Thursday, December 24, 2009

death and taxes

The two things that have plagued my life most in 2009 (actually, for the last year and a half)? Death and taxes. The two sure things in life.

It's Christmas Eve, and I know that I am on the verge of losing another grandparent. This time, even though I'm more prepared and have been for longer than I care to admit, it's been especially difficult watching my family struggle with letting go. My grandfather (step-grandfather, technically) has been bed-ridden for many months, and was nearly immobile long before then. He's survived three serious bouts of pneumonia over the last year when no one expected him to make it through the first. He long ago lost his ability to effectively communication, and sometimes getting a simple yes or no out of him is difficult. When I last saw him over Thanksgiving, he looked much worse than I had ever seen him. This is morbid, but he looked as though he was deteriorating in his bed, as though his body had already failed him but he didn't know that yet. When I was there, I spent a little while speaking to the Hospice nurses who care for him regularly, and they were just trying to keep him comfortable.

That was a month ago. When I spoke with my mother last night to check in, funeral arrangements were being made, and he was taking morphine every two hours to manage the pain of his body breaking down. I wonder if he knows he's dying. I wonder why, if he does, doesn't he let go.

My mother told me that two nights ago, he called my stepfather over to his bed. He held out his hand and John went to him. My mother said they sat there holding hands for more than an hour, as my stepfather told him stories and fond memories. John later told my mother that he thought my grandfather was waiting for him to say that it was okay to go now. But he couldn't. It's hard to let your parent leave the world even if you know that its time.

I cry every time I even think about them sitting there together.

When I lost my beloved uncle earlier this year, I was a mess. I thought this time was easier, if only because I was not as close to Pop. If I'm being perfectly honest, Pop was never especially nice to me. When we were kids, Pop clearly favored my brother and they had a very sweet relationship. I suppose I was a little jealous then, but I grew out of that. Pop used to spend every weekend with my family, and when he'd drive from my aunt's house to ours on a Friday afternoon, he would bring homemade pastries and fresh vegetables from the farmer's market that he passed on the way. At least one weekend a month, he would bring me whoopie pies, which were my favorite. I remember Pop also liked the pumpkin cookies I used to make in the fall.

My family has lost too many people over the last year and a half. I hope that changes in 2010.

Less significant than death, but more omnipresent in my daily life has been my struggle this year with my finances. My situation is probably worse than ever, but I've continued, for the most part, to go about my days as though it weren't. I've overdrawn my checking account more than once over the past few months and the more often it accidentally happened, the sense of embarrassment I felt the first time it happened diminishes. By not taking care of money, I am not taking good care of myself, and I know that at 28 years old, I should be there by now. I need to be there. I think that if I had expensive clothes and shoes and went out to eat for every meal, I'd deserve to be in the position that I'm in, but I don't. My monthly bills come just shy of my monthly pay and that will not change. If I worked fewer hours per week I could probably get a part-time job to supplement my income, but unless it was an extremely lucrative one (say, drug dealer?), I could not make enough in my "free" time to make it worth it. There's the taxes to consider. I was lucky enough to get a small bonus from my company for the holidays this year, and 45% of it went to taxes. I did the math.

I know that when I get my income tax refund in February I can kick start my bank account and get back on track, but that feels like its eons away. Even though I say that I really am trying, whatever I'm doing just doesn't work. Maybe I will just hit the lottery in 2010. That might help.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Watch as I punch my landlord in the face

Just when I was feeling jovial and light and in the spirit of the holiday season, my "family" and I get a notice in the mail from ConEd stating that our management company, which has been tipping towards disaster since we moved in in June, has neglected to pay their bills. The ConEd bill for the common areas of my apartment building (which includes heat in the lobby/hallways, elevator, and all lights in the lobby/halls/stairwell) has not been paid since AUGUST and is totaling over $18,000. EIGHTEEN THOUSAND DOLLARS in unpaid bills. If this goes unpaid, as of January 10th, all electric will be shut off to our common areas. This, thankfully, does not affect our individual apartments, as we pay our own ConEd, and ON TIME NO LESS. However, no elevator (we live on the sixth floor) and no lights in the stairwells means, essentially, that we cannot safely get to our apartment (I'm certainly not going to climb six flights in the pitch black darkness), which obvious has a huge impact on us.

This unpaid bill situation has now topped the list of complaints we have about our BRAND NEW APARTMENT, which includes uneven walls, window drafts, a broken intercom, no hot water in our showers... and more. We've been (relatively) patient with the company when asking them to fix things in the apartment but have largely been ignored. Only within the last two weeks did we get hot water in the showers. But this ConEd situation makes me furious. Like, I MAY MURDER THEM, furious. I have been storming around my office all day threatening physical violence on anyone who crosses me today. Beware.

The best possible scenario, at this point, seems to be getting out of our lease and moving elsewhere. Somewhere, perhaps, where the management isn't a troop of irresponsible douchebags. A girl can dream. One of our other options, according to the resources at 311 is to pool together a tenant association (which I am all for) and file a joint complaint with the city. Okay, fine. 311 and others have also suggested that each apartment chip in an equal share to foot the bill, and then deduct that money from our rent. To this, I say ABSOLUTELY NOT. I look at it as a parent paying for the college student's credit card bill. They will not learn that their actions are unacceptable if we simply pay their bills for them. Part of being an adult is paying bills. Part of running a COMPANY is also paying bills, not running off doing hell knows what with our money.

Option 23 is that we pack up and move to Florida. It's warm there, even in December.

And, even if the apartment is falling down and we will be stuck on the sixth floor until June, we at least have a pretty tree to look at:

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

I wrote a novel in November... what did YOU do?

As I've written about a bit, I took the month of November to write a novel as part of the NaNoWriMo challenge. 30 days. 50,000 words. And I actually finished.

I originally took on the challenge simply to take one month to do something that I really enjoy doing. And trust me when I say that I really needed to do that for myself. I love to write, and when I'm pushed hard enough (with, say, 50,000 words to write in one month) I am capable of being kind of good at it. I say "kind of" good not to be self-deprecating, but because it's the truth. A Harper Lee or a Dave Eggers, I am not. I am what I am. One thing on the list of things that I am good at happens to be writing. Just ask my colleagues whose press release was called out in an office-wide meeting for being outstanding. Yeah, that was mine. It's hanging on my wall behind me right now. Or who edits probably about half of the press releases that come through this place. See, I'm not self-deprecating, or even humble.

What I discovered over the past month is that I have more to say than I thought I did. I started writing on November 1st with an idea that I had decided on on October 31st, and just wrote. I wrote 50,270 words. For that, I am both pleased and proud. I worked hard a lot of the time, and there were a few days that I did not write at all out of frustration or because of my shoulder injury (ouch). Over the last week and a half, I wrote almost two-thirds of my novel, because I had gotten so behind in the front half of the month. As of Sunday evening, I had more than 11,000 words left to write in 24 hours. I "finished" at 11:43pm on Monday and uploaded my word count to the NaNoWriMo website with just minutes to spare. When I got home after 12:30 that night, my back, shoulders and arms ached from being hunched over my computer. I was as tired as I had ever been before. But it was done and I felt awesome. And now I am wearing my NOVELIST button on my coat.

Last night, on my first novel-free evening, I made cupcakes because I could. They were delicious.

Next Tuesday, I plan to start the editing process on the second draft, and someday soon I may even let someone read my currently untitled work. Rachel has requested an autographed printed copy. On it, I plan to write, "Thank you for your support. Sorry that I ignored you for a month. I'm glad our relationship survived this. Xoxo, Your Literary Highness."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

NaNoWriMo: Day 10

So far, I'm really digging NaNoWriMo. I've written just over 9,500 words of my novel as of last night, and it's coming together. Albeit slowly. I wouldn't go far as to say that I like my work, because it's not my best writing, but it'll get there. I mean, I have plenty of time to improve -- 40,500 words more. Um, cool. My heroine, who is partly autobiographical, is pretty awesome (much like me, right?), and the other characters are significantly less developed at this point but I hope to make them equally awesome. I still need a lovable geek, though.

