Every month or so, when I have a little check-in with my naturopath, one of the questions she asks me is, “how was your PMS this month?” And I hem and haw and mutter things about pizza and moodiness and….  I haven’t really known what I’m talking about. I’ve not been adept at noting and remembering what’s happening below my head, which is where I like to spend my time.

But since I’ve been asked this question about three dozen times now, I think I’m finally figuring it out. So here, ladies and gentlemen, they are: my PMS symptoms, which will henceforth be known as THE ISSUES. (I know, you’ve been waiting for a looooong time.)

There are two distinct phases to THE ISSUE: 1) Apathy and Lethargy, and 2) Irritability and Hunger. I’m currently in phase two.

Phase One: Apathy and Lethargy

This phase always starts first thing in the morning, and it’s generally on a weekday. I wake up, stare at the ceiling, and think, “Am I sick? I must be sick. I can’t possibly be not sick.” Then I test out coughing, feel my glands, ponder possible nausea or stomach disorders, swallow test for soreness, and sigh. I’m never sick, at least not physically. But I am completely without the will to move. I don’t want to get up, I don’t want to roll over, and I definitely DO NOT want to go to work. So, sometimes I don’t. And then I go back to sleep, and when I wake up at 11:30 or noon, I’m gripped with guilt for not being at work (I don’t think that last part has anything to do with the PMS).

And if I do go to work, I’m certainly no Princess Productive, if you know what I mean. Which also involves guilt. Luckily, phase one only lasts about 24 hours.

Phase Two: Irritability and Hunger

The longer of the two phases, this can last for anywhere from two to FIVE days. And it’s serious. Today, I went on a tirade about the way the dishwasher was loaded at work. The dishwasher, people. Who the hell cares?

This is exactly how I feel and exactly how many hotdogs I want to eat. Poo.

Well clearly, I do. At least during phase two. For awhile, there was a terror threat-o-meter outside my office door that would change based on an intern’s outfit (a post for a different day). I’m seriously considering putting it back up, but this time for me. That way, if a co-worker wants to ask me a question, they can do so at their own risk, knowing that the filter that makes me at least a skosh diplomatic is not functioning properly, and they’re likely to get an EXTREMELY “HONEST” answer (that’s the way I like to think of it).

And along with the crabbiness is the h.u.n.g.e.r. I really don’t like to talk about it, because I’d rather be using my mouth to chew.

Pizza, hot dogs, cookies, sandwiches…. excuse me, I need to go have a snack.

Okay, better. Of course, this phase comes with it’s own guilt. Again, a post for a different day.

Anyway, it’s a freakin’ relief when my period finally starts, and I can be pleasant and energetic and moderate again. I know that many women don’t like “Aunt Flo,” but she’s one of my favorite relatives. May she arrive soon.


You know how we all have certain characteristics that our friends ascribe to us, but we ourselves would never in a million years come up with when we’re asked to describe ourselves? Mine: Knower of all obscure children’s songs.

Now this is a flat-out exaggeration, and I’ve many-a-time been in a situation where I wished I knew the song that someone else was singing to the kids in the room, but it is true that I could hold my own in a silly song contest. Not just children’s songs, but TV theme songs, commercial jingles, et cetera, et cetera.

One particular song runs through my head almost instantly when I wake up every Tuesday morning. I learned this little ditty from an LP that I’ve no doubt my mom bought for my older sister when we were wee; Cere’s name was penned ever-so-neatly in the top corner of the sunshine yellow border of the jacket. But I’m the one who listened to it repeatedly for the better part of a decade (sorry Mom, but you brought it on yourself!).

Yep, that's Annette, front and center. Right next to the creepy cat children.

The album? Mickey Mouse Club: Mousekedances and Other Mouseketeer Favorites. An absolute classic from 1975, with 24 hit Mouseketunes. And no, I can’t name them all (much to my chagrin, I also can’t find a song list online. The interwebs have failed me!).

I can, however, sing all the words to one of the songs: “Tuesday is Guest Star Day.”

Today is Tuesday, you know what that means!
We’re gonna have a special guest.
So get up, broom. Sweep the place clean,
Dust off the mat so the Welcome can be seen.
Roll out the carpet, strike up the band,
And give out with a hip hooray – hip hooray!
Wiggle your ears like good Mouseketeers,
We’re gonna present our guest today,
‘Cause Tuesday is guest star day.

