Goldenrod Elephants on Aging Legs

Goldenrod elephants traipse across these midnight blue pants, losing their way in billowing, wind-blown rayon. “Made in Thailand,” they are lost, and found, in hippies, hipsters, yoga girls, and the lazy. I am of the last group, traveling home from a work trip to California, wearing also a heather-gray hoodie and camel-colored pointie-toe boots that say “I did not pack well” or perhaps “I’m sort of a cowboy.”

Yesterday, the Berkeley hotel concierge liked my colorful green scarf. The homeless man on Shattuck Avenue liked my brightly-patterned purse. As I age, colors will still be mine to flaunt. I can embrace them when I’m 70 as fervently as I do now.

When I took a ‘Home-Ec’ type of class in high school, they said a meal should be balanced in textures and colors, to be well-rounded. Not all squishy foods, not all light tan foods – let’s get some crunch and color in there (alternate title: Eat a Vegetable, for Chrissakes). There was even a little quiz: what is this meal lacking? It was an easy quiz; color is important.

I’ve also thought about how I could learn more languages, if I live long enough. I’ve been taking French for a year now, and I expect I could be pretty good in a few more years. After that, I can refresh Spanish, or try another new language. None of this is possible without some significant aging (unless you happen to be a language savant). Last-year Emily didn’t know any French. Perhaps 50-year-old Emily will know 5 languages.

I wonder if the Elephant Pants are too college-y for this aging Emily. Will they look out of place on 35-year-old legs? When I think about things like this, I find comfort in the Cuban Cigar Lady and I remember that I should aspire to be a Cigar Lady wearing the brightest thing I can muster, with as many patterns as I can abide. I should be a beacon for old age, someone now-Emily would like to be when she grows up.

Memory as an Older Sister

Cut from the same cloth, my younger brother and I have a lot in common. We both have a penchant for numbers, at times a dry sense of humor, and a tendency to get caught up in our own heads. We both pursued analytical degrees: I studied math, and he studied physics.

These similarities, however, come through in entirely different ways. He is able to endlessly rattle off sports facts and recall theorems from math classes, whereas I can’t remember characters from a book I read a few months ago. While my record in that damn lemonade stand strategy game (where you choose lemons, sugar, and water based on the day’s weather in an attempt to turn a profit) is shaky at best, he gave it a try and began to beat it consistently after about 20 minutes.

My strengths are in noticing all the details; I try to read into everything and everyone, and in school I was a perfectionist. I am an excellent test-taker, probably because I have a great short-term memory. Regarding long-term memory, the details tend to fall away, but I remember moments vividly, especially if strong emotion was involved.

For example, I remember when I was a teenager and my cool cousin had some of his friends over. I felt very shy and anxious, almost paralyzed in my fear to join them outside. My brother, however, was able to insert himself into their group with relative ease. When he talked to me inside, and I told him I was nervous, his advice was something along the lines of just ‘be polite and the rest follows’ (maybe less eloquent). I was so jealous that he didn’t have the intense social reservations I did, but impressed that he didn’t overthink the situation like me.

A few years ago, my brother and I were at a family party, and he, his wife, another cousin, and I were all chatting. I said something that alluded to my brother and I being close as kids, and my brother interjected, saying, no, he didn’t remember us being too close…it wasn’t a really great childhood, for him.

My stomach dropped. What? Of course we were close! Neither of us had good friends in middle school; we only played with each other for the most part. We played all the time together!

My cousin supported me, saying, yeah, we were closer than any of the sibling cousins when we were younger. We were always hanging out together.

My brother reiterated that he didn’t remember that…but maybe he just didn’t have a good memory or something, he didn’t know.

I felt awful. I hadn’t realized how much of my identity I had placed in the fact that my brother and I were close, and almost always had been. What about the times we built Lego caravans and towed them around the house? What about all the Hotwheels races in the hallway? What about running around, me the Tails to his Sonic the Hedgehog? The hours (and hours and hours and hours) of video games together? I couldn’t believe he didn’t see our childhood in the same way.

It made me feel sick. It made me cry a lot that evening, and the next. It felt like one of us was not living in the same world as the other. He and I talked about it some, and he didn’t mean it maliciously; he just really didn’t have the same memories I did. It was still painful, but as some time passed, it hurt less but remained confusing.

Not close as kids? There were so many family trips, and so many made up games. I could not fathom how we could have seen everything so differently.

Recently, though, my mindset changed. It was not one moment, but several realizations. For one, in my relationship with my fiancé, despite him being a few years older than me, we have found that we sometimes play the sibling parts we learned as children: he is the moderate, easy going middle child, occasionally frustrated to be understood, and I, still the perfectionist, like having control and sometimes insert some difficult-to-perceive bullying tactics into a situation.