What I'm loving most about this whole NaNoWriMo experience so far is making time for myself and doing something that I love to do. Thanks to the influence of my mother, I generally like to handle things myself -- I volunteer to do a lot for other people, or I take on a project or chore that someone else could just as easily do and get annoyed if someone else says they will handle it. Because my name is Ashley and I am an overly accommodating person. But, this month, I have an excuse not to volunteer to clean the bathroom and I'm using it. And I'm enjoying it. I'm taking a step back and focusing on something I really care about, something that fulfills me. I'm actually pretty proud of myself.

But, I am writing Chick Lit. Geez.

But, there's still a long way to go -- 20 days left to write 40,500 words (at least), and finish this damn thing. Then, I win! I am a novelist! So leave me encouraging comments!!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Man, I feel like a woman

I was always wondering when this time would come... the time when I finally stopped feeling like a woman-in-training and started to feel like an actual woman. The answer to my question was, apparently, 27 and 3/4 years old.

While, legally, I've been a woman and not a girl since I was 18-ish, I never felt like one. Not in college. Not when I lost my virginity. Not when I moved into my first apartment. Not when I made my first solo grocery shopping trip. It happened just a few months ago on, like, a Wednesday.

When I bought fall clothes this year, I really thought about what I was buying -- what outfits could I piece together. An outfit? Huh? What's that? I thank mostly Rachel for that influence. Step one into feeling like a woman. I've found a style and I'm sticking with it; its urban chic-ish meets comfort meets flattering for curvy girls? In any case, it feels like me. I'm over buying one or two pieces of clothing each season because its trendy, and then letting them sit in my closet because they're not comfortable nor really me. So, style goes in the win column.

I've also started to notice my womanhood in the way that I walk. I've developed a bit of a hip-booty sway, and I stand a bit taller (even at 5'2"). The best part is that it happened naturally, not like when I had a crush on this girl I used to work with and I tried to emulate her walk. That didn't really last.

Thirdly (but not finally), its in my attitude. I feel more confident in my body and in my mind. I have a strong sense of what I like about me and in others. And, more importantly, I'm working on ridding my life of what isn't positive for me, whether that be a friendship, a DVD or a hobby.


Saturday, October 31, 2009


Twice in two days?! Say, whaaa?

Thanks to some encouragement from first Lauren, and then Rachel, I've decided to participate in NaNoWriMo this year. It begins tomorrow and runs through November, and at the end of what is certain to be the longest damn month of my life, I will have a completed first draft of my very first 50,000 word/175-ish page novel. And I will be known as Your Literary Highness and you will bow to me. And there's a button! I get a button! It says NOVELIST on it and I will wear it. It will be a good time for all. You can check up on my progress here.

Aside from not having a plot decision yet, I'm pretty jazzed about this whole thing. Rachel bought me a book/kit called No Plot? No Problem! and I'll be finishing that this evening, with, hopefully, a plot. And, at the end, a book. A book that I've been claiming to want to write for, oh, I don't know, ever? I will make this happen! The Great American Novel will rise from my soul and flow onto the MacBook screen. That's how I envision this next month going.


Sadly, this will probably not be the case, right? Because I will have about 1,667 words to write a day. And there's, you know, the internet and TV and DVDs and finished novels by legitimate writers to distract me.

The biggest obstacle I face in this next month, other than making time to write, is stopping myself from editing as I write. I take that back, my biggest obstacle is finishing. Then self-editing. But they say that's what December is for. That, and my birthday, of course.

Stay tuned!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Baby Talk

I'm back. There's that.

A few weeks ago, Rachel received the fabulous news that she is soon to be an aunt. I was over the moon for her and her brother and sister-in-law. And for me, too. Because, I don't know if you know this, but I really love babies. They're cute and squishy and you can mold them to like cool music. I want one, too.

Earlier this week, Rachel and I visited the expectant parents in Orlando. Our first vacation together, complete with much MUCH (too much?) discussion of babies. Naturally, of the baby due into her family in April, but also of a now-fictional child born to myself and my girlfriend. Had we discussed a family? Who would carry the baby? Would we adopt? Would we decorate the nursery in green or yellow?

It's certainly not that I hadn't thought about this on my own. I have often. Having and raising a child is high on my list of priorities in the next few years, as it has been for a few now. But talking about it - out loud - with other people - made it real. I may make the choice to have a child with another woman (albeit with some help). Because, for me it would be a choice. I go back and forth between feeling lucky that I do feel like I have a choice and feeling burdened that I can make such a choice. I am also grateful that I am open to exploring what is best for me. I could have gone about my heterosexual life and probably have been happy enough, but I made a choice to look deeper at myself and what I wanted in my life. Or, perhaps more accurately, who I wanted in my life. I'm equally grateful to have a relatively supportive core family who has not judged me for the choices I've made over the last year. I'm not really sure how my extended family feels, though, mostly because I haven't heard from them. Facebook outted me and it seems to have ended there (although, probably not for the questions my mother has to answer).

Anyway... I'm well-into prime baby-making age, and I have a choice. Today, I am in love with a beautiful, smart, caring woman who loves me, too. That's pretty cool. To raise a child with her, could be, I'm almost certain, a wonderful experience. But, it would, by society's standards, the more challenging path for me, and, potentially, for the child.

Wanda Sykes and her wife just had twins, you know.

Funny, but the 'what do I want' has never changed. Five years ago I wanted a family (see Hetero-Ashley), and I still do (see Bi-Ashley). Sometimes I just wish getting there was easier.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Anxious, much?

I could probably sit for hours, staring blankly at my computer screen, waiting for my heart to stop feeling like it will beat out of my chest. I don't, because there's work to be done. Mom blog product requests to reply to. Fact sheets to write. Journalists to be pitched.

Staring at the same screen, I feel like I can't breathe when I open my budget in Excel. The end is always the same, I know. Red number upon red number. Equals negative balance. Even if the only thing that I actually bought for myself this month was a pair of glasses. You know, so I can SEE. Because without I am almost legally blind. I am beyond zero and I have cut my expenses. It doesn't make sense. Very few things do.

This is all before I contemplate curling up in a ball under my desk because the anxiety about where I am in my life hits me like a truck. I'm much closer to 30 than to 20, and where am I with my goals? Do I HAVE goals?

For weeks I've fallen into this same routine of letting my anxiety take over. I let it consume me, but only for a few minutes. On the subway. At my desk. Before I fall asleep. Then I try to steady my breathing and forget that I feel like I've been punched in the chest. Push it away. I have to move on. I'll get by saying an mocking "vom" after every sentence instead.

I'd like pancakes now, please. And an increase in medication.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Re-Intro to the WW

Wednesday, August 12, 2009: 3:12pm

I've been on Weight Watchers before. The second time, in early 2008, I lost 25 pounds in just over four months. I was elated. Even more elated that, a year and a half later, I've kept off almost 20 of those pounds.

The first time, we don't talk about. It involved starving myself, while unemployed, and then GAINING a pound the first week. I GAINED WEIGHT BY EATING GRAPES. "Your body is just adjusting to eating less..." Blah, blah, blah. I sobbed on my bed and told my then-boyfriend I was never, ever going back. I did, but it still didn't work for me. Perhaps because I lived down the street from a Coldstone? I don't know.

But now, here I am: still 20 pounds lighter than I was in early 2008, but also still a fat-ass. Contrary to popular belief, once you go les and settle down, you do not have to put on forty pounds eating ice cream in bed while watching chick flicks. I refuse to get too comfortable. Not just for my girlfriend - although I'm certain, even if she wouldn't say it, she would find me sexier minus the gigantic thighs - but for me. I can choose not to be a fat-ass. So I am.

Today marks my second full, no-more-practicing day on the WW. I pee constantly. If you don't want to hear me say things like that, then it's probably best you just pass by this blog. Again, the peeing. So, yes, I spent about one-quarter of my day in the bathroom. And, honestly, our office bathrooms aren't really nice enough to spend so much time there. My rubbermaid water bottle and I will be BFF for the duration of this endeavor.

And, needless to say (but I will anyway), I'm rather hungry. The taco salad I brought for lunch, while only being three points, was filling for about three minutes. Then I moved onto my grapes. Nom nom nom.

About ten minutes ago, I went to the vending machine and bought some pretzels because they seemed like the most reasonable option. And, they probably were. But THREE points?! Gimme a break. I got, like, A pretzel. I know, I know... must plan ahead. Must drink more water (and pee more).

I'd like my gigantic plate of pasta now, please!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

It'll take you YEARS to get over this...

