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The cat on the table and the child in my head

I’m chopping vegetables when she starts crying, a plaintive meowing. She paces across the kitchen table, coat gleaming, belly hanging, begging for my attention. “I’m sorry, Cat. I’m fixing dinner. I’ve got nothing for you.”

In my head she’s a little girl. Three or four. Her eyes wide and pleading, “Mama, play with me!”

“I’m sorry, Baby. I’m fixing dinner. Papa will be home soon and I’m hungry! Would you like to help?”

She peels the garlic and breaks heads off brocoli stalks. “They look like tiny trees!” She is gleeful. I’m in awe of her strong little hands and the pleasure she takes in such simple tasks.

And then I chide myself for being so stupid. Getting lost in childish imaginings. Children are not in the picture. Not now, not for years, maybe never. Maybe because you never know and maybe because it just seems impossible. The other day I asked Michael, “How will we know?”

“When I have a job and we have health care and we’re ready to buy a house and we’re not worried about paying bills every month. Maybe then.”

Maybe we’ll wait until we’re in our forties and adopt. I can see myself, like all those women I watched in Manhattan with long silver hair and ethnic children. I could love any child I held in my arms, I know that.

By now I’ve peeled and chopped a whole garlic bulb, but I don’t care. I sprinkle it over the vegetables, slide it into the oven, set the timer. I over-season everything. Fresh cracked pepper makes raw chicken black. Kosher salt, onion flakes, garlic powder, oregano, basil, sage smells like pee but I sprinkle on three-times the amount you would anyway. The chicken will come out of the oven crunchy for spices but I don’t care. I like it that way. Just like I like my food burned crisp. Everything tasting like it came out of a campfire. Smoky.

I reach for another beer. Dinner is in the oven but Mike won’t be home for three hours at least. I’ll eat alone while I balance the budget. Wait up for him. Reheat a plate for him. Press my face into his neck while he eats. Breathe. So glad he’s home.

This is my second installment of Just Write, an exercise in free writing your ordinary and extraordinary moments, begun by Heather of the EO. You should totally join in.

There’s A Lot Going On

I have an intern. She’s fifteen, green-haired, and brilliant. She’s taken over RonAndRobertOnDivorce.com. In fact, she’s manning our entire social media campaign. The kid is so smart that half the time when I’m looking over her work I have to consciously hold my mouth closed or risk my jaw falling into my lap.

For the record, she’s also a lot of fun to work with. She’s smart and funny and she wears Doc Martens and listens to the Pixies and rocks her faded green  midnight-blue-with-turquoise-streaks* hair. She is one of the raddest chicks I’ve ever hung out with. And I hang out with some pretty rad chicks.

So I have an intern and that is fabulous. What else? Last weekend Mike and I catered a private film screening in a gorgeous house in Malibu and it was a huge success. I am super proud of us for pulling it off. The food was incredible – Mike planned the menu and cooked everything himself. His presentations were stunning. I cannot forgive myself for failing to take photographs of the table because you would have died. He served everything except the desserts on hand-painted Italian china and the desserts were served on antique silver. He cut beautiful, flower-like garnishes out of lemons and tiny red, gold, and green peppers. I’ve never seen anything like it. My husband is a god in the kitchen. Here are some crappy snap shots I took with my Blackberry while he was practice-cooking earlier in the week:

stuffed tomatoes

These have a fancy name but I can’t remember it. They are little tomatoes stuffed with lamb and goat cheese. So. Delicious.

endive salad

A little endive salad. These were so beautiful – the endive leaf is shaped like a little boat, and it’s filled with baby arugula, radiccio, sliced figs, goat cheese, candied walnuts, and a sprig of fennel.

He also served gorgonzola-stuffed bacon-wrapped dates, stuffed mushrooms, made-from-scratch spanakopita, crostinis with fresh tapenade, and the crown jewel was an onion tarte. For dessert there were lemon tarts and fruit tarts. Made from scratch. I’m telling you. Kitchen god.

We are both exhausted. Between last week’s catering gig, our jobs, social commitments, training for Bolivia, and planning for Bolivia, we are working from the moment we wake up until the moment we fall asleep.

Last night Mike and I took a night off from everything and watched four episodes of The Gates. It’s a ridiculous soap-opera about vampires and werewolves and it is mind-numbingly delicious. So we took a night off and watched four episodes while we gathered all our gear and cleaned it and folded it and sorted out what clothes need to be washed, packed our backpacks, ate dinner, and folded clean laundry.

