Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010: The year I realized that I'm really a big deal.

Okay, not really. I am not a jerk. Well, I'm USUALLY not a jerk. However, I realized that 2010 was a fantastic year. While I know I lack originality in doing this type of blog posting, I still want to get it out there.


What happened that was great:
1. I got a new job that I actually enjoy for the most part. Plus, despite making a paltry salary, I am able to enjoy my life by leaving around 5:00 p.m. nearly every day. Honestly, I think that just not hating my job is a huge upgrade from 2009.
2. I took some great trips. New York City (and BROOKLYN), Indianapolis (ha!), Florida and freaking Panama. It was a good year for travel. I look forward to more of that next year. I remember exactly how much I love traveling and the rush of being someplace new. I remember how giddy I get when I get a really good stamp on my passport (Evil side-eye at the guy in Rome in 2003. That stamp SUCKED. But thumbs up to Panama City. Best stamp yet!)
3. I started writing a ton. While I have always loved writing, I ignored that for a long time, trying to fit into the "Type A" lawyer personality and not much else. Now I'm back to telling my stories and putting them out there (out there being on the Internet, duh.) I was able to snag a bunch more followers (except for you, dearly departed number 38 TODAY. I hate you) which validates me tremendously. Additionally, I got the great opportunity to begin writing for The Smartly Chicago. I am honored that I can call myself one of their writers.
4. Lollapalooza 2010. Awesome. Not only did I get the opportunity to hear some great bands, I also got over my fear of the Porta-Potty. Word to THAT noise.
5. Friends. Once again, my friends proved to be the best around. Dinners, bottles of wine, concerts and all-out fun times were had. Photos were taken, memories were made. I'm so lucky.
6. I moved in with my man-friend. Yep. P.I.C. and I took that leap.
7. I turned thirty. While I did have some brief panic attacks by this big birthday, I realized how great my life is. I had no less than FOUR celebrations, all of which included drinks, desserts and my favorite people (well, most of them). This goes with the friend thing, too. They really know how to make me feel special and not in the short bus way. Thirty is A-OK with me.
8. P.I.C. got down on one knee and told me, "let's do this, grrrrl." I immediately started singing Beyonce "Ooooh, you liked it so you really put a ring on it." (No. This is not how it went down. Do you seriously think I am that lame? I might tell the proposal story one day, but the truth is, I am relishing having it imprinted in my mind and heart. While I didn't cry when he asked me, tears come to my eyes when I think about that night.) So yeah, we're getting married.

While last year, I said NO RESOLUTIONS, I think I'm going to make some this year. Why not? I'm going to put them out there just as an experiment. Let's see how I do.

RESOLUTION ONE: I will not become obsessed with wedding planning and the like. I can plan a wedding and remain sane.
RESOLUTION TWO: Improve my Spanish. After some disastrous attempts at speaking Panama (I swear I took a lot of Spanish in school!), I have a renewed determination to get better. Additionally, P.I.C. and I hope to go to Spain in 2011, so I will have a real opportunity to practice my new skills.
RESOLUTION THREE: Get healthy. I'm not saying I want to lose weight (alright, maybe I do), but I really just want to get into a routine where I feel healthier. Y'know, gym and all that sucky stuff. I mean, ideally, I drop some lbs before my wedding, but let's just try to be a little bit bigger picture, m'kay?

Three resolutions is OK, right? I say it is.

I hope you all have safe and happy New Year's Eve celebrations. I'll be back in 2011!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The story about the BM.

I love Bloody Marys. Really. Everything about them is lovable. They are spicy. Rich. Thick. The good ones come with nice garnishments (meat and cheese fans, put your hands UP). They make drinking vodka with breakfast perfectly acceptable. What's not to love? NOTHING, I say.

A few years back, I was talking to one of my former coworkers (Salty) about how I loved them. She agreed. Also, we decided that "Bloody Mary" was much too tedious to keep repeating. We shortened it. On and on we went about how much we looooooved a good "BM." Of course, our abbreviation caused us to snicker, but we kept on with it. We talked about them at work.

Salty: "Don't you LOOOOOVE a good BM, FA?"
FA: "Oh yes, I do, Salty. Nothing better than a BM in the morning."

On and on, this conversation went. It just didn't get old. Well, another coworker, Old Blue, overheard us professing our love for the BM. He joined in.

Blue: "Man, I love a good BM in the morning. I have one every morning."


Salty (laughing a little): "Wait, Blue, what did you say?"
Blue: "Oh yeah. I had the BEST BM this morning."


Salty: "What are you, an alcoholic?"

Blue's smug look turned to one of confusion. He cocked his head to the side and just looked at Salty.

Blue: "Wait, what?"
Salty: "We are talking about BLOODY MARYS, Blue. Duh. What are YOU talking about? Wait. WHAT? You were telling us about your BOWEL MOVEMENTS?"

