is it just me?

Thursday, June 02, 2011


well, that was awkward

First, I would like to go on record saying how much I hate when people post fake letters as their facebook status. You know what I'm talking about - "Dear Rain, please stay away until after 7pm. Bobby has his cookout tonight! Love, Mary Ann". Ugh. I find them annoying. But this one from today really took the cake:

"dear gas, please stop costing so much. I am trying to save money and I need to go places. thanks, l"

Oh for pete's sake. Are you really having a fake conversation with GAS? About why it is so expensive? Honestly. Just say "I wish gas were cheaper!" Skip the cuteness. You're too old for that shit.

with this ring, I thee wed

A guy I work with got engaged a while ago. This is no big deal, except for I have known this guy for ten years, and I have never known him to have a girlfriend. And he went to graduate school here and no one remembers him having a girlfriend then, either. And he is in his mid 40s. So, when he told me he had a girlfriend, about a year ago now, I was kind of shocked. When I met her and she was nice and normal, I was more shocked. And when he told me, a mere 8 months later, that they were engaged, get the idea. Lots of people thought he preferred to date men and didn't want to tell anyone. And we were SURE he would never actually get married to a real, live woman.

So, after the engagement, either because I seem like someone who is really super interested in weddings (not likely) or because he really didn't have anyone to talk to who cared (very likely), he talked to me about his wedding ALL THE TIME. Seriously, I could start a conversation about the weather, lazy graduate students, Libya or anything else and in less than five minutes we'd be talking about cakes and band and centerpieces and overbearing mothers in law. Fortunately, it was a short engagement. By the time he told me in February he already had a date and a venue for his May wedding, so I only had to endure four months of the conversations. And at least I would get a free dinner and (maybe) fun party out of the deal.

Not so fast. Despite wanting to tell me about shopping for his suit and choosing rings, apparently he did not want to actually INVITE me to the wedding. I realized this when several weeks before the wedding I had seen no invite. So, I figured I would let it go, but I would make it clear that I didn't really want to hear any more details of this fabulous wedding I would not attend. He came into my office and said "How's it going?" I said "Good - you? Getting ready for the end of the semester?" To which he replied, "Well, yeah, and you know - WEDDING PLANNING." So I nicely asked if he had sent invites and then I think he realized (after 3.5 months) that maybe it isn't so nice to discuss your wedding ad nauseum and not invite someone and he slinked off.

Two days later, he calls me into his office. From his backpack he withdraws what is clearly a wedding invitation. A last minute, b-list, wedding invitation with no actual address and crooked letters. AMAZING. So, we have a super awkward conversation, and I walk out. Did I guilt him into it? Should I feel bad? Or should he? Should I go or not? EEK. Now, this would be a bit of a quandary under any circumstances, but remember that I work in a parallel universe where no social norms apply, common courtesy and eye contact are TOTALLY optional, and general behavior defies explanation. So I was flummoxed. However, curiosity got the better of me and we went to the wedding.

It wasn't so great. In fact, it was boring. Too many cousins, and not the fun young cousins who drink too much and cause a fuss. A band not meant for dancing. Toasts full of inside jokes. Early departure by the bride and groom. Blah blah. But, he looked so happy. Because I think maybe he was starting to agree with the rest of the world that he might not get married. Especially not to a young, cute, funny, social, fit lawyer. But he did!

God I love a happy ending.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


reality check

The other day I was browsing a list of international events on campus. You never know when something interesting might come up, right? Well...there was quite the gem in store for me. Tomorrow at noon I could go to a talk titled "Unicorns in Ancient India and the Utilization of Their Horns for Making Vedic Ritual Implements". Unicorns. UNICORNS. Um....they know that unicorns aren't real, right? But what happened was that because I don't get enough sleep and I spend too much time alone in my office, I got all confused about unicorns. They aren't real, right? RIGHT?

The trouble is, if you are sitting in your office wondering about things like the existence of unicorns, you can't very well walk down the hall and ask someone. Why? Because doing things like that is what makes people call you crazy. You start asking about unicorns and you are going to get a visit from some nice guys in white coats who just want to 'talk'. Talk about how you are three shades of crazy, that's what they want to talk about.

I am half tempted to go just to see what they have to say for themselves. Depending on how it goes over I will be making a presentation about the role of Santa's elves in the melting of the polar ice caps. Stay tuned for details.

