Friday, August 29, 2014

Clouds of cotton

I was folding sheets the other day, and it was fluffing up memories in my mind.

See what I did there?

Namely, as I was single-handedly (well, double-handedly, but single-bodiedly) folding a sheet, I remembered when I used to fold sheets with my brothers as children, and how it was a team effort, because we were wee.

I think my mom told me once during my adult years – or maybe I read it in Woman’s Day at Grandma’s – that she would let us fold things like linens, because who cares if the washcloths are uneven in the closet? It was less important that sheets and blankets be wrinkle free than her silk 80s blouses, especially with four kids to love on at home and a busy Human Resources office to manage by day.

So us kiddoes received sheets to fold, as a way of earning our adorable blonde keep, and probably to keep Mom and Dad from going over the edge with all their parental duties.

We often received several plastic baskets of white socks and undies, and would be informed that we were at a “Folding Party” (joy!), and we would proceed to grumble, sometimes laugh, and wait for our eyes to become bloodshot as we grabbed for yet another sock, hoping it would match the seemingly identical one already in our other hand.

I think we even used bright permanent markers at one point to put green, orange, purple marks on the toes of the socks to make this matching task easier, but I don’t recall it actually speeding up the process.

It seemed like Folding Parties occurred at least once a week, and with the party favors being…socks (albeit clean ones, can’t complain too much), well let’s just say these parties never lived up to the “Party” in their name.

So socks sucked, but sheets on the other hand were actually pretty great.

Mom used to grab sheets straight from the buzzing dryer and go in search of her children, watching TV, playing video games, doing homework throughout the house. Once found, she would dump the warm sheets on each of us, and it was like living in a happy cloud of cotton and something without an exact name, really, but akin to world peace and no school and giant ice cream sundaes.

Something like that. The stuff of childhood, and the stuff we never stopped wishing for after we outgrew our twin-sized bedding.

The heat from the sheet cloud evaporated quickly, within a minute, even, and when I finally shrugged out of the Little Mermaid or koala or Sesame Street print fabric, my skin was chilly, giving me a shiver. But it was totally worth it while it lasted. Every time.

My parents also tasked us with the feat of folding our bedding, which was risky given our varying heights, which were for a long time well under five feet apiece. But we were somehow able to fold several sets of sheets, so we charged on and boldly assisted with this household chore.

I loved folding pillowcases, because they fit more easily in my tiny hands, and that tiny bit of Dad's engineering blood in me made my technique pretty accurate. But I also loved folding the big sheets, with the big brothers.

It was (at least) a two-person job (sometimes a third kid would pinch the middle section of a sheet to keep things tidy between folds), requiring each kid on the two-person team to grab two corners each. This was enough to spread my arms to their full wingspan, clutching a wrinkled corner in each fist, making sure not to let loose the silky fabric and delay the process.

With the parachute of cartooned cotton stretched between us, we would walk toward each other, carefully and clumsily mashing our sheet corners between our palms, pressing tight so as not to drop them.

Somehow we would smooth out the points, and one kid would steadily hold the four-turned-to-two pointed corners, now thicker than before, while the other kid would make sure it was safe to let go, then reach to the floor to grab the folded end of the sheet. Then this bro or sis would back away from the sibling, stretching out the sheet like a runner being unrolled at a wedding.

Then we would pinch our own corners together on our own ends of the parachute, my left hand to my right, brother's left hand to his right.

Then we would turn the sheet to make it lie horizontally suspended again, making eye contact for a moment first to make sure we were in sync to turn the sheet in the same direction. Sometimes we got it right, others we ended up with a twist in the smooth folds of our parachute. More eye contact would correct the twist.
We now had a very narrow, long sheet of several folded layers between us. We would walk toward each other again to mesh our corners once again. As the sheet got more tightly packed together with itself, we moved faster, handling the giant flag of fabric more easily in our kid-sized hands with each move, our confidence evident in our swiftness.


As I was folding my own sheets the other day, I was thinking about how massive that sheet used to be between me and my fellow folders. So big that it took all of our concentration not to let it slip from our hands. One wrong, accidental twist and we would get frustrated, one nagging the other that now the process had to begin again. Other times we were more forgiving, willing to slow down to correct the error.

I could be misremembering, but I loved the task of folding sheets. I felt grown up, powerful and brave, even, being trusted with the task of handling something so big. Not just washcloths and pillowcases, but BIG sheets. Something ten times my size.

It took me plenty of years as a twenty-something to realize it, but I love having a role, and as our family gets bigger with sisters-in-law and a niece and nephews, having a role feels almost imperative to me, to prevent my disappearance in the crowd.

Folding sheets was an early role for me, along with doing dishes and later shoveling snow (the brothers will argue that I didn’t do my fair share of shoveling, but I have my explanations, friends, if you'd ever like to hear my side of the story). Now I've come into other roles -- sending my niece stickers in the mail, making inappropriate jokes at family gatherings, cross stitching things for babies' nurseries. Writing.

The sheet between me and my brothers feels sometimes wide again, these days. My closest sibling, geographically, is 1,000 miles from me. I haven’t seen him in almost two years, nor have I met his newborn son. 

But I once called this same brother when I, at 21 years old, for the first time in my life, hated my life. I cried on the phone and he prayed for me across the electrical wire. I sat on the floor of the kitchen, sort of listening, sort of relaxing as best as I could into the sound of his voice.

Mom was in the next room, and had tried her best to help, but knew there were some things only a sibling can fix with another sibling. Sometimes she sends one of us in to coax the other to do something, or to talk them out of a bad mood, or whatever. If memory serves, it may have been her who dialed him that night eight years ago, looking for him to help her daughter. And he helped.