At this moment, Salty and I began laughing hysterically. Blue had just told us all about his bowel movement regularities. His face turned BRIGHT red (no small feat for the usually inappropriate and nasty Blue) and he just looked away. Eventually, he started laughing, but he was quite clearly embarrassed.

On that note, I have a killer BM recipe to share with you. I adapted it from one given to me by my brother. He used to spend time bar tending up in Wisconsin (where the best Bloody Marys in the world can be found, TRUST ME) and he passed this recipe along to me.

--Can of tomato juice
--Worcestershire sauce
--pickle juice (sometimes I use the juice from a jar of banana peppers instead)
--Horseradish (I use the prepared kind in the jar)
--celery salt (this ingredient is necessary)
--Lime (lemon will work in a pinch)
--Vodka (DUH)

I do this all to taste. I start with a glass and fill it with ice. I squeeze in a wedge of lime, then add my vodka. I pour in a dash each of pickle juice and Worcestershire sauce. Then I spoon in a little horseradish (depends on how much you like.) I top with the tomato juice and a hefty sprinkling of celery salt. Pour into another glass to mix, then back in the original glass. If you want to get fancy, you can rim the original glass with celery salt. Garnish that bad boy with good stuff. My recommendations: Celery and pickles, banana peppers, salami (or any hard meat you have on hand...heh) and cheese are also great. Now you are free to enjoy your morning BM.

How do you guys make YOUR BMs? And also, where have you found the best BMs?

Monday, December 27, 2010

I should have been a nurse.

When I was younger, I was sure I was going to be a nurse. I loved taking care of people. I did well in my science classes. When my dad had his finger injury, I helped him clean his bandages despite the fact that his newly shortened fingers made me wretch a little. I was great at the first aid (thanks, lifeguarding class), I knew all about direct pressure and the like, and I was ready to don some scrubs and SAVE THE WORLD. Or at least some people.

Well. After a few years, I decided that to be really great in science, I'd have to study too much. Oh, and blood? Face it, it totally grossed me out. There was no way I could be a nurse. I'd be awful, passing out at someone's injury or gagging as someone coughed a little too hard. Of course, I decided to be a lawyer so I could still help people. JOKE'S ON ME, RIGHT?

Of course, I get into a relationship with yet another lawyer. Turns out, he's slightly accident prone. Well, honestly, it really is a development as of late, but as of yesterday, it has earned him the nickname of "First Aid." (His nickname before this was "Neighborhood Watch." I am fairly certain that he is the most tolerant individual in the planet. Well, that and the fact that he can take it as well as he can dish it out. He's a teaser as well.) You see last night was the second time that P.I.C. literally DRIPPED blood on my floor due to an injury.

About a month before I moved, a wine glass was broken in my apartment. Now, there are two stories as to exactly whose fault this was. My version? P.I.C. knocked it on the floor. That very action broke the glass. Duh. His version? I CLEARLY had put the glass too close to the edge which put it in a dangerous position to be knocked to the floor. Therefore his simple motion of getting a glass of water was not the reason (OR PROXIMATE CAUSE, for all you lawyers out there) for the actual breaking of the glass. In any event, the damn glass was knocked to the floor and shattered into many shards of glass. Of course, the light was off at the time. P.I.C. had shouted for me, because sadly he was barefoot and was afraid to move. I rushed to the kitchen, turned the light on and proceeded to sweep around him and all around the kitchen. P.I.C.: 1, Wine glass: 0. (Although it should be Fabulously Awkward: 0 because I sure hate to lose one of my long-stemmed drinking devices. Wah.)

The following evening, P.I.C. once again went into my kitchen for some water. (I know. The dude is a camel. No one else needs a sip of water every five seconds, I swear.) No sooner had I heard the thud of the cupboard and the faucet turn on and off when P.I.C. began to swear. I would repeat the words, but even at the age of thirty, I fear my mother would drive to Chicago and wash my mouth out with soap for even REPEATING his words. What happened to cause P.I.C. to scream like a little girl with the vocabulary of a truck driver? Oh, yes. He stepped on a shard of glass that I had apparently failed to sweep up the night before. (Once again, there is a dispute in this story as to WHO was at fault for this chain of events. I won't get into the specifics of this specific argument, but I will tell you that I was not the one picking glass out of HER foot, so perhaps I won no matter whose fault it was.)

Remember how I mentioned before that I hate blood? Well, P.I.C. was dripping blood everywhere. I turned off my lawyer brain (YOU BROKE THE GLASS, NOT ME) and dragged his hobbling self into the bathtub. Many things transpired that night, most of which I blocked out because of my dislike of blood. I thought I got the glass. Turns out, I didn't. He had to go to the podiatrist. There was a nasty tweezing of shard of out his foot. The story makes my stomach curl. I heard it no less than twelve times. I am over it. I refuse to tell it here.

