Thursday, December 11, 2008

Imminent.

"What are you working on?" The kindly older gentleman seated next to me at the coffee house inquires, as I toil away the hours on my Dell laptop.

"A business plan," I say, smiling.

He grimaces. "A business plan? Ha! That's what they ask you to do before they fire you!"

Quite.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Welcome to the Bitter Barn!

Since Festivus is upon us, I think it is high time that we begin the traditional "airing of greivances" that comes along with this age-old, Seinfeldian holiday.

I'll start, okay?


I really, really believe, with my whole heart and soul and mind and being, that mass-emailed letters for "job opportunities" are the absolutest lamest method for contacting a prospective candidate, and they sort of make me hate the Internet. I am not some chump, Mass Emailed Letters for "Job Opportunities"! I am an actual, thinking, living, working person, who is frankly insulted by any form of communication that begins: "Dear Candidate". Asshole.


Yesterday, I did some light job-searching on Careerbuilder. I found an opportunity that looked somewhat appealing amidst all of the sewage that recruitment companies and scam artists post. And lo! The ad copy read: No online or emailed applications. We believe you are more than just your resume. Call our HR department directly, at...


Angels began an Hallelujah chorus in my mind's soundtrack. I called immediately. The conversation went like this:


"Dave": Hello! Are you calling about the ad online?


HV, smiling: Yes! I am interested in X opportunity!


"Dave": Wonderful! Let me just ask you some questions. Name? Email? Address? Background? Degree?


HV answers all that is asked, delighted at "Dave's" attentiveness.


"Dave": OK, we are a firm representing many Fortune 500 companies in the area. I am going to send you a packet to fill out and get back to us. We do background screening for these companies first, and then we'll set you up with a floppity-jillion interviews and you'll make $500,000 in your first 3 months. And the best part is, it only costs you $29!


HV, dejectedly: Wait... You want me to pay you $29? Isn't your fee typically provided by the client?


"Dave", condescendingly: Is $29 a problem for you?


HV, sarcastically: No, "Dave", I can afford it. I have just never heard of such a thing.


"Dave": Well, we have to pre-screen for our clients!


HV, resignedly: Well, you can send me the packet and I'll take a look.


"Dave": Fantastic. Now, would you like to pay by debit or credit card?


HV, angrily: Seriously, "Dave"? I don't know you from Adam, and you want me to give you my credit card information?


"Dave", smugly: Call us when you're ready. [Hangs up abruptly.]


Which brings me to my next grievance: I fucking hate "Dave".


And the "Economy".


And the potential threat of losing my livelihood.


To name just a few.


J came home yesterday afternoon to find his glum wife bemoaning her career future. And that husband of mine? Who is awesome? Talked me off the ledge. We came up with FIVE possible solutions! And we made budgets! And by the time I hightailed it to the Olive Garden to meet mom and Gina for dinner (yes, the frugality starts tomorrow), my future prospects seemed a hell of a lot better.


And I will leave "Dave" to "Karma".


And at this time, I would appreciate it if you too would hop into the Bitter Barn with me. What are some of your year-end grievances?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I'll Be Lovin' You Forever

So I wasn't sure how I felt about going to see the New Kids on the Block. Dude, I'm 28. And I had already suffered a particularly potent type of heartbreak in 1993. The Kids had recently been generating a ton of bad press (had they changed their name to NKOTB yet?), when my brother Mike unceremoniously mocked my unabiding love of Jordan, Joey, and the gang: "Melis - they're OVER. They're so gay!"

And you guys? I cried. I was thirteen, and my eyes filled with tears, and I probably screamed that he was a butthead, and I ran to my room and slammed the door.

And then, weeks later, I conceded defeat. I had to let them go, you know? I threw my full support behind Jason Priestly and Mark-Paul Gosselaar, and called it a day. NKOTB eventually broke up, and we all moved on.
Suddenly, it's 2008, and Grace is buying $91 tickets for a New Kids reunion show at the Wachovia Center. (Email to Grace: You know, that is a ridiculous amount to pay for those tickets. Email to HV: I know. But we will have fun!)

I didn't give the concert much thought until the date approached. I was looking forward to seeing Grace and the girls, and hopeful that the Kids would play "Funky, Funky Christmas", but that was about it. Before the show, we drank numerous beers and gorged on Chickie's and Pete's crab fries. Then we grabbed our seats, and the lights dimmed.

And... PANDEMONIUM ensued. I started screaming my face off with the rest of the sold-out crowd. My heart was pounding! My palms were sweating! And lo - the Kids appeared before our eyes, rising up from the center of the stage like angels, and looking damn fine approaching 40, thankyouverymuch.

My eyes filled! I bit my lip and wondered what in God's name had come over me?

And then I realized.

I owed this to her:


And her:

And her:

And - oh yeah - her:

That's right, folks: 1990 HomeValley. The little girl whose sole purpose in life was collecting New Kids paraphernalia, and loving on Jordan, Joe, and Donnie. The kid who attended her first NKOTB concert that year - her first concert ever - and probably felt just as teary and excited the first time those dudes appeared (ahem, 18 years younger) on the stage that night.

And believe you me, she and I had a blast together a few weeks ago at the Wachovia. Although, we never did hear "Funky, Funky Christmas".

I'll be lovin' you forever, indeed.

Monday, November 24, 2008

There but for the grace of God...

Sorry, but if you are looking for the funny, you won't find it here today. It's been a long week, y'all.

Each day, I remind myself that every moment is a gift. I am quelling my urge to procrastinate, and I am trying to celebrate life every second I am breathing. J and I had a wonderful date on Tuesday night, making homemade burritos, drinking wine, watching our shows, and laughing a lot. But when we crawled into bed that evening, I burst into tears. Grief washes over me like a wave some days, and I am prone to fits of crying.

Now, I am not grieving because I lost Donna, though I will miss her dearly. I am grieving for all that was lost to her friends and family. Everything they must continue without: a sister, a daughter, a friend. Her "life celebration" was heartbreaking and beautiful. The funeral home was filled with all things that were Donna: her Morrisey memorabilia; her pin collection; her stuffed animals; her roller skates; the books she loved. There were pictures and slide shows and, most poignantly, silent video of her living, moving, breathing, laughing. Her loved ones presented a gorgeous portrait of a life - of her life - that ended so abruptly. I was overwhelmed by the injustice of it all. As the minister eulogized: "I think we can all agree, folks, that 31 years? It's just not enough. Thirty-one years is NOT enough."

Amen to that, brother.

At the service, I spoke with another coworker.

"I was the last person to see her alive," he said, his eyes filling. "I drove her to get her car, which she was having cleaned. She was chatty on the ride there - same old Donna. I stayed to make sure everything was okay. When she got in the car, she rolled down her window and smiled at me. 'Smells much better in here!' she said. Then she drove off. You know, they found a Wawa receipt in the car. She must have stopped there, and then the accident happened. I dropped her off at 5:15, and they called the accident at 5:33."

I can't stop thinking about that fucking Wawa receipt, either. One minute you stop for a coffee, or a snack. The next - nothingness.

When I got home, I looked up her myspace page, presumably to further torture myself. Her last login was the day she died.

And these, Internet, are the thoughts that keep me awake at night now. The idea that you can be going along in your regular routine - checking myspace, picking up your car, stopping for a coffee... And then, that's it.

And I sit here, in the coffee house, staring at my monitor, and the post-it I've attached to it, per Allie's suggestion: Life. I think, this time, I will hold onto this resoluteness: to remember that each moment is a precious, precious gift. That no matter how bad it gets, we are all so lucky to be here still.

I hope you will too.

And tomorrow, by God, I will lighten this place up a bit. Talk about the New Kids concert, or something. That ought to get us smiling again, no?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Haunted

A coworker was killed in a car accident last night.

She was young and vibrant, not unlike myself.

We were not particularly close, but we were very friendly. She worked in our local office, so I saw her more frequently than most. A few months ago, we had a long conversation. I was in the office, showing her my wedding photos. She was complimentary ("You are still glowing!"), as she always was, and inquired coyly if my brother was single. That day, she peppered me with questions about my relationship with J.

"I hope you don't mind me asking you so much," she said, smiling. "Someday, we'll have drinks and I will tell you my story."

She was ebullient outwardly, but I always sensed there were dark issues she dealt with privately. It always seemed as if it were a struggle to be happy, and she put on a brilliant show. I wish I had known her better. I wish we had gone out for those drinks.

In times like these, when someone so young dies so suddenly, I am haunted by thoughts of their last days, weeks, months. I wonder, what would she have done differently, knowing she had mere months, weeks, days to live? I shudder at the thought of my own life being snatched away in an instant. So I drive slowly and carefully. Recommit myself to a life with purpose. Reach out to friends. Vow to be a better wife and daughter and sister. Stop screening calls.

