Monday, December 19, 2011

Art and Life Goals

It has been a very busy holiday season. And the holidays have barely started. Work has been incredibly busy, tedious, and complicated. I worked really hard to finish the schedule that is due next. Fall of 2012. I had just finished Summer 2012. With finals, helping students and instructors, and scheduling, it was a crazy couple of weeks. However, we did throw a nice holiday party for our staff and we were treated to a lot of great food. We have a diverse group of people, so they all brought dishes they specialize in: real fried rice, pot stickers, dumplings, jerk chicken, Polish cheesecake, and more. There was so much food! So much. I made the only dish that I can make with confidence: rhubarb raspberry pi pie. The people I worked with thought it was funny. And tasty. They thanked us for all of our hard work, and it was very nice to be recognized, even though I get shy at those moments.

One of the instructors invited me and J to Art Walk Miami. We have been trying to coordinate this for a few months now, but it has rained, or she or I have been sick. We finally were able to go and I am so glad we did. It happens on 2nd Avenue in the Wynwood Art District. It is an event where shops, restaurants, and the artists' studios are open to the public. It was one of the first times I felt like I belonged down here.

I may not dress like it, but I have the soul of a blue haired, artsy, hipster. The day I don't need a 9 to 5 job is the day I do something fun with my hair... I might be sixty when this happens, but it will happen. Seeing all of those artistic people made me feel like part of a community. They enjoy and appreciate something other than spray tans. I see them and I feel okay for being me in a city full of superficial men and women. I saw this one guy, he was a tall African American with beautiful skin, a crazy mohawk, and the fiercest jacket I've ever seen. Lady Gaga would have wanted it. He had to walk down the street sideways so he didn't poke someone in the eye. My first thought was, "Oh my gosh. He is so cool." And my second thought was, "How considerate! He is nicer than all of the jerks who bump into me at the mall."

The people watching was worth the trip alone. But the art was the reason we went. It was definitely interesting. We saw the Time and Place gallery show by Susy Igligki. It was interesting commentary on life in third world Latin America and the disparity between the rich and the poor. It can be argued that there are similarities to Miami. In the same gallery I also enjoyed the Titans show by Magaly Barnola-Otaola. Her work was kinetic drawings of man and machinery. It has a sketchy, draftsman style that I found intriguing. We stopped in at EVL World owned by Erni Vales. The work was street style and juxtaposed sweet and dark. I liked some of the paintings, and I liked that the artist provided a thought-process blurb next to his pieces. He is currently working on a project of 13 paintings a month for 13 months. He was near Kawaii Universe, a sticker shop that was cute and very kawaii (Japanese style- think Hello Kitty). I like some of the stickers, and I might buy some from their Etsy shop in the future. Another really cool shop was Plant the Future by Paloma Teppa featuring some pieces by Chu Teppa. It was a store filled with terrariums, orchids, desert gardens, bonsai, airplants, and cacti. J and I really liked that store. The style was more modern than we are usually drawn to, but we both appreciated living art. The best art, to me, though, was the graffiti on the Wynwood Walls. I nearly hyperventilated when I saw the Space Invader piece. SPACE INVADER. And Shepard Fairey! (He did the famous Obama poster.) These are some of the most famous living artists of our generation! I would have fainted if there was a Banksy piece. I have some qualms about street art, even though I appreciate the art form a lot, I still feel badly about people being inconvenienced and their property being vandalized. So I particularly enjoyed the graffiti on the Wynwood Walls because it was commissioned.

We stopped in more studios and saw a lot of interesting things, but I'll spare you all of the details. We also enjoyed some yummy food. You know me- not a blog post goes by where I don't describe something wonderful that I enjoyed. The food trucks were at the Art Walk and we were particularly excited because we haven't gone in months. The friend we went with had never had Ms.Cheezious before. J and I believe so highly in the power of grilled cheese that we've taken all of our visitors to Ms.Cheezious. And unless our friends and family have been lying to us- they have had life changing experiences with grilled cheese. I stand by the prosciutto goat cheese number with french fries. The cheese fries in particular are also yummy. After partaking in silence inducing food (so good you just shut up and eat) we stopped at the Coolhaus truck for the best ice cream sandwich I've ever had. J and I shared a chocolate chip cookie and Oreo coffee ice cream sandwich. The paper they give you is edible and for a good reason- you'll end up eating it they give you so much ice cream. The cookies were perfect: soft and chewy. That is the right vehicle for ice cream. Crunchy cookies simply don't work. It was one of my best food nights in a long time.

It was also one of the best nights in general. I love art. I have always said, "If I die and go to heaven, I hope it is either an art museum or a library." I have had some life changing moments in both places. They also symbolize the things I love to do most: create, enjoy the creation of others, write, and read. I have been struggling for a long time now with the quarter-life crisis question: WHAT AM I GOING TO DO WITH MY LIFE? I have had to put a lot on hold to move here. But when we leave, I am ready to dive, head first, into my calling. I kept going back and forth: do I do what I would be good at, that could make me money, but that would be less enjoyable? Or do I do what I love and live a more simple life? I've tossed around Human Resources, Adult Education, Law, Psychology, Child Life Specialist, Art Therapist, and a few more. I can say, quite honestly- and maybe I'm being full of myself, that I think I would do well at any of those fields. Each of those careers builds off of one of my strengths.

But after months of being unhappy with Miami and unhappy with what I do for 40 hours a week, I have come to the conclusion that I have to really like (if not totally love) what I do. Maybe I will fail, but I have to at least try, right? And I'm very lucky to have J. He supports me and wants me to be happy in whatever I do. So, I asked myself some questions and I asked J to help me (and an article in O Magazine helped a lot). I want to honor my talents. I think I can have a positive impact on the world. And I think doing what I am meant to do will bring more joy to my life than a sizable income ever could.

  • When I was a kid, I dreamed of: stories, adventure, and art.
  • I can't pass up a book or movie about: fantasy, humor, or quirky characters.
  • If I played hooky from work for a week, I'd spend the time: making stuff, sightseeing, and writing about it all.
  • Most people don't know this about me, but I really enjoy: writing and experiencing the outdoors.
  • I am the go-to person when my friends need help with: organization, advice, and crafts.
  • If I could star in my own how-to TV show, it would be about: organizing, crafts, or advice.
  • If I were to make a homemade gift, it would involve: ANYTHING! (Paint, yarn, glitter, pencils, wood, paper, recycled and found material, cloth...)
  • I've tried only once or twice, but I really enjoy: rock climbing and skiing.
  • The closest I came to a runner's high is when I'm: performing on stage or making art.
  • If I won first prize in a talent show, it would be for: art or public speaking.

I listed my top 5 passions as:
1. making art
2. writing
3. being in nature
4. performing/speaking publicly
5. organizing

I asked J to name three of my strengths and he said that I was organized, creative, and empathetic. I also asked him to tell me a story about my passion. He said that I have a clean, organized art studio where I do drawings or paintings and I donate some of my profits to charity. I liked where he was headed with that story. It exemplifies a lot of the things that are important to me. We went back and forth with the story and tweaked it so that I also run a small, online business and I write full-time and do art/crafts part time. We agreed that where I am currently with my art/crafts I could start an online business in the near future, but that the writing would require some further training/polishing. It scares me to consider a possibility where I do not have a steady income with reliable benefits. Organization and preparedness is huge for me. I'm the biggest worrier I know, so letting go and taking care of things on my own is terrifying. The article included a quiz that determined what I am motivated by. I am mostly motivated by Enlightenment (hence, the desire to be happy over the desire to be rich). I am also motivated by Security (the fear of not meeting the needs of my family) and Accomplishment. Interestingly enough, I am least motivated by my Connection to others. I run hot and cold with people and I find I'm only consistent in wanting to be with J and Ruby. :) If I pursued this, it would allow us to live anywhere (unlike Art Therapy) which would benefit J's career and passion. I have spent a lot of time thinking about what it is that will make me feel "whole." The Art Walk was the reminder I needed: this is who I am. This is where I feel great. This is where I feel appropriately challenged. I want my life to have meaning.

I have a lot working against me: I lack training, I fear an unstable income, I'm not good at selling myself or my work, it is not a good time to be making poor financial decisions, and I lack a good "creative space." I do know that I have a lot of people who would support me in this endeavor. And some who would question me. But I want to give it a try. I know I won't succeed at the first go around. But this is what I love doing: I'm sitting up late to write this out. I've sat up late and got up at 5:45 in the morning to make scarves for people, or to finish my homemade gifts that I am excited to give out on the 25th.