In any event, fast forward to last night. We have lived together for three and a half months. P.I.C. is loading the dishwasher. All of a sudden, he starts in with that swearing little girl scream again. He is cut himself again. On broken glass? NO. On some random piece of the dishwasher sticking out. Once again, he has dripped blood on the floor. I dragged him to the bathroom once again and applied direct pressure (YAY for my first aid knowledge), cleaned his wound and bandaged it up.

He is healing nicely today. Sigh. See? I should have been a nurse.

Also. I am stuck with my First Aid. Why? I forgot to mention, he asked me to marry him. Wheeeeee!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas (Eve!)

While I had a long hiatus from the blog for vacation, I'm making serious attempts to be diligent at writing since I returned home. Coming back from a longer vacation is incredibly different. Honestly, I feel as though I have an excuse for my bad attitude. "Post-vacation" blues or whatnot.

However, this morning, as I sip my Panamanian coffee (black, exactly the way I drank it nearly the entire time I was in Panama, the coffee was truly that good), I am pretty happy to be back to reality. It is Christmas.

I had a minor mental breakdown earlier this week about the season, actually. Given our vacation smack-dab in the middle of Christmas season and the fact that I had focused my entire energy and attention on preparing for and then enjoying my vacation, I did not do anything really for the season. I put up my little tree and that was about it. I didn't get to go through all of my ornaments that my mom had set aside for me (for when I had my own place.) I didn't Christmas shop for my friends and family, something that ordinarily gives me such happiness. And P.I.C. and I chose to not give each other gifts for Christmas in light of our vacation. Instead, we chose to go to the framer and get my birthday present framed. (The artist of those gorgeous screen prints is the husband of a dear friend of mine. He's so talented.)

Lucky for me, P.I.C. picked up those pieces and promised that next year we would get a proper tree. This morning, I have a new perspective on the season. Well, for this year at least. I get to spend time with my family, which makes me very happy. There will be massive amounts of food, drink and holiday cheer, and probably some energetic game-playing. Tomorrow I get to see more family and have MORE food, drink and holiday cheer. There will be Christmas trees galore. I will get to give the family their little tokens from Panama. Eat, drink and be merry, indeed. If I'm feeling real crazy, I might even dress my cat up like an elf. Why not? It's Christmas!!!

This morning, as I drink my black Panamanian coffee (thanks for roasting it, Tito!), I am happy. Christmas is here.

Merry Christmas to you all!

And if you're looking for my insights as to that other "big deal" that's a mere week away, head on over to Smartly Chicago. What are YOUR plans for New Year's Eve?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The hike.

When P.I.C. and I began narrowing down our cities to where we would travel in Panama, one we wanted to hit for sure was Boquete. Meaning "hole," Boquete is a beautiful town in the highlands of Panama, surrounded by lush, tropical mountains and flanked on one side by Volcán Barú, the only volcano in Panama. Additionally, Volcán Barú's summit is the highest in Panama, towering over the other mountains at 3,474 meters (or 11,398 feet for you non-metric users).

We knew Boquete would be an excellent destination because coffee is a huge industry. We love our coffee. We also wanted to do something rather daring and adventuresome. Maybe white-water rafting or a zip-line tour. One day, during the course of my research, I discovered that we could hire a guide to take us to the top of the volcano. Given that the hike was somewhat strenuous (13.5 kilometers up and then 13.5 kilometers back down), many recommended to break the trip up into two days and camp at the top. Talk about an adventure, right? I found one company that not only would provide a guide, but also would provide camping equipment for this adventure, Explora Ya. Perfect. We would hike starting early morning, camp near the top, and then we would climb to the summit before sunrise to watch the sun come up over the mountains. If we were truly lucky and there was a clear moment in the morning, we would be able to see both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, allegedly the only place you can stand in the world and see two major bodies of water.

As an aside, I feel it prudent for me to note at this time that P.I.C. and I are not campers. While I have camped in the past, it had been years since I attempted to stake a tent into the ground. P.I.C. had never camped in his entire life. Additionally, while we walk a great deal in the city, we don't hike. Face it, Chicago is flat, and any hiking opportunities in the region do not boast terrain full of mountains, or even large hills. Not that we ever really hiked in any state parks or anything either. While this information was common knowledge to the both of us, we shrugged it off. We were going to be HIKERS. And we were going to CAMP. ADVENTURE, COMMENCE!

We meticulously purchased hiking gear (shoes, pants, rain jackets and the like) and planned accordingly for the hike. We packed warm gear, not a problem since we were coming from Chicago in December. We brought hike-worthy snacks. We bought our four liters of water the day before. We were ready. We had our backpacks all set. No worries!

