In defense of the boring birthday

Here’s the thing about grand life adventures, y’all.

If you approach them with the right attitude, they are awesome. They are exhilarating and challenging and bring the world into bright, vivid focus in a way that normal life makes tough to achieve.

They are also exhausting.

I have hit that point in this grand adventure I’m on. As the anniversary of a day that changed my life in major ways approaches, I find myself thinking of all that’s happened in the last year. I left a job. I founded a consulting company. I got rejected from jobs, more than once. I went to Tennessee and hiked the Smoky Mountains. I found a job. I became an aunt. I sold most of my stuff. I drove cross-country with my mom to Boston. I lived in a B&B for a month. I found an apartment. I moved into that apartment after a blizzard. I learned how to navigate Boston public transit. I bought a couch, then cancelled it. Then I bought another one. I went to Norfolk, and California, and Madison, and just last week, to DC. The couch arrived, as did the bed, the shelves, the dining room table, the rug…and they all required special delivery circumstances that taught me I will never get from work to home in less than 30 minutes on Boston public transit. I volunteered at a food pantry, walked dozens of miles in the Arboretum. Even in the last week I went to a young professional symphony concert (yes, at 38 I am still going to those), did a show with my company, scouted a comedy act for my old company and watched the Badgers make the Final Four.

Plus, there is the natural roller coaster of a new job; the highs of discovery and making impact, and the lows of realizing how much more I have to learn.

I guess it’s no surprise that I’m tired.

And so, here I am, on my birthday, and no, I am not out rollicking to Irish tunes in a local Boston pub. I’m home with the dog, replete on Thai takeout, admiring my flowers and gifts, and preparing for a little binge TV watching. And I am perfectly, wonderfully content.

FLowers and gifts

Facebook has been buzzing me all day with birthday messages, texts have come in, and I even got to facetime with my niece (sporting her new Badger shirt, of course). My new colleagues got me a bundt cake, and one of my old ones got me Ryan Gosling (hey girl). Google had a doodle just for me. Plus, I found out that Christopher Walken and I share a birthday with the Eiffel Tower. What more could a girl want?

So here’s a shout out to the low-key among you, the ones who are ok with a quiet birthday at home. Don’t feel bad that facebook is full of glamorous soirees and selfies of frolicking birthday partiers. You’re fine. I’m fine. Life is rich and full and sometimes tiring, so enjoy the luxury of curling up in a warm house with the knowledge that you completed another trip around the sun.

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The proper tool for the job

For 2 whole minutes I struggled and swore at the bed frame.

You see, about an hour earlier, I’d heard the reluctant voice of my movers: “Uh, ma’am?” Setting aside that it still weirds me out to be “ma’am” to anyone, it’s never good to hear that tone; usually that means your favorite cherished breakable item has met an untimely death.

In this case, it was just my box spring, too big and unwieldy to fit up the stairs in my 3rd floor Boston walkup. “If you have a saw, you can just cut it in half and then it’ll go up the stairs, no problem.”

Beg your pardon…If I have a saw?

Should I really be expected to have a saw? I mean, I know I’m a bad ass bachelorette who can handle stuff, but really, a saw?

I don’t have one, for the record.

So the box spring went into storage, and I swore at the bed frame that would follow since, after all, no box spring means no need for a bed frame. I struggled for a while to unscrew the nut from the bolt, to no avail, finally giving up and going on an epic quest in my disaster area/apartment for my trusty Craftsman Robo Grip. I found it, clamped it on the bolt, and voila.

Since I moved to this new city and new place, I feel like my entire life has been the search for the proper tool. The right card holder to keep me from losing my bus pass (no luck yet). The right hat for a short hairdo that gets destroyed by normal hats (found that one!) The right boots to see me through slush, ice and snow (got’ em). The right coat to keep me warm in single digit temps without turning me into Stay Puff Marshmallow Jodi (thought I’d found it, but alas, no). The right shelf to hold my bathroom stuff, the right messenger bag to hold my life (aka keys, purse, phone, the occasional bag of dog food), the right shovel to clear the street for my POD (victory there!).

The search for these tools is both tiring and exhilarating. When you find one, it feels good. And then you have nights like tonight, when, despite having the right tools, I feel spent; back aching, fingers callused and tingly, eyes bleary. Some of you will recognize this feeling; it’s the post-IKEA furniture feeling, when you find yourself staring at the two remaining wood pegs and wondering where they were supposed to go, while your beautiful finished chest of drawers winks at you from the corner. Or you wish you could draw so you could redo that damn graphic that says you will frown if you build your furniture alone. Setting aside that you did frown a great deal, and it would have been much easier with two people, that graphic just pisses your independent self off. Plus, you got it DONE, all by yourself. Take that, graphic.

