Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween!

Favorite Halloween candy: Any of those little mini chocolate bars, provided, of course, that they won't kill me.

Least favorite Halloween candy: Those little orange pumpkin thingies that are made from something similar to candy corn. I also hate candy corn.

Favorite scary movie: None. I really don't like scary movies because I have nightmares for weeks after. However, I do like a good scary book. Both of my favorites are by Stephen King: The Stand and Dark Half. The Stand is one of my favorite books altogether, and it still freaks me out. I mean, what would you do if you were one of the survivors of an apocalyptic bird flu epidemic that killed everyone you know and everyone you love in a matter of a week or two? How would you deal with the overwhelming grief while trying to survive in a frightening world with none of the "little comforts" like electricity or medical care? And the first time I read The Dark Half, I literally didn't-- couldn't!-- sleep for three days.

Favorite slasher movie: I really liked the original Night of the Living Dead, but I don't think it's really a slasher flick, and it's not really scary, either.

Favorite costume (childhood): The year I was a vampire. I went through a phase when I was about ten or so where I was very interested in the legends of vampires and werewolves, how they came about, and what role they played in other cultures. It became my dearest ambition to dress as a vampire for Halloween, and I made the entire costume myself. You could totally tell it, too, but I was sooo proud of it.

Favorite costume (college): I don't really remember any of those costumes except the belly dancer costume I wore when I went to a law school Halloween party with Finbar, back when he was a 1L. It wasn't particularly revealing as far as these types of costumes go: no see through fabric (except for the veil part), not particularly low cut, though it did expose my midriff. An astounding number of drunk law students hit on me while I was standing right next to Finbar, and the son of a prominent local judge asked me to perform the dance of the seven veils for him. Ewwww.

Favorite costume (adulthood):Chariman Kaga. It was sweet: I even had a perfect yellow bell pepper. We threw a Iron Chef themed Halloween party that year, and my friends wore equally great costumes. That was a fun night.

Favorite Halloween TV special: Although I have a soft spot in my heart for "It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown", I must cast my vote in this category for the Treehouse of Horrors V. I especially love the second part when Homer keeps trying to fix the toaster.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

I Think They're Calling Us Stupid

Direct quote from the application for my state's bar exam:

"Do you claim exclusive citizenship to a country other than the United States of America? (If you are a citizen of the United States of America, answer No.)"

I guess they don't think the average American bar applicant has the reading comprehension skillz to decipher that without the additional assistance?

And yes, that means I failed the bar. I didn't blog about it for a while because I wanted to sort out my feelings on the whole mess and get past the really raw emotion stage of things. It helps that I passed the state portion with no problem, scoring about the same on every essay-- so I didn't have any particular weak spots there. However, I failed the Multistate Bar Exam by a handful of points. Interestingly enough, I did respectably well in four of the subject areas-- and totally bombed the two subjects for which I had Professor Feedback. One of those subjects (Evidence) was the one that made me physically ill every time I sat down to study it this summer. There were several days that I got completely derailed by the panic induced by my recognition of my complete lack of comprehension of the subject. So you can imagine how very much I'm looking forward to spending the next several months having another go at it!

A couple of my friends told me that they thought it would be worse to fail the bar exam by just a couple of points than to totally bomb it. In the time between the day the list of passing people were posted online and the day my detailed results arrived in my mailbox, I had plenty of time to ponder the question, and I would like to say that it feels much better to have just barely failed. At least I don't feel totally overwhelmed. My weak spot(s) are glaring, and I was strong enough on the remaining part of the exam to feel pretty confident in passing the next time around. But man am I angry that I have to take the whole stupid thing over again. I passed the state part! I shouldn't have to slog through it again just because I suck enough at Evidence to fail the MBE!

I guess at least I have something to do with all of my "free time" for the next couple of months.


Friday, October 27, 2006

How Do You Know When Your Life's About to Change?

A year ago yesterday, I had no idea that I was about to go on a date with the man I'm going to marry. In fact, when I woke up a year ago today, we hadn't even made a date with each other. I asked him to accompany me to a Halloween party being thrown by a mutual acquaintance on the spur of the moment, fueled by a minor crush I'd been nursing for a few weeks and some conversations we'd had that could be construed as flirtatious, and figuring that the shared connection to the party thrower gave me plausible deniability if he didn't have any interest in me that way.

Which was good, because he turned me down when I asked him out after Estates and Trusts class.

So, really, I can't explain what possessed me to call him back after classes and ask him out again.If I had been thinking logically, I certainly wouldn't have! But, oh, am I glad I did. And even more glad that he said yes the second time.

