Sunday, February 28, 2010

Cabin Fever

Last night, our cabin fever hit an all time record.  Early evening, I collapsed on the sofa in a fit of ennui.  We kept talking about our plans for the night.  Go to the art museum?  See a free play at a local college?  Drive out to Frontenac and catch a movie?  Go out to dinner?  Eat dinner at home and go out for dessert?

All of these sound like perfectly fun ways to spend a Saturday night.  And we did none of them.

My ennui made me lethargic and indecisive and by the time I decided I DID want to go to that play, David had talked himself out of it and wanted to grill a steak at home (nothing says fun like grilling in 30 degree weather).  I had snacked on pretzels and Nutella so I wasn't hungry.  Instead I drank my dinner (Cabernet Sauvignon) and then ate a "dessert" of sweet potato fries while David had a slab of dead cow.  Healthy choices, my friends, healthy choices.

Finally--or should I say, at the conclusion of Bride Wars--I decided we had to do something.  Also I decided that movie was pretty terrible.

David:  (Looking up from laptop in response to my movie critique) Maybe that is why it got one and a half stars.

Me: (silent death glare)

New plan for the night:  rearrange the living room!

I am tired of the plaid sofas, tired of the neutral walls, tired of the cheap TV stand, tired of the curtains, tired of the pictures on the walls.  I wanted to plan a total renovation, beginning with furniture placement and working from there.

So we rearranged the living room!  We measured, we plotted, we pulled couches away from the wall and vacuumed carpet that has never seen the light of day but still managed to collect dog hair.  We wiped baseboards.  We unplugged lamps and moved things around.

And then?

Hated it.

It was awkward.  Uncomfortable.  Looked weird.  Hate.

And it was not just me and my ennui.  David hated it too.  Our living room is somewhat long and narrow and the new arrangement just didn't work.

So we moved everything back.

And then it was time for bed.

Cabin fever.  It makes me crazy.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Spring: Coming Back By Popular Demand (Please)

Weather is one of those conversations topics I hate to discuss because it bores me.  It's utterly banal, my longing for spring.  We are all ready for warm weather and sunshine.  Do we have to keep talking about it?  I am especially ready for the end of itchy tights and bulky scarves and wool coats that never lose all those strands of dog hair clinging to them, no matter how often you lint roll.  No surprise, there.  Everybody is ready for spring.

But I am longing for it in a way that makes me suspect (as I do every year about this time) that I have seasonal affective disorder and I should just order one of those blue light lamps from Amazon and hang out with it a couple of hours a day.  Or--even better--schedule a trip somewhere warm and sunny.  I'm hearing talk of other people's vacations--Jamaica, Hawaii, Florida--and however more or less exotic they are, they all promise sand and sunshine.  And I could really use some right now!

I am trying to keep cheery.  Reading Jane Eyre, wearing red shoes, buying new make up, these things help.  But I still find myself thinking that I'd like to be reading a book on a beach somewhere.  Or even just by a pool.  That my red shoes would be even cuter if I didn't have to wear them with gray herringbone tights.  That my new tinted moisturizer is so pale that it is probably the same color a mortician would use on his corpses.

It must be a Vitamin D deficiency.  Makes me cranky.

But the sun is out today, and it promises to warm up this afternoon.  By "warm up," of course, I mean hit 41 degrees.  February tends to shift one's perspective about what it means to be warm.  So I'll throw on layers and a bright scarf and one of those dog-hair-infested winter coats and walk the dogs later today and dream of tulips and green grass and warm spring breezes. 

At least living in a four-seasoned climate has the benefit of always giving you something to look forward to.  After all, it won't be very many months until the heat and humidity of the summer has me longing for crisp, cool fall days.  And maybe another boring post about weather...

Monday, February 22, 2010

3 Signs of Spring

Twenty days ago, the groundhog saw his shadow (bastard!).  And winter is still here, even though the last of the snow appears to have melted, with yesterday offering us the kind of cold, dreary rain that makes your soul feel soggy and gray.

And yet!

The snow has melted.

We celebrated yesterday with a mini-Spring Cleaning that would have been a full-out Spring Cleaning except then we got tired and decided to watch movies instead.

