answer, which is wildly interesting to listen to. Can someone please become the perma-Google-er, IMDB-er, or Wikipedia-er?

In the grand scheme of things, I know this is no biggie. But the subjects of my rant understand that we geeks each have to guard our tiny corners of the intellectual (or trivial, if you like) universe.

Phew, I feel better now.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

MyEyes Hurt Courtesy of MySpace: PSA on Design

Ye gods, some of the kids who use need basic design lessons. Since a bunch of my aging hipster friends are setting up MySpace accounts, I trolled around the site for awhile looking for their profiles. (And, by the way, I felt like a big ol' stalker.)

Anyway, here's a coupla tips for the would-be graphic designers who have set up their very own, cool, unique, hip, aneurysm-inducing spots on MySpace:

1) Background images work ONLY if you (a) lighten them images up A LOT so that you can see text over it, or (b) have a solid block of color layered on top of the background images so that text is visible.

2) Black background + neon font = eyeball explosion. Same goes for a neon background + any color font.

3) Fonts should between 8 points and 12 points.

4) Pictures work best if they are small or medium 'cause the big ones bleed off-screen.

5) This isn't so much a visual thing, but putting music on your MySpace profile is lame UNLESS you change it with some regularity. Otherwise, I will start to associate you with indie goth rock, and you will forever be the chick/dude with a fetish for The Veils. Plus, it becomes fairly obvious when the casual office drone is surfing MySpace when "Lavinia" whooshes from the 'puter's speakers.

6) Don't list everything you've ever liked, ever, under "Interests." When your "Interests" column is longer than your "Friends' Comments" column, it makes you seem less, um, interesting.

7) Don't let Tom chill in the #1 friend spot (um, unless he's actually a really good friend of yours).

8) Tagging other people's comments sections is like slapping a bumper sticker on someone's dream car. They've got everything just the way they want it, and then you come along and smear it with something that sparkles, doesn't match anything, and, horror of horrors, MOVES. You can't look at anything else when one of these things is dancing around in the comments.

9) The use of lots of graphics, pictures, animations, etc. translates into a page that loads about as quickly as, um, the evolution of a species.

10) And finally...I know that this started out as a design critique, but this one's for da kids: remember when you were little and your parents didn't get you any t-shirts or jackets with your name emblazoned across the front? Wanna know why? 'Cause they didn't want strangers to have any opportunity to walk up to you and fake like they knew you 'cause they knew your name. Use the same principle when it comes to MySpace. DON'T post the following information about yourself:
  • Your real, full name
  • Home or cell phone number
  • Address
  • School
  • Work place
  • Schedule (i.e. "Omigod, I can't believe I'm starting in the softball game we're playing against Perry Hall High tomorrow!")
  • ...and anything else that a stranger could use to identify you.

If I have inspired just one person to clean up their MySpace page, then the visual agony will have been worth it.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Da Vinci Code Can Be Found in the 'Fiction' Section of the Bookstore

I don't understand all of the hullabaloo over "The Da Vinci Code." I'm not talking about it's juggernaut residence on the NY Times Bestseller list for 163 freakin' weeks. Or the fact that it pulled in a ridiculous $77.1 million in its opening weekend. These numbers are mind-boggling, but I can wrap my pea-sized brain around 'em. And I can envy Dan Brown at the same time, 'cause I'm a multi-tasker like that.

The hullabaloo of which I speak is the need for some Christian groups to obsessively enumerate the factual errors in this particular tale. As my 8-year-old nephew would say, "No duh." I mean, this book rests in the fiction section of bookstores and libraries nationwide. And I'm pretty sure that I didn't see the word 'documentary' in any of the articles about the film. In fact, Sony is running this disclaimer at the beginning of the movie, "the characters and incidents portrayed and the names herein are fictitious, and any similarity to the name, character or history of any person is entirely coincidental and unintentional."

Could it be any clearer?

