wayward muse, gather ye flowers

Gather ye flowers while ye may

Brr! It's damp and cold here in Philly. I can't help but miss the golden autumns of Western Massachusetts; no less cold, but a good deal less rainy. I just laid down a rug Z's dad and stepmom gave us and that helps a little with the cold floor, but it's time to lay in a supply of wood and give the fireplace in this apartment a try! A nice fire would be just the thing to take the raw chill out of the air.

I suppose I could always turn the heat on, but so far I've rebelled against it, the grouchy New Englander in me stubbornly saying to just put a sweater on if I'm cold.

What else? I have one week left at my current job before breaking loose and working for the University. Mum and Pop are coming to visit the weekend of November 5th, which will also be my THREE YEAR anniversary with Z. Three years, my goodness. I guess it's technically no longer a fling, huh?

Yesterday morning I woke up to the sound of gushing water; running downstairs I burst into the basement to find that a water pipe had disconnected and was spewing cold water everywhere. Some of you know I've been in a similiar situation before, but thankfully this was nothing like that awful time. We called the landlord and he came straightaway to fix it, and the water went through the floor drain, so now it's perfectly dry, if a little musty smelling. I've never been so thankful to be a renter!

Hmm, that's about it. Z and I stayed up too late last night finishing Season 2 of Stargate: Atlantis. My only qualm about getting him hooked on shows that I like is that he gets snippy if I start watching new episodes without him; therefore I've spent the evening reading until he gets home from class. After that, all bets are off: between Dexter, BSG, SGA and The Office, there are more than enough choices.

And Chinese food! Yum.
sometimes I make bad choices

The waiting game

I have never, never been good with suspense.

It's the reason I don't like roller-coasters that aren't inside; it's why I'll more often than not skip to the last page of a book I've never read; it's why I can't watch horror movies. Waiting for anything has always been anathema to my personality: hedonistically-minded as I am, I much prefer instant gratification. (This is also, incidentally, probably why I weigh about thirty pounds more than I'd like.)

They say patience is a virtue, but for me, unless we are talking about the kind of patience that allows one to thoroughly analyze a Romantic poem or write a twelve page paper, it is damn near an impossibility...especially now that I've been waiting since Monday to hear whether or not I have that job.

Answering machines are, I've decided, the Devil. Or at least the brainchild of one of his more nefarious minions. I left a message on Monday...did not hear back. Left another message today...have not heard back. The waiting is beginning to get to me.

So I'm trying to take my mind off it as best as possible...which seems to involve a fair number of Harry Potter movies and re-reading LOTR.

So maybe, not so rough after all.
Gidget

(no subject)

The heat has finally broken here...so to speak. At least, it's only supposed to be in the upper 80's today instead of above 100, which is a relief. I'm still sweating in the living room, but heatstroke is no longer a potential possibility.

A lot of other things are changing around here, too, and I'm superstitious enough to wonder if the weather is some sort of sign of things to come. One of the largest is that, come August 1st, I'll be bidding my green linoleum and fake fireplace goodbye for good. I'll have to take lots of pictures before I go, so as to be able to compare it humorously with my other "first apartments." As my first independent home, it's done well. I can't say I'll miss the entirely non-insulated bedroom in the winter, or the leaking ceiling, or the stove that sometimes smells a little too strongly of gas (when it works at all), but it's been a roof and a comfy couch and a place to put my things, and I'll, er...think fondly of it when I go.

But where am I going? Well, not far. In fact, the most interesting part of my change of address is that it won't be only me and Max living there. Z and I are thinking to rent a nice little 2-bedroom in Center City and try this whole cohabitation thing for real.

There's a whole plethora of emotions going on with this decision, the top two being excitement and nerves, but overall, excitement wins. We've had good times laying out little plans for the new place: paint colors and kitchen layouts and pots of herbs in the little backyard. He has grand plans for organizing the kitchen exactly the way he knows I've always wanted one to be organized; I'm looking forward to maybe getting a ping-pong table for the basement. So it's a change, but honestly, not a huge one. We're together all the time and it's gotten to the point where it's just strange if we're not. Seeing him is like getting the mail everyday; it's a part of my life now.

So we'll see where it's all going. I'm the first to admit to not knowing if it's a lifetime thing or if we're really The One for each other, but I don't need to answer those questions right away, not unless I want to think about them for myself. For me, it feels right and that's the best indication I know of to do something.

Another thing that feels right: taking a job I interviewed for on Friday. That's right: my intention is to leave Marley & Scrooge, LLC, for something less...morally gray and personally satisfying. I interviewed for a Sales Associate position with WOGL, the oldies station here in Philly, which is owned by CBS Radio.