Like life, these resolutions are fleeting. Next week, I'll be late for an appointment, speeding again. I won't answer my grandmother's call because I will be too busy. I'll snap at my husband. I wonder why it seems impossible to hold on to this feeling, this combination of sorrow mixed with grief, and also pure joy, because we are alive and we can hug our loved ones, and have another girls' dinner, take another vacation, watch another Adam Sandler movie.

Rest in peace, Donna. I hope, wherever you are, you are happy.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Melissa P. HomeValley, Reporter-At-Large

So, what exactly did my Facebook hiatus spawn?

Well, I did go to the gym on Friday. I did apply for several different jobs, now that my corporate fate is in peril. I did talk to my old colleague about that production job in New York, and you know what? She thinks I am actually qualified and says I will get an interview in the next two weeks. And, my friends, I did submit some writing samples to a local newspaper, and this week I have my very first assignment.

Apparently, life is what happens when you close your Internet browser and walk away from the Facebook.

Who knew?

I had the opportunity to travel to DC yesterday for a brief meeting, and afterwards, with an hour to kill, I meandered around the Northwest quadrant, marveling at the Capitol building. Staring at it, my heart swelled once again with hope for our country, for the world, and for myself.

It's been a very good week.

Friday, November 07, 2008

A Life With Purpose

This morning, as is typical when I work from my home office, I stumbled down the stairs incoherently and immediately turned on the television. I scrolled the DVR menu until I found what I was looking for: yesterday's Oprah.

Ah, O. Just what I need to start my day, to live my best life.

Yesterday's guest was one Mr. Will Smith, who is so lovable I just want to squeeze him. He spoke about how he had just turned 40, and that now, he does not want to do anything in his life without purpose.

Right! I said aloud to my television screen. I want to live my life that way too, Mr. Smith! I thought. And then I made a mental list of all the things I wanted to accomplish today, including: mailing our marriage license to the translator (ah, destination weddings), going to the gym, eating perfectly healthy, applying for a new job, writing a blog post, sending my resume to an old colleague who has a TV producer position available for me in New York (it's such a stretch, I just can't not send my CV on a wing and a prayer), etc.

I came upstairs shortly thereafter for a conference call. I booted up my computer and clicked on Internet Explorer.

When suddenly, I realized it.

Facebook.

Facebook is the enemy of all productivity. It is the devil's minion. It must be stopped!

I had been fervently rooting through Facebook pages for 30 minutes, when I froze with this devastating realization.

Holy crap on a cracker - I am addicted to Facebook. I have a problem.

And now I need to make it right. But how? How does one restrict utilization? How do I go about my daily life not knowing what you all are doing at this precise moment? Without seeing your pictures from the weddings and Halloween parties you have recently attended? Without your clever wall posts? How?!?

*Deep breath*

So, I am officially exiting Facebook for the remainder of this Friday. Baby steps. I don't want to overwhelm myself, or my constant craving for information about all of my FB friends.

Melissa P. HomeValley... what are you doing right now?

Over and out.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Letter to My Future Babies

Dear Beautiful, Kind, Open-Minded Babies: C, V, and A,


I hope this is not premature, but: you're welcome.

Love,

Mom

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Jerkstore Rang

Yesterday, I swore I wouldn't be dragged into it. But it happened. Again.

A business associate pulls out her cell phone at a luncheon in central Jersey, smirking. "Check this out," she says conspiratorially to me. She shows me her phone and I begin reading an email as she scrolls.

The email details a "plan" for Americans: from now on, all wages will be pooled together and split equally. This will allow for workers who are too lazy to work overtime to still be paid equally as well. The supervisor will give eloquent speeches in the breakroom, etc.

And suddenly my blood is boiling. I push the phone away, smile, and say merely: "Please."

She giggles. "[Our multi-millionaire business associate] sent that to me today. Hilarious, right?"

This woman sits next to me adorned in fur. She places her phone into a large leather Coach bag. She calls her assistant and asks, "Which car did my husband drive to work today? Was it the burgundy car?" When asked how many cars she actually has, she smugly replys, "Five." She's taking the family on a cruise to the Cayman Islands next month. I'd estimate her annual income is between 400,000 and 500,000. She must be worth millions.

"I already get taxed too much," she assures me.

Well fuck, for your sake, I hope that radical socialist doesn't get elected today. Spread the wealth? Is he insane?

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Curious Incident of the Squirrel in the Night

It started around 3 AM. A slight thumping noise coming from the roof, followed by falling debris, just outside our second floor bedroom window. I woke with a start.

J, who is known to bolt upright in bed when I wiggle my pinky finger in the night (huh? wha? what are you doing?) remained sound asleep beside me, snoring softly. My heart pounding, I tried to gently coax him awake. When that failed, I nudged him sharply.

"Did you hear that?" I ask. Of course he didn't. We listen together.


Suddenly - Thump. Thud.


"Probably a bird," he says sleepily. But I won't be appeased.


"Can you just check?"


J begrudgingly gets out of bed and stands by the window. He is very still for many minutes. "Did you fall asleep?" I whisper.


"Probably an animal burrowing into our neighbor's roof," he says disdainfully. He scurries up to the third floor to investigate further, and, seeing nothing, he gets dressed to head outside.


With a flashlight. At 3:15 AM. On Mischief Night, no less!


Thoroughly freaked, I head downstairs with him. He stands in the middle of the road with his flashlight for many minutes. When he finally comes back inside, he tells me he can't see anything.


We get back into bed.


"Maybe it was the wind," I suggest.


"No... There is no wind."


DUN DUN DUN!


We lay awake for a moment, when we hear the thudding again. Scratching. Rocks falling onto the second floor landing from the roof.


J jumps out of bed, fumbling in the dark for his jeans once again. "I'm going out there," he says courageously.


"Be careful!" I warn. And then my gallant husband steps out of our bedroom window, into the abyss, armed only with a flashlight. At 3:25 AM. On Mischief Night!


I struggle to keep the heavy window open, as J starts swatting at the roof. A downpour of leaves and rocks fall from above. "Looks like we got ourselves a squirrel's nest," he says, thankful to have solved the mystery. I shut the window so the debris doesn't come into the bedroom.


A moment later, J knocks urgently on the second bedroom window, away from the nest.


"We've got a raccoon," he whispers. "And he's right here!"


"J, get in, you'll get rabies!" I cry. He retreats back into the bedroom.


"Do we call the police?" I ask. Hello, 911, we've got a situation with a raccoon burrowing into our roof. Send back-up.


"No, but we'll need someone to come and fix the siding up there." J is a bit exasperated at this prospect.


"Well, at least now we know," I tell him, and then we booth marvel at that quiet little fucker - henceforth known as Eugene - who apparently has been subletting our roof for quite a while, given his elaborate bachelor nest.


We attempt to sleep, as I comment: "You are very brave, J."


Then, a few moments later, "J, we are those white trash neighbors."


"I was just thinking that," he mumbles.


Sorry, Eugene. You've been evicted.







Eugene.
Bad-ass raccoon killer.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Lordy Lordy

It's been a hectic couple of weeks for your pal HomeValley. I have been to San Francisco and Baltimore and Connecticut and Columbia, SC since we last met. I have vehemently defended Obama; I have listened to lots of satellite radio; I have edited my darling baby brother's college application essay (!); I have learned that my job is being eliminated. You know, just your run-of-the-mill couple of weeks, really.


OK, so let's not all freak about that last point. Yes, my current job is being eliminated, but there is another job on the horizon for me with my current company. Yes, I am eligible for severance; yes, I must interview for the new job. But come on! I've got the only two things I have ever needed in this life: charm and charisma. (Tell 'em, Allie.) I reside in a beautiful and peculiar glass half-full world most of the time, and all is well.


Also, please see August Rush. Guaranteed to lift your spirits, and make you as giddy as me.


More to come.


Monday, October 13, 2008

I'm Melissa P. HomeValley Ft. Lauderdale, and I Approve This Message.



Well, I am finally able to come back to the blogosphere: my friends, I have finished Breaking Dawn. And though I am crestfallen that I can no longer escape into a world of passion and intrigue and vampire covens, I must perservere. It's the final stretch of the 2008 presidential campaign, and Internet, I am completely busy running my mouth in mixed company about my support and admiration and respect for one Senator Barack Obama. Which any etiquette book will warn you is taboo. Still.


I can't be on the campaign trail for Senator Obama because I work too damn much. I've missed rallies and countless volunteer opportunities. I figure, the only thing I can do is publicly endorse Barack, everywhere I go. I wear pins; I download applications to my Facebook page; and I talk. With Republican coworkers. I am not winning many friends in my ultra-conservative workplace, I assure you.


I try to be fair; I attempt to listen to everyone's opinion. The other night, knee-deep in political conversation at a dive bar in Columbus, I asked Conservative Curt* what the crux of the matter is for Republicans?


He thought for a moment.


"Trust," he said firmly. "We need to trust the experience of our candidate."


"I respect that," I told CC. "But I think it is actually fear." And then I quickly shut my mouth by sipping my Miller Lite, and I pretended to become preoccupied with the dude performing a Pink Floyd cover on an acoustic guitar.