See? Even when we take a night off we don’t take a night off. Though in all honesty, last night was perfectly lovely. It was fun to sort through our gear and I discovered all kinds of wonderful secret compartments in my hats and my backpack where I can stash emergency money in case we get robbed.

Which reminds me. We have to make our fake wallets. That way, if we do get robbed, we can hand over fake wallets with fake credit cards and fake drivers licenses and enough cash to make the thieves leave us alone. Brilliant, right? As long as they don’t search our bags. And if they do, we cross our fingers they don’t find all the secret compartments.

We’re going to be fine. I just have to remember to breathe.

*Ed: She changed colors. She’s a chameleon, that one.

Seriously Neurotic

I’m really sorry I haven’t been posting. I hate to start out with an apology, but I need do. I’ve also been an asshole friend lately, I know. Tonight? I totally flaked out on Thursday Night Family Dinner. I pretty much suck.

But my goodness, I need to take a minute and breathe. There is so much going on right now that when I think about it I want to cry. I’m completely freaked out about a million different things and even though I know, I really know (or I desperately hope) that everything is going to be ok, there is a part of me that’s terrified.

I cannot believe I am going to Bolivia in two weeks. Two weeks from Monday. I honestly don’t remember how I got roped into this, but somehow I did and now I just hope I make it through the twenty-hour flight without vomiting. I really hate vomiting. If I don’t vomit or have diarrhea on this trip, I will consider it a success. Of course, I also hope we don’t get raped and none of us are murdered, or killed by wild animals, or maimed in some horrible accident. But if none of those things happen, if we make it back to Los Angeles with our bodies intact and none of us ever having vomited or experienced diarrhea that shoots out of your bum and won’t stop, I will consider this trip a rave success.

We have eleven doses of Cipro, a water filter, and a stockpile of pro-biotics. Eleven is my lucky number and the rest of that stuff is for good measure.

I know we’re going to be fine.

And then I’m nervous about money. I hadn’t factored in the loss of income when we saved up for this trip, so it only occurred to me yesterday that perhaps we can’t quite afford this. I mean, we can, it’s going to be fine, things are just going to need to be a little bit tighter when we get home. It’s not a big deal, these are first-world problems, I know. In this economy, the fact that we can afford this trip at all is proof that we are doing just fine, but I’m the kind of person who really prides myself on having good financial management skills, so when I realize that perhaps I didn’t quite plan the finances as well as I thought I did, my ego hurts. (You can tell how upset I am by the run-on sentences.) Then I think about how irritated our employers are that we’re leaving for three weeks and suddenly I think I might have diarrhea so bad it shoots out my bum and won’t stop.

Mike and I had a major heart-to-heart last night because I’ve been very vocal lately, mostly during our training sessions, about how much I hate this and that I don’t know why the (expletive) we’re doing this. He told me again that I don’t have to go, that I really can stay home. He’d said he’d rather I stay home than come along and be miserable.

And I thought for a minute, I really took a moment and thought about it. The thing is? For all my anxiety and terror, I am pretty sure that, even though there might be some really horrible moments, even if we get robbed and we need to take an anti-biotic to stop the shooting-from-bum disease that is travelers diarrhea, there will most likely also be moments that are life-alteringly-beautiful. Yes, I realize “alteringly” isn’t a word, but I think this trip is the sort of thing that can help shape a person’s life. It will build character, as they say. I just pray to the Lord Almighty that we are re-shaped in a healthy emotional way. As in, we make it back to L.A. closer as a family than we were before, and with all our parts attached.

wiener dog

I’m betting you’ve missed the wiener dog. How could you not? Look at that face!

Nervous Wreck

I have about fifteen minutes before I need to get back to work, but I wanted to pop in and say hi. I’m not going to bother editing this after I write it, which is something I have not ever done on this website ever. Not once. Please forgive the grammar, language, spelling, or other resulting ridiculousness.

We are very busy getting ready to leave for Bolivia – we leave exactly one month from today. I am nervous. Incredibly nervous. We haven’t done much training since Mount Wilson. I’ve practiced yoga a few times and we’ve been running three times, but that is not adequate training for a three week adventure in one of the poorest and least developed countries in the Southern Hemisphere.

