Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Dating Game

This online dating thing feels a lot like high school gym class when teams were being picked for the volleyball, basketball, softball, and soccer games that made Phys Ed torture for an unathletic girl like me.  It used to feel like I was standing in front of a firing squad as I waited for the (always) super cute, super athletic captains to make their team selections.  I’d go from hoping they’d pick me, to wondering why I wasn’t getting picked, to wishing that I was back in the locker room or somewhere else, far, far away (usually the library).
When it comes to dating, if you haven’t already figured it out, I never even went into the gym to try to get on a team; I’m still in the locker room tying my sneaks.  But with my online profile 96% complete (the remaining 4% costs $5.95 which is such a rip-off* - if someone wants the full 100%, they can just wait to meet me), it looks like my sneaks are tied, double-knotted, and ready to hit the gym floor.
Guess what?  Nobody’s picking me!  Sure, I’ve gotten a bunch of profile views but no one’s broken the ice yet…seriously, that’s what we’re supposed to do, send an icebreaker to get to know one another better.  Nothing.  Nada.  And the voice in my head is saying, here we go again, nobody’s picking me…why’d I even leave the locker room?  There’s another voice too, the one I promised myself that I wasn’t going to pay attention to anymore…the one saying, well, clearly they’re not picking you because you’re not one of the pretty girls.  That voice is really annoying.  And really shallow.  I mean, even I know relationships aren’t based on looks.  (They’re based on the 29 scientifically proven points of compatibility, duh!) 
The other day, after listening to me whine about all of this, TopChef and Caesar Rodney put things into perspective for me.  They said that I should send the first icebreaker (well, what they really did was give me a homework assignment...I love homework).  I can’t remember who said it but the advice was this - if you’re going to wait for the person as shy as Denise to send an icebreaker, you’ll be waiting a long time.  That makes perfect sense…what if I’m finally the captain of the team and my perfect match is sitting on his couch wondering why he hasn’t gotten picked?  Maybe he’s waiting for me to do the picking!  So, that’s what I’m gonna do.  I just have to re-tie my sneaks first.   
Now, how many guys make up a basketball team? 
*Denise factoid – there are certain situations in which, I can be perceived as, um, cheap.  

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Vendredi alimentaire français

Vive la France!  More like, vive la French Food Friday!  (Note - the title is translated from Google Translator…so who knows if it’s right.)
People who know me may be under the impression that I’m not a big fan of France.  Probably because I’ve given them that impression.  Now, I don’t exactly dislike France…it’s just that when I think of all the places in the world that I want to visit, France doesn’t even make the cut.  For Christmas, I received a calendar (filler gift) of scenes of Paris - I regifted that thing faster than you can ask, “What are you doing for Bastille Day?”  In high school, I didn’t particularly like Les Misérables (the book) and I really couldn’t stand the girls who gushed about “Les Miz” (the musical).  I am definitely not a Francophile.  But when it came to Food Friday, I decided to go French. 
This was my first solo Food Friday and, truth be told, the title of this post almost became Five Guys Friday.  However, my conscious would not let me disappoint the masses, so I drove the extra few miles to le Madeleine’s.  On the drive there, I was dreaming of some lovely French duck and fancy French baguettes and I was half-worried that I wasn’t dressed fancily enough for this fine French eatery.  This was all before I found out that le Madeleine’s is basically a Frenchified Panera Bread!  At least Panera Bread's good!  Just goes to show, you should never judge a restaurant by its fancy lanterns and doors.
I stayed, only because it was snowing out and it was already past my hanger point (hunger + anger = hanger…for me, it usually occurs ‘round about noon time or any other time I haven’t eaten in a timely fashion.)  I perused the menu and decided on Quiche Lorraine.  I’ve never had quiche and I used to work with a really nice lady named Lorraine so it seemed like my best bet.  I also ordered an alpinette which is apparently French for “overpriced roll.”  I also ordered the potato soupe which was thin and tasteless despite the extra “e.”