And I do sing it. Every Tuesday. Because on Tuesdays, I wake up with relish. There’s a little extra spring in my step, and when I’m getting ready, I make sure that my hair and eye makeup look just so.

You see friends, there’s a Guest Star in my life each Tuesday. And no, it’s not a cast member from “Lost,” although they’ve made Tuesdays special in their own way [sigh].

No folks, my Guest Star is special to a small-but-stalwart group. There are four of us who wait in anticipation, listening for the tell-tale rumble that occurs a little after eight, signalling his short-lived appearance in our lives once again. When we hear it, we dash for the family room window, and while three-year-old Manny perches precariously on the railing of the doll crib, I scoop up two mostly-naked toddlers in my arms, stand on my toes and we all gaze adoringly down at our fleeting Guest Star….

The garbage man [bigger sigh].

That’s right, the big green CleanScapes truck brings one of the most handsome men I’ve ever seen to pick up my trash each week, and under the guise of “helping the children,” I get to stare unabashedly. And our eyes always meet.

Of course, what he’s seeing from two stories down in the alley are three angelic young faces with big brown eyes and beaming smiles, waving their pudgy hands in an enthusiastic hello, and the hair, eyes, and rapidly-turning-red-from-the-exertion forehead of me, the baby platform.

I suppose the brevity of my garbage man’s weekly visit is both a blessing and a curse. A curse because, let’s face it, I could look at that face all the live long day. A blessing because, let’s face it, I can only hold both girls for a couple of minutes. So it’s a bittersweet moment when GM gives a final wave, hops up on the side of the truck, and rumbles to the next row of cans.

With the warmer weather, he’s switched from a knitted skull cap to a baseball cap [biggest sigh yet].

So if you see me on Tuesday and there’s a wistful smile on my face and a faraway look in my eye, join in with the happy song in my head:

No good deed…

A word to the wise: maybe don’t drink after donating blood, lest you end up passing out on the floor of a public restroom.

Yes, my friends, it happened to me.

Last night, my co-worker and friend W and I went to the Puget Sound Blood Center and donated a pint of blood each. If you’ve never done this, it’s really a breeze:

Please note: the watch proves that this is not my arm!

1. You give the volunteer at the front desk your name and birthdate.
2. You fill in dozens of bubbles asking questions about your health, sex life, body art and travel.
3. A technician takes you into a little room where she asks for you name and birthdate, pricks your finger, takes your pulse, blood pressure and temperature, and questions you about your mother’s travel to Latin America.
4. Another technician gets you settled comfortably in a lounge-esque chair, asks your name and birthdate, scrubs your arm with alcohol, sticks a needle in your vein and tells you to squeeze a ball every ten seconds.
5. You sit and visit or read for ten-or-so minutes.
6. Another technician takes the needle out of your arm, has you hold it in the air for two minutes, and asks your name and birthdate.
7. Another technician asks your name and birthdate and bandages your arm.
8. You sit in the kitchenette for ten minutes, nibbling on cookies and drinking juice.

See? Easy as pie. That’s been my experience each time I’ve donated, and that was my experience last night. And then…

…W and I went to Smith on Capitol Hill for a drink and some gnosh. W had a butter lettuce, watermelon radish and spring onion salad with sweet potato fries and a nutty beer, and I had a Cuban pork and ham sandwich (I know, I know) with a pint of (aptly named?) Original Sin cider which, by the by, is NOT AT ALL DRY as the waitress purported.

This photo is in no way, shape or form an endorsement.

All was fine and dandy – we enjoyed good food and good conversation, and as we were wrapping up, I excused myself to use the restroom. And then the craziness began.

The two-stall bathroom was dimly lit and empty when I walked in, and I chose the stall furthest from the door which, while sizeable, had an inadequate lock that made me a little nervous.

Perched on the toilet, I pulled a few-weeks-old issue of The New Yorker out of my bag (where one is always handy) and began to do my business and read a line or two. Finishing, I put the mag back, thought to myself, “What was that big bang?” and found myself lying facedown on the floor, half out of the stall. Mind you, while I’d finished, my pants had not yet been returned to their original upright and locked position.