In other news, I dutifully dialed a conference call number today and was greeted by "This call costs $2.99/minute. If you are under 18, please hang up RIGHT NOW. Welcome to Intimate Connections." Whoops. So I assumed I dialed wrong, tried again with the same result. Unfortunately, I then hit redial just wanting to check the number to be SURE, but was too slow and therefore I likely have three minutes of charges to a phone sex line on my work phone. Spectacular. I will say, though, that the image of all the other adult male academics who made the same mistake was totally worth the $3/minute even if I have to pay it myself.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010


my kid is better than your kid.

Which makes me better than you, apparently.

Did you know parenting is a competitive sport? Well, once you have kids you will find this out. All of a sudden people you barely know will be interested in what your child can (and perhaps more importantly, can’t) do and all of this will be put on a secret scorecard next to their child. They will also hold you responsible for the fact that your child is not interested in walking or didn’t choose broccoli as their first food. The worst part about this is the psychological havoc it wreaks on new, sleep-deprived, fragile moms. You will quickly fill yourself with guilt and worry about whether or not you are doing the absolute most correct best possible thing for your child at all times. You will find yourself punishing yourself for how much they like graham crackers (oh, the empty calories!) or how bad they are at writing the letter y (goodbye, Harvard!). You will be sure that the fact that you never purchased an exersaucer is the reason your baby still isn’t walking, or the fact that you did purchase an exersaucer is why they are flat-footed. I mean, it is ENDLESS.

And if you stay home with your kids you want me to know that this means you love them more than people who work, and if you work you want me to know how amazing your childcare is. And if we both work then you want to prove to me that your childcare is better than mine. The problem with all of this, other than the fact that it is a) boring and b) annoying, is that it makes us all feel bad. In fact, we all feel bad a lot of the time, even though we really have nothing to feel bad about. I, like everyone else, am doing the best I can. With my life, with my kids’ lives, with keeping it all together. And sadly, I don’t get stars on my chart for all the great things I do, but that doesn’t mean I need to go around begging for those stars, or making you feel bad for not doing the same.

Moms love to say things like ‘oh, I don’t even know what that is – we don’t watch tv’ or ‘we don’t do juice’ or ‘I only believe in rewards that don’t cost money’. And if it was presented simply as information, that would be fine. But it isn’t – it comes with the insinuation that this puts them on some sort of higher moral ground. Am I glad my kid likes broccoli? Sure I am. It’s good for her. I believe in vitamins. Do I need to tell you about it? Nope. Is it necessary to make you feel bad that your kid doesn’t? Nope. My younger child eats about five foods in the whole world, and you can bet that none of them are broccoli. In fact, they are all white or beige. Or candy. So, I know that it is not some miracle of great parenting that has led my older one to eat vegetables. She likes vegetables. Hooray for her, but far be it from me to judge you by your kids.

I just find that I get so exhausted by the looks people give and the things people say . Yes, I did just give my kid that sandwich he threw on the floor of this dirty restaurant. Yes, I am going to drag her out of her kicking and screaming about how I am not her friend (thanks for that, Baby Liz. We were at the LIBRARY). You know why? Because that is what works, or at least what works for me right now. And we all know that we have to do what gets us all through the day in one piece. Sometimes it is not pretty, but at the end of the day I did the best I could.

I participate in an early morning workout with a bunch of women. One of the reasons I like it so much is that while it is competitive in a healthy way (can you catch the person in front of you on the hill?) it is not competitive in a judgmental way. I may weigh 50lbs less than you but you might be able to do 20 more pushups than I can. Some are faster, some are stronger, but everyone is doing their best. People are encouraging, and supportive, and fun. We actually high five with straight faces! We encourage each other and push each other. It is almost completely judgment-free. And I think so much of that is missing from our relationships, with our friends, with other parents. My good friends don’t try to compete with me, but the everyday casual encounter (or facebook status update) has become this relentless one-upsmanship that is wearing on us all.

So go, feed your child homemade gazpacho made entirely from items that you grew yourself, and enjoy it! But don’t make me feel bad about my own choices. Stop keeping score, stop trying to make yourself feel better by making other people feel worse, and I think you’ll find that you are a lot happier.

