Friday, December 21, 2012

Merry Christmas!

There's something about a T-rex with a Santa hat that makes me uncontrollably happy. If we were sending Christmas cards this year, we would have skipped the family photo and used a portrait of T-rex instead. He is very handsome. But I decided pregnant ladies do not have to worry about Christmas cards, so we are skipping the tradition this year!

But I refuse to skip the tradition of holiday baking, so this weekend will involve lots and lots of cookies. Cookie Monster would approve.

Happy holidays!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Number One Rule For Receiving A Present

Last month, I wrote about my rules for gift giving. Alas, these rules are not universally followed. In the coming days, there is a strong possibility that you will receive a gift that is less than desirable.

So what do you do if you receive a crappy present that makes you want to bang your head against the floor? Do you start to cry if someone gives you an itchy sweater? Do you stomp your feet if your mother gives you a cat even though you are allergic to anything with four legs? Should you wail with frustration if your best friend gives your toddler a chainsaw? Is it okay to throw a tantrum if your in-laws give you a beanbag chair that smells like dead skunk?


You may not bang your head against the floor, cry, stomp your feet, wail with frustration or throw a tantrum. (At least, not in the gift giver's presence.)

You must pretend you like the gift and graciously thank the giver. (Unless the gift was obviously given with malice, e.g. if your demented neighbor gives you a dead squirrel, any negative reaction is acceptable. I recommend whacking said neighbor in the head with the dead squirrel, but first put on gloves, and then burn the gloves.)

But 99.99% of the time, you must pretend you like the gift and graciously thank the giver. I repeat: you must draw upon all of your acting skills and pretend you like the gift. In this instance, lying is acceptable.

What if you receive a present that duplicates something you already own? Well, then you need to use your judgment. If the gift giver is particularly sensitive, pretend you have been wanting this item for a long time. You can then secretly return or regift it. But if the gift giver has a sense of humor about these sorts of things, then you can laugh cheerfully and say something like, You know me too well, I already own this. When in doubt, I recommend Strategy No. 1.

If someone in your life is a notoriously bad gift giver, then maybe you should print my my rules for gift giving and display it in a conspicuous place, like on your fridge or tattooed across your forehead. But not this week. And not next week. This is something that needs to be done at a neutral time when you are not expecting any gifts for Christmas/birthdays/weddings/graduations/etc. 

And at the end of the day, who cares if you receive a lousy present? It truly is the thought that counts. Although you do have my permission to take any unwanted pets to a no-kill shelter and please, banish the beanbag chair that smells like skunk to the dumpster. If anyone asks about the beanbag chair, just say "the damn cat shredded it." And if anyone asks about the cat, just say, "the poor cat could not handle the smell of the beanbag chair and ran away."

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Telecommuting Disadvantage

I am a big fat Christmas lights dork. Oh, how I love Christmas lights! From the house with three flickering bulbs on a dead bush to the McMansion that is using enough electricity to power an aircraft carrier, I love and adore every bulb that lights up this season.

When I had an evening commute, I enjoyed these glorious lights every weeknight. Most nights, I just admired the few displays on my normal route. But at least once a week, I would get off the freeway early or drive a few laps around my neighborhood before pulling into my driveway. And yes, I would blast carols while geeking out to the lights.

But I no longer have a commute, unless walking from the bedroom to the living room counts. I keep telling myself that I should just take myself for a drive when it gets dark... but I'm at the end of my second trimester, and I don't go joy riding for shits and giggles anymore. Even if that joyride involves Christmas lights.
Eleven months a year, if you asked me to make a pro/cons table for telecommuting, my cons column would be empty. But in December, I would have to list "no commute = fewer lights/inflatable Santas" as a con. Holy crap, I can't believe I'm saying this but ... telecommuting may actually have a seasonal disadvantage.

However, as a telecommuter, I don't have to attend an office party, and that is worth ten thousand colorful bulbs. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

My Psychic Gut Instinct

I would like to take a moment to thank my Gut Instinct for being psychic this morning.

