Archive | September, 2013

Spoiled Adult Children

30 Sep
No, no you don't.

No, no you don’t.

Since this whole wedding thing is inching ever nearer, I have been looking into the future. Maybe it’s the upcoming date, maybe it’s seeing my own niece grow up – but, I’ve been really thinking about this whole “mom” thing right now. And observing very, very closely.

This weekend, we celebrated my birthday (because one day for a birthday, really? C’mon!) so we went to Panera, as we like to do. We haven’t been to the restaurant since living in the Midwest, so we were super excited to learn that there was one in Downtown Hoboken. We excitedly chittered and chattered after getting off the train. I was going to get broccoli and cheddar soup with a chicken panini. Nate: Samesies! Sometimes going to a chain restaurant can be pretty amazing because it tastes basically the same anywhere. Usually, we try to go to new places around here, but for Panera, we made an exception. I knew what I was getting, so that was pretty awesome.

There was an art festival going on downtown, so we expected the restaurant to be busy. We are pretty easy going, and there was lots of little kids running around, but we thought, “eh, we are in it for the food.” We plopped down at a booth and started talking about our upcoming marriage counseling session that night. Suddenly, a balloon slammed in my face. Heh. We were sitting in a small booth and across the room, a few couples had taken refuge at a few tables – eating with their many small children. They had lined up strollers and toys all around their space, making it impossible for other patrons to squeeze in at other empty tables, even though space was extremely limited. The couples were busy gabbing, not paying attention to any of the children who were running every which way, knocking into people carrying food and drinks. It was annoying, but we ignored the situation.

We continued to talk until an older woman approached the party table(s). She asked if they could move a stroller so she and her friends could sit at a table that was surrounded by all their stuff. The young couples looked around, startled that anyone would approach and interrupt their conversation. One blonde pony-tailed woman half-looked around and then said, “Um, no” and went back to her super important conversation. I was stunned. So was the older woman. They were taking up so much room, and couldn’t be bothered to be courteous.

While we were finishing our food, people were trying to walk down this aisle while these kids were twirling and dancing away in their path. “Excuse me,” adults said, squeezing by. The kids thought they were really cute when people tried to scoot by and they couldn’t because they had formed a road-block line. Super cute. Finally, one of the mothers decided it was time to discipline one of her children after ignoring them for so long. She took a little girl by the hand forcefully and screamed in her ear in a private space. Actually the private space was a half a foot from my face. I must have been invisible. I finally looked at her and said, “Excuse me, please.” She continued to ignore me.

Usually when we go to Panera, we like to sit and enjoy our coffee, read a bit or just catch up. Not today. When we were finished, we hurried with our coffee to go somewhere a little quieter. Like the crowded art festival.

In the land of Hoboken, there is a stereotype that is also pretty common in wealthier areas of NYC. Young, hip couples who are able to afford nannies. Whether both parents are working or not, it’s a common situation. These were definitely wealthy people who had the means for such an employee (by looking at their many purses, bags and fancy strollers). And although they were well off, I’m pretty sure these people lacked one major thing: Parenting skills.

I have done a lot of babysitting in my days, here and in the Midwest, and I’ve been around many families with small children. Kids can be unpredictable, can be fussy and scream and cry in a store, it happens. I don’t fault the couples who bring their small children to church, even though sometimes it might be best to leave them in the nursery. But there are some cases where children are spoiled with things, lots of things, but don’t receive what they actually need: Time and attention. They are allowed to behave how they want, and adults think this ill behavior is “cute” or “just acting their age.” I call it bratty. I call how the adults were behaving extremely bratty. What “cute” families!

Maybe it’s how I grew up, but I know we would never have been allowed to act that way. I know my niece and younger extended family members would not be able to act that way. And any adults that I know and actually like would never behave as the spoiled older adult children had behaved at Panera.

So I had a moment outside of the restaurant when we were walking to retrieve my birthday present from a store: Am I “mom material”? Was I being too harsh on these people that caused me to get a bit tense and stressed in their presence? I shook it off. No, I might be haughty in saying this, I just have standards when it comes to parenting. These people just didn’t stack up to the many parents I consider role models.

Since it was a marriage counseling day, I took this situation as another counseling session: These are the people I don’t ever want to emulate. I want to be a parent, I just don’t want to be a self-serving jerk who cares more for themselves than others. I’ll try 🙂


Love NOT Actually

24 Sep

To me, this movie was PERFECT. Absolutely perfect. If wanting to rip out your eyes is the definition of the word.

Have you ever watched a movie from your past and come back with a completely different conclusion than before?

