Saturday, September 26, 2009

So fragile

Today I was cooking and realized, right in the middle of things, that I needed eggs. Really just an egg, but its not something that you buy individually. I quick ran over to the grocery store, found the eggs and hurried to the check out counter.

Usually when I’m buying a single item, I skip getting a bag. It seems like a waste for a single item, and I always picture forests devoid of trees or a landfill full of plastic bags in a million years.

I told the bagger to skip the bag, and he looked at me and said, “Really? Without a bag, the eggs could break.”

I took the eggs without the bag, and walked out of the store wondering how much protection a plastic bag really does offer.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


I recently went to a job interview where at the end, I was asked what my hobbies are. What did I do with my free time. I froze.

So I’ve been thinking, what would I want to say? I had been thinking of ways to meet other people here, and so far I had decided that I wanted to get involved in a church, maybe join a knitting group and look into a community garden project. But how would these play out in a job interview?

Job interview question: What do you do for fun?

Answer 1: I’m very involved in my church. It’s a Unitarian church
Possible response A: Interviewers don’t know what a Unitarian is and assume I’m just a crazy religious person.
Possible response B: Interviewers know what a Unitarian is and assume I’m just a crazy person.

Answer 2: I knit
Possible response A: You might just be a young version of an old crazy lady with cats.
Possible response B: You must be very industrious, and considerably older than you appear. Also, will you make me a sweater?

Answer 3: I garden.
Possible response A: You are someone who spends their time at work wanting to leave to go outside
Possible response B: You are cool and sporty
(I made the mistake once of telling my coworkers about my upcoming backpacking trip and my beautiful garden. Everyone assumed I was sporty and outdoorsey. They never learned the truth, but it explained many of my strange interactions with them.)

I ended up saying I liked to knit.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


I’ve been watching the TV show Supernanny lately. I like it because I like to watch other people’s problems, and be flabbergasted at how bad the kids can be. Plus, I like to think I’m preparing for having my own kids and getting some good tips on how to work with children.

But as a social worker, I am freaked out for these families! Moms who make their kids eat soap, dad’s who are using physical punishment WAY too often, children wandering unsupervised and into unsafe situations. This week there was an episode of a mom who is already at her rope with 7 kids and a dad who is about to leave for 18 months. This sounds like a tragedy about to happen.

The shows always end on a high note with the families discussing all the ways that Supernanny has improved their relationships and their skills for interacting together; but there are definitely times when Supernanny makes a recommendation (like, don’t make your kid eat chemicals as punishment) that the parents refuse to listen to. I sit on my couch and wonder how I can contact protective services on Supernanny’s behalf (I don’t think it will work, but I fantasize about what I would say in such a call. Hello, I was watching TV and you should follow up with this family….).

Why can’t Supernanny just teach all the parents a little song that makes them perfect, safe parents who raise lovely little British children? Julie Andrews could do it.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Concert

A friend of mine drove up (or over, or down, or whatever) from Madison to visit me for a few days. Part of the visit was going to see her favorite band, a “hillbilly rock” group called “Lucero.” I haven’t been to a concert or anything of the sort since high school, so I was a bit nervous, and excited to see a good band. They were playing at the first night of an outdoor street fair, called the DIY festival—a big craft fair with a lot beer.

The night did not start off on the best note. We got a late start from the house, and the unfamiliar roads eventually led me to run a red light (although Callie and I agreed, it was a confusing intersection). But we were determined to have a good time. We watched the last songs of the opening band, and snuck into the front as their fans filed out, but before Lucero’s fans made the journey from the Beer Garden to the stage. We had an amazing spot. We were touching the stage—front and center. We made plans to take the lead singer’s beer glass at the end of the night.

Then, the first sign of trouble. The ringleaders of a drunk group of 19 year olds who drove “all the way from Ohio” started screaming their love for the various members of the band. This love quickly turned to angry impatience as the band took “too long” to set up. While we were standing next to the ringleader’s dreamily intoxicated girlfriend, he kept yelling “are you tuning a harp?” at the bass player. Apparently, this is a hilarious heckle in Ohio.

But the show began. We were excited to dance and sing along to the music. After the first song, the audience got excited too. The crowd began to surge into us in waves, pushing us against the stage. The band made several announcements that if the crowd surfing did not stop, the cops would shut down the show. The drunk Ohio fans started a mini mosh pit (which Callie and I strongly resented being involved in). The ringleader shoved us, and Callie shoved him back, which apparently affronted his honor. He cursed Callie out, and proceeded to attempt to dump his drinks on us. We stuck it out, as the mosh pit grew behind us, a throbbing mass of elbows and knees that had the remarkable ability to always hit you in the kidneys. The final decision to move came as I looked up as a pair of feet were coming towards my head.

