Celebration Hangover

Is it possible to have a celebration hangover? Luckily, I’m officially done celebrating turning 40. I spent over a week connecting with dear friends in California and Seattle. I love birthdays because it’s an opportunity to show up and celebrate people. Sure, we should do this every day but let’s get real, some days you’re more concerned about getting through the work day and not eating cereal for dinner. That chance to say, hey! I’m glad you were born and are in my life! is one I don’t like to miss. I am so grateful to all the folks who came out of the woodwork to help me ring in 40.

Mr. Darcy, a man who shies away from planning most anything and who is not a party person, stretched outside his comfort zone to throw me a birthday bash. I could not be more touched or more proud. So many of my close pals showed up to partake in cupcakes and beer and a pinata (yes, I love pinatas!). Here’s some photos from the party:

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Love hug! Me, my sis, Jeni Angel, and Finn

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Favorite people! My bro-in-law, sis, husband, and BFF Meghan.

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I’m pretty sure my nephew was more excited than anyone for cupcakes & singing.

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Lovebirds C & S.

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BFF Jenny Two Times drove all the way from Portland for the party. <3

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Hand sewn garland and happy birthday sign thanks to my talented sister.

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Me & my pinata before I whacked it open.

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Meghan handled the meat (tray). There are many jokes in that statement but I’ll refrain. I love her.

Heather & Aimee (former college roomies!) stopped by to celebrate with me.

Heather & Aimee (former college roomies!) stopped by to celebrate with me.

2 friends both named Jen gave me the same awesome card. How cool is that?

2 friends both named Jen gave me the same awesome card. How cool is that?

Friends from work came by to partake in the fun.

Friends from work came by to partake in the fun.

Our wonderful moms. Mr. Darcy's parents flew in from New Jersey earlier in the week. How nice is that?

Our wonderful moms. Mr. Darcy’s parents flew in from New Jersey earlier in the week. How nice is that?

My nephew makes any party fun.

My nephew makes any party fun.

Surprise of the weekend? Tomato flew up from LA to be there! 23 years of friendship.

Surprise of the weekend? Tomato flew up from LA to be there! 23 years of friendship.

I always say this but I always feel it: I am so lucky to be so loved.

I already am convinced 40 is going to be fantastic.

Record Breaking

I’m so, so exhausted that I don’t think I can do much more than tell you that the fundraiser was a smashing success. It blew all previous fundraising goals out of the water and broke the million dollar mark. As in two commas needed! I really didn’t think we’d hit that this year though for the last 3 years I’ve been told we should strive for it. Here’s some perspective: I started managing this event five years ago and our goal was to get 800 people in the room and break $500,000. Wednesday we had over 1,100 people in the room and raised $1,073,129.

(I’m still having trouble saying the number out loud. WOW!)

Was it really only a week ago that I was having a complete and utter meltdown in my cubicle, thoroughly convinced that the program was not going to come together and be compelling to guests? I pride myself on a tightly executed (everyone in and out in an hour) program that packs a big punch with our message mainly through youth speakers who have used our services. I went out on a limb this year and had a singer/guitarist, a spoken word poet, and a rapper (all our youth) perform. I wondered if the audience would be able to relate or feel moved because art is subjective. They got standing ovations and guests sought them after the program to congratulate them. That’s my favorite part of the entire event, really- seeing the youth I’ve worked with take the stage and shine. To hear the praise and watch them bask in it. They deserve that recognition and so much more.

Of course, there were some major hiccups but none of them were on our part and luckily most guests had no idea they were even happening. We premiered our new logo and a brand new one minute commercial about our organization that I’m super proud of. I don’t normally attach my place of work with my on line presence but I’m making an exception this time because I really hope you’ll watch it and see who I work for and why. (Watch for a boy standing at an opening door holding a suitcase. That’s my nephew! And me opening the door but you can only see my hand.)