But back to tools.

Tee hee. Tools is such a great word. I can’t have written a blog post with this many references to the word tool to not giggle like the teenager I used to be.

The eternal quest  for the proper tool is part of every woman’s life. Hey! Get your mind out of the gutter, my peeps. I was talking about that 2nd set of hands, that partner who, I hope, would help out with furniture, you know, wield the screwdriver…ok, I’m sorry. Getting a little punchy over here.

Anyway, here’s to the search for the perfect tool to make life easier, whatever project you’re working on. Here’s to the cavemen who invented tools back in the day.  And to the defeat of IKEA furniture. I feel the need to dance around my chest of drawers a la Tom Hanks in Cast Away – “Look what I have created!” – or at least take a victory march…to the fridge for a beer.

IKEA chest of drawers

On snow, cops and New Year’s Eve

So, remember, dear readers, when I and two awesome ladies spent New Year’s Eve in Strasbourg, France, backs to the wall, praying we wouldn’t witness the fiery death of a 50-foot Christmas tree as drunk and jubilant unsupervised French people set off whatever fireworks they could get their drunk and jubilant hands on? Read here if not.

Clearly, topping such an adventure, which began with a Tunisian belly dancer and ended with us being locked out of our hostel at 1 in the morning, would be tough. But this year, that same trio decided to try, and since yours truly now lives in a big, fancy city, I said “Hey! Come here this year! It’ll be fun!”

For the record, it was, but given that I was scheduled to move out my temporary home at the B&B and into my new apartment that week, I’m not sure what I was thinking. The details of this move, y’all, which has stretched over nearly two months, are drowning me. I can’t remember simple phone calls at work because I fear my brain is full of the “ok, if I tell the POD delivery to come on this day, then I can pull the permit, and maybe the movers will show up on time. But if they don’t, then I…” type of details. Dog licenses (not done yet), a strange lack of cleaning products (did I pack them or decide to donate them to future tenants in Arkansas?), new furniture, old radiator heating systems, how to warm up leftovers without a microwave, how to get to the bus stop without freezing, while also not destroying my hair so I look like a Muppet for the rest of the day…these things are consuming me.

Still, this year’s New Year’s Eve was pretty stellar. We added a fourth awesome lady, Nicole, and scored a seriously tasty dinner at Tremont 647, which included wine/beer pairings and homemade donuts for dessert.

JPT and NW on NYE JB and SM on NYE

Dinner was followed by a trek in single digit temps to Boston Common, where we saw, among other things (but really, nothing could compare), flaming skeeball. Yes, the ice sculptures were lovely, but let me say it again. Flaming Skeeball.  Skeeball with flames. Or in other words, the awesomest thing ever. For the record, this brilliance was the brainchild of FIGMENT BOSTON, which doesn’t seem to have a working website, but seems a cool concept regardless.

Flaming Skeeball

Being that it was cold and we are all veterans of many a fireworks display (and seriously, how can you top flaming skeeball?), we disbanded our group early and headed home, ringing in the New Year on the Orange line with a few stragglers, which strangely made me happy. The following day involved a party in the suburbs, a visit to The Baseball Tavern to watch the Badger football game (and visit with a bunch of Michigan State guys) and a viewing of Saving Mr. Banks, which was charming and lovely. January 2 brought the first day of a blizzard; Jenn and Sarah spent it at the MFA and I spent it working. That night, as the city hunkered down and brave road crews worked in the whipping snow, the foursome embarked on an epic adventure to Harvard Square for dinner at Red House (lobster chowder, nom, nom) and a great show at American Repertory Theater called The Heart of Robin Hood. It was full of stunts and swordfights and washboard abs…ahhh, I love the theater. Warmed by thoughts of well-constructed leather pants and vests, we trekked home in subzero temps.

Then suddenly, it was the 3rd and I was moving the next day. Holy details, Batman, that I hadn’t even begun to consider, this while trying to get my friends back home as the air traffic in the Northeast snarled up, but good. We got Sarah off ok, but Jenn got stuck, so we shopped for a snow shovel (my first time in a Target with two stories and a special escalator for your cart) and headed back to the B&B in anticipation of an early morning.

6am dawned, and just under two feet of snow lay on the ground, with temps in the single digits. Jenn and I headed over to my apartment, fingers crossed that my neighbors would obey the TOW ZONE permit I’d paid a pretty penny for; um, nope. So, we called the cops and started shoveling, needing to clear a 60 foot space for my POD to be dropped off. I was starting to freak out, seeing all my planning fall to bits, wondering how many more hundreds of dollars I’d have to spend to get my stuff, when Officer Rawley of the BPD showed up. In addition to being completely adorable, he was friendly and helpful with a huge smile as he cheerfully looked up the addresses of the delinquent cars’ owners, then tromped into the building with me to help wake people up and get them to move. I knocked nicely and rang the buzzer once; Officer Rawley punched the button 10 times with a shrugged “Hey, it’s bettah than getting towed.” In the end, I was within my rights to get one car towed, but in the interest of not pissing off my new neighbors, I didn’t, and instead Jenn and I shoveled a Mt. Everest-sized mound to make enough room for the trucks.