Then there’s that. We’re about to spend three weeks in one of the poorest and least developed countries in the Southern Hemisphere. I’m all pissed off right now because we can’t afford health care, but you know what we do have? Two bathrooms. Air conditioning. Indoor plumbing. Paved streets. Weekly trash collection. Urgent Care clinics on nearly every block. We’re going to be staying in “hotels” in towns with fewer than six hundred residents and dirt floors. And none of us speak Spanish. Which actually doesn’t matter, because these Bolivians don’t speak Spanish either. They speak Aymara. Ironically, we’ve been advised not to talk to anyone who approaches us speaking English because they are most definitely a criminal who will take you to a pretend Official Looking Building where pretend police officers then force you to hand over your wallet, your passport, everything but the clothes on your back. Then they let you go.

We could have gone to Peru instead, but then we found out that in Peru, they don’t let you go. They cut your throat instead.

Anyway, I’m a little nervous. The good news is that the crimes happen in cities, not in the Andes, which is where we’ll be. We’ll stay in La Paz for a few days, but these crimes generally happen to people who are traveling alone. There are three of us, we will not ever separate (seriously, Mike is planning to accompany me even when I have to go to the bathroom – we’ll have reached a new and unfortunate level of intimacy after this trip) and because we are aware that these (and other) schemes occur, we’ll be more likely to avoid them.

I’m lucky that I’ll be traveling with two tall, strong, smart, careful men. I say “tall” and “strong” first because sometimes burly strength is more important than smarts. Sometimes.

Anyway, I’ll say it again. I’m nervous. I’m nervous about crime, I’m nervous about the altitude, I’m nervous I won’t have trained enough, I’m nervous about leaving work for three weeks. Ohemgee I am nervous about leaving work. That singular thought alone turns my stomach upside down. I’m a bit of a nervous wreck. How many more times do you think I can say nervous in this paragraph? Nervous. Nervous! NERVOUS. Ner-vous.

And…. that’s enough. Thanks for listening. I’m going to go do a couple of sun salutations.

Where Does Quinoa Come From?

I love Quinoa. My mother introduced me to it, but it was GGC who taught me that quinoa is something you can eat a million ways and seventy times a week.

Ok, not that much. Everything in moderation.

My favorite way to eat quinoa is as breakfast (with hot milk, cinnamon, a sprinkle of brown sugar) or instead of pasta. It cooks up super fast, has tons of protein, tastes good, and is way better for you than pasta.

First you clean it. I rinse it the same way I rinse a bunch of grapes, only instead of a regular colander, I use a tiny mesh colander.

rinsed

Then I put it in a little pot with maybe a quarter inch of water on top of it. Like so:

just add water

You want to let it come to a nice boil over medium heat. When it boils, turn the heat way down, cover it, and let it simmer for ten to fifteen minutes. The water will soak into the seeds until they open and become almost transparent. They are surprisingly beautiful, strange looking little grains.

needs a fluffer

You just can’t tell in this picture.

We like to dish it out, then smother it in homemade pasta sauce and Asiago cheese. We eat it out on the balcony and watch the sun set. And when I try to take a photo of Mike with his wonderful quinoa dinner he says, “Seriously? I’m chewing.”

he is chewing

Gertrude

The weather has been so lovely that I’ve been able to spend my work days out on the balcony, the little dogs at my feet, and a family of house finches squabbling over my shoulder.  They don’t mind me at all. The big orange feeder full of black oil sunflower seeds is far too wonderful to ignore just because there is a large possible predator mammal sitting a mere three feet away.

Gertrude

This is Gertrude.  As in Stein, of course.  She’s a house finch and she is very brave. I call her mate Atticus (I have to thank Kate for that one) and I know he’s Gertrude’s mate because they always fly in together. But they never eat at the same time, oh no.  Gertrude is very particular and insists that Atticus wait on a nearby lantern while she and her best girlfriend Anastasia eat their fill.  Atticus isn’t particularly fond of this arrangement.  He gets impatient and will frequently drop off of the lantern, wings spread, toes aimed at the lip of the feeder. When Gertrude realizes he’s left his post (the nerve!) she flaps her wings furiously and squawks at him, sending him back to the lantern in a flurry of feathers. This will happen two or three times, he drops, she squawks and flaps, till finally she’s sick of it and follows him to the lantern, wings beating, squawk! Squawk! Squawk! Now he knows he’s in trouble so he flies to the next lantern, a little further away. Gertrude circles him once, squawks a final warning, and goes back to finish her meal. When I move to pick up my coffee, the females startle and fly off in a spray of seeds. Atticus will dart from the lantern to the lip of the feeder, just long enough to grab a mouthful of seeds before he’s off after the girls.