Major disappointment - there’s egg in quiche!  I’m not a huge fan of eggs and I’m even less of a fan of eggs at lunch.  It was pretty horrible.  I only choked down about half of it before I gave up trying.  Thankfully, I had my overpriced roll and vowel heavy soupe to quell my hanger.  Now, 2010 Denise would’ve written off the whole quiche family on the basis of this one episode alone but I’m willing to admit that the quality of the food was a reflection of the restaurant.  So, let’s call this French Food Friday a practice run before Actual Good French Food Friday.

As a special bonus, there was a New Food Friday Night!  My neighbor/friend/colleague/snow shuttle operator Semper Fi called to invite me to go to the local chili place with his wife, Scrapper, and our mutual friend Lugnut.  Chili’s another one of those things I just cannot wrap my mind around.  I’ve had little bites of chili here and there and tonight I had a few more, including some on a chip that might've been a nacho.  While this doesn’t qualify as the successful completion of a meal, I’m open to ordering a chili dog the next time we go.
I guess since I’m open to the prospect of eating a chili dog, I’ll consider being more open to going to France too.  Who knows, maybe I’ll even eat a chili dog in France!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Matters of the Heart

Goal Four of “7 in ‘11” was to make doctors’ appointments and take vitamins regularly.  The vitamin thing hasn’t quite stuck.  But on Monday, I went to my first doctor’s appointment in over two years!  You know how it is - you move some place new and it’s always an ordeal trying to find a new doctor, a new dentist, a new hair salon, a new cheesesteak place, and other important things like that.  But finally, I have a real doctor!  (And she’s funny…which is always a bonus!  I appreciate humor after waiting over an hour and a half to see someone.)
The thing about doctors, however, is that when you tell them that your grandfather died of a heart attack, your uncle died of a heart attack, your other uncle had congestive heart failure, your mother had a heart attack and now has a pacemaker, and you’re planning on running a 5K (Goal 5) but the only regular exercise you get is the extremely long walk from your car to your office and back again…the thing is, they insist on giving you an EKG.  And the thing with my EKG was that there was an “irregularity.”  Now, don’t go getting all worried…the funny doctor is pretty sure is has something to do with the unique physical structure of my chest cavity.  I’ve been “referred” to a cardiologist.  No biggie. 
I did tell Deputy Pepper at work because he’s calm in crises and I figured if I collapse and die in front of him, he’ll know what to do.  He’s been really great…peeking over our shared cube wall to ask if my heart has exploded yet or reminding me to update my life insurance so that he’s my beneficiary.  He’s always been a really caring, considerate pal.   
But here’s the thing.  I told my mother.  And now my mother’s worried.  I’m 31 years old and my mom still worries about me.  I guess that’s what parents do.  They love us, they send us out into the world when we’re ready, and they still worry about us, long after we’re grown up, because their hearts are so big and filled with this crazy love that maybe only parents really understand.  It’s pretty amazing that someone could love another human that much.  So, despite rolling my eyes at my mother’s expressions of worriment, I’m grateful that I have someone who loves me like that.  And no, Mom, I haven’t called the cardiologist yet!    

Monday, January 24, 2011

Nancy Was Wrong.

These boots were not made for walking.  These boots were made to torture me.  In fact, I’m thinking of pressing attempted murder charges against them.  I don’t have a problem with most boots…just ones with two and half inch heels.
When it comes to shoes, I tend to lean towards the practical, comfortable styles.  Flat, rubber soles are best.  My shoes of choice are generally sneakers.  And a few months ago, I discovered the wonders that are known as Crocs.  I’m pretty sure when Belinda Carlisle sang “Heaven Is A Place on Earth,” she was wearing a pair of Crocs. 
I do a lot of walking, climbing, and standing on desks during my daily routine so I require a really comfortable shoe to get me through the day.  But then there are the days I get really stupid ideas…such as - let’s wear the boots with the super high heels because I need a picture for my Eharmony profile that makes me appear super tall (I never said that I was honest in my profile!)  So, there I was wearing my boots, looking tall, and having an absolutely miserable day.  I’m pretty sure I tore a tendon in my knee.      
My friend StyleMaven told me that you have to suffer for beauty but she doesn’t seem like she’s suffering when she’s wearing her four inch heels.  In fact, she makes it look pretty darn easy.  Maybe wearing heels takes lots of practice.  Lots and lots of practice.  Then again, maybe some girls are just meant to rock their Crocs.     