We got to Boquete, checked into our hostel and later that evening received a visit from one of the guides at Explora Ya. He wanted to check in to make sure we were set. He advised us to bring our big backpacks since we would be carrying our own sleeping bags, mats, tent and food. We both have the big backpacks, mostly because they make traveling from place to place a bit easier. We both used them in Europe. Never, however, had we used these bags for actual camping. He also gave us the once over and declared us in good enough shape to go on the hike. (That bit made us both laugh.) Still, I was not feeling anxious. Hiking equals WALKING, right? Come on now. I walk all the time. Bring it on, volcano!

Sadly, our night of sleep was disturbed by some serious rooster crowage. I thought they only crowed at sunrise? No. Apparently 3:30 is good enough to break out the cock-a-doodle-doos. We didn't sleep well. The alarm went off too early. No matter, we were packed and ready. We went over to the Explora Ya office and loaded up our packs with the food, our sleeping bags (oh, THAT is what that little compartment is for!), the sleeping mats and the tent. They were somewhat heavy, but we could handle it. No problem.

The guide drove us to the highest point at the base of the volcano, a mere two to three minute walk up to the ranger station. We strapped our packs on and were off. Five minutes later, we arrived at the ranger station. I felt as though my chest would explode. Oh. Altitude. Duh. I forgot about that. We were started at over 1,000 meters above sea level. That is a big different than trekking around flat Chicago sidewalks, I suppose. My heart was beating in my throat and I could not believe how difficult it was for me to catch my breath. For the first time (and not the last that day), I thought, "I cannot do this." The signatures were made in the ranger station and I ignored those feelings of defeat. I pushed on. We began to hike.

The scenery was breath-taking. While my photos do look lovely, the actual panoramic while you are there, gasping for air, climbing higher and higher is enough to take away what little breath you have remaining in your body. Spectacular, truly. We would hike for a bit, then rest, occasionally taking off our heavy packs to let our shoulders rest. Our guide, Rafael, was incredibly knowledgeable not only about the trail, but also about the birds and plants we encountered on our hike. It made for a fun and very informative trip. Turns out, we were not hiking through a rain forest. Because we were over 1,000 meters above sea level, we were in a tropical cloud forest. I liked that. It sounds even MORE magical than a rain forest.

By the time we got to the five kilometer mark, I was struggling. I had to rest every few minutes or so. My breath was becoming more and more difficult to catch. We stopped for lunch. At this point, I was really worried. We were barely to the half-way mark, and I was having serious issues. We heard a rumble in the distance. Our guide told us it was probably an ATV tour. Apparently, the rocky trail was enough to take an ATV to the top, another fun adventure that only took a couple or hours or less. Sure enough a group of ATVs came roaring through. They paused though, stopping to chat with our guide. Sure enough, they all knew each other. After some chatting, they offered to take our bags to the top.



They took our bags from us. We were free to walk up the hill unencumbered by the twenty-five or so pounds we had attached to our backs. Our shoulders rejoiced, and we continued our journey up the volcano. Still, it was difficult, but at no point did I think that I would have to quit. True, at the last 100 meters, P.I.C. had to coax me up twenty-five steps at a time. I did it though. Well, we did it. I wouldn't have been able to do it without his gentle encouragement.

We got to the top a little before 4:00 p.m. Even without our bags for half of the hike, it took us nearly eight hours to reach the top. We set up camp at the telecommunications base to shield us from the wind. It was very cold at the top, so we bundled up in our hats, gloves and extra sweatshirts. We put the tents up, then sat down and had some wine. Shortly after that, we had our dinner: chicken and rice. It hit the spot after a very long day of physical exertion. We went into the tent at about 6:00 p.m. with the idea that we would take a nap and wake up to see the stars later. We woke up, but only to the sound of a hard rain pelting our tent. Back to sleep we went until about 11:30 p.m. We both had to get up, so we had the opportunity to check out the night view. The rain had let up and the skies cleared to show us the magnificence of the sky and the stars. Never in my entire life have I seen so many stars. It was tremendous. We were exhausted, however, and made our way back to the tent for more sleep.

Rafael woke us a little before 6:00 a.m. It was time to climb to the summit and watch the sunrise. I threw new contacts in (how I accomplished this with my cold and grubby fingers was beyond me. Say what you will, but hand sanitizer doesn't make your hands feel truly clean.) and were out of the tent as soon as we were able. We began the last 20 meters to "la clima." There was a brief assent, then we had to climb up some rocks. It wasn't intense as in "we should have had ropes," but both P.I.C. and I confessed to each other that it was enough to make us feel like we were on a Mission Impossible.

We reached the top for the sunrise. Words can't do it justice. Honestly. That says a lot for me, a woman clearly of many, many words. We felt as though we were on top of the clouds.

