Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Here Comes Auntie Gina

How are you supposed to choose one tutu? Trick question, you can't.

Despite my pleas for Ray to go back in time and have us a baby with a previous girlfriend so that we can be weekend parents, he has not been able to make this happen.

But nearly the next best thing has happened: Rachel is having another baby. And according to the sonogram, we're she's having a girl! The days of being the super close-by, super cool auntie is finally coming true for me.

I'd been on the edge of my seat for months waiting to find out what kind of baby it was going to be. (And I made no secret that I was gunning for a girl to fulfill my auntie dreams.) I even had the sonogram appointment in my reminders. 

It's a girl, I do WIN!

After I found out I immediately started planning the baby shower and shopping for baby sized tutus and leg warmers. Rachel, however, has refused my baby shower vision because, she says, a) this is her third child and b) she already has a lot of girl baby stuff 'from friends.'

From friends? Friends?

'Who wants their old stuff,' I lamented to Ray. 'But she refuses to let me throw her a shower.'

'I don't think she really gets to decide that,' Ray said. (Which is why I love him.)

And I couldn't agree more. 1) I The baby deserves her own party and 2) my soon-to-be God child deserves way better than hand-me-downs.

Oh! Speaking of, I've appointed myself God parent. When I told Rachel I'd make and excellent God parent - especially for a girl, no pressure, we can formalize details later - she said that her kids do not have God parents. So I was literally forced to appoint myself. (No big deal.)

And since I am self-appointing things, maybe the shower could be for me? As a God parent, I could throw it for myself and register for things for the baby would want from me. Would that be weird? I don't really think so but I know some people are uptight about things like showers for self-appointed God parents.

I had to stop texting Rachel about all this - When will she be born? What is your due date? Gina is a good name for a baby who is going to have me as a God parent. What kind of cake should I order for her shower? Do you think she'd like a yellow playhouse for my yard, or a white one? - because I suspected that I was being annoying.

I've since channeled all of my energy toward creating the baby's social media handles and first Tumblr. It goes without saying she's going to be really into scooters, owls, Bob Dylan, cats, blocks, tree climbing, dance, sea life, animals of all types, Polaroids, typography, rebellion and books.

Just like her Auntie Gina.

While I've stepped back outwardly - I've refrained from asking Rachel if I can be there for the delivery (so far) - internally I am still bursting with excitement and pride. And in my own home I feel safe expressing this enthusiasm by asking Ray to make the baby various wood toys - bikes, blocks, cars, rocking animals, very small chairs.

Do you think she'd like her own very tiny adirondack chair? Hey Ray, can we convert the garden shed into a playhouse? Don't you think flower boxes would look really cute on the playhouse? While you're in the basement, could you make a wooden train set for the baby?

And have you SEEN the clothes and accessories for infant girls lately?! I am danger to society right now, clicking this, clicking that, running through the baby aisle at Target throwing tulle skirts into my cart and picking out pacifiers with mustaches attached to them.

How can you chose from all this amazing stuff?! You can't, people. You can't.

She's not coming until late summer so that gives me some time to finalize her Amazon Wish List.

For her shower.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

How To Lose A Foul Ball

The first (and probably) only time I'll hold a foul ball.
I've been struck by lightning, ridden a zamboni and last spring at a Reds game, a got a foul ball.

Basically, I am on fire.

I had gotten us baller seats to celebrate Ray's birthday. It was to be a night of close-up baseball, stadium food and fireworks. Ray was already enjoying a gigantic basket of fries early in the game when a high-foul pop-up came into our section. I nudged him. 'Yo, life-threatening ball ricocheting into our section, look alive.'

He glanced up and promptly returned to his fries. A few rows behind us what looked to be about 10 dudes starting clamoring for the ball, grabbing and pulling and pretty much knocking each other out for it.

The ball bounced up a row up, then another and then the people next to me started grabbing for it.