I guess some people think it could be. As I was strolling around Towson last week (on the prowl for a crab cake sandwich) a dude on the corner of York and Pennsylvania streets handed me a flyer advertising a rally against "The Da Vinci Code." And posted this article about the story's claims about Christ. I'm sure there are other protests, articles, lectures, etc., about this very same topic, but I haven't exactly gone seeking them out. The examples here landed on my doorstep, so to speak.

So WHY do people waste energy on this stuff? My theory is that the big problems, like poverty, hunger, homelessness, drugs, poor education, war, disease, and a whole lotta other things that escaped from Pandora's box millenia ago are too scary, too big, and seemingly impossible to deal with. But this here is something that can be solved, checked off a list, DONE, so people dive into the cause head first. You see it all the time with issues like flag-burning, building a, uh, practical version of Christo's "Running Fence" along the border with Mexico, and the FBI Porn Squad.

But, you know, as long as people are clear that "The Da Vinci Code" isn't gospel (har har) then society has accomplished something. Right?

One Year Later

Okay, so it's actually been a year and a week since my inaugural post. I have never, ever been accused of being punctual. I'm better than I used to be through much cajoling and hearty sighing by Hubby. But arriving someplace five minutes late still seems worlds better than getting there fifteen minutes early. I mean, have you ever been the loser who shows up for a party before anyone else, and the host scurries off to get dressed for the party and leaves you to greet the other early birds? I have. This is OK if you are fast friends with the host. But not when it's your boss, and it's a work party. Shudder.

Anyhoo, May 18, 2005 was the date, and my post was all about how being a new mother requires the same feats of strength and determination as making it through boot camp (I had a 10-month old at the time, and I was still nursing and dealing with all of the peripheral equipment and nutritional sacrifices that go along with that). Entirely appropriate, I think, for the happenings in my life right now, but more on that in a later post. How's that for a teaser?

Instead of trying to bait you with future posts, though, let's recap for a sec. Since this blog started, I've moved on to a new job (twice), gotten 65% of the way through revisions on a little somethin' somethin' I've been scribing (which will likely sit in a drawer or on a flash drive for eternity), flew to San Diego with the family to attend the International Comic-Con, seen a show on Broadway (huzzah for Spamalot!), organized a 30th birthday party for a pal o'mine, helped a future sister-in-law with minor details in planning her wedding to my Little Bro, contemplated moving (and subsequently postponed the idea for about a year), road tripped to Pittsburgh for a wedding (yep, Pittsburgh), and attended more baptisms, first communions, anniversary parties, and dance recitals than I thought were possible. That and many other things are dissected in this little piece of web-estate.

I'm not sure that I would've had a record of all of this livin' had it not been for the old blog. Journalling, romantic as it is, doesn't quite work for me since my hand cramps up into a crone's claw if I'm writing longhand for more than five minutes. Grocery lists can be torture. So typing is the way to go, but it somehow seems boring if I'm just whipping it up Doogie Howser, M.D.-style and dumping it into a word processing document.

Hmph. There's nothing especially revelatory (or, dare I say it, interesting?) about this post. But I wanted to acknowledge the anniversary, and maybe use it as an excuse to buy some sparkling apple cider and a cake. Mmmm...cake.

Friday, May 19, 2006

I'll Bet Those Moms are Giggling at Me Now...

I'm having a minor identity crisis. In the grand scheme of things, it's not so huge. But in the personal scheme of things, it's bigger than my hair on a humid day. And that, people, is saying something. On a humid day (or, as we call them in the Baltimore-Washington Metro region, "a day that ends in 'y'"), my shadow looks like a dandelion that's gone to seed. Okay, fine, if you want to get technical, my body isn't exacly stem-shaped. So, it'd be more like a potato that happens to have been genetically spliced with a dandelion head. A Dande-tato, if you will.

But I digress.