The interview was a satisfying one, and ended with the interviewer (my prospective boss), telling me he wanted me to think it over for the weekend and call him on Monday. If I decide I want the position, we'll go from there. Now, to me, this sounds very, very good. Why tell me to think it over unless he'd already decided I'd be good for the position?

Of course, he wanted to make it clear how hard the job is, and I don't blame him for not trying to sugar-coat it or for wanting to give me time to consider. Sales is rough, and the prospect of getting doors slammed, so to speak, in my face, is not an inviting one...but at the same time, we got on so well and he seemed to think I'd be good at it, and also I cannot express adequately how much I NEED a new job. I figure, I've been miserable at M&S for two years being paid next to nothing. If it turns out I also don't like this job, I probably wouldn't have to put up with it for more than a year and the pay for sales positions is, shall we say, more than satisyfing.

I think I'm going to call him tomorrow and tell him I want the position.

So, a lot is going on, but it's all exciting and all positive, as far as I can tell. My only wish is that it could all be happening a lot closer to home and the Cape and family, but...someday, right? Everything's coming together. I can feel it.
my house

(no subject)

I splurged a little today and picked up a Le Crueset loaf pan in Cherry. It's the first piece of Le Crueset I own and I plan to make good use of it by returning to my old pastime of bread-baking. There's a little kitchen boutique store here in Philly that I absolutely love; it's called Kitchenette and is not only stocked with every domestic goody you can imagine, in every color and style you can imagine, but is staffed by cheerful, knowledgeable ladies who have so far never minded my coming in and staying for the better part of an hour before leaving without buying anything.

That purchase and the presence of an actual plant (driven with care down from Vermont) make this apartment suddenly homey in a way it hasn't been, ever. They're the first small steps I've taken to create a space that is mine, and I like it. It's a good feeling.

The loaf pan is part of another goal, too: Memére loved to bake and loved to make sure everyone had plenty of their favorite thing to eat. For me, that was often something that came out of a pan just like the one I just bought, crusty and golden with melted butter. I don't remember how old I was, but there was a week or five days or so when I visited her, just me, and we spent nearly the entire time baking. She let me help her finish decorating cakes (so this must have been a while ago), and taught me how to make rolls. We discussed the values of honey versus sugar in recipes, and ate like kings.

It would be great if I could come up with some sort of anecdote, a little piece of wisdom she'd imparted to me, through the language of baking, but honestly everything she taught me has become so ingrained that it's instinct now. Lessons from her and lessons from Mum become confused, but it doesn't matter, because they taught me the same things: trust your instincts in cooking, but be precise in baking. Don't mix everything together: there's a reason the wet ingredients go in last. Butter at room temperature; eggs, too. Don't frost a cake right away. A happy face cut into a pie crust will let out the steam. How to pinch a crust together. How to level a cake so it doesn't end up lopsided. How to measure out drops of cookie dough.

Somewhere in all of that, there are a lot of life lessons. I'm taking back to baking to try and find some of them , but more important than life lessons are the memories of Memére laughing at my exasperation when there was always more dough to roll out for rolls, the way her frosting tasted, how she mixed a few drops of food coloring into the white icing and stirred it into a sudden blossom of color.

Grief is selfish. There were a lot of moments this week when we all leaned on each other, used someone else's strength, held someone else's memory. I shared mine, but now I'm holding on to them, selfishly. They are my moments with Memére, and they were a sign of things to come; long talks when she visited on the Cape, stories she told about her life as a girl my age, about her hopes and dreams, her pride and delight in my accomplishments. I was rabid for a series of books she'd started me on years before. She even taught me how to knit, though I've since completely forgotten.

If there's a point in all of this, here it is: there are never enough times to laugh and tell stories, to teach something, to learn. I'm fortunate to have a huge family and an extensive network of friends, all of whom have taught me something along the way. I already miss Memére's smile, the dainty way she would hug me, her delicate perfume, the clouds of her hair, how she called me "honey" when no one else does.

I like to think she's pleased with my purchase, though. And missing someone isn't all that bad when you still have all their love with you, and when you know they're at peace and happy. Thinking of her, swing-dancing with Pepére in Heaven, is good enough.

And hey, I'm sure they could use another good baker up there.
pinup love

Bombshell

Today's post gets the pin-up girl because it seemed like every third guy I passed on the street on my way home either honked, cat-called, or said something along the lines of "Hello, gorgeous." It should be noted that today I'm wearing the dress they banned from the Vatican (despite my private conviction that St. Peter would have dug it, it was deemed too scandalously short to go into the Basilica, and since I was in the dress at the time, neither could I), but on the other hand, I'd just come from running at the gym.