The grass is still its winter-brown color and the sky is still its winter-gray color and yet!  There are small signs of spring 'round these parts.  Here are three of them:

Cheerful placemats and napkins.  OK, so this one I created, but Lord knows we needed some cheer up in here.  Pay no attention to the stitching and note the cute fabric.  I picked it out myself!  I have a terrible habit of thinking I am smarter than the pattern and not following the pattern exactly because it seems to make no sense only to realize four steps later that in fact the pattern made perfect sense and I am an idiot and now my placemats will not be perfect.  But the fabric remains adorable.

A cardinal!  It is blurry because I was trying to take a picture from far away so as to avoid scaring the bird but then Cooper started moseying toward the bird and then it flew away.  But still!  A cardinal!  It is red and cheery!

Tiny green sprouts growing in an egg carton of dirt!  David is seriously into this gardening plan for the summer.  He has been reading books, sketching out garden plots, and carefully mixing compost and measuring soil acidity since Christmastime.  Our raised-bed garden stands ready to go outside, he built two window-boxes over the weekend which he plans to use to grow herbs and spinach on the deck.  And the latest project: germinating seeds in the dining room.  (Which is great, because nothing looks classier in a dining room than TV trays with egg cartons and dirt sitting on them).  In spite of my reservations about this seed germination, I have to say that I was almost as excited as David was to see these little green sprouts.  I can't even remember what plant this is, but it's green!  It's growing out of the dirt!

Spring has to get here soon.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Coop

Just thought you might want to see some pictures of the cutest puppy in the world ever.  These pictures are so cute they almost make me forget the months it took for him to figure out potty training.  Cooper turned four this month but he is still our baby.



Friday, February 19, 2010


So we've had lots of snow.  And cold.  And horrible horrible kind of bleak midwinter that makes you contemplate a call to the doctor, absolutely sure that you have mono, only to realize, no, you're just tired and depressed and looking for an excuse besides February.  And I don't even live in Iowa.

But I still fear global warming.  Ecological meltdown.  Human-caused destruction of the earth.  These things scare me.  A lot.  I won't watch Al Gore's documentary not because I don't believe it's true but because I do.  And also the thought of little polar bears on melting chunks of ice just shreds my heart.

So I fear climate change more than I fear car accidents or serial killers or getting struck by lightening.  Those things are scary, yes, but they seem avoidable.  I'm scared of things that you can't run away from.

David and I were talking the other day about how when he was little, his grandparents lived near an airport.  He liked to watch the planes go by, but he was also very, very scared that a plane would wreck into their house.

So then I was trying to remember what I was scared of when I was a kid.  I remember I was terrified of the Thingamajigs in this horrible, horrible illustrated children's book about good manners.  Thingamajigs were these disgusting trolls with disgusting table manners and the moral of the story, as I recall, is that if you chewed with your mouth open, the Thingamajigs would come steal you from your bed while you were sleeping and make you come live with them.  Horrifying.  (This fear expanded to include all trolls--even the dolls my mom thought were "cute.")

I was also scared of clowns.  Obviously, because they are fecking scary.  My brother shared this fear with me.  My mom once bought him a cute hand-made clown at a craft fair that came with a personalized tag, "Brandon."  Well, Brandon could only sleep when "Brandon" was safely stowed at the bottom of the toy chest.  Because a painted face grinning maniacally?  This is not the stuff that childhood magic is made of.

Some people I know were afraid of robbers or kidnappers or murderers, those kind of worries that will keep a kid up at night, listening to the house creak and moan.  I was not afraid of crime.  I always felt very safe with my parents downstairs.  And  I had a possibly misplaced confidence in my ability to run away and evade bad guys.

In elementary school, I was most afraid of things from outer space.  I think this was the result of a science lesson gone wrong.  When I was quite little (age six or so), it was a vague fear of aliens sucking up my brother and me into their UFO.  Sometimes I would have Brandon come sleep in my bed, figuring that if they started in his room and found it empty, they'd go to another house.  Or if they started in my room, at least we'd be together.

Later, I discovered something even scarier than aliens:  black holes.  In fourth grade, one of my classes was allowed to work on independent projects.  I wrote a short paper on kids working in factories in Victorian England (thanks to a Cricket magazine article that fascinated me what with a story about a girl getting her scalp ripped off when her hair caught in a machine--I will never forget that article).  One boy in my class wrote his project about black holes.

Black holes are vacuums in space. 

Black holes occur when stars burn out.

The sun is a star.

