Sunday, June 24, 2012

If That's Movin' Up Then I'm Movin' Out

A lot of people have a lot of questions, quite understandably, about the current status of my life & when Nathan & I are moving & whether I am panicking & so on. I actually just typed "packing" there instead of "panicking," which should give you some insight into my state of mine.

Here's a quick outline:
  • The movers come tomorrow at noon to take away our stuff. Because we're using the military's contracted movers, we are not allowed to pack anything, which means our apartment still looks like we're not going anywhere.
  • I leave New Hampshire for Ohio on Tuesday, where I'll stay until Sunday. My "sister" will be visiting from Venezuela/Texas & an old high school friend is getting married, so despite the bad timing, I know it'll be a great trip - but, yes, I feel moderate to severe guilt about leaving town mid-move.
  • Sometime while I'm gone, Nathan will drive to New Jersey & settle in.*
  • On Sunday, I fly from Ohio to Boston & then bus to Portsmouth, where my car will be waiting for me at the station. Now homeless in New Hampshire, I will drive to my friends' place an hour away, where I'll crash in their guest room for the night.
  • On Monday morning, I'll get up early to bid the Granite State adieu & drive the five hours to Red Bank, arriving at my new home sometime in the early afternoon. 
  • We will spend Monday through Wednesday unpacking & settling in*, hopefully spending Wednesday evening at Red Bank's Independence Day festivities, which I'm told are fantastic.

The asterisk next to both instances of "settle in" signifies our biggest headache: Because we don't yet know when the military's movers can deliver our stuff, we may be sleeping on an air mattress for a couple of weeks, living out of suitcases & whatever we stuff into our cars.

This doesn't get a bullet point because it's a permeating, all-the-time thing: Throughout all of this, I will do my best not to vomit, pass out, scream, cry, or generally have a metal breakdown. Alas, the chances of my holding it all together are decreasing rapidly...

See you in New Jersey, my dear readers!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Superheroes for Sam

This is Superman Sam.
He could use your support!
I don't have any kids, but I know this to be true: Learning that your child has cancer must be every parent's worst nightmare. This week, the Jewish blogging community was hit hard by the news that Rabbi Phyllis Sommer, a.k.a. Ima On (and Off) the Bima, one of our biggest online personalities, had recently gotten the terrible news that her son, 6-year-old Sam, has leukemia.

I don't know Phyllis well. I've met her once, when we both spoke on a social media panel together in 2009. I follow her on Twitter, & we've encountered one another a few times through work-related happenings. What I know of Phyllis is that she's a dedicated mother, a social media whiz, a brilliant rabbi, & a beloved friend of so, so many people who I know & trust.

In true Ima On the Bima style, Phyllis and her husband Michael have taken to social media to tell their story & to direct the waves of support coming in for their son & for their whole family. They've started a blog called Superman Sam to keep their friends & family informed of Sam's condition & his progress in the fight against his disease. And they're asking for our help is making sure Sam knows he's loved.

Will you join me in being a Superhero for Sam? You don't have to be Jewish, of course, to show this 6-year-old boy that you're pulling for him - & that you are one of hundreds, maybe thousands, who is sending him strength & love from across the miles. To participate, take a photograph of yourself wearing your favorite superhero shirt or holding up something superhero related or, hell, just smiling big. print out the picture, stick it in an envelope, & mail it to:
Sam Sommer, E571
Children's Hospital of Wisconsin
P.O. Box 1997
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53201-1997
Don't have the energy to print & send on your own? No judgment here. I happen to love snail mail, & I've got a stockpile of stamps waiting to be used. You can email me your photo at suburbansweetheart@gmail.com to be printed out & sent to Phyllis, Sam, & their family. All photos will be hung on the wall in Sam's hospital room to show him that Team Superman Sam is rooting for him.

Rabbi Sommer, left, with her family,
showing their support for Superman Sam

Friday, June 15, 2012

Overheard at Starbucks

Working at home can be sort of boring, so I often work from Starbucks, but working from Starbucks can be really weird. Let me explain:
  • Today I actually overheard not one but two people asking some version of, "Do you guys do iced lattes here?" Folks, this is a coffee shop.

  • I also overheard a series of interviews for a job at a local boutique. During one of them, the interviewer asked her interviewee (who was wearing a sleeveless top), "So, with a background in human resources, why are you interested in retail?" The girl responded, "Well, I can't find anything in my field, & I thought retail would be great in the meantime." Unemployed, readers, take note: I think it's safe to say that's not the correct answer.

  • A middle-aged stranger recently tapped me on the shoulder & told me with surprising enthusiasm, "I saw you texting the other day. You're the fastest texter I've ever seen. I was really impressed!" This prompted a short but intense conversation about my speed-texting skills. Thank you?