Well, that just happened to me after a viewing of Love Actually on Netflix. I first watched this in the theater while I was in college and LOVED it! What a true depiction of “love”. It was different, it was funny, it was unique. So basically, it was a movie made for me. I remember raving about the film with a friend, and we gushed and gushed over the various plot lines.

A few days ago? Not so much. It was a ridiculous pile of sh*t. Not even a little bit of an exaggeration there. It tried too hard, it made no sense, and it wasn’t sentimentally tugging at my heartstrings whatsoever. It was just plain dumb. Was I on drugs in college? I don’t remember taking drugs … does that mean I did?

It starts off with a voiceover from one of the too many famous actors in the film, Hugh Grant. People are congregating at Heathrow Airport, while Grant talks of what real love stories are. So you get the impression that you are going to hear about real love stories. Prepare to get really disappointed.

• The first story is about an aging rock and roll star Billy Mack. He goes from zero to amazing in five weeks flat, restarting his career. In ways that would make Miley Cyrus jealous, he uses shock and awe to show the world that he’s still a viable celebrity by making fun of himself. Not by writing new songs or becoming relevant (so I guess that is true to celebrities now?). At the end, he tells his manager Joe that he is the love of his life. It never clarifies if the love is platonic or if Mack just came out of the closet, so the audience is just left befuddled.

• Next, we come to Keira Knightley’s character getting married to a man named Peter. The groom’s best friend Mark might be in love with Peter? It seems that way. But then we find out that the pissed-off veneer that Mark has is really to disguise his love for Knightley’s character. What? Yeah, I understand friends falling for other friends and having to hide it, but usually it happens in a shy, standoffish way. Not by being a total jerk. Well, unless you are a 12-year-old boy. In the end, he’s still in love with her, and the film depicts the three of them just joyfully hanging out together like they are in a threesome or just accepting the situation. So confusing.

• Colin Firth’s character’s wife sleeps with his brother. Oh, well. No mention of either character after that! Because five weeks later he proposes to his Portuguese maid, someone he has not been able to communicate with. Attraction = perfect couple. Not.

• Snape, er, I mean Alan Rickman, plays Harry (was this name intentional?), a director of a design agency. His secretary is IN LOVE with him. She does this by spreading her legs, wearing devil horns, blatantly propositioning him – we get it, you like Harry. Unfortunately, he is married to Karen, played by über famous person Emma Thompson. She is just too, too busy of a mom to notice her husband buying jewelry for his maybe girlfriend/secretary. (The movie forgets to show us if he actually physically cheated on his wife or just likes buying gifts.) The only bright side of the movie is when Mr. Bean makes an appearance as the jewelry store’s salesman. BT-Dubs, Alan Rickman, please speak up. You mumble too much. For all that I know, you just cast a spell on Harry Potter or were just covering up for forgetting your lines to this awful movie. If I were in the situation: samesies! The wife eventually figures it out, but besides looking a bit perturbed, she seems just “what can you do?” at the end. Because really, what can she do? I guess Emma Thompson will just have to make some more banana bread!

• Back to the beautiful Hugh Grant. He plays the handsome prime minister. He falls in love with Natalie, a household staff member with a filthy mouth. The little bugger! But dammit, the U.S. President, played by Billy Bob Thornton, is just in the way. He’s too domineering, too take-control, and too USA. He gets what he wants. So he flirts and flirts and flirts with Natalie, finally kissing her neck. Natalie doesn’t seem to like the attention. So what does Hugh do? Well he basically butchers U.S.-U.K. political ties because he’s upset. Super smart. At a press conference, he pokes fun at the U.S. President (an easy caricature of President Bush) and says that Britain won’t be bullied and that the U.S. needs to watch out. Chivalry, dammit! The British crowd goes wild – wild I say. Because who doesn’t love allies with a long history of friendship becoming enemies? It’s sooooo realistic. He even asks Margaret Thatcher’s portrait what he should do in the situation. I would imagine she would say, “Probably the opposite of what you just did, asshole.”

• Liam Neeson plays Daniel. His wife just died. His stepson Sam doesn’t seem too upset. His mom just died. He’s a tiny little kid “in love”. So he learns the drum set in five weeks to impress a girl. Somehow, he succeeds. Child prodigy. Liam Neeson falls for Claudia Schiffer. Did I mention that his wife just died like a month ago? Is anyone listening to me?

• Laura Linney’s character has been in love with Karl FOR YEARS. They almost get together, unfortunately Linney’s brother is crazy and keeps calling! Linney can’t stop taking his phone calls! Relationship averted!