They have such lovely and complicated lives. Like us.

Or else I am totally anthropomorphizing.

Are you serious?

wtfairsoft

Photo credit: Kirsten Thupancic, Ph.D., S.I.L.

This photo is awesome because it was taken before I’d ever played airsoft, back when the thought of crawling on my belly through sage brush at nine a.m. on a Saturday morning made me cringe.

Best airsoft moment this weekend? There were two.

1.) The battle in the trenches. I had this one guy pinned down for like, ten minutes. I’d pop up over the trench and spray him for five or six seconds, then drop back down to wind my mag. He was doing the same thing, but he was hiding behind a bush so I had a better chance of getting him than he had of getting me. I never did get him, but I didn’t let him out from behind that bush, either. He did, however, nail Mike, but I didn’t find that out until we debriefed over dinner at the end of the day.

2.) My team was occupying Goat Town and four guys from the other side had infiltrated one of our buildings. I was hiding in a structure not twenty-five feet from them and I nailed every. single. one.  OMG I cannot believe how much I love airsoft.

Perfectly Perfect Perfect

When we moved from Hells Kitchen to Harlem I was working eleven hours a week and Mike was unemployed and on Spring break from school. We were able to spend the better part of every day cleaning, unpacking, decorating, nesting, and we were all settled in a matter of weeks. It was fantastic. But this time I’ve been at work every day and Mike’s had to do most of the heavy lifting without me.  Me, who likes to do everything myself because I want everything to be perfectly perfect perfect.

This has been the source of several very high energy moments in the past couple of weeks. Mike is very patient and very laid back, and I am the Tazmanian Devil. We signed our lease on a Monday but by Tuesday I’d spent four days decorating the apartment in my mind and making long lists of everything that needed to be cleaned.

One morning as Mike was driving me to the office, we had a huge fight.  Except it wasn’t really a fight. Calling it a fight implies yelling and screaming, and that’s not our style.  Anyway, immediately after lecturing Michael on how I won’t be able to live in the apartment until the bathrooms have been scrubbed inside and out, I started telling him that I thought it would be fabulous to decorate said bathrooms with all gold vintage decor.  He made a face at me and said he thought that was the most horrible idea I’d ever come up with ever.

Except not really. What he said was, “That will look really tacky,” but what I heard was, “That is the most horrible idea you’ve ever come up with ever. Also, you are fat and ugly.”

When he dropped me at work I was nearly in tears. I was also on my way to being late for work, so I couldn’t sit in the car and talk about how I was feeling. Instead I had to sit in my office and stew about it.  And stew I did, for a nice long while. Then I texted him:

“I love you. I want for this to be a fun and happy time for us.  I want to feel like you accept me and like my ideas. It’s crushing when you think my ideas are stupid. You’re my best friend and when you think my ideas are stupid it’s really painful. So far you’ve hated every idea I have and I’m starting to feel like this is your apartment, not ours.”

Don’t you love how dramatic I am? It’s so awful it’s funny, right? “So far you’ve hated every idea I have…” Straight out of Days of Our Lives, the generic suburban version.

He texted back:

“All I’m doing is cleaning. I understand how you feel. I’m sorry. I don’t want to feel the same – like you want to make this your apartment, and all I do is scrubbing and hauling. The good news is that we are not in a huge hurry. I want us to work together to make a home. I respect your ideas, and I know we can make this work.”

I took a deep breath. Why was I so angry? I mean, seriously. Sixties gold décor in the eighties-era bathroom with the clamshell sink. It wouldn’t have worked at all. So I called my mother and my girlfriends, some of the most brilliant and wonderful women I know. “What should I doooooo?????” I whined. They all three said the same thing. They pointed out that we both had valid points and we’d both expressed a desire to work through the situation.  They said we were ahead of the game. They offered help, advice, encouragement, and comfort.  They made me laugh. And Kim gave me complete instructions for how to wash out my filthy dishwasher, something I otherwise would not, for the life of me, have known how to do.