I think it is possible to bring a little of my "dream heaven" into my world. These are the things in life that bring life to me.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

November's Nearly Done

It is official. Holiday season is upon us. I'm a slight scrooge, so I do not acknowledge the upcoming holidays until the Thanksgiving meal has started digesting. (To me, Christmas music anytime before the week of Christmas is just annoying.) This year I'm slightly more festive than last. Last Thanksgiving, J and I had Chinese food and went to the beach. I was unemployed and less than thrilled about my current city. This year, things have changed: I'm employed. :) We were invited to a traditional dinner hosted by my co-worker's mom. (We do crafts together once a week.) I love Chinese food and I had a great Thanksgiving with J last year, but I love Thanksgiving food even more. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, so it was nice to spend it in a more traditional way this year. It was also nice to be around a family, even if it wasn't mine.

The food was amazing, and I wouldn't expect any less from my crafting guru. She makes awesome brownies, but even better stuffing and mashed potatoes. The turkey was good and the gravy was made from scratch. There were croissants and green beans and baked ziti. (Ziti is their family tradition, but I held off in order to maximize the space in my stomach for stuffing and potatoes. Starch, starch, carbs- I love starches and carbs!!!) Dessert was pumpkin pie and brownies. J and I were happy campers.

After dinner, J and I kept our tradition by going to the beach. We looked for shells and enjoyed the cooler weather. Once we got home, we did a big clean up and then set about decorating. J and I had purchased some ornaments from Target for a couple of bucks (literally, these things were twenty five cents) last year, so up they went. Instead of a tree, we did a garland. The cats and Ruby would have had too much fun with a tree and since we will be home for the holidays, we didn't want to bother. The theme this year was snowflakes, navy, and silver. J and I don't agree on much, but we agree that we hate red and green. Getting the garland up was actually pretty tricky. We admired our handiwork with beer and hard lemonade.

Also keeping us busy is our adorable four legged baby. (That conjures up a funny image.) Ruby is everything we could have hoped for and more. We are simply mad about her and I understand now why people get so obsessed with their dogs. She's my Best Thing Ever. She knows to be calm when I'm upset/sad about something. She knows the sound of my car and when I come home later than J, she is anxious to greet me at the door. She's happy to see me in the morning- and in the middle of the afternoon when I've been home for hours. Ruby's smart... and a little stubborn. We're still diligently working on potty training (the dog attack and broken leg were huge set backs for us). She can be a little sneaky sometimes and she likes to eat fuzz. But she's great at her tricks and commands: sit, stay, wait, come, paw, high five, spin, twirl, drop it, leave it, and lie down. The only one in her repertoire that she is really missing is: "POTTY. Now, please?" She just got fixed last week. She was miserable the first day. She couldn't sit, so she'd just lean on me. And she was drugged, so her puppy eyes were especially sad. But the next morning she was already full of her signature joie de vivire. She's my bounce-back kid. I love her tenacious, precocious, sweet mannerisms. She gets car sick, just like me. And although she's not very vocal, she's got a fierce little growl when playing tug and she makes the funniest whimpers and grunts in protest of having to ride in the car.

Ruby's been spoiled with the company of a friend for the last week. We're puppy sitting for a friend's dog. It's a toy poodle that J and I have sat for before. This dog is such a sweetie. She's so well mannered and loving. The only problem is that she's a couple of years old, so she can find Ruby to be annoying. It is sort of like sisters, except one is a "too-cool" teenager and the other is a sticky-fingered two year old. They still play nicely, and once in awhile J and I can get them to both calm down and rest on the couch at the same time. We will all be sad when her owner comes to pick her up. (It has helped with the potty training a bit. J and I are consistent with the older dog- and it's a good model for Ruby, even though there still have been accidents...)

Work has been surprisingly difficult. I thought it would calm down. Even though the pace is not as frantic, the work seems to multiply and I find every minute of every day occupied with helping students, helping co-workers, answering e-mails, fixing the copier, unjamming the printer, getting more paper for the copier or the printer, etc etc. I have a hard time just making it to the bathroom. And the scary thing is: there are now four of us in the office who are doing this ALL DAY LONG. I'm looking forward to December because after the second week the semester ends. So, aside from being a puppy parent and working hard, I've also been working towards the holidays. Just because I'm a scrooge doesn't mean I hate Christmas. My favorite part of the holiday is giving gifts. I have a "token of appreciation" problem. I like to give people stuff. Mostly small stuff. Sometimes hand-made stuff. But I'm a stuff-giver. So Christmas is a great time for a stuff-giver. And even though the holidays don't start for me until after Thanksgiving, I still anticipate gift giving long before hand. When purchasing gifts, I start in September. This year I had a goal of making 50% of my gifts, so I started in July. I upped the goal to making 90% of my gifts. I will only buy things for J, since he does not want beaded jewelry or dyed silk scarves. :) I'm still making him little things though. It is a challenge to think of what people could possibly appreciate- and I have a feeling my brother(s) would rather have something spiffy, like an xBox Kinect- but I'm on a budget, people- and a mission to fight corporate America. Even if I am one person. So I've been a good little elf- toiling away at my kitchen table/workbench, trying to beat the clock.

And there is a homecoming to prepare for. My dog is basically naked (if you want a dog that doesn't shed, get an Italian Greyhound). But she's a wimp when it comes to anything below fifty degrees. She already has a sweater (its a black and white striped number with a skull and crossbones) and she actually likes wearing it. I know, I know. I sound like one of those crazy ladies with the monkey for a pet, "He likes dressing up. Don't you? See, he's chewing my face with his teeth, that means he likes it." But when I say, "Sweater?" She runs immediately to me and practically barrels her head in the neck hole. She also has a hard time parting with it. I don't blame her- it's nice to be warm, and to be warm and stylish. But a wimpy sweater that only covers her chest and back isn't going to cut it in a Wisconsin winter. So we ordered her fleece, hand-made dog jammies (from Etsy). They have little monsters on them. Because she's my monster- nothing too girly for my baby girl. (If my dog was named Lola, she'd be decked in pink, but Ruby's signature color is red, and she's too rough and tumble for tutus.) ;) She also has long skinny legs, so we got her booties. And a hat for her thin ears. She's going to be more layered than me! I'll have to get a picture of her in full Wisconsin weather regalia. (The hat she hates- so that might not last. But I'd rather have a warm dog than a frozen one.)

Whew- this post was far longer than I intended. I'm just so excited about going home. And for my family to meet the apple of my eye. I'm looking forward to family, friends, and food. (Speaking of food, J and I went back twice to Rancho Grande- their burritos are the best I've had down here. We also tried Taco Rico- service was super fast but food was so-so. The price for the portion is great, but I'd rather have Rancho Grande.) I don't know if I'll carve out the time to post before home, but if I don't:

HAPPY HOLIDAY SEASON TO YOU AND YOUR FAMILIES!! Stay warm, my Sconnies, and travel safe.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Mmmmm Miami

It is now “Fall” in Miami. By “Fall” I mean that it is no longer blazing hot and the threat of hurricanes have subsided. I still don’t consider it to be truly Fall because the leaves don’t change colors and any décor of Halloween or Thanksgiving looks simply ridiculous down here when it reaches 80 degrees on a regular basis. One of the things I liked most about the changing seasons back home is the pseudo hibernation you go into- layer on thick knits and eat massive amounts of yummy food. I hear it has been snowing back home. =)

I’ve been keeping busy with work. At the end of the summer we had to gear up for the upcoming season. I’ve had some technical and slightly difficult tasks added to my job description. This doesn’t bode well for a perfectionist like myself because I constantly stress. There are a lot of people relying on me to do the data entry correctly. It could have major consequences for them if I don’t. When I was in college, I worked well under pressure, because I was the person applying the pressure. I don’t work well under pressure when a whole department or organization has high expectations. It gives me knots in my shoulders and searing pain behind my eyes.