You see my logic here?  Maybe this boy wanted to scare me, but it seemed like a pretty logical leap.  When the sun burns out, it will become a black hole.  It will suck up the earth and there will be no light and no air and we will all die.

That was the kind of shit that kept me up at night.

Oh, Wasteful and Misdirected Anxiety, you've been such a longtime companion to me.

In sixth grade, the environment replaced outer space as my Go-To Source of Major Worry and Stress (had not started dating yet, obviously).  I'll never forget this woman from the Conservation office coming to our science class and slicing up an apple and telling us that this tiny little slice was all of the usable topsoil on the earth.  It was like a panic welling up in my chest.  What could I do about crop rotation and horizontal instead of vertical crop rows?  And yet she made me feel like it was my responsibility!  Save the topsoil! 

Clearly there were people in my class who did not take that environmental message to heart, but I really think that my ecological concerns started with that sliced up apple. Obviously I felt powerless against the sun burning out just like I feel mostly powerless against the ozone layer falling apart, the icecaps melting, the oceans rising, and pollution in general. 

How do you conquer a fear that you can't control?  I mean, you can't take a self defense class or get back on the horse that threw you and feel better about the world falling apart. 

First of all, I try not to think about.  Hello, Distraction, your name is Television and also Vampire Novels.

And also I do small things.  Drive a Honda.  Use cloth napkins.  Throw stuff in a compost pile.  Take the Metro.  Bring my Sigg.  Many of my friends do not do these things.  They drive big cars, they put in the landfill what could go in the compost.  One woman recently told me her sister-in-law wasn't speaking to her because she doesn't recycle.  I stared at her with my jaw dropping--not because her sister-in-law isn't speaking to her but because I wanted to take her by the shoulders and shake her and say "What are you thinking!  Do you not realize the world is falling apart?"  But I try pretty hard not to put my anxiety out on other people. 

And, truth be told, of all these little things I do, I am not sure in the larger scheme of things how much of a difference they make.  I mean, the sun could like totally burn out anyway.

But at least it helps me sleep a little better at night.

OK, readers, if you're out there.  Name your fears.  What else could I be worried about?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Weekend Visitors

This weekend I watched the Olympics and remembered that I like to knit.

Also, my cousin Amanda and her husband Dan came to visit.  The husbands regressed into adolescence and 'Manda and I became Grand Theft Auto widows.

So we went to Trader Joe's and then we busied ourselves with sewing projects--finally making decorative pillows out of some fancy home decor fabric scraps my mom gave me.

When we were little girls, Amanda and I always played pretend games in which I would boss her around and she would start out humoring me but would grow increasingly resistant and then we would fight.  This time we managed to avoid fighting but, in keeping with tradition, we played a pretend game I invented and named "Sweatshop" in which I cut and pinned fabric pieces and made Amanda do all the sewing and then I loudly berated her when she stopped to get a drink or go to the bathroom.

I know.  What a fun game, right?

Let me tell you, I can get a lot of sewing done when I have someone else here to do the actual sewing.

There were, however, some tense moments in the sewing process:

Dilemma 1: It's snowing and I have no matching thread for this material and I don't want to get back out and drive in this because I am lazy and Amanda is from the south and gets very nervous about driving in the snow!

Resolution:  I was once in a wedding that required me to wear a taupe champagne-colored bridesmaid dress and this thread I bought when I made my mom alter the dress for me is a perfect match.  (I knew wearing taupe champagne would earn me some karma points eventually because at the time it completely washed me out and made me look consumptive.)

Dilemma 2:  These scraps of fabric seem too small for the pillows I want to stuff in them!

Resolution:  "Nut up or shut up."  This was a line from Zombieland that Amanda threw out at me when I was fretting about whether to make the cut I needed to make to allow for a removable pillowcase.  I took her words to heart and sliced through the fabric and it ended up working out just perfectly, in part because I was stuffing them with feather pillows that were wonderfully forgiving.  (Feather throw pillows I received as a wedding gift that originally came encased in lovely silk pillow cases that have since gotten drooled on, spilled on, shed on, and otherwise become entirely unusable.  Tragic.)

Dilemma 3:  Just when all appeared to be going well, I screwed up and cut one of the pillow pieces in the wrong place!

Resolution:  One of the two back panels had to become the front panel.  This required the ripping out of one seam, but then it was fine because I was able to get all the stripes to align perfectly and Amanda stitched them into place and we just might have a future in making couture home decor out of cast off material.