I went to bed last night, planning to go to yoga in the morning; but then I woke to a rainy day and my yoga spirit evaporated. I felt like the time spent going to my yoga class would be better spent cleaning up the mess in our future nursery and wrapping Christmas gifts.

But my brain kept saying that I should go to yoga, that yoga would be relaxing and restorative; my gut, however, kept insisting that it would be even more relaxing to stay at home in my pajamas and clean up the future nursery.

My gut won, but even as I sorted a pile of books for Goodwill, my brain kept complaining, You should have gone to yoga, you good for nothing bitch.

Then, ten minutes before my yoga class was scheduled to begin, my phone rang. It was my yoga studio! The yoga studio owner apologized and explained that class was being cancelled. One of the instructor's students had gone into labor and the instructor had rushed to the hospital to help. Class would resume as normal on Thursday morning.

Way to go, Gut Instinct! If I had listened to my brain, I would have ventured out into the rain for nothing and then I would have been annoyed that I had driven an unnecessary lap on the freeway when I could have been at home, moving old office supplies out of Baby Girl's future nursery.

Then again, what would have happened if I had gone to yoga early? Would I have been there as the student went into labor? Did her water break in the yoga studio? Did her voice lower eight octaves as she swore in an ancient Elven tongue? Could I have helped my pregnant comrade stagger to her car and then cheered as the instructor drove her to the hospital? Or maybe I could have driven to the hospital! And when a police officer pulled us over, I would have pointed to the enormous pregnant woman screaming in the backseat, and then the police officer would have escorted us to the hospital at 90 mph through Pasadena. Oh man, that would have been the most awesome Tuesday morning ever.

Thanks, Gut Instinct. Thanks for a big fat nothing.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Baby It's Cold Inside

I went to college in New Hampshire and married a Nebraska man, so I know what it means to be cold in the winter. I have left my dorm at 11 a.m. and felt my snot freeze instantly because the air was so frigid.  (My freshman roommate from Maine had to explain this phenomenon to me.) I have insisted that I wanted to light fire to my body while walking home from a sledding expedition. I have walked outside in heels and stockings in temperatures below 0° because Nathan grimaced when I suggested I might wear a pants suit to his cousin's January wedding.

I know what it means to be cold, and I realize that Pasadena's winter weather does not meet the Midwest's or New England's definition of "Brrrr."  But that doesn't mean I'm frolicking outside in my sundress and sandals 365 days a year. Pasadena still gets cold, especially at night. At the beginning and end of the day, our house gets so chilly, even Nathan complains about it.

Fortunately, we installed a new heater about six months ago when we had our air conditioner replaced. Our new heater is pretty bad ass and only needs five or ten minutes to make our house feel cozy again.

Unfortunately, our brand new digital thermostat died on Saturday morning. After it died, slightly cold air kept blowing through our vents. Nathan had to manually unplug the system.

Nathan called the company that installed our new heater/thermostat three times on Saturday. We figured there was an easy fix that could be explained to us over the phone. And three times, a company representative assured us that a technician would call us on Saturday.

It probably goes without saying that it's Monday morning, and we are still waiting for that call from the technician.

Look, I realize this is not an emergency situation. We live in Pasadena, and even though it would be nice to use our brand new heater, we can huddle under blankets and manage just nicely. But holy crap, why did the company rep tell us that someone would call to help us if no one was actually going to call?! Don't lie to us!

Seriously, if Nathan had called on Saturday morning and the company rep had apologized and explained that we needed to call back on Monday, I would have been mildly irritated for about five minutes. Then I would have had some pancakes for breakfast and forgotten my irritation. But instead, we were mislead; so although my pancakes were delicious, I felt surges of irritation all weekend whenever I thought about the stinking lying liars who apparently don't give a crap about customer service.