In an email from my father on Thursday, after telling him that I was planning on seeing my college roommate this weekend: "IS LAUREN YOUR LAST ROOM-MATE AT COLLEGE? ISN'T SHE THE ONE THAT STIFF YOU OUT OF MONEY ?"

First, please note that my father always types all in caps. It's very annoying, but I have gotten used to it.

Secondly, no, the unpleasant ending to our four-year friendship had nothing to do with Lauren owing me money. She doesn't.

So the other night, for the first time in more than five years, I had dinner with my college roommate. The one I described on numerous occasions as having "ruined my life." We hugged. We shared a meal. We talked for almost five hours. I had an excellent time.

I had a fair bit of anxiety before we met. Would we have nothing to talk about? Would the previous animosity between us be apparent? I purposely told Rachel very little about our relationship throughout college, in hopes that I would not fall into the same old trap of simply complaining about the last semester of college.

We didn't. We caught up on one another's lives and reminisced a bit about good times in college. It was an amazing experience to see her again and to laugh like we used to.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Where the story ends

I suppose I should apologize to the scads of people who regularly read this blog for being so light on the content. Steve, please accept my apologies. There, done.

The truth is, my life is ridiculously boring to write about. I was a much more interesting person when I was grossly unhappy. Being content does not agree with my creativity. Also, some of the things I've thought about lately - things that would like cause some much subconsciously desired commotion - will never, ever see the light of my computer screen. Someday, I will learn to not seek out drama. I will grow and learn as an adult person. Someday.

Having said that, I have grown. I've grown in directions I could have never imagined. But I'm conflicted about where/how/if to utilize these experiences to write. This blog is partly responsible for that growth, and now it sort of seems obsolete. I was writing the story of a girl who was miserable in her life and playing the part she thought she should (and knew how to play). I knew how to be miserable at my job, I knew how to stretch the $4.86 in my checking account, I knew how to stay in a relationship where I wasn't wanted, I knew how to sit my fat ass on my couch and wallow in loneliness. Wow, good times. So since I'm not really that person anymore, so does that story end? If I was simply chronicling my life during a few difficult years, does this blog, along with that story, end? I'm inclined to think that it should. Close the book. Start a new one.

On the flip side, should this space that has helped me cope with x, y and z, evolve as I evolve? I certainly hope that I still have more to say as a writer, even if my life has changed dramatically and I am finding little muse in being happy. Happy is awesome. I wish I could do more with it.

I'm not sure what I will decide. Writing is extremely therapeutic for me and I don't plan to give it up now that I have far fewer "problems" than I once did.

I could write about how many people have died in my life over the past few months and how I'm constantly anxious about getting more bad news. But that would be depressing in a much different way than what I used to ramble about.

For now, I will marvel at how I just wrote an entire post about whether or not to discontinue this blog. I really am boring. But, ya know, good boring.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Soon I won't be able to walk around naked...

Starting one week from tomorrow, I will no longer be able to walk -- post-shower, sans towel -- from the bathroom to my living room to check the weather in the morning. Since I managed to neglect to put up any kind of window dressing for the past year and a half in my kitchen (the room between the bathroom and the living room), my sure my neighbors across the courtyard will not be sad to see me go.

Since the idea of this move came about two weeks ago, I've made mental pro/con lists about my experience living alone for two and a half years. And, honestly, I'm more than a little concerned that I have forgotten how to cohabitate. Like, it may annoy others when I wish to watch TV in my skivvies... And, what do you mean I can't just leave my socks on the floor where I took them off? Or, what does this "sharing the remote" concept mean exactly? Not to mention, people may want to converse with me when I get home from work. Whaaa?

Perhaps my memory is a bit fuzzy, and, um, biased, but I believe I was a pretty courteous roommate and live-in significant other in the past. I once threw out a pair of well-worn red track pants because my significant other couldn't stand to see me wearing them anymore. That's pretty respectful, I think. (I do, however, own a new pair of red lounge pants, and they're really comfortable so I'm hoping Rachel doesn't make me toss them. But if she does hate them, they can go. See, I got nothin' but love!)

On the flip side, I have some very fond memories of living with others. Lauren and I used to sit in our hallway and talk for hours following our girly TV marathons. Those evenings were some of my favorite in all of college. And then I managed not to walk around naked. I can totally do that again.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Cue Wilson Phillips' "Impulsive"

The sun is shining, the birds are chirping and I am moving in with a beautiful girl! Impulsive, much? We're moving in next Friday. And this is the view from our balcony:

The story goes a little like this... Girl meets girl. Girls fall for one another. Girl's roommate suggests the three of them get a luxury apartment together. One week later they sign the lease and two weeks later they move in. They live happily ever after with their dishwasher, free gym and roof deck.

I'm feeling overjoyed. I'm feeling impulsive. I'm feeling like I'm going to love sharing more of my life with someone who makes me feel so special and loved. I'm feeling like I'm really going to love reading on our balcony.

Yesterday Rae and I chose our very first paint sample together. That, to me, was bigger than actually deciding to move in together. This is the very first paint sample - our very first compromise - of this new chapter, of a new book, in our lives. It was gloriously easy.

Being with her is easy. Being in my head is a little less so. She knows that I sometimes struggle with the fact that my life is not at all turning out how I planned. And I am a planner. I am THE planner. Now my plan is all up in the air. And I'm learning to live in the now. And truly being happy there.

I really am.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Zero to... that L word... in no time

Today my dad asked me if Rachel and I were moving in together. Wow, EVERYONE knows about about the crazy gays moving fast, huh? We're not. But the thought certainly has crossed my mind. Because, well, smitten. And who doesn't want to save $600 a month?

Today I also found out that my former babysitter/nanny-like person's daughter is living with her girlfriend. Rock on.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

"My Heart You Won't Have It Again" / Postmortem

I was not unphased by the date of May 6th. The date that would have been Philip's and my six-year anniversary. Six. Years. And now we don't speak.

His presence in my life was profound and, in many ways, positive - give or take March through July of 2008 - and I have been changed. I've written ad nauseum about this. But, when this day will always remind me of the good, allow me just this one more post.

Its possible that no other person has been so influential in my life. But I like who I am much more now than I did last July, or, honestly, at any point last year. In fact, I may even LOVE who I am now. I am me without you. Many parts of me, though, stem from your influence. This Ashley still digs indie music and jazz. This Ashley dragged her girlfriend to see Wolverine opening weekend and is even pysched to see the new Star Trek movie. She's a Buffy fan, albeit a late bloomer.

Aside from a shift in media tastes, I am also a more guarded person - there I learned by example - and do not open my mouth to whine immediately when something is bothering me. I'm bitchier. Or, maybe more direct is the PC way to say it. In any case, its a good development in my personality.

I've learned that it takes a lot of time and effort to make a real relationship work. And even if you sometimes feel its time wasted, its worth it even in the smallest ways. I tried harder to be my best self in that relationship than I ever did at my fulltime job or trying to pass Calculus. And Calculus was seriously tough.

Sometimes I still can't believe that I spend an ounce of my energy analyzing a relationship that was officially over nine months ago (and even longer to one of us). I've mourned signifcantly - perhaps too significantly - the loss of the future I had tried to built, that I thought I wanted. But the process has grown tremendously easier and I've come out of it having learned better who I am, what I can accept and what I need to keep me going.

Monday, May 4, 2009

I Used to Complain, Now I Don't

I complain a lot about living and working in New York. Some may say more than I should. I know its often looked upon as a privilege to live here, and perhaps, it is. But there's not a lottery to live here or anything. You just go. Make it happen. But, since I never really imagined living anywhere else post-college, I see it as less of a choice, I suppose. It's just where I was always going. Now, of course, I imagine living somewhere else all the freaking time.

So, now that I'm here, I complain. You probably complain about where you live, too. Don't be hatin'.