Ash, I never knew life could be so sweet, and it's all because of you.
Every day, I marvel at my incredible good fortune, and I love you more than I could ever say.

And if you want to hear the song, you can listen to it here.


Sunday, October 22, 2006

Meeting the In-Laws: Mother In Laws Are No Joke

The part of Michigan that Ash is from reminds me a great deal of the part of Ohio that my aunt's farm is in. The same not-quite flat terrain, the same country roads lined with the same houses and small farms. There were even lots of soybean fields, just like the ones that surround (and make up part of) my aunt's farm. I actually slept through a lot of the drive from MSU, and Ash woke me up with about 15 minutes to go so that I could de-groggify and run a brush through my hair.

I was especially nervous about meeting Ash's mother, not because she's a bad person, or anything like that, but because, well, there must be a reason why there are so many mother-in-law jokes, right? Ash places such a high value on his family relationships, and I really wanted to get our relationship off to a good start. I must admit that I'd planned my wardrobe very carefully, asking myself exactly which sweater says "This is a lovely woman who will make my son happy, and who we would be thrilled to have in our family". Those carefully planned outfits were scuttled by the very cold weather, so I was wearing the only warm sweater I'd brought, which meant I couldn't really obsess over it the way I would have had I had a choice of sweaters. So I obsessed over my hair instead, fussing over the minor flattening caused by the very cute red hat I'd been wearing for our walk around the MSU campus. And then we were turning onto a street and into a driveway and we were there and the herd of butterflies in my stomach took off en masse.

Ash's stepfather came out to meet us as we walked in the door, and we made small talk for a few minutes before Ash's mom came in and joined us. In a stroke of good timing, we'd arrived just after they both got home from work, and after a short bit of "hello, how are you, nice to meet you, how was the drive?", we all piled into the car and headed out to dinner.

The drive took me through part of the actual town and I got my first real look at Ash's hometown. It's a small town. A really small town. I can't really wrap my mind around the idea of living in a small town. I grew up in a city, I live in a city now, and even though I lived in a couple of small towns in Germany, they were so connected to the areas around them that they seemed like part of the nearby large cities. My cousins grew up in an even smaller town, and I remember when the cousin closest to me was in high school, she was very into "cruising". I was (and still am) utterly mystified as to how someone could be so excited about the idea of driving a half hour to the next larger town so that you could spend two or three hours slowly circling the same two blocks, sipping on milkshakes from the local Rax's. I cannot conceive of a high school class where it's actually feasible to know everyone-- there were about 700 students in my graduating class.

As we drove through town, Ash's mom and stepdad kept up a steady stream of chatter, telling stories about things that were happening in town, occasionally asking us questions, and I started to relax. I am terrible at small talk, and I cannot tell you what a relief it was not to have to slog my way through awkward silence and stilted conversation. I don't know if they were conscious of it, but I cannot begin to express how grateful I was that I could just kind of ease into the flow of the talk, joining the family talk naturally. We ate at one of those timeless family restaurants that you find all over the country, in small towns and big cities alike, where the decor, menu, and clientele remain unchanged over decades. Ash had been talking about fried chicken from this place for weeks before the trip, and the family style chicken dinner was the special of the day, so of course that's what we ordered, and we ate and talked our way through the rest of the daylight. Apparently his family has a long history of eating at this particular restaurant, and they've got lots of memories of family dinners there. I really liked the idea that I was in a place and sharing an experience that played a large role in Ash's own childhood experience, like getting a window into the boy he'd been and how he's come to be the wonderful man that he is now.

Then it was back home for Ash's birthday cake and big glasses of milk, sitting out in the sunroom, laughing at the story of how their neighbors' dog got stuck in their backyard after it wandered in when the lawn cutters came while Ash's mom and stepdad were on vacation, and accidentally got locked in. After the sitcom-worthy rescue mission staged by the neighbors, which involved an eight year old scaling the fence and boosting the very fat beagle over to her waiting mother, the dog is apparently afraid to come over now.

It's funny, because the more I was around Ash's stepdad, the more he reminded me of my own father. He has many of the same mannerisms, and makes many of the same corny jokes. He works hard in a factory job, putting in too many hours so that he can do nice things for the people he loves. He doesn't have the formal degrees or education or certifications, but when something breaks or goes wrong, he's the person they call to fix it, and he'll get it up and running, even if his methodology doesn't match what it says in the training manuals. And his mom, although utterly different in personality from my own mother, could have been part of my own family as well-- maybe another of my mother's sisters. In fact, if my mother had her druthers, I'd bet her house would look eerily similar to what Ash's mom has done with her own house-- except there would be rabbits everywhere instead of owls. And when we ended the evening watching "Deal or No Deal"-- which happens to be my own family's current obsession-- I felt like I'd wandered into a new branch of my own family.