Today, after I dropped the Boy off at daycare, I glanced in the rearview mirror to check for oncoming traffic before pealing away from the curb. I am a careful driver, after all (quiet, Hubby). Okay, fine, I didn't look in the rearview for saftey reasons alone. Each morning I give the eight inches of myself that I can see in that sliver of a mirror -- the space between my eyebrows and my collar bones -- the once-over. Usually, I'm looking for out-of-control eyebrow hairs or errant streaks of mascara. Little things I can fix en route to the office. But what did I see this morning?

Magenta crayon. Streaks and scribbles all over the collar of my very white denim jacket. The accidental Jackson Pollack homage isn't a fashion statement on my part. Oh no. THESE marks are the artistic expression of a stubborn almost-two-year-old who insisted on clutching his collection of "crays" during the five-minute drive to daycare. Somehow, between buckling and unbuckling his eleventy-seven car seat safety straps, he tagged me.

Why is this causing an identity crisis? Because I DIDN'T NOTICE IT UNTIL I LOOKED IN A MIRROR. I have always prided myself in being aware of things happening in my periphery. But I didn't even catch it when I became graffiti canvas for a toddler. What is happening to my powers of perception? What if I hadn't looked in the mirror? I don't care about the jacket. It was a T.J. Maxx special and El Boyo used washable crayons anyway, so it's not like a precious piece of Prada was sacrified here. But criminy, what's next? Socks hanging out of my pocket? Buttery handprints on my skirt? Milky kiss prints on my cheek?

The mature earth mother in me recognizes these things as badges of parenting honor.

But the teenager from my past, the one who earned her pocket change through babysitting, and who wondered how some of the mothers could walk out of the house with that loose barrette or those jeans with the mustard stain, the one who resolved to always look put together nicely, and, barring that, clean... Well, she's having an interesting time recognizing that she's tumbling over to the other side of the fence. Oof. Well, at least my fall was cushioned by some very cute plush animals.

Okay, I feel a little better. Now, where's that stain stick?

Friday, May 12, 2006

They Don't Put Phone Booths in Bathroom Stalls for a Reason

A friend of mine sent me an irate e-mail. Not about anything I'd done, but about one of her co-workers. To keep the peace in the office, she opted to viciously type her frustration instead of speak them over the phone. Why was she irate?

Because there was a woman having a conversation on her cell phone in the ladies room.


The only time this is OK is when the call threatens to get weepy and you can't get away from the office. Otherwise, that call can happen later, or it can happen outside, or it can happen in your car. It doesn't need to happen in a place that might disrupt someone's, er, business. Public, multi-stall bathrooms are tolerable only because of a blessed veil of ignorance about whomever else might be in there with you. But that's all ruined when someone's casually chatting on a cell phone and sees you enter a stall.

It's not hard to draw the line on where it's improper to chat on your celly. My own personal belief about cell phone etiquette is that they are only acceptable when you are (a) in your home, (b) in your car (only if your local driving laws permit), (c) on a sidewalk or other such promenade, or (d) in public places where you would reasonably find a phone booth. The last one is clutch. Here's a list, though it's not comprehensive, of many places where you can't find a phone booth. Therefore, this is a list of places where you shouldn't be yapping ad infinitum on a cell phone:

1) Tables in resteraunts;
2) Public bathrooms (phone booths are typically located just outside of these places, ladies and gents);
3) Public transportation (trains, busses, subways);
4) Retail checkout lines;
5) Theaters (movie, live performance, etc.);
6) Houses of worship;
7) Libraries;
8) Medical offices;
9) Bleachers at little kids' sporting events;

Darn. I was really aiming for a top 10 list. Alas, I only have nine. Probably because these are the only ones I've personally, er, enjoyed. Do NOT make a call if you are in one of these places or situations. If you receive one, answer it if it's an emergency. And if it's an emergency, excuse yourself and take the call outside.

Phew, I feel better now. Rant over.