The next several minutes are really fuzzy, but I know that I cared a lot more about getting myself back into the stall and the door closed than about assessing any potential injuries or ailments. Once more on the throne, I breathed deep, clutching my head in my hands as the room danced around me and the light faded in and out. Just then, the waitress who doesn’t know sweet from dry pulled open the quasi-locked stall door and slammed it shut again with a quick “I’m so sorry!” I heard myself reply “hell-o” sounding hell-a drunk.

Once the coast was clear, I took a deep breath, zipped quickly, lurched out of the stall toward the sink, and promptly sat on the floor, crossed my legs, and laid my forehead on the cool tiles, uttering silent prayers that no one would answer nature’s call in the next few minutes.

Eventually, I was able to wash my hands (under all circumstances!) and leave the bathroom. W was the epitome of compassion, driving me home and making sure I was all right.

And while it felt like an out of body experience for the rest of the night, I woke up this morning feeling mostly normal, with just a bum pinky finger, a chewed up left eyebrow, and a badly beaten ego. At least I still remember my name and birthdate!

I had the good fortune of being transported back to the best part of my teens tonight – the part that included jelly bracelets and Aqua Net and Michael J. Fox and pop music. My sister and I shared a stack of 45s that we’d play on the living room stereo and dance ’til we dropped onto the gold-and-white shag. Our tastes were typical – whatever Rick Dees was playing on the Weekly Top 40 would find its way from the back-of-the-store, second floor record section in Hi Ho Shopping Center to our turntable. Some of my favorites were “Making Love out of Nothing at All,” “Cum on, Feel the Noise” and “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya.”

And the two songs I got to hear at top volume tonight at the Key Arena, sung by those titans of popular music, Billy Joel and Elton John. They did “Uptown Girl” and “I Guess that’s Why they Call it the Blues” as duets, with two pianos as big as my living room.

The visuals for “Rocket Man” might have been inspired by a 1970s Elton John acid trip.
Billy Joel twirled the mic stand like a baton during “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me.”

It rocked.

More than three hours of music from two men who’ve been performing longer than I’ve been alive — all I can say is damn! My ears are ringing and my head is filled with melodies and lyrics and awe. These sexagenarians brought. it. Sure, they ambled across the stage a little slowly, but at one point, Billy Joel was playing the piano so fast his hands were a blur on the big screen. And wildly screaming women in boas thronged the front of the stage all night long.
My takeaway? Life doesn’t end until it ends. EJ and BJ are by no means elderly or decrepit, but there are many people who start to hang it up sooner than sixty. Meanwhile, these two are singing about rock ‘n’ roll and sex. Play on, brothers, play on.


My fuzzy theology doesn’t know what to do with this massive tragedy in Haiti, a country still reeling from four hurricanes in 2008 and suffering from poverty like few other places in the world. Of this, however, I’m certain: the least I can do is give.

If you feel the same way, consider Oxfam, Catholic Relief Services, Partners in Health, Mercy Corps, The Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders…. anything helps.

I got this quiz from one of my lovely Jennys, and thought it looked like fun!

1. What did you do in 2009 that you’d never done before? Right out of the gate, and I’m truly stumped. If anyone can remember anything I’m forgetting, let me know. Apparently it wasn’t a year for firsts.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year? I tend to make resolutions at my birthday instead of on January 1st, which feels like the middle of the year to me.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? Yes! Julie and Julie both had beautiful baby girls. And in 2010 there will be at least five more!

4. Did anyone close to you die? Not last year. I’m grateful.

5. What countries did you visit? Mexico, amigos! Also Texas, which may as well be its own country.

6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009? A little more organization in my job from day to day.

7. What dates from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? January 20th. Need I explain?

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Yep, I got nothin’.

9. What was your biggest failure? My therapist has taught me not to “should” on myself, so again, I got nothin.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? Nothing serious, thankfully. No swine flu, no broken bones, no ER visits.

11. What was the best thing you bought? A ukulele!

12. Whose behavior merited celebration? I have a whole load of people who deserve to be celebrated in my life! Moms in particular are high on my list.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? Politicos, pundits and pricks who compared providing the least among us with health care to Nazis. Appalled, depressed, embarrassed and enraged.

14. Where did most of your money go? Isn’t that the eternal question? I ate out a lot, travelled a bit, and indulged in my love of books pretty regularly.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? The new administration, my ukulele, visiting Mexico and DC.