This brother has since married, gained another degree, moved a time or three. I have learned to kiss boys (late bloomer), gained another degree, quit a degree program, and moved a time or eight. This brother is not my current, go-to mentor (and we’ve taken my love life off the table of conversations, because we just do not see eye to eye on it, so why waste time?), but I still love him. And I miss him. Sometimes in a crippling way, other times – as I ventured yesterday with my therapist – in a non-overtaking way.

And all of it makes me think of the sheets.

There is giant parachute space between me and my brothers right now. And most of the time, the sheet remains extended rather than folded. Skype calls and witty Facebook comments make their way across it, but actual airfare is rarely purchased to make the corners touch.

And the expanse feels wide – because it is – but it was wide when we were kids, too, at times. We didn’t develop the magic sibling eye contact required to keep the sheet from twisting overnight. It took several folding party sessions to get there.

And we used to bicker at each other when someone dropped a corner, because we were young and the sheet folding was new and difficult and it was frustrating to have to start again at something we hadn't yet mastered.

But we would always start again. And now we’ve matured, slower to snap when someone drops a corner (sometimes).

More people are holding the corners, and edges of the sheet, now – wives, babes. New tabby cats.

Sheets are flung on air mattresses, futons, on the floors of babies’ rooms or living rooms, when we visit at Christmas, or baptisms, or graduations.

Corners touch for a moment, but when we go back to our home corners after each visit -- Wisconsin, Minnesota, Kansas -- the sheet doesn’t remain folded. It's an extended parachute, hovering over "fly-over" country once again.

Touch, unfold. Touch, unfold.

I guess what I’m realizing, or experiencing, at this exact moment in history (because I wouldn’t be surprised if it changes), is that I’m doing OK – much better than I have done, or been – with the not staying folded thing. I don’t know if it’s because I’m enjoying my own life right now, or something else, or a combination of several things. It's taken many therapy sessions and conversations with friends, and tears, and prayers from friends to get here, but it feels like, for but a moment, I'm here. Not thinking about some vague "there," of what could or should be.  

I would like more touches of the corners, for the sheet to stay folded longer. But if Skype and three days at Christmas are what I get, I’ll take it over the other option, which is to remain always unfolded, or with one corner dropped and the other corners being unforgiving and not willing to rework the system to make the lines clean again.

We folded then. We dropped corners. We twisted, or we got the eye contact just right. We bickered. We unfluffed our valiant folding work to make our beds, then stripped them when Mom hollered upstairs for us to bring her laundry.

She washed, she dried, she dumped the clouds on us once again, the clouds of world peace and no school and endless ice cream.

And we emerged, shivered a bit, and then we folded. And we figured out a groove.

And we always had those moments before the folding parties, in the clouds. Somehow things were most perfect when crumpled and heaped, instead of neatly folded and stacked. When we weren't thinking about the logistics of folding, but were just existing -- happy, and warm.

I plan to dump sheets on my own kids, should I have them, and I hope they find their groove with each other, at their folding parties, in their twenties, and beyond.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Music lessons with my brother

I was 14, I think. I was sitting in my bedroom, or cleaning, or something.

Marc Anthony was singing “You Sang to Me” on the radio.

My brother walked in.

“Bailey,” he said, after approaching the stereo. “As your big brother, I have to do this.”

He turned the stereo off.

And then he exited my room.

Apparently he wasn’t much of a fan.

I’ve had several educational moments with this particular brother (who I won’t name because sometimes he gets weird about me mentioning things about him, and I’m not sure if his love of pop music would be on that list) regarding music over the years. And by “educational” I mean sometimes educational, sometimes just bonding.

There was the time he explained to me why Britney’s “Oops I did it, Again” was not wholesome – though this conversation was encompassed by our main conversation which was about how we both liked the song.

We both loved Vitamin C’s “Smile” around the same time, though he may have feigned additional interest on my behalf, for the sake of sibling bonding. I bought the single and he let me play it in the car.

But there are certain songs – Marc’s “You Sang to Me” being among them – that, generally without fail, make me think of this particular big brother of mine. Every time I hear these songs. Below is our musical, sibling anthology.

First up we have Celine Dion’s “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now.” Brother bought me this CD in 2004, upon discovery that I didn’t yet own All the Way: A Decade of Song. He felt my not owning it was inappropriate for my life.

CD was purchased and immediately played in the car.

A melodramatic rendition was sung by us both, but the moment I remember in particular is centered around the lyric: “but you were history with the slamming of the door.”
After “door,” there is a barrumph sound to indicate a door -- yes, you guessed it -- slamming.

During our melodramatic singing of a melodramatic song, Brother took a hand from the steering wheel to do a sweeping motion with it, and used his voice to really get at the drama of the moment --

of the slamming

of the door.


In keeping with our diva segment, let’s now move on over to our favorite country belle (who I want to see in Vegas, pretty please, anyone who wants to join me), Shania.
Brother introduced me to the song I’m about to mention, because he first owned her greatest hits album before I (I purchased a copy along with a Celine magnet in Vegas earlier this year, and was so distracted by singing along with it on the way back to LA that I drove five miles in the wrong direction).

The song is “The Woman in Me.”

There’s a line that goes:

The woman in meeeeee
Needs you to beeeeeeee
the man in my arrrrrrrms
to hold tenderleeeeeeeeeeee

Now, Brother takes his own take on the “tenderlyyyyyyy” portion of the song, and by this I mean he mocks Ms. Twain’s way of uttering it.

When I first heard this song, with Brother, of course, I was thinking, “Nice song,” when suddenly I hear over Shania’s “tenderleeeeeeeeeeee”

Brother’s “ten-DUH-leeeeeeeeeeeeee”

Emphasis on the “duh.”
It is just very nearly impossible for me to hear this song and not also imagine my brother singing it. And while I think it’s a beautiful, sentimental, romantic ballad, I can’t help but laugh – at least a little bit on the inside – while trying to mimic Shania’s pitch in a sort of serious manner. It’s one of those inside jokes that just never dies.

