Thursday, October 28, 2010

Because How Else Would I Sign Escrow Papers?

I knew that buying a house could be stressful. I think I've heard that it's a line item on The Most Stressful Life Events List. But for some reason, I really didn't think it would be so bad. I figured that with Mr. Wonderful's extensive real estate knowledge and my stellar credit history, the whole process would be a snap.

Oh, how the Universe loves to eff with naive people.

Every step of this process has been riddled with mishaps, hassles and anxiety. It sort of felt to me like if it could go wrong, it did go wrong. The funny thing is that for almost 3 months, I sat waiting to hear whether all the banks associated with the home's short sale would be willing to accept my discounted offer. 3-stress-free months that I should have used to gear up for the past 4 weeks.

Because once we got the go-ahead, all hell broke loose. Papers were faxed (long distance in one case) back and forth, then deemed unreadable. Documents were misplaced. Parties involved were misnamed. Deadlines were missed—spawning even more stressful deadlines to try to make up time. The clock was constantly ticking. My heart was constantly palpitating. And most of the time, I didn't even fully understand what was going on because Mr. W was acting as the point person for a lot of stuff.

Given how things had been playing out, I should have known that I would have to sign my final escrow papers yesterday. The day of my company Halloween party and potluck. And I should have known that another ridiculous deadline would call for me to drive to the escrow office...dressed in my zombie bride costume...rather than have the notary come to me. I should have also expected that I'd be waltzing into Chase bank in that same costume to make a wire transfer. Feel like a tool much? Um, yeah.

I can't exhale about the whole thing yet because we haven't officially closed, and of course there's an issue still up in the air that could make or break the deal. I'm hoping all works out and that by Tuesday I'm toasting the new house and stopping the heart palpitations. Otherwise, I may turn into that zombie bride permanently.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I Breathed the Same Air as Oprah

And it wasn't as exciting as I thought it would be. Maybe she's better one-on-one.

I saw her Tuesday at the Women's Conference of California. I've attended events around the conference in the past couple years, but this year I was lucky enough to get a ticket to the main event—where I got to listen to legends like Sandra Day O'Connor and Diane Sawyer, passionate powerhouses like Suze Orman and Jillian Michaels, and inspiring activists like Eve Ensler and Maria Shriver.

Michelle Obama also participated in the morning session, causing crazy human traffic jams thanks to the heightened security. Sadly, I didn't find her as compelling as I thought I would. She was good, don't get me wrong. I just expected to be more moved by her.

One of the highlights was listening to hilarious Brian Williams talk to NY Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, Nike chairman Phil Knight, and Starbucks President Howard Schultz about "Men Who Get It." I love that Brian Williams can deliver a joke just as well as the NBC evening news.

I almost rubbed elbows with Oprah's best friend Gayle King as she walked past me on the expo floor. And I was excited to see Rita Wilson up close. Jessica Simpson was adorable in person, and I wanted to put Giada De Laurentiis in my purse and take her home with me. I had her sign a cookbook I bought and I told her how much I loved her short ribs with chocolate recipe. She gave me a huge Giada grin and said, "Isn't it good?! Thank you for making it." How adorable is that? Seriously.

The theme of the conference was "It's Time," and at one point Maria Shriver spoke about all the different things it could be time for each of us attendees to do. It got me thinking about all the things it's time for in my life.

It's time to get married.
It's time to buy a house.
It's time to really, finally feel like a grown up.
It's time to stop stressing.
It's time to really learn to meditate.
It's time to make time to write.
It's time to stop making excuses.
It's time to lose the muffin-top.
It's time to expand my cooking horizons.
It's time to adjust my 401k allocation.
It's time to slow down.
It's time to do more for others and the world without sacrificing self care.
It's time to commit to change.

What time is it for you?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Different Paths, Same Destination

I have racked my brain trying to figure out if there's a "right way" to tell someone they deserve better than who they're dating, and I'm pretty sure it doesn't exist. Particularly if you're related to the person you want to advise.