I wasn’t angry that Mike didn’t like my ideas. I was angry because he was doing it all without me. I felt like I was missing out on everything.  All the cleaning, all the moving, all the furniture-arranging.  He thought he was getting a big chore out of the way, but I felt like I was being cheated of an opportunity to nest – something I’d been aching to do since August. Meanwhile, here he is, spending his days scrubbing and hauling while I yammer on about curtains and throw pillows and give lectures on how to clean the toilet. No wonder he didn’t have the patience to talk about gold vintage décor.

When we finally got another chance to talk, we realized that we were both aiming for the same thing – a fabulous little home we’ll love for the next two to five years, depending on how long it takes us to save up for a house.  Once we figured that out, we were able to talk about all of the things that needed to get done, his priorities and mine, and I realized that moving comes before decorating and maybe my evenings were better spent scrubbing the filthy toilet instead of shopping online. Which, of course, was what I really wanted to be doing anyway.  After all, there is nothing in the world like a freshly scrubbed toilet.

Frosty’s Got Her Groove Back (I think.)

Chillin

V-Dog says, “Just chill, man. Just chill.”

Today marks three months since we arrived in Los Angeles and three months of living with my parents and all our animals. I wrote a one-month check-in, but I skipped the two-month because it was a much less pleasant month. First of all, it rained nearly every day. Also, the honeymoon of being home had worn off and I was reminded of all of The Valley’s flaws and did you know that sometimes it rains in Los Angeles? Because I was sure there was no rain here but it has rained at least forty-five of the ninety days we’ve been home.

This last month has seen it’s own trials, don’t get me wrong. But I think I’m starting to get into the swing of it. We’re beginning to get into a bit of a routine, which is great, I am a huge fan of routines. We’ve been spending a lot of time with family and we’re looking forward to the holidays. Also, I’ve gotten over the weather, mostly. I went to New York at the end of October and realized that sixty-degree weather is not cold. Sixty-degrees is lovely, thank you. I will never again complain about sweater weather in November.

As far as work goes, it’s starting to be fun again. For a minute things were really intense, but I’m settling in, learning how to work with the other members of my team, finding my voice. Michael hates his job, loathes and despises it, but as soon as he gets his California EMT card he’ll be moving on, so he’s not letting it get to him. Instead he’s looking forward to school in January. He finally got all his transcripts sorted out and he’s been given a date to register for Spring semester. The admissions office had given him such a hard time about his classes – as if Bio 1 in New York City is somehow sub par to Bio 1 in Los Angeles – it made me crazy. When I found out he’d gotten everything transferred over, it was all I could do not to jump up and down and squeal like a child. I am absolutely over the moon.

So things have been looking up. The second month home I felt like moving had been a mistake, something we rushed into, dear god, what did we do to our life? But this month feels good. Like we’re getting our groove back.

It occurred to me today that all of life is like this. That no matter what, there are good days and bad days, sometimes you’re in a groove and sometimes you’re in a ditch. Even when we aren’t making big life changes, things are always changing, and just because we find our way one day doesn’t mean we won’t get lost the next. I think that what I need to focus on is building a life that’s congruent with my goals. Even when things aren’t going the way I plan, if I’m at least moving towards something I want, I feel happy.

What are my goals, you ask? I’d be happy to tell you! In the next six months I’d like to spend more time with friends. I’d like to spend more time writing. I want to visit Florida with Michael so we can spend time with his mother. I want go on weekly dates with my wonderful husband. I want to be living in a little two-bedroom home that we love, that we could be happy in for at least five years. I want health insurance. And I want to be having fun and feeling successful in my career.

Those are pretty reasonable goals, right? Totally manageable. If things change between now and then, if my goals change, it doesn’t matter. After all, people make plans and God laughs at plans. And then people cry and get depressed. Then they make new plans and feel hopeful and there we have the circle of life.

Self Indulgent and Super Classy

iphone.lo

Remember when I was in New York and I was blogging while posing for my friend Christine’s photo project? This is one of her final picks.

The assignment was to shoot a five page fashion spread that tells a story, so she decided to tell the story of a young blogger who gets her first book published. The spread would be titled, “Frosty-licious: Self Indulgent and Super Classy” and it features the blogger participating in various social media platforms. This one is called, “Twitter.” Or I don’t know, I just made that up, you’d have to ask Christine what it’s called.

Anyway, all the photos came out great, but I think my personality is most beautifully captured in this one:

Hawt

Don’t you agree?