While I love the ten-DUH-leeeeeeeeeeeee thing, I think this last song may be my favorite among all the Brother musical educational moments of history so far.

Or at least it’s one I think about a lot, because he pointed something out to me about a song that I really hadn’t thought about until he said something. And now I can’t help but think of the thing he pointed out, so I really owe that to him.

First thing’s first – we’re all familiar with the basic concept of the Backstreet Boys’ “The Call,” yes?
If not (shaking my head), watch this video and then join us again, please. We’ll wait.

So, to recap, for those of you who are missing out and decided not to watch the video (you know who you are), the aforementioned song, "The Call," involves a guy (or, five guys singing in harmony) telling his girl (five girls, listening in harmony?) that he’s going out to the club, so he ain't available to talk to his girl(s), when the dirty truth! is that he’s cheating on her and he's acting like his phone is about to die, but it is working just fine!

So, as I mentioned before, I never really realized a small detail to this song until Brother pointed it out with classy and humorous mockery.
This educational musical lesson took place while I was in high school, again in my bedroom, radio playing (because this was before the Christmas when he bought me The Hits -- Chapter One).

Brother started to pontificate about not so much the song or the concept of the song itself, but – and he got really deep here, guys, so mentally prepare yourselves for this – rather about the career of one of the BSBoys and his assigned part in the song.

It wasn’t really until I started working at a business journal in my twenties that I really started thinking about the moving parts of a business or working group of people, but I owe it to Brother for opening my eyes about the individual players in a boy band.
Thank you, Brother. Thank you for that.
So. We were listening to this song, and he started chuckling, laughing at the line in the song: “My battery is low.”

You’ll note this line at about 1:45 in the video above, in which one of our BSBoys adds a point to his cheating message to us naïve girls who were listening at home.
Homestar in the song goes on and on about how he’ll be out late tonight with “the guys” (sure) and so she (we) shouldn’t expect to hear from him.

Then another homestar, subtly – but surely – jumps in for his big SOLO MOMENT and tells us, “My battery is low,” to inform the naïve teeny boppers that his phone is supposedly going to die and so “Don’t even bother trying to call back, lady.”

Whoa, pause. I just had a vision of a BSB & Beyonce/Gaga mashup of the former’s “The Call” and the latter’s “Telephone” – whoa. That would be epic. All royalties better be sent to me, y’all, since I had the idea on this one.

Phew. Give me a sec.
Oh my goodness. Sorry, not done. This idea is burgeoning in my mind and I must get it out.

The premise for the audio/video mashup would be a girls against guys medley, where they’re singing at and over each other, like they’re in a fight. She’s all over here at the club dancing, can’t hold her drink and phone and dance all at once, brother. Meanwhile they’re over there trying to pull a fast one on her and girl don’t even care!! Cause she be dancing.
She’s k-kinda busy.

This is the best idea I’ve had all day.

OK, back. Where were we? Ah, yes. “The Call.”
So Brother started laughing at this battery part. He said, “Can you imagine? This guy just stands in the background for the whole song, then” (and here Brother took a step forward) “steps forward and sings, ‘MY BATTERY IS LOW!’ and then” (Brother steps back to original position) “his part is over.”

This is thought provoking stuff, it really is.

So much so, that 15-some years later, I’m still thinking about it as The Hits -- Chapter One blares in my Corolla as I cruise (crawl) down the 405.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Things we thought were funny (with guest star Michelle)

Fact unrelated to the remainder of this blog post: I've dubbed the cat a "body masher." This is because he loves to mash his body against mine.

I am fine with this.

OK, fact over.

Bonus fact: He's also into head butting. Affectionate little beast.


Now on with the remainder of the post.

One of my besties, Michelle, was in town yesterday, and naturally we gravitated to the OC.

We had actual logistical reasons for being there, but so far it is where we always congregate when she visits. And this happens to be beyond appropriate, because Michelle is the one who introduced me to the show "The OC." I was reluctant at first, but willing to watch because she was going to do my hair while we watched, and I'm a sucker for that.

Then we watched a second episode.

Then I drove home.

Then I found myself, days later, wanting to watch another episode.

Could it be?

It could.

We watched now and then while we were still in school together, and then when I moved to Cali I finished off the show on my own. In the words of the Biebs, never say never, y'all. Didn't think I'd be watching "Dawson's Creek," either, but wouldn't you know it if I'm in the final season.

Anyway. So we were in the OC yesterday. And naturally we cracked each other and ourselves, individually, up.

It's one of the best things about our pairing.

If you ask me.

So here are some of the things we laughed at yesterday that you probably won't laugh at. Unless you're cool (just to give you a comparison yardstick here: one of our favorite things to repeat to each other is "Aren't these chips delicious!?" and then we laugh. And this has lasted us for a couple of years yet).


[Walking up the stairs to the parking lot, after our time at the beach:]

A boy passes us on his way down the stairs, says to his adult companion: "I think Dino's* going to get me a boogie board."

*Name, fortunately for all of us, not changed.

Concerned adult is not so sure he's going to get a boogie board.

We keep walking. Then, Michelle: "So you think Dino's gonna get him a boogie board?"


[Michelle, working the radio in my car:]

For starters, Michelle is BOSS when she runs the radio. Not "a boss," she is BOSS. (As in bossy, but don't tell her I said that). She passes several fab tunes, Bailey says things like, "Oh great song," or starts dancing. Michelle changes station. Every time.

Michelle stops radio on a mariachi tune.

"How's this jam working for you?" she asks.

Finds another mariachi station moments later (because they aren't far apart on the dial here in SoCal).

"How 'bout this one?"