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Food Friday (better late than never!)

You say kebab.  I say kebab…and where’s the stick?  I thought kebabs were supposed to come on sticks?!  Apparently not.  But let’s go back in time…to Friday, or more precisely Food Friday.  (btw, this post should have been up on Friday night but I had a hot date with ABC’s Super Nanny.) 
It was one of those Fridays that I actually didn’t want to go out for lunch, which is actually a rarity for me.  I had my favorite frozen Chinese food in a box waiting for me in the work freezer that I was planning to scarf down before I skipped out of work early.  But before I knew it the lunch bunch was packed into Lugnut’s car (Caesar Rodney got the heated seat) on the way to a local eating establishment called The Jungle Grill.  As it happened, there was a sign on the door that said they were closed and would reopen in mid-January (last I checked January 21 was well after mid-January!)  Now, we had to scramble – where to go?    
We settled on the kebab place next door to The Jungle Grill.  It was a little sketchy on the inside but the place was packed with customers – so it couldn’t be that bad, right?  And it wasn’t!  Being new to the establishment, we didn’t realize the buffet was the way to go so we all ordered off the menu.  I ordered the bihari kebab…to my disappointment it didn’t come on a stick.  To me, there’s nothing more fun than food on a stick! 

The lunch platter also came with naan, an oven baked flatbread.  Remember my aversion to bread?  I have to say, the naan was my favorite part of my meal!  I really liked it!  (And now I will prepare myself for the possibility of my friends forcing me to eat bread-like items from now on!)  The kebab itself was a little too spicy for me but I managed to eat most of it - Deputy Pepper finished it off for me.  I also tried some of TopChef’s chickpeas which weren’t bad…a little crunchy but something I could see myself ordering on my own next time.  Overall, it was really good and definitely has been added to our lunch roster…next time we’re splurging for the $8.99 buffet!
And now I’m one step closer to falafel! 

Monday, January 17, 2011

When Cups Runneth Over

On this day of service, I would like to make a public service announcement about the importance of wearing a bra that fits properly.  I certainly do not mean to offend anyone so if you’re uncomfortable reading about ladies’ skivvies, don't go any further.  (You can't say that I didn't warn you!) 
Most women don’t wear the right bra size.  And that can cause all sorts of problems – back pain, constricted breathing, sagginess, muscle strain, chafing.  That’s just not cool.  Recently, it was brought to my attention that perhaps I wasn’t wearing the correct bra size (in a totally kind-hearted, supportive way).  Now, I don’t give very much thought to what kind of clothes I wear so you can imagine how much thought I give to the clothes that I wear under my clothes.  I know a lot of ladies like to shop at places like Victoria’s Secret to buy their undergarments…but not me.  I’m a simple kinda girl - if there’s a bunch of fruit on the tag, it’s good enough for me.  If it’s $9.99 or less, it’s a winner.  And if I happen to catch a buy one get one free sale, I’m set for a year.
So, how’d I find myself in a ladies’ corset shop getting fitted for a bra?  Short answer – I’m easily susceptible to peer pressure.  Long answer – on Thursday, my pal TopChef explained to me the importance of being measured by a professional bra-fitter.  I told her I’d put it on the list of things to do.  That’s a pretty long list so I figured I’d get around to it by next October.    But then I had to make an unexpected trip home (home = Pennsylvania) on Saturday and while there, I perused the local paper.  Lo and behold, on page 5, there was an ad for the local corset shop that offered free bra fittings.  Except for the ones with speed limits, I’m a big believer in signs.  And that’s how I found myself, with Mom in tow, getting fitted for a bra. 
I was in the dressing room when the professional bra-fitter said, take off your shirt and bra and we’ll find one that fits.  Huh?!  We don’t even know each other’s names!  Shouldn’t we go out for a drink first?  Or coffee?  Maybe we could talk a little?  We’re going to do this with the lights on?!  After the initial panic, we made the proper introductions, I had a stiff drink, and Anita (the bra-fitter) got to work.  Within minutes my fitting was over.  It was a rather pleasant experience and I can now say that I know exactly what size bra I should be buying.  One more thing off the life list! 
So, the next time you’re passing by your neighborhood corset shop, drop in…because no one should suffer the effects of an ill-fitting bra.
Next up…impractical shoes for a practical girl. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