We also made some more of my sweatshop's other specialty: burp cloths!  Perhaps you're thinking, how many burp cloths does the world need?  Well, my friends continue to populate the world like we are acting out the Genesis story, so the answer is several.  Or, as people say in St. Louis, pretty many.

Later that night, during a "festive" round of board games I got annoyed with David for being clearly and inappropriately biased against me while playing Apples to Apples and he said that he hates playing "word games" with me because I take things so personally and I have to be so literal about them.  Then I got totally offended that he said I was being literal because I think there is a huge difference between literal and logical but how can you argue with someone bound and determined to be irrational?  You can't.

Our argument was quickly forgotten when Amanda read aloud a card that was so hilarious that Dan and I started laughing so hard we were both crying. 

Amanda said:  "Earwigs: Nocturnal insects with upside-down pinchers"

But Dan and I both heard Amanda say:  "Earwigs: Nocturnal anal sex with upside-down pinchers."

And from that point on, all I had to do was stare at Dan and make a pinching gesture with my fingers to make him start laughing and he has the most contagious laugh ever so then we were all laughing, even Amanda, who wanted us to be perfectly clear that she had not said anal sex and obviously something was wrong with our hearing.

See how fun a weekend at my house is?  Who wants to come visit?

All in all, I had a lovely, low-key weekend and I hope it was a relaxing weekend away for Dan and Amanda.  They won over the dogs by bringing them "Bow-Wow Popcorn."  Yes, specialty popcorn for dogs in roasted-chicken flavor.  How delicious.  Little Mac and Cooper were both wild for it and have officially declared Dan and Amanda their favorite visitors.  Mac even allowed them to pet her briefly.   A win-win all around, even if I lost Apples to Apples.

Friday, February 12, 2010

You think that's "funny"?

Maybe you don't think the misuse of punctuation can be a source of hilarity. 

You would be wrong.

I discovered the "blog" of "unnecessary" quotation marks and I have been giggling and chortling and laughing out loud.

Please "enjoy" here.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

You Know You're an Insufferable Academic When...

* Your friend observes that the editor of a particular edition of a book is somewhat overeager with her footnotes and you exclaim, "I was thinking the exact same thing!"  And you were.

* There are many times you'd rather attend a lecture than a movie.  If only they served popcorn...

* You think you have good taste in television because you watch all of Joss Whedon's shows.

* You discuss with friends whether one can read In Style and watch Teen Mom marathons and still call oneself a feminist.  You decide, yes.  Because you do.  But you still might try to convince yourself that you watch Teen Mom and read In Style ironically.

* You roll your eyes when people misuse the word "ironic."

* You start many, many conversations with, "So, I was listening to NPR..."

* You think it's hot when guys start conversations with, "So, I was listening to NPR..."

* You can win any argument with your spouse by insisting that his/her views are wrong because they align with the hegemonic patriarchy. 

* You refer to people outside academia as "civilians" but your tone implies "unwashed masses."

* You claim that you're just one of the bourgeoisie but you're very much an elitist.  Also, you like to use the word "bourgeoisie" as much as possible.

This list is by no means exhaustive.  Academics have a unique ability to be neurotic and insecure, self-aware and self-deprecating, insightful and witty, funny and serious.  I love them and I hate them.  Because I am them.

Monday, February 8, 2010

O, to have been born a heroine!

I'm teaching Northanger Abbey right now. I'm using it to make the boys in my class love Jane Austen.  (My success in this endeavor remains undetermined.)  It has a reputation of being one of Jane Austen's lesser novels, which I personally think is a completely unfair assessment.  It's no Emma and it will never have the following of Pride and Prejudice (unless Colin Firth somehow shows up in the movie version) but it is smart and I think its the funniest of all of Austen's novels.  It gets skipped over by most people unless they decide to read all of Austen's works, but I think that is a real mistake.  I like it because it is snarky without being openly judgmental.

I once took one of those online quizzes (don't pretend you're too cool for those) that promised to reveal "Which Jane Austen Heroine Are You?"

Of course I rigged my answers so that I would be Elizabeth Bennet.  Like the protagonist in Lost in Austen (and I did get lost in that film--for three beautiful hours, thank you very much), I want to be like Elizabeth Bennet.  She's everything a good Austen heroine should be--well read, self-possessed, pretty, and always ready with the appropriate verbal response for every situation, even the terribly awkward ones.