That's when the ball rolled beneath my seat.

It was as if fate herself had gently placed the ball in section 115, Row W, seat 15. I snatched it from under my seat and proclaimed "I GOT IT!"

I couldn't believe it. A major league foul ball, in my grip. Gotten fair and square. I beamed. Three dudes a few rows ahead of me turned and scowled out of jealousy. I beamed directly at them.

I leaned over to Ray to note how amazing it was, how this ball just landed right here for us, and how cool. We couldn't believe it.

We started to wonder whose bat it came off of. In all the excitement, we weren't sure, but we could figure out.

That's when the woman a few seats down asked if she could take my picture with it. Sure! I held up my trophy as she snapped my photo and then she said, "If I ever caught a ball, I would give it to a kid."

My smile faded.


I briefly considered my obligation here. Am I supposed to start looking for needy kids in section 115? The needier the better? But what if I want to keep it, can I do that? What if I want to give it to a kid I know? Or my dad, a lifelong Reds fan?

I've been a Red's fan my entire life, thanks to my dad, who is also a life-long Reds fan. My dad took me to my first game when I was 8 at Riverfront Stadium to watch Johnny Bench catch his last game at Johnny Bench Night. I got a Red's pennant with Johnny Bench's photo on it.

Pack your bags, you're going on a guilt trip

A few minutes after the woman snapped my photo Ray said, "You should give it to the kids behind us."

I stopped beaming.

I didn't want to give it to the kids behind us. I was excited. No one ever gets foul balls at baseballs games and it wasn't as if I took it from the kids or like they were even trying to get it. I think they were playing on their iPad or something.

Besides, I knew he only said it because that woman had said it.

"What are we going to do with it," he asked.

What are they going to do with it, I wondered.

I looked at the ball and admired the scuff mark left by the bat. I envisioned writing the date on it, our seats, who's bat it came off of and who pitched it. I was going to tell my dad how awesome it was; he was going to be so pumped to hear this story. I thought maybe I'd give it to him for Father's Day.

But between Ray and the woman, I felt like there was some rule that I was supposed to give it to a kid. That I wasn't allowed to keep it, or that keeping it made me a jerk when there were kids in the stadium.

So I had Ray take my photo with it so I'd at least have evidence it happened before I gave it away.
Ray snapped the photo and I turned to the dad behind us and asked him if he'd like to give the ball to one of his kids.

He looked at it like it had the plague on it.

"Uhh, I guess," he said, and just stared at me.

Ingrate, I thought. So I turned to his son directly behind me and asked if he'd like to have the ball.

The kid just looked at me like, "Uhh, whatever stranger lady giving me some random baseball."

They couldn't have cared less about that ball, but it was too late. I had handed it to the kid. He didn't thank me. His dad didn't thank me. I think they only took it to be nice. Which is what I get for succumbing to peer pressure.

I immediately regretted it.

It was as if the ball lost its magic as soon as I claimed it. It went from being a ball I got at a Reds game to a ball some random lady handed to them 10 minutes later. I don't think they even knew it was a foul ball.

Misery loves company

The next day I called my dad to tell him the story. Misery loves company and I knew he'd be as miserable about it was I was.

He went from incredulous: 'YOU GAVE IT AWAY?! YOU GAVE IT AWAY?' To quiet resignation: 'I can't believe you gave it away...'

We were beside ourselves. I told him I'd forgive him if he gave me up for adoption.

'What you should have done is told Ray to have some more fries and keep his mouth shut.'

'Yeah, he and that lady both should have kept their mouths shut," I said.

It felt good to have someone on my side, someone who thought giving it away was as dumb as I did. (Even though I was the dumb one.)

My dad then explained his decision tree on worthy and unworthy kids to give a foul ball to.