Oh, and one more piece of homework: compliment more. None of us give enough compliments, and most of us are very self-deprecating about receiving them. So next time you notice that one of your friends looks like she’s lost weight (or has a good haircut, or a cute new sweater), tell her how good she looks! And if someone compliments you, don’t make excuses, don’t downplay your own success, just look them right in the eye and say ‘thanks!’ Try it. You’ll like it.

Friday, June 04, 2010


shake it

It has come to my attention that the last time I posted about Zumba I was saying I would never do it. I have a funny story: Now I do zumba. The end. Just kidding! That's not the end. Oh no, my friends, Zumba is a source of almost as much fodder as facebook. And if I spent as much time doing Zumba as I do making fun of people on facebook I would probably be a lot skinnier. Alas.

Anyway, I started going a while ago and I will say that Zumba is fun. It is a totally crazy workout where you do these highly coreographed "dances" to (mostly) latin music. The instructor doesn't really talk, so you just follow along which means it is less annoying and infinitely harder to figure out what the hell is going on. The good part about this is everyone is kind of having to pay attention to the teacher and themselves, so they don't notice that you look less like you are doing the salsa and more like freaking out because you have a bee up your shorts. This is good for me because I am not very flexible, and not that great of a dancer, so I like the idea that no one is watching. However, judging by the amount of time I spend watching other people, the truth is that everyone is watching.

Now, I have spent my fair share of time inside a discoteca, and sort of get salsa, meringue, a little bit of cumbia, etc. I am very good at following a beat, and pretty good at remembering things. However, I possess absolutely no sexy. If someone were to describe me, they would never use any of these words: cute, nice, sweet, or sexy. If they use any of these I can say either they don't know me, or they are lying. Back to the point: my favorite zumba instructor is heavy on the sexy. She is in absolutely amazing shape, and kind of makes me feel terrible about myself. However, she seems really nice, and she teaches a hell of a class. But there is a lot of grinding and shimmying, which is not my forte. This is sort of a zumba option, and you will find some instructors that take a very Shakira approach, and others that are clearly dance team graduates.

About the dance team - since I go to zumba on campus, there is a whole lotta former dance team up in there. They are easy to spot. First look for the perfect ponytails. Dance girls do their hair, even for working out. Maybe especially for working out. Then there are the short shorts, since they are used to wearing lots of lycra short shorts probably feel like bathrobes. And pointed toes. They all point their toes and hold their hands in nice formation. These girls comprise about 25% of one of my zumba classes, and they are boring.

The next 25% is a surprising demographic: Asian women. I am not kidding. Apparently, Zumba is very popular with Asian women on campus. I am not entirely clear on why this would be. Many of them wear really crazily inappropriate attire. Like, Skecher mary janes that were certainly never meant to be workout shoes. However, there is one crazy little vixen who seems to own a LOT of really short, really tight shorts, some of with say things like "New York Funk" on the ass. And then she wears these tiny strappy tank tops, with her non-sports bra showing. But let me tell you something - that little mama can shake it! She gets going and feels it! I can only wonder what her mama would think if she saw all that funky going on, but hey! That's why we move out of our mamas' house, now isn't it.

Now, the next 25% is made up of a surprising demographic: people wearing religious t-shirts. Well, I guess technically there are only two, but this post is getting long enough already. Several weeks ago I spent an entire class of Zumba Plus behind a girl whose shirt said AMEN on the back. I kept trying to see what it said on the front, but never did. Then yesterday I was next to a girl who was wearing a shirt that said iFast with a fake Apple logo on the front, and Ramadan 08 on the back. Since when do religious holidays generate souvenir t-shirts? How odd. However, both girls wearing said t-shirts fell into the demographic of 'surprisingly good at zumba despite outward appearances'. The amen sistah looked like the girls from my HS softball team. Note that these are less the Jenny Finch/hot girls from ASU and/or USC and more, well, everyone else who plays softball. She was kind of boyish, but could knock some zumba moves out of the park. Which is what is great about zumba - it is quite an equalizer. And Miss Ramadan also made me laugh, since she was there shaking it while wearing a t-shirt for a holiday which I think of as a bit more chaste than shimmying to someone singing 'now we're going to get a little funky'.