Now I get to go to the dentist. Again. Though hopefully this will be the last visit for at least 3 months.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


For the past few days, the Boy and I have been contending with a change-of-season cold. Two weeks ago, Maryland was a sunny spring wonderland, full of blooming flora and temperatures in the seventies. This past week, it's been mostly chilly and gloomy. Regardless of the daytime temps, though, the temperature plummets about thirty degrees at night, and our poor heating system can't always keep up. Think I'm kidding? Both Hubby and I have recently had dreams about being cold. For me, it was walking around in a snowy city looking for a coat, and for him it was being stationed on the moon. His vision of the moon, though, wasn't any kind of Isaac Asimov fantasy. He was basically in a warehouse plunked in the Sea of Tranquility and the heating system was wonky. Space is cold, yo.

Nice little recipe for minor head colds, right? Then, in my case, let's mix in the fact that my side of the office building hovers at sixty-five degrees (you know, to balance out the other side of the office building that hovers at eighty-five degrees). Truthfully, I'm surprised more people don't have colds right now.

Know what's getting a lot of people down lately, though? Allergies. Yep, all of those azaelas and dandelions and oaks are gettin' their pollen on, which means that there's a thick greenish coat of powder slumbering on our cars in the morning. Yummy. Those with allergies are all red-eyed and sneezy. When I worked at Georgetown, this is about the time of year that you'd see students and some faculty bustling across campus wearing surgical masks.

On that note, Hubby has dreadful allergies, but he's manned up under them nicely. However, he, and a couple of other folks I know, have been insisting that I probably have allergies too. WHY do people who have allergies want those of us who are blessedly unafflicted to join the club?

People hear my scratchy throat, ask me if I feel well, and proceed to contradict me when I tell them it's just a little bug. "Are you sure it isn't allergies?" they ask? Yep, pretty sure. Know why? 'Cause I'm not plagued by the Nyquil roster of ailments from March through October. I've only got 'em for a couple of days at a time. My sore throat's already going away. My sniffles are going away. My headache is going away. Does that happen if you have allergies but you're not popping Claritin or Allegra or whatever else is out there? My guess is no...

Ah well, maybe they are just trying to open me up to the possibility because ye olde allergy diagnosis and subsequent treatment caused a big ol' paradigm shift in their qualities of life. Yikes, though, howzabout you believe me when I tell you it's just a cold?

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Dandelion Appreciation Day

Dandelions never really held much appeal for me. Sure, when I was a kid, I'd pop off their punky heads. Who didn't? And a little later in the Spring, when they'd gone to seed, I'd blow its gray parachuted seeds to kingdom come in the pursuit of a wish. But that's about all the use I had for them. I didn't like to pick them because the sticky sap would trickle all over my hands, and then I either had to run to the house to wash or wipe the goo off on my shorts. Yick. So, mostly, I just left the scrubby little weeds alone.

Now, though, I smile every time I see them. I hunt down patches of them, and mentally file away their locale for a rendez-vous at a later date. Why?

One of the Boy's favorite things to do is to punt the fluffy gray seeds clear off of their stems. He has just learned to kick, and these little puff balls are perfect for his practice. He can square off against them and deliver the death knell with all of the expertise he has developed in his 22 months on the planet. The best part is, he's helping ensure his entertainment for the summer by spreading the seeds around.

Now, if we could just keep him from doing this in our neighbors' yards...

Monday, May 01, 2006

Guess I Just Have One of Those Faces

A few days ago, I was in a department store picking up some gifties for Hubby's birthday. I was dressed fairly casually -- khakis, black t-shirt, zippy sweatshirt -- and meandering among the finely stitched articles that make up the menswear department. As I'm walking along, I cross paths with an older gentleman and flash a smile at him. He smiles in return and asks, "Do you work here?" I'm not wearing a nametag, a smock, or any other telltale signs of someone whose paychecks are issued by Hecht's. Politely, I answer "No," and we continue down our respective walkways.