How come I get like a third more cat-calls when I'm gross and sweaty and red-faced with bad hair from the gym? I understand heels, dress, but seriously, fellas.

Actually, it was kinda nice to feel like a bombshell for a hot second (even a sweaty, red-faced one). I've definitely been feeling less than awesome about my appearance lately, having definitely put on a few pounds since my trip to and return from Italy, with subsequent attraction of the plague leaving me sedentary for most of last week. However! I ran 2.5 miles today, at an average of 5 mph, which for me is amazing. I've never considered myself a Runner (and to me, all runners are Runners, if you get my drift), and the most I've ever run in my whole life at any one time was 3 miles a couple of times back when I was a young thing in high school. I guess I'm pretty proud of getting back into that kind of shape a decade later.

And the nearing of swimsuit season doesn't hurt, either.

It's partly because Zack and I go to the Shore for a few days in June to hang out with his dad and stepmom and sisters and brother-in-law, and both his sisters look like freakin' whippets. I mean, E. is especially depressing, being the kind of long and lean that I have never been able to achieve, thanks to my French-Canadian bloodline.

(I comfort myself knowing I have the kind of bangin' bombshell curves she will never ever possess.)

I remember Gramma gasping at me and Sa in the kitchen of 91 during the summer of pre-lifeguard training, the sort of class where a 2 mile trot and mile swim was just the sort of warm-up our sadistic head lifeguard Jessup thought we needed. She used to make us blush by tracing her hands through the air in the shape of a 32-26-32 woman. "Miss A-mer-ica!" she'd say, and we'd all laugh, but it was nice, because she really thought we were that gorgeous.

Junebugs' post the other day about having a good female role model to help you learn to be comfortable in your skin got me to thinking about that: how we view ourselves and how other people view us. I'm fortunate to know many, many strong, independent women who also happen to be drop-dead gorgeous. It isn't just the way they look (though it's that too), but it's their intelligence, their confidence, their creativity and their courage. My mom and sister helped me from going crazy trying to look like all the girls at school with their long blonde hair and "perfect" figures, and I don't think they even realize it. So, thanks, Mum and Kath! You guys showed me that true beauty has to do with loving yourself, loving others, and being happy.

And some good bone structure doesn't hurt.
one of those days

Fear will keep the local systems in line.

Marley & Scrooge, LLC, seems to subscribe of the Grand Moff Tarkin school of thought, at least when it comes to dealing with employees. What I mean is, there's no motivation aside from the threat of termination to do a decent job. Pay for anyone with less than five years under their belt is laughably insignificant, benefits are trimmed down like clockwork every six months or so, and to add insult to injury there is absolutely no job security. The turnover rate is astoundingly high and there is no such think as upward movement since all promotions are "sideways" ones.

Worse than anything is the knowledge of just who is going to be cut next. One day, you're ticking along in your normal daily grind, when all of a sudden, an email pops up, highlighting a mistake you might have made three or four months ago. This email is cc'd to at least one and probably two partners. The senior partner calls you and your team leader in to discuss the mistake, and says not to do it again, because he's pretty lenient and you've been doing a good job for the however long you've been here (over six months, under two years).

Then, the next week, you get four more emails, each progressively more aggressive, each cc'd to the same partners, all within two hours on a Monday morning. You notice that your team leader is training someone in the same work you do. The partners don't quite make eye contact with you in the hall. You are as good as fired, but they haven't done it yet. Instead, they allow the email deluge to continue while your feeling of self-worth and ability is slowly sapped with each consecutive bing of your computer.

And the worst part is, they won't fire you. At least, not until one of the other girls in your department gets back from her vacation and can help take up the slack. They don't want to lose two people at once.

No, it's not me in this scenario--I'm the one going on vacation--but it could be, easily. I've never seen anyone be turned on so quickly as the person I'm talking about and it's disturbing to see on multiple levels: first, because of the complete dissolution of any degree of optimism or confidence she'd previously had, due to the unbelievably wearing experience of email after email point out mistakes made or things that could have been done more efficiently, etc. Secondly, that the firm even allows this kind of behavior is abominable. Bullying and harassment are completely out of line, even if mistakes are made. For the record, this person has always done a good job--at least as good as I've done.

That's the third bit. I'm not obsessed with self-protection but I certainly don't want to sit around and wait for them to come after me once they've decided that I'm not pulling my weight anymore. Being fired is bad enough, I don't want to be bombarded with passive-aggressive indicators of what is to come beforehand.