Prior to meeting Mr. Wonderful, I brought home several guys of whom my sister did not approve. She tried to communicate her feelings in different ways—sometimes with sarcastic remarks, sometimes with serious warnings, sometimes with leading questions. No matter what approach she took, it felt like she was telling me I had failed. Her judgment of my boyfriends felt like judgment of me. And the hardest part about it all was that there were many times when I knew she was right.

I would rationalize my decisions, telling myself that she and I were different and she didn't understand where I was coming from. She wasn't born in the same decade as I was; times had changed. She didn't get it because she settled down so early.

But the thing she knew that I didn't was that dating should be built on a foundation of happiness. That crying or feeling disappointed or unsure were telltale signs that things weren't right. She wasn't trying to condemn me or my choices, she was trying to protect me from making mistakes and getting hurt.

Unfortunately, her disapproval hurt too. And compounding that was the inadequate feeling I got when I looked around my family and saw that everyone had gotten married and purchased homes by the time they were my age. I felt so far behind. How would I ever catch up? How would I ever live up to the expectations they had set?

Then, when I met Mr. W, everything changed. My sister still voiced concerns about him (worrying his quietness might not mesh with our loud, obnoxious family) but they didn't matter anymore because I knew he was right for me. Suddenly that was all that was important. I didn't need a house or 5 kids because I was happy with what I had in the moment.

I've thought a lot about what it will be like when my nieces start dating. I'm sure one or all of them will bring home boys that the rest of us don't like. But I'm going to do my best to make sure they know that just because I may not choose the same person for them that they've chosen for themselves, it doesn't mean they are wrong or incapable of making smart decisions. My uncertainty about their boyfriends is not a reflection on my feelings about them.

We all have to take different paths and follow different timelines to get to where we want to be. All that matters is that happiness is the place we end up.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


If you've ever looked for me online beyond this blog, you know that I work for a big, fat Internet company that's known for treating its employees well and its stockholders not so great. It's a place where ideas are welcomed, friendliness is the norm, and social decorum is upheld in most every situation.

So yesterday, I was truly shocked when a coworker came back to his desk from the restroom and announced that someone had blown chunks all over the sink, trash can, and floor.

That's not the way of our company! If you're going to puke here, you make it to the toilet! And if you accidentally miss, you clean up your mess!

Horrified, I avoided going to the women's restroom for as long as I could. I didn't want to catch an updraft of what was pooled up in the men's.

When I finally couldn't hold it any longer, I walked down the hall and noticed that several yards beyond the entrance, a couple people from facilities were dousing the carpet. Remember that powder stuff from elementary school that they'd always sprinkle on puke? Pretty sure they were using that. And they had a yellow caution sign. Slippery when wet...with vomit. I was so grossed out.

When I came back out of the bathroom, I heard two girls in nearby cubicles talking about the incident. I couldn't help myself. I walked over and asked, "What the heck happened?!"

One of the girls chuckled and said, "It was an interviewee."

Wow. How'd you like to be that guy? Wouldn't you reschedule if you had the stomach flu? If I were him, I don't even think I'd accept the job after this. Unless I wanted to be known as Ralph for the rest of my tenure here.

Maybe he was actually just an employee from Google playing a nasty prank...

Monday, October 18, 2010

Los Olivos and Other Magnificent Fruits

It's no secret here that Mr. Wonderful and I are winos. In the almost 3 years we've been together, we've visited Napa and Paso Robles twice, the wine country around Santa Barbara five times and the Burgundy region of France once. But all these places have so much more to offer beyond wine alone. There's a wholesome earthiness about each of them that I just adore.

My favorite town in the area above Santa Barbara is a little spot called Los Olivos. I loved running through this area during the marathons I did. I think the population there is only about 5,000 and it has every lovable quality a small town could possibly have: cute shops, charming restaurants, friendly people and a great sense of community. The wine tasting rooms don't hurt either.

When we visited Los Olivos over the weekend, they were having a little street festival, complete with craft stands, barbecue and, as you can see, lots of tractors.

There were also a live country band and some meandering square dancers. There's something so honest about this kind of place. Just good folks trying to live a good life. It's really endearing. Every time we visit, I tell Mr. W I want to live here.