I’m incredibly lucky to work for an organization where I get to do what I love (event planning) and support changing the trajectory of the lives of foster youth alongside fantastic co-workers. I’m so grateful my life led me here.

Up My Sleeve

The weekend I went away with girlfriends to Doe Bay, all of Mr. Darcy’s plans with his nerds fell through. I felt sad for him and mentioned that he needed a true nerd weekend back in Philly with his best friends. He claimed none of them would get it together to hang out all at one time. While we were exchanging texts about this, I was emailing his friends back east to find a time that I could fly Darcy out to hang out with them. By the end of the weekend, I had a mutually agreeable date and a plane ticket for Darcy. Surprise!

While he was gone on his adventure this past weekend, I managed to pull off another surprise for him. We’ve been talking about how to set up his nerd cave now that the basement is finally fixed (YAY!). We’re planning on getting a new flat screen and hiring an electrician to come out to drop the cable line down so we can use that space as the “family room”- that way while Mr. Darcy is working on painting his little men, I can be down there watching a show with him or reading. So, I enlisted the help of my mom and brother in law to put some necessary touches on the space. Double B came over and hung a bunch of framed stuff- 3 photos from our wedding and four of Mr. Darcy’s concept art- plus some shelving.

A photo of Darcy, then of us, then of me from our wedding day.

A photo of Darcy, then of us, then of me from our wedding day. New pillow covers thanks to Ikea. Cat comes with room.

While he was doing that, I was sorting through a mountain of boxes that were shoved under Mr. Darcy’s art tables. I discovered that my husband has so many tiny little men that have yet to be assembled and painted and I’ve decided that there is no way on earth he could paint them all in his lifetime given that new boxes of tiny little men arrive weekly. And he got rid of stuff when he moved in with me three years ago!

I added shelves and the white cabinet. I'm a fan of hiding things away. What is not pictured is what's on the opposite wall- 4 cases of nerditry!

I added shelves and the white cabinet. I’m a fan of hiding things away. What is not pictured is what’s on the opposite wall- 4 cases of nerditry!

While I rearranged the space so he’d have a place to paint and to work on his computer, my mom was diligently sewing new curtains. We’d braved Ikea earlier that day where we’d found some material I found suitable for the windows and then I dragged her to Lowe’s and Target. By the time we got home, 4.5 hours later, we were beat but there was much to be done still. This is what I do, I invite you over for a sleep over, buy you dinner and set you up in a comfy bed and then make you work until you’re exhausted the next day. (You are forewarned.) After all the sewing, we realized we probably should have purchased more of the fabric but we’ve got a plan to add white fabric at the top to extend them. For now they give us privacy which was sorely lacking.

Bright and cheerful, perfect for a basement family room.

Bright and cheerful, perfect for a basement family room.

It feels good to have things hung on the walls, more like home. Mr. Darcy came home after being gone 5 days and was touched by our hard work. The room definitely needs more work to pull it together but it’s a start.

Thanks for the help, Mom! Dash enjoyed your visit (and so did I).

Thanks for the help, Mom! Dash enjoyed your visit (and so did I).

Updates

Thank you so much for your outpouring of good thoughts and monetary support. I am, repeatedly, moved by the goodness of people. So far we’ve raised $1000 towards Oliver’s surgery which is AMAZING and has made me teary. The overall cost could be close to $3500 but every single dollar helps ease my mom’s stress. She wants to do whatever she can to give Oliver a fighting chance and thanks to so many of you, she can. His surgery is scheduled for Tuesday and in the meantime we wait and hope. I was over at her house last night and he enjoyed the lamb shank bone I brought to him even though he hasn’t been eating much.

oliver

*******

Our basement still looks like this:

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It’s depressing. We’ve been living with this mess since before Thanksgiving. The crew has come out and demolished the concrete outside our basement door attempting to find the footing drain (no avail). They have pulled off our baseboards attempting to locate the source but only found a small patch of the foundation where water trickles in. The carpet has been pulled back for so long I’m not sure it will ever not looked warped. Tomorrow another crew is supposed to come out to dig down 8 feet outside by our back door in the hopes to find our footing drain, locate a clog, and finally fix it. If they dig down, breaking the concrete and creating another huge mess, and don’t find the footing drain? We have an even bigger problem. Meanwhile the estimate to fix this goes up and the only thing that’s actually been repaired is one of our downspouts. To say Mr. Darcy and I are at our wit’s end over this fiasco would be an understatement.