Of course, it's possible this person won't get fired. Anything is, after all. But the really sad thing is, with the treatment of the last week or so, her motivation has gone completely out the window and now all she wants to do is leave.

So I guess they win, after all--at least for now.
my house

Back by popular demand

...or at least, back by Junebugs'!

There is SO much to say. I celebrated the first day of Spring yesterday with a pedicure and now my toes are delightfully periwinkle. Zack has been offered an internship and a bartending gig at Yard's Brewery here in Philly, which is only about 8377948372 times cooler than Starbucks. I'm super proud of him: he's really applying himself and bringing his dreams to life. Someday soon we can all kick back in the little beer café he'll run and wash down my family's long-winded stories with a few cold ones of his own invention.

I'm applying myself, too: after my more professional cover letters stopped getting any kind of response, I threw caution to the wind and wrote one the way I always wanted to: with abandon, with humor, with a surprising amount of parentheticals. And you know what? It worked. Twenty minutes after emailing said letter to a marketing firm, they wrote back and said they'd like to work with me. More freelance gigs, here I come!

This year, I hope to find a home for the comic. I need concept art to send with my proposal, but I'm confident it'll get picked up. It really is something special and I think publishers will agree.

Two weeks from today I will be headed to ITALY!!!!! with my aunt and uncle and Cousin Sa, who has been my best friend and heart's companion since we were both wee little things. Rome, Florence and Assisi won't even know what hit them. Wine, women and song doesn't even begin to cover the effect we have on places.

My firm participates in a 5k run/walk every May, and this year I signed up to run, so I've been training for that. Two miles four times this week and I'm beginning to think it gets a little easier each time. I'll be in fighting form by May 12th, no problem.

What I most miss right now about New England is the ability to really just go outside and enjoy the beautiful weather. Sitting in a park isn't the same, and it's hard to take pleasure walks in Philly without feeling the need to justify them somehow by running an errand or going to a particular place. The streets here aren't really conducive to wandering for wandering's sake. I hope this time next year I'll be planning a move back to the Massachusetts/Rhode Island/Vermont area, but anything can happen. For now, I'll open the windows and maybe pick up some flowers at Whole Foods to brighten the place up.

Oh, yeah, and bust out the skirts and tank tops. I love spring!
pinup love

You don't think I'm the kind of girl who'd throw herself at a man, do you?

I've been musing on a lot of things since my last post here, back in...uh...June. Since then, I've moved into my new apartment, said goodbye to my roommates and closest friends here, and been part of the celebrating at three weddings. Sadly, I'm still working for Marley & Scrooge, but that's neither here nor there.

I've been keeping track of the whirlwind romances of my family members via Facebook, and I have to tell you, it is something to see, if only because I remember those exact things happening to me. I kind of want to sit down with Adriana over some hot chocolate and tell her how, when I was twelve, I fell madly in love with Robbie Gillman, who gave me my first kiss. I want to tell her how some mutual friend who's name I don't remember suggested that I should date Adam Lent, and that's how Adam and I started going out. And I want to tell Dan about my trying to keep dating Goran a secret from my dad, because I think he'd get a kick out of it. I'd like to tell him how Peter broke my heart and how Chris won me over by being silly and sincere. I'd like to tell him how desperately I wanted that high school love to last forever, and how sure I was that it would.

But honestly, I'm shy about talking to my own cousins. Especially Dan, who is much, much cooler than I will ever be.

Since Dawn and Sarah moved away, it seems like all of my new friends come as a pair; even Zack's frat buddies are starting to bring along girlfriends. And there's something about being at weddings that makes you re-evaluate your own relationship, in a frightening sort of way: you think, what if that were me up there? What if that were him? Do I want that? Could we make it work? And it's relieving to be able to answer: no, I don't want that, not right now. It takes a little pressure off.

I spent a lot of time during our break remembering all of the things I love about Zack, and about how he makes me feel, and I've spent a lot of time in the past few months talking with dear friends about their relationships, and it turns out, we all have a lot of the same questions. What's the future going to bring? Are he and my family ever going to be comfortable enough together? Are the little annoying quirks he has going to turn into deal-breakers? Why can't I just be 12 and in love with Robbie Gillman because he has amazing hair??!?

It's quite a lot to think about. And the truth is, I'm going to need to step up and bring up some things I'd rather not, but that's okay. Relationships are two-ways streets, right? And as much as I love the guy, he's going to have to do a lot more than just the dishes if he wants to convince me that we have an entire future together.

Junior high was easier, huh?