(Worth noting: Michelle spends several verses of some rap song trying to match her saying her favorite lyric ("something something, NYC") to the actual time in which it is said in the song. Fails several times. Bailey messes up one lyric one time by one word! Michelle doesn't let it go that Bailey let this happen.)



[During our extended nature walk along the ocean shore:]

Michelle finds a sea urchin in a rock crevice. At least this is how we identified it* -- we are journalists, not scientists.

*After much debate. We went through "sea cucumber," "anemone," and maybe something else first.

Michelle decides she is going to touch it.

Michelle urges Bailey to touch it.

Bailey touches it and exclaims, as it gets fresh with her finger using its tiny tentacle arms.

When recreating the exclamation for Michelle's brother later, I believe he compared it to a dying seagull.

Michelle and Bailey both crack up at the screaming of little girl Bailey.


[Nature walk continues:]

Michelle asks why the phrase is "Life's a beach."

Bailey says she's not sure, but imagines it is one of two things, or both:

1. Life is meant to be lived like one is at the beach. Calm, peaceful, sandy. Thus, life's a beach.


2. It's a play on words of the more cynical life sentiment that life is a b*tch. (Kind of like the poems "Dover Beach" and "Dover B*tch," but with the parody in the opposite direction).

This is contemplated. Michelle throws in that life could be "a peach."

"If you live in Atlanta, sure," conjectures Bailey.


[Some people on the beach are waving at something, or someone:]
[This is the second-to-last anecdote, I promise]

"Are they waving at us?" Michelle asks Bailey.

Bailey, to the wavers: "Are you waving at us?"

Wavers: "What?"

Bailey: "Are you waving at us?"

Wavers: "Oh, no." Chuckles.

"Do you like how you say things quietly to yourself and I ask them out loud?" Bailey asks Michelle.


[Nature walk continues to continue (at this point we are heading back because Bailey's shoulders are dangerously pink):]

Michelle spots a peach pit in the sand. She startles, excited that she may have stumbled across another sea creature for touching.

Bailey, knowing right away that it's a peach pit and not mistaking it for some sort of mollusk: "Life's a peach."

Then, expanding it: "Life's a beach peach."

Meanwhile, Michelle is trying to say something.

Bailey, continuing in her own, punny world: "Life's a beach, peach."

"I THOUGHT!..." Michelle chimes in, gracefully of course, and not at all loud.

Bailey finally stops.

" was an urchin."

And this, my friends, is the line that was quoted the most for the remainder of our daycation in the OC, where we waved to several houses that we guessed would belong to the great public defender of Ryan Atwood, the darling, the dashing, the esquired: the Sandy Cohen.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Analysis of an outfit

I've never claimed to be a fashionista. My siblings are boys. 

Let's review: Siblings? Boys.

I did the tomboy thing for many moons, and to an extent still do so. 

Fast forward several years: dresses are once again no stranger to my closet, and nail polish and earrings and perfume sometimes grace my bod. 

But let's, for a moment here, take a look back at a particular outfit from high school. 

Setting: Spring break trip with my best friend Corie (who is 30 today!!) and her parents. We were driving to Florida and took our sweet time getting there. We stopped in Memphis to take a look at the Peabody Hotel, where there are DUCKS inside. 

(On another trip through Memphis, I attended the National Civil Rights Museum (also the site where MLK was assassinated) -- a must visit if you haven't been. Also the Apartheid Museum in South Africa, but I figure airfare is less for a Memphis flight).

While in town, we snapped the picture below. 

And I -- for one -- would like to examine my outfit in the picture, because it is quite, quite stellar. 

From toe to head, we have:

  • neon green plastic flip flops
  • white socks
  • dark teal thermal underwear pants, high-water/capri style (which I think wasn't the manufacturer's intent -- I think they were actually just too small for me, though they look relatively roomy in the butt) -- with Bugs Bunny screen printed near the shin area
  • a neon yellow (with purple stripes) polo -- this would go on to act as my signature piece in college
  • a bright, nearly neon, orange Nike sweatshirt
  • and to top it all off, goofy facial expression

Winner. It's a wonder I wasn't Prom, or at least Homecoming Queen. 

By the way, we're walking in Memphis (note the newspaper stand) here.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Some things we're getting right (, Y'all)

Have y'all been to Fresh & Easy? The grocery store?


I think I'm in love.

I had shopped in there before, but yesterday: I had a moment with Fresh & Easy.

So much so that I had to tell a friend about it. Well, didn't have to, but did.

It's just so orderly -- all my organized friends, go check it out and treat yourself -- well lit, the people are nice, cute labels on stuff.

I don't know what the deal was exactly, but yesterday I was walking through the aisles and in my head I was thinking, "FRESH AND EASY! YES!"

Then I got to the parking lot and for whatever reason thought about the fact that it's pretty great that our society has been able to get a lot of people to switch over to reusable grocery bags to save Mother Earth.

Even I have finally made the switch, and it was difficult for me to strike up that habit.

So after my love fest with Fresh & Easy (which, really, is far from over), and then thinking about the bag phenomenon, I thought about some other things our culture/country/world are getting right.

And I think we could all use a list of things we're getting right right about now, am I right? So here's what I came up with. Feel free to add your own in the comments. The comments section is where it's at, babies!

1. Libraries -- we have these places with millions of books and we can just go get them for free. Free books. And if you don't like what you checked out? No big deal. Just take it on back. We're not gonna charge you for that (unless you're late, but the focus here is the free).

2. Animal shelters -- people go find animals that are hurt, lost, abused, neglected, dirty, and they take them and make them better and then they let us take them home with us so we can love them. YES.

(My cat has been with me for less than a week, and I mean it when I say that I already love him. He's snoozing next to me as I write this, btw).