  • A woman plopped her stuff down at a table next to mine & asked me if I'd keep an eye on her things while she got her drink. Sure, no problem. When she returned, she asked my name, shook my hand, & proceeded to tell me about her many medical ailments, including a few contagious ones. NO THANK YOU.

  • I heard a young, otherwise-handsome dude ask the barista where he could catch the bus to WalMart because he needed to buy a new pair of Carharts. As he pulled up the sleeve of his shirt to reveal handwritten notes all over his flesh, it became increasingly clear that he was high on something aside from just life. As he left, he yelled over his shoulder, "Thanks, man! Sounds just dandy!"

As I finish up this post, a fellow Starbucks dweller who I once introduced myself to has spotted me from outside the establishment & is on his way in to chat, likely about his continued unemployment due to a back injury. I guess it's a good thing I'm done working, because I'm about to be talking for awhile.

Oh, strangers. You sure do keep things interesting.

    Thursday, June 14, 2012

    My Stupid Mouth

    It is well-known amongst my friends & colleagues that public speaking is, uh, not my strong point. I could pretend like it is, act like I don’t know that I’m the world’s worst public speaker. Maybe in time, I’d fake it ‘til I make it, suddenly become the world’s best public speaker or some reasonable facsimile thereof, but I find its best to be honest about our faults & let others help us to grow, so I admit it: I am terrified of public speaking, & I really suck at doing it.

    I work with a lot of people who are really, really good at speaking in front of crowds. I work with clergy & musicians & intellectuals who think nothing of stepping up to the podium or onto a stage to speak their piece with composure & confidence.

    And then there’s me.

    Look, it’s not just that I suck at it. It’s that the thought of speaking in front of a large crowd makes me physically ill. In my D.C. office, we ran a few weekend-long seminars every year to teach high school students how to be advocates for social justice issues. Each weekend, I ran two workshops on LGBT equality - & before almost every single on, I vomited. I’ve never vomited in front of anyone, thank goodness, but like clockwork, just before my presentation began, I’d quietly slip off to use the restroom. I’ve gotten moderately better since then, but not by much. Instead, I’ve become accustomed to carrying gum, breath mints, & even a toothbrush with me when I know I may have to address any sort of a crowd. Earlier this week, while at a staff retreat with 75 or so of my coworkers, I got up to share my opinion about something & think I actually blacked out – like, I have almost no idea what I said, except that my old supervisor congratulated me on sounding pulled together & not as nervous as she knew I must’ve been.

    Being a terrible public speaker is 100% at odds with the rest of my personality. I love telling stories & sharing my opinion; I’m outgoing & at times, even boisterous; I will even confess that I enjoy being the center attention, vain though that may sound. But when it comes to speaking in front of a group in any sort of formalized setting, I’d always rather write than talk. After all, writing has never affected my gag reflex. When I write, I can choose my words carefully. When I write, I can control my messaging. When I write, I can go back & edit anything that sounds stupid. But unscripted speaking? I don't trust my brain to convey things properly on the fly.

    There it is, perhaps my most embarrassing secret: I have written 700+ blog posts & have more than 2,000 Twitter followers, & yet I can’t open my mouth to speak in public without feeling like I’m going to pass out cold. I power through because, hey, that’s how life works, & sometimes you have to talk to people. I volunteer for speaking-related activities because I keep thinking this will go away; I teach social media seminars for work, & did I mention that I once gave my high school’s commencement address to 1,000 or so people? Willingly? I try, but nothing seems to work except for trash cans & gum.

    I don’t know if this is something I’ll ever get over, but I do know that I’m too opinionated to let a little bit of barfing or blacking out scare me silent.

    Hey, you. Yes, you!
    Have you liked Suburban Sweetheart on Facebook yet? 

    Wednesday, June 13, 2012

    All Dressed Up With Someplace Totally Incongruous To Go

    What's that? Oh, just a hoard of young adults in Victorian garb walking through downtown Portsmouth in the rain on a Tuesday afternoon. NBD.




    In case you're curious, no, I have no idea what their final destination was, but I did follow them in my car for long enough to see that they stopped at Gilley's, a local place recognized on Man vs. Food for its insanely greasy grub. That's exactly what I want to eat while wearing a purple velvet blazer & a dress with a taffeta bustle!

    Hey, you. Yes, you!
    Have you liked Suburban Sweetheart on Facebook yet? 

    Tuesday, June 5, 2012

    Send in the Clown

    I don't typically like when people do "Sh!t My Boyfriend Says"-style blog posts because... well, maybe because I rarely think the sh!t anyone else's boyfriends say is very funny. My own boyfriend is relatively funny, but I've thus far refrained from trying to convince you of this, lest you feel the same way I do about such posts. But the day has come, friends. Nathan has been extra funny today.