But sometimes I still really love it. One of those times occurred on Friday evening. I was riding to my apartment on the subway with the lovely Rachel, and, unfortunately, I felt terrible. I was not feeling like myself all day because of some enchanted evening before, my dinner had not settled well, and I was PMSing. I was a disaster and contemplated getting off the train and sleeping in the subway station until I felt better. I felt that bad. Just, you know, BAD. Then, somewhere around 36th Street in Brooklyn -- almost to the promised land where I had a bed! and a bathroom! and Tylenol! -- the woman listening to her ipod across the aisle from me and Rachel offered me a brownie from her 100 calorie pack. She leaned over and said, "Would you like a brownie? Brownies always make me feel better." I nearly cried because, WHO DOES THAT?!? First of all, she's totally right -- brownies DO make everything better. And secondly, it was just the nicest thing, um, ever. Unfortunately I did not take her up on her offer for fear that I would vomit the brownie on her. Not a very polite way to say thank you. But, wow, such a generous thing to do. I mean, she WAS eating a 100 calorie Entemann's so, really, it probably only had two brownies in it. And she offered me one! Because I felt obviously terrible! And that would make me better!

And it was a magical New York subway moment and I loved it. Exclamation points!

* My post title is a very fun song by The White Rabbits, by the way. You should know them. They are from Brooklyn like other cool people.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Go Team!

Since so much of this blog has been discussing a failed relationship, I'd be amiss if I didn't share about my new and, so far, very successful one. (With permission, of course.)

When I first started dating again, I was both anxious and hesitant to consider a new relationship. But, I am a relationship person. And I knew, for as much anxiety as I had about dating, especially dating in New York, I had to do it again. First, I thought it unlikely that I would find someone I would really like. I would constantly complain to the BFFs that I would NEVER find someone who favors home to a bar on a Friday night, let alone that person plus an adoration of my sparkling wit, desserts and sleeping on the right side of the bed. There was NO WAY that person existed AND didn't live in New Jersey. My friends reassured me that someone I could like did exist, even if the person wasn't exactly who I was anticipating.

The person I happened to find is a she. And she is awesome.

When I first discussed the idea of me dating girls in therapy, my therapist was surprised. Which I thought odd because she knew I had an interest. She claimed she just didn't expect I would try it. Because, apparently, I come off as uber straight? Hmmm... So we discussed; I agonized.

And then I met Rachel. And it became easy.

There are many qualities about her that I admire and adore. But one in particular pairs so well with me. Rachel is, by far, the most supportive person I've ever encountered. And while she will claim that she can be lazy, she's my cheerleader, my friend and support. We say "go team!" to each other as a silly form of support. But I find it motivating. She motivates me. So much so I even left my apartment last Saturday. She's THAT good.

For the first time in a very, very long time, it is blatantly obvious to me that the significant person in my life really cares about me. Even if she never told me, I know that she wants to make me happy and fulfilled. And I, her.

Of course I still have considerable anxiety about dating within the same sex. I am me after all and anxiety is kind of my middle name.

She is my epilogue to what had been a very tumultuous story.

On a hysterical side note: My entire office smells like syrup. Payback for a sickenly sweet post?

Friday, April 24, 2009

All About My Mother

This morning, on the first day I was permitted to sleep in past 5:30am all week, my stepfather calls and wakes me at 7:55am. To ask me where his and my mother's tax return was. BECAUSE IT WAS SUPPOSED TO ARRIVE TODAY. I HAD TOLD THEM TODAY. APRIL 24TH. THAT'S TODAY! Where the fuck was it? And, naturally, I was the only person who could answer this question. At 8am on the only morning I could sleep in all week.

I did my parents' taxes for them this year. I was able to get them a larger refund than last year, and I felt incredibly accomplished. I know that they are counting on this money to catch up on bills, and, rather than me contributing my own money to help them make ends meet, I was able to help them in another way.

My relationship with my mother and stepfather has changed quite a bit in the last year or so, and I am grateful. I feel more comfortable when I travel back to my hometown to see the family because not only do I witness them all actually trying to make their family work, but I've adjusted my expectations on them as well.

I still don't know where their tax return is, though.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I Walk the Line

Since being diagnosed with chronic depression, I feel like much of my life is spent walking a fine line. The line between light and dark. This is a line that I’ve straddled for a very long time, but it’s only recently that I had a medical term to associate with it.

Thankfully, because of a medication that works for me and my own efforts to improve my daily life, I’ve been pretty firmly planted on the light side of the line for a few months. I haven’t had even more than a dark day since the new year began. I’m extremely grateful to the people in my life who have supported me during this time. I’m grateful to me, too. To the part of myself that is well enough to recognize when to ask for help in getting through a difficult few hours or difficult few days. I’m not embarrassed to ask for help. I’m not ashamed that I need medication to help my brain cope with life. I know that the stigma of mental illness has lifted considerably in the last few years, but it’s not gone. But, I’d rather be alive with the assistance of medication and talk therapy than having succumbed to my depression without it.

Since I am so open to talking about my experience and my current state of wellness, certain members of my family have judged my decision to accept the help of medication. I often ask if they were diagnosed with a serious illness that required daily doses of chemicals to be well – diabetes, for example – would they refuse it? Probably not. So, in my opinion, why should I suffer because of my brain chemistry?

Walking the line can feel like taking on a balance beam or navigating a wide river. Lately, I can do it with ease most days. Other days, it’s impossible not to feel like I am going to fall at any moment.

Often the hardest part of walking the line is getting out of bed in the morning. I still have nightmares frequently – sometimes several nights per week – that force me to relive some of the experiences and emotions that got me to my lowest point last fall. Those nightmares can be so fresh in the morning that I’m afraid to put my feet on the floor for fear that I will walk back into those months of paralyzing emotional and physical pain. So I have a choice to make – allow the darkness to take hold or fight it off. Some mornings it is as easy of a choice as it seems to be. I have the ability to make the positive, healthy decision to remind myself that it was just a nightmare and that time is over now. Other mornings, though, it does not feel like a choice. As much as the healthy part of me wants to fight it, it can consume me and I live the day as I would have months ago. Scared. Sad. Dejected.

One of the most interesting aspects of coping with walking this line is that, very often, when I am standing on one side of the line, I find it difficult to remember being on the other side. When I’m in the light, I can feel so good, so positive, and so content that my brain will not allow me to remember anything else. The flip side of that, of course, is that when I am in the dark, I am consumed, too. And not being able to remember what its like to feel good can only make the slip into depression last longer.

But now that I have had such a positive experience over the last few months, why would I want to remember feeling the weight of my depression? Sometimes I don’t. But occasionally, I have a strange, overwhelming desire to recall how I completed even the most basic tasks of the day. At this moment, I don’t remember how I got myself up, dressed and to work for much of last summer and fall. I had refused medication and spent nearly all of my non-work hours alone in my apartment crying. I remember the crying. Always with the crying. I also remember watching a lot of House as a method of escape. Hugh Laurie was oddly comforting. But I really don’t know how I physically went to work and completed any assignments. I was on autopilot. More than just wanting to satisfy my own curiosity, I think being able to remember how I accomplished these things could be beneficial to me next time I backslide.

Of course, I had been depressed several times before my most recent episode. And, actually, I think that the reason my last was so severe and last for so long was because I had nothing and no one to focus on but myself. In my case, misery certainly loves company. For three years, I lived with someone—someone who had the capacity to be wonderful, caring and giving—who spent many years very depressed with little to no relief. And instead of me feeling consumed with my own depression during that time, I usually focused on his. I tried to make light of it at times – everything’s always harder for you, isn’t it? – but I usually felt that question to be true. And, for a while, my capacity to put him and his condition first probably saved us both from being committed or worse.

It wasn’t until my father was sent into a war zone and I prayed – I actually prayed even though I didn’t know who or what I was praying to – for him to come home safely that I began to resent his depression usurping mine. Even though our relationship went on for years after my father returned home in relatively good health, hindsight tells me that was my breaking point. I would be able to overlook most of the other girls and the silly arguments and “wanting different things,” but I would always remember how alone and helpless I felt when my father was fighting a war. He was walking a line in one of the most dangerous places in the world, and I was afraid to step outside.

I’ve learned so much about what I need from a partner and a relationship from that experience. I wish, though, I had learned to forgive. That may always hold me back from being vulnerable, particularly when I’m experiencing an episode of depression, to someone I love again.

But I certainly do not underestimate how crucial it is to have supportive people around me when I am in the dark and even just walking the line. Everyone from my closet friends to the person who smiled at me crossing Sixth Avenue to my coworker/friend who was the only one who remembered the day that could have been my darkest. I am standing on the bright side of the line now.