Later in the week, when I wasn't campaigning, I discovered that I am The Person That People Like to Tell Things To. (Official title.) Here are some things I learned from virtual strangers this week:
  • Stan's** wife cheated on him last year with a friend. She wanted a quickie divorce, he granted it, and now she wants him back. She is also involving the children, and that ain't right.
  • Chuck** just ended a 13-year relationship. He's lonely.
  • Randy** was on his way to a family reunion in New Hampshire. He's retired now, though he rarely leaves his home state of Missouri. He dropped out of high school when he was 15 to join the army. He fought proudly in World War II and has done quite well for himself. All of his children went to college.
  • HomeValley** is exhausted from frequent travel, graduate school, and general domesticity. She is currently in Philadelphia, though she traveled to and from Jamaica, Queens, this morning. Tomorrow she heads to Baltimore with a familiar-looking fellow she thinks she may have married recently; Thursday San Francisco by way of Denver; Sunday evening Philadelphia by way of Los Angeles; Tuesday Columbia by way of Charlotte, North Carolina. She is also at work on her autobiography The Person That People Like to Tell Things To.

* Name has been changed to protect the Republican.

** Names have been changed to protect the chatty.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

How Lucky We Are

Ugh, I am so boring these days.

All I do is work, and travel for work, and study for my Managerial Economics class, and sing Meiko songs in my head perpetually (see: entry title), and read Stephenie Meyer books. Good Lord, they are so addictive and delicious and brilliant; I can't stop obsessing over the characters, and that makes for really boring entries. (Because do y'all really want to hear me wax poetic about Edward Cullen for pages and pages?) (Um, if you do, just say the word. We'll go to town.)

Hey! I took my darling sisters to Manhattan to see Wicked a few weeks ago. That was fun! I would describe it here but I have lost the ability to be descriptive, apparently. I will say that the more time I spend with Cat and Meg, the more time I want to spend with them. I actually miss them terribly most of the time. Cat is fourteen now and is brooding and angsty; she is blissfully sarcastic and lovely and intelligent and enigmatic. Meg is ten and adorable, with green-framed glasses that adorn her tiny freckled face. She loves monkeys and playing school in equal measure, and has reached a difficult crossroads: should she decorate her bedroom as a jungle, or as a classroom? She also has a "bacon dance" which she performs when a certain Wendy's commercial plays. When she tells stories, she painstakingly recounts every detail of her tale. She has a remarkably dry sense of humor, and smiles incessantly.

I really love those kids.

And now I must run to a business dinner, one that will be no different than a host of other business dinners, as I miss key moments and memories with my husband, siblings, and dearest friends.

But I've got Meiko on my iPod, and Breaking Dawn.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Grateful.

An RA friend sent this to our group this morning. We're still connected, and always will be, palpably on this day. Wishing them, and all of you, much love this morning.

Life has left her footprints on my forehead.
But I have become a child again this morning.
The smile, seen through leaves and flowers,
is back to smooth away the wrinkles,
as the rains wipe away footprints on the beach.
Again a cycle of birth and death begins.

I walk on thorns, but firmly, as among flowers.
I keep my head high.
Rhymes bloom among the sounds of bombs and mortars.
The tears I shed yesterday have become rain.
I feel calm hearing its sound on the thatched roof.
Childhood, my birth land, is calling me,
and the rains melt my despair.

I am still here alive, able to smile quietly.
O sweet fruit brought forth by the tree of suffering!
Carrying the dead body of my brother,
I go across the rice field in the darkness.
Earth will keep you tight within her arms, my dear,
so that tomorrow you will be reborn as flowers,
those flowers smiling quietly in the morning field.
This moment you weep no more, my dear.
We have gone through too deep a night.

This morning,
I kneel down on the grass,
when I notice your presence.
Flowers that carry the marvelous smile of ineffability
speak to me in silence.

The message,
the message of love
and understanding,
has indeed come to us.

by Thich Nhat Hanh, 1964

Sunday, September 07, 2008

One Last Refrain


I tried to craft an eloquent post about what Rent has meant to me over the last 11 years; unfortunately J is watching Resident Evil 3 in the darkened living room at top volume and shouting at me to return, completely breaking my concentration.

Sigh.

To sum up: I'll miss you, Rent. I'll miss escaping to the Nederlander on a weekday and scoring rush tickets. I'll miss sitting in the front row of the theater - watching the familiar characters fumble through life and love and relationships and AIDS and budding careers - and reflecting on my own life, my own shortcomings, my failures... and still feeling so damn hopeful about it all.
And for that, my heartfelt thanks.




Friday, September 05, 2008

TGIF

From: J
Sent: Friday, September 05, 2008 3:54 PM
To: HomeValley
Subject:


Dear Wife,

I love you. I am going to come home to see you soon.

Regards,

Husband.


From: HomeValley
Sent: Friday, September 05, 2008 3:57 PM
To: J
Subject: RE:

Dear Husband,

I love you too. Also, I am hungry. Can we get Panera?

Fondly,

Wife.


From: J
Sent: Friday, September 05, 2008 3:59 PM
To: HomeValley
Subject: RE:

Dear Wife,

I am also hungry! See how much we have in common!

Love always,

Husband.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Pitbulls Wearing Lipstick

So... much... to... write... Head... close... to... exploding...



Lord, where are we this week, Internet? Governor Sarah Palin has become an overnight media sensation, despite negative press surrounding her seventeen year-old daughter's pregnancy! (I saw today that Palin supports abstinence-only education in schools, and my head actually exploded just now with the irony.)



Obama has taken the high road regarding the young Palin girl, claiming that children are "off-limits", further endearing me to him and his progressive, change-bringing ways.



But political discussions must be put on hold until another day - friends, we have a 90210-remake to dissect.



I had completely lost track of time on Tuesday evening, having fallen head over heels in love with Edward Cullen in New Moon. (Mrs. Meyer, please accept my heartfelt apologize for this post. These books are ridiculous, in a completely incredible, wish-I-was-seventeen-again-and- dating-a-vampire way. You are my hero.)



Anyway, my phone began buzzing at 8:10 and Allie promptly brought me back to reality. Hannah Zuckerman-Vasquez?!? My heart swelled. And then I turned on the CW to meet "Silver" and my heart exploded with joy. (I am very explosive this week apparently.)



And then... well, meh.



Silver is of course my favorite. She's adorable, she's related to David, and instead of trying to be an R&B star crooning "You are so precious to me," she is a bad ass blogger with actual video feed! She makes HV look downright pedestrian, y'all.



And then there was everyone else. Black Brandon (or "Dixon") is a far cry from our beloved Walsh, the one who acted as moral compass for the West Beverly group, sans that one time he had too much to drink and crashed Mondale. But he totally learned his lesson.



Not Brenda (or "Annie") is quite adorable and giggly, and all the boys love her Midwestern ways. The richest kid in school is not quite Poor Man's Dylan, as he has a private jet and sings in the plays. A far cry from our dark knight of the 90s who lived in a penthouse and had that pesky drinking problem.

The Hot Walshes were, er, hot. And that's about all they've got going for them at this point. I miss Cindy, who missed Minnesota and almost had an affair that one time but stopped herself because she was of the highest moral caliber. Sigh.

And so they gave us illicit blow jobs before school, child actresses with drug problems, and super sweet sixteen galas. And through it all, HV said: yawn.

I perked up whenever the lovely Jennie Garth was onscreen, which was not quite often enough. And who is the father of her child? It must be Dylan, no?

Then suddenly: enter Brenda.

What was with Brenda? Did she look a bit odd to you all? The entire time she was on screen I kept recalling that episode in which Dylan was forced to choose between her and Kelly, and we got a glimpse into his future with each woman... He eventually chose Kelly. Smart man.

So, the jury is out. I'm not sure if I can stomach much more of the show without Tori Spelling. And who has ever written that sentence before?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

American Idle: The Sunscreen Corollary

American Idol; American Idle. See what I did there?

I should start from the beginning.

Do you remember that Baz Lurhmann song from the late 90s? It was a commencement speech he put to music, and it opened with the line: "Ladies and Gentlemen of the class of '99: wear sunscreen." He went on to espouse all the things you "need" to do in life, like live in New York once (check), live in California once (someday), and most importantly: do one thing every day that scares you.

If I may nerd out for just a brief interlude, that last line resounds in my head at least once per day, typically when I am doing something frightening, like flying US Air, or reaching under the sink for dishwasher detergent. (There was once a mouse under there, y'all. I was traumatized.)

Most days I ponder that sage advice, and admittedly I feel a small sense of accomplishment when I face down my fears, however inconsequential, and come out unscathed, primed to fight another day. It follows then, that when presented with seemingly insurmountable tasks, I head towards the challenge, steeling myself for whatever I might face. I give you: The Suncreen Corollary. The single driving force in your blog-mistress's world, as, well - many things scare me on a daily basis. Yet, thanks to my quaint theory, I always force myself to move. To get on with it. To give my fear the stink-eye and be done with it. Because I believe, thanks to The Suncreen Corollary, that somehow, facing down fear is making me stronger. More formidable.