The POD arrived, and the POD driver told us we’d done a good job ! and did his business. The movers came, and did theirs. Then Jenn and I went on a search for beer, eventually finding it, and had a wonderful hot meal provided by Nicole in my new, echoing, box-strewn apartment.

It was back to Paris for Jenn on Sunday, finally, and back to the apartment/disaster area for me. The thing about selling much of your stuff before moving is…then you don’t have much stuff in your new place. I’m muddling through with no bureaus, no tables, no couch, no microwave…and trying not to melt my credit card all at once with all the stuff I want/need. The apartment is a little careworn, but y’all. It has a YARD, a big one. I don’t have to bundle up to walk Sadie every time she has to pee, and this is worth more than a dishwasher. I mean it.

Speaking of Sadie, I think she’s settling in pretty well. It’s damn cold, so she’s not getting her walks, but she loves the yard and all the new smells.

Anyway, ramble, ramble. I’m a little too tired to parse my words or edit, so if you’ve made it this far, you get a gold star. I’m going to go stare at the boxes in my living room for a few minutes, and then probably hit the hay. Then again, I might skip the boxes.

Good night from Boston, all. It’s very, very cold out there for many of you, and I hope you’re remembering to let those faucets drip, bring your pets inside, check on elderly neighbors and remember the power of layers. And hot toddies.

Sleep tight.

Happy Holidays from Boston

I’ve been Boston for 20 days now, not counting my little “training” visit back in November. And I have a problem. I can’t seem to figure out what to say about it.

The problem is that this whole thing, this whole adventure – it doesn’t feel real. I keep waiting for the conference to end and for me to hop a flight back to Arkansas. 

I’m sure some of it has to do with not having my apartment or my stuff yet; I miss my books and my DVD’s and my striped chair, and weirdly, my Christmas tree.  The route I take to work isn’t mine yet and the walks Sadie and I take aren’t ours yet. I’m weary of the constant stream of details: permits, movers, packing, unpacking, paperwork, etc. My brain is tired from a new job and all the stuff I have learned, and have yet to learn. None of this is particularly exciting stuff to write about.

There are many little things that cause me to smile in delight; none are big enough for a whole blog post. I can’t imagine anyone caring that I find the sight of my dog’s footprints in the sidewalk snow (now melted) to be magical. My excitement at getting a package full of turtlenecks and new gloves is pretty silly in the grand scheme of things. The cycle of ice freezing/melting on Jamaica Pond is wondrous to me; to others? Yawn.

I am so impressed with the guys at the post office where I have my PO Box; they face lines 10-humans deep every day and are always polite and helpful (and one of them is named Vinnie. VINNIE.). There is a hat shop near where I live – a shop with nothing but hats, people. The other night I bought Christmas presents at a cute little store full of American-made jewelry and gifts…one block from my B&B. I looked up movie theaters the other day online and there are dozens of them nearby. I have a season pass to the RED SOX this summer. During a break in packing last night, I walked down to the best ice cream store ever and bought myself and my pooch a little frozen treat.

And best of all in all of these little things? I like these people. Sure, there are too many tiny girls in leggings and skinny jeans for my taste, but I walk out of the house wearing just a little mascara and don’t feel like I’ve failed a makeup version of the Hunger Games. I’m surrounded by people of all colors and ethnicities; I hear different languages on the bus every day and I love it. And I have found the people to be nice, if not as effusive as I’m used to; the other night I had my backpack open, waiting for my takeout to go in there, and a young man made sure to let me know. Another night, I slipped a bit on the ice and the lady passing by asked if I was ok. More often than not, the bus drivers say hello to me if I say hello to them.  Yes, we all keep our heads down and there’s not a lot of eye contact, but that’s because there’s ice and slush all over our roads and, well, falling sucks.

And yeah, it’s snowed a lot already and it’s not even Christmas. If there’s any doubt that I’m back in New England, the weather has convinced me otherwise. Perhaps when I have to shovel my own stairs it will cement the reality of the fact that I actually, really, truly live here.

