Sunday, February 24, 2008

Soft Pretzels Are the Best

A very close friend of mine called to give me the “living-vicariously-through-single-friends” update this afternoon. We were on the phone for a couple hours laughing and talking about all the crazy things she goes through in the dating world of a thirty-something gal and one point she mentioned in passing really stood out when it comes to love and relationships. There is always something significant in every relationship (no matter if it is a dear friend, lover or acquaintance) that truly is a defining metaphor for everything they go through together. For her that is a pretzel and it hit me that her symbol can be applied to almost every interaction between humans.

Affixing the pretzel theory to lovers, we are all looking to discover the perfect one. From the beginning, there is anticipation for the spark two people experienced during a first encounter to still exist during their first date. The build up to that first date is much like standing in line for a pretzel at a carnival and the eagerness that grows as the line shortens. Giddiness takes over, the feeling of being a child waiting for the big prize to come. We all hope for one that is warm, not too hard to get through on the outside and just soft enough on the inside.

What toppings we get on our pretzel equates to what we are looking for in love. Do we want something strong but comfortable like mustard and salt or spicy and sweet like cinnamon and sugar? Choosing toppings also reminds me of being a girl and going through an entire closet of clothes to choose an outfit for a first date as well. Do those hot pink heels scream hooker or fun and flirty? Should we wear that deep v-neck or do we actually want him to look in our eyes at some point during the evening?

I am not a dude so I can not speak for what goes through the mind of a man within the initial moments of a first date but for women it tends to be whether there will be a second date or not. Going back to the carnival we are certainly going to remember if that pretzel we ordered last year was exactly what we were looking for; if it was too twisted we may just settle for the hip-widening fried dough instead.

Since we do not go to the carnival everyday a pretzel is a special treat but what happens when we decide we love them so much that we start purchasing pretzels at the grocery store to cook up at home? Do we find ourselves losing interest in the same old snack or do those little misshapen pieces of bread still provide reassurance through the familiar? Months after a pretzel is ordered it will certainly become stale if it is not properly cared for. It is far too often in love and relationships that we lose the initial giddy flicker of exhilaration that comes with ordering up something new.

It is all in the way a pretzel is perceived that encourages us to continue to enjoy it no matter how many we have already consumed or how long it has been by our side. Stretch it out long and flat. Spice it up with some Tabasco sauce. I say take all the toppings away, leaving it completely naked to experience the truest version of it and then get to know how it is put together so we can really understand why we fell in love with it enough to take it home it in the first place. After that, relish in the constant comfort it provides.

Friday, February 22, 2008


For the first time in a very long time I watched a bunch of television this past week. I now remember why I try not to, other than Lost there is not much of any merit and my brain ends up a barren waste of space after staring at that glittery box for so many hours. While watching I saw the trailer for a new show called Quarterlife and I became upset knowing I have been using a similar catch phrase for years. In that spirit, here are some of the phrases I frequently use and what their meanings are to me. Feel free to use any of these you like but if you make money off of it I am going to track you down.

Lost in a prior learning experience – Generally used in reference to random music that I once had but some ex stole from me when we were over. I replace a lot of those albums but there are some that are far too attached to an individual person and it is just too painful to listen to it again. This always makes me sad because I love music so much and giving it up takes a little bit of my soul away. That knowledge gives me the motivation to never associate Jason Mraz music with anyone.

Betty – During the past few years I have heard this used to describe hot women. The Urban Dictionary says “The term Betty refers to a hot chick. One that is attractive, stylish and self confident. A Betty is typically a looker.” In the early 90’s I worked at Victoria’s Secret and back then we used to refer to the panty and bra mannequins as Bettys. Anyone who has shopped at Vicky’s knows these mannequins are anything but attractive, stylish or hot. It comforts me inside to know us crazy gals started a lyrical revolution with one word.

Have we met? – When someone asks me a question that should likely be rhetorical this tends to be my response. For example: Question “Are you hungry?” My response “Have we met?”

Is it 70 degrees? – When the answer is no then no, I am not going to be warm.

Frig yeah! – Happiness is indescribable.

Blow me – I am pretty disappointed with the current situation.