To sum up: fear is my bitch, really.

You can be absolutely certain then, that I wouldn't have bothered to waste 14 hours of my precious life on an American Idol longshot, if the very idea of it didn't scare the bejesus out of me.

And so, Tina and I went, guns blazing, into the infinite abyss that is the American Idol audition process.

Internet, I beg you, if you ever deign to try-out, please, PRAY GOD, do not sing any of the following:
  1. I Have Nothing by Whitney Houston. If I heard one more diva warble "Dooonnnn'tttt. Maaakkkkeee. Meeeeee. CLOOOOOOOOSSSEEEEE ONE MORE DOOR!" I would have kidnapped dainty little Seacrest and held him for ransom. My ears are still bleeding, for the love of Pete.
  2. Anything by Alicia Keys, but particularly No One. Dudes, I can't even stand to hear Alicia shreik "NO ONE NO ONE NO ONNNNNNNNNNEEEEEEEEE".
  3. The Dreamgirls soundtrack. You can't imagine how many chicks were alone at a crossroads or telling me they weren't going.

The deal is, producers line up at 12 tables across the floor of the arena, and they see people in sections. If you are auditioning, you wait until your section is called (everyone was assigned a seat at registration). This gives you ample time (oh, 12 hours) to check out your competition. It's terribly interesting, and also incredibly boring, if this is possible. Auditioners approach the tables in groups of four, and each sing a cappella for 30 - 60 seconds.

The truth is, the producers know what they want. If you're crazy (hello puppet lady), well, we'll see you in the next round. If you are insanely talented, you are by no means guaranteed a spot. It depends on your look, your vibe, your charisma. Many times during the day the crowd angrily booed producers for cutting legitimate singers. But what can you do? It's a television show. It's a casting call, so you better be damn irresitible, lest you be cut.

Which brings me to my audition, at 5 PM. As I stood on the floor, my heart thudded loudly in my chest, and my palms started to sweat. Breathe, I told myself. Steel yourself.

And that's precisely what I did. I smiled at the young blonde producer and I began to sing. I chose "Take Me Or Leave Me" from Rent, because I work it out in the shower. My voice sounded strong and clear in my ears, and when I was done, I was proud of the performance I'd given.

Once our foursome finished, the kind-looking talent scout motioned for us to approach the table.

"You all look beautiful, and you all have great voices," she began in a clipped English accent. "You and you (HV and Tina) have great voices, but I think your performances were a bit too theatrical, and that's really not what we're looking for this season on the show."

Too theatrical?!? Moi? Old HV? That's shocking.

And with that, she cut us loose, and we went off with the rest of the "non-winners".

I mainly felt relieved to be heading home, and pleased that I'd conquered another one of my fears. And the feedback wasn't bad; I could live with "too theatrical".

The next morning, though, I awoke feeling vaguely disappointed. It was my last shot at AI, and it didn't work out. It's not that I thought I was going to be the next Fantasia Barrino. It's just... well, sometimes it's disheartening when you have to let a dream (however improbable) die. But isn't that what it's all about? Letting go of some of the old fantasies, and making room for some of the newer, more updated ones? I am sure there is totally a reality television show out there for me, like one about an adorable blonde girl who loves Queens and waxes poetic about life and 90s music and American Idol auditions?

On to the next thing.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Oh, and...

I don't get Twilight. There, I put it out there. Why all the fuss?

Exhaustified.

Your blog-mistress is utterly drained. It seems that perhaps I do have a problem, in that I cannot stop making plans, or generating ideas, or undertaking ambitious recycling campaigns, or auditioning for American Idol , or traveling, or being generally awesome all day long. It takes its toll on a gal. Honestly.

So I will tell you now that after this week, I am going to start taking naps, perhaps.

What's that? You would like to hear about American Idol? Lo, I believe contractually I cannot yet spill the beans that I am the next American Idol, a bewitching hybrid of Kelly Clarkson and Daughtry and Fantasia, all rolled into a big bundle of mind-blowing talent, dawg. At least that is what Paula told me. What's that? You are not buying my story? Meh. You will see it when it airs, and be dazzled.

Or, actually, registration was yesterday, and the audition is tomorrow. I am really just accompanying the uber-talented Tiny Tina (who is my cousin, in case you wanted to know, because I just spent 13 hours trying to link to the post about her, and I couldn't find it and holy shit I am too tired for this enough), singing a little ditty myself, then stalking Seacrest to lift him off the ground in a giant bear hug. And then I will go home, and 15 years from now I will still be telling my kids that I auditioned for the show once, before I was too old, and that I was robbed! Robbed! And then they will roll their eyes and sigh and tell me for the love of God to get over it already.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Survivor Woman

This week in things HomeValley has survived:
  • Turbulence on a flight to South Carolina. Likely the worst I have experienced in terms of longevity. My stomach ached from fear, so I put my head in my hands and breathed. Luckily, my seatmate, a kindly older man, took pity on me, assuring me that it was only rough air and that of course we'd be fine. He was a pilot, he said, and the plane was designed to withstand a lot more. Words I tell myself all the time whilst flying, but nice to hear from an expert nonetheless.
  • Career soul-searching. A good opportunity came up for a tiny bit more money, but I ultimately decided I am very happy where I am, and that J and I will stick to "the plan", thankyouverymuch. I made the right decision; just waiting for the fallout. I suppose I'll survive that too.
  • Running into J's "ex-girlfriend" (term used loosely) on our street on Friday night. I had just gotten out of the shower, pulled my hair back, and thrown on sweats. Completely au naturel, J's ex, "Shelly", casually mentioned that she had just moved in to that house, three doors down from ours. I am not sure who should feel more awkward, the newlyweds, or the ex that just moved next to the newlyweds? Regardless, after the initial meeting, I ran into Shelly three additional times. Only one of those times was I wearing workout clothes, sweating profusely from my bike ride. Oh, also, I was sporting those ginormous black sunglasses that blind senior citizens wear (what? they protect my baby blues!). So, obviously, point HomeValley.

Must start my day of meetings. Also, I hate the Today Show.

Friday, August 01, 2008

The Night Before: A Glass Case of Emotion

I keep trying to write an eloquent post about the night before our wedding, but I am incapable. I start prattling on about nothing and fumbling with metaphors, and then I get annoyed with myself and shut Blogger in a huff, resigned to come back later.

But it never works. I am now resigned to put it out there, rambling and all, for public consumption. Because I just can't keep it to myself anymore.

So, what did it feel like the night before? Well, it was as if a massive tsunami of emotion struck us down, only more intense. I can't describe it. One moment we were having a perfectly normal rehearsal dinner; the next, we were puddles.

Turns out? Getting married is a big fucking deal.

J tried to toast our closest friends and family, but couldn't finish. I tried to rescue him, but failed miserably as the lump in my throat nearly choked me. I am never so emotional in public. It startled me. It also frightened my mother, who thankfully rescued us both by saying a few eloquent words about families being united. J and I drank our margaritas, clutching each other tightly.


Thwarted by rehearsal dinner toasts, the happy couple poses for a quick post-tears pic.

Much later, I made it back to the honeymoon suite, alone. J had left a small journal (made in Indonesia) on our bed, as well as a small gift box. In the journal, he wrote a long letter about our lives together, stressing that the best was yet to come. In the box, he placed a lovely necklace that was made in South Africa. Both presents were meant to symbolize the places we will visit together. It was perfect.

I washed my face and got ready for bed. I lay there, alone, unbelieving. It is so strange when something you have envisioned all your life comes to fruition. It is so odd to join your life with another person's. It is wonderful and exhilirating and frightening and bizarre. I held onto the journal, and drifted off to sleep.

I woke the next morning at 5. I watched a spectacularly bad movie on Showtime starring Ryan Reynolds. I felt vaguely nauseated. The lump in my throat hadn't dissipated at all throughout the night. I felt out of control. I wondered how I would get through the day without sobbing.

Grace and I had a massage scheduled at 10; my mother and Koos joined us as well. The four of us were led to our separate rooms throughout a serene, quiet garden, and soon, my troubles began melting away. My tension evaporated, and by the time we met up again in the locker room over paper cups of champagne, I felt like me again. I felt excited, back in control.

I was ready to marry J.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Scenes from a Marriage

"You know what I'm gonna do when we get home," J says excitedly as we're heading west on 76 . We've just come from the King of Prussia mall, where we "completed our registry". We are now the proud parents of one monstrous Dyson vacuum, affectionately christened, R2-D2.

"What are you gonna do, babe?" I ask slowly, still groggy from my trek throughout Brooklyn, Manhattan, and White Plains today.

"Vacuum!" J grins.

"Tonight?"

"I've got to test it out!"

"Yeah," I begin seriously. "I think I'm more excited about the attachments. I don't think our old attachments worked that well at all."

I pause.

"Holy shit - do you hear us? Did you just hear this conversation?" I sputter, alarmed.