The part that really riles us is their pacing. They will send one guy or a crew out then have no follow-up. Days will go by and we’ll be calling them trying to figure out what is going on and what the next step is. We have literally called them every day this week having been promised a new bid/estimate and a crew to come out Friday. I realize that contractors often get a bad rap but if this is how they manage time? I see why! Meanwhile we are sitting on whatever money we have hoping it will be enough to pay for this. We just want our room back and Mr. Darcy desperately wants to have his nerd area back.

*****

We didn’t deliver the letter to our neighbors but instead plan to go over and talk to them first. Not that either of us are looking forward to that conversation but we’re heeding your advice. We did not, however, go over on Saturday night when they were having a rockin’ karaoke party with the sound so loud we had to turn up the volume on our tv just to hear the show.

******

Sometimes being a grown up is exhausting.

 

Being Neighborly

A few months ago the vacant house next to us became occupied. So far I’ve only seen their feet out of our basement window and heard them singing. Yes, singing. As in karaoke at top volume. It’s so loud in fact, we can hear it from our living room. Which, for perspective, is at the other end of the house from where their house sits adjacent to ours.

That’s some serious karaoke volume.

At first we just thought they were partying. I mean, it was the holidays and so it made sense for people to have festive gatherings with possibly loud music. But then on Christmas Eve, Mr. Darcy and I snuck over to the edge of our lawn and looked. We could see into their living room window through a sheer curtain. There were holiday lights strung around and the glass was steamed up from the body heat inside. It was between songs and it was clear when someone got on the mic that this wasn’t just the radio we’d been hearing but bona-fide karaoke.

Karaoke in another language so that none of the songs are familiar to us. Does that make this a worse torture or easier?

So it’s now nearing the end of January and still, the random karaokeing continues. Like Friday when I worked from home. The male neighbor was at it around 2 in the afternoon, seemingly all by himself. I filmed this short video of it. This is me standing outside our bedroom window facing their living room (where the karaoke magic happens). (Sorry about videotaping it the wrong way.) (He is performing a rare English song, still unrecognizable to me.)

You guys? They are awful singers. Regardless of the fact that most of the time they are singing in a language I don’t know, they are all tone-deaf. They are like the people who audition for American Idol and suck so hard but swear that people have been telling them their entire lives they are good singers. No. YOU ARE NOT A GOOD SINGER. Maybe get a new hobby.

And why so much karaoke? Are they professionals? Is there a karaoke circuit I don’t know about where people compete for money? Are they planning on starting their own karaoke nightclub and host parties in their house as some sort of pyramid scheme to fund it? WHAT IS GOING ON AND WHY IS IT HAPPENING NEXT DOOR?

Those who follow me on Twitter (and even on Facebook) have heard me lament about this situation already. Whyyyyyyyy karaoke of all things at top volume? Didn’t we leave our urban apartment for this tranquil suburbia to escape such nonsense? Didn’t we suffer enough at the hands of The Music Man back at our old building?

I have written a letter, one in which I hope is taken in a neighborly way, explaining that we can hear their karaokeing from across the entirety of our house and especially in our bedroom where it is often very hard for us to fall asleep. I really just want them to know that it’s bothersome. Because here I am hoping that them knowing it’s a nuisance would mean they would have the good sense and manners to turn down the volume. I always want to believe people will be good and considerate. I’m probably setting myself up for an epic let down, aren’t I?