This happens to me ALL THE TIME. I don't mind, but I can't figure it out. At least this guy asked me if I worked in the store before peppering me with merchandise questions. I've been in stores where people just stand next to me and ask (without so much as an "excuse me" or a "please") where the shopping carts are, where the dairy aisle is, how to sign up for a discount membership, etc. If I know the answer, I'll share it. On the occasions when I reply that I don't know, folks take a second glance (probably to get my name and report me to my supervisor) and realize that, whoops, I'm just another customer.

So, what is it? Is it that I make unflinching yet deferential eye contact? Is that I smile in a world of frownies? I could cut out all of the friendliness, I guess, but that just wouldn't be me.

I kinda think it's all of the above, plus one very critical characteristic on the part of the other folks: they don't pay attention to whom they are speaking and make assumptions. The alternative is to take a minute and use their five senses (okay, maybe just two, 'cause I don't think that smell, taste and touch should really be used in the marketplace) to suss out employment status of the other person in the aisle.

Or maybe I really do have just one of those faces?

Friday, April 21, 2006

Score One for the 'Burbs

One of the nice things about working in BaCo (my affectionate term for Baltimore County) is that a bus will stop at a crosswalk in the middle of a busy road to allow pedestrians to scoot across the lanes. And I'm talkin' about intersections with no crossing signal, no light, no nothin' except the diagonally striped safety zone.

In DC, I think a bus will actually aim for pedestrians, daring the fragile meatbags to enter into a ten-stone versus six-ton game of chicken. Guess who begs off first?

Like I said, it's nice for a public service vehicle to follow the rules of the road.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Cleanin' Out My Closet...Sorta

A few weeks ago, one of my friends gifted me with loads of clothes that she didn't want to move to her new place. The collection comprised her "maybe I'll fit into this again someday" wardrobe. As she says, reality checked in: if she does return to this particular size, she's going to want to go on a spree and reward her reduced dimensions. Since I'm the sixth of seven children, I'm no stranger to hand-me-downs, and I eagerly accepted the goodies.

But oh, the jumbled clutter that my bedroom became. The overstuffed shopping bags tipped over and spilled their contents all over the floor. Honestly, I nearly wiped out a couple of times trying to hurdle past the piles to pick out a pair of shoes.

On Monday, I couldn't take it anymore, and decided to clean out my closet. Not Eminem-style, mind you. I literally cleaned out my closet. Flinging the windows open so the lush scent of Spring would inspire me, the closet carnage began. My rules were simple:

  1. If I didn't were an item for a full season, it goes in the Good Will box;
  2. If the item looks better on the hanger than it does on me, it goes in the Good Will box;
  3. If the item looks like it should belong ot my sister and not me, it goes in a shopping bag that will then go to her.

What could be easier, right? For the most part, it was. I mean, I can't imagine why I've held onto that mock turtleneck for so long. Or that cami; I mean, I cannot walk around without a certain degree of support, and camis aren't so good at keeping Victoria's secret. One of my favorite wha-huh? articles was a paisley print button down. Paisley? Paisley hasn't been in style since about 1989. It's not comin' back (dear God, at least I hope it isn't). That stuff all got pitched without any hesitation.

Then it got hard.

There's that henley that I bought for my husband (then boyfriend) for our first Christmas together in 1997 (and then stole back from him). And the Aran sweater that my parents picked up for me when they went on their anniversary trip to the Emerald Isle. And the tattered concert t-shirts that aren't really fit for wearing anymore: Depeche Mode, U2, Nitzer Ebb, Rush (one of these things is not like the other one....).

These items aren't just things. This stuff is autobiographical. It's tangible evidence of who I was at 14, at 17, at 20, at 30. So, they are neatly folded and resting comfortably in a dark, difficult-to-reach corner of my closet. Sure sure, I've heard that the things we own begin to own us. But I'm not sweatin' the three cubic feet that owns me. Well, not yet anyway. We'll see where I'm at when I'm 60. For now, though, I'm just satisfied that I can see my floor again and that wire hangers aren't sticking out from between my clothes at every angle.