We were, however, utterly shocked to find that we'd been put into the same room. I'd been warned-- and expected, honestly-- that we'd be sleeping in separate rooms. When we go to visit my parents, I assure you that will be the case. In fact, we'll be on separate floors, though that's actually due to the way the bedrooms are placed in the house, not so much to my parents' house rules. And I was perfectly okay with that, because first of all, when you are a guest in someone's home, you conduct yourself according to their house rules, and second, I'm a little weirded out by the idea of sort of... displaying our sexuality around relatives. I mean, it's not like we were announcing that we wanted to go off and do the nasty together, but sleeping in the same bed carries a certain assumption with it, you know? So I was a little weirded out by that, and I'm certain that I turned a rather deep shade of pink. I wonder if I'll feel the same way after we're married, especially at my parents' house. I mean, we'll be "legit" then, so really it shouldn't be a big deal, but I suspect that it will be.

The one thing I think I'd love about living in a small town is the silence. The constant noise of traffic and other people makes me uneasy, which is what I hated most about the place I lived with Hulio when we first moved to Our Fair City. My current place is mostly very quiet, though the occasional train or bus can be heard, and my downstairs neighbor occasionally plays Cher very, very loudly (thankfully only for a short time), while my upstairs neighbor walks like an elephant when she's home (thankfully not usually when I'm home). The utter silence of nighttime in the countryside was so restful and soothing, especially after the long work week I had just finished. I slept better than I had in days, feeling so very relieved that The Meeting, Version 1.0 had gone so much better than I'd dared hope. The Meeting, Version 2.0, was on the agenda for the next day, when we were scheduled to move on to Ash's dad's place.

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Monday, October 16, 2006

Yum City

Ash, in a recent fit of domesticity, bought a crockpot, and it seems that we have a new tradition in the making: Monday Crockpot Dinner. In its inaugural run, Ash concocted a delicious pork... thing. I can't remember now what cut of meat it actually was, but the important thing is that it simmered for hours with onions and potatoes and mushrooms and was incredibly savory and flavorful, despite the fact that there was no seasoning other than salt and pepper involved. Ash is of the opinion that teriyaki sauce would have improved the end result, but I feel strongly that it was exactly right as it was.

Tonight, we had corned beef and cabbage with potatoes and mushrooms, and MAN was it good. My dear friend, Lasoe, came for dinner, which made it all the more delicious. We all had seconds of everything-- and I don't even like potatoes. We capped it off with coffee made in the coffee maker bought in the same fit of domesticity (no more using my Melitta pour over coffee maker to slowly brew cups of coffee for us!) and some Japanese cookies/cakes that I bought to celebrate Lasoe's birthday, which was yesterday (생일축하합니다!).

I don't know what we're going to do next. Ash solicited crockpot recipes on his own blog, and got back a suggestion for clam chowder. Y'all, I hate clams and I really hate clam chowder. It's up to you to save me from having to give in to Ash's vague intention to make clam chowder in the crockpot. Gimme recipes!


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Meeting the Future In-Laws: The Prequel

We arrived in Ash's hometown late on Thursday afternoon after a whirlwind not-quite-24 hours in East Lansing, during which I had a great time. We ate Sal's Memorial Shroom Burgers at the Peanut Barrel, got ice cream from Melting Moments, played pinball at Pinball Pete's, and took a long, long walk around a tiny fraction of the enormous MSU campus. It was an astoundingly sunny and bright day, and as we walked across the wide lawns, the air was filled with the sound of bells, pealing a song in a minor key that made me feel as though we were walking through a Tim Burton movie. Ever since Ash and I started dating, I feel like unexpected good things happen to me quite frequently, tiny moments of serendipity around every corner, and on this particular day, we walked up to Beaumont Tower just in time to climb the stairs to the top of the tower and watch two women playing the carillon. I even climbed the ladder to the belfry and looked at the bells. It was just amazing. According to campus lore, if you kiss someone in the shadow of Beaumont Tower, you'll be together forever... so, of course we made sure to do exactly that. Who needs a wedding when you've got MSU legend to bind you together for all eternity?

I'd been told that I should pack for "early fall", so I'd filled my suitcase with jeans and light guage sweaters, but also brought along a couple of short sleeved sweaters, just in case it was warmer than usual. Turns out, my idea of "early fall", and Michigan's idea of "early fall" are two distinct and entirely different things. What Michigan calls "early fall", I call "late November". It was cold. Or at least, colder than someone with one semi-thick sweater in her travel wardrobe would like. This gave Ash a perfectly good excuse to buy me a Michigan State hoodie, which is warm and soft and perfectly snuggly. He bought one for himself at the same time, and I made him swear on a stack of (hypothetical) Bibles that he would never wear his at the same time as I wear mine.