Ed. Note: The above post is the first of a series of personal essays about depression that I've been working on. I'd love to hear any and all feedback you have to share. Really! You can even tell me I'm an asshole. Although I'd appreciate something a bit more constructive than that.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Hey, I know YOU!

Everyone in my biological immediate family now knows that I have a girlfriend.

I told my dad in person yesterday. After picking me up at the train station, he took me to lunch and said, "so what's up?" Funny you should ask... I said that I had something I wanted to discuss with him. He asked if I was pregnant. He's now the fourth person to ask me that. Is there something about me that screams I'm a slut who opposes safe sex? Then he asked if I was engaged? To whom, exactly, I wondered? Then I told him. And he was quiet. He asked if I was happy. I told him I was. After an uncomfortable tangent into "sexual realtions," as he called them, we moved onto discussing the quality of our lunches. Where every good father/daughter conversation should lead. He said he wanted some time to let it sink in.

A few hours later, driving me to my mother's house, he said, "this may sound strange, but I think I knew." I asked what he meant, and he said that it just made sense. I'd always been accepting and open and... he said something else that I can't quite remember now.

And I thanked him for seeing more to me than just what was on the surface. I had thought it would be my mother, but my father never ceases to surprise me. He knows me better than I expect him to. He's always been the parental figure in my life. Necessary. Supportive. Honest. I didn't even think my dad would know what bisexual meant.

Thanks, Dad. I feel much better now.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

and the band played on

No, this is not about babies or depression or my financial black hole.

Here are five albums that have shaped my tastes in music, my most memorable experiences, and, by extension, me. To the six whole people who read this, I'd love your comments, feedback and your own choices.

1. Pet Sounds, The Beach Boys: My father always enjoyed a good Beach Boys song... who doesn't, right? I have early memories of the tracks from Pet Sounds, particularly "Wouldn't It Be Nice;" the music echoing through my father's ugly, ugly green car. I don't recall being exposed to the album as a whole, although I know my dad has it somewhere, until I got to college and acquired good taste in music. The beginning half of Pet Sounds -- carefree and naive -- will always remind me of my very early youth; the back half -- serious and a bit detached -- reminds me of my final year in college.

2. August and Everything After, Counting Crows: This album defined my formative years. My closest friends and I listened to this on repeat throughout high school, and I still often listen to it when I want to feel closer to those people. A road trip, be it to Philadelphia or to Boston, wasn't complete without this record. I adore the sounds, and it feels heavy with happy, safe memories of growing up.

3. Monster, REM: I'm not sure this is my favorite overall REM album, but it certainly did have the biggest influence over my musical preferences from then on. I first heard this record when it was nearly-new, which is a rarity for me, and besides falling hard for Michael Stipe, it sounded what good music was supposed to sound like. Sure, I was still listening to Boyz II Men at the same time, but I knew REM was what legitimately cool people were listening to. I've grown up listening to REM and they will probably always define what a great band is for me. I was fortunate to see them live last summer and they blew me away.

4. You Are The Quarry, Morrissey: "I've been dreaming of a time when the English are sick to death of Labour, and Tories and spit upon the name Oliver Cromwell..." LOVE. THIS. RECORD. Circa 2004/2005, I played the hell out of it. I wasn't in a car going anywhere without this present. Morrissey is the coolest person on earth. Ever. Period. I was once in a focus group and said that and the other girls in the room thought I was deranged. They so weren't cool.

5. Nothing Feels Good, The Promise Ring: My taste in music firmly changed after hearing this record around the time I graduated high school. I only took a handful of CDs with me to college my freshman year (because, hello, there was still Napster for FREE!), and this made the cut. This makes me dance and sing, and yet still breaks my heart.

Honorable mentions go to:
Born on a Pirate Ship, Barenaked Ladies / Rumours, Fleetwood Mac / Whitechocolatespaceegg, Liz Phair / Mass Romantic, The New Pornographers / Surfacing, Sarah McLachlan

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Tick, tock...

My biological clock is a fierce, unrelenting sound that begins in my ears and penetrates my entire body at least four days a week.

Circa 2005/early 2006, I recall feeling the clock like more of a wave, when I was perfectly settled in my then-relationship, thinking I had my life almost figured out. I'd feel it wash over me and I would be calm, content and even happy. Emotionally ready should there be a birth control error and an embryo should take up space in my uterus. It never did. I was pretty careful with the BC (despite that boyfriend's comic stylings that included I had plans to "trap him").

The feeling of the wave ended when that relationship ended, and I was glad at the time. I couldn't fathom wanting a child when I didn't have a partner to have a child with. I mean, that would be insane, right?

My birthday, 2008: It was like I woke up on that Sunday morning and the wave that I once felt crested and the water hit me forcefully as I sat up in my bed. Alone. It sounds bizarre, but it's, sadly, very, very true.

On Christmas night, 2008, I announced to my mother and stepfather in their living room that maybe, but that time next year, I would have a baby. I got blank stares all around. And understandably so.

The water, at times, suffocates me. I feel the clock ticking and it makes me sad. Makes me antsy. Makes me crazy. Makes me wet. But not in a good way.

(I apologize for the lame ocean analogies, by the way.)

Occasionally, I can go an entire day without the desire of wanting a baby. Those days, especially lately, have become pretty infrequent, though. And I see a cute kid on the street? Forget it. It's back with a vengeance.

The book that I'm currently reading, It Sucked and Then I Cried, should cure me of all of my motherly dreams forever. First she talks about how her pregnancy made her miserable. The morning sickness, the acne, the flatulence... it all sounds severely unpleasant. And, me knowing myself pretty well when I have merely a cold, I could be the worst pregnant person ever. I always half-suspected that perhaps this was the underlying reason that my last relationship ended. You really want kids, and I might even want them, too, but ya know what? you with your period is bad enough... No deal. Heather Armstrong, the author, talks about how breastfeeding can be an awful experience because your boobs get clogged and holy sweet heavens that really fucking hurts. First of all, I didn't really know that your boob could get clogged, but now that I do it certainly sounds like a horrifically painful experience. And then, of course, there's the author's predisposition to depression, which landed her in a mental institution for PPD. Um, hellllloooo? my brain is screaming at me that I could very well be the most unstable glutton for punishment on earth considering my tolerance for pain and history of severe depression. A kid? I have so lost it.

But, ya know what? I really, really, really want. And tomorrow's good for me, how about you? Free for my baby shower?

Of course since I am currently on a depression upswing and my meds are working as they should be, I know that having a baby now, let alone anytime in the near future, would be a terrible idea for both me and the baby. Financially, I struggle to take care of myself. Emotionally, I've been taking care of myself well for only a few short months. And, of course, there's the sex of my significant other that would prohibit me from getting knocked up the old-fashioned way. I'm in a good place, overall, right now and a child would only jeopardize that in every way. Thanks for the reminder, logical side of my brain.

But when I am in a place where I can say, annnnd go!, bring the pain and give me that baby!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Fear (but little loathing) in New York

I've felt scared, like, twice in my five years of living in New York (my 5th anniversary is the end of April! Huzzah!). Both times I was walking through a neighborhood that I didn't know at all, alone, late at night. This combination would probably frighten me anywhere, though. And, more than I felt scared that someone would attack me in some way, I was fearful that I would simply not be able to find my way home easily. But, I'm home now, so all's well that end's well.

Lately, though, I've had several dreams about being attacked while walking alone in New York. Some of these dreams take place at night, and some in broad daylight. I know that they are just dreams/nightmares, but they feel very real and I often wake up sweating. In the morning, my legs are often sore from what I can only imagine is me actually running while in bed (true goodness is any person who sleeps next to me putting up with that). The attacks often vary in the dream -- anything from what I would imagine to be a "standard" mugging, to a rape, to a slit my throat and I die right there on the street corner like an overcharging crack-addicted hooker. These dreams, thankfully, fade pretty quickly after I've woken myself up. But, occasionally they creep into my waking life when I am walking alone at night. Which, if one wants to get around here after 7pm, one just has to do, ya know? That's when I have a mini anxiety attack and try to breathe my way through it while trying not too look too conspicuous. If I were Mikey in The Goonies, I would grab my inhaler and puff it all away. But I haven't had an inhaler since I was 13, and even then it didn't really have the same comedic affect.