Therefore, I’ve been laying low on the evenings. I read, I craft, I watch television- I avoid being on the computer as much as possible at home since I’m on it all day at work. I’ve also started volunteering at a local botanical garden that I’ve been taking some crafting classes at. I’ll be volunteering more this weekend for an Art Fair. I was asked to submit some crafts for the Art Fair since I took some of their classes. I worked pretty hard on dying about a dozen silk scarves and I submitted a couple pieces of jewelry. We’ll see if anyone wants what I make! If so, I might consider quitting my day job and open a crafting business. I’m only half kidding.

The biggest reason I work is to have money to enjoy myself (second to paying bills of course). So I’ve been exploring more of the dining options down here. I know I’m a very picky eater. I’m probably worse than a toddler. But, for all of my pickiness, I love food and I enjoy going out to dine and try things I like prepared in different ways. (I still will never like cooked veggies or avocado.)

The first restaurant I tried was actually a whim. I love buffalo sauce, but I hate eating wings off of the bone. I had been at a Halloween party with some acquaintances and I was really hungry after I left (first one to go, I’m so boring, I know). I had been dying for wings and BW3s boneless wings have not been cutting it. I had gone to the party as a hipster. No one got it. It was meta-hipster. Part of the costume was Pabst Blue Ribbon. To stay in character, I had a couple, and when I drink- even the slightest amount- I get super hungry. So, I was hungry and craving buffalo sauce. I decided now was the time to try real wings at a local place that I’ve been hearing of called The Sports Bar. It’s an original name, I know. I ordered wings, and cheese fries. It was the best decision I’ve made in awhile. The wings were amazing! The perfect amount of spicy for the slight burn you feel in your mouth that only blue cheese can cool. The fries were seasoned really well and they came with two cups of nacho cheese. It was a truly gluttonous experience.

I’ve never eaten a large amount of wings off of the bone (I’ve tried one here and there), and it was good I had a couple of beers in me because I basked in the glow of the flavor with wing sauce giving me a “Joker” smile. Why so serious? For those of you who know me well- mostly my dad- you know this is a huge step for me because I’m not that crazy about chicken, and I’m even less crazy about bones. For the entire time I lived at home, I daintily cut my meat and handed my dad the bones (with plenty of meat still on them, and YES- I know, the best flavored meat) but I cannot help it. I don’t do caveman well.

Shortly before that, I was given an amazing empanada at work. I’ve never had one before, and from what I understand, they are usually fried, but this one was baked. It’s like a mini-calzone without sauce. Something with a bready covering? Yes. I’m there. Cheese? Hells yeah, I’m double there. You don’t even have to ask. Melted cheese runs sluggishly through my veins. I had half of one of those babies and I was addicted. I held my colleague up to the wall by the lapels of his shirt and demanded where he got such goods. (Actually, I asked him nicely and he gave me a business card for the restaurant.) It was an Argentinian place called Puerto Maedero. And the next day I went. I’m so very glad I did. The interior was very cute and it was a bakery, a butcher shop, a deli, and a restaurant all rolled into one. There wasn’t a lot of seating and the tables were a little close, but I didn’t care, I was staring directly at a case of the most delicious looking tarts, pastries, and cakes. I went with the daily special- tiny potatoes in a cream sauce complete with bits of bacon and the most delicious filet mignon. For $15!!! I started the meal with an empanada, of course, for around $1.50. I left the restaurant a very happy camper. When my dad called to see if I was still alive- he hadn’t heard from me in awhile, I gushed about the meal. My dad and I have a lot in common, but one of the big things is a love of red meat. I cannot wait to get back to this restaurant!

On my way in to the Argentinian place, I noticed a Mexican restaurant. In Milwaukee, these are a dime a dozen. Down here, Cuban cuisine reigns supreme. (I stole that line from Iron Chef, I know.) So, my interest was piqued. The next week, I went to El Rancho Grande. It was, again, amazing. I felt lucky to have found three great restaurants in a month. I ordered the flautas. There were three and they came with refried beans, rice, and sour cream –hold the guacamole- picky eater over here. The servers were very sweet and attentive. The food was to die for, but the horchata was probably the best discovery of the night. I’ve never had it before. I’m a chai junkie, so it was a nice find.

Last weekend, I tried the Yard House. I’ve been told it has an amazing selection of beer. Contrary to what you might believe, given my Wisconsin heritage and previous mentions of PBR, I am not a big drinker- and not a big beer drinker at that. But, when I hear beer, I think of burgers, fries, and comfort food in general. The Yard House was the closest restaurant to my apartment of the four, and in the most “fancy schmancy” locale. Unfortunately, it broke my winning streak. It was crowded and noisy. I’ve been having some hearing problems lately, and it really bothered me that I couldn’t hear my waiter or my companion above the din. I was also frustrated at the amount of TVs. I’m here to eat, not to watch CSPAN. After a lot of deliberating, we got the spinach artichoke dip to start. It was lack-luster. I ordered the menu item that spoke to me the most- macaroni and cheese with bacon bits and sautéed mushrooms. I love mushrooms! I love cheese! I love bacon! So I ordered and what got delivered to me made no sense. I’m not a pasta expert, but it seems to me that mac’n’cheese should be made with tubular pasta that will hold the sauce. This one was made with flat, twisted noodles. Most of the sauce was left on the plate. I did not see any of the bacon that they advertised. I also learned an important lesson: mushrooms and mac’n’cheese don’t go together. The portion was decent, but the price- $15 for only pasta- was ridiculous. I left a bunch of it on my plate and stared despondently at NASCAR blaring on the fifteen televisions- unable to communicate how much this whole experience sucked. The Yard House is actually a chain, which disappointed me, because I like to find “gems.”

It was living in Madison that made me a foodie. (I probably cannot call myself that if I refuse to eat half of the things on the menu.) The few times I went out with a group of girl friends, we usually dined at a chain restaurant like, Chili’s or Olive Garden because that is what a whole bunch of broke college kids can agree on. Those times were about the friends, not the food. But when it was my chance to dine with family I usually picked Bluephies for their Ooey Gooey Pasta and Sweet-Tarts Tini. Or if it was a date I would beg to go to Harvest, L’Etoile, The Old Fashioned, or Dotty Dumplings Dowry- just to name a few. There were amazing dining options, and most of them were at really reasonable prices. If you asked for pizza, I could give you several options for the East Side, Downtown, and the West Side. Same goes for Italian, Burgers, or Chinese Food.

There is a plethora of dining in Miami. The problem is that it is often so damn expensive! If I could afford to drive to, park on, and dine at South Beach, there area whole load of options. But I can barely afford to eat a couple of blocks from my apartment. If I do, I should probably walk, because there is no free parking unless you are in the suburbs. So that’s where I’ve been looking for food. A lot of these places are tiny and hidden, but they are the “gems” I seek. Now, I just need to move to Portland, so I can dine at a great restaurant with my little Ruby. THAT would be the life.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Home Is Where the Heart Is

Once again, I've been bad about updating. But other than being surprisingly busy, I have a legitimate excuse this time. (Seriously, you guys.) My laptop is down for the count. Permanently. I've been using J's computer for brief moments, but he needs it for school. Thus, my computer usage has been mostly relegated to the few moments I can spare at work. Last time I wrote I told you all about the new dog and I promised posts on my trip home and my friend's visit. I'm going to roll those two together and title this post, "Home is Where the Heart Is" because I had a wonderful time at home, and I got to share my new home with my good friend E (and she made life here just that much better for the few days she was visiting).

I went home towards the end of July, and let me tell you, I sorely needed a reality check. Living in Miami is my current reality, but I'm used to a slower paced life, where I don't fear for my safety every time I get in a car, and where people hold open the door for you instead of cursing you out for some inane reason. I've never been told-off so much in my life. It's can be really grating to be here, and I was desperate to get back to Wisconsin to recharge my batteries. That three hour plane ride could not go fast enough. And as soon as I got off the plane, I was happy to see that I was back with my "people." You know, chubby, pale people who enjoy cheese without torturing themselves? Those people. I cried immediately upon seeing my dad and littlest brother. I was just so happy to be back. I went straight to my grandma's house to surprise her. There we got Cousins Subs, ate Popsicles, and picked raspberries like the old days: me, my dad, and my brothers. Of course it is not the old days and I still miss my grandfather, who would have been outside, picking berries with us, but it brought back wonderful memories. I took some of my grandma's rhubarb home (so hard to find it in Miami) and promised my family a rhubarb-raspberry pie. This is my only baking specialty and they seemed to like it, even though I forgot to tent the pie crust with tin foil and the edges got a wee bit burnt. That night I got to have dinner with one of my closest college friends. I'll call her Abe. (Because that's what I call her sometimes.) It was so nice to catch up and laugh. Abe is hilarious and J and I have shared many memorable moments throughout the years with her. I miss having good friends in Miami and I especially miss the good girl friends I had in Madison. Abe might come to visit next year. I cannot wait. I know hilarity will ensue.