The weather wasn't great, but the landscape around this part of California is always breathtaking. Golden hills dotted by oak trees. Wildflowers and small farm plots. Rows upon rows of gorgeous green vines. We were a bit surprised to see that many of the vineyards hadn't yet harvested their grapes. Apparently the chilly weather this year forced the winemakers to push back picking.

The cacti out front of Alma Rosa's tasting room were beautiful. I don't know what kind they were, but their fruit grabbed me right away. Don't they look like big, fat Christmas lights or holiday ornaments?

On our way back to the 101 freeway, we couldn't resist stopping at a roadside pumpkin patch. We bought two sizable pumpkins for $4.00. Mr. W said he felt so bad they were so cheap that he wanted to give the farmer a $20 tip.

I hope that one day (if I'm still writing here) I'll be writing from the hills above Santa Barbara, finding time to blog between raising my chickens and sheep, and tending to my pumpkins and grapevines.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Give Me Some Demerol, Please!

You know those women who yell at their husbands when they're in labor, "YOU did this to me!"? I'm feeling like one of them.

Bless Mr. W's heart for proposing to me. And convincing me to buy a house. I just wish it wouldn't have happened all at the very same time. The pains of these labors are making me want to treat him like the man who got me pregnant.

We are in the throes of escrow. Which is probably totally cool if you don't have deadlines at work and 96 ribbons to glue to 96 candle holders. No, I take that back. Everyone I know who has ever bought a house said it was stressful.

Much like working in advertising, there's a lot of "We need this RIGHT now!" So you frantically scramble to produce requested items, and then you sit. Every day this week, I've come home to a different packet of stuff on the front porch that needs to be signed and returned. I'm ready to amputate my own hand just so I can have a break from signing papers.

Then there's the behemoth of a To Do list I'm carrying around in my mind. ALL the packing. ALL the moving of things. The garage sale I need to have. The couch I need to sell. The envelopes I need to print for our wedding invitations. And Thanksgiving is only 42 days away! The holidays are coming!

It's enough to make me want to grab someone by the collar and tell them to give me drugs and wake me up when it's all over. I would say, "Thank God we're going to Santa Barbara to drink wine for the weekend," but I almost think I'd rather be here cleaning out closets...

Monday, October 11, 2010

Knocking Knees

When I was first learning to drive, nothing scared me more than having to navigate my way from the freeway on-ramp into speeding traffic. My fear made me drive slowly and more cautiously—thereby annoying other drivers so they were even less likely to let me in.

Several years ago when my ex-boyfriend moved in with me, I sort of resisted letting him make my apartment feel like his own. I never encouraged him to put his art on the wall or knickknacks on the shelves. Instead, I found places for them...which made it seem like he was just a visitor in my apartment.

If you're not picking up on the theme here, it's about me struggling with The Merge.

My latest difficulty with this concept doesn't involve fear of crashing or a mental siren telling me I shouldn't have let my boyfriend move in in the first place. Nope, this time the merge-worry is of the what-if-he-dies variety.

In my decade of dating before Mr. Wonderful, I became quite accustomed to seeing the backs of men as they walked away from me. And through all those losses, I knew I could always retreat to my single life. Like a convenient side street that ran parallel to the freeway. It was calm there. There weren't other people around. Everything was familiar.

Getting married is like entering the merge superhighway and knowing that you don't want to get off because most every exit leads to a bad part of town. I'm going too far with the driving analogies, aren't I?

The bottom line is that if, God Forbid, something should ever happen to Mr. W, I won't just be able to go back to my old single life like I used to. We will be so inextricably linked. My every emotion will be intertwined with and pinned to his existence. He will be my other half. And that wrecks me. Because someday, I might lose him. And even if it's 50 years from now, that just means I'll have to carry around 50 heavy years of memories.

Merging is scary.

My older sister told me this sort of fear was totally normal before one gets married. I thought people only got worried about being committed to the same person for eternity and how that could be like eating the same thing for breakfast every day for the rest of your life. But apparently there's this whole other chapter in the wedding jitters book.