Having taken care of my need for warmth, we wandered into the lovely labyrinth of books that is Curious Bookshop. I wallowed in the German section for awhile, perusing children's books from the 60's, which were obviously intended for girls around 5 or 6 years old, but used very dense and complicated language and very few pictures-- no wonder Germans of a certain age grew up so grouchy! (I kid because I love! Please don't hurt me!) Most of the selection consisted of overly serious "literature" and translations of American novels. One of the books, published in the late 70's, advertised itself on the cover as "the comedy sensation sweeping Bavaria!", which made me pick it up and flip through it, and I was promptly reminded of the terribly overused joke that the shortest book in the world is entitled "German Humor". (Really! I love Germany! Truly! I'm too young to die!) While we were there, Ash got a phone call from the Second Circuit inviting him to interview for a staff attorney's position! He, of course, is over the moon about it, and I'm very proud of him as well. We spent a large chunk of time joking about living in a 15 square foot apartment on his "it's-an-honor-to-be-chosen-for-this-job" salary, and he kept announcing to no one in particular, "I've got an interview with the Second Circuit! I'vegotaninterviewwiththeSecondCircuit!"

Anyway, that first day was so idyllic that I couldn't help but think that it must be a harbinger of bad things to come-- because, you know, I just can't get used to that "good things happen to me" thing. We climbed in the car and headed over the hills to Ash's hometown...

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Selling My Most Marketable Skill

Today I walked into another restaurant, filled out an application, interviewed, and was hired all in the space of about 30 minutes. Oh, would that the legal employment world worked that way! I start training at the new place-- let's call it La Cucina-- on Sunday. Which means that tomorrow, I'm going to walk into the soon-to-be former place of employment and quit. I'm excited because man do I HATE my job. I hate the customers so much I can barely stop myself from being flat out rude to them. The other night, I was actually muttering "IhateyouIhateyouIhateyouIhateyou" every time I walked through the server alley areas, out of sight of the dining room. I figure it's only a matter of time before I actually say it out loud somewhere where a customer hears me... and I probably won't even be contrite when it happens. The new place is part of a large chain, which makes me a little queasy, but its average per plate cost is nearly triple what the average plate at the hated job is. My theory is that at least if they leave me a 10% tip, it will be a couple of dollars, not 90 cents. The manager who interviewed me talked a good game about flexibility, so hopefully I'll have a good chance at making decent money and being able to take on other work as it comes along.

I am, however, also pretty nervous about giving my notice, and I don't really understand why. It's not like I owe these people anything. They're not friends or family, and I shouldn't be worried about making them mad or hurting their feelings, yet I am. I wonder why that is? And what can I do to stop feeling this way? I've known lots of people who have no problem whatsoever looking out for themselves in the workplace, who feel no compulsion to take their employer's feelings into account-- and lord knows most employers aren't exactly taking your feelings into account. But then I know other people-- first and foremost among them, my mother-- who develop great loyalty to their employers and will give of themselves until well beyond the point of reason, and then are terribly hurt when that loyalty is repaid with betrayal by their employers. Most of the first group seem to be men. Most of the second seem to be women. And even though I recognize the fault in myself, I seem to be at a loss to stop it. Nature or nurture?


Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Lightest Dark Beer In The World

The man at table 10 has ordered a Sam Adams. Unfortunately, upon arriving at the beer cooler, I find that the last Sam Adams has left the house. So I head back to table 10 to break the bad news.

"I'm sorry, sir, but we've run out of the Sam Adams. Could I bring you something else instead?"

"What do you have?"

What I don't have is time to rattle off the entire beer list to you.

Do you prefer darker beers or lighter beers?"

"Oh, dark beers, definitely."

"We have the Edmund Fitzgerald, Beck's Dark, and Anchor Porter right now."

"I'll have a Rolling Rock."


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

How Much Did You Learn From High School Civics?

I got them all right. However, I must admit that I guess at two questions after narrowing it down to two of the answer choices on each of them.

Also, I would like it noted that I was not required to take a civics course in high school. I was required to return to my American high school after spending my senior year in Germany so that I could earn a half credit in U.S. Government, a course that was "taught" in Spring semester. I use "taught" in only the loosest sort of way, because the class literally consisted of watching TV. We watched tapes of every Academy Awards show since 1985, Patton, and The Candidate. I was never asked to take a test, write a paper, or read the text. And this was an Advanced Placement course.

You can't make this stuff up.