But the truth of the matter is that I am far more Catherine Morland than Elizabeth Bennet.  Northanger Abbey opens with the line, "No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed her to be born to be a heroine."

(category: Best Opening Lines in All of Her Novels.  Winner:  Jane Austen.)

Catherine is totally normal.  Her family is normal.  Her life is undramatic.  She's good-natured and friendly but a little shy.  She's not pretty but not ugly.  She finds drama in the books she reads--gothic novels, of course.  She makes lots of silly mistakes, she is a bit naive, but in the end she is a pretty reliable interpreter of people and circumstances.

Catherine Morland is not my favorite of Jane Austen's heroines.  And I think that is because I see too much of myself in her.  I would rather be the sort of girl who makes rash decisions and eloquent speeches and turns down proposals and then ends up marrying Mr. Darcy.  I would rather be Elizabeth Bennet!

But I like teaching Northanger Abbey because I think it's nice that just because Catherine Morland doesn't look like or act like a typical heroine, that doesn't mean that she doesn't have a story worth telling.  Her story is about reading novels, and writing novels, and letting one's imagination get carried away, and trying to be polite, and trying to do the right thing, and being embarrassed, and feeling unsure of oneself, and discovering real friendship, and falling in love.  It's a great story.

Even if it doesn't include vampires or zombies.

My brother read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies over Christmas and then lent it to me, saying that he didn't understand why anyone read Jane Austen.  I ignored him (years of practice has made this easy to do) and eagerly took up P&P&Z for my own reading pleasure.  I got about ten pages in and realized what he was talking about.

Understand that I had every expectation of liking this book.  One of my favorite things about Jane Austen is that she doesn't take herself too seriously (unlike many other nineteenth century authors, cough cough George Eliot, God love her anyway).  I loved Emma the musical because Austen can do campy musical theatre.  I assumed I would love this book just as much because of course Elizabeth Bennet would easily slay zombies while winning Mr. Darcy's heart.  In theory, it was a work of genius.  I particularly liked the cover art.

But in reality?  It was horrible.  Horrible, horrible, horrible.  Sure, it was a little amusing that Elizabeth had to fight zombies on her way to Netherfield Park.  But the problem was that this version took out everything that makes Austen so wonderful--all the subtle implications, all the moments of unremarked wordplay, all the humor and spelled it all out or canceled it out completely.  Made it totally obvious.  Instead of clever dialogue in Austen's remarkable prose style (hello?  Free indirect discourse! Kind of a trademark, folks!) it's just the bare bones of the story with zombies thrown in.  

It occurs to me that it might be a little obnoxious to note that in rewriting this novel to include zombies, the soul of the novel was destroyed.

But that's exactly what happened.  All the good parts are taken out, and the new goods parts (ie. brain eating zombies) just don't do enough to salvage the novel.  It could have been so great!  I had such high hopes!

But, alas.  Nobody can do Austen like Austen.

Except, of course, Masterpiece Theatre.

Friday, February 5, 2010

You Can Call Me Doctor.

But I probably won't write you a prescription.

My defense was at 3pm on Tuesday.  I taught a class from 1-2:30 that day and I have no idea what I said.  I let them go five minutes early and spent the next thirty-five minutes feeling like I was going to barf.

Then it was time.  And my defense was over after 60 short minutes.

Honestly, I was anticipating at least an hour and a half so sixty minutes felt--dare I say--easy?

My memory of it is already a bit vague.  The actual questions?  Um...  one was something about how I would reframe my project with more of an emphasis on gender...?  My actual answers, I have no idea.  I know I delivered them in an authoritative tone and I know I made myself stop talking when I could have kept rambling but I can't really tell you what I said.

Other things are very clear.  My advisor and I both wore scarves.  We sat around a conference table with dining table chairs--fake leather, high backs, no arms.  The professor I thought would be kind of an ass was the nicest one; the professor I thought would totally softball me asked the toughest questions.  I scribbled some notes but I don't know where they are now.

The first fifteen minutes dragged by and I felt almost like I was having an out-of-body experience, looking down at myself and thinking "OK.  I am actually in the defense.  Time will go by.  This will eventually be over."  And then I hit my stride and the next forty-five minutes flew by and I felt like I could have answered their questions all night long.