Food Friday!

This will be the first in a weekly series detailing the new foods I’m trying every week!
You know when your friends want to go somewhere for lunch and there’s that one person in the group who wrinkles up his or her nose and says, “I don’t wanna go there…I don’t like that”?  In my group, I am that girl.  But since I have to try one new food a week, I’ve gotta go places and eat things that I have always vetoed. 
And that’s how I found myself at Chipotle with Deputy Pepper, TopChef, and Caesar Rodney.  I’ve always said I don’t like Mexican food…mainly because I don’t like beans and I don’t like bread very much.  (Margaritas are a different story though!)  TopChef assured me that I could get something that didn’t come in a taco, tortilla, or burrito and that I could skip the beans.  Sure enough, after standing in a long line that moved surprisingly fast, I ordered a bowl with carnitas (pork), rice, medium salsa, and shredded cheese.  The salsa was a like a party in my mouth and the whole meal was quite tasty.  I’m a fan!
Now, when my friends want to go to Chipotle, I’m not gonna wrinkle up my nose and say no way!  In fact, next time, I might even get the guacamole! 
(Photo credit goes to TopChef!  Look for Deputy Pepper's video on YouTube!)

Monday, January 10, 2011

68% and Counting

I signed up with an online dating service.   It’s worked for a couple of my cousins and a few friends and considering that I don’t meet too many men while I’m sitting on my couch watching “The Big Bang Theory,” I thought I’d give it a shot.  In full disclosure, I actually attempted this three years ago, but I never responded to any of my matches.  It’s not that I’m opposed to online dating.  I’m opposed to rejection.  You can’t get rejected if you don’t respond.  But then you’re sitting on your couch for the rest of your life watching “The Big Bang Theory” alone.  And what fun is that? 
I signed up with the company that constantly airs those annoying commercials with the couples who were matched on 96 key dimensions of their personalities, blah, blah, blah.  One Friday night, I settled in and began the obscenely long questionnaire that one has to fill out in order to find their perfect match.  This ain’t no random pick-up at a bar…it’s a highly scientific process.  I’ve shared a few of the questions below.  Answers are on a scale of 1-7, 1 being not at all, 7 being very well –
I feel unable to deal with things.  Well, I’m unable to deal with the thought of rejection and I’m unable to deal with this questionnaire.  I can deal with work stuff though so let’s say a 5…or 6.  6.  Yeah, 6.
I often carry the conversation to a higher level.  Depends.  If it’s about Deadliest Catch, that’s a definite 7.  If it’s about politics, that’s a 1…let’s average that out to a 3.
I am easily discouraged.  I was pretty discouraged when ScarJo and Ryan Reynolds broke up…if they can’t make it work, who can?  Hmm, I’ll put that at a 5.
I am satisfied with my emotional development.  I’m a 31 year old woman who fears rejection.  I have issues.  So, I’m gonna say, 4.
I am able to express myself in unique ways.  I can’t communicate with dolphins or anything but this blog is allowing me to express myself.  I’ll say 5.
I have a high desire for sexual activity.  Geez, I haven’t even been on the first date yet and we’re already talking about S-E-X.  This is moving much too fast for me.  And it’s stupid that you can’t skip questions.
Being in a setting where I will meet new people is an important part of my life.  If I went to settings where I’d meet new people, maybe I wouldn’t need to try online dating.  That was about a 2.
I care a lot about the physical shape I’m in.  Nah, not really.  I’ll put that as a 1.  But I care a lot about the physical shape of my match.  Where's the scale for that?
The questions went on and on and on.  Thank goodness there were reruns on all night!  
I completed the questionnaire but now there are photos to upload and additional questions to answer and a profile to fill out.  My profile is 68% complete.   I’m wise enough to know that my own fears are holding me back from finishing the remaining 32%.  I’m just hoping my perfect match will wait until I overcome them. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Circle of Friends