A semi-lovely morning, we were able to see the sun rise, the Pacific Ocean and the mountains of Costa Rica. It was too cloudy to see the Caribbean Sea (we were lucky to see that up close and personal a few days later), but the views unobstructed by clouds were marvelous. Shortly after the sun was up, the clouds came in and we climbed back down the rocks to our camp site.

We packed up and headed on down. Because it had rained, conditions were slick. I fell. Four times, in fact. I was tired, it was slippery, and my legs felt as though they were made of jello. It was hard to remain upright. The journey down was more business and less sight-seeing. We made it down to the bottom in under six hours with our packs the entire time.

We. Did. It.

In retrospect, I think we were absolutely insane to embark on such a challenging and intense hike. We should have settled for one of the half-day hikes and called it a day. However, I would never take back the experience and the sense of accomplishment I felt at reaching the top. It was incredible. The views were spectacular, and really, when can you say you hiked to the top of a volcano? Not that often. In the event you have a momentary lapse in sanity, I highly recommend the guides from Habla Ya/Explora Ya. They were very knowledgeable, professional and very fun. It's not a cheap tour, but since we were not great hikers, we wanted to go with a person who knew what he (or she) was doing.

Also, we were incapable of walking for three days after this. Seriously.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The time we left the old crotchety woman at the rest stop. (Also known as a thigh-to-thigh ride on a tiny bus.)

In writing about my vacation, I am tempted to do it chronologically (just like I upload my photographs). It makes a lot of sense that way, and ideally it will allow me to recap the highlights of our fabulous vacation. Honestly? That will be boring to nearly everyone (aside from the people who want to know exactly what I was doing last Sunday a tent, sleeping, thanks for asking).

In planning our vacation, we quickly became overwhelmed. A whole country, albiet a small one, is a rather daunting task for nine days. As an aside, nine days is a great American vacation. Sadly, after meeting numerous Australians, Europeans and even a South African, nine days is shit. These people were on months-long and even YEAR-long trips to Central America. I think they're jerks. Well, I don't really think they were jokes. Most were quite nice, actually. However the idea of being able to really and truly explore an area of the world and then return to your stable job is so very appealing.

So, we had nine days in Panama. We chose to split it up among Panama City, Boquete and Bocas del Toro. We would get a little urban exposure in Panama City, some beautiful mountain scenery and outdoor adventure in Boquete and spend our last few days island-hopping and getting some sun in Bocas. Clearly, it was not long enough. As I waited for the el this morning, I couldn't help but feel as if I hadn't left at all.

Enough asides, on with the stories!

From Boquete, we had to take two buses to get to Bocas del Toro. We had to first take an American school bus back to David, then get on another bus to Almirante. In total, we were looking at a minimum of five hours in various buses. We made our bus to David on time (in fact, we had enough time for P.I.C. to order us coffee. IN SPANISH. I'm so proud of his new language skills.) We had left early, not wanting to waste the entire day sleeping in our hostel. If we were going to sleep, it would be by the pool at our island resort, naturally. In any event, we made it to David just before 8:00 a.m. We hopped on the tiny bus, they strapped our backpacks to the top of the bus and we waited. 8:00 a.m. came and went. So did 8:30 a.m. More and more people crowded onto the bus after 8:30. The seats were tiny, P.I.C. and I were pressed thigh to thigh and my butt was STILL hanging out into the aisle. Lucky for me, this meant that every person passing me would whack into me in some fashion. This would not have been that big of a deal until I realized that they were going to stop on the sides of mountains and let more and more people on the bus.

We were still sitting at the bus terminal in David when an elderly lady came up with several large bags. She started shouting at the driver and his assistant that she wanted on the bus. (Now, this is where you can be impressed wiht MY language skills. By this time, I was able to understand nearly everything she was saying, which made it much more fun for me.) The bus driver told her that there was no more room, but she insisted that she would climb all the way and take that LAST SEAT. Then she yelled at them to put her bags up on the top of the bus. It was actually quite hysterical until she got on the bus with a cane and whacked me not only with her cane, but also her ample booty. At that moment, her bossiness began to irritate me, and I lose my sense of humor. (What can I say, I'd been sitting on the bus for 45 minutes thigh to thigh with P.I.C. I was uncomfortable already!)

Our bus ride started off around 9:00 a.m. We were completely full when we left. There was a driver and then there was a younger guy that would stand by the back door. He kept the door open for the most part and then would kind of hang out it as we went by groups of people on the road to see if they wanted to hop on. Yes, at much of the time, I had people's butts in my face. And my thigh was still snugly against P.I.C.'s. Off we went, thigh to thigh, the occasional butt in my face winding up and down the mountains at break-neck speeds. Well, once we were up in the mountains, it was as if our bus was the "Little Engine that Could," going "CHUG-A-CHUG-A-CHUG."