16. What song will always remind you of 2009? “Itsy Bitsy Spider.” I sing it every morning to three darling faces.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder? Happier.
b) thinner or fatter? Alas, fatter.
c) richer or poorer? Richer, but only on paper!

18. What do you wish you’d done more of? Traveled, maybe?

19. What do you wish you’d done less of? Jumped to conclusions about people.

20. How did you spend Christmas? I shared a delicious meal with stunning friends on Christmas Eve, and played cards and ate good food again the next day with my sister’s family and my mom in the house of my childhood. A lovely holiday.

21. Did you fall in love in 2009? With lots of things, but with no one in particular.

22. What was your favorite TV program? Eegads. I like to pose as someone who disdains television, but frankly, I watch my fair share online. In 2009 I loved new (or new to me) shows “Better off Ted,” “Glee,” and “Lost.” But the absolute best show on TV: “Modern Family.”

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year? Nope. I’m not a hater.

24. What was the best book you read? There were two that stand out, both set in or around WWII: “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” and “The Book Thief” (with which I had a love/hate relationship).

25. What was your greatest musical discovery? The ukulele!

26. What did you want and get? A ukulele (is there an echo in here?).

27. What did you want and not get? A trip to Sydney, Australia.

28. What was your favorite film of this year? “Up in the Air” maybe, or “Star Trek.”

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? For my 38th birthday, I hosted a party with grilled salmon, chocolate cake, and adult beverages. When the first guests arrived, I hadn’t even begun to grill. Thankfully, among those first guests were Tracie and Kevin, who stepped in and grilled four differently seasoned and mouth-wateringly yummy fillets. It was a feast! The last guests left after the bars closed, and I was cleaning up for the rest of the weekend. It was a grand time!

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?  I don’t think there is one. I’m really content right now.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009? Retarded? Am I allowed to say that? I mean it in the literal sense – my personal fashion is woefully slow.

32. What kept you sane? No one is more blessed than me when it comes to my gorgeous friends. They are world class.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? Michelle and Barack. We’re like this.

34. What political issue stirred you the most? Health care.

35. Who did you miss? Megan and Alex, Paul, Jill and Brian, Fred, Aaron and John, Noreen and Lou, Beth and Colby…. I wished they all lived closer.

36. Who was the best new person you met? They weren’t new in ’09, but Glory and Elena went from six months old to a year and a half in that period, and they get more fun every day!

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009. This is going to sound a bit bizarr-o, but I learned how to be a better parent in 2009. Not that I’m secretly a parent. But I have the amazing privilege of spending a chunk of time everyday upstairs with three delightful children and their truly spectacular parents. I learn from all of them all the time. It’s a hugemungus blessing.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year. “…and I think to myself, ‘what a wonderful world.'”

Note: I suck at titles. I always have. So when something I’ve written is accessorized with a title that is remotely clever, I feel I should explain, although I do accede that this one may need no explanation. I stole it from Sir Paul McCartney’s and the late John Lennon’s “I am the Walrus” (side note: I had to Google the title to make sure that it was indeed the Beatles who had penned the song – my parents’ musical tastes in the ‘70s of my childhood ran to Neil Diamond, Kenny Rogers and John Phillips Sousa, and that annoyingly insistent-but-inaccurate voice in my head was certain that it was Pink Floyd. (Yes, I recall now that theirs is called “The Wall.”)). I suspect that McCartney’s and Lennon’s song was somehow connected to Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass,” but since those same parents considered Ludlum, Clancy and the editors of “Better Homes and Gardens” the purveyors of classic literature, I’m hazy on that point as well. Anyway, since I like this title, I figured I should thank Messrs. McCartney and Lennon, along with Lewis Carroll and my parents. And Roger Waters, for good measure.


“Quick to commit, slow to achieve” – it could be my personal tagline.

I am a decision maker, not prone to a lot of internal debate about things. Which is not to say I have a lot of answers. I make up a lot of answers, but that’s a whole ‘nother post.

I generally make commitments, take on projects, sign up for whatever, buy airline tickets / expensive bras / ukuleles without a whole lot of forethought. It’s one of my many charms.