But then it was time for me to step outside the room, and then there were handshakes and congratulations and champagne and then everyone shared a gym-class horror story.  Of course everyone had one because we are all crazy awkward academics.  I did not share one because I was too busy downing champagne and trying to breathe.  But as they went around and told their stories I thought to myself that of all the ways I imagined the defense going, all the times I played it my head and envisioned different scenarios, it never ended like this--with my advisor comparing her phys ed class to Auschwitz. 

And the rest of the night was wonderful--David showed up at school with flowers.  My parents surprised me by coming to town which I never expected as it was the middle of the week and everything.  David also bought me a beautiful ring as a PhD gift.  Monica drove in from Louisville and went to dinner with us.  We ate at one of my favorite restaurants and then hurried over to Bailey's Chocolate Bar.  David had made arrangements for us to have a room upstairs all to ourselves and he'd ordered cheese plates and a chocolate cake.  It was so cute.  A bunch of friends were already there and when I walked in everyone clapped and I took a bow.  Then we drank and ate cheese and cake and when I went up to the bar to get a drink, the bartender told me that he had a bottle of wine already purchased for me by "Um, a Steph and Alby?"  Stephanie and Allison had called Bailey's and gotten this bottle of wine for me, which was totally sweet and unexpected.  And then I told the defense story over and over again (including the PE horror stories) and talked and laughed and was so happy that so many of my friends and family were there.  High school friend, college friends, grad school friends from the very beginning, and new friends I've only met in the last year or two.

I reflected that night before I went to sleep that if I had to wake up and live Groundhog Day over again, I really couldn't have asked for a better day.

Thanks to everyone who was part of it--you made it happen.  I couldn't have done it without you.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Getting Lucky in Kentucky

If you are my facebook friend, you know that my weekend started at a drag show and ended at a little country church.  But of course, that's not the whole story.

My best friend turned 30 on Friday and her husband started planning a birthday surprise for her back in September.  I committed to making the drive to Louisville way back then and had the difficult task of keeping my mouth shut about it for the next FOUR months.  But I managed.

Johnny had carefully orchestrated everything--arrival times at the lodge where we were staying: no later than 6:15.  Surprise at 6:30 with cake and champagne.  Dinner reservations at 7:30 at Jack Ruby's.  Drag show at 10:30.

So David and I lined up a reliable dog sitter (who left homemade chocolate chip cookies for us upon our return!) and he took half a day off work so we would arrive in time for dinner.  We planned to leave by noon for the four and a half hour drive, but my advisor wanted to meet with me at 11am that morning, so our departure time got pushed back a little.

No big deal--by the time we hit the road and plugged the lodge address into our Garmin, we were scheduled to arrive at the lodge at 5:32pm.  Just enough time to change clothes, do something with my hair, and head to Lindsey's room for the surprise (evidently Johnny had told Monica that they were celebrating her birthday with a "magical evening" at the lodge--fortunately Monica showed up wearing more than a coat and lingerie).  It was a flawless plan and I happily drove while David napped the first couple of hours, looking forward to the surprise and the fun weekend ahead of us.

About an hour outside Louisville, I realized that I had forgotten to print out the late arrival instructions that the lodge had e-mailed to me.  David tried to pull them up on his phone but it wasn't working so I told him just to call the lodge.  Then I looked at the clock and saw that it was 4:30 and realized that it was already too late.  For some reason the front desk is closed after 4pm.

David remarked that 4pm is a weird time for the front desk to close.  I agreed and wondered aloud why that might be.

At the same moment we had the sudden realization that 4pm in St. Louis is 5pm in Louisville.  Louisville runs on Eastern time.

Which meant we were not scheduled to arrive at the lodge at 5:30 with plenty of time to relax and change clothes and freshen up.  It meant we were going to show up at the exact time the surprise was supposed to happen.  Looking gross.

So I had a freak out because (1) I am supposed to get getting a PhD in four days and yet I am a total idiot (2) why didn't David say something about this? (3) Monica and I have had several conversations in which the time change has been mentioned and yet it never once occurred to me (4) I did not want to go into the surprise and meet all her new friends while I looked so gross (5) I didn't want to ruin the surprise!