Quarter life crisis – When a person reaches a certain age, say mid to late twenties, they suddenly realize their life is not where or what they thought it would be. This could spring up due to some of the following reasons: An invitation to a high school reunion arrives, a final friend’s wedding comes and goes, everyone starts having babies, the final payment of student loans is mailed and the automatic salary increase causes the person to think of purchasing something big like a house or a BMW. Getting a handle on this fact can cause one of two things to happen. Either the person deals with it or decides to rebel against whatever oppression they think they are facing. The settlers conclude that eventually many people give up their teenage ideal of bucking the establishment and conform to whatever box society thinks they should be placed in. The ones in crisis are still trying to rebel against the man. These people are referred to as Artists. A quarter life crisis can last as long as seventy five years. I predict the show will last about six episodes.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

70 Cubic Yards of Love

When I saw the phone call that was coming in at 7:00 AM was from Arizona a couple weeks ago I knew the day we had feared had come – Melda had passed away. The last few years of her life had been difficult as she suffered from dementia as well as emphysema but the news still felt shocking and hard to take as the last Grandparent, and the Matriarch of Matt’s family, had left our company. Over the course of the next weeks all everyone could do was make travel arrangements and wait as her wish was to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington DC along side the love of her life of over 50 years. Arlington is on a tight schedule due to the number of veterans being buried there with so many WWII vets passing and she was one of those veterans.

Melda was a WAC (Women’s Army Corps), a prestigious title to own as these were the first women to actually serve as ranking Army members and not just nurses during war but that was Melda, a scrappy, firecracker of a woman I had the pleasure of knowing for far too short a time. Not only was she a world traveler, writer, lover of cats, military member and wife but she was the mother of three boys, grandmother to five, four of which were boys and great grandmother to three boys. I suppose she had no choice but to be a tough cookie and as the family came together in the house many of them literally grew up in we shared in many tears, laughs and wonderful memories of her life.

Matt and I arrived on Sunday in a convoy with his sister and her youngest who we happily met up with every couple hours on the eight hour drive. As soon as we entered the house there was homemade lasagna on the table and a flurry of introductions as well as so many familiar faces to embrace. The conversation was light and the food was fantastic after such a long trip. One of the topics of conversation was of a huge tree branch that had come down in the backyard and everyone agreed it was Melda getting a little feisty in a very strong windstorm which came through that day. We all went to bed full, nostalgic and prepared to take our own military style showers the next morning.

A hot shower was something everyone but the first lucky ones would have to wait for until later in the week but we all got ready and piled into the caravan of cars to head out to the church service. The service was a beautiful tribute as photos were shown on a large movie screen and many people shared their memories of how Melda had touched their lives. In particular Matt’s aunt read the letter Melda’s husband had written her while he too was serving in the war which contained his proposal of marriage. That was beautiful and moving and there was likely not a dry eye in the place. In true southern fashion there was a large meal immediately following at the church which was a nice break for everyone to relax and reflect before piling back to the house. Rather than sit idle, Matt and his dad decided this would be the perfect time to take the branch down.

I had a small experience with a military service from my Grandfather’s funeral which took place in Massachusetts just last year but nothing could have prepared me for the awe that is Arlington National. There is nowhere to look without seeing rows, upon rows of statuesque white headstones for the fallen veterans. There is no way to describe the scene but I truly feel it is something everyone should make a point to see at least once in their life as it is a strangely ironical reminder of just how important life and loyalty are in this world. Respects were paid to Melda through a customary gun salute, folding of the flag, gift from the Women’s Army Corp representative and of course the most difficult part of all, the playing of Taps. Sadly we were somewhat hurried away from the gravesite upon the conclusion of the service but everyone hugged and chatted for a few cold weather moments by our cars promising to keep in touch and visit whenever we could.

This is the very moment where the sadness of the week was replaced with all the crazy things the family had to deal with that became almost comical. After arriving back at the house Matt’s uncle pulled out the chainsaw to cut up the downed branch and we all just prayed that he would notice his leg was precariously close to the spinning metal teeth. Luckily he has some experience and no harm was done to anything other than the tree that would now become firewood for their stove.

By Wednesday the family had thinned out some as Matt’s cousins went back to their respective colleges and other family members headed back to their homes scattered all over from North Carolina to Romania which left just seven of us and the baby to tackle the most difficult part of the whole experience – “The Basement”. Yes, it is capitalized and in quotes for a reason. It was raining so the ladies spent their time filling up large Rubbermaid totes which the guys graciously hauled up and down the stairs, around the back yard and out to the dumpster in the driveway. When the dumpster arrived I laughed out loud noting the irony.