'Now, if me and the kid were both going after it and I got it, sure, I'd have given it to him and been happy to do it. But I can't believe this... What'd that kid behind you have to do with anything? He wans't even going for the ball! I'll tell you what, if I ever catch a baseball at a Major League baseball game like that, nobody's getting my ball. And if that kid is healthy and can walk, he's definitely not getting it. I've never even held a Major League ball!"

I cracked up laughing. Basically, if you are a kid who can walk without crutches or a wheelchair, you are not getting my dad's imaginary foul ball.

Ray tried to make me feel better by telling me that the kid's dad was a jerk and that the kid was probably going to be really excited to have the ball when he got home. He'll probably take it to school to show his friends, Ray said.

He's probably home schooled, I snarked. 

Well, It's a Good Story (Sort of)

It's been nearly a year since this happened and it's always entertaining to hear the mixed reactions from people about it. Mostly people feel sorry for me and console me by noting it was good deed. Others just think I'm a moron.

Why do kids automatically get the ball? Screw those kids!

Deadspin offers this chart to determining if you deserve a foul ball, which I see their point. But this Dodgers fan's post called Please Let My Dad Keep His Foul Ball is my favorite. He hopes that his old dad will one day get a foul ball while also fearing that the surrounding crowd will angrily make his dad give it to a kid.

I am still seething at myself for giving away that baseball. It was stupid. I regret it. So if I ever get another one, which is likely never, I'm keeping it and I don't care what squalling kid is around me to complain about it. And then I'm going to give it to my dad, because there is no way that a kid, even a kid I know, but especially a stranger's kid, would be more excited to have it.


Epilogue: It's good to know people who know people... A friend of mine who works for the Reds was able to get me a ball for my dad for Father's Day, so at least he could hold a Major League Baseball. It doesn't have the scuff of a bat on it, but it is an authentic ball that COULD have been someone's foul ball, or home run, or Grand Slam. (Giving this ball it's own imaginary future has been half the fun.)

My dad keeps it on his desk in a plastic baggie... "so it won't get dusty," he says.


Friday, March 27, 2015

Birthday Girl

It's easy to forget you are getting older while you're in Paris. The city forces you to walk everywhere, to take the subway, to linger over breakfast, to pay attention. You can't dwell on birthday wishes or what you've done (or not) with your life when you're absorbed with living it.

And isn't that the best thing about traveling? You sort of forget who you are for a while because you are busy leading a life that you don't normally live - sitting in outdoor cafés in strange cities, attempting to communicate in a language you don't speak, getting to know neighborhoods outside of your own.

Rodin's The Thinker at the Rodin Museé.The Rodin Museé is this quiet, museum oasis of sculpture away from the fray.

We started the day of October 17 at an outdoor table at Café Charlot in Marais to watch the Parisian world go by.

It doesn't seem to matter what you're doing in France, you're having bread while doing it.

Having coffee?  
How about some bread?!
Zipping through traffic on your scooter while talking on your cell?  
Why not add some bread to that!
Shopping along the street?  
Here, eat some bread.
Watching half-naked women can-can at Crazy Horse?
You know what pairs well with nudity? A baguette.

I am fully supportive of this because truly the bread is unmatched. It is so delicious it is its own meal.

The 'only' thing I asked for for my birthday was to have a picnic at the Eiffel Tower. Miraculously, it was 75º and sunny that day. 

We got sandwiches from the bakery a few blocks from our hotel – along with chocolate croissants – and picked up cheese and crackers from a convenience store in the Champs de Mars subway stop. (It was basically the French version of 7-11 inside the subway. We fancy.) And I brought a towel with us from the hotel room to use as our picnic blanket.

With our bag full of sandwiches, cheese, croissants and the hotel towel, we headed to the Eiffel Tower.

The weather was so perfect it looks fake. If this were Instagram I'd hashtag it #nofilter.

Picnic blanket or hotel bath towel? You can't even tell the difference.

From there we went back to the Ponts des Arts lock bridge, which we discovered by accident on our first trip Paris three years ago.