3. Radio -- free music. Pause and remember how rad that is. And occasionally hilarious morning show hosts, who make a drive to work unexpectedly carbonated.

4. Music -- thank God for music!! And how great is it that of all the things that divide us (and while musical genre tastes can divide us, hopefully only casually -- let's keep it calm, folks), music doesn't really. In fact, it unites us -- on dance floors, in worship, on the Internet, in cars on the freeway with our friends, at concerts.

Name one person in your life who is ashamed of admitting his or her joy gained from music. It's one of the only unabashed loves we have left, so I for one am going to keep a death grip on keeping it that way.

While we're on the subject:

Anyone else think Florence looks like Kirsten Dunst, by the way?

5. Box wine -- there is wine in this country that is packaged in a box. This exists. This is fab.

6. I know we're early on here -- and yes, there are major issues with it -- but we are finally moving in the direction of health care for everyone. And again, yes, I know, big issues. But the point is, we're trying. We're finally taking steps toward it; and for a loooong time it wasn't that way. Focus on the forward, friends.

7. There are phone numbers for people to call if they are thinking about suicide, and phone numbers for people to call who suspect someone is being abused. Suicide and abuse suck, to be sure, but having hotlines in place is pretty great.

8. Social workers exist. Thank you, social workers. Every day, thank you.

9. Children are adopted. (Psalm 68:6)

10: TEACHERS!!!! Oh my goodness, teachers. Very likely wouldn't be writing this right now if it weren't for the teachers, including one Mrs. Borth who told one 10-year-old Bailey to "Keep writing."

11. There is a whole crazy (I use that in the good way) subculture of extreme exercise in our country -- Tough Mudder, marathons, Iron Man, etc. If there's gonna be a subculture -- well if it's centered around health and endorphins? I can think of worse things.

12. Public transit exists.

13. And finally: Target exists. And who here is done getting enough of that adorable and handy store? Not I!

That concludes this list for now, though I could make it longer. What would you add? What are we getting right??

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A new boyfriend

Raise your hand if you saw this link on Twitter or Facebook and clicked on it because you thought I had a new human boyfriend.

I shake my head at you. You should know better, after all this time, my luck with men...

No no. No human boyfriend. But a cat boyfriend?


A coworker squealed and gave me a hug yesterday morning when I told her that I had -- finally -- procured a cat over the weekend. She even set her coffee down to give me a full, two-arm hug.

I had to set down my breakfast eggs before returning the embrace. As hugs go, it was a high maintenance one.

Our nearby colleague may have thought we were a little too hyper for a cat adoption, but we were recognizing a legitimately momentous occasion. It is, on some level, on par with gaining a human boyfriend.

Too far? I'm not so sure. I'm a champion cat lady who should probably have a cat at all times and who had been without one for two years.

So the new guy's name is Office Max, and the short story behind his name is that he has been living in the office at the shelter where he came from for the last year and some months.

It will be not long at all before you start hearing about him all the time (I've already posted three videos to YouTube, and I got him two days ago), but/so for now I would like to honor the babe who graced my presence for the last 11 years (and who is gratefully still alive and kickin' it, just not living in California with me).


I first met Dibbs when I was 18, through a picture. My family was visiting me at college during my first semester as a freshman, and they showed to me on the viewing pane of their digital camera the new tabby cat they had adopted since I started school. I guess they needed to fill the void I left in my absence, or something.

Also cats are great and they were moving out of a no-cats-allowed rental into a pay-a-mortgage-so-you-can-have-as-many-cats-as-you-want home, so duh.

I made my first venture away from the dorm to my parents' place for Thanksgiving, which was when I first met in person the cat who loved, even then, to curl up on top of crumpled plastic grocery bags.

It's a weird habit, yes, but it was one of the only ways my last (human) boyfriend could sorta, kinda, not really bond with the cat. He would fluff a bag upward to catch some air; Dibbs would watch it above him, then his eyes would follow it the whole distance to the ground where he would then automatically move himself to lie on it.

If you're waiting for more of a climax to that, you can stop. That's all it is. He just lies on the bag. And loves it. Personally I think a blanket would be a little cozier, but his fur is pretty soft so I guess he doesn't need more softness than what he's already working with.

When I came home for my freshman Thanksgiving holiday, it didn't feel like "home" to me. Having moved three times around the country before ever graduating from high school, I had long before abandoned the traditional sentiment of home being the place that houses your friends-since-kindergarten, your retired kindergarten teacher, your favorite restaurants, and your musty bedroom with your third grade spelling bee championship certificate still hung on the wall above 1980s carpet.

For me, I rekindled friendships with a few childhood friends when we moved back to a town we had lived in before; we had one Chinese restaurant that we still actually frequent; and to this day I have never put a hole in my own bedroom wall to hang a picture. It feels too permanent.

I am beyond lucky to have grown up in a loving, safe household, but all that side stuff that many are able to take for granted (a close group of friends to go to prom with, continually excelling on one sporting team, being recognized in school hallways) I wasn't able to take for granted. So for better or worse, "home" in the material sense hasn't necessarily carried a lot of sentimentality with it, and "home" in the up-for-interpretation sense has been where my parents, my brothers, and (more recently) the niece and nephews are.

And where the cats are.

I still don't really use the term "home" to describe much more than whatever apartment I'm currently living in ("I've gotta go home, I have work in the morning"), or to talk about the Midwest (because LA natives don't know the individual states -- I'm sorry, but it's true) when I'm flying to see my family ("I'm going home next week for Christmas").

I've gotten better in my adult years about not hijacking a simple conversation to start rambling on about how I'm so different because I have no traditional sense of home. During that first semester of college, I was learning with some discomfort how to patiently listen to my classmates' woes about missing old friends and their excitement to go home for visits. Half the class couldn't wait to play with their childhood Labrador again, the Wisconsinites couldn't wait to eat some cheese curds, and I just wanted to yell: "I'M SO DIFFERENT!!!!"