The next day my mom hosted a party for her mom's 75th birthday. It was so nice to see my extended family. And eat lots of food. LOTS of food. (I have an aunt who calls me "Peaches" that makes amazing party food. I crave the stuff. Crab spread. Taco dip. Fruit Pizza. Veggie Pizza. Ohmygosh. Just thinking of it makes me hungry.) I hadn't seen many of my family members since Christmas, so it was an especially meaningful reunion. The next day my parents, my littlest brother, and I escaped to our family cabin in the beautiful region of Southwestern Wisconsin. It's the "driftless" region. Glaciers didn't make it there and it is a sight to be seen in autumn. Sometimes I daydream about spending a summer up there to read, write, devote to art, and commune with nature. Or maybe September and October when it's not so hot? (We don't have running water, so if it was summer and I was sweaty I'd be stinky and unfit to come back to civilization.) I tend to do a lot of reading out there. And sleeping. I fixed up the fire pit that I had made years and years ago. I wish I could have gone for a hike, but it had just rained and the ravine can be a bit treacherous. I will have to go hunting for geode rocks next time. We roasted marshmallows and made s'mores. Then my parents treated me to a play at American Players Theatre. We have a tradition of going to see a Shakespearean play once a summer and I'm glad that I was able to see one this year. Back in Milwaukee I had to run errands at my local bank, get my teeth cleaned (this is seriously one of my favorite things to do, as I love my dentist), and ship stuff to Miami. I also got a double scoop of my favorite red raspberry custard at Kopp's with my family and my Aunt R and we ran into my second cousin, which was a wonderful surprise. The day I was supposed to leave, I ended up missing my flight by two minutes (the plane still hadn't taxied away from the terminal). Long story short, I left the next morning. But let this be a lesson to all of those flying out of MKE... the airport security, God bless them, move like slugs there. Get there early!!

I SO did not want to go back to Miami. Of course I missed my husband, but I was having fun with my family and I was enjoying Wisconsin. I will tell you that it was hotter in WI than it was in Miami that weekend, and that stunk. I am feeling more and more "okay" with living in Miami, but it just doesn't hold the same comfort of HOME for me. And "home" to me is not just the house I grew up in. "Home" is a combination of family, friends, food, smells, memories, and places. My "home" could extend from the beach of Lake Michigan through Milwaukee, snake down the highway to Madison, take time to stop for a drink at the Weary Traveler, extend through the isthmus, and continue on to the rolling hills of the Kickapoo River Valley. I feel at home when I talk to my friends on the phone and visualize the stories they tell me, laughing and interjecting with "Oh heck no" all the way through the conversation. But I also knew that it was time to be "home" with J. He is truly the person who understands my idiosyncrasies better than anyone else. He knows me as the late-teen and adult whereas my parents knew me best as the child. (I will say that I am most carefree and childlike in the safety of my childhood home, in the company of my parents. That is a wonderful gift they gave me.) But, like I said, it was time to go back to J, who holds my heart, to pick up my adult life, and to return to Miami, my current home. Besides, a couple of days after my return home, my friend E came to visit!!

My friend E is the one who helped me do the huge move immediately after my wedding. In the course of a few days she came to Milwaukee, did my rehearsal and dinner with me, stayed the night, helped me with the last minute details for the wedding, stayed for the wedding, drove back to Madison, came back the next evening, and at five am the next morning we moved me, my car, and my stuff to Miami. It was a 22 hour drive. We stayed for a night in Chattanooga, and on the ride down the next day, we got really mad at the state of Florida for putting a turnpike through the boooooring Everglades. And THEN she stayed with me for a week to help me unpack, organize, and explore. Oh, I forgot, she also helped me move OUT of my apartment in Madison less than two weeks before that. To say she did me a favor is a HUGE understatement. I have told her I owe her moving out, moving in, a cross-country trip, and a wedding. :) I had not seen her since that move. 11 months is a long time to go without seeing a friend.

I was so excited to pick her up from the airport, and for her to meet Ruby. In four short days we hit up three different beaches, went shopping, went to the botanical gardens, experienced the greatness that is Mz.Cheezious, and dealt with a minor crisis. Even though we only got two hours of sleep the night before she had to leave, and even though we were a bit worried, it was E who I would want with me for any hairy situation. She's like a calm, collected parent who knows her way around a smart phone and GPS. The only thing E cannot do is drive stick, but neither can I. She knows how to bake, pack knives for moving, jam a car full of stuff, MAKE jam, find a good deal, knows when you are down and you need a message/card the most, and much, much more. Driving around the better part of Southern Florida with her brought back memories of us, in Madison, accidentally driving through a mental institute, finding any excuse to go to Octopus Car Wash, and grabbing copious amounts of Starbucks, Panera, and/or Noodles and Co. It felt like home.

Shortly after her visit, things got super crazy at work. Like lines of 10+ people for most of the day, three phone lines ringing off the hook, countless e-mails, countless complaints, countless angry "customers." It was a nightmare. To put it in perspective, between Thursday afternoon and a Tuesday morning my phone missed 1016 calls. No, that does not count how many I actually picked up. And one night I stayed at work until past 6 with my co-workers to return 46 voice messages. For the record, we were getting voice mail throughout the day as well and trying our best to return those phone calls. I was exhausted, and cranky, and ready for another vacation. I wanted, so badly, to be laughing at the silliest stuff with my parents. Or to be in the ocean, chatting with E, watching J swim around like a tall, skinny fish.

Things have slightly calmed down. I'm still busy at work. I'm still depressingly poor. (J paid for my flight to WI and will most likely have to pay for my new computer- whenever that happens.) I'm still looking disheveled and slightly sweaty. (Although, E surprised me with a haircut and color, so now my hair is darker and shorter. A slightly more chic way to do the sweaty Midwesterner in Miami.) But things will soon be looking up. J was awarded a grant for this year from NASA (my smarty pants), and soon it will ease some of the financial tension. I have been taking crafting classes at the local botanical garden. We have been doing puppy classes for Ruby (well, really they are for us, let's not lie). And I have once again kicked up the "career" search. I've been asking myself questions about what I want out of life and what I want in a career. Right now I have a job. It's not something I see myself doing for the long term. The other day I was talking to my mom on the phone about living in Miami. I've been thinking back to some people I went to high school with because my littlest brother just started. I may not always like living in Miami, I told her, but at least I'm living in a large, metropolitan area that gets name-checked in rap songs, mentioned in books, and "hosts" some television shows. (They are obviously filmed mostly in LA. I'm no dummy.) As I think back to some of the kids that were not so nice to me, I realize that many are living with their parents. They've been living an extended version of high school for years. I have friends who have lived in France, Wales, NYC, moved to MN, CA, and are in various stages of life. I'm happy to be on the adventure I am and ultimately that means I am happy to be where I am. I look forward to experiencing new places with J. I like my apartment and the little space we've created for ourselves. Home is where the heart is: in the memories, the houses from my childhood, the experiences, the food. I know I can and will find "home" anywhere and with those I love.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Our Precious Gem

July has been a crazy month! I am going to have to break it up into a couple of themed posts to get through all of the stuff that has happened. I need to tell you about my trip to Wisconsin. I need to tell you about my friend coming to visit. But this post will be telling you about my new PUPPY!

On July 2nd Joe and I went to pick up our baby. It was a long drive up the west-side of Florida, but we broke it up by stopping first at Hobby Lobby and then by having lunch with J's uncle and cousin. I was really happy to get to Hobby Lobby. J said that I couldn't stop smiling as I was walking through each and every aisle. I see so many possibilities while walking through a craft store. I had to restrain myself to keep it at a reasonable cost. Then we went farther north and had good burgers at Square 1 Burgers. It was nice to talk to J's family since we don't get to see them often. Then we continued our trek towards puppy!