And what's extra irritating is that we were not misled by a random company. This company did work for us six months ago and for that work, we wrote them a substantial check. Doesn't that deserve a little honesty and some freaking customer service? Don't they want us to recommend their services to our friends and neighbors?

I can't wait to call this company for the fourth time and beg them to fix our brand new thermostat so I can operate our brand new heater for ten lousy minutes. And I know I have to be sweet and pleasant even though I want to be cranky and lawyerly. And after our experiences with this company on Saturday, I am not confident that they will hurry over to fix our brand new thermostat which they installed six months ago. Here's to hoping I am pleasantly surprised.

p.s. Apologies for the formatting/font issues with this post. After I had the audacity to add the degree symbol to the first paragraph, things went crazy. Whenever I tried to make everything normal and uniform, half the sentences turned into Greek, literally.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Netflix Guilt

I love Netflix. It's convenient, reliable and cheap. In fact, it's so affordable, Nathan and I have separate accounts! I have one of the cheaper accounts, which just gives me two discs at a time, and Nathan's account includes the streaming option. Separate Netflix accounts may be one of the modern secrets to a happy marriage.

With Netflix, you can freely add as many discs as you like to your queue. You just have to carefully manage your queue to make sure you always receive the disc you actually want. It's one thing to add a documentary about The Great Depression to your queue; it's another thing to actually sit down and watch said disc.

Sometimes, a red Netflix envelope appears in my mailbox and when I tear it open, my stomach sinks. Oh no, it's that Marilyn Monroe movie that I thought I wanted to watch but crap, I just want to watch the latest season of How I Met Your Mother. Then the Marilyn Monroe movie sits, and sits, and sits, on top of the DVD player, taunting me. Every time I go to watch t.v. alone, I consider watching the old Marilyn flick, and every time, it feels like a boring homework assignment. So instead, I dig up a movie from my chick flick stash and save Marilyn for another day. Two months later, the Marilyn Monroe movie is still tormenting me with its dusty glare, and I still just want to watch the next season of How I Met Your Mother.

I call this Netflix Guilt and I know I am not alone.  Across this country, there is a brotherhood growing every day, and it is The Brotherhood Of People Who Forgot To Manage Their Netflix Queue And Now They Have A Kubrick Film They Don't Want to Watch But Once, After Reading A Magazine Article, They Felt Inspired To Watch All Of Kubrick's Movies, And Now They Feel Guilty If They Send The Disc Back Before Watching It.

There is no shame in belonging to this Brotherhood. But this year, I challenge all members of the Netflix Guilt Brotherhood to forgive themsleves and to return all unwanted discs, whether watched or unwatched. You do not have to watch The Artist just because it won Best Picture. You do not have to watch Hugo just because your sister said it's amazing. And you do not have to watch Battleship Potemkin just because your film major friend said something pretensious about "early Russian filmmaking" that made you feel like an idiot. You are not idiot and I don't care if you ever watch Battleship Potemkin. But you are an idiot if you let your Netflix Guilt get the best of you and you keep the Battleship Potemkin disc for six months when you really just want to join the Downton Abbey bandwagon. Put the Battleship Potemkin disc back in its red envelope and get ye to a mailbox.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Let There Be Internet!

About six months ago, our internet provider AT&T forced us to "upgrade" to a new wireless network. AT&T promised that its new fiber optic technology would make our internet connection faster and more reliable. Suffice to say, that has not been the case.

On Sunday morning, our internet box died. It was maybe six months old, at best, but it could no longer handle being an internet box. Of course, Nathan was in the office all day working and when he got home, he was planning to do a little more work before going to bed. But he could not do this work thanks to AT&T's crappy technology. Instead, he fiddled with the internet box and then spoke to two different technicians. I should note that he was very patient with both technicians even though they provided zero assistance. The box was dead, and we needed a new one.