    • While putting a graduation card for his sister into the (admittedly rather small) envelope it came with, Nathan looked baffled. He held up both the card & the envelope & asked,
      "Do I have to put this in another envelope?"
      "I don't understand what you're asking," I responded.
      He tried again: "Is this, like, the outside envelope, or do I need to put this envelope into another envelope? Is this the final envelope?"
      Dude, these aren't classroom Valentines. That is the envelope.

    • At the end of the first episode of "Hell's Kitchen," the eliminated contestant took off his chef's coat & walked down a long, dark hallway, through a set of lighted doors, & Nathan asked, "What, did he die?"

    • While at our favorite local record store, Nate spotted a postcard of Albert Einstein, which reminded him of a story from his childhood:
      "There were four kids. Did I ever tell you about how my parents had four pictures hanging up? Me, Jessica, Einstein, and Madeleine, with Einstein's picture instead of Brice's."
      "Didn't your parents also tell you that one of you had a genius IQ, but they wouldn't tell you which one?"
      "Oh, man. I never made that connection."
      Brutal. Guess it wasn't you, babe.
    I should also note, though, that he's been just wonderful as I grieve the loss of our beloved kitty Stringer Bell, so it's not all fun & games 'round these parts. LOTS of crying going on, but we try to keep it from getting too emo.

    Monday, June 4, 2012

    The Cat Lady's Goodbye

    I knew as soon as I saw him that he was the cat I wanted. "This one," I told Nathan. "This one is my favorite." He was skinny as sin but twice as fluffy, a grey furball with a white beard & big socks to match. A black nose, not a pink one, which I swore made him cuter. And most importantly, he was purring - hard. He responded to our petting, forcing his head up under our hands if we tried to stop. Yes, he was our cat right away.

    We knew we were taking a gamble adopting an old cat. He was 9, the ASPCA told us (though we'd later learn he was closer to 12), an indoor-outdoor who went by George but didn't know his name, which meant we could easily change it. We adopted him despite his age because cats sometimes live to be 18, & where would we be in 18 years?! An old man seemed like a safe bet for an unknown future.

    The first few days with George were rough, though. He had an incessantly watery eye, plus a stuffy nose & a kitty cold. He wouldn't eat & hid under the bed whenever we approached him. We took him to the vet but couldn't afford to shell out hundreds of dollars for a cat we'd just gotten, so the ASPCA agreed to take him back, & I gave him a tearful goodbye as Nathan planned to return him while I was away on business. When the photo came via text message less than a day later, though, I was so happy I cried: our cat, eating Spaghetti-O's! He was cured! Nathan liked to take credit for saving his life. We renamed him Stringer Bell, after one of our favorite TV characters & he was only sort of appropriately tough. Mostly, he was just cuddly.

    When Nathan was away on Coast Guard deployment, Stringer was my saving grace. With no friends in the area, he was my little buddy, my constant companion. Unlike other cats, he welcomed belly rubs; he was nearly always purring. He'd sleep curled up in my arm at night & would lick my face before I fell asleep, like a little dog. He destroyed our furniture & stuck his head in all our water glasses, but he was the happiest cat in the land, & I freely admitted to being kind of obsessed with him. How could you not love something so cute so much?

    Yesterday, while I was in Ohio for a wedding, Stringer had a stroke. Of course, Nathan didn't know that was what had happened, only that the cat had lost control of some bodily functions & was doing what we call his "angry meow." Nathan took him to the emergency vet, where he was X-rayed & put in an oxygen cage to help him breathe, on the off chance it was just allergies. But at 4:30 this morning, Nathan got a call saying Stringer had gotten worse & was likely in a lot of pain. Like a good papa, Nate gave them the go-ahead to stop his suffering. I took a standby flight home at 8:30am, but our kitty was long gone by then.

    I don't even like animals. I certainly never thought I'd become this crazy cat lady who lets her pet lick her face at night. But I'll be damned if that little guy wasn't my absolute favorite thing in the world for a solid 14.5 months. He got me through life in Portsmouth when I wanted nothing more than to flee back to D.C. or Ohio. He gave me something to take care of while Nathan was away. He gave me infinite snuggles in exchange for food, water, & a few good belly rubs. When I petted that cat, I could almost feel the stress leaving my body; he was better & cuter than Xanax, but possibly even more addictive.

    I've spent all day crying, & I'm not even back home yet. I know that when I enter our apartment & he's not there to greet me - when I see Nathan all out of sorts & sans-cat sad - I'm going to lose it all over again. I know, I know: Far be it from me to question nature's plan. Maybe Stringer Bell just didn't want to move to New Jersey? I don't blame you, little buddy. But I know that we gave him the best year of his short cat life, & he gave us so much love & happiness in return. Already, life feels a lot less fluffy without him.

    Nap well, my sweet little man. Mama & papa loved you hard.
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