Originally we had wanted a boy puppy. But when we went the first time to meet the puppies we were holding ours thinking it was a boy only to find out it was a girl. We didn't really care. We liked her personality the best. She was calm and confident. It was a bit funny because we were going to name the puppy Charlie and we had picked out this blue suede studded collar. We've always liked the name Ruby for a girl, but we kicked around some other names like Adelaide and Mona. She's an Italian Greyhound, so we thought it would be funny to name her Mona Lisa. My dad thought if it was a boy we should have named it Linguini. :) But Ruby stuck and we then bought a red leash, a red collar, and a red harness. I actually made her a jeweled collar. I wanted her to have ruby red rhinestones on a red collar, but I couldn't find one online. They were all white rhinestones. She doesn't fit in that collar yet because she is teeny weeny.

She was born April 29th and right now she weighs just under 5 pounds sopping wet. She'll grow. She'll get taller, but not bulkier. She looks like the dog version of J- skinny body with long, long legs. She is "seal" colored (a dark gray). So we still have monochromatic animals: black and white cats and now a gray and white dog. Ruby is very funny. Her ears are always roaming around on her head. Sometimes they are both flopped forward. Sometimes they are both flopped to the left or the right (I call this look the Justin Beiber). Sometimes one is flipped backwards, and sometimes both are backwards. She likes being held like a baby, or even upside down, so her long ears hang low (yes, just like the children's song). She reminds me a bit of the bat from Fern Gulley because she can also go nutso around the apartment. She has a long face like a fruit bat too. Perhaps these aren't the most flattering descriptions, but she is adorable- I guarantee it!

She does have bursts of energy that leave J and I in stitches with her antics, but she also loves a good cuddle. She can sleep for hours and in really funny positions. She will squish herself between me and the couch, or lay with all of her legs straight up in the air. When we first brought her home, we had the hardest time trying to have her calm down in her crate. She cried and cried for the first couple of weeks. I was exhausted. Now she is a little better (and we actually let her sleep in a play pen and only have her in a crate when we are out of the house). She still wakes up to whine at 5 am everyday.

We are trying to be good puppy-parents. We brush her teeth, clean her ears, give her baths when necessary, and play a lot. She doesn't really like going outside, we got really bit up by mosquitoes the first two weeks... we waited and waited outside for her to potty and then we take her inside and whoop-there she goes. She is really good about using the piddle pad we have for her in her play pen. But sometimes at night she gets bored and likes to chew it up. It makes for a messy morning.

Ruby makes us laugh and talking in stupid baby voices. But she has a dark side. My aunt sent a squeaky teddy that is the perfect size for her. It is now called one-eyed teddy (don't worry, it was a felt eye and not a button). And then there is the raccoon from my friend E that gets death throttled frequently. She also likes the huge hedgehog J and I got for her, and the smaller, giggling one my mom sent. She is afraid of the tire toy my mom sent that has a bell, though. It's just crazy to watch this sweet, tiny puppy shake toys to oblivion. And she can make horrible noises. She will make cute, little grunts and squeaks, but if she feels ignored in her crate, she turns into a gremlin. They are gutteral growls and high pitched yips and then just when you think her likeness to Linda Blair a la The Exorcist cannot get any closer she will then vomit... JUST LIKE THE EXORCIST. :) (By the way, for those of you who know me well, you know that I despise scary movies. I've only seen THAT CLIP of The Exorcist because some girls did a project on the History of Horror films in my AP US History class.) I don't care what she sounds like, I am still absolutely crazy about her.

Ruby has brought a bright spot to our home. J and I are so happy to have her. Of course it is a lot of work, and she does make scheduling a little bit harder (she's not used to being alone for a full day-- benefit of J's position), but right now, I wouldn't have it any other way. I'll be sure to regale you with plenty of Ruby stories in the future.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Settling In

I suppose some of you have been wondering why I haven't been posting. Okay, maybe only my mom, and then she calls, and maybe my computer is feeling neglected-- STOP ACTING UP COMPUTER AND THEN I'LL SPEND MORE TIME WITH YOU. Ugh. Well, that, and I get really tired of being attached to my computer and phone at work so I mostly just loaf around and read when I get home after dinner has been consumed and cleaned up. And I find myself going to bed earlier and earlier. I start brushing my teeth at 9 PM for goodness' sake! And it's not like I get up any earlier to be productive. I just don't sleep very well at night (I have an active imagination and my dreams are EXHAUSTING!), so I like just -resting-.

I have been occupied, though. Busy is the wrong word for my personal life. I'm busy at work. I'm occupied in my personal life. And I'm starting to settle in to the fact that J and I are really LIVING in Miami. For the longest time I felt like I was on an extended (and horrible) summer vacation. There is almost no change in the seasons, and I was unemployed for so long that I had lost a sense of passing time. We've been here for ten full months now. Where has the time gone? And why is there no snow? I miss chilly weather. Not FREEZING weather, just brisk, flurry-flake weather. My sweaters stare at me longingly from my closet. And I could take a break from this humidity. I look simultaneously sweaty and pinched. I'm always rocking this slight sheen of sweat and in order to prevent my hair from doing its "devil-horn curls" I have to pull it back in a really severe bun with a head-ache inducing headband. And there are some people down here who look fresh and pressed. I look wrinkly and disheveled. Fall cannot come soon enough. And the end of hurricane season. I'm terrified of one happening and then having to fight for supplies in a sort of post-apocalyptic sort of way. J and I joke about getting a shot-gun for times like that. But sometimes I'm not joking. Especially on the off-chance that zombies could be real.

I've settled-in in a couple of ways. The most excited and expensive way: I've invested in REAL sunglasses. I was using $12 sunglasses from Target that I had actually purchased down here when we came to look for apartments. I had bought a pair of faux-Ray Bans (Wayfarer Style) because they de-emphasize my rotund head. And a pair of aviators that ACTUALLY looked good on said rotund noggin. Of course the lenses on both are scratched, so they are not very fun to wear anymore. I have a pair of Versace (real, thank you very much)sunglasses that I love that my grandmother found and gave to me. But it just doesn't look right to be wearing tres-chic eye wear and sweaty, wrinkly clothing while trying to tame the frizz. I'm not worthy. :) And they are a little tight on my globe-like head. So, I've been telling J, "It's time to invest in a good pair of Wayfarers." Sunglasses are very prevalent down here, but still expensive. Not fair, supply and demand model! And thus I had been dragging my feet on making a $145 purchase when I have oh so many loan payments that are that price and higher. But whilst browsing one of my favorite fashion websites, they mentioned that TOMS is now doing eye wear in their One-For-One model (like their shoes). Basically when you buy a pair of TOMS shoes, a child in need also gets a pair. And now, with my purchase of $145 I was able to get decent sunglasses in the Wayfarer style, and someone will be able to see more clearly (they meet different needs: surgeries, glasses, and basic ocular health care). So I can now feel good about myself! And feel stylish! Without squinting in the sun. And don't worry- I got a very sturdy case so they won't get scratched. (When the guy at Nordstrom's asked me which designer cleaning cloth I wanted I chose Tom Ford because I think he's handsome... I'm a dork.)

Another way I know I'm settling: I got a library card. I don't know why it took me so long. I'm quite ashamed of myself really, but I've been reading a lot, I assure you. Now I can do it for free. The library system down here is decent. J's gotten me a couple of books from his school's library which is decent as well. I was spoiled with Madison Public Libraries, so I am always hoping for that experience. I have 8 books to read and it reminds me of the good old days when I would bike to the nearby public library and load up my back-pack, devouring the ten books in less than ten days. Yes, I've always read this much. Friends and family can attest to this. If I wasn't so lazy with this blog I'd do a book review blog. So, J and I went the three blocks to our local public library (lucky again, to be so close to a community center) and I stood in queue and proudly received my card. And then I promptly left J reading while I headed for the shelves. As my arms got heavier and heavier with books (some on my reading list, and some new) my spirit got lighter. There are a few places on earth where I feel happy to a point of delirium and giddiness. They are, as follows: libraries, book stores, office supply stores, craft stores, and THE CONTAINER STORE!!! And I found myself smiling as I met old friends on the shelf: Wind in the Willows, Redwall, Wee Free Men, and on and on... One of my friends had asked for book recommendations. Well, here is a list of books I've read since March. I hope some are inspiring:

Angelology by Danielle Trussoni
The Ichdiean Universe Trilogy by Sherrilynn Kenyon
Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Alice Through the Looking Class by Lewis Carroll
The Devil's Queen by Jeanne Kalogridis
The Case of the Missing Servant by Tarquin Hall
Bossypants by Tina Fey
Lost at Sea by Bryan Lee O'Malley (graphic novel)
Scott Pilgrim Books by Bryan Lee O'Malley (seven graphic novels)
The Witch's Daughter by Paula Brackston

I really liked the Alice books and the graphic novels. The Witch's Daughter was pretty good. Angelology was frustrating because I didn't know it was part of a trilogy that's not done yet (like when I had read A Discovery of Witches-- but I loved that book). Right now I'm working on The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim by Jonathan Coe. Jury's still out.