I will not include all the photos of The Basement before but this should give a fairly good idea of why I estimate, at the least, 350 trips up and down the stairs for the guys over the course of the three days it took to fill the three dumpsters that came and went. Melda’s long time dream was to take a baseball bat, go down there and start swinging but I think with the number of times we all heard items shattering in that cold, metal dumpster she was smiling down on all of us as if she had done it herself.

The last full day of our time there was spent loading odds and ends from The Basement as well as some unsalvageable furniture items so the ladies decided it would be a great time to leave the dudes behind and get out to a “chick flick”. We had a wonderful time and returned to a completely empty basement as well as a completed plumbing project and some new lighting installed that we all went out to purchase the night before. Nothing says I love you like spending Valentine’s Day at the Home Depot with your in-laws but it was all worth it to see the difference in the former black hole.

Our drive back on Saturday was virtually uneventful save for the brilliant shortcut we decided to take through the Holland Tunnel instead of crossing the George Washington Bridge. It had been almost four months since we had been in The City and as soon as we hit the West Side highway I was immediately reminded why I am glad we do not live there anymore but was happy to drive through on our way to somewhere else. People tend to look at me strangely when I say things like I had a lot of fun when a funeral is involved but to defend that point it truly is one of the only times an entire family comes together and talks about the past, present and future. Through laughter and tears it is easy to create stronger bonds to each other and truly prioritize the important things in life like family. I do not think Melda would have wanted it any other way.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Convenient Theories for You

It is common knowledge that I have absolutely no trouble speaking my mind and sharing my own personal pearls of wisdom with anyone insane enough to listen. My passionate nature runs very deep and I will stand by my convictions until I die. Well, at least until I run out of breath. I will spout my madness as if the world depends on it and will not stop until I wear a person down to the point where they give in and agree with me simply to shut me up. Call me competitive, I do not like to lose and have even been told that I could “sell a dog off a meat wagon”; you better believe I am damn proud of it. For those of you like-minded loonies out there, here are some haphazard hypothesis I live by.

One of my favorite movie quotes of all time is the way I feel about most of society: “You have a freak flag. You just don’t fly it”. Everyone, admit it or not, has an out of control, crazy side to their personality it is just that some people try to hide it more than others. A great example of this is politicians. These people try so very desperately to be perfect, to say just the right thing, that they completely miss out on what it means to be alive. Perhaps they are held to far too high a standard but I say c’mon Hilary, do the running man on stage just because there is music playing. McCain could seriously win my vote if he would just sing out loud while he is alone in the car. Loosen up people; it is just life after all.

The reason shark attacks have been on the rise in the past few years is because humans are farming off all the deeper water fish they would normally eat so sharks have to creep in closer to the shoreline to locate food. Due to this belief I have pretty much stopped eating ocean fish. I like to think that because of this it will not be my legs that get nibbled on while swimming this summer.

People who are afraid to drive or have other priorities should never, ever, get behind the wheel. Year after year northeast cities have some of the highest incidents of road rage as well as, statistically, some of the worst drivers on the road. The thing with Boston is being able to predict unpredictability so I subscribe to the following rules of driving:
1. People doing 40 miles per hour should not be on the highway; it’s the vertical pedal on the right people, locate it for all of our sakes.
2. Hang up and drive.
3. Consult your map on your own time. If your car is moving in front of mine then this is not your own time.
4. If your foot is on the gas there should not be a book on your steering wheel or a mascara wand in your hand.
5. It really doesn’t take that much effort to locate the little stick in the side of the steering column known as the directional. Find it and use it and if you’re having trouble because your hands are not free then refer to #2.
6. Placing your car bumper two inches away from mine will not make me drive any faster simply to appease you. This is why I don’t travel in the left lane; I leave that open for psychos like you that feel it necessary to go 35 over the limit so please just pass me.

So I say get out there and dance, sing, laugh, eat your fruit and drive with both hands on the wheel but live your life with your arms and legs flailing uncontrollably in the air and don’t forget that a cup of tea, your favorite music and a good belly laugh will make everything alright with the world.