The final 25% (so far it's Asians, Surprisingly Goods, and Dance Team) are the 'maybe nots'. Where the questions is 'should you stand in the front row?' and the answer is maybe not. Included in this group are people with no rhythm, people who think they are excellent dancers but aren't, and creepy guys. (Actually, there are only two guys in the class that I have ever seen, and neither one is creepy.) This is epitomized by a girl (woman?) I have dubbed Tennis Barbie because the first few times I saw her she was wearing a tennis skirt (think Justine Henin not Billie Jean King). She is quite tall and blonde, though not quite of Barbie proportions. She is very enthusiastic, and likes to add lots of ... extras, usually with unfortunate results. There is a lot of bouncing, and no shortage of enthusiasm, and for that I say, hat's off. Zumba your socks off.

One funny last story. Several weeks ago, as I walked in a woman was talking to the instructor before class. The instructor said "don't worry, just relax. it will be easy!" and I figured the woman was nervous about her first Zumba class. I noticed her because she looked familiar, and soon I realized that she is the Brazilian girlfriend of a graduate student I know. So, I watched her a couple of times and she was amazing. I mean, not only was her choreography perfect, but she was even adding her own little elements, all of which were great. So I thought - what on earth? How can this be her first class? I mean, it could be correctly argued that a Brazilian might have a leg up (haha) given their musical heritage, but still. The 'salsa' song in Zumba bears very little resemblance to actually dancing salsa. So, as I am paying more attention to her, I am increasingly distressed about my own poor skills. And then, all of a sudden, the teacher calls a bunch of students up onto the stage - including the brazilian! HA! Turns out she is a total regular, and what she was nervous about was doing it onstage in front of everyone. Phew.

Anyway, if you want to get exercise and laugh, go to Zumba! I can almost promise you won't be sorry.

Monday, May 17, 2010


it doesn't get much more random than that

When we still lived in Boston, Mr. Lizard knew a guy named Jim. They had met at MIT (Mr. Lizard is a clever lizard) and then ran together. He was very, very weird. This was sort of a theme for the people that Mr. Lizard knew at MIT, as I know since I lived with FIVE of them upon my arrival in Boston a million years ago. Anyway, this guy was particularly unusual. It was accentuated by the fact that he had 1.5 front teeth, but he refused to get it fixed. He said this was because he knew exactly what was involved, and how precise they had to be, and how easy it would be to screw it up. Um...similar arguments could be made against almost anything surgical, yet somehow we trust, you know, professionals.

Fast forward, and somehow Jim also ended up in Madison. I saw him in a campus deli many years ago. He was with a girl, which was surprising, who was cute, even more surprising. He was still running, and tried to get Mr. Lizard to join a track club. We were astonished to hear they got married, as she seemed kind of normal - heavy on the kind of, since she was marrying this guy. Anyway, at some point he got a new tooth, they got married, and decided to stay in Madison.

They used to live in a town south of Madison, and he would run to and from campus. This is not a short nor a scenic run. Occasionally, I would be driving down the road and Jim would run by with his backpack on, looking weird and headed home. We never talked to them on purpose. But somehow (I blame facebook) we got invited to their housewarming party. They have bought a house about a mile from ours. So, we packed up Baby Liz in her stroller, and El Segundo in his backpack, figuring we could go, snoop, be nice, and use the kids as our excuse for an early exit.

The party was suitably unusual, though had the trappings of a normal party. When I said the obligatory "this is a nice place you've got!" Jim said, in the very formal tone in which he speaks about everything, "Well I appreciate your saying that. We think it is a very solid house. Well built." In fact, I think he actually bought the house mostly because it would not fall down. What an exciting reason!

I went into the living room to see about getting some much requested cake for Baby Liz (until she discovered it was carrot cake at which point she immediately shifted her focus to the cookies nearby). These two very blond EXTREMELY friendly women stood up, and introduced themselves as the 'hosts'. What on earth?! I found out later that they were the realtors, but at the time I was nothing but baffled. Why are their hosts? Especially when there are only 20 or so people? I think I am going to have 'hosts' at my next party just to give it more cache. In any case, they definitely did not look like all the other guests. With a husband in physics and a wife in psychiatry you end up with quite a cast of characters.