So we made a flurry of phone calls to Monica's mom and to her friend Lindsey and tried to figure out what we were going to do.  In the end, we missed the big surprise, we did a quick change of clothes, and then we showed up at the party just before 7pm.  I was feeling kind of frazzled and ended up with my hair in a ponytail, but at least we made it.

Surprise!  Guess how old Monica is?

Dinner was wonderful.  Evidently it's a place a lot of people go before they go to the Derby.  Waiters in tuxedos, a woman singing jazz in the main bar, choice of steak or seafood and tons of delicious side dishes (we sampled them all and my favorites were the mac & cheese and the creamed spinach with goat cheese and black truffle and the wok charred French beans... ok everything was good).  The big thing on their menu is a bone-in steak which caused much snickering from all of us and then when Monica ordered it I swear she said boner and then even the waiter snickered.

Ha ha.  Boner.  We think it's funny but Monica's dad needs another beer.
After dinner we headed to the drag show (and by "we," I mean Monica's parents, her minister-husband, several of her friends from seminary, Lindsey, David and me).

I have to say I love having friends who are equally comfortable shoving dollar bills in a drag queen's panties and serving communion at church on Sunday.

The show was the best entertainment I have probably ever seen for $5.  I told David later that the show we saw there was way better than the last two shows we've seen at the Repertory Theatre.  And way cheaper.  The costumes, the lip syncing, the make up, the hair.  It was great.

 You should have seen him do a front handspring or a standing back flip.  Or the splits.  This guy can do it all.

We loved the cowgirl.

 We loved the emcee.  In this photo Monica is pointing to her parents.

 I wish I were wearing this dress to my defense party.

But we especially loved (and by "we," I mean me) the Lady Gaga act.  I screamed until I was hoarse. 

Ooh la la, Lady Gaga.

 Up close.  Love the earrings, the eye make up, the hair...

It was so awesome.  We liked the 10:30 show so much we stuck around for the 12:30 show.  Monica and I went to the dance floor and danced while everybody else sat and talked in between shows.  It was quality entertainment.  Unfortunately I do not have pictures of the nice boy in a cage who was wearing only a jock strap and danced with Monica and her mom (by "danced" I mean swung from the bars of the cage and shoved his crotch in their faces) but I assure you a good time was had by all.

The next morning we were meeting at 11 o'clock for brunch.  Let me tell you, 11 o'clock comes mighty early when you've been out until 2am the night before and 11 o'clock is really 10 o'clock central time.  But we managed to drag ourselves to Lynne's for a delightful breakfast of cinnamon swirl bourbon ball French toast topped with chocolate and strawberries.

Yum. And it's low calorie!

Brunch was followed by a tour of the Louisville Slugger Museum/Factory.  David was delighted.  It was pretty interesting although our tour guide was a bit of a freak.  We viewed the baseball memorabilia (some of it required the wearing of white gloves).

This is David holding Mickey Mantle's bat.  

And then we decided to hit the batting cages.  I'd never been in a batting cage before.  Monica suggested we use wooden bats seeing as we were at the Louisville Slugger factory.  I managed to bruise myself hitting my own forearm with the end of the bat while swinging for the ball (do not ask me how this is possible).  The bat was so heavy that by the time I swung it around it had dropped to low to even come near hitting the ball.  I switched to an aluminum bat and managed to make contact with one or two softballs after that.  Not my finest athletic moment.  My wiffle ball skills are much more impressive.

I tried the Albert Pujols leg hike.  Rather unsuccessfully.

Because a bat in the butt is always good for a laugh.
Saturday night was a quiet night at Monica and Johnny's apartment and Sunday we drove to Pleasureville, Kentucky to hear Johnny preach at a little white country church.  His sermon was awesome.  What I recall from it most is that just because something or someone is labeled "Christian," that doesn't mean it's true or it's good or that Jesus has endorsed it.  Particularly in regard to Pat Robertson and the Left Behind series.  Can I get an Amen?

Church was followed by lunch at the one restaurant in the nearby town and the kind of conversation that you can only have with really good friends--the kind that covers the future, the past, and the present.

Note the strategically placed mini-bats.  30 is the new 12.

It was Monica's birthday weekend but it left me counting my own blessings.  And (in case you're wondering) those include watching my friends lead a worship service at a little country church, splurging on a wonderful meal at a swanky restaurant, having a husband who's willing to drive on the way home, and Lady Gaga lip-syncing drag queens.  I can only hope my thirtieth birthday brings such fun.