We had to schedule an appointment with a technician to get our new box. AT&T told us the technician would arrive on Wednesday sometime between 4 and 8 p.m. I hate how phone and cable companies do that. Is it really that difficult to narrow the time of your technician's arrival to a smaller window? I can understand a two hour window, but four???

When he arrived, the technician told me that the new internet boxes die a lot. Well isn't that special? Our first box lasted six months, and golly gee, the prospect of losing our internet connection every six months is thrilling.

Also, it should be noted that we did not require the services of a technician to install our new internet box. This is something we could have done ourselves in less than ten minutes. (Well, Nathan could have installed the box in less than ten minutes. My pregnant belly has recently graduated from "cute" to "cumbersome" and I have to plot a plan of attack before I do anything difficult like standing up or bending down to tie my shoes.)

But if AT&T mailed us a new internet box, it would not have arrived until Friday at the earliest. Seriously? Does this make any business sense? Has AT&T not heard of this amazing invention called "overnight mail"? If AT&T had just overnighted us a new box, we would have been (relatively) happy customers and our internet service would have been restored in a timely fashion; and AT&T would not have had to pay one of its employees to come to our house. But no, let's do things the more difficult, annoying and expensive way. That makes so much more sense.

My apologies for my blogging absence. This time, I can legitimately blame a corporation for my disappearance. If I disappear for another week in approximately six months, please assume the internet box has died again.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Guest Posts

This blog used to feature fresh new posts nearly every weekday. Obviously, that is no longer happening. The fact that I'm pregnant might be to blame. Although I have a decent amount of energy these days, I still do not have 100% of my usual energy. Also, this whole "being pregnant" thing has added a whole bunch of things to my to-do list - e.g. next Monday, I'm seeing a physical therapist to give my back a tune-up and Tuesday, I'm taking the glucose test to make sure I don't have gestational diabetes (fun!)
The time I used to have for blogging now gets used for stuff likes naps and prenatal yoga. If I was an organized and thoughtful blogger, I would organize a series of guest posts for your enlightenment and entertainment. Alas, I am not an organized or thoughtful blogger, but if I was, here are some of the guest posts you might get to read:
  • Guest Posts from My Mother:
    • Wear Your Sunblock!
    • What TV Shows You Should Be Watching - because my mother's radar for good t.v. shows is amazing. She has introduced me to such shows as Shameless and Modern Family - there are at least a dozen other shows she has recommended to me over the years, but this is all my pregnant brain can remember right now.
    • Reapply Your Sunblock!
  • Guest Posts From My Father:
    • How the [insert name of L.A. sports team] Broke My Heart
    • Your Grammar Sucks
  • Guests Posts From My Grandma Shirley:
    • How to Rock Leather Pants As A Senior Citizen
    • How to Rock Animal Print Pants As A Senior Citizen
  • Guests Posts From My Brother Matt And Sister-in-Law Sara:
    • What To Do If There's A Cobra In Your Front Yard - oh wait, they already wrote that post, it's right here
    • 1,001 Reasons You Should Send A Care Package To Your Loved Ones Who Are Volunteering With The Peace Corps
    • Please Put Lots Of Gossip Magazines In Our Care Package
    • Who the Hell is Pippa Middleton?
  • Guests Posts From My Sister Katherine:
    • Please Stop Wearing That, It Makes You Look Old/Lame
    • 1,001 Reasons Why Dachshunds Are The Most Gorgeous Creatures On The Planet
    • No, You Are Not Allowed to Wear Your Green Crocs In Public; I Don't Care If You Are Pregnant
    • You Went To Bed At What Time? How Lame Are You?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

An Update About My Novel (And Some Notes About My Tush)

Is it possible to break your left butt cheek? And if so, what happens next? Can you get a cast for a single buttock? 

Needless to say, I'm typing this while sitting on a heating pad. If you see my dignity, please tell it to come home. I'm not angry, I promise. It's just I have to burp so much these days, and it's getting difficult to go to public places without humiliating myself. I feel like I need to live in a t-shirt that says: "Please excuse my burps and/or farts; I'm pregnant and my body has officially abandoned its last shred of honor."