In my daily life, I've probably never felt safer living here. I work just off Sixth Avenue, which has never not been busy, and my walk from my office building to the train is exactly two and a half blocks. I inhabit a very well-lit, populated neighborhood, where I live on a main street in a fairly large building. If I screamed, half of 86th Street would certainly hear me. And I know how to scream. Max Hunsicker used my wondrous cheerleader vocal chords in not one, but two high school musical productions. No, not those high school musicals.

But I'm not over-confident, either. Not that nothing could ever happen to me. Of course it could. And if it does, I took a self-defense class in college that could prove to be of some use to me. Or, at the very least, I can knee someone sort of hard.

My last memory of having similar dreams/nightmares to these was like a million years ago (or, um, 6?). If I'm playing college freshman taking psych, I would add that I was also at the beginning of a new relationship then (other than that, I can't think of a single thing that is the same). So that means that subconsciously I feel "attacked" by a new presence in my life? Or do I need to go back to Psych 205 with Lewindowski?

Thoughts? Tricks to make the bad dreams go bye-bye? My dear 7 readers, enlighten me!

Thursday, March 19, 2009


A coworker shared this great piece with me today... from, of all places, Oprah:

Why Women Are Leaving Men for Other Women

"Fluidity represents a capacity to respond erotically in unexpected ways due to particular situations or relationships. It doesn't appear to be something a woman can control."

Not only was I thrilled to see an article like this in a mainstream publication -- particularly one that women actually read -- but I found it (mostly) insightful, particularly in the beginning.

And, although I had read this before, I think Cynthia Nixon's quote nicely sums up the experience of many women, without being patronizing or apologetic: "But when I did, it didn't seem so strange. It didn't change who I am. I'm just a woman who fell in love with a woman."

Saturday, March 14, 2009

On This Day in History...

March 10, 2009:

On the same day that I officially ran out of episodes for The Simpsons Sleep Experiment, I told my mother that I am dating a girl. Coincidence? I think not.

I've considered myself bisexual for a few years now. I don't actually like the term bisexual, as it pertains to labeling myself -- for no other reason than I don't feel like it accurately describes me, where I am, and my sexuality as well as it should/could. I'm sure this is also, at least partially, because I have a ways to go before I am truly comfortable with calling myself anything other than straight. But, I have yet to find anything better to describe why I sometimes am attracted to dudes, and sometimes chicks. And because labels are important for others to understand things in society, I had to go with something. Sure, labels put people in nice, neat little boxes and it doesn't allow to fully describe an individual, but labels are used and, for now, the system works as best it can. Blah, blah, blah...

Aside from labeling myself bisexual, I label myself a lot of other things, too: a writer, a publicist, an environmentalist, a Brooklynite, a Democrat, a reader, a bleeding heart, a Lost fan... the list goes on. All of these things can and should be used to describe who I am at this exact moment in time. Bisexual is just one of many things that fall in that list. I don't foresee myself ever being identifiable by just one label. Even though my sexuality is a much more prevalent part of my life than it was, say, only a year ago, I don't want it to be the only thing I am. Ever. So, even though I fully support the LGBT community (and always have, long before I thought I might fall into one of those letters), I won't be marching in any parades anytime soon.

Being bisexual is only a more outward part of me now because I am dating a girl, which is obviously new in how most people see me. Particularly my mother. She was very surprised. And, in all honesty, I didn't expect her to be. I'm not sure why, though. I suppose, I was just hoping she saw through the person I was, more or less, pretending to be at any given time. I've been "out" to my colleagues and many friends for some time now. My family was the last piece of my little puzzle. Having said that, I have yet to inform my father. But he doesn't even believe I'm a blogger (which was a strange conversation over pizza a few months ago), so this is going to take a while. Hi, Dad!

Since sharing this part of myself with my mother and several others since last week, I've felt immensely more at ease. Not just with that aspect of me, but with me in general. I now find myself bringing up being off-the-charts attracted to Eliza Dushku in regular conversation. Which is something I didn't really hesitate to do before, but I feels less like a joke when I say it now. And, thankfully, the support from friends and coworkers has truly been heartwarming. I think I had been so ready to open myself up - even if it was to criticism and negativity - that I was bursting at the seams.

That's sort of how it came out with my mother. I had been planning a trip home to have a sit down, more formal "coming out," but after the 700th white lie I'd told about my "friend" I'd be spending time with, the "I'm actually dating this person" came out like word-vomit. It was entirely selfish, I know this. And she took it. I wouldn't say she's over the moon, but she listened to what I had to say. And then I had to beg and plead with her for some kind of reaction. This, for better or worse, is my mother -- all but petrified to say something that might in some way alienate anyone, especially one of her children. But I egged her on for the alienation. Not that I wish to experience it, but I just craved something from her. We ended the conversation well, though, and I encouraged her to share any feelings she had about this with me from now until eternity. And, in the absence of feeling comfortable with that, to bounce them off my brother. Who, I might add, has been freaking incredible with this bit of trivia about his elder sister. I love that kid. My therapist, however, commented that she hopes this isn't an excuse for me to put on weight. Ummm...

That's the story. Lame? Circle yes or no.

So, hi, my dear readership of, oh, seven people... I've got a girl in my life. And not only have I grown up tenfold in the last few weeks, but I'm equally as happy about it.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

What's that, Confidence? Yes, I've missed you, too...

I'm almost afraid to post about the occurrences and results of the last two or so weeks for fear that I will negate their importance and spiral back into my previously frustrating life. I will say this: I am happy and things are good, and looking even better.

And because I can't resist, I am showing off the results of my new skin-care regimen (aka "the fresh in the face glow") and three hours in the salon today. The fabulous hair color doesn't show up very well in the photo, but its very Alyson Hannigan. L.O.V.E.

And, yes, I am looking to impress someone with this... but more on that (maybe) later.

Monday, March 2, 2009

In sickness and in... defensiveness

Dear Me,

Just remember: I love you, but you're soooo not perfect...



One of the interesting/funny/strange things about feeling relatively happy in the present is that you're prone to realizing your own significant flaws. Or, rather, I am. Perhaps because its so easy for me to blame others for my unhappiness. Because things aren't usually MY fault.

Do you see where I'm going with this?

I'm defensive.

I have a difficult time separating criticism from constructive criticism.

I have a victim complex.

There, its been said. People don't often bring these points of my sparkling personality to my attention. Maybe because they know I'd be defensive? They're right; of course I would be.

So, first, a bit of the why I am the way I am: From the ages of 8-18, I constantly had to stand up for myself. If I didn't, I would have spent much more of my life than I did thinking I was stupid, whorish and, overall, useless. So, as a defense, I developed the victim/"I'm perfect and you're wrong" complex.

But this isn't meant to be about excuses.

Maybe its not surprising, but, its the dudes in my life who are usually the ones to point this out to me. (Are girls too polite?) In my last relationship -- maybe because from beginning to end it spanned five years of substantial adult growth -- I learned a lot about who I am and who I am not. I am defensive. But I'm not unwilling to listen and adjust my attitude - particularly if you're not just being an ass and you have a valid point.

But being defensive and reactive are things I just am. It can be especially hard for me to keep it in check at work. Explanations are often out of my mouth before I know how unfounded they sound. But I. Can't. Shut. Up. Someday somebody's going to kick me in the face or fire me. Let's hope that day isn't tomorrow on either count.

What is it that they say? The first step to solving a problem is blogging about it, right?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Portrait of an Economy: Brooklyn, NY / Central Pennsylvania

The below was inspired by a blog I've been reading, edited by one of my favorite bloggers, Rebecca Woolf.

Read it at: Portraits of an Economy


In the grand scheme of this economic crisis, I'm doing okay. I have a relatively stable job. And long before stocks plummeted, I was watching my pennies. I was typing everything from a morning coffee to my student loan payments into an Excel spreadsheet every night. It quickly became my pre-bedtime ritual -- enter the 75 cents I spent on peanut M&Ms for an afternoon pick-me-up into those judgemental little cells; feel defeated as an adult; go to bed embarrassed that I was going to have to sell something on eBay to pay my rent later in the month. I was cognizant of every dollar, every dime. But I had to be, I live in one of the most expensive cities in the world and my rent for a small one-bedroom in Brooklyn is half of my monthly salary. So, in a way, those cells probably saved me from myself. I was able to brave my own taxes this year and got myself a decent refund. I'm actually pretty proud of me for not falling apart yet.