I have never thought of myself as a bully. I had such a hard time in middle school, friendless, nerdy, wracked with (what I now realize was) anxiety. But, the more I talk about memories with my fiancé, the more he and I joke around together or wrestle sometimes, and the more movies with sibling stories I see, the more I find that I do possess that unique-to-older-siblings skill to subtly bully.

The other day I told him how I remembered beating my brother in some racing video games, and how I pretended to put a secret code into the controller to secure that win. My brother was so mad; he thought it was so unfair that I cheated that way. It was funny then, and, to be honest, it’s a funny memory now. But, I had completely missed the fact that, were I on the other end of that interaction, it might have felt like mild torture.

My fiancé has an older brother, and his stories contribute to my realizations about myself. It has made me think, yes, wow, to be a younger sibling to someone who is a little older and a little smarter (at least by years of experience in the world) must be hard! Always one step ahead, often twisting a few words, having a few years closer to your parents and using that advantage. Sure, paving the way through stricter parental rules, and being the first to do everything has its downsides, but I had not considered the mental anguish of sibling competition without any of the advantages.

It was so easy to lead the games, to make up the rules, to be in control. It was a lot of fun to have a buddy at home. But I never realized that there could be another side to that coin. To have less power, and worse, to follow a straight-A student, someone the teachers loved, someone who aced tests easily and wanted to spend time studying…the pressure must have been stifling. How do you deal with that?

I recently watched the movie Boyhood, and the story touches on some of this. The titular ‘boy’ has an older sister, and she is a little more interested in school, a little better at sports, and good at grabbing their dad’s attention. And watching this movie, you feel bad for the boy; you’re rooting for him. You want the parents to see how great he is, how he likes exploring, and makes interesting friends, and how he’s just a nice boy overall, even if he forgets to do his homework sometimes. Watching this movie, I felt like I understood my brother just a little more, that maybe he should have gotten a little more attention, and maybe he was a little underappreciated for his skills, which didn’t always cause the letter ‘A’ to be stamped on a piece of paper.

As an adult, I don’t see my brother all the time. He lives in the suburbs, and I live in the city, and we’re both busy people (like everyone). But I am so grateful that we are both very purposeful in our attempts to call and visit each other. We listen and respect each others’ thoughts, and we try to give advice while limiting the criticism. We make time for each other, and I think we can sense the focus and effort on that. I am grateful for what I have now, and I am grateful for the childhood I had with him; however, now, I can see and appreciate that maybe we saw our small world a bit differently, and that did shape who we are and how we navigate our current, larger world.

Things to remember from LA/SF

I want a home like J+B’s apartment; it was the cutest home I have ever seen: white picket fence outside with hanging globe string lights and a hammock outside, refinished flea market finds inside, an espresso machine, and just enough space. It wasn’t great for having a party, or even necessarily overnight guests, but it was perfect for coming home.

Biking to Manhattan Beach, there was an endless spread of beach and ocean. It was chilly, but once we were biking or doing the engagement photo shoot, we warmed up with the sun. I got a Hibiscus Margarita at the Rock’n Fish. There was a part of the beach below the pier that looked beautiful and frightening like in a disaster movie, with the waves framed by the pillars.

At the hotel in Pismo Beach, I kept bringing up running out to the Jacuzzi to spite the chilly rain, and finally Mike, John, and I all got up the nerve and did it. We ditched our towels under an awning and ran to the pool gate to let ourselves in. The cool rain and hot water felt so good, and we could hear the waves crashing nearby. The ocean was closer than we realized, with the darkness and fog.

Driving to SF, we stopped at Ragged Point. John got fish and chips, and Mike and I each ordered a veggie burger. We nearly ate at one of the several tables near the food stand, but Mike directed us around the corner to the best lunch view I’ve ever had. There was a narrow bench facing out into the ocean, hundreds of feet below and extending out into the horizon. It was the most incredible lunch stop, and we almost missed it.

The bed and breakfast in Carmel-by-the-Sea was a group of several small cottages. Ours was small (bigger than the others, though) with cathedral ceilings. The bedroom had a king and a twin bed, and a gas stove for heat. The main room had a kitchenette, a fainting couch, a sleeper sofa, and a real wood-burning fireplace. It rained while we were here, too, but the sound of the rain and the warmth of the fire were sublime. We walked to see the ocean a few blocks away during the night, when it wasn’t raining, and the barely-lit waves were spooky, but there were numerous stars out.