We ended up enjoying the rest of the concert hiding behind the speakers, still occasionally being hit by the crowd and dodging the beer being thrown at the stage.

Afterwards, Callie informed me that it was the craziest show she had ever been to. She felt bad that this was my first concert in such a long time and we spent more time avoiding certain death than listening to the music. I said it was okay, it’d give me something to blog about.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Techno Guilt

When I was a kid, I thought that in the future, we’d have all sorts of talking gadgets. “Hello, Refrigerator.” “Good morning Jenny, would you like some milk.” “Yes, please. Tell Microwave I said hi.”

Brian got me a GPS for my birthday. Every time I turn it on, I imaging these same conversations. “Please take me to the grocery store.” My GPS’ voice is not as friendly, and the conversation is sparse, but its still a fun little fantasy.

Unless you don’t follow the directions properly. Every time I miss a turn or overshoot an exit, my GPS says “Recalculating.”

Yesterday I went for a job interview on a road with several detours. Every time I left the directed route, my GPS chided me with a “recalculating.” Now, I know the voice tone doesn’t change, but I swear, the voice became more scornful, more annoyed and louder every time. I became anxious, I contemplated driving on the road with the construction just to avoid the voice! Every thing I did it was watching, and judging me, and criticizing me! I started apologizing to the GPS, begging it to stay calm and that I’d get back on track as soon as I could, if it would just give me a moment!

Then I remembered; there’s a mute feature.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Safety First

I have watched two movies in the last three days about trying to go on after your spouse dies. I am considering asking Brian to wear a helmet on the bus from now on.

They say our love won’t pay the cable bill

When I moved to Michigan with no job and no prospects, I knew paying the bills would be hard. I didn’t know it would be literally difficult.

We got our first cable bill this week. It was for roughly twice the amount we signed up for with the cable company.

Step one: Call cable company. Speak to representative who changes bill back to original amount.

Step two: Set up account to pay bill online through cable company’s website.

Step three: Attempt unsuccessfully to view or pay bill online. Give up and go watch TV.

Step four: Try again next day to view or pay bill online. Bill is still in previous amount.

Step five: Call cable company and speak to representative to pay bill

Step six: Convince representative that even though the cable bill not in my name, I should be allowed to pay. Her response: “yeah, most people wouldn’t pay someone else’s bill.”

Step seven: Hurriedly abort paying bill over the phone to avoid a service fee of $4 for using the phone to pay.

Step eight: Drive out to cable company, spend an hour in line, speak directly to representative. Representative informs me that the phone bill pay went through, but I was not charged the $4.

I’m actually quite proud of my accomplishments.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Another Domestic Partner Update

So I’ve already posted about the University threatening to evict us and finally granting us an exception that allows us to happily live together in sin. At the end, I said I’d be filing a complaint with the woman who screamed at Brian on the phone, rudely asked personal questions, sent us a rude email that essentially called us liars but finally granted our exception.

I called the housing main office to ask who the woman’s supervisor was. I was truly shocked to hear that she has no supervisor. She is the head of all of the Northwoods and graduate apartments.

“She’s in charge. Whoa. Serious?”
I ended up talking to someone who was her superior. So let’s hope it makes a change.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A bath for two

When Brian and I first moved into our new place, we weren’t happy, but we quickly decided that we could deal. I even started to like the place. It didn’t seem too different from Eagle Heights, and its still has more space than some apartments we’ve lived in before.

So the current excitement isn’t from the space or the apartment staff, it’s our new neighbors.

The neighbors are a family with two grandparents, two parents and one developmentally disabled son. The grandparents often take their grandson out to play infront of our apartments, sitting on the benches outside and look directly into our living room. They don’t seem to think its awkward when they make eye contact with us while we’re trying to watch TV or eat dinner.

The son is non verbal and makes moaning noises both to communicate and otherwise. With our thin walls, we’ve been able to hear the son’s noises, but yesterday was a whole new level of communal living.

I decided to take a bath, relax and read a book. The only room that actually shares a wall between our two apartments is the bathroom, and this was the first time that I spent a lot of time in there since the new neighbors move in.

I’ll be honest, I was in the tub for several hours during the middle of the day. Sure it’s a bit self indulgent, but I’m unemployed, I need some pampering. Anyway, this was apparently also the same time that the family was giving their son a bath, someone else was taking a shower, several people used the bathroom (while talking on the phone, or to another person in the apartment) and the linen closest was being cleaned.

Every thing they did, sounded as if it was coming from our apartment. I was fine with the talking, I tuned it out. I dealt with the linen closet opening and closing, and the shower running. When the kid started screaming and crying about getting a bath, I gave up.