J laughs and shakes his head. "This is what happens when you get old..."

"I mean, can you imagine if someone had heard us?" I giggle. "We're talking vacuums, for Christ's sake!"

And so it begins.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Introducing: Mrs. HomeValley Ft. Lauderdale! Part 1 of 2






Where do I begin to tell this tale?

Friends, it was magical.

Shall I start with airport arrival? Even the security line was a happy dream for me, as I buzzed along with a white rose attached to my shirt (thanks, Mama) and more plastic leis than you could shake a stick at, for real. I was slightly perturbed that we were unable to upgrade to first class (because I am a princess), but got over that quickly enough over bloody marys at the Cibo Wine Bar with all of our closest friends and family. (Lo, beginning drinking at 8:30 AM is certainly not for the faint of heart. Or HV, for that matter.)

Soon, it was time to board. (Or, was it time to meander about the airport looking for bottled water and magazines and hopping on the plane last?) On the jetway, Judd's parents (the Ft. Lauderdales) met us with two first class tickets in exchange for our coach seats. Bless them. Just bless them.

And the wine flowed, and the good times rolled, and before I knew it, we had landed in the Dominican Republic. It was 578 degrees, and I was a wee bit tipsy, but it was glorious. Every one of the 30 wedding guests found their bags in no time, and we boarded a bus bound for Dreams Punta Cana.

But wait! First we stopped at a roadside market, where we purchased giant bottles of Presidente beer, in which HV sealed her night 1 fate of having to go to sleep at 9 PM. Regret, thy name is "Presidente."

Upon arrival at Dreams, we were greeted with champagne (Lord, what were they trying to do to me?) and had a smooth and painless check-in. J and I settled into our honeymoon suite and immediately changed into our swimsuits. Wedding week had begun.

Hmm... I am a bit fuzzy on the rest of night 1... I know we ate at the World Cafe, which was an enormous buffet filled with every cuisine imaginable. I know J took me back to the room for a shower. I know I changed into a black cotton jersey dress, and made it out to the bar (henceforth: Cav's). I also know that within minutes I was too sleepy to stand. Alas, I missed one hell of a night at the club:






Two of these boy-banders are my brothers.



And then, Day 2, in which HV wakes rested and rejuvenated.




(Wait, this actually wasn't Day 2, as on Day 2, Grace and Allie came to my room in the AM to assist with gift bag assembly, at which time Grace and I discovered we were both wearing this adorable Victoria's Secret bikini. I changed. )

Still, you get the gist? Sunny skies, fruity drinks, swim-up bar, gorgeous blue green sea?

*author bangs head on laptop, longs for Punta Cana*

More to come.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Committed.

So remember that time when I told you I was going to really concentrate on my writing?



And then do you remember that time all those times when I procrastinated and watched Beverly Hills 90210 reruns instead?



Well, I am recommitting myself. (Do I hear angels singing? I know you are all so pleased.)



And this evening, I am reviewing my slightly outdated copy of Writer's Market and scouring this blog for print-worthy materials.



*Crickets chirping*



And um, unfortunately, whilst I have a plethora of three good topics here, there is nothing that is actually ready for publication. Most of the eloquent prose on this domain is of the ya sorta had to be there variety.



And so I am freaking out, but only a little. Also, I am putting many, many good thoughts out into the universe.



But gracious! Suddenly I feel as if there is no time - I'll never get into Stanford and I'll let everyone down and I'm so confused.



I shall not falter, nor will I be lured into watching this new-fangled 90210 spin-off, even if you are reprising your role as Brenda Walsh, Doherty.



And tomorrow, I will regale you with the tale of our exquisite wedding, from first class to the Sammy Sosas to my brief appearances at "The Club" to the gorgeous ceremony on the beach to the sweatiest reception ever to aqua gym, and everything in between. And here's a little preview:






Thursday, July 17, 2008

Monday, July 07, 2008

One Day More!

Over and over in my brain, flash the words: ONE DAY MORE. Then, I inevitably start singing Les Miserables, because I am, at the very core of me, a huge theatre geek. (And absolutely pretentious enough to spell it "theatre".)

Yesterday, I watched Jesse and Rebecca get married on Full House, and I cried when Uncle J sang "Forever" to Becky, then briefly considered changing our wedding song.

(Forever! Forever! I've been so happy loving you.)

(Dudes! There was a gospel choir!)

So, we're all packed. We're ready for the trip.

And we're ready for the road ahead.

It's somewhat startling how vocal people are about the perils of marriage. Don't do it, they tell us jokingly, everywhere we turn. And we chuckle, and we look at each other, and communicate silently. We'll be different. We won't turn out like them.

Folks, have I ever shared with you how many times my mother has been married? We're at four (and hopeful we will remain firmly at four). And if you think that hasn't given HomeValley pause about marriage at many points throughout her life, you'd be wrong.

Yet I am not cynical. I am hopeful. Because I have learned that it takes work. I have learned that both parties have to be willing to put in the man hours. I have learned that when you are happy, you don't just rest on your laurels, and merely revel in your current joy. Happiness is something that you need to cultivate. It is sustainable; but it takes work. And love. And patience. And understanding. A whole lot of understanding. And forgiveness. And optimism.

Oh, and also - and here might be HomeValley's main prescription for a happy marriage - Laughter.
The good news is, I am pretty sure J chuckles when I hit an empty stage with a Miller Lite and pretend to play the keyboard.
Yup.
We're ready.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Let the Countdown Begin...

Friends, we've only got a week to go.

The W is upon us, and man, I thought it would never come. I sure will miss talking about the wedding plans to every human I come across EVER, even perfect strangers; but I suppose after the actual wedding, you get inundated with questions about the actual wedding, so I will still be able to make small talk with people on the street for at least another, oh, three months?

So to fill you guys in on the W minutiae, today I am finishing up place cards, and welcome letters, and also going for a bikini wax. Squee! It's all very thrilling, and yet, really, it is thrilling. Seeing this thing come together in the 11th hour is terribly exciting.


And also? This past Saturday was my own bachelorette party, and lo, it was a good one:



More to come on this. Beware if I actually learn to link video. If you ever wanted to see ole HV riding on a middle-aged man's back around a dive bar, shouting, "WHY AM I GETTING MARRIED?!?!" Well, let's just say you are in for a real treat.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Pregnancy Pact Pregnancy Pact Pregnancy Pact

Seriously?

Remember that time we all watched For Keeps in high school, and then we all vowed we would get knocked up as one big pregnant team, because, like, Molly Ringwald looked so cute with that swollen belly at prom! Remember when she complained about her hemmorhoids? That tub in the center of her dilapidated apartment?

Didn't we just yearn for it?

So, in short: shut up, Media, about this assinine pregnancy pact, and if you mention Juno one more fucking time, I will explode. Yours, HV.

In other news, just returned from Chicago, and man, did she and I ever have an amazing first date! We just clicked: shopping on the Magnificent Mile; jogging along Lake Michigan; becoming a student of the fascinating architecture; sampling the delicious Indian cuisine.




The only thing that could have made the trip any better would have been meeting one of my heroines, like, oh, Doris Kearns Goodwin, and maybe having her sign a copy of her new book, Team of Rivals.


And then:

That happened.


I heard DKG speak first. She waxed poetic about her time at the White House during Johnson's administration, her love of history, and finally, Abraham Lincoln. By the close of the speech, my eyes were brimming with tears. Surprisingly, the man next to me was also wiping tears from his face.
"She was incredible," he said to me. The lump in my throat didn't allow me to speak, so I only nodded. "That was the best part of the whole convention," he concurred.
Indeed.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Meat for Brains

Or: I couldn't help but wonder... Can this carnivirous Swede go green?

At one point during our lovely Father's Day luncheon with J's family last Sunday, we talked MEAT. Or, more specifically, meat as carcinogen. See, J's parents have a fascinating Christian monk friend who dabbles in eastern medicine, mystery novel writing, and Buddhism. I'm fairly sure he's met the Dalai Lama. He also sends emails with Power Points attached, espousing the myriad of health benefits associated with green tea. Naturally, he is my hero.

So my ears perk up when Mom o' J tells us that said friend believes, plainly, that meat is a carcinogen, equivalent to cigarette smoke. At least meat as J and I purchase it (er, Acme brand. Chock full of hormones and additives. Get it while it's hot!).

J turns to me. "Babe, we could do it. Why don't we become vegeterians?"

Then J asserts that he doesn't eat meat at all during the week, only the processed, packaged cold cuts he eats daily in his sandwich. "I don't count that anyway."

And thus beginneth J's meat-eating vegetarianism.

I give the issue a bit more thought. Without becoming vegan, and without giving up fish, could I do it?

I decide to try it for one week, beginning Monday. I travel to Syracuse, in a filthy rental car with a busted radio that reeks of cigarette smoke (oh, I also discovered books on CD this week. Stunning.) On my trip, I am bombarded with signs for McDonald's and Burger King every 15 miles or so, and suddenly I can't stop thinking about a double cheeseburger. It consumes me as I drive on, at a ridiculously legal pace. No meat and no radio make HV... something something.