Mike and I got on the Orange Line train at Midway at around 3 P.M. yesterday. I felt hopeful that we’d be home in an hour to see our doggy.

Transferring to the Red Line at Roosevelt was quick, but transferring to the Brown Line at Fullerton was not. When we got to the Wellington stop, I suggested we pick up some food. I called our friend, Kevin, who was watching Benjy for the four nights we were gone, to see if he wanted an early dinner, but he declined. There was a bit of a fiasco with two cash-only restaurants, so it took us even longer to get our food and get going home.

When we got to our door at 4:30, I was antsy and wanting to be free from my rolling carry-on. Luckily, when we stepped in the door, Benjy and Kevin were there to greet us, and I immediately felt relief from all the traveling.

Kevin had vacuumed the floors and everything looked tidy as we had left it. After he left, we pondered if he had actually slept in the bed at all, because it looked fixed in exactly the fashion we had left it for our friend. Texts revealed not only had he vacuumed, but he had also washed the sheets AND kept his cat out of the bedroom in consideration of my allergies.

Mike and I marveled at how much Kevin had helped us out by doing all of these things. I felt so fortunate to have a good friend like that, who would spend his long weekend monitoring a dog, his own cat, and our two finches a ways from his own home.

On the walk home from the train, I had received a text from my friend, Jackie, asking when we were back in town and if there were a chance I’d want to meet up.

“Ahhhh Jackie!” I exclaimed to Mike, explaining my sort of catch-22 feelings that I did indeed want to hang out, but I wanted to be home to settle that evening, too. His logical response was to invite her over. So simple.

About an hour or an hour-and-a-half after Kevin left, Jackie and her boyfriend (and our friend) Dave came over with some Kirkland-brand eggnog, and Kirkland-brand bourbon. They recently purchased a Costco membership, and had obviously already used it.

We sipped eggnog, and Mike made what turned out to be an odd sazerac at my pushing, since my suggested replacement for absinthe was a slightly less vile version of Malort (Besk, is its name).

We ended up walking Benjy the near-mile back with Dave and Jackie, since there is a dog park close to their place. It felt so nice to have friends nearby, to take a walk like the ones I criticize in TV shows (I can’t believe how often Carrie and Samantha are going in the same direction on the same street in NYC despite living and working in different areas). It’s nice to be able to meet up casually and fluidly, and to take a walk on a cold night with friends.

While Jackie and Dave had been over, Jackie interrupted a story, laughing, when she noticed an official-school-type photo of our friend, Jimmy, on our fridge. That certainly had not been there before we left. I believe Jimmy and Kate had come by to hang out with Kevin one of the nights we were gone, and they left us this token on our fridge.

Jimmy and Kate have gone out of the way for us with Benjy many many times, and this past weekend, I realized we were supposed to pick up our farm share box but were out of town. The pick-up schedule seems to coincide with every weekend we are busy or out of town. Luckily, Jimmy and Kate live pretty close to the pick-up spot, and Jimmy was on-board to go grab the box for us.

It turns out the pick-up garage was just locked or maybe the farm share season ended (I’m pretty sure it’s the former), but either way, it was wonderful that Jimmy would take a walk that way to go get the box.

With both Mike and my parents living states away, I’m so thankful that we have friends like these swirling around in our lives, dancing in and out of social gatherings, and spinning closer inward when we can’t do something all by ourselves. Sometimes I feel jealous, for example, that people I know can just drop off their dog at their parents’ for days or weeks with no worry, but I need to remind myself that we have wonderful friends who watch and walk Benjy, and help us move too many times, and make me a bird cake (Junella), and lend us things, and get angry on our behalf, and most importantly just want to spend time with us.

It’s nice… (grateful feelings)

It’s nice to meet your friends at a nearby bar

and to bring your dog (who is doted on and sometimes cared for by these same friends).

And it’s nice of a friend to buy you a drink.

It’s nice to have a few days with your parents

and to be dropped off at the airport to go home

with some money in your pocket

and half of an apple fritter in your suitcase,

leftovers from your breakfast, now a snack.

It’s nice of a stranger to offer to carry your suitcase up the train platform stairs.

And it’s nice to be able to laugh with surprise and politely refuse; it’s nice to have your health, too.

It’s nice to have caring people around, whether you see them all the time or sometimes or once. It’s nice to have people.

Rant Blog – Do Your Part

Warning: this is a rant blog.