• This British guy Colin decides to go to America to find hot girls. He finds them. American girls love guys with accents. No personality, dumb as a stump, but has a great accent! YAY! This storyline was SOOO needed.

The only love scene that seems um, “accurate” is between porn stars John and Judy. They star in a movie together, go on a date, and find they have things in common. The porn star thing is obviously weird, but the whole dating and finding things in common seems about right.

WTF, I don’t know what to say. Why did I like this movie? Did I just have horrible taste in college? I just, I just – I can’t. There was nothing real about it (besides the porn couple part with the younger Bilbo Baggins). So watch it if you want, but do it to make fun of it. Please. It’s just that bad.

A Month To Go

23 Sep


Down to the wire. With only a month until the big celebration, Nate and I finally realized that, “Oh yeah, we should probably get some stuff done.” For our part, that included finalizing the guest list, reserving a hotel room, and making wedding registries at various stores. The last item was daunting, as we have such a tiny apartment (bigger than most in this area, I like to boast!) and closets that are already full of stuff. If I lived in a house or a place with more space, I’d go crazy over kitchen gadgets and Fiestaware. The other problem is we don’t know where we are going to be in a year. Maybe we will stay here for a while, head back to the Midwest, or to a PhD program for Nate. Who knows? So I keep picturing those beautiful dishes just falling and breaking in a moving truck … I’ve had nightmares. Luckily, my aunts are throwing me a gift card shower – I think if those fell in a truck, they’d be fine.

This weekend was filled with more wedding planning – lining up musicians, readings, etc. – by the time we were finished with that task, we were exuberant. “Let’s keep going!” we exclaimed. So we headed over to Macy’s to find a suit for Nate. Oh, and a belt, shoes, shirt, and ties for the whole guys’ section of the wedding party. Armed with a 20 percent WOW Savings Pass, I knew it would be a good day. Four hours later, seriously, I was spent. I had no idea spending that much time in the men’s department would be so exhausting. In between watching some nature show on a T.V. near the dressing room and being surrounded by so many different collared shirts and ties, Nate would come out in his attire to me saying, “No,” “Definitely no,” “Should you add cowboy neck attire to that shirt? C’mon!” I am really bossy when it comes to clothing. Hey, if you ever need someone to tell you the truth when clothes shopping, I’m your girl, I don’t pussyfoot on that issue. By the time we went to the checkout, I was done. “I just want to go home.” No free candle at Bath And Body Works. No checking out the sales at Sephora, I just wanted to go. Shocking. I had no idea (well, some idea) what we had in our happy Macy’s bags, all I knew is that I wanted a cold Coke and some nachos.

So while catching up with one of my bridesmaids on the phone, Nate decided to try on all of his new gear. “What do you think?” he asked. I turned around and was completely shocked. In all the chaos of sales, I had no idea the ensemble would turn out as well as it did. Nate’s a suit guy, and I hope in the future he will have more reasons to wear them. It looked perfect. He looked perfect. “You are going to show me up,” I said. “And I’m the bride.” Although I’m marrying Nate for more than his looks, in that instant I was almost giddy thinking about this good-looking guy standing by my side. It definitely brought a smile to my face.

Well, the planning is definitely not over on our end. This includes informing the guys of what they are wearing, picking out our engagement photos, and ordering wedding bands.

And how is this whole planning situation/coordination going from two separate time zones? That’s another column altogether.

“Soda” over “Pop”: The Transition

19 Sep


Whenever I go home, I am teased mercilessly over whether I have developed a New York or New Jersey accent or not. I am surrounded by people daily who have them, and I absolutely adore those accents. I always make sure to pick out the different vowels and mouth them over and over to myself. If there is one accent I wouldn’t mind developing, it’s that. Not a British or French accent, don’t ask me why.

Unfortunately, I don’t find the way I talk to be any different than it was before. I was a fast talker to begin with, so that hasn’t changed. I still sound like a happy Midwest cheerleader (I get to listen to my voice to transcribe interviews, so yay me).

Although Midwesterners are supposedly without accents, after being here, I beg to differ. People in conversation with me have immediately known I’m from that region. Certain words are a dead giveaway. For example, “caught” sounds like “cot”. And for some reason, I can slide into a Northern Minnesotan accent like nobody’s business. Don’t ask me why, it just happens. (Probably because I’m infatuated with that one as well.)

Words are a different story. The one I seemed to have flawlessly adopted is “soda”. For all of my life, it has been “pop”.