Anyway, after we went upstairs for a tour (which was suitably bizarre, and during which El Segudo laid on EVERY bed and climbed on every couch and chair)we come down and one of the realtors is now wearing running clothes. Presto change-o. They say they are going for a run on the track, which is right across the street. This strikes me as highly unusual. I wander out back and lose track of Mr. Lizard. But when I find him again, I jokingly ask if he is joining the run. He says "Yeah! I can't pass up the chance to run with (insert name of famous Olympic runner)." Holy crap. The nutty realtor is her? And in fact, she is. So now we leave a party for people we barely know to go across the street for a run. Mr. Lizard decides he can run with her WHILE PUSHING THE JOGGING STROLLER so he, Jim, random party guest and Olympian start trotting around the track. And I look around and think - what the hell just happened? They go around and around. She is giving them tips, showing how to elbow your way through a pack, all kinds of stuff. It is easily one of the most random, surreal evenings we have had in a looong time. And when they are finally done, we head back to part, pack up the babies and hit the road. And that, my friends, is why I love Madison. Because where else would you find a friend from 13 years ago, walk to their new house, meet an Olympian, go for a run and head home?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


feeling awkward? have some coffee!

a while back I posted that I thought the end of coffee was coming because the chair didn't want to pay for it. Except no one really knows that he pays for it. So, last Thursday a note goes out from one of the administrative staff asking for volunteers to bring treats on Friday. Before anyone can answer, the chair (who obviously didn't realize that this was going to happen) sent a reply saying he is "not tapped out yet - even after taxes!" and that he would bring the treats. So, now it's even MORE awkward, if that is possible, because people kind of know he doesn't want to pay for it but is now pretending he DOES want to pay for it. The student association nicely volunteered and the whole thing made me so confused that I skipped coffee hour altogether. So, it lives to see another day. Are you bored of my coffee saga yet? I am, though I never cease to be amazed by the social ineptitude around this place.

The chair of our department makes a lot of money. At least, a lot more money than I do which unfortunately for me is true of a LOT of people. But anyway, in the grand scheme of america he makes plenty of money. So I had to laugh the other day when I saw him and his wife at the grocery store. They were on their way out, I was on my way in. He was shuffling along with his cart when his wife said "Oh darn! I forgot to use my coupon." Without turning around, he waves his hand as if to say 'forget about it' and keeps shuffling to his car. He looked like a broken, 80 year old man. He is not young, but he is not 80 either. As he wanders off, muttering under his breath, his wife goes back in to get her refund for her coupon. For BUTTER. Butter? Really? I mean, what is the maximum amount you think you can save on butter? A dollar? And that would be a really good coupon. I am betting 50 cents. And yet, she decides it is worth a whole extra transaction to go back inside, talk to the 14 year old customer service rep, and get her refund. For 50 cents worth of butter. That is why I will never be rich - I am way too lazy to spend that kind of time on 50 cents. But maybe that means that Mr. Lizard will not be waving me off and muttering under his breath in five years. And if I can save myself that future it is totally worth 50 cents.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010



This weekend I spent Easter with my outlaws. Since my MIL is Jewish, she is not so into Easter traditions. She is a big sport about hiding eggs and the like, and apparently also dyed eggs with her kids years ago. So when it came time for lunch, which was nothing remotely like Easter dinner but instead was chicken wraps, I joked "Guess we aren't having ham biscuits, eh?"

To me, this is a normal thing to say in conversation. To her, apparently, it was akin to my suggesting we lick our boots for lunch or something. She said "Ham BISCUITS? You're kidding." I was so thrown off that I said absolutely nothing. How can she not have heard of ham biscuits? It's not weird. It's ham. On a biscuit. It's like a sandwich. Only smaller. And...hammier. And yet, she had no idea about this food product. I wrote it off as a casualty of Judaism, but decided to do some research.

In a highly unscientific sample, I am yet to find ANYONE who is from WI and has heard of ham biscuits. Imagine if you said, "For my birthday, I will have cupcakes!" and everyone around you said "Cupcakes? What the hell is a cupcake? I have never heard of such a thing? Is it cake in a cup? What on earth. This is lunacy." And you sat there scratching your head because you know that cupcakes are very delicious and commonly eaten in many places. And yet no one had any idea what you were talking about. In fact, one person I asked said, "Well, my sister-in-law makes ham BALLS. But I have never heard of ham biscuits." REALLY? You would rather form meat into balls than put it on a slice of bread?

I think no matter how many years I live in this crazy state, Wisconsin and I are destined to sit there, looking at each other, scratching our heads and thinking "weird".


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