I just got back from picking up some groceries at Jewel. I dropped off Benjy to get a bath and trim for his back-leg pants fur, first. Before leaving for these errands, I got everything I needed together:

  • umbrella (it’s raining)
  • Benjy dog
  • purse
  • reusable grocery bags for the store

I’m going to the grocery store, so I should remember to bring my grocery bags. Because, I don’t need a bunch of sturdy 10-cent plastic bags. Because, I have (I wanna say) 20 reusable bags accumulated. Because this is the whole point of the long overdue banning of cheap plastic bags in Chicago (which should have included the ban of ALL those plastic bags, even these new “reusable” ones). Because I want to be someone who at least gives a partial shit.

The man in front of me in the checkout line took a bunch of the sturdy plastic bags. I scanned the other customers and registers: I didn’t see anyone else who had brought their own bags. Now, if these people legitimately planned on bringing these newly-purchased sturdy bags back, that is great! But somehow, with the sense of apathy that seems prevalent in all of the busy busy people, I doubt these bags are actually going to be reused.

And, to be a little self-indulgent, I don’t even have a car! I feel like that adds an extra step to remembering bags; if you have a car, you can just keep a few in there at all times, always at the ready. All these people in the checkout lines drove there, I’m sure. It was a lot of families, and I don’t think they went for a family walk to the grocery store on a Saturday morning (I could be wrong).

This transitions to a related point: children! I’m on the fence about kids…there’s a chance that, when I go, I won’t be leaving younger relations to clean up the messes of my and past generations. But, lots of these plastic-bag-consumers have children! Do they not think about the fact that they are contributing to the ruination of the earth, which is coincidentally the same earth their children will live in as adults?

Everyone is just too busy to think about these things, it’s too inconvenient. Why recycle when the trash can is a block closer? Why walk when you can drive that half mile to the store? Why spend a little extra time researching your food when you can buy the item that’s 20 cents cheaper? Why get a coffee table from the thrift store; you don’t know where it’s been, and you want something brand new. Why choose the vegetarian dish even once a week when real ‘mericans eat meat? God forbid it takes a little longer or doesn’t fit in with what you’ve done for the past 20 years.

Now, I could also do so much more. I don’t compost, and I still make a whole lot of trash. I like air conditioning in the summer. So, let’s say I’m more middle-of-the-road in terms of being earth conscious. But, I don’t think that’s how the spectrum spreads. I think, tragically, my boyfriend and I are somehow on the more extreme side of earth awareness in our city, given what I see at the grocery store, on the street, and in the people I know.

I don’t think people are being horrible, and it’s probably not on purpose. But that’s the point; where is the purpose? I think people should have more purpose.

You have kids? You should make decisions that will keep their environment healthier and better for them (but let’s be real, I kind of think that ship has sailed…let’s adjust that to ‘make their environment less polluted and garbage-filled than it likely will be’).

And if you don’t, well we’re not islands…we affect everyone, and we should think more carefully about the way in which we affect the rest of the people we share our home/town/country/planet with. You (and I) should be thinking of the next little thing to change in our lives that could make it just a tiny bit better for everyone around us.

A Wonderful Weekend

Really nailed it, this weekend.

Friday night I was tired, but a few friends game over, and I laughed a lot and we ended the night at the Golden Apple down the street.

Saturday morning we took Benjy on an unsatisfying trip to the dog park where he intermittently rested and hassled other dogs while not running around. I was a little out of it went I went to a friend’s clothing swap, but it was nice, and from there I got groceries (which is not loads of fun, but it is great to have groceries now). Mike picked up our vegetable CSA and I laughed after arranging the 5 zucchinis in a bowl, because it looked like they were hanging out in a hot tub together. We napped a little, and then ate at Cafe El Tapatio (or Cafe El Papa-peepa-pah, or Cafe El Tapa-teepee-ti, or Cafe El Peepa-papa-pee), where the waiter took an order for 2 margaritas to mean the $17/glass jumbo kind. It was delicious, though, and I love margaritas. We played a fun computer drawing and guessing game that night with more friends, after the resident cat attacked my legs, leaving me with 2 bloody scratches.

On Sunday morning I walked Benjy to Fertile to replace my dried out dead plants. We get way more sun in the back deck than I thought, and so I picked up some succulent-like flowers. I came home and transplanted little surviving sprouts into the larger, shaded planter, and put the new flowers in the side-hanging pots. I found a few other pots in the garage, and so I tried my luck planting some flower seeds in those. Mike came out with coffee for me, and went back inside to cook a nice breakfast with eggs and some of the CSA veggies. We went to Menards for supplies for some miscellaneous little projects, and came home to: 1. rig the glass shade of a hurricane lamp to hang as another light pendant in the kitchen, 2. hang the turquoise balustrade-curved wooden hooks for our bike helmets, and 3. hang 3 tealight lanterns from chains in the deck.