After two hours, we pulled over into a rest stop. I had been curbing my liquids so I could make it all the way without having to stop. I mean, rest areas are terrifying in the U.S., and I had a scary hover-toilet experience at the Albrook Airport, so I stayed on the bus. Additionally, P.I.C. had to use the facilities, so I figured I would stay on in the event he wasn't back timely. We had fifteen minutes. Nearly the entire bus emptied out to either use the restrooms or buy some lunch. Of course, lady with a cane pushed her way out to be one of the first people out of the bus. In so doing, she whacked me really good once again with her cane. Honestly, I don't know why she had the cane because she moved really quickly. I suspect it was a weapon of sorts. (That's just my opinion though.) P.I.C. made it back on the bus along with seemingly everyone else. He assured me that the rest stop was just as horrifying as I had imagined.

I don't think the bus actually stopped for fifteen minutes. Soon, the bus driver and his helper were shouting out the window, "CHANGUINOLA! CHANGUINOLA!" Once again, we were off.

I was trying to enjoy the ride, snapping a few photos out the bus window.

The scenery was really quite beautiful.

About twenty minutes after we left the rest area, P.I.C. begins craning his neck to look at the back of the bus.

P.I.C. "Um, guess what? I don't think that old lady with the cane got back on the bus."

Of course, my head immediately swivels back and notices the same thing. That "ultimo" seat she had demanded to sit in? Empty. Lady with the cane was most definitely not on the bus.

I turn back to P.I.C. with my eyes wide open, trying not to start laughing, only to see him laughing so hard he was crying. Then the floodgates opened. Thigh to thigh, we sat there for a good twenty minutes in silent, tearful laughter, imagining that crabby hustling out of the rest area to find her bus and her luggage long gone.

We're not the best people in the world. I know this. But laughter that makes your whole body ache is just that: a really, really good laugh.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

I'm baaaaack.

Hi friends. Obviously, I have not been as diligent in my blogging lately. I swear, I have a very good reason: I was on VACATION. Yep. P.I.C. and I took a much-needed trip for nine whole days to Panama. Panama, the country, not the lame city in Florida, that is.

We are now rested, relaxed and duly whining about Chicago cold. It is as though we never left. Well, except that we now both have toasty tans. (As toasty as us two very white people get, that is.)

I have plans on writing much more about our adventures. You'd think, and you'd be entirely right, that there is a lot of writing for me to do to tell you all about our trip and the awkwardness that ensued when I realized exactly how poor my Spanish language skills have become. I promise, there will be stories.

For now, you will have to be satisfied with a few photos.

The canal, from our tiny plane.

Our camp-sight after our hike. That little orange blob is our tent. I took this photo from the very top of the volcano (Volcan Baru.)

Coffee beans, on Tito's farm.

Monkey stare-down outside our hotel, Cerro Ancon, Panama City.

The gorgeous view from the balcony attached to our room at Garden of Eden Resort in Bocas del Toro.
Stories to come, I promise! For now, I need to do some laundry and rest. Oh, and Christmas is less than a week away. Yikes!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Calm down, lady. I'm not trying to steal your money.

Today, P.I.C. and I met for a lovely lunch. It's always nice to see him in the middle of the day. Afterwards, we took a walk to the bank so he could deposit a check. We walked over to the nearby atrium where there were some ATMs out of the cold where he could do his business.

As P.I.C. stood at the ATM punching in his code and getting ready to feed his check into the machine, there was a woman at the ATM next to him having some rather apparent difficulties. A middle-aged woman with very badly-dyed blond hair, she was not the most polished lady in the loop today. Clearly. As I stood by P.I.C., she had tried to get the attention of someone through the window of a store in the atrium and walked away from the ATM. She walked back, looking rather disgruntled and frustrated, shooting me a dirty look as she re-punched in her PIN. Another lady walked up to help her, and Lady Number 1 explained, "It will only take two checks." She then lowered her voice and physically moved the other lady so that I was unable to witness what was transpiring at the ATM next to the one P.I.C. was using. She also shot me another nasty look.

I admit that I can have a staring problem. What of it? I find people interesting, and if I didn't eavesdrop, I'd never have anything to write about. However, I swear I wasn't fully staring at this lady. She just wasn't interesting aside from her apparent frustration that made me see her as a difficult person. Don't ask me how I made that determination, she just seemed like a bitch even BEFORE she glared at me.

CALM DOWN, lady. I seriously was NOT going to watch you enter your PIN, conspire to steal your card when you were not looking and steal all of your money. I promise. Sheesh.

(ALSO. For those of you who might appreciate these kinds of things, I said PIN, and not PIN Number. I know that's redundant. I also did NOT say ATM Machine. HELLO?! Redundant again. I'm so smart. I bet that lady at the ATM machine was having problems with her PIN number. She seemed the type to say those sorts of things.)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Know yourself.