Call me weird, but it just seems wrong to take a bath with someone else’s kid.

A walk with the Scientists

On Saturday, Brian and I went to the annual Ecology and Evolutionary Biology department getaway. We drove out to somewhere in the woods for a day of hiking, games, food and meeting other students and their families from the department.

The un-funny part of the story is that we met several students who were a lot of fun and are looking forward to becoming friends with.

The more interesting part of the day was the activities. We started the day with a nature walk to a local bog and fen. I was excited to go for a nice hike in nature with people who were so knowledgeable about the surroundings. I thought it might be like when I was a kid and we’d go for walks with our dad who would point out animal tracks and the different kinds of trees as we hiked. “There’s a maple. There’s a really big maple. I think that’s a walnut.”

We started out walking through the woods. Five minutes into the walk our guide pointed out “most of the ground cover we are walking through is toxicodendron radicans, poison ivy.” The members of our group with sandals and shorts looked uncomfortable and I was happy that I had decided to leave on my jeans for the walk.

We stopped a bit further in to learn about a certain type of bush. Both its Latin and colloquial names, as well as which butterflies (both their Latin and colloquial names) are most likely to be found on the bushes.

We continued walking, only to stop again to learn more Latin.

This set the pace for the hike. Three or four minutes of hiking punctuated by five minutes of learning. Our group also had a fungi expert, so we got to learn all about that as well as plants and the general ecosystem of bogs and wetlands.

So the morning was nerdy, but the afternoon was even more so.

We had a photo scavenger hunt, which I usually get very competitive about. I imagined being given a list of things like: funny looking pant formations, a robin, a deer track, a seed, a leaf. I should have known better.

The list included: decomposition, mutualism, neutral theory, microhabitat, two species of the same genus, carbon cycle, interspecific competition, phenotypic plasticity, niche theory, and polyploidy, among others. The ecologists all thought this was the best game ever.

Apparently having an old guy hold a card that says “senescence” is hilarious to ecologists.

I’m sure over time I’ll pick up the concepts and jokes. For now, I’m happy to be the photographer.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Love Actually Moment

Hugh Grant Voice over:

I had a great plan for today’s blog. There were going to be two, one about things that happened to me yesterday and another about things that happened to me this morning. Those will be posted tomorrow. Today’s blog is a bit of a different post than other days, but it’s important.

My grandpa’s best friend died on Friday. Grandpa and Carl met in elementary school. They were both from the same SMALL town, and as far as I know, they’ve been close that whole time. Somewhere around 75 years of friendship. Most people can’t even conceive of that. It doesn’t process for us, not only because we haven’t lived for 75 years, but because we often have friends that come and go from our lives. We don’t think that sitting next to someone in class will mean that you’re walking side by side in walkers 75 years later. Sometimes we think about romantic love like that, but not friendship love.

Grandpa and Carl, with his wife, having a dinner together this summer

I hope that when I’m 80, I have friends who can remember what I was like when I was 30, or 20, or 10. Well, I can’t think of many people that I’m still friends that knew me when I was 10, so let’s go with 15.

Today is also my best friend’s one year wedding anniversary. H and J—major congrats. I am excited to dance the funky chicken with you two in exactly 74 years.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Walk with the Animals

Back in our last apartment, we had our share of animals. A hawk out by the garden who would regularly get his butt kicked by sparrows, three wild turkeys who did not get along with the crows, raccoons with attitude. So we’re accustomed to the wildlife.

Since moving to our new place, we’ve seen

3 deer (only one pictured here), by playground equipment, garbage dumpsters and the major road leading to our complex

A flock of geese outside our kitchen window

2 woodchucks (not pictured)

And the overly-friendly squirrel

As exciting as it was to see the deer just feet away from our apartment, the overly-friendly squirrel has been the most heart stopping encounter.

We met overly-friendly squirrel (OFS) on our way to the grocery store. We were about to walk out the door when we noticed OFS inches away from the screen. Instead of being afraid of us, OFS just stared. That wasn’t too unexpected, lots of animals in the area understand doors and windows as barriers between humans and them, so aren’t concerned that you try to scare them through the window.

We waited a moment for OFS to scamper off. He ran part way to a tree, and we walked outside. As soon as our feet touched the pavement, OFS stopped. He turned to look at us and sat up on his hind feet. I said “shoo!”

OFS did not shoo.

OFS came closer to us. OFS wanted to love us.

I did not want to love OFS and booked it to the car instead.

We haven’t seen OFS since, but every time I see a squirrel that does not immediately run away from me, I get ready to run away from OFS.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Drive

I went on an interview in Detroit today. The 45 minute drive gave me some time to think, and to observe my fellow drivers. Every time you move to a new place, you notice the drivers. It takes some driving to get used to the new rules of the road.