Where I grew up, though, is a different story. My family is struggling. Some of it their own doing, but most of it due to the unstable economic climate. And, as some who always wants to be the problem-solver, I am struggling, too. I talk to my mother, a trade school teacher for almost 30 years, several times per week, and try to stomach it as she tells me that she's not sure when her husband will be able to work again. Or how she's been supporting a family of four on her salary for more than a year. Or how my grandmother's husband, at 70, was just laid-off from his factory job. Or how my uncle's hours were cut at his full-time job to a mere 16 hours a week and his children always seem to be ill. Or how little oil my family has left for the winter. They make all of the news coverage real.

I offer what little I have to give -- as a loan, because I know my mother does not want my money. She knows I don't have much more than she. But she doesn't take it. Instead, she asks me if I have groceries to get through the week. I tell her I do, and that I really don't mind not eating out anymore. She knows I like to eat out and I miss not being able to anymore in a city like New York. She will even send me five or ten dollars every few months with a note telling me to treat myself to some Starbucks. She's in a terrible position and she sends me money to go to Starbucks. Because she's my mother and she's only thinking of the little burst happiness she can give me.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

blabber mouth

I am probably one of the most open people you will ever meet. I have no trouble sharing stories of my rather unfortunate childhood, or my favorite sexual position or even how the end of my last relationship sent me into a deep depression. I'm the girl who asks her coworkers at a diner if they've ever heard of the no-touch orgasm. I share every aspect of my life with my closest friends, my coworkers or even near-strangers. Or, in many cases, complete strangers via blogging. And I love it. It's a huge part of who I am. I share. I have the capacity to make people uncomfortable. I would probably talk to a wall if there was no one around and I just needed to say something. The need to talk and write and express is always burning in me.

But there's this one thing that I haven't quite been able to say yet. This one thing. I've shared it with only four people. The fourth only being told this evening, and I said it out loud as more of a test to myself than anything. 

And, actually, this is something that I really should be talking about. By not feeling comfortable enough with it to talk about, I'm essentially denying its existence. And that's not me. I need to be vocal. I blog because I want to be heard. And, often, when I choose not to blog about something, its more self-censorship than anything -- if by putting something out there I think I may really hurt someone, I won't do it. I am constantly writing entries that never see the world wide web. 

But no one would be hurt if I shared this. And I'm still not sure why I can't. I am just... blocked. My intention is not to be all cryptic here, I swear. I just wanted... something. 

My high school boyfriend and I used to say that to one another all the time: You should be feeling... something. That became our thing. I miss having things with people.

Wait, I have a thing with two of my closest friends: "But wait... it gets worse!" That's our thing. Great, I feel better now that I remembered having a thing!!

Oh, and my team at work also says "vom" a lot. We're, like, totally Valley Girls. That's kind of a thing, too. 

I still have things.

Point? Right. I guess that I just needed to say that here I am priding myself on being an often insanely open person and I have this thing (but now I'm talking about a different kind of thing. Are you even kind of following me?) that I am saying nothing about. I am a giant hypocrite. And apparently I'm awesome at being weird cryptic chick now.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Voyeur

Confession: One of my favorite things to do in New York is to look in people's windows. I'm not a freak; I just like to glance into other peoples lives. I look into their living room windows and imagine what their life is like. Do they use warm, neutral tones with tall filled bookshelves highlighting their space? Or maybe a classic ecru on the walls and a chandelier for light? And what does their decor say about their lifestyle?

Those few people who have been in my living room probably thought I just moved in. Not that it doesn't look lived in, per se (my ass print is firmly etched into the couch after all), its just kind of bare. I have a couch, TV, two bookshelves and a coffee table and that's about all. I fantasize about raiding West Elm one day armed with someone else's credit card, but in the meantime, I have what I need and it suits me. There's a lot of green and deep wood tones that I find relaxing.

My favorite windows, though, have been in the Village and Brooklyn Heights. Similar aesthetics, for the most part - clean lines, modern, yet livable - and everything I want. I fall in love via home decor. And, of course, I imagine the couples who live in them never fight, they have cool jobs and plenty of free time to read New York magazine and sip skim lattes. They have Bugaboo strollers for their adorable child and would never dream of putting a sweater on their cocker spaniel. They have been to Buenos Aires to sky dive and enjoy cooking in their stainless steel kitchen. They recycle responsibly, don't have to worry about paying off their student loans and have interesting hobbies like playing bass in a jazz band. And did I mention I want to be them?

I had one such make-believe life via window when I lived in Hoboken. I loved to look in the living room of an apartment on Hudson and 6th Street that had tall windows and packed bookshelves on display. I made a point to look inside everytime I passed. It was beautiful and I imagined I'd move there someday after I got married. I'd look up from my laptop where I was writing my latest award-winning novel and call to my husband from our overstuffed taupe sofa to bring me some ice cream (because I was pregnant and that's what pregnant pretend me wants to eat). And it was magical. That fantasy got me through some rough times. I think I need to go for a walk and a new one.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

abandoning the angry elephant

There's an angry elephant who lives in my apartment building. I hear him at the most random times of day, but at night I think I've learned to sleep through his cries. He's extremely loud - deafening almost - but only cries out for about four seconds at a time. I first heard it a few days after I moved in and I thought it was a foghorn from a ship in New York Bay. But, I quickly realized that with the bay being several long blocks away, those who lived closer would be deaf by now. So it's not a foghorn. It's an angry loud elephant that lives in my building.

I've gotten pretty used to the elephant, as well as my life in New York/Brooklyn. But, at this point in my late twenties, should I be striving for being used to something or being happier?

How does one know when its time to move on? I have a history of making poor decisions in this department -- jobs, romances, moving, all of the above. But I've been contemplating a leaving New York move for a little while now, and I wonder when it will right to act (or not) on it.

Reasons to leave:
  • Its really f'ing expensive, everything from rent to Duane Reade
  • I am not able to enjoy what living here offers -- concerts, great dining, a swingin' singles life, etc. -- either because of expensive or because I work too damn much
  • The ex factor / a fresh start / I would be a much more interesting person elsewhere (?)
  • I work too damn much (the NY work ethic/hours)
  • Genuine interest in not spending my whole early adult life in one place
Reasons to stay:
  • Really good friends who I would miss sharing my life with
  • Because I won't let it "beat" me
  • a job / opportunity for advancement in my industry that may not exist in too many other cities
  • the bursts of happiness, particularly in Brooklyn
  • Because I know the subway
I wish I knew what the right decision was. To look into the crystal ball and see where I am, where I'm happy (if I'm happy) at 30. Because according to the actual psychic I met, 30 is going to be my year. But, since that's still three years away, where (and how) am I to spend those, counting down to December 7, 2011?

Also, does everyone in their late twenties spend as much time agonizing of the direction of their life as I do? Or does everyone else just not blog about it? Just curious.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

(Nearly a) Six and the City

I'll lay it right on out there: Dating in New York sucks like I couldn't have possibly imagined it would.

So I'm pretty cute. It took me a relatively long time to be able to say that, and more importantly believe that, about myself, but I'm there now. Sure, like most girls I'd feel much more comfortable if I had Heidi Klum's bod, Eva Longoria's hair and Mary-Louise Parker's skin, but in the absence of all of that, I'm me and I'm pretty cute. I'm (nearly) a six. I'm the take me home to meet your mother, girl next door type less than the fantasize about tearing my clothes off when you see me across a crowded room, but, hey, that's cool, too.

Except that, in New York, I'm a (nearly) six in a sea of eights and nines. And these are the normal girls. Sure, I have a lot of other things to offer someone other than a touch of cuteness, but I'm talking pure physical attraction, come over and say hello, here. And being a six in a sea of nines makes for a kind of sad dating life.

Singledom, for me personally, was all but a death sentence. I love to be social with my friends, but getting me "out there" (in bars, clubs, etc.) to meet new people where people typically meet is just never going to happen. I mean, c'mon, I'm at home on a Saturday night and just took a break from watching Buffy to blog. And this is what I planned to do. Do you see my concern for a lifetime of loneliness and high cable bills?