I manage to quell the fierce cravings, and order grilled salmon later that night, though I can't help but feel that my head's gone a bit fuzzy. I notice it when I am leading a meeting the next day, so when I make to leave 'Cuse, I think to myself, 81 North. Remember, you need to get on 81 North.

I successfully navigate my way onto 81 North and take a business call that lasts for, oh, 30 miles. I hang up and notice another sign for Watertown.

Oh. I say to myself. Right. 81 South.

I've got meat for brains!

I turn around somewhere near Mexico, NY, and live to fuck up another day.

Like, er, today. I wake up early this morning to return the rental car to 30th Street Station. I am even clear-minded enough to negotiate a deep discount for the deeply dysfunctional vehicle. I purchase a one-way ticket to Manayunk, buy an iced decaf, and make my way to the R6 platform.

When the train for "Cynwyd" comes, I eagerly hop onboard.

And then I learn from the conductor - didn't even realize this one on my own! - that I am, indeed, on the wrong train.

Meat for brains!

I get off the train on City Line Avenue, and resign myself to walking the three miles back home. Besides, it's a beautiful morning, and the exercise will be a great warm-up for my 8:30 AM yoga class. I may be mind-numbingly stupid this week, but by God, I am in great spirits. Am Zen-Goddess. Even my yoga instructor tells me she can feel my positive energy today.

I am so pleased with the compliment, I float home in my newly relaxed and stretched body. I prepare myself two organic eggs, which I scarf down with strawberries and a perfectly ripe plum.

I am so Zen, you see, that I neglect to look at my Treo - my one saving grace in this world - until exactly 15 minutes after I was expected at my doctor's appointment.

Hormone-riddled meat: 3
HomeValley: 0

I shan't give up though. You see, I've just listened to The Alchemist on CD and I am dangerously close to prattling on about Personal Legends and Omens and all that delightful "listen to your heart" business. You can't win, Meat! I am stronger than you!

At least through Monday. Then we'll make a game time decision to see if vegetarianism is truly a fit.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Honestly...

I am dangerously close to having my future sister-in-law read this at our wedding:

His hello was the end of her endings
Her laugh was their first step down the aisle
His hand would be hers to hold forever
His forever was as simple as her smile
He said she was what was missing
She said instantly she knew
She was a question to be answered
And his answer was "I do"

And I can't be having some season two Carrie Bradshaw poems spoken on that beach in DR.

Or - or can I?

In desperate need of some inspiration. I want something magical and mystical, something that speaks to us, and our relationship. And no offense, Mr. Tradition, but once you hear those ubiquitous wedding words uttered - "Love is patient, love is kind..." - does your brain perhaps shut down, because yes, that is so beautiful! So beautiful that everyone uses it at their wedding!

Alas, folks: because of its ubiquity, it is mostly devoid of sentiment. Unless, of course, I could convince my S-I-L and my little bro to do some sort of dramatic improvisation? Like, Ry mimes raising a hand to E's face, but then she proclaims: "No! Stop! Love is patient!" And then he heaves a hugh sigh, and concurs: "Yes. Love is patient, y'all. And so, so kind."

Do you see what happens when I think about this too much?

The situation, she is grave.

So, Internet, any ideas?

I have revisited the works of great poets, philosophers, and Adam Sandler in The Wedding Singer. Through it all, I said: Meh.

Could someone perhaps point me in the right direction?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

An Open Letter to the Donald

Dear Mr. Trump:

Your casino? The Trump Plaza?

Yeeech.

It absolutely needs to be vacuumed, and disinfected, and perhaps fumigated. It reeks of stale cigarettes and feet. Most of the clientele here smoke; alternately, the non-smokers are attached to oxygen masks. The irony is not lost on me.

Now I do not gamble, because lo, I hate to lose even more than I love to win. Also, I don't understand goddamn craps. The fuck?

Yesterday, however, I played the slots. And then when I was up $47, I kept going, as you, no doubt, intended. And I lost and I lost, but I stopped when I was exactly $3 up.

Haha! I win!

Fondly,

HomeValley

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

To the women in my life, with love.




A very belated thank you to the gorgeous women in my life, who planned an amazing bridal shower for me in, er, late April.


It was absolutely lovely, with nary a bridal bingo card in sight!








There was lots of wine, amazing food, and lord - the gifts! They were abundant, and generous, and beautiful, even if I held up everything that resembled a bowl and said, "Oh wow! A serving dish!" And then one of 18 people would tell me, "No no; that is a __________." Perhaps they then muttered under their breath, "Good luck, J."


And dudes, it was a "surprise", but I accidentally found out about it when I used my superior detective skills to jokingly discover the elaborate ruse... Only to actually discover the elaborate ruse, and then feel like an asshole. But come on, everyone wins when the bride-to-be is this talented an actress:





(Though my mother was nearby at this time, rolling her eyes and telling everyone: "She knew.")


Soon it was time to open gifts, and Vanessa gave me this apron, which I promptly put on and wore all day. I give the people what they want.




Unbeknownst to me, my mother coordinated the creation of a scrapbook, in which all the women closest to me (parents, aunts, sisters, cousins, friends) made pages, chronicling our lives together. It is quite possibly the most exquisite and hilarious gift I have ever received.

Squee! Another serving dish!

Ladies, words cannot begin to express my gratitude, not just for my lovely bridal shower, but for everything you have given me over the years: your constant love, support, friendship, and laughter. You have made me the woman I am today (perhaps one of you could have pulled me aside at some point and given me a cooking and kitchen-utensil lesson, but still). I am proud to know you; proud to be your daughter, step-daughter, sister, niece, cousin, and friend. I love each and every one of you around the world and back again.

(And dudes, yes, you are still getting thank you cards. Soon.)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Yes, I have been avoiding you.

I haven't written in many days, and for the first time in my meager blog's history, my absence was deliberate.


Today, as I was about to make a comment on another blogger's absolutely magnificently poignant post, I stopped myself.


Because I have to come clean here. I have to tell you about the fight, and the reason I have been ignoring you.


So here goes.

J and I had spent the day running wedding errands. We left the house around noon, and we finally stumbled home around 8:30 or so. We were looking forward to a quiet evening, sipping drinks in the backyard. J grabbed a beer, and I made a martini for the occasion.

We began chatting, and laughing, and then the conversation turned more serious. We started a real discussion about our careers, and our future family... Those adorable babies we will call V. and H. (Because I totally have their names picked out already! And they are so cute! In my brain!)

We do a lot of talking about V and H. Because we love them already, and we want to make sure we are providing them the best life possible. And that they like vegetables and Thai cuisine. And that they don't watch too much television, but not NO television, because that would be very restrictive and unrealistic, and hey man, we are conscientious, sensible parents. You know, to our yet-to-be conceived offspring. V and H.

One day last year J came home and proclaimed: "We will not have babies until we have 6 million dollars in the bank*." And then my eyes bugged out of my head and I argued that, J, 6 mil* is a lot of cash. Surely we could be less aggressive?

But then J convinced me that once we had that seed money, we could live comfortably, and have much more flexibility. So I went with it. Today, We save nearly 40% of our paychecks each month. We live below our means (save my penchant for expensive martinis and Coach) in order to achieve our lofty goals. And we both feel good about that.

Now, J is getting his MBA. It is a legitimate expense, but we can handle it. And since J is in school, and working full-time, he came home one day recently and proclaimed that V and H were on hold until he was nearly done with his Master's. His reasoning was sound: he wanted to be completely available to those babies after work.

With all of this happening, and V and H remaining a gleam in our eye until, er, 2010 or so, I reasoned that I should be in school now. I want an advanced degree, and why not be in school together?

Which leads us back to this idle Saturday night, in which we discuss options. Options that always seem to assume J is the constant, and I am the variable. I can continue in my job now. Or I can quit my job. Or I can get another job. It's all good.

And, that, right there, is the problem for me.

I have many faults, Internet. I am often too whimsical and idealistic. I procrastinate. I can be selfish and lazy and petulant, sometimes all in the same afternoon. I hate to share food. I am extremely unpleasant most mornings. And sometimes, just sometimes, I set lofty goals for myself - aloud - and then I forget about those goals, because, you know, something else came up. And that last sin is unforgivable, because it injures the validity of my word. It may perpetuate the notion that I am the variable. I may call you back when I say I will. But I may not. I may say I will study for the GMATs daily, but may pop in The Tudors DVD instead.

But see here: throughout all of these meaderings and foibles, I have never stopped believing that I am destined to be something.

I will score well on the GMATs. I will get an MBA, and eventually a PhD. I will publish a novel. We will be wealthy. We will raise nice children. We will make an indelible mark on this world.

I believe I matter, even if you don't. Even if I am but one blogger in a slew of 632 billion.

It follows then, that my career should matter. My job should matter. The long and short of it is: I should be a constant too.