“Do you want a pop? What kind of pop do you want?” It just made sense. A soda was a fancy ice cream treat, not a beverage.

Since arriving, I hear it from everyone. “I’m going to run out and get a soda. What kind of soda do you want – Pepsi or Coke?” It made sense to just exchange the word. Now when I hear the word “pop”, it sounds somewhat funny to me. Not worse, just different.

So of course, when I went down to retrieve the pop-sodas from the pantry during a family dinner in Iowa a couple weeks ago, laughter ensued. “Soda? What – are you kidding me?”

Not ashamed. Fuggedaboutit.

Fall Favorites: Not Sinus Infections

17 Sep
I'd be happy if I could sneeze. Seriously.

I’d be happy if I could sneeze. Seriously.

An extra cup of coffee. That is what today requires.

While everyone on Facebook and Twitter talk excitedly about their fall favorites – pumpkin spice lattes, apple cider, and wearing a mix of boots and sweaters – I’m realizing what the start of fall is really about: Sinus infections.

I’m prone to them. In between the changing seasons, I expect them like I expect Mondays. Bound to happen, always hate them, and last FOREVER.

I started getting them on a regular basis in sixth grade. Probably just that package deal I signed up for at 12 on my way to womanhood. “Congrats Carrie. You’re going to love adulthood.”

Oh, autumn is my favorite season, I just don’t start enjoying it until the tail end. After my head begins to clear.

It starts out the same. One or two days of extreme tiredness. A headache that seems to radiate from the top of my forehead to my cheekbones. A perpetual draining that keeps me up at night. And a nose that I can never breath out of. It’s all good (no, not really).

And I have tried the gamut of remedies. Claritin and Allegra, nasal sprays and Neti-Pots. I boost my immune system with Vitamin C and other supplements, and use hand sanitizer like it’s another full-time job. Usually after a couple weeks, I will finally meander into the doctor’s office and get the only antibiotic that seems to do the trick. Of course, this medication also causes other problems, but it’s a definite trade-off to my head floating away like a balloon.

Unfortunately, being across the country, I have yet to visit a doctor in my area. I know that requires some research, and I have become good at using the term “I will do that later.” It’s later. No doctor. Uggg.

So hopefully, miraculously, this will just go away on its own (no chance). Or it won’t get any worse until I am able to head back to Iowa for my bridal shower in a couple weeks and visit my childhood physician. I will cross my fingers, knock on wood, sacrifice a chicken (frozen filets in my freezer), and hope that I will be cured by tomorrow morning. Not holding my breath.

Cart Headaches

16 Sep
My vehicle of choice doesn't have seat belts, but it does have a broken wheel. So that's ... something.

My vehicle of choice doesn’t have seat belts, but it does have a broken wheel. So that’s … something.

I miss my car. My cute little black Nissan Versa had everything I could possibly need – good gas mileage, Bluetooth, a nice sound system, and a hatchback. I could zip around town and load that little hatchback with groceries – all the while looking stylish in the process.

Almost a year ago, I realized that keeping a vehicle here was impossible. I had to re-park it every day on a very crowded street (sometimes having to leave it four or five blocks away), pay expensive insurance and registration, and I was quickly depleting my savings account while job hunting. So the car was very low on the priority list. Health insurance or a car that I use maybe once a week?

So I took it on one last road trip back to Iowa and it sold fairly quickly. After flying back to the East Coast, I had to make a very specific purchase: A cart. I needed something to haul my purchases back and forth, and a cart is a must-have in this area. We went to Bed, Bath & Beyond and bought the higher end model (if there is such a thing). It’s navy blue with a canvas bag with a top with Velcro, in case it rains. So whenever we have to make big purchases, we walk to the grocery store or Target and lug it with us.

Having a car is something I definitely took for granted, from age 16 on. I miss the days when I could just make a shopping list, hop in my car and park it outside the shopping center. Now, it takes a lot more time to get ready for such a daunting task.

We go twice a month for a grocery haul. It takes time and preparation – I start making the list a couple days ahead, find coupons, and write down casserole ingredients. Sometimes things on the list have to be crossed off, as the cart fills up fast. And with such a heavy load in a cart that doesn’t always cooperate, grocery shopping is now a two-person job. We have to find a night where Nate is not in class. We hate going on the weekends, because the store is oh-so crowded. So a 7 p.m. trip is usually what is on the schedule. Oh, I go to the farmer’s market once a week for our produce and I run to Target by myself for other items – but we really have to plan out this whole grocery thing well in advance.