(That urge to yell that particular statement hasn't quite gone away, unfortunately).

When I "went home" for Thanksgiving as a college freshman, the sense of detachment to the place where I had spent my last two years of high school was amplified by the fact that my parents weren't even living in the home they were living in when I left for college three months prior. Their new house was very cool and funky looking (in a good way), but my attitude was one of shrugged shoulders and indifference. I really couldn't muster up any excitement beyond that, nor too much grief over the house before.

I was assigned the hide-a-bed in the basement as my sleeping quarters. Being on a nocturnal college schedule, my light was often on after the rest of the Brewers had gone to sleep that week. But the newest, littlest Brewer was still awake, and would follow the light and timidly trot his tiny four feet down the stairs to join me.

Holidays can be a loud occasion with my family, and I think all the noisy, extra humans in the house were stressing him out, and frankly, kind of frightening him. On those holiday-week nights, the basement was calmer, quieter. But also not isolated; I was there. And for me, Dibbs was there.

Diblets would make himself comfortable on the hide-a-bed and snooze while I occupied myself with thinking about my friends back at school, the absence of normalcy in my life, and probably shuffling through trinkets I hadn't taken to my dorm room. I would eventually crash around 3 a.m., and when I woke each day, my kitten friend would still be with me.

I really believe that we made each other feel safe that week, and less alone. And that was the beginning for us, and beginnings are important for the future, especially a long one with several bouts of time in which a pair doesn't always see each other.

For the rest of my college years, my breaks from school created something of a Bailey-Dibbs relationship cycle. And what I mean by that is I was continually in love with him always, more and more in love after each visit, and he was pissed that I kept leaving him. If I was home long enough, we would get back to our purring, snuggling things we had going before, but I always had to rebuild what I had worked so hard for after returning from another semester away.

Even so, I was always able to be more affectionate with the cat than any of the other family members, who lived with him full time. I could throw him over my shoulder for an (albeit quick) snuggle, and they had to catch him when he was too tired to move quickly enough away from their petting.

As time went on, I had even more victories of breaking the personal space barrier with the cat. Let's just say my face has been in his belly much more than one time.

My brother Riley told me once that he came home from somewhere, and the cat started to eagerly take steps toward him, only to back off when he realized it was my brother walking in the door instead of me.

Let's be real: I was winning. The cat race was mine for the keeping.

When I graduated from college and moved back home, and Riley (the technical owner of Dibbs) left for college himself, it was all over for England. Dibbs was fully mine and I fully his. When I left for graduate school four years later, the phone call with my brother was quick. He didn't fight me, or express a lot of sadness at the loss. "Yeah, he's your cat," he simply said, matter of fact, and I prepared the pet deposit for my new place.

Our new place.

In grad school Dibbs quickly became a household name among my classmates. Many of them met him at least once, usually while he slept (i.e. hid) during one of the many get togethers I held at my apartment. If I didn't bring him up in conversation first, then one of my friends would, never missing an opportunity to rib me for my cat obsession.

During my last semester at school, I applied to an internship in Los Angeles. Having grown tired of the Midwestern winters and non-dating scene, I wanted a change. To my disbelief, I was selected for the position. I had less than 24 hours to respond to the offer, and I took it.

It was a short window of time between when I received the offer and when I realized and gasped: "! Oh my God, Dibbs."

I knew I couldn't take him with me. I was going to rent a room in LA, and my cat would vomit and moan and poop in the car during a 2 ½ hour drive; I could only imagine a 2 ½ day journey. There was no way he was going to California, at least not for the short term. I would have to be committed to the region before he could be.

My parents took him back under their roof, and for months I couldn't eat macaroni and cheese with canned tuna mixed in. I would come very close to crying just thinking about how I used to let him lap up the juice from the fish, while I stirred the meat in with the noodles for myself.

Mostly, though, I was surviving and doing pretty well in my new home, spending most of my energy trying to understand stocks and dividends (my internship was at a business journal) and make new friends.

Eventually I got my own place in LA, and made sure it was one that would allow cats.

That was eight months ago.

Curious colleagues and friends have often asked, a little puzzled, why "my cat" doesn't live here with me. Over and over I would explain the situation -- how he doesn't travel well, like really doesn't travel well, how it costs tens of thousands of dollars (really) to privately fly cats cross-country, how getting a new cat would make my life less anxious and more happy yet how taking the final step to get a new cat felt like I would be breaking up with my cat, my beloved, my Dibbs.

It felt like I would be terminating a relationship with someone who had done nothing wrong. Even worse, someone with whom I was mutually in love.

I grew to hate this conversation about "the move" of the cat. It was on par with discussing a really nasty childhood fight with a sibling in therapy -- just didn't want to go there and touch all the still-prevalent emotions.

In the last few months I suppose I have tired myself out, the way a wailing baby will, assuredly, eventually fall asleep. I grew less upset at the feeling of finality of not bringing Dibbs to California and more eager to get a cat in my home approximately right this instant.

When my parents came to visit last month (and did not surprise me by getting off the plane with Dibbs), I stayed in a hotel with them. During their visit, when I would think ahead to my return to my apartment, I imagined that a cat was there. As in, I forgot that I didn't have a cat in my apartment; I just instinctively assumed there was one there, like a migraine aura.

I knew then that it was time.


I love Dibbs so much. Too much, some might argue, but no. It's the right amount. Time and again he has provided me with comfort during my often difficult twenty-something years. Even while on very fun vacations with friends over the years, I would stop to think of him while he and I were apart (not in a crazy obsessed can't-enjoy-my-vacation way, but in a normal amount of crazy obsessed way).