People have suggested all sorts of tactics in retaliation but since we own this house and have no plans on moving, I think we might want to try a nice approach first before calling the cops on a noise complaint or something. If the letter doesn’t work, then I’m ready to invite you all over so we can go knock on their door en mass with our karaoke song slips in hand. “Hey! We heard there was a karaoke party happening and we’re ready for our turn.”

Who’s in?

Send Towels & Bourbon

Despite a weekend of laboring over DIY fixes, our basement is still taking in water in two places.

Please cue the sad trombone.

Our backs are sore from shoveling out the window wells and planters (see below). After four hours of digging on Saturday, we lost the light and the rains came full force so we were forced to get conciliatory milkshakes and wait for the next day to finish re-caulking all the windows. Our Saturday night date consisted of a run to Lowe’s for more caulking, carpet padding, and renting a steam vacuum. This is how newlyweds bring the sexy.

windowwells

Here’s Mr. Darcy looking very manly as he ponders his shoveling strategy. Related: We need a wheelbarrow because hauling dirt in those buckets bruised up my legs.

Sunday was more of the same- wet, cold weather, outside laboring, and pulling up the carpet pad to get the mildew smell out of the room. Even though we can’t keep the carpet down because water keeps coming in, we managed to put towels in the trouble spots so I could run the steam vac. Now we keep the carpet pulled up and lay towels down in an effort to control the water. Twice a day we wring them out in the shower then toss them in the dryer. I always thought we had too many towels and now I’m wishing we had more crappy towels to use.

See the wall along the left of the room that's slightly discolored. That's our trouble spot.

See the wall along the left of the room that’s slightly discolored. That’s our trouble spot. The baseboard is bubbled from the water damage but the carpet is salvaged thankfully.

The earliest appointment we could get with a professional is Thursday. I also made a back up appointment for Monday with another company. We’re both OVER this. We just want it fixed and it’s beyond our scope and knowledge at this point. We had to cancel our holiday party that was set for this Saturday because there’s no way we can host 50+ people in our house without that downstairs space. Also, I don’t really want people coming over for the first time and seeing the house in such shambles.

Needless to say, our spirits are dampened. (Pun intended.)

This morning I was woken up by Dot, AKA OCD Cat, who was scraping the sides of the litter box incessantly as she is wont to do after a morning poo. We’re privy to her behaviors up close and personal thanks to the stupid water-in-the-basement situation which has forced us to shut the cats out of the rest of the basement except for our bedroom. So, 6am wake up call thanks to OCD Cat- check. I figure I might as well get up and check the towel situation in the flood spots. Overnight all the towels got soaked so I grabbed them up, ran to the bathroom trying not to drip too much on the carpet, and attempted to wring them out before putting them in the dryer. Then I went upstairs to feed the cats and stepped in cat puke. Dash insists on eating the Christmas tree pine needles which he promptly barfs up. HE NEVER LEARNS.

Um, is today Monday? WTH. Let’s recap:

  1. I’m tired.
  2. Cats are assholes.
  3. Water in the basement sucks.

How are you?

These Things

Apparently my super power is being able to hear a cat puking from the other room while I am asleep and wearing ear plugs.

I’d like a new super power, please.

The bright side is I am awake early enough to write this post. You’re welcome?

***

The other day on FB I was tagged in this meme where I was given an age and I had to talk about what I was doing then. I inadvertently got 2 ages- 20 and 26. I could not for the life of me remember what the hell I was doing at either age. I knew that at 20 my father had just passed away and I was living at home going to a local community college. But 26? NO CLUE. It basically took five people, six including me, to piece together my life.  (I was living on my own for the first time without a roommate, probably dating the homeless guy. Let’s not talk about it!)

My memory is shot. Can gingko biloba save it?

***

The carpet is pulled back and the pads have been sucked dry. There is a lingering mildew smell. The contractor comes out tomorrow. All parts are crossed that this is not a serious (re: expensive) problem. We googled more information about the problem and it turns out that’s really helpful if you want to increase your freaking out.