But much of the time, the aforementioned projects languish for a loooooooong time before I get them complete. A long time. Quite long. And I think about them. Every. Day. While experiencing feelings of guilt.

For instance, there’s one particular project that I initiated and volunteered for SIX MONTHS ago, which is about 85% done. It’s been about 85% done for the last month-and-a-half. It doesn’t help anyone until it’s 100% done, but that seems to be beyond my reach. Except….

Tomorrow is a powerful day. The final day of 2009. A day for reflection, resolutions, and in my case, cramming. Because if I do nothing else, I’m finishing that &%*@$ project tomorrow, before 2010 sweeps in. And since I want to ring in the new year with people I love, I’d like be done by the time 2010 arrives in Madrid.

It’s time for the tortoise to step aside for the hare.

And as far as resolutions go, in 2010 I’ll conceive for myself a hybrid of those fabled animals, one with the perseverance of the tortoise and the energy of the hare. Good thing I have 365 days to get right on it.

We’re goin’ to a hukilau*!

Friends! I’m thrilled to announce the arrival of my new favorite thing: a brand new Kala solid mahogany long-necked soprano ukulele! I’ve named her Hani, which means “to move lightly” in Hawaiian, and “happy” in Arabic. The photo isn’t mine, but one very similar.

So far I can play “Silent Night” and “You are my Sunshine” (albeit not very well), and my fingertips are sore, in a good way. Stay tuned for some audio or video coming soon.

*A hukilau is a method of fishing invented by ancient Hawaiians. And it’s a groovy (cheesy?) Don Ho song.

Aaron and I at La Alhambra in Granada, Spain a few days before Thanksgiving in 2006. He was my first and fastest friend at work. He's in NYC now, and I miss him.

Ang and Sam, my very fun, very gracious, very big-hearted friends who live just up the stairs. I learn from them every day.
Sean, Brian, Dave and Matt (sorry Beej, you should be in this shot as well!). Extraordinary musicians and men.
Elena, who lives upstairs and wrinkles up her nose every time she says “please?”.
Me and Paul in Bordeaux, France, a few days after Thanksgiving 2007. We met online (it was hell). He lives in DC now. I miss him. Apparently, after traveling abroad with me, people move far, far away.
Glory, who is Elena’s twin. Equally talented at kissing, singing and pinching.
The glamorous Jenny and Aaron, whom I’ve loved since college. They are kick-ass hosts, among other things.
Manny, who is big brother to the twins, far more coordinated than I’ve ever dreamed of being, and very tolerant of my singing. His hugs get my morning started right.

Me, Kristin, Christine, Jen, Jen, Jenny, Julie and Marilyn soaking up the sun at Hood Canal. The collective talent, wisdom, compassion and wit of these women makes me all warm and fuzzy inside.

Ty, Izzy, Linds, and Sam. My sisters’ fabulous kids. More on them in the August 18, 2009 post.

My friends are making new friends for me to love! Here are two of them: Clark and Liam. C-U-T-E.

Colby and Beth, Megan and Alex, me, Brian and Jill on a roasting hot August day in DC. On this trip there was crab killing, skinny dipping, and nonsense in the National Gallery. I loved it!

And there are others, but I don’t have photos of them! I am blessed. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

I found it!

Huge cheers and celebration for the return of the prodigal! That’s right folks, I found it – my motivation!

For the last few months, I have been feeling uninspired. A little listless. Luh-ay-zee. I’ve done nothing more than the bare minimum required of me socially, at work, and to silence my mom’s voice in my head.

But in the last few days, since beginning to recover from HEAD COLD: FALL ’09 [insert 3-D graphic and “Dunh Dunh, Duuuh” music here], I’ve been on a roll!

Exercise – POW!
Bring my lunch to work – POW!
Make an appointment to give blood – POW!
Wash my face before bed (yes, it had gotten that bad) – POW!

It’s not summiting Everest or curing cancer or abolishing shag carpeting, but one must revel in the small victories, yes?

And I’m not new: I know that this train may only go so far down the track, but I’m ridin’ it for all I’m worth. The alarm is set for a 6 AM appointment with my elliptical trainer, and I’m on my way to bed before ten.

For the record, I found my motivation in my punchbowl/liquor cabinet, hiding behind my secret stash of Jif peanut butter.

On second thought, maybe it was bourbon I found. Same-same.