There is an old Sicilian proverb (I don’t really know if it’s old or Sicilian, I just found it on the Internet) that goes something like this – “Only your real friends will tell you when your face is dirty.” Or, in my case, snot hanging out of my nose. More about that in a sec.

I didn’t have a lot of friends growing up. I lived on a street where the average age was somewhere between ancient and dead; there weren’t many kids in the neighborhood. This was also before the advent of “play dates” so that didn’t help my situation either. I avoided sleepovers, for obvious reasons. From kindergarten through high school, I had, at most, five good friends. I’ve always preferred quality over quantity anyway.

As an adult, I’ve made some fantastic friendships at work and in graduate school. Most of my friends are my coworkers…work is basically an extended happy hour for me. Without the drinks of course. Since many of my friends will be popping up in my posts, I thought I’d introduce them to you. And since it’s my blog, I decided to give each of them their very own nickname.

YanksFan – My very first friend in Maryland. We met in graduate school and ate dinner together at the Student Union most nights for a year and a half. She usually ate something healthy. I usually ate Chick-Filet. Her wedding to PhilsFan (who, coincidentally, graduated from my high school a few years before I did…small world!) was the highlight of my social calendar this past summer.  She’s the only pal who doesn’t work with me at the National Archives.

Deputy Pepper – My archival partner in crime. He’s the friend who I can count on to tell me that I have snot hanging out of my nose. Loudly. In front of other people! He can get away with calling me out when I’m cranky and I can get away with making fun of his not one, but two, Master’s degrees.  Together, we have the best personal shrine to John F. Kennedy ever found in a government building.   

Trix – She grew up on a horse farm like Trixie Belden! She’s laid-back and funny and makes me laugh.  Her roof-top is on Foursquare.  I've checked in.  Have you? 

TopChef – She’s really good at explaining things and listening to me when I’m frustrated and whiny. She also has the largest collection of cookbooks that I’ve ever seen and special tweezers to pluck turkey feathers. I used them when I cooked my very first turkey at her house.

Richmond – She’s from Richmond and I’m not feeling very original. She’s probably one of the nicest people I know and we both thought “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” was stupid.

Caeser Rodney – It’s a Delaware thing. She gives me style advice. And she’s the reason I have a different hairstyle (sorta) for the first time since I was 3.

Lugnut – We actually all call him Lugnut. And he lets us, which is very nice of him. He usually drives when our lunch bunch goes out. When we finally find his car in the garage, we’re treated to a butt warmer in the passenger seat. That’s the coolest thing ever.

This is the core group who make my days interesting.  And who are having way too much fun deciding what new food I should try next.  Mongolian? Really??

Sunday, January 2, 2011

365 Days. 7 Goals. 1 (or 2) Freak-Outs.

Over the past few years I’ve made up slogans for the New Year.  Doing Great in O-Eight.  Feeling Fine in O-Nine.  Men in Twenty-Ten.  That last one didn’t go very far.  But it made for a great rhyme! 
As 2011 was approaching, the best I could come up with was Heaven in Eleven, which could have a couple different connotations…neither of which I was ready for yet.  I’m not anticipating visiting the after-life anytime soon, and well, that whole Men in Twenty-Ten plan didn’t exactly pan out for me.  So, then I came up with 7 in ’11:  7 goals to accomplish in 2011. 
Because putting them on a dry erase board makes them more legit (and gives me an excuse to screw around with markers), here they are: 