After that we grilled some catfish and more CSA vegetables. Mike left to play a game with friends, and I called my parents, tried teaching Benjy a new trick, and did some yoga on the deck using the newly-arranged tealight lanterns. I also put together some little yogurt parfaits for the work week.

It was all so nice. It was especially nice to garden, as I don’t often do that. I like patronizing the small businesses around here, and I like making our home pretty without spending much money. It’s all themed around nesting and appreciating where we live, and it was really wonderful.

Biking Home on a Summer Night

I should get going; I’d like to have a little time before I go to bed…

Wait, I can bike along the lake on my way home!

The people playing volleyball look so happy; I wish I were playing volleyball. It’s a little annoying but a little nice that so many people are still out. Those cops must be the lucky cops to have bike duty on the beach.

Ugh too many people. Wait, what is that? “They’re like Segways .There’s a gas and brake pedal.” They’re like Segways but only for your feet and they glow neon.

I’m glad I have my bike lights.

Look at all those people on the beach! Are those cops on four-wheelers?!?! Are those people out in the dark in kayaks??? Are those people taking a picture with a red flashing light? Oh, no, they’re getting ready to bike.

This is so nice. It’s so beautiful out tonight. Did I pass the exit? Oh, no, here comes Belmont. Does this saxophone man in the tunnel have money in his instrument case? No, doesn’t look like it. Why did he stop playing?

Those people are trying to balance. Could that woman really not be able to walk on a balance beam? I guess maybe not…maybe other people didn’t do that in middle school.

“Oh my God” it’s so nice out. I can’t believe I get to have such a beautiful bike ride like this; I never even have to plan it out. Oakdale is so empty at this time.

No you go ahead…well, okay, I can. Oof okay. Alright going again.

Beautiful houses. I bet Benjy’s waiting for me. Mike thought it was quicker to go to Lincoln; feels a bit longer, but that’s fine.

Home. I’ll inflate the front tire after I say hi to Benjy. “Hi, Yenjes! How are you???”

Healthy, Nifty

Last week I worked out in some way every single weekday.

Monday: 2 mile run to catch the water taxi to work

Tuesday: Basic Yoga in the evening with my boi

Wednesday: Biked to and from work, and kind of volleyball in the evening*

Thursday: Bastille Day Run 5k; averaged a 10:40 mile which is not good for active people, but probably amazing for the average American!

Friday: Biked to and from work

I don’t think I’ve had a week like that since being on the tennis or badminton teams in high school. One difference is that I consumed no alcohol in high school; whereas I’m sure wine and beer calories make a difference nowadays. Another notable difference is that I think I eat much healthier now.

Mike and I belong to this CSA, and so every two weeks, we get a butt-load of veggies (mostly greens, currently). In addition to this, we have cut our meat intake WAAAAY down. At this point, we’re aiming to eat only humanely farm-raised meat, although we occasionally slip when we’re guests at a friend’s home and the host’s dinner contains other types of meat. This in turn ups our fish intake, which I love, and which I hear is good for you. We also buy some organic food and drink, depending on sales

We still have beer, wine, and cocktails, but, we almost never have soda. We never buy chips when buying groceries for ourselves. We both drink our coffee black. We bought a juicer a few months ago, so we often put fruit, ginger, and CSA veggies into a tasty juice. And last night, I grabbed a 12-pack of La Croix at the store, hoping it would find its way into my hands on a pretty summer night, instead of a beer. The La Croix has already proven delightful when looking for a drink that’s a little more fun than just water!

And then there are the innumerable little changes compared to when I was in high school, like buying only wheat pasta instead of white, doing the same with bread, and being mindful about what does what in a meal (e.g., corn doesn’t contribute much in the way of vegetable vitamins, even though I grew up sometimes having it as dinner’s vegetable).

It feels good to understand it all just a little better, and to put my money into places I actively like and support. It’s nice to keep learning.

*the other team didn’t show, so we just played around in a mini game for a while

Sleepy and Signed-On on Saturday

I’m working right now (nearly 4pm on Saturday), for it is one of three big code releases my company has each year. I woke up at 6:30am, and I am getting very sleepy. I’m ‘off-duty’ once 5pm hits, more or less, and I can’t wait to nap.

It’s been a slow day, which is wonderful compared to previous hectic ones, but I just want to collapse into my bed now.

I worked out every day during the week this past week. Our work building got a gym, and it’s awesome. I love being able to fit in a workout easily in the middle of the day, and not lose any time outside of work.

It’s still pretty cold out for April (or maybe it’s not? I can never remember how the previous years were). My tummy hurts, and I am back to thinking about sleep.

That’s all for now! Not much, but it’s something!