Hello, me, over here, on the blog? I'm not killing time. I am not just pittering around in this job to throw in the towel when I have babies. I'm not. It's not me. I aspire to be a mother. I aspire to be professionally successful. I want both. And I will not forfeit either aspiration. And this blog? Believe it or not, I think it is legitimate. Even if you don't. I practice my craft here, and eventually, I am going to be published, on like, actual paper. I have before. I will again.

I should interrupt my rant here to tell you that my future husband is a wonderful, kind man, who wants to give me (along with V and H) everything I want and need in this world, and he is willing to work damn hard for it all. He is a good person, with a heart that breaks Dr. Seuss-like measuring devices. This whole fight evolved from a tragic male/female miscommunication.

He said: Do whatever you want to do! You can work or not work, whatever you want to do.

I heard: I don't value your professional contribution. It's really not as meaningful as mine, dear. Ya geddit? I am the constant. I am the breadwinner. You are the variable. You don't work? Cool. You bring in money? Even better. But, you know, whatever.

And. That's not me.

Later, I said: Well, what if I do quit my job, and work full-time as a freelance writer?

He said: You don't just become a freelance writer. You have to know people, and you have to really work at it. You won't make money overnight.

I heard: I don't believe in you.

You see what happened there? Disaster. J was being practical, and I was being idealistic. We were communicating on two completely different wavelengths.

You can imagine his initial shock and confusion when I subsequently burst into tears and walked inside the house, where I sat in the kitchen for an hour, sobbing. I ignored his pleas to stop crying, to come into the living room, to please talk about this. The pleas became angrier. Stop twisting my words! He roared, as I reiterated over and over that he didn't believe in me, that my blog was ridiculous, an inconsequential pasttime for a stupid, silly girl, who should just accept that she is merely mediocre.

Sigh.

This is communication breakdown at it's ugliest. And our worst fight to date. I eventually retreated upstairs to the bedroom, bleary-eyed. He stayed on the couch until about two AM, when he crept into bed, explaining he couldn't sleep: he was having dreams that I was having savage dogs attack him.

Yeah, that's pretty much what it felt like.

The next morning we woke early, both wounded, guarded still. We talked and talked, words chosen carefully. We tried to get it right. And we did well. Though even after J assured me that he loved my blog, that it did matter, I still couldn't bring myself to write anything.

But I'm glad I wrote this, even if it was just for me, and J. I feel lighter now. And I am convinced that it does matter, if only just to me, and J, and you, and a few other people who happen to google "orbs" or "politicians" and stumble across me. It's still something.

Also, the fight? It was a good thing, although it left us both vaguely sick for days. Now we understand each other just a bit more. I know if I say I am going to do something, well then, it needs to be done. That's just good practice. I also know how important it is to J that I get it done. Something as seemingly benign as never baking the banana muffins I swear I am making at least weekly (there are Tudors episodes to watch!), well, it shakes his faith in me, ever so slightly. And he needs to trust that I am a wife of my word. There are two of us in this relationship, after all.

Both constant.

* Numbers have been grossly inflated. Writer enjoys hyperbole.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

On Orbs and Politicians

I wish I could tell you everything that is currently in my brain.

There are not enough hours in a day. It's 7:33 PM, and I am holed up in a corner of the Portland International "Jetport", which is quite possibly the tiniest and loneliest airport in all the land. Although, since Starbucks closes at 7 PM on the dot, they will take pity upon your ass at 7:12 and provide free cups of decaf joe. So there you go.

Which brings me to "go-go juice", which is what they call coffee at a certain Rockland, Maine bed and breakfast I stayed in last night.

And fuck me, I hate bed and breakfasts. Look, man: they are all haunted, and you know it.

Once, I visited a B & B in Gettysburg, PA, and the owners took pride in the pictures they had captured of GIANT ORBS OF LIGHT by guests' heads.

GIANT ORBS! Ghosts of Civil War soldiers, just meandering about the inn. Isn't that rich?

Yesterday I arrived in Rockland at 8 PM, having driven three hours from Manchester, New Hampshire. I was ill-prepared. I hadn't expected a bed and breakfast. Moreover, I hadn't expected to be placed in the "carriage house", doomed to sleep in a foreboding room marked PRIVATE.

"You've even got a washer and dryer!" Chirps Bob*, the inn-keeper. "How do you like that?"

"Wonderful," I say through clenched jaw. "I may have to do some laundry later!"

"This apartment was renovated for our 92 year-old neighbor," Bob tells me. "She asked us to build her a place so she wouldn't have to go into a nursing home."

"Oh," I say. Inside, however, I am screaming: HOLY FUCK!! That 92 year-old lady died in the bed I am about to sleep in! And she roams the apartment at night! She pokes guests as they slumber, wagging her bony ghost finger and shouting, "GET OUTTA MY BED, MISSY!"

(Now seriously, Internet. Tell me you wouldn't have thought precisely the same thing.)

My coworker arrives and we grab dinner at a local restaurant. I drink Dewar's to prepare myself for the inevitable confrontation with the spirit.

Mercifully, she leaves me alone throughout the night. (Perhaps because I woke every half-hour to turn on the light. Oh, and I slept with my contacts in.)

(ORBS!)

Was that story a bit anticlimactic?

Journey with our blog's heroine then, if you will, one day prior. An important professional conference in New Hampshire, the Granite State.

I am meandering about the exhibit hall when a short, friendly man approaches me. He extends his hand to me, and asks what we do at our company.

I give him my best spiel. I talk about markerting, and "re-branding". I wax poetic about our national television advertisements.

"Wonderful," he says politely. "So how's business?"

"Fantastic!" I claim. And then I blather on about business, finally taking a breath and asking, "And what line of work are you in?"

Beat.

"I'm the Governor of the State of New Hampshire."

Naturally.

"Oh!" I exclaim, as my face turns crimson, and I notice the security guard a few feet away. "Um, yeah. I, um, had no idea. But I'm from Philly."

And the gracious Governor chats with me for a few moments about Philadelphia, and some work he did there in the past. Soon, we part ways.

Another man saunters up shortly thereafter.

"How about when you asked the Governor of the state what he did for a living?" He asks.

Yeah. That was HILARIOUS.

Boarding. 'Night, y'all.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

The Culmination

Can we talk about man crushes, just for a moment?

Specifically, J's man crush on one Joel McHale, host of The Soup on E?

So yes, J loves Joel McHale. When we went to Los Angeles, we had many goals, not least of which was to meet Mr. McHale and shake his hand, maybe adopt him and then have him perform biting pop culture commentary for us at home on a daily basis.

Alas, Joel was nowhere to be found in Hollywood! Only Howie, and Kimmel, and of course: Flav. Oh man, and Chynna (sp?). And also that guy from Prison Break. And Donovan McNabb's mom, of Chunky Beef fame. And Chef Rocco. And David Tyree.

Dude, I digress.

Because we didn't need to go to LA to find Joel. Nay, Mr. McHale showed up right in our own backyard, last weekend:




J: Joel, we went all the way to California just to find you, man!
Joel, a bit nervously: Really? And you didn't see me? Well, maybe if I'd been Mexican.
Touche, McHale. Touche.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Standby



Your blog-goddess regrets her unexpected absence. We will return to our regularly-scheduled blogging tomorrow.



Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Yuppie Wars

Blah blah blah been travelin' blah blee.

Now that we have gotten that out of the way: hello, Internet! Miss me?

Things have been v. hectic in the HomeValley world, though lovely. I have been on the road a lot. I have been trying to get organized with the wedding. I have been attempting to study for the damn GMATs. And also, an actual writer's conference! In New York! In which I took a personal day from my ever-demanding role in Corporate America, and indulged my creative sensibilities.

(And swooned for Joshua Ferris, author of Then We Came to the End, the best book in the history of the fucking world if a certain panel is to be believed.)

(Then I bought the book. And I'm only a few chapters in, but yes, fine, Panel, it is awesome. It's about Corporate America, and it's biting and hilarious. Go read it, and then, for the love of God, can we please have our book club finally? Man, you guys are killing me.)

And... next topic.

I have noticed an alarming new trend in the things that J and bicker about.

It all started with the reusable grocery bags.

"I am telling you, Melis!" J says definitively. "I will not use them! I take my lunch to work every day in a plastic bag. I need the plastic bags."

"My God! I will get you a lunch bag!" I huff.

"I am not using a lunch bag! I won't!" J growls, disgusted.

The indignity of a lunch bag. Egregious!

Then, it was the white bread.

"What the hell is this in the cupboard, J? Is this white bread? You had no right! There is no nutritional value in this shit! My God, are you crazy? Where is the fiber, J? The fiber!"

Then, I did the grocery shopping (with resuable, environmentally-friendly canvas bags).

Via text message: "Fiber and flax seed bread? This means war, HV!"

Then, we went bike riding on Saturday, on a trail, donning our practical helmets and tiny back-pack full of provisions.

Eight miles in: "J! It is only another 7.5 miles to Valley Forge! We can do this, babe. Man up! We are strong!"

Thirty miles and three hours later, we wanted to die.