In other news, I've finished my first round of major revisions for my novel and sent the latest draft to the printers. Woot woot! (By "sent the latest draft to the printers," I mean I emailed a copy to Nathan so he can print it for me. Such a sweet husband.)

My sister is home in Los Angeles for her winter vacation and I'm giving her the current version to read and critique. She is going to be my first reader! I am both exhilarated and terrified to pass my infant novel into her hands.

The first draft of my novel was 437 pages long with 194,092 words. After some serious revisions, the second draft is 343 pages long with 144,243 words. WHEW. If I could diet like I can revise, I could lose this pregnancy weight in about three weeks.

I worried in this post that I abused the words "just, then and now" in my first draft. I used those words 808, 550, and 654 times, respectively. I tried to slash these words out of my novel, but the word "just" still appears 515 times in the second draft (kill me). The word "then" is down to 377 appearances (sigh) and "now" is used 491 times (effing aye). Maybe my sister can help me with this little addiction. Probably not.

But here's a notable improvement: I used the word "pumpkin" only seven times in the first draft; but in the second draft, that word appears eight times! Unfortunately, the word "cranky" is down to three paltry appearances in the second draft (after being used four times in the first).

However, and I am being deadly serious, I would delete the words "pumpkin" and "cranky" from my novel entirely if I could think of a title for the damn thing. I thought the title would jump out at me as I reread and revised, but no such luck. If Santa Claus would bring me a title for my novel, I would be a very happy writer on Christmas morning.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Cold Chronicles

I haven't left the house since last Thursday. Well, that's not entirely accurate. I scurried outside in a heavy mist on Friday afternoon to fetch two boxes of tea from our detached garage. Then, on Saturday morning, I ventured down to our basement to point out to Nathan the boxes of Christmas decorations that needed to come upstairs. But other than those two "excursions," I have been under house arrest.

Why am I under house arrest? Because I have a cold. I woke up Friday morning feeling under the weather with a sore throat and a touch of congestion. It was the sort of cold that would just be a nuisance to Pre-Pregnant Courtney. But now that I'm pregnant, this cold is sucking up about 78% of my energy. I decided to hibernate all weekend so I could kick the cold's butt quickly and efficiently.

My plan failed. After three days of rest and more rest, my sore throat is better but my congestion is much worse. I can tell this cold is going to stick around for at least a few more days. Ah, well. That's the way it usually goes with a cold, isn't it? Silly me for thinking I could trick the cold into leaving early just by taking it easy.

On the bright side, I have enjoyed the first three days of my cold as much as possible:

- Nathan and I watched a ton of Parks and Recreation. Many thanks to my sister for insisting that we watch this amazing sitcom. Ron Swanson is my hero.

- We played lots of Mario Kart Wii. I don't think we'll ever tire of that game. Mario Kart alone justifies the money I spent on the Wii. I should probably buy us a back-up Wii, wheel controllers and game disc in case any of the components ever break.

- I started reading Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year by Anne Lamott. I loved Lamott's Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, so I knew I'd enjoy Operating Instructions.  But damn, it's even better than I thought. I'll probably finish today. Lamott's writing inspires me to be a better writer.

- Sunday afternoon, we decorated our Christmas tree! We have a fake Christmas tree, and according to my ob/gyn, this means we are "old." I don't care. Having a fake Christmas tree is sooooo easy and it looks real enough to me. Plus, do I really need to be crawling on the floor this year with my pregnant belly to check on a tree's water level? I think not.

- I started knitting a rainbow striped blanket for Baby Girl (just like this one.) If this cold lingers much longer, I anticipate finishing this project in record time.

I could easily spend the next few days in the house, trying to defeat this cold, except I am determined to secure provisions today from the grocery store. We are out of mango juice, and that is simply unacceptable. I am going to summon all my energy just so I can replenish our mango juice supplies.