It looks terrible. The locks are a blight on the bridge now with so many that parts of the railings are breaking from the weight of them.

Unsightly, like locusts tourists have descended upon it.

This is what the bridge looked like when we were there three years ago.

We were happy to just take a photo and not add to the destruction.

Lock bridge selfie. If you squint, you can see the Eiffel Tower.

Before we left for Europe Ray gave me the Eiffel Tower Tiffany charm necklace as a reminder of our trip. It was perfect.

If you are going to turn 40, the only reasonable way to do so is in Paris with your love after coffee and a baguette for breakfast. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Apropos Of Nothing

I sent Ray a text this afternoon complaining about Ernest Hemingway.

We weren't having a conversation about Hemingway and we hadn't recently had any conversations about Hemingway. I just happened to became irritated with him while I was eating my lunch. I imagine a lot of people probably feel this way, likely Ray too, so sent him a text so he wouldn't think he was alone with these feelings.

This is how many of our conversations begin... in the middle. Books, Hollywood D-listers, outfits, blood sugar levels at home improvement centers - all great conversation starters.

A few recent examples:

Me: The real love story was Levin and Kitty.
Ray: Who?
Me: Levin and Kitty. Sure, Anna and Vronksy get the headlines, but I think it depends on when you read the book. If you read the book when you're younger, say in your 20s, you think Anna and Vronksy are fated but star-crossed, like Romeo and Juliet. But that isn't true. The interesting story is really about Kitty and Levin and how they struggle, suffer, forgive.
Ray: Didn't you finish that book two years ago?

Me: Oh my god, I almost died. I just ate an entire bag of Bugles and a Reece's Cup in the checkout line. Where were you?!
Ray: By the paint.
Me: My blood sugar was so low that I was shaking. I abandoned the plants in the garden center so I could get to the snacks in the check-out line quicker.
Ray: What happened to the plants?
Me: Did you hear what I just said? I said I had to eat Bugles because I ALMOST DIED.

Me: What do you think of these shoes with this?
Ray: They look good.
Me: I don't know… they look kinda weird. I'm just not feeling the color. Does it look like I'm going to a fancy funeral?
Ray: I guess...
Me: I knew it.

Me: If you cheat on me with some skank in Canada, I will throw all of your stuff onto the lawn and light it on fire.
Ray: What? What skank in Canada?
Me: Dean McDermott cheated on Tori Spelling in Canada while he was filming some crappy TV show or something.
Ray: Don't worry, I'm not even going to Canada this year.

Me: Does my belly look poochy in this?
Ray: Poochy? No.
Me: I feel kinda bloated, like I'm going to explode, and like this shirt is clinging to my gigantic poochy belly, you know what I mean?
Ray: There is nothing I can say that will be good at this point.

Me: I was never a big fan of Tiger Woods, but ever since his big scandal broke and he got his tooth knocked out and started sucking at golf, I have to say, he's much more interesting.
Ray: Why?
Me: He was so boring before, at least now there is evidence there is blood coursing through his veins. Dirty, washed-up blood, but blood none-the-less.

Me: Why don't teenagers moon people anymore? I remember when I was kid, getting mooned by a gaggle of teenagers in a station wagon was a legitimate possibility.
Ray: We should moon people.
Me: YES. Pale butts in car windows for everyone! My brother was a notorious mooner. I remember he mooned my mom in the kitchen once. It might have been the best thing to happen to me as a kid.
Ray: People wouldn't know what to make of my juicy booty.
Me: They are not ready for your jelly.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Singing and Swearing

In between the whirring of the drill in the basement, I can hear Ray singing along to My Sharona.

'My motor run.'
'Come a little closer, huh.'
'My, my, my, WOO!'

He is building built-in bookcases for the office, which I requested so that we can remove the bookcase from our bedroom. Having nearly 300 books stuffed into your house without built-ins takes up a lot of room. Somehow our three-story house is barely big enough for Ray, me, the cats and my 300 book friends.