So the meeting people thing happens, at best, in waves. Someone introduces me to someone. Great. I generally make a good first impression when I'm able to be my witty, smiling self. But I have to get that far first. The person of my dreams has to want to meet me and that, at least in the online realm, is based almost exclusively on that one photo. And that perfect candid photo capturing the essence of me eludes, well, me. And without that, I'm just the (nearly) six, if, of course, you willing to look past the 35 eights and nines to get to me.

Because they are everywhere. On the subway. Crossing the street. In the office. On They never sweat while working out. Their hair looks as fabulous in a ponytail as it does any other time. Their clothes fit them as if they were custom-made by Cinderella's little mice/fairy friends. And, really, I don't begrudge these girls a life partner. Some of them are probably really great. Greater than me. Smart, witty, charming, beautiful. The whole damn 8/9 package. And well, how fabulous for them.

But, in the interest of me hating them and defending girls everywhere who don't wake up like they just stepped off a runway, I want to say, "you know what? You've got at least a solid two points on me, bitch. Let me go on just ONE date with the George Clooney look-like and let him see my charming self. If he's not wanting a second date, then by all means, he's yours."

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

To all the boys I've loved before

As Valentine's Day looms, I (perhaps stupidly) was inspired to write a memo to all of the dudes who I've loved and left or those who broke my heart. Or those many I didn't love, but certainly had an affect on me. I'm 27 now -- ready to get hitched and have myself a kid -- and yet I'm planning a Valentine's Day with ice cream, a bottle of wine and a chick flick to share with myself. Sure, I'm annoyed, but, really, when aren't I, right?

* I know that at least two of you read this. But it's probably nothing I haven't already said to you, so you'll probably get over it pretty easily. And it's not like I used your name, anyway, even if I described you in a completely obvious way.

In no particular order...

The Jock: You were so cute and so cool and so didn't know I was alive for a really long time. But I have volumes upon volumes of diary entries about the way you looked when you shot a free-throw.

The One I Couldn't Have: You reminded me that no matter how secure one feels, there's always someone out there who can still make your heart race. When you kissed me, you took my face in your hands and I melted. There I am, in a puddle on the floor.

The High School Sweetheart: First real love; first real heartbreak. We talked about everything, you remembered my favorite things; I wore your shirts; we talked on the phone, hiding under the covers so our parents wouldn't catch us, until 2am. But then we broke up (wow, I even forget why now) and you asked your ex-girlfriend to the prom. But then we made out on your graduation day.

The One From Chem: You took me on my first real date, even if it was just to the mall. I was utterly infatuated with the idea of someone liking me -- really liking me -- until you threw a basketball at my head. Game over.

The Hipster: Within a month or two of our meeting, I told people I was going to marry you. You both opened me up -- to things I wouldn't have seen, listened to, or thought otherwise -- and closed me off to where there was only you, me and our fictional but possible son in my mind. You made awesome mashed potatoes. I remember first thinking we were actually compatible when we built our first piece of Ikea furniture together and didn't argue. It was what I pictured married life to be with you. But then I left. And came back. And then you left. And didn't.

The Married One: If I was one of upstanding moral code, I would label you The Mistake. But I won't because I am not. No, I just wasn't then. I wouldn't make the same choices now. But back to you... You paid attention to me in a way no one ever has. You made me feel, for lack of a better word, sexy for the first (and maybe last) time in my life. The air was always hot and even pumping gas seemed like a deviant act. I changed after you.

The Tortured Artist: You were smoldering hot and a ridiculously good kisser. I certainly wasn't in love with you, but I could have made out with you, quite happily, for much longer than we did, even if you did like stupid movies.

The Comedian: You changed me, too. For a few moments, with you, I thought I just might end up with everything I wanted. You made it seem so possible. So real. But the scar on my stomach is a reminder that while we will certainly care about one another, love isn't in the plan. You get the one I/we call "Sarah."

The One Who Gave Me Pot: You made me laugh, and I made you cry. You had a warm, inviting smile. You played with my hair. You were the kind of supportive partner that I may never have again -- you were so generous and caring; thoughtful and encouraging. And I broke up with you on Superbowl Sunday for someone who was, ultimately, very wrong for me.

The Type-A: You pushed me to be a better student, and a more articulate person. You let me hit you when you were being a douchebag. I remember some of your little quirks -- the way you'd pull on your hair or the way you said my name -- like they were yesterday. But what sticks out most, now, is your selfishness -- like when you left me at the hospital to go home and write a paper. Douchebag.

Well, that was therapeutic.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Coping with Emotional Distress: Lesson One

What not to do when you've had a horrendous week and you're feeling bitter and alone:
  • Don't make plans with your married friend who you have a serious crush on
  • Don't have dinner with a former colleague who has the job that you deserve
  • Don't write emails to the opposite sex without first consulting someone else of the opposite sex
  • Don't skip lunch or only eat animal crackers
  • Don't watch Pretty Woman, The Notebook or Lars and the Real Girl, etc. and/or listen to Nicole Atkins, REM or the like
  • Don't laugh hysterically instead of cry hysterically
  • Don't cyber-stalk anyone
  • Don't accept a loan, no matter how small, from your boss
  • Don't make and consume a box of macaroni and cheese after 10pm
What to do instead:
  • Host a slumber party for your two favorite people and drink wine from the bottle
Lesson One complete. Please turn the tape over.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Lessons with DiSaronno

A few weeks ago at my company's holiday party, a colleague told me that I don't enjoy life. 

Okay, I'll back up... We all had a good bit to drink -- and even without alcohol I'm a bit of a sharer, but with, obviously, even a bit more. So while catching up said colleague on the rather sad state of my life in the last few months and where I see myself headed (I'd call us friendly, but not exactly friends, I guess), she did the whole nod in sympathy thing and I rambled with my amaretto sour in hand. Then I took my turn to listen. And we had a nice little chat. Then, while heading to our second (or third?) destination a bit later, she said (and I'm paraphrasing here), "Ashley, you need to enjoy life. Go out. Be yourself. People love you. I don't think you enjoy life." 

Really? That's what I give off to the world? I don't enjoy life?

When I literally stopped in my tracks, she felt immediately bad and said that that's not what she meant. And she probably didn't. She spent the next hour or so telling me how horrible she felt for what she'd said and tried to explain what she really meant. I don't really remember what that was anymore, though. Along the journey down Park Avenue South another colleague joined us and she and I began talking about our ticking biological clocks (and there I went again with the sharing). 

The baby conversation is but a vague memory, but the other comment is still very fresh. What does that even mean? And, what did it mean to me?

Maybe I don't enjoy life like it should be enjoyed. But, if I don't, I don't know what it means to really enjoy life. And then that makes me a little sad. Sure, I have things I enjoy -- reading, eating cookies, good music, great sex, maxing capacity on my TiVo, etc. -- but is enjoying life, experiencing life, about more than just being content? I don't typically enjoy the same things that my peers do. I never really did. I drink and go out occasionally, but the frequency in which I enjoy those things doesn't seem to be enough for most people my age. But does acting a bit older (or, okay, acting a lot older) mean I'm not enjoying my twenties? I never thought so before.

And, this is, of course, not to say that I plan to change my middle-aged Friday nights, but it has made me think a lot more about what an ideally enjoyable life would mean for me. And, no, I'm not living it right now. 

I'm not saying that this was a life-altering moment in the middle of the street, but its certainly got me thinking.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Ashley, Now and Then

Inspired by the hot chick over at Regarding Mary, tonight is an excellent night to list some of things I love about me. Because today, was, let's say just a little difficult. Here goes:
  • my auburn hair and green eyes
  • a close relationship with my brother
  • competent writing skills
  • the ability to support myself (albeit barely sometimes)
  • my obnoxiously adorable laugh
  • the ability to be understanding and, generally, patient
  • my loyal, supportive, witty friends
  • my own loyalty, support and witty remarks to those friends
  • my bookshelf of everything from Cormac McCarthy to Harry Potter
  • coworkers who think I'm actually funny
  • a comfortable bed and yoga pants to come home to
  • the ability to open up to people, even if that's sometimes too much
  • a slightly better than average kisser (Ed. Note: I'm amending this to above average kisser, I was just being modest before...)
  • the good sense to usually wear comfortable shoes
  • enough general knowledge and open-mindedness to discuss politics with (most) others
  • a sweet tooth (or several)
  • knowing when to ask for help when I really need it
Better now.