I came up with some guidelines to help me.
-If the driver ahead of you is going too slow, simply tailgate them. Its not rude, its driving.
-The speed limit on most highways is 70 for cars and 60 for trucks. For all drivers, this means you can drive between 55 and 85.
-Passing on the right is also perfectly acceptable
-U Turns are acceptable, anytime.
-The Michigan left: its not uncommon to come to a two way road, that does not allow you to turn left on to the road. Most drivers take a right, make a U turn and go straight. My GPS also recommends this action as well.
-Left turn lights will be clearly marked, not only with arrows, but also with signs.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Ring tones say so much

While I was at the post office yesterday, someone’s cell phone started to ring. The ring tone was something familiar. I couldn’t tell what the song was, but I remembered it was moving and emotional. And that it was a song I really enjoyed.

The ring tone continued and I realized, it was the theme to Titanic. Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On.”


Saturday, September 5, 2009

Domestic Parner Update

I blogged last week about our problems with the University’s requirement that puts Brian and I between a rock and a marriage hard place. To recap—the university requires all non student residents to be married or have a domestic partnership with their student roommate. Upon arriving, we were threatened with eviction or a legal domestic partnership.

We wrote an email to the Housing Powers That Be asking them to grant us an exception on the grounds that 1) I’d lose my insurance and 2) we could not find any mention of the requirement in the lease and 3) we were told verbally on the phone that a 2012 wedding was not a problem.

A few days ago we received the much-waited for email letting us know that we had been granted our exception. And since the woman is particularly nasty, she reiterated that the exception was given because of the insurance situation, and that we had not read the lease nor given our wedding date to the university.

We’ve decided to contact her superior.

It’s like a grocery store with nothing but deodorant

Brian and I have always been avid readers. Now that I’m done with school and Brian has spent five years mocking the fact that I always read the same sad set of books over and over, I have finally gotten myself a library card.

Brian and I made our first two trips to the library while we were running errands. They were nice libraries, but they weren’t going to be our library. Today, we went to our local branch location to pick up some movies and books for the next few weeks.

The library was modern. Sleek. Pristine. And utterly devoid of books. We were able to locate a few short rows of children’s books, but no novels. Finally, we had to ask an employee, “where are the books?” she directed us to eight rows of “adult” reading selection, two rows of which were travel books.

Luckily, the library has a great online request system.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Define "not friendly"

When Brian first decided on moving to Ann Arbor, I was nervous. I had only been in Michigan once, and it was a very unsanitary experience. What would the weather be like? Would the people be Midwest-nice? Did they have even crazier words for ATM and drinking fountain? I began to ask everyone who had lived in Michigan or Ann Arbor what the city was like. I was told several times that it was “very nice” and “not as bike friendly as Madison”. “Very nice” was good, and Brian and I weren’t bike crazy, we just took ours to and from campus mostly, with occasional side trips.

Today Brian learned what “not as bike friendly” means. Apparently, it involves every road on campus lacking a bike lane, so bikes interact freely with traffic. It also includes speed bumps while going up hill. It means that the bike ride to campus really is up hill both ways. And it means that drivers hate you.

Brian had the thrilling experience of being cut off and narrowly avoiding being hit by a car. While we know plenty of people who have had near misses or actually collisions while biking, it usually was because cars don’t notice bikes. This one definitely noticed him, because before almost hitting him the driver was yelling “Get back on the sidewalk.”

So if someone asks me what Ann Arbor is like, I’ll say “very nice” and “bike hostile.”

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Its the Final Countdown

When Brian and I got engaged, my family was quite happy for us and very supportive. It was an exciting, but not unexpected event. Since it happened a mere three weeks before my sister’s wedding, my dad’s first response was that we should have a double wedding.

That idea was rejected by all parties involved.

Dad relented, but wanted to know when we thought we would actually get married. I told him we were thinking September 1st 2012 might be an option, depending on how things play out. He responded with something about reeling in the fish before it gets off the hook. I glared at him and refilled our beers.

I’m told by momma, that on Tuesday, dad woke up and said “Well, we’ve had a month of recovery [from sister’s wedding], and its exactly three years until September 1st, 2012.”

Apparently my dad is excited to have another wedding.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Another landmark

Having been in a relationship for a while, Brian and I figured we knew all there was to know about each other. I know when Brian hasn’t had enough water to drink just by watching him; he knows when my stomach hurts just by talking to me.

But even five years later, we can still surprise each other. Like on Sunday when we went to the grocery store. I happily gorged myself on samples of veggie dip and salsas. Brian just stared at me and remarked “unsanitary.” I don’t know how long we’ve lasted, me a jolly free loader and him a neat freak, but I think we’ve got many good years to come.