The built-ins are on the heels of my sawhorse desk that he built me for Christmas. Unfortunately for him, my wish list for Santa isn't as simple as ordering from Amazon. I asked him to create me a sawhorse desk with an old door we had. This was the result.

What you can't see on my shirt is that the cat is a DJ. He is wearing headphones and scratching vinyl.

As usual, it's perfect. The next step is to create an attic library around the desk so we can move some more books around.

My real goal in all of this is so that one day, when the reporter from the New York Times Magazine comes to profile me at my home for my amazing invention/Great American Novel/scientific discovery/ability to eat frozen pizza every night for a year, our house can be described as "book-lined."

It's also my not-so-subtle way of justifying my book buying habit – look at all this storage space we have now! – and keeping Ray flush with woodworking projects so he can justify his tool buying habit. I am such a good wife.

Right after My Sharona ended I heard: "Damn it. That's not gonna work!"

With all these bookcases to be built, there is no shortage of time he can spend singing and swearing at things in the basement. Ray is a lucky man. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015


Ray got a MAJOR award for Christmas. It looks Italian.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Miami Nice

The last photo I took before leaving Miami.

I had a final 20 minutes a few weeks ago to spend soaking up the last bit of warmth and sun in Miami before I had to get to the airport and return to the cold and perma-cloud of Cincinnati.

I was on my way to the patio by the pool when I was stopped by a hotel security guard who asked to see my room key. I showed him my baggage tag (I had already checked out) and he said, "Aww, you should have kept your key. You're about to leave and now you can't even get back in the gate to go see the beach... where are you from?"

I told him Cincinnati.

What followed was a true, genuine conversation. This is what I learned from Sandy, the security guard at the hotel.

Sandy has a coworker at the hotel who talks about Cincinnati all the time. Specifically, Over-the-Rhine. His coworker is actually from Cleveland - "the mistake by the lake, he calls it." But his coworker considers Cincinnati his real home and wants to go back there. But Sandy personally has never been to Cincinnati.

Sandy doesn't like Miami because no one is genuinely nice. "Miamian's don't do anything to be nice," he said. "Everything they do is because they want something from you."

When he first moved back to Miami after being in the Army some guy called him "Carlos." My name isn't Carlos, he told the guy. "All you Mexican's are Carlos or Juan or something," he told Sandy. Some people are very racist, Sandy said, so it left a bad taste in his mouth as soon as he got back.

When he was wearing his Army fatigues, people in other parts of the U.S. would come up to him and thank him for his service and hug him. Not in Miami, he said. Everyone just ignores you. No one cares.

He has a wife and a child now so he can't just pick and move like he wants to. Plus, Sandy worries that racism might be even worse if he lives outside of Miami. Even though he "looks white and has blue eyes," he says his accent gives him away. And at least in Miami he can get the type of food he likes. But he'd love to move away.

Sandy's favorite place he's ever been is Raleigh, North Carolina. And he's been all over because of the Army.

"The people are so nice. Genuinely nice. They say hello and ask how you are. They hold the door for you if you're coming in behind them. And I love the accent," he said.

He came from Cuba to the U.S. when he was 3 and grew up in a Spanish speaking household but his wife doesn't speak much Spanish and they are way behind on teaching Spanish to their daughter, even though he knows it would be good for her to learn.

He doesn't understand why people think he is not an American. He served four years in the Army, he grew up in the U.S. and he couldn't care less about Cuba.

"My dad and uncle constantly talk about Cuba. All I hear about from them is Castro and baseball, Castro and baseball. I don't care if I ever hear another word about Castro and baseball. I don't care about either of those things."

What Sandy does love is country music and car racing, so he thinks he'd fit in well in Raleigh.

For my part, I told Sandy I had never been Raleigh, but I felt he'd fit in well anywhere.