Yeeeeaaahhhh.

Yuppies.

Officially.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Depths of Despair

Holy God - I am in hell.

I am sitting in an office in Dublin, Ohio, with two phones beeping angrily at me. I am on hold at H & R Block, desperately trying to get an appointment there for this evening. Oh, I had an appointment there last week, and I went, and I had my state taxes done.

Seventy-five dollars later, my taxes are completely, utterly WRONG.

So, New York? This is how you want to play it? $500 for speeding, and then this horrendous tax situation. (In which, my company kept me as a New York employee after I relocated to Philadelphia. My state taxes were taken out incorrectly, and nothing was taken out for Philadelphia's egregious city wage tax. Then, hilarity ensued.)

The End.

P.S. I hate everyone. And if you think I am not drinking heavily tonight, you'd be wrong. Cheers.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Toots and Big Guy

So J calls me "Toots" when he is exasperated with my antics. You know, when I've done a bad thing. Like, I don't know, $500 speeding ticket?

There is a lot of "Toots" going around these days at the HomeValley Ranch.

In this hell of my own making, I am investigating "Points Reduction" classes in Manhattan. And... e-mail:

From: J
To: Toots

Summarize the deal here. Will the points and the added $300 fine go away if you go to a one day class?

From: Toots
To: J

No... "up to" 4 points would go away, and you get a certificate that allows for 10% off your car insurance. It may help me/us if I switch insurance, so I am willing to go.

I have to pay the $300 no matter what... and the class costs $70 and 6 hours of my life.


From: J
To: Toots

How can you get 6 points for one violation? Were you going 120?

From: Toots
To: J

You would think, wouldn't you??? I was going 86.

From: J
To: Toots

Who drives at 86 miles per hour. You made it sound like I did what you did all the time. I don’t drive at 86 mph there toots. This is a big mess you got yourself into.

From: Toots
To: J

That just cost you any love I was going to give you when you get home. Boo.

From: J
To: Toots

Is that how you spell toots?

From: Toots
To: J

No LOVE.

From: J
To: Toots

Well then how do you spell it?

From: Toots
To: J

I think that is close enough.

NO LOVE!!!

From: Toots
To: Big Guy

Well, [my co-worker who's identity must be protected], thought all rental cars just automatically had EZ Pass... And she got a million dollars in tickets. That is a mess. This was one silly violation! Which you will have to get over, "big guy" (that is the new "toots")... Because this may affect our insurance and I can't marry you if you are going to make me feel guilty for the rest of our lives.

Fondly, your-once-excited-to-see-you-wife-who-is-now-on-the-defensive-because-you-gave- her-an-undue-lecture-when-she-was-only-trying-to-do-things-to-ameliorate-the-situation-but-you-couldn't-just-bite-your-tongue-and-now-you-will-pay-later,

Toots

Edited to add:

J just arrived home and commenced hugging me. Then, he gave me a kiss and said, "Babe, I couldn't get home fast enough to see you. I drove, like, 86 miles per hour to get here."

It's going to be a long life.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

All Zen-Like

You should know that whilst I am busy trying to be all serene and relaxed and optimistic, things really aren't going my way this week.

I picked up a little piece of mail from the New York State DMV at my mama's house the other night, with a little love note, saying that I now owe them $300 based on the number of points I incurred for my speeding violation. This $300 is in addition to any fines applied by Brutus Township.

So, a $500 speeding ticket.

I'm not gonna lie to you, Internet: I cried. Who else gets $500 speeding tickets? On big empty highways in Upstate New York?

Enter: Monday morning. I race drive the speed limit the entire way to the airport (um, I am not kidding. I am never driving over the speed limit again in this lifetime EVER), bound for Boston. When I arrive at B Terminal parking, both entrances are closed. Assuming the lot is full, I bear right into what I think is the A Terminal, but is actual super short-term parking, which costs more than double the normal rate.

Annoyed, I leave the lot and make my way back around the airport once again, only to find that B Terminal Parking is now open, but the line is waaayyy long. I sneak into C Terminal parking and make my way to ticketing.

Confusion! I am booked on a United flight to Boston, operated by US Airways. I have to ask two attendants what the protocol is for ticketing, and I finally make it into the check-in line.

Alas, I have missed the 45-minute window and cannot check my bag for my 7:15 AM flight. I either throw away all of my Fekkai hair products, or take the 8:15 flight.

Naturally, I book the 8:15. Do I look like a girl who can (a) afford to be without quality hair products, or (b) afford to buy any more quality hair products because hell, I just got a $500 speeding ticket?!?!

All of this breathtaking stupidity on my part is exhausting. I pass out on the plane, and am roughly shaken awake by the flight attendant to put my damn seat back up already! We are landing!

Once in Boston, I buy a fully caffeinated cup of joe. You get it.

The caffeine works. I am fully productive, presenting at meetings at getting things accomplished. I even order sushi from the restaurant across the street from my hotel and pick it up on my way to the Springhill Suites.

"Hi, Melissa," says the front desk clerk when I arrive, as I stay here quite often. Then she looks at my oddly.

"We don't have you booked here until April 28th."

Oh. Fuck.

I am actually booked at the Marriott. Yes, I went to the wrong hotel. Luckily the doll at Springhill has a room for me, and calls the Marriott to explain the situation. I retreat to my suite and gorge myself on vegetable maki. Then I drag myself to the gym; and for the first time ever, the pool.

Ten-year old Janella joins me as I am jogging back and forth in the three-foot section.

"What are you doing?" She asks.

"Im exercising. I've got a wedding coming up in July, and I need to get in shape."

"Oh," she says. "Well, I'll do it with you."

That is how Janella and I become fast friends, jogging back and forth in the three-foot section of the indoor pool. She even makes up some exercises of her own ("let's hop!") and tells me all about her family, her travels, and how her fourteen year-old sister never wants to play with her.

A little after nine, I tell her I must get back upstairs.

"OK. Well, are you gonna be here tomorrow night?"

Ah, new friends.

Friday, April 04, 2008

At Wit's End

"Better to just say yes than to piss anyone off."
-J, future loving husband

Remember the days when we were planning a small wedding? Remember after that, when it all spiraled out of control?

I just hope the resort can accommodate 894997 people at our reception.

This morning I am dangerously close to emailing Miss Manners. I know it is destination. Dudes, I know. But then I think, why did I bother sending out invitations? As everyone just invites whomever they want to come along?

Sigh.

Paybacks are a bitch, mah people. From now on, you'll get me, J, Grace or possibly the Real JC if you dare invite me to a wedding. What, it isn't okay if Grace comes? Pardon? If you wanted the Real JC there, you would have invited him? Oh! Well, too bad.

Possibly you will have more balls than me, and can tell me NO in no uncertain terms. Maybe you will ascribe to the J philosophy.

In any event: RIP, Decorum. RIP.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Ode to Howser

Yesterday, I was quite dejected.

It was raining. I was working. I was bored. During lunch, I finished a most decidedly not-at-all funny "humorous" novel, which made me irrationally angry. Then I traveled to the grocery store and forgot the new canvas grocery bags I had bought just days prior. Because I, Melissa P. HomeValley, am a friend to the environment. And also: a moron.

I realized I had forgotten the bags when I rolled through the check-out line, and then I proceeded to berate myself, because LO - HV, you are dumb! And then all of the dumb things I have done lately came spewing from my memory:
  • Like, the time in December I got that damn traffic ticket for gliding through a yellow light! Then went to traffic court, and paid $117.50 to the city of Philadelphia!
  • Or, that time in February when I was coming out of the White Plains parking garage, and hanging up my mobile phone, and subsequently crashing my driver's side mirror into the speaker by the exit! Then I paid what felt like 89893 dollars to the Nissan dealership, and still haven't gotten the damn mirror cap replaced, because I can't quite face the total cost of the repair. I'm too raw.
  • But wait! In March, when I was cruising down I-90 in Rochester, New York? And then I thought it might be nice to get back to my Syracuse hotel a bit early? So maybe I will just speed up a little, here in good old Brutus Township? Brutus Township to HomeValley: No, moron. No, you actually won't speed in our town without a hefty fine.

And that brings us to "dejected." I returned home. I found J in the office.

"What's wrong?" He asked, upon seeing my expression.

"I forgot the grocery bags! And the Stouffer's Mac and Cheese now has 20 grams of fat and 480 calories, and I know it used to be 380 calories, and now we can never eat it again and that's probably why I am chubby!"

(What reasons are there to go on without the Stouffer's?!?!)

Well, there is CBS.

And How I Met Your Mother.

And Neil Patrick Harris.

The blue computer screen?

The blinking cursor?

The strains of a familiar theme song?

The contemplative head tilt?

Bravo, HIMYM. Bravo.

I shan't recap here; just know that Harris's character, Barney Stinson, goes through an existential crisis, then concludes - in the most brilliant fashion ever - that he is awesome.

And so am I, mostly. Though I probably shouldn't be allowed to operate a motor vehicle.