I remember when I was in college, in my on-again off-again relationship, I thought the only emotion I could feel that would be strong enough to overpower love would be hate. But now I think maybe fear is the only equally powerful feeling. To let yourself love someone SO much makes you SO vulnerable. It's seriously terrifying.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Vietnamese Corn, 5-Spice Pork Belly, and Kevin Bacon

I never pictured myself becoming a "foodie."

I grew up loving TV dinners, mac 'n' cheese and Hostess desserts as a kid, then graduated to fancy establishments like The Olive Garden and El Torito as a young adult. The real culturing of my palate started slowly in my mid-twenties. I discovered that I loved a good, bloody steak with a glass of red wine. Then I slowly began spreading my oral wings into the realm of higher-end ethnic foods and pricier vinos.

When I met Mr. Wonderful, all hell broke loose.

He introduced me to proscuitto and cheese plates and the culinary joy that is Katsuya. He scrambled my taste buds and now there's no going back. We live to try revered restaurants. We watch The Food Network and The Cooking Channel. We are willing to spend $8 on a hunk of taleggio.

Last night we joined Dirty Painter and Southern Belle at Susan Feniger's STREET in Hollywood. My mouth hasn't been so happy in months. Although everything I tasted was absolutely incredible, the highlights of the night were the Vietnamese corn with 5-spice pork belly, hot chili pepper and scallions; the kaya toast—white toast with coconut jam that you dip in a fried egg and dark soy sauce; and the Burmese melon salad with toasted coconut, peanuts, fried onions and sesame ginger dressing. Seriously amazing.

And it might have tasted even better after we spotted Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick dining in the corner. I think Josh Radnor from How I Met Your Mother was also there.

Just when we thought the night couldn't get any better, the server showed up with this:

Do you see why I am ruined?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

LA PR in STL and FL

Lots of people in lots of places have ideas about what Los Angelinos are really like. Thanks to Hollywood, the Venice Beach boardwalk, and shows like LA Ink, people from Phoenix to Philadelphia believe that most of us are surgically enhanced bimbos, tattooed freakshows or burnt-out surf bums who know nothing about what goes on outside our sunny little bubble. At least that's what I think the perception is outside my sunny little bubble...

Given the stereotypes that exist, it's no surprise that I feel a sort of duty to defend homegrown Angelinos like myself when I travel to places like the Midwest.

This weekend was a junket of sorts, where I had to properly represent myself as a So Cal girl, a bride-to-be, a future family member, and a future wife to Mr. Wonderful.

At our first stop, St. Louis, I did my best to ingratiate myself to the Greek family and friends who are inheriting me. Mr. W and I aren't high up on the list right now because we're not having a proper, enormous, ethnically appropriate wedding. But I think I was charming enough that the small group attending will still like us when all is said and done. The worst thing anyone said to me while we were there was, "You smile too much." And that came from Mr. W's hilarious 7-year-old niece. So I think I'm in the clear.

The best thing anyone said was not actually to me. We were taking pictures with a group of friends and new acquaintances near the St. Louis arch, when one of the girls asked Mr. W if he could do a backflip across the street. He looked at her quizzically and answered, "No."

Then later she asked me if it made me nervous to date someone with such a dangerous job. Visual effects producer isn't exactly a risky profession... "Aren't you a stuntman?" the girl asked Mr. W. And using my PR skills, I held myself up instead of rolling on the ground, laughing at her mistake. The only stunts Mr. W ever pulls usually involve a fly swatter or high-jump to reach a piece of fruit in his fig tree. (Oh, but he's very very macho. Don't get me wrong.)

When asked if the bar in St. Louis was different from bars in LA, I took the opportunity to explain that LA has many pockets and a wide variety of hangout spots. We are not crazy, $30-for-a-beer, hoity toity animals out here, people. We are just like the rest of you.

During the second leg of our tour, in Tampa, I did my best to prove the worthiness of my engagement to Mr. W's mom and stepdad. I shared pictures of the bridesmaid dresses, my own dress, the reception venue. I commended his proposal. I made jokes about how I'd always let Mr. W be the boss in the relationship. And on our second night, his parents toasted me as a new addition to the family.

It's hard work convincing so many people that you're an ok gal. Thank goodness my Communications degree required some PR studies...