The rains are returning today and we are watchful and nervous.

If this can’t get fixed soon and/or it breaks the bank, our holiday housewarming party is going to have to be postponed.

***

I go to my gyno oncologist in 14 days for my first pap post- surgeries. Not that I am counting the days. Not that I am nervous for the results. Not that I am lying about not counting and being nervous.

Will we be cleared to try to get pregnant or will we have to face the harsh reality – that option does not exist for us?

CLIFF HANGER.

***

This Adrienne Rich line is ringing true for me right now: “The moment of change is the only poem.”

Yes.

This, That, The Other Thing

It’s freezing in our living room as I type this. The flue in our chimney is stuck open and there is a terrible draft. We called a repairman and this nice ol’ Irish guy with a thick accent named Phil and his cohort Ron came by Saturday to check the situation. Friendly fellows with sooty hands- the types of guys who tell it to you straight and stand around in your basement living room giving your tips about your wet carpet. I told Darcy I want to adopt Phil as my uncle but he said only if he’ll give us the family discount. I just want him to tell me tales of the motherland. No matter if he’s not actually from Ireland, he can make it up.

Yes, we have wet carpet in our basement living room. Currently it’s about a 4 ft by 4 ft area under a window though the water is not coming in from the window. Because Seattle has been besieged with unusually heavy rains, every person I called for help couldn’t see us for over a week. I picked the one who could come the soonest (8 days later) and meanwhile we have towels over the area where we stomp around to soak up the water, then dry the wet towels, then start the process again. We spent the greater part of Friday morning fighting with each other and dealing with a problematic gutter drain that was dumping water right in the same corner of the house where the floor is sopping wet. Coincidence? Probably not.

The upswing is we finally have a new couch for our downstairs living space.

It’s not getting much use yet because it’s wet in one corner of that room and the fireplace makes it drafty. We’re on a tight deadline to fix some of these problems because we’re losing money heating the outside and well, wet carpet is not the kind of breeding ground we’re at all interested in and because I am ridiculous and we’re planning a housewarming/holiday party for two weeks from now.

I know. I KNOW. I never quit.

But hey, we hung up my jazz wall and there is even room to add to it in the future. Hanging stuff up helps this place feel more like home even if it’s soggy in spots and undecorated in others.

After the wedding, honeymoon, and now these must-fix house issues, Christmas is going to be about the sentiment rather than the materialistic gift around these parts. I don’t need a new purse (I just want one, big difference) but we do NEED to feel warm when sitting in our living room and avoid growing mold in our carpet. We already started getting into the holiday spirit by hosting our first Thanksgiving in our new house. I managed to cook the turkey without drying it out (which is good because turkey is on the top five favorite foods list of Mr. Darcy’s) and we had a delicious meal with my family and some of the nerds.

In case you didn’t notice, I got my hair cut. It’s not as short as I thought I’d go but it’s a step in the right direction. I also went more brunette.

Other stuff is happening but maybe I’ll actually start blogging again and tell you about it.

Honoring My Dad

Last Friday would have been my father’s 85th birthday. It sounds so odd saying that. EIGHTY-FIVE? Where has the time gone? He’ll forever be stamped in my memory as younger – a boney man with an unsteady gait, soft brown skin creased by time, gray eyes behind glasses that became unnecessary when blindness struck, weathered hands that smelled of cigarettes, and a surprisingly deep voice for a man who was under 5′ 10″.

I’ve been wanting to get a tattoo to honor him for a while now and have been ruminating on one in particular- his name in Braille dots. After pondering placement (I wanted to avoid a freckled area which on me is hard to do) and talking it over with friends, I decided to finally get it on his birthday. I like symbolism and symmetry and all that jazz. My sister came with me for support and to photo document it.

Happy birthday, Dad. You’re always with me.