Dibbs always met me at the door and purred before I even picked him up. He slept in my bed with me, something he's done with no one else. He's finally started to, reportedly, get in my dad's lap, an action previously reserved only for moi.

Dibbs used to bite my ankles while I would talk on the phone, because he didn't understand why I wasn't talking to him. My brother Patrick finds this to be incredibly disturbing. I think it is the sweetest thing ever (Patrick also finds that disturbing).

He is in good hands. He is less scared of my parents' two new kitties, and he talks to my dad in the mornings and likes to eat grass outside. (They would like him to go on a walk outside, but as with the plastic bags, he's content to sit, thank you very much). I love him love him love him, but I am finally content with finding a new baby to love, and that contentment is a gift as big as Dibbs and Office Max themselves.

Dibbs was the cat of my twenties*,

*full disclosure, I was 19 in this picture (looks like it was taken last week...)

and Office Max will be the cat of my thirties. Welcome, Baby.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Bucket's List

OK, so I've decided to finally put my bucket list in one place; I've been piecing it together for years, and I'm sure there are other things not on the list below that are written down somewhere else. But essentially, here you have it: the definitive list (which may be added to/altered, but otherwise is definitive!).

Regarding the name: My pops has always called me "Bucket." It was years before I finally decided to actually ask why he calls me that (my dad does a lot of things that we just kind of...accept), and it turns out it's because my name is Bailey and a "bailing" bucket sounds similar. So I am "Bailey Bucket." Soo, I've decided with a great flair of creativity to call my very own personal bucket list, not "My Bucket List," but rather, "Bucket's List."

Here are the rules of Bucket's list. The author and therefore by default owner of this list is allowed to revise the list. I can add things to the list, and if I decide I don't really care to do something on the list anymore, I can take it off and I'm not going to feel badly about it!! I guess that's the only real rule. I don't have as many things I'm vehemently adamant (redundant?) about regarding this list as I maybe indicated in my strongly worded warning I just wrote.

Oh, and strike through text indicates I have done that thing!, not that I decided to take it off the list. (I'm using a lot of exclamation points tonight! Not sure why! Feeling punchy, I guess)
Question marks indicate I'm not entirely sure about an item on the list.

So here we go! In no particular order, because that would require organization...

Bucket's List!
1. Visit Italy
2. Visit Greece
3. Visit Big Sur
4. Visit England, or the UK, or whatever the difference is.
5. Perform in "The Vagina Monologues"
6. Sing in a gospel choir
7. Sing "His Eye is on the Sparrow" in a church. I have never done this. This doesn't have to be a performance, I just want to sing it in a church with the community of other people singing it. As opposed to me singing it loudly along with baby Lauryn Hill, as is currently the case. (Bucket list item #7a could be to sing this in a church)
8. Publish a book(s)
9. See the sequoias
10. See the Smoky Mountains. Hike in them, too.
11. Eat at Tim's Place
12. Play wiffle ball with the Wildcats
13. See Celine in concert again (P.S. my 30th birthday is in May and Vegas is a short drive from me -- HINT HINT)
14. Run a half marathon
15. Run the Disneyland half marathon
16. Go on the James Herriot tour
17. Go on the Sound of Music sing-along tour in Austria
18. Go to a Sound of Music sing along
19. Go to a Labyrinth sing and quote along
20. See the bats in Austin, Texas
21. Do a handstand on the sand. Solid ground, really -- the point here is to do a handstand without a wall as support -- but I'm thinking sand might be easier to train on, plus I like the beach.
22. Attend Wimbledon
23. Teach an adult to read
24. Sing this at karaoke. I just have a feeling I could rock it. Plus, it's ridiculous. Heyyyyyy eyyy eyyy eyyyy eyyy Heyyy eyyy eyy, I SAID HEY!
25. Sing in a legit performance mode, with an audience and me as the soloist and actually using a good, non-karaoke voice? I think we all have a little (or large) desire inside us to fulfill that rockstar fantasy just one time, am I right??
26. Go to Overlook Mountain House, Woodstock, New York
27. Go to Hawaii
28. Go to Alaska (?)
29. Go to Africa
30. Go to Philadelphia. Full disclosure, I want to go here because it's the City of Brotherly Love. That's really, primarily, my only reason for this. I admit. And wasn't that Lawrence brothers show, "Brotherly Love," set there? Another reason right there. My case is getting stronger. 
31. Go to Savannah, GA
32. Build a home via Habitat for Humanity or some similar group
33. Go to a local sporting event, such as a football game at a high school where I did not attend nor do I know any of the players or students. Just go to enjoy the community and to really be a part of local community. 
34. Make my own version of an episode of My Drunk Kitchen (with proper appropriate respect to the originality and copyright of the series created, albeit accidentally, by the lovely Hannah Hart), perhaps/probably with li'l bro Riley (who will be drinking root beer while we film)
35. Hike Vasquez Rocks
36. Hike Devil's Punch Bowl (CA)
37. Go on a hike with strangers in the Sierra Club
38. GO BIRDWATCHING! (I really want to do this. I wanted to do it even more after reading Mark Obmascik's "The Big Year" -- which is waaaaaay better than the movie, so read the book).
39. Do a Ragnar race -- it looks both ridiculous and awesome, so I think I'd like to be a part of it.
40. Go to Yosemite
41. Lake Tahoe? 
42. Go to Machu Pichu
43. Visit New England
44. Go to this crazy salt mine (Wieliczka) 
45. Go to a lot of other beautiful places
46. I have this on my list from a while back, and I'm not sure why, but sure, why not? Go stay at this place.
47. Go to a cave. I've been in caves before, but it's been a while. And those things are cool. Carlsbad Caverns, NM looks like a good place to start.
48. Maaaaaaybe: attend seminary. I've thought about Bible college, too. Here's the thing: I want to read the Bible with the help of experts, who actually know Greek and Hebrew, who understand the historical context of the book, etc. And if I were reading it in a school setting, not only would I have these smart people around me as resources, but I would be in school so I would be given homework assignments. And if you sent me home and told me to read the book of Daniel and write a paper on it, well, I would. But as of now, I will try to read Daniel and I won't be able to pay attention. A little pathetic considering I read a ton of books each year otherwise.
49. Make a quilt.