I am attempting to fit as much cold-fighting tea into my body over the next several days. I'm not sure if it is the fact that it is freezing in Chicago right now and I am breathing in cold dry air that makes my throat feel a tickle or the fact that I spent the weekend with one very congested P.I.C., but I am so paranoid that I am coming down with a cold.

My favorite new remedy for colds? Yogi tea. The "Cold Season" is like a Vicks Vaporub for your mouth and makes you breathe so much easier. I love it. Another thing that I love about it? It has little introspective sayings on the tab.

"It's not a privilege to know others. Know yourself. That's a privilege." (No author is noted.)

While I admit that I am not the most introspective person. I don't meditate, my yoga skills are very unrefined and other than writing out my gripes in blog format, I don't engage in much personal self-reflection. However, I do believe that after thirty years of life, I have a firm grasp of who I am. I am fairly certain that I "know myself."

But right now? I can't figure out if I am getting sick. (BUT I KNOW MYSELF...I SHOULD KNOW THIS.)

Oh, Yogi. Please save me.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Honestly? I'm kind of sad.


Because this little guy?

I call this my mummy sleeping position.
He's residing with my mom for the next two weeks. I brought him there today.

I have lived in my own apartment since 2003. Aside from one night he had to spend at the vet's office, I have lived with that furry, Gizmo-looking creature for SEVEN years. My house feels empty without him. I am sad.

Honestly, I am grateful that I won't have to worry about him while we are gone. My mom's little kitten will keep him plenty busy. But now? I see his toys spilled out over my bedroom floor (because the second I put them all away, he dumps the thing over to get his favorite...catnip cigar), and I miss him.

I know, some people are probably rolling their eyes saying "CRAZY CAT LADY, WTF?!" To those people, I say suck it. Everyone else, feel free to leave me a comment showing how much you care that MY CAT IS NOT IN MY HOUSE TONIGHT.

Thank you.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Welcome to winter.

The view from our porch. The snow makes the alley a bit let nasty-looking, no?

The weatherman called for snow last night. There was a "winter weather advisory" which, for those of you not privy to such weather forecasts, means it gon' snow. It gon' snow a lot. And it's going to be a bitch to get around. Well, either that, or there will be two thousand snow plows just parked and hovering near the highways, ready to salt the shit out of the roads and we get nothing more than a good chill. One of the two will surely happen.

However, as evidenced by the photograph about, the winter weather advisory was spot on last night. It did snow.

My position on snow? Glad you asked. I love it. Until February. Then I am ready for spring (well, what constitutes spring in Chicago, that is) and the ensuing summer that hopefully follows. So, today, December 4, 2010, I am saying, "I LOVE THIS SNOW." Granted, I have not attempted to back the above-photographed vehicle out of its parking spot. Odds are good there will need to be a shovel involved. Did I mention that they do not plow any sort of natural accumulation in the alleys? Oh boy.

So, another view of the alley and the snow on the mess of cables back there. (DON'T just my sans nature snow photographs. I refused to remove myself from my Christmas gnome PJ pants to leave the safety of my porch. I'm not sorry.)
What do I love about snow from today until February 1? Well, I love my boots. I did all of this research last year to find the perfectly cute and warm snow boots since we wear them for several months out of the year. My feet are currently staying dry and toasty in some cute and functional Patagonia Lugaro boots.

I am SO warm and keep feet SO dry. 
While I don't love them near as much as the Uggs I bought several years back (now THOSE were some seriously warm and lovely boots), they do function well. I also suspect that they make my feet smell. That could just be my feet. I prefer to blame it on the boots. They ARE made of recycled materials...who knows.

I love that when it snows like this, fashion becomes less a "who are you wearing" and more of a crazy mismatched scarf-hat-mitten combination accented by pink cheeks and little visible puffs of breath. Well, in my mind it does. I like the mismatched look. I like my pink cheeks.

Another thing? When it snows, that means it is not ridiculously cold. I remember back in the day having snow days, which were totally awesome. You didn't have to go to school and could don snow pants and play outside all day. I also remember those "COLD days." (Anyone remember those?) These were days when the temperature (and accompanying wind chill) rendered it TOO COLD to leave the house to go school. No fun in that, right? Of course, that bitter cold is not a part of the snow. It needs to be a certain temperature to actually have good, sticking snow. Bitter cold is not that. So if it's snowing, you know it's not QUITE so cold outside. Yay!

Mostly, I always dream of a white Christmas. ALWAYS. I can't get into the Christmas spirit without it. Now that the snow has fallen, I am going to dive into my massive Rubbermaid tub and decorate a bit. 'Tis the season, and all that jazz.