And I've also added something to my social life: CRAFTING NIGHT! One of the women I work with was trying to figure out how to make me feel less lonely down here. She has a daughter my age, but we've got polar different interests, so she was peppering me with questions of what I like to do. I had been asking her what "kids-my-age" do down here and none of her suggestions were interesting to me. (J and I went out one night and I ordered my usual, vodka cranberry, and we were just chilling until the bill came and my tiny drink cost $11!!!) One day I wore a shirt that I had altered (I sewed cloth flowers to the collar.) And she complimented it. I told her I made it and craft night was born! She'll tell you she's not particularly crafty, but I'd beg to differ. She's great at painting. But the leader of our little rag-tag crafting group is her mom. She is the most amazing crafter I've ever seen. And I've seen some crafters. :) Her whole house looks like a block of the shops in Cedarburg. Her work looks professional. But she doesn't sell it. She just gives it away at the holidays. She's taught me to do a complicated crochet project (I'm not giving out details- they are going to be my Christmas gifts), and she figured out how to use the sewing machine that my mom had given me. Making stuffed animals will be a zillion times faster now. She's a very good teacher, and she's got a lot of crafting experience being 82. So the three of us gather at her house on Wednesdays now. Sometimes we order food, sometimes we pack extra in our lunches, and sometimes others will join us- which is nice. It's nice to have something to look forward to in the middle of a crazy week. Even though I'm not hanging out with people my age, I don't care. I'd rather be listening to this mother-daughter duo chit-chat while I try to do the many crochet stitches. Honestly, I get more out of it then if I were doing jell-o shots at one of the many drinking establishments. (Also, I hate how superficial Miami can be, so one less time to worry about looking sweaty and pinched...)

Luckily, I've been able to see two friends down here. My old, old high school friend has started a new business and he was downtown for a company meeting. I was able to hang out with him while J was home in Wisconsin. It was nice to see him. It felt just like old times, except I felt a little different and a little wiser from my high-school days. It was nice to reconnect and see someone who had been such a big part of those four formative years. And to laugh about how ridiculous those four years were. (Well- he was a grade below me, so three, but still...) And one of my bestie gal pals (part of what I am going to call the Fantastic Five from the college years and doing time in Education) was down in Fort Myers for a family wedding. J and I make the trek North-West through the gawd-awful Everglades. We had breakfast with her (the most amazing bacon omelet, pancakes, and hash browns) and we chatted with her and her mom, went to a souvenir shop (got J's gma some post cards), and got burned on the beach. I got my first significant burn. I was brown on the beach, and then I turned pink in the car. Oooh the itching and simultaneous soreness. It was bad. And I STILL have streaks on my body from where I had lazily slapped SPF. (I retain color for a loooong time.) It was so good to see her. I've missed the Fantastic Five very much and it is hard to go from spending all day, everyday (class, studying, and yes- a little drinking to relieve that student teacher stress) together to being so far apart. These were the people I could "bitch" to no matter what, no matter when and they understood completely what I was going through because they were schlepping through it with me. I wish life wasn't so complicated, and that I had a zillion dollars because I'd fly us all to Hawaii to sip girly drinks (no, make it fishbowls from Wando's) on the beach. :)

So, even though I'm so very far from friends, I'm still striving to keep those connections. And even though I don't do what the average 23 year old does down here it doesn't mean that I'm without good company. I love the two office-mates I have (we had a few headaches, but we're down one, and the headaches are gone!), I have my hubby, and my crafting guru. And soon there will be PUPPY!!! We're picking up Ruby (it's a girl!) on the 2nd. But that's for another post...

(I'll try to be good and make that post this week.)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Melancholy in Miami

May in Miami. Been awhile. Sorry!

We've been here for nine months now. I've taken a hiatus from writing for two reasons: I've been busy and if I didn't have anything nice to say about this place, I wasn't going to say anything at all.

Let's start with how I've been busy. Work had picked up in intensity. Being a secretary seems like an easy-peasy job, but it can be frustrating. Nothing I do is TECHNICALLY difficult, but the atmosphere and pressures tense my neck and back up and give me shooting migraines. I have quickly realized that being the first person who answers phones and being the first person you see when you walk in our offices often means that people feel it is okay to take out the pile of crap that's been making them grouchy to dump it straight on my head. Everyone unloads their problems on me. Some of their problems I can solve, or try to solve... but most are just beyond me. I've been yelled at by "customers" or the friends and family of "customers" and I've been yelled at by my "coworkers." Sometimes, the "customers" deserve the situations they're in and I feel no pity for them. You snooze, you loose. Consider the story of the grasshopper and the ant. It's always the grasshoppers who are calling me after it's too late and they realized they should have done at least a fourth of the work of the little ant. As for my colleagues, I am ASTONISHED at how many grown adults who are into or past middle age think that it is okay to drop swear words on me and accuse me of things I have no control over. But I'm the one who needs to answer the phones or I'm the one they see first when they come in, so they yell at me and calm down for whoever I direct them to after their "bitch-fest."

Now, if you don't know much about me and how I deal with these things... let me tell you. I am polite and friendlier than most of the people I work with. I genuinely care and I'll try my best to better your situation. If you are nice to me, I'll do the job in double-time. If you are rude, I drop the friendly demeanor, but stay polite. Anything and everything I say at work I would say to a supervisor or Human Resources. I DO get firm, however.  I do not let anyone walk all over me unless I've done something terribly wrong and it is my fault. I do not bend and break and I since I've moved down here from a fairly friendly state, it's only solidified my personal philosophy when working customer service with a bunch of Rude-y Mc Rudertons. I had one "customer" standing up, screaming at me, so I stood up, and said, "I am here to help you. I'd be happy to help you. But you are not helping yourself right now by making this scene. A positive attitude will get you farther than a negative one, so might a make a personal suggestion? Stay polite, stay positive, and we will be able to listen to your needs." He would not be stopped until he complained to me, two of my office mates, and two "high-profile" colleagues all who told him he was being unreasonable. He took it to the top and we've never heard from him again... I assume because the told saw what type of "customer" he was and how he was more of a grasshopper than an ant. Still, I got the brunt of it. Tensions have been running high between some people at work and I'm caught in the middle because, once-again, I'm literally in the middle of the office. I see and hear almost everything. The situation will be shortly resolved, but still. I cried one day on the way to work and wanted to puke because I didn't want to be near all of the drama. But two or three coworkers have pulled me aside or sent me e-mails to say that they appreciate my genuine smile or that I am doing good work. It is hard not to take things personally. And where I work, there are people with a lot riding on getting things done and getting things done properly. So, everyone's a bit cranky at times.

I was also busy cleaning and preparing for our guests: MY PARENTS AND LITTLE BROTHER! I've missed my family so much. It was very nice to see them. And subsequently, we've seen much more of Southern Florida because of their visit. We took them to the Fairchild Botanical Gardens, the Morikami Japanese Gardens and Museum, Deerfield Beach, Matheson Hammock Park for swimming, Biscayne Bay, we walked Miracle Mile and I saw Bill Murray (!!!), we went to the Food Trucks (new favorite: Goat Cheese and Proscuitto Grilled Cheese from Ms Cheezious), we went to Scotty's on the Water (fish'n'chips), and we drove around gawking at some of the expensive houses on Old Cutler Road. It was so nice to have them here. I wish they could have stayed longer. Or better, I wish they could have taken me home with them. J will get to go home in the near future, leaving me alone here with no friends to speak of. I'm dying to go back to Wisconsin, or at least to take a break from the rude people, bad drivers, and horrible heat... but I'm trying to save up my time off. I guess I could take time off without pay, but that's a little hard to do when you only make so much and have student loans.