A few additional "specialty" bucket lists:

The dating Bucket List: 
1. Go on a date at a little family-run Italian restaurant. One with a romantic, but casual, haven't-updated-the-wallpaper-in-decades feel to it.
2. Swim in a natural body of water -- lake, ocean. A little bit like this, but can be varied.
3. Make out in a car wash
4. Make out on the beach

The school bucket list:
1. Take money classes -- to learn how the heck the stock market works, taxes, interest, etc.
2. Take a horticulture class
3. Take a drawing class
4. Take a ceramics class
5. Painting class
6. Latin class
7. Tennis class
8. Golf
9. More ballet classes
10. American history, covering Civil War-ish time through...the 80s-ish
11. American government class -- can we go over all the branches, and checks and balances, and such?

The theme party bucket list: 
1. Have a PJ party.
         Guests wear their PJ's (this could start as a sleepover, in which case guests just remain in their PJ's). Or as my sweet friend Michelle likes to call them, "jim jams."
         For this party, we will eat pancakes and drink coffee and nestle in sleeping bags for girl talk (boys can be allowed to, possibly, but they must participate in girl talk and impromptu nail painting and hair braiding). We will also watch cartoons and/or classic Saturday morning shows like Lizzie McGuire and Even Stevens.
2. Have a Gilmore Girls party.
         Guests dress like a Gilmore character (i.e. sweet dress = Lorelai, glasses = Lane, backwards hat = Luke). Watch episodes of Gilmore Girls (duh). Minus the episodes with Jess (because, ugh, terrible example boyfriend for young girls!!).
         Most important part!: EAT Gilmore food. Marshmallows, Pop Tarts, pizza, Chinese food, fries, tater tots, Mallomars.
3. Have a 90s childhood-style birthday party.
         Different from a 90s themed party, as that is kind of my life everyday, what with the singing of Lion King songs, talking on my flip phone, and quoting Friends.
         This epic party to go down in history will include all the classic 90s accessories: pinata, pin the tail on the donkey, cake and ice cream, paper hats that coordinate with the plates and napkins, and -- of course -- party favor bags.

And, sorry to end on a sad note, but:

Some things that would be on my bucket list but are sadly no longer possible:
1. John Denver concert
2. Peter Paul & Mary concert!!

But they're worth mentioning because they would be great, right?!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Need a laugh? I found (more than) one for you

Up the Amazon Without a PaddleUp the Amazon Without a Paddle by Doug Lansky
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Absolutely hysterical.

Reminiscent of Bill Bryson, yes, but Doug Lansky has his own little special writing thing going on.

In addition to the fact that I laughed out loud during nearly every chapter of this book, what I really appreciated about this is that Lansky treats experiences as they actually are.

Let me explain this.

I studied abroad a long time ago, and to this day I get self conscious when people ask me about it, because they always seem more excited in their curiosity than I do in my telling of the story. I felt that my time abroad was worthwhile, educational, and at times fun, but there are also aggravations that come with international travel, feelings of personal insecurity and incompetency, and annoyance with those around you (be they natives of where you're visiting or fellow Americans/tourists you're traveling with). In other words, travel is in many ways an everyday experience -- you still eat, bathe, sleep, talk to people, etc. in France just as you would at home.

But I feel that so often it is regarded as this flawless thing -- all gelato and romance and vistas all the time.

Lansky, I felt, let an experience be what it really was. He didn't get too deep into some of the negative travel emotions I listed above, which kept the book lighthearted, which I loved. But he didn't make an experience out to be more or less than it actually was for him. When telling his story of fishing in Namibia*, he makes fun of himself for catching a bunch of kelp in the ocean. And for the rest of the essay, while making the reader laugh continually, if you look closely, all he does is tell the story, as it happened. Creatively and funnily, but without embellishment to alienate the less-traveled reader.

I tend to get jealous when I read the work of most travel writers (minus Bryson and now, Lansky), because it simply reminds me that I haven't been able to travel to that place where they have. I may be the only one who has this issue, and I admit I have jealousy things to work on in my life. But I also know that there is a way to include your reader, by inviting him or her to enjoy the same laugh you had, and Lansky achieves that.

I really enjoyed this book and will be looking for more Lansky material to read.

I often avoid travel writing (because of all the jealousy), but while waiting for my mom recently at the library, I actually pulled this off the shelf. I am so glad I checked it out and gave it a chance.

*Interestingly enough, the country where I studied abroad

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Champion colleague

This morning I was walking through my office building alongside my gentlemanly coworker, Carlos, who was carrying my heavy bag for me.

As we were walking down the hallway, me continuosly yawning as if I were entered in some yawning competition (the prize in this imaginary contest would be a nap, a glorious nap), the smell of coffee wafted toward us from some magical office hidden from our view.

I didn't actually notice right away, because more air was going through my wide-open, yawning mouth than my nose.

Carlos, however, quickly picking up on the Kona air freshener, said, "Ahh, follow the rainbow."

I must tell you, I found this to be hysterical.

Yawning was briefly interrupted by laughter. Followed by more general sleepiness until Carlos gifted me with some java to drink.

He carried my bag, made me laugh, and then gave me coffee. On Monday, no less, when really, everyone kind of gets a temporary free pass from the extra niceties. If you don't have a Carlos at your office, you should probably find one.