Thursday, December 2, 2010


I believe that anyone who works in my line of work has a little bit of a Type A, control-freak to their personality. It's the nature of the game. Personally, mine is not manifested in tidiness of office or home. I tend to be a bit lazy with the organization of my files or my office...or the shoes in my closet. However, when it comes to working my files or deep-cleaning or even folding of the laundry, I am very particular. (P.I.C. has learned this the hard way. Even if it is his turn to wash our towels, he still has me fold them. The first two times he folded them his way, he not only witnessed me re-folding them, but also my accompanying tutorial as to how he SHOULD fold them.)

To say I have my own neurotic streak is putting it mildly. Any big purchase, okay, ANY purchase, really is researched thoroughly. I ask my friends, read reviews, price things out, basically anything to make sure what I am buying is the perfect item to fit my needs.

Our upcoming vacation has been the perfect way for me to really get crazy on my research. The hotels must be affordable, highly rated by travelers and accessible by our travel means. The day trips must be recommended, reserveable and worth the cost. Hiking shoes? Hiking pants? RAIN coat? So. Much. Research. OVERLOAD. I love it.

Suffice it to say that I believe I have thoroughly annoyed the two people with whom I have been corresponding in Panama. They write back once to confirm, and I just cannot resist writing back, "Oh. Heeeeey. Can you tell me which tour you recommend?" Can't. Stop. Writing. In fact, I suspect that some of my recent bout of insomnia is due not only to lack of exercise, but also to this fixation on getting every deal of our vacation perfectly planned. Oh, and my outfits perfectly planned out too. I mean, come on. We will be taking a ton of photos. I want to look casually traveler, NOT like a dorky American. My blond hair and pale skin will give me away fast enough. (And I'm just reminded...when WILL I fit in that spray tan. But should I bother? I bet the nearly 100% Deet spray the guy at Moosejaw sold me will spray it RIGHT OFF. Then I will look a splotchy mess in my bikini. My new, HEAVILY-researched bikini that will not only make me look 10 pounds lighter, but also stay comfortable for a day-long snorkel trip. WELCOME TO MY CRAZY BRAIN, KIDS.)

I hope I can relax when I get there and enjoy myself. I just hope that the new waterproof camera I have my eye on will not bust when I dunk it underwater the first time. Ten out of the two hundred reviews said it did. YIKES.

Pray for me people. I need a vacation. From MYSELF.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Running in the snow

"...I was ruuuuunnnning in the SNOOOOOW..." Y'know, like singing in the rain? Get it???

Whatever. I thought I was being rather clever.

With vacation looming, I have abandoned all ideas of dropping poundage before we leave. There just isn't enough time and I would rather not live the next week on carrots and hard boiled eggs. Don't get me wrong, I like both of those things, but when I limit my diet to minimal carbs and low-calories, my usual mega-bitch lurking below comes out with a vengeance. While others might be amused by my angry and ranting blog postings, much of the time I write those when I really feel crappy about the world. So, in conclusion, I'm going to have my wine, eat my carbs, and have some chocolate. RIGHT BEFORE VACATION. Deal with it. Only P.I.C. has to deal with seeing me in my swim suit, so who cares, right?

All that being said, my concern runs to this hike on which P.I.C. and I will be embarking. Honestly, I just want to avoid keeling over on the side of the volcano. I am not the most regular exerciser. That is not to say that I don't enjoy it. Well, truthfully, I don't. I do know that I feel better when I have been working out regularly. I sleep better, I have more energy. You know, all that crap they tell you to get you to join a gym? It's actually pretty true about exercise. Rather than beating myself up for continually failing to get up early enough to hit the gym before work, I decided I was going to just FIT IT IN SOMETIME TODAY. So today, I fit in a quick run. Outside. In the snow.

My legs? They are very upset with me.

Legs: "Um, really? You're gonna run for a week then NOT run for two weeks and just expect us to be happy about it? We are NOT OK with that. For the rest of today, we will be achy. That achiness will likely feel like someone is ramming a fist into your hamstring tomorrow. ENJOY."

Me: "SHUT UP LEGS. I'm preparing you for the volcano. Stop being little bitches."

(Doesn't everyone talk to their body parts?)

So I bundled up with my two sweatshirts on, my hat and P.I.C.'s shuffle (he makes the best running mixes) and set off for a little run. Sadly, a song and a half later, the shuffle died. It was just me and my thoughts for the duration. It was actually very nice. The snow was the powdery sort. Big flakes, yes, but they merely floated through the air lazily, as if to say, "Welcome to December, Chicago." Thankfully, it wasn't sticking around otherwise I would have feared for my own safety. Not only have I not run in two weeks, but I also seem to have a problem with tripping and falling. I am a klutz.

So me and my thoughts? We were just fine. I didn't fall down. I ran without walk breaks. I did NOT sing. Remember, the shuffle died? I absolutely CANNOT sing without my back-up music. Now, aside from my legs being jerks, I feel pretty good.