Firing Squad

For as assertive as I am, I have a terrible time telling people that I no longer want to use their services. I think it comes from the whole people pleaser thing I’ve got going on. Plus, I’m very empathetic and don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. But. . .  and I might be going out on a limb here.  . .I think I am getting better at saying “no thanks” to people that I don’t want work with.

Exhibit A:

Mr. Darcy and I have been taking dance lessons at Arthur Murray on some group on type dealio. The teacher we had for our one-on-one was very nice but the whole vibe of the place wasn’t for us. Let’s put it this way- the dance teachers struck me as the Stepford Wives of ballroom dancing. Every time we went in they would try to up-sell us and make us commit to our “dance plan” for our wedding. And! They would write notes about us in these binders. Besides, who keeps binders anymore?

On our last group class was led by this marionette of an instructor who was impossible to hear except for her 1-2-3-beep-bop-da call out. By the 5th time I alternated back to Mr. Darcy he was sweating and looking rather miserable so we cut out of there early. We had our final one-on-one lesson scheduled a few days later and I just knew I didn’t want to go. I couldn’t face our teacher doing her pushy manipulation disguised as sweet encouragement. Lying in bed the next night,  I brought it up.

“I think we should not go back to Arthur Murray.”

“Agreed.”

“What should we tell them?”

“We should just not show up.”

“We can’t do that! We should at least call. . .We could tell them you are sick.”

“Lying to them is better than not showing up?”

“Yes! Because they have MY number and I know she will call me relentlessly to try to guilt me into rescheduling. I’m weak.”

“Tell her we’ve finally settled on our “Plan.” The “Plan” is we will stop showing up. It’s a concise plan.”

I sat there agonizing about calling and finally dialed. It was around 10:15pm so I was surprised when someone picked up the phone. I was only prepared to leave a voicemail not talk to a live human! So, I hung up. Mr. Darcy started laughing at me.

Then I decided we should just send an email. Mr. Darcy’s helpful stab at it was, “Dear Arthur Murray… It’s not you; it’s us. Well, mostly it’s you.” I went with something a little more fleshed out. It was clear but firm. And a little nice. I CANNOT HELP THE NICE.

I fully expected them to call me the next day. So far, no calls or emails. I think we’re in the clear and can go about finding a new dance instructor. But not at Arthur Murray. Never again.

Also, I might still kind of suck at breaking up with people.

Exhibit B:

We hired a lawn service shortly after moving into our house because it’s a lot of lawn and we don’t have a mower. Those are our excuses and we’re standing by them. The one man lawn service guy that I found on Craig’s List came by to give me an estimate, looked around the place, and told me it’d be $50 every two weeks for him to mow it. He doesn’t speak English very well but we managed to shake on a deal. He mowed the lawn that day and I told him I’d leave a check for him under the mat in 2 weeks when he was scheduled to return. Except two weeks went by and then a day and then two days and I finally called him and was like “what the heck?” and he was like “I come tomorrow!” And I’m like “OK but do you come every other Friday or what?” And he’s all “I come tomorrow.”

Uh, awesome. Great talking to you?

Then two weeks go by and Friday comes again. I leave a check but come home after work to lawn that has not been mowed. The weekend passes with no sign of him. Monday I come home from work and the lawn is mowed. Fine. Okay. Two more weeks go by and again, he doesn’t show on Friday, the weekend, or Monday. So Tuesday I call and our conversation goes something like:

“Hi I live at ….. and you are supposed to mow my lawn every other Friday.”

“Uh. Yes.”

“Well it’s Tuesday and you have not come.”

“I come tomorrow.”

“No do not come tomorrow. Don’t come again. You are fired.”

“Ohhhhhh.”

“You can’t expect to keep jobs when you don’t keep to the schedule you agree to. Don’t come back. Thank you. Good-bye.”

I was doing so well until the damn thank you. I guess I am still in people pleaser recovery mode. It’s a long process. Give me time. I’ll be Donald Trump soon enough.