I've also struggled with staying in touch with people from home. A couple of my friends will send me the random text or write on my Facebook page and we'll have a brief conversation... but for the most part, if I'm not reaching out to people then no one reaches out to me. It's exhausting to be the one to uphold the friendship. I know everyone is busy with their own lives, and perhaps, because they have friends where they live, they don't feel the need to reconnect with old ones as much. Either way, it stings and frustrates me. I've tried to make friends here, but to no avail. And quite frankly, many of these people and I probably wouldn't get along. There are some people near my age that I am friendly with at work, but that's about it. I figured I would throw myself into my hobbies, but I think people are too busy to preserve their youth (plastic surgery) that they don't have time to preserve memories (scrapbooking). I've been searching for scrapbooking stores in Miami-Dade and I'm going to have to go to Broward I guess. I haven't been to the art stores and quite frankly I'm afraid to go... I loved the art store in Madison on State Street and the Hobby Shop in Greenfield. I want to learn how to use my sewing machine, but the JoAnn's down here don't offer evening classes (or classes in English). And I'm not about to haul that beast around to a store to be rudely told they don't/can't help. I'm losing hope for humanity... I mean customer service down here. :)

At least it is raining today. It keeps down the heat. And I love the sound of it. For now I will keep myself busy with chores, work, and the countless books I read (now that J canceled cable, grr).

Sunday, March 27, 2011

In My Perfect Universe

March in Miami. We had to sleep with the air conditioner on last night. The temperatures have picked up and it is starting to get uncomfortable. Then again, I’m a temperature enigma: I’ll be sweating and whiny about the weather one minute and then shivering cold with goose bumps after 15 minutes in an air conditioned car. However, I’d rather be cold than be hot. Still, I know that dreaded summer is coming. The only reason I REALLY liked summer in Wisconsin was because school was out and there are fireworks on the 4th of July. I’m sure there are a few more reasons, but really, if I could design myself a universe it would be fall for half of the year, winter for two months, spring for three months, and June for 30 days. I could skip my birthday in August and be ageless as well.

In a perfect universe I would also have a ton of energy. And there would be no such thing as caffeine because I wouldn’t need it. I used to be a great sleeper. I’ve always had the dual fortune and misfortune of incredibly vivid dreams. Sometimes it is entertaining to see what my brain cooks up when I’m asleep, but lately these dreams are EXHAUSTING even if they are not nightmares. I’ve always been a tosser and a turner, but ever since I’ve lived with J, I’ve become a light sleeper to boot. The smallest noise will wake me up- this is incredibly inconvenient when you have to sleep with the windows open (another reason I like AC—white noise). I’ve taken to sleeping with ear plugs in. This results in comical just-before-sleep conversations with J, but they do help some. In my perfect universe I’d have a couple of switches in my brain: 1. Stop worrying, 2. Let it go, that dude’s just a jerk, no need to get mad, and 3. No, thanks- I don’t feel like dreaming tonight. Oh, and 4. Sleep immediately.

In my perfect universe the dishes would do themselves. Laundry would be free and do itself too. Spring cleaning would only take an afternoon. And I would tackle my to-do list: each item, every time. I’ve got a painting half-done, staring at me. I currently hate it. I’ve got dust bunnies mocking me from underneath the bed and couches. And I HAD a blog post nagging me in back of my head, but I’m conquering that “to-do” as I type. I shouldn’t be too hard on myself, though. We did get quite a bit accomplished recently. J filed taxes. We finally got decent frames for our wedding photos and they are hung. J started an herb garden that sits neatly on a window-sill. I started following a budget- not that I’m a big spender (and I’ve almost always balanced my checkbook) but it’s good to know where the money is going. Still… I really hate laundry.

My current universe is about to get a little more perfect. There is an impending arrival of several very important individuals. My mom, dad, and lil’ brother are coming to visit and I’ve been counting down the days in my planner. I keep seeing things in Miami thinking, “oh- they’ll like that” and “let’s be sure to drive this route with them.” I’m so excited to see them. It will be nice for them to see what I see and know what I mean when I talk about people, places, and things down here. J is able to go back to Wisconsin in May and I’m terribly jealous. I want to see family and friends. I want to eat cheese curds and frozen custard. I want to spend a week at my parent’s cabin reading books and sitting by a fire. Harrumph. Plus, he’ll be leaving me. All by myself. I am kind of dreading the ten days. I have “people I know” down here. J has some friends we’ve hung out with, but it is not the same as being able to call up all my friends and demand dinner dates, coffee runs, and movie extravaganzas. I enjoy my alone time probably more than most people. I can be a hermit and sometimes get sick of humans really fast, but still, I like my husband on those days and I’ll miss him when he’s in WI. (Eating delicious cheese and burgers and brats and being around friendly people and hearing the Northern accent and driving on relatively safe roads with 80% of the population being competent drivers…)

The new job is going well. I’ll withhold comment until I’ve been there long enough (one of the weeks I worked most people were gone for Spring Break). Some days are more tiring than others- hence the wish for a to-do list that does itself. The job has also allowed us to spend a bit more money and actually GO places. We’ve been to an NHL game (Florida Panthers- Go Cats!) and had a couple of dinner dates. Today we explored a cheaper botanical garden. I’m still partial to deciduous trees, but it was nice. Hot… I won’t be hanging out in a rainforesty place in the summer, but it was interesting. We’ve taken in more scenery… even if it is driving past some of the rich-people houses and gawking at their “humble lodgings.” When we are on lunch we sit by fountains or under trees- nature helps ease my anxieties. I’ve seen more turtles than I can count down here. Our campus has a pond full of them, as did the botanical garden. Anyone who knows me well knows I kind of have a thing for turtles. (Turtles and pandas and orangutans and hummingbirds and okapis and hippos and dogs and pythons [I’ll never pass up an Animal Planet special on them] and tree frogs… etc etc) We also took in the giant moon a couple of days ago. It was HUGE. Very cool. We started walking on the bridge that leads to Biscayne Bay and as we turned a corner there was a giant orange disc sitting in the sky at an angle that made it look like it was on the high point of the bridge ready to roll down at us in a moment. Paired with the Miami skyline at night it was very impressive.

There are some interesting sights in Miami. I’m glad we have funds to explore a bit of them now. I’m enjoying being married. It is just the two of us and we both believe it has been good for building the foundations of a partnership. To quote a movie I recently watched, “Me and you- just us two.” However, in a perfect universe I could teleport myself to my childhood home in seconds to have dinner with my family, see my lil’ brother’s concerts (he’s a trumpeter), nab friends for coffee, and take a break from the Miami heat.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

First Day Jitters

I’ll admit it- I’ve been bad. I haven’t updated the blog in FOREVER. But let me explain myself. See, the last post I wrote was about the job I had working in retail. And I chalk that experience up to one of the worst months in my life. So why on earth would you want to read anything from grumpy old me? Okay, I forgive myself for being complacent with posting now. You should forgive me too.

But all’s well that ends well! I left that job in retail for a much better one! I am now a secretary! I have always wanted to be a secretary as I like anything to do with organization and customer service. Plus it is at J’s school. So I cut my commute time and cost by a lot. We’ll carpool, and we’ll be able to have lunch together on campus once in awhile. The job is OFFICIALLY full-time. No 37 hours a week here! And while I’m not swimming in piles of cash, the pay is a way better reflection of my abilities and education.

Needless to say, I’ve been in a much better mood since I left that job-that-shall-no-longer-be-named-after-this-sentence 11 days ago. Those 11 days have been almost blissful. I’ve read four books. I’ve watched a movie (Stranger Than Fiction). I scrubbed my porcelain sink and tub clean. I did laundry. J and I swept and mopped the floors. I’ve been able to keep dishes out of the sink. I’ve actually MADE dinners instead of just assembled random foods to munch on. And I’ve not had to worry about driving to work or being under appreciated.