For now, here I sit at the airport, heading south to my niece’s first Christmas, a little glum to leave my dog behind, but looking forward to hanging with my family and eating all the wonderful foods I only get to eat once a year. A little girl just raced to the window, squealed, and ran back to her dad, crying “Daddy, I saw an airplane!!” I don’t remember when travel became mundane to me, but I’m glad that it’s still a new adventure for some. I want to give Southwest Airlines a high-five; the gate agents sound like real people while saying the same things over and over. I wish you all Happy Holidays – and I mean that as it’s meant; I love that my circle includes people of all faiths and beliefs, and I welcome you to say whatever holiday greeting you want to me. In fact, if you come up with something I’ve never heard before, that would be awesome.

Good tidings of comfort and joy to you all. Here’s hoping someone makes you wear foolish Christmas attire like this, and takes incriminating photos after:

Dog wearing antlers

Feelin’ lucky in Boston

So, wow.

It’s been quite an adventure these last weeks.

I’ve landed myself a new job, visited Boston to get a taste of that job, found an apartment, returned to Arkansas, had Cookiefest, threw myself a party that people actually came to, had Thanksgiving, had many a poignant goodbye, packed up half of my life with the help of my parents, sold the other half (also with the help of my parents) and drove over 1500 miles with my mom and dog to get myself to now, tonight, and the tasty memory of Indian food delivery on my tongue.

Most of you know that I’m living in Boston, MA, now, working for a non-profit called From The Top. Until my Jamaica Plain (JP) apartment is ready, I’m staying in a cute little 1 BR apartment at Taylor House, a famous B&B just a few blocks from said apartment. JP, for those who are wondering, is technically part of Boston, but it’s very different from the downtown, and according to those who know, the best place to live if one has a dog. More on that in a moment.

My mom and I completed our epic road trip last night, and then she, road warrior that she is, continued on to NH to visit her sister this morning. This, of course, came after we consumed yummy homemade scones for breakfast; have I mentioned I’m staying at an amazing little B&B? I can’t say enough about this place (pictured above). But anyway…

Today was my first day to find my way from Jamaica Plain to my job. Happily, the busses worked as they were supposed to and I got to work with no problems.

It was also Sadie’s first day on her own in Boston.

Now, I feel that I’ve been pretty stoic about this whole life change thing. Yes, there’s been the occasional moment of emotion, but on the whole, I’ve kept my chin up, pushed forward and tried to see this all as the marvelous adventure that it really is.

My move was planned down to the last moment, and despite the dubiousness of my parental units, went off without a hitch. But there was one thing I couldn’t control; how my dog would react. See, Sadie hates the car, so it broke my heart a little to think that I would subject her to 3 days of driving. She’s an Arkansas hound; how would she handle heading up to the cold north to be with those snooty Yankee dogs? And what would she do when left alone by herself in a strange new place?

She survived the car, it would seem. The jury is out on North-South canine relations, but as to the last question, get this. When this B&B was recommended to me, I learned that the owners lost their beloved dog this past summer. So I suspected that Sadie might find some new friends here. I made sure to introduce her to the guys (Dave and Daryl) yesterday – Daryl took her picture – and they idly mentioned they might take her for a walk. Today, I emailed that they were welcome to hang with her, and as I arrived home, here’s what happened.

I came down the stairs, fumbling my purse and gloves. I twisted and turned the keys, messing up the unfamiliar locks, and it wasn’t until a few minutes of this that I heard, through the door, the telltale sound of Sadie doing her post-nap shake. This tells me she was sound asleep on the bed; a good sign. Then, I opened the door, and there’s my girl, wagging and jumping about. I glanced quickly at the chair where I’d left the leash; it wasn’t there, which means she’d at least been taken out to pee. As I was sighing in delight at this small relief, I spotted a handwritten note on the bed, laid neatly atop her leash, telling me that Sadie spent the day in the kitchen with the guys AND they took her for a walk around the pond (1.5 miles). They even gave me an accounting of her bodily functions.

Y’all, I sat down on the bed, tried to give Sadie a hug as she wiggled about, and cried a little. I was laughing too, and trying to figure out what the heck was wrong with me, until I realized the tears and laughter were a release of the final valve of tension about this move, the one I’ve carried the longest and with the most trepidation. Yes, this is a new place. Yes, I’m going to have to dig my car out of the snow on more than one occasion. No, I don’t have my peeps around to keep me in game nights and volleyball. No, they don’t have Hammontrees Grilled Cheese here.  I have to make new friends, do a crap-load of paperwork, and figure out the foibles of a new non-profit, but really, none of that matters. What matters is my dog has people looking out for her and I didn’t even have to ask.

It is just the most. awesome. thing. ever.  I’m not sure how I got so lucky, but I’ll take it.

So will Sadie, apparently. After wolfing down her dinner she promptly passed out again. I love the sight of a tired out pooch.

Sadie sleeping on chair