It’s kind of a headache. Our regular grocery store is about a half mile away, although we have a corner market near us. Unfortunately, the market charges almost double for many items, so we just head there if it’s absolutely necessary.

It’s kind of a blessing, though, if I have a craving for chips or something I really don’t need, I really have to think about whether I want to travel to such lengths just to get it. My planning skills have had an overall facelift and our budget is healthier, since we must plan in advance.

But today, I’m out of paper towels. And garbage bags. And detergent. I don’t want to go home after work to retrieve the cart and proceed to Target (adding more mileage to my trip), so I brought some heavy-duty canvas bags (a must here, no plastic bags for us!). No one will be able to help me, as Nate’s in class until 9 p.m. My list is long and my back and arms will be sore from the walking back to the apartment. And while Coke is on sale, I will have to decide whether staying caffeinated during the day this week is more important than stocking up on Tide to clean my sheets. Oh, priorities.

So when you are driving your SUV to the mall or cruising to the dollar store in your minivan, I will be dreaming of owning a car, or any vehicle, again someday and trying not to think of my aching arms laden with grocery bags.

Understanding 9/11

11 Sep
The Empty Sky Memorial in Jersey City, N.J.

The Empty Sky Memorial in Jersey City, N.J.

Each workday, I enter and leave through the Port Authority Trans-Hudson hub that sits right next to the World Trade Center. The six-minute train ride underneath the river lets me sort out my thoughts before my short jaunt to the building that houses Soap Opera Digest. At 6 p.m., I stroll back home past the New York Stock Exchange, gothic buildings and churches in the Financial District. As soon as I hit Fulton Street, I look straight ahead. There, the Freedom Tower stands prominently, and I have to tilt my head up to see the entire building with its newly placed spire.

As soon as I open the door to my brownstone apartment in Jersey City, I can see the tower standing alone in the distance. I am reminded day after day, time after time, of 9/11.

When it happened, I was a senior at Webster City High School. We had a two-hour in-service that morning and my mom was busy talking to my uncle Dave on the phone about some things that needed fixing in the house. He must have said, “Turn on the news!” because my mom hurriedly flipped on the small TV in my parent’s bedroom. She let out a small shriek and covered her mouth, as we both watched the second plane hit. I knew it was a big deal, I knew that this was horribly wrong but as a 17-year-old, I just felt numb. We went to school and many of our teachers nixed our studies and left the television on so we could continue to watch the coverage. During lunch and cafe, we went back to talking about cross country, boys, our usual conversations. Why? We were kids, that’s why. It’s not easily digestible information that planes were being flown into buildings. That thousands of people had just died a couple hours ago. That there was so much hate.

As my senior year rolled on, I thought more about myself, as teenagers do, and kept up on the news when it fit my schedule. In the years following, I let what happened sink in. Call it maturity or finally allowing myself to unshield my eyes to the atrocities – it happened.

Since moving here, I have talked with native New Yorkers and people who lived here during the attacks. Where they were, people they know that had died – each person had a different story, but talked about it like it happened yesterday. When I first started working in Battery Park, I was very aware of the WTC site. After awhile, I started to get lost in my own thoughts and wouldn’t look up, the sounds of construction turning into background noise.

A couple months ago, I decided to watch 9/11 documentaries, like the ones produced by National Geographic. I watched YouTube videos of the attacks happening during the Today Show, of people getting off the PATH train and finding out about the carnage as they were getting out of the hub. I saw all the surrounding buildings that I walk by every day. I saw people sprinting down the streets that I walk every day. I pictured myself on one of my normal workdays, getting out of the train at the same time it happened. It’s now more real than it has ever been.

I have read the names of people at the memorial aloud; to fully understand that some of these normal people lived in the same neighborhood I do, probably frequented some of the same pubs, and hung out in the parks where I like to read.

Now, I don’t walk back and forth caught up in the music I am listening to or thinking about what I’m about to cook for dinner. I always look up at the Freedom Tower and think about that day and all the people affected. I think about the people trapped in the higher floors and others falling to their death. I see fire trucks daily on their way to some emergency and think about all those firefighters who climbed the stairs with all that heavy gear.

If living here has done one thing, it’s that I realize that life is truly a gift. One not to be wasted or squandered. It could have been any one of these people that I walk to work with, the sea of people heading off to their full-time jobs. Sometimes when something so horrific happens in a far-off place, it’s hard to take a walk in their shoes and understand that those affected are just normal people. Listening to their headphones, planning their grocery list, thinking of the weekend ahead.

If I didn’t let it sink in then, 12 years ago, I have definitely let it sink in now.

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