The last night of work I had was rough (okay- I mentioned it one more time) and it was made even worse by the fact that I was coming home at 11 PM (I said it was ROUGH) to grab my stuff and leave the apartment for 48 hours which actually turned into three nights and four days. Our landlords told us that the apartment was going to be fumigated for termites. J and I were in a tizzy- we had never had a home fumigated before. The chemicals they use are odorless and colorless and LETHAL if you come in before they air the place out. Your home is covered by a circus-like tent and everything that can be consumed must be either taken with you or stored in these bags that rip really easily. Pillows needed to be placed in bags and I took the extra precaution of taking almost everything off of horizontal surfaces. We were lucky enough to be able to stay with one of J’s classmates. There is no way we could have afforded a hotel for that long with two cats. (Speaking of, they hated us for days for disturbing their peace and moving them…)

The time at J’s friend’s apartment was actually pretty good. It was nice to talk to someone normal. We had dinners together, went grocery shopping at Whole Foods, she introduced us to a U-Pick Farm with the BEST strawberries, tomatoes, and peppers, and J helped her start an herb garden. I was anxious to get back home though to clean and re-organize my life. All of the plants that were around the apartment building turned black and withered away. A poor little lizard was a victim of the gassing and limply hung from the laundry door. I was grossed out, but luckily our neighbor removed his corpse so when I did my laundry I didn’t have to work around it… Ugh.

J and I got back into the swing of things now that we had a normal schedule again. We tried two recipes in addition to our usual menu. One was stuffed green peppers (stuffed with hot peppers quickly pickled in Red Wine Vinegar) topped with bacon. It was pretty good, but cutting the peppers set my hands on fire, so I was mostly angry eating them with the fork barely in my hands. The second recipe we made tonight and it was a big success: English Onion Soup. It’s like a blonde French Onion Soup. We used onions from the U-Pick Farm and chicken stock that we had made from a previous meal. We made our own croutons by broiling them in the oven, some we covered with a sharp Irish Cheddar cheese. I’m getting hungry for it again just writing about it.

The only sad news is that getting a puppy is set back by a couple more months. My car decided to take a turn for the worse. After $500 of preliminary repairs that we hoped would solve the problem, I noticed the car was misfiring after I started it on a chillier morning. Turns out three of our four fuel injectors were cracked and one was almost completely black. That was $1000. Well, at least my car runs much better now and I get even better gas mileage. But .:poof:. there went the money for a puppy. I’m glad we were able to cover the cost of the car. We’ll just have to keep saving those pennies…

I’m sorry the posts have been few and far between. Now that I’m on a regular schedule I won’t be so exhausted. Wish me luck for my new job tomorrow! It feels like the first day of school. I’m excited!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

First of February

Even though I had been down here unemployed since late August, the time has still flown by. As a child, it crawls like a snail. As a teenager in high school, due dates start whizzing towards you, but you still find yourself bored at times. In college, there is no such thing as bored: there are papers, exams, projects, parties, etc., etc., to fill up your time. And it just keeps going faster and faster.

Often I don’t really know what to say when I want to update my blog. I was unemployed and keeping myself fairly busy with job applications (some more intense than others), running a home, and filling my other time with devouring as much literature, television, and movies as I could handle. Of course I continued cooking, but how many times do you want to read that a meal turned out “okay” or that I burned something once again. (There was the horrible incident where I attempted Fried Mars Bars a la Fair Food, but I redeemed that with a moderately successful batch of turtle candy.)

I had a HUGE let-down for one job application. The process was over a month long and it entailed prep-work, a phone interview, studying a GRE math book, and a standardized test only to not be asked for the in-person interview. I was so upset I decided to cheer myself up by going on an online shopping spree: new socks and a couple of bandanas. Oooh, big spender, I know. I was contacted by a retail company I had applied for in September. They wanted to know if I was interested in a part-time job in Fort Lauderdale. Sorry- needed full-time. They asked me to still interview. They offered me the job with “full-time” hours (32-37/week) and benefits after three months. I felt like I was obligated. They had gone through the work to get the full-time hours and benefits approved. They met my wage request. I felt like I had been unemployed so long that I HAD to take it.

Well, I am working that job now and I learned my lesson: follow your instincts. I listen to my gut 9 times out of 10. The drive is killing me. I often work from 1:00 to 9:00 which means I leave my home at 11:45 am to fight traffic to get to the highway, get on the highway, pay the toll, fight the traffic to get to the express lane, pay more money for using an express lane, and get to work around 12:50 pm. Then the store closes at 9:00, on a good day closing procedures take 30 minutes, I get on the highway by 9:45 and get home around 10:30-45 after fighting more traffic and paying more tolls. There’s never really a lull in driving. Drivers are especially aggressive and careless here so I have to be at 100% when driving to make sure to avoid accidents and missing my turns. That’s just the drive. My car is pretty fuel efficient, but it still costs $10 a day to drive 75 miles roundtrip. And then there is the work. Retail, food service, and customer service jobs are hard. Plus the aesthetic of the store isn’t minimal like other stores (it’s crowded and cluttered) so we are constantly picking up after shoppers. The shoppers themselves are okay. But the pace is constant. The store just got a new manager and me (the assistant manager) and you can tell that no one has really been properly trained- including myself. Which means customers have to wait while we make calls to the manager to double check that we are doing things right. There are other things that I will not go into, but all of this combined with the fact that the work isn’t exactly rewarding and that I have 2 majors from a Big Ten school with a good GPA means that it is simply not a good fit- personally or financially.

Since I started the position on January 26th (not counting the two times I had to drive 75 miles to complete basic paperwork) I have been scheduled 8 days in a row. My days are long because of the commute and the hours are less than desirable. I had dinner with J for the first time in a week (he had massive school work) last night. I’m also going to spend between 16 and 20 hours of my life (depending on how traffic is that day) in the car. That is almost 1 full day out of the week dedicated to driving. So, needless to say, I’ve been busy. If I’m not driving to or from work, I’m working, or just getting home and going directly to bed. I managed to get some time this morning to write a blog post. (It means dishes will sit in the sink for the 4th day in a row.) So- sorry for not posting more- to the few folks who read this.

The one good thing about working in Ft. Lauderdale is that the cruise ships bring a lot of people in- people from the UK, from France, from Australia, and Canada. Canada is close enough to Wisconsin, eh? Feels like I’m talking to someone from home. (And if another person says that I say “baaaag” funny when I ask them if they want their receipt in the bag, I’m just going to put that “baaaag” over my head and walk out without a second glance back.)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

To Wisconsin and Back Again

We went home for the holidays. It was so nice to be back in Wisconsin. I felt like I needed to make the most of each moment. I tried to see as many people as possible given the short amount of time I had and the other obligations I needed to fulfill. I spent as much time as possible with my family in the evenings. I went to Madison for less than seven hours. I drove to Lake Geneva and Johnson Creek to meet up with friends. I got my teeth cleaned (no cavities-yes!). I met with an Art Therapist to talk about the profession. I read a book. I got 5 inches cut off of my hair. I made it to the Comet Café for beer, bacon, and a good burger. I didn’t get custard… but there will always be other trips. I only got to see a fraction of the people I wanted to. When I left it felt like it was way too soon. And then I promptly got a major migraine when I landed in Florida. J chalks it up to the change in atmospheric pressure, but I think it is because my body was angry at having to come back. We came home to a ton of cat puke and hairballs. Our older cat wouldn’t stop yelling at us, and the next day we found our first (and hopefully last) cockroach. J felt it brushing his foot while doing the dishes and he thought it was a cat. And then he screamed. Ha ha.

J has thrown himself back into training for the upcoming half and full marathons and in his proposal for school work. I am exhausted… all of that running around in Wisconsin tired me out. I’ve just been cleaning and reading and cooking. I’ve also gone back to having unemployment weigh heavily on my mind. I find myself really wishing for a network in Miami right now… maybe then I would have a job and a bit of a social life. We are going to try to have J’s colleagues over for an American dinner as a thank you for the Chinese one we had with them a few weeks ago. I’m not that lonely though… just bored. I like to be alone. I spent my New Year’s Day by myself eating some of my favorite stuff at Panera while writing and reflecting on the past year (an exercise suggested by the magazine Whole Living). I window shopped at the nearby outdoor mall. I really enjoy days like that to myself, but I liked it more in Madison where you didn’t have to pay $6 in parking to eat and wander around and where I also knew my favorite spots. At least the weather is nice here. I went from a winter coat in Wisconsin to shorts here. (I still prefer having seasons and being able to actually wear my cute sweaters…)

That’s pretty much it for now. I figured I should write a little about the past couple of weeks. For now I’m going to watch a movie from Netflix…