1)  NASCAR Driving Experience – I love driving fast.  ‘Nuff said.
2)  Hot Air Balloon Ride – the tickets are already purchased and I’d appreciate it if nobody reminds me how tiny the basket is and how high up it goes.  I’ll be fine.  Right?? 
3)  Try one new food a week – I am a notoriously picky eater.  But worse than that, I don’t even give things a chance.  But now I will.  This is otherwise known as (courtesy of my coworkers who, I’m pretty sure, are going to have the most fun with this) “Operation Just Put it in Your Mouth and Chew.”  I’m open to suggestions…first thing is falafel.  As a warm-up, I’ve already tried sushi (liked), baklava (didn’t like), and snickerdoodles (liked).
4)  Regular doctor/dentist appointments and taking a vitamin once a day – the most responsible goal and just something I guess a lady in her thirties should be doing.
5)  Run a 5K – I’m giving myself the whole year for this.  It could happen.
6)  Slow dance to Eric Church’s “Love Your Love the Most” – this is a very specific goal to distinguish it from all the other slow dance opportunities that come my way.  It has been suggested that I combine Goal 6 with Goal 2 but I don’t want to encourage unnecessary swaying. 
7)  Go to a non-English speaking country – I conquered London in 2010, now it’s time to go further.  Note – France is not on the short-list. 
So there you have it.  365 days to accomplish seven goals.  But since I’m a whiner and tend to flip out about things, I’m going to allow myself a couple of freak-outs.  Starting with the falafel.    

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Leaping Off the {Blogging} Cliff

A few months ago, my world was rocked to the core…the bosses in charge were moving my cubicle.  To you, it might not seem like a big deal; to me, it was catastrophic.  I hate change.  I am a woman of routine.  Change is upsetting.  If there is going to be change in my life, it has to come slowly and with lots of planning.  Intensive therapy doesn’t hurt either. 
Turns out, change isn’t such a bad thing.  Maybe it’s the new cubicle, maybe it’s a coincidence of timing, maybe it’s some strange cosmic force, but in the past few months, I’ve become more daring, more assertive, and most importantly, more open with those around me.  I was never really comfortable opening up to people before.  But now, I am.  So, in the spirit of transparency, here’s my story -   
Let’s start with the obvious.  I’m a Pisces.  With brown hair and brown eyes.  I was born with a rare craniofacial abnormality.  I’m hearing impaired (hint, if I’m nodding and smiling stupidly at you, I have no idea what you just said).  I am both mystified and mistrustful of fax machines.   I was a chronic bed wetter until late adolescence.  I drive too fast.  I dance in my kitchen.  I have a foster cat named Phoebe.  I order things from QVCI hate marshmallows. 
And my biggest secret of all, the one that I am most embarrassed about, is that I cannot smell.  It’s a bonus when someone passes gas; not so much when the plastic platter you’ve stuck in the oven (yeah, bad call on my part) starts to melt, filling your kitchen with a noxious odor that even a four year old knows is yucky.  So, when the office smelled like rotten eggs, I had no idea what that meant.  I just smiled and agreed that it was gross.  When I bought a candle with the scent “Be Thankful,” I had no idea if I should have been thankful…I just bought it because it was red.  Whew, admitting that was easy enough!  To the people I lied to, I apologize.  Some secrets are harder to reveal than others.  Now, the heavy stuff. 
I have a massive inferiority complex (the aforementioned craniofacial abnormality has a little to do with that…more on that another day).  My brother is wittier, my cousins are prettier, my friends are funnier, my colleagues are more intelligent, Carrie Underwood is a better singer, and just about everyone is more stylish than me.  No wonder I need a daily afternoon nap; it is exhausting comparing myself to everyone else on the planet. 
But enough is enough.  In 2011, I’m going to be okay with just being me.  And that’s what this blog is about, letting go of 31 years of insecurities, being open about who and why I am the way I am, taking risks, having adventures, and exploring new things. 
Welcome to my life!  The door's come on in.
Tomorrow…7 in ‘11!