Thursday, December 31, 2009

happy :) nerd

The bird died Tuesday night. Kind of sucks. Kind of sums up 2009.

I'm winding my way through snowy Connecticut phone vibrates.

I think it's a text, but it turns out it's my dad. "You won't believe this" he says, "but as of Tuesday there was confirmation that the rare Allen's Hummingbird you went to see is still alive"

My response? "Shut up. No way."

I had made my peace with the fact that it would be impossible for a small 3-inch bird native to California and Mexico could survive the last few weeks of New England weather, including about 20 inches of snow and evening temps in the single digits.

How is she surviving? Where does she go to shelter from the weather? I hope this is a sign she's a strong little thing that's going to make it through the winter and wake up one warm day in March, realize she's on the wrong coast and head west.

So I continue my journey to NYC with an even bigger smile on my face (it was big to begin with considering I'm seeing my fiance, haven't seen him since November) but this is sort of the icing on the cake.

Happy New Year all! I'll be back with a year in pictures and the NaBloPoMo January theme of "Best"

Kisses and peace out '09

Monday, December 28, 2009

A Quote From Christmas Eve Day

As I was polishing the silver with my mother...

(yes, sometimes I think I should quit my job and become a know, and upscale housekeeper, Remains of the Day style, without issues)

....we were talking about my grandma's ridiculous requirement: admission to Thanksgiving dinner is a Christmas list. This came up:

Me: I don't know what to put half the time because I don't need anything. I mean Jamaal needs a job up here, we need a place to live, we'll need, like, furniture and stuff, but on the Christmas list level, I don't actually need anything. Oh. Oh actually, I totally need bras and underwear (said with hope in my voice...)

Mom: *long pause* Well. No one is going to get you that. You're on your own there.

Luckily the Semi-Annual Sale is on. I might go try my luck after work.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Wedding Wednesday 13/54

So my Christmas neuroses has helped me get A LOT done. I only have to finish one, maybe two things before Christmas, and they will be finished in time.

Of course my one fail was finishing the gifts for my Smith ladies. They're so close to being done...but not quite. We went out to dinner yesterday and they both had beautiful gifts for me!! I was kicking myself for not pulling an all-nighter and finishing, but luckily we have plans to get together again in a few weeks, so at least I know everything will be finished by then. I am tempted to make something else to stick in with the gifties now that I have more time. Hmmm...

Though I still have to make Jamaal's gifts...yeah totally put that off too. AND my second cousin just had the CUTEST baby, and I have to make her something. I know, I said I wouldn't take on anything not in the queue til after the wedding, but seriously, that child needs a five hour baby sweater. In red, to go with her dark hair. Adorable.

Then there will be some seriously wedding craft time. Our Save the Dates arrived on Monday and they are AWESOMEFACE! I love them. I'm glad I ordered just those and not the whole invitation suite because I would like to see more paper options (ok more luxurious) paper options for the invites. The "STD's" look great though:
I kind of love them. Hard. LOL. The fact that this wedding is going to happen is still not a reality in my mind. It still seems very far away and almost a fantasy. Each vendor we sign is a small reality check, but the save the dates have been the biggest one for me thus far. I can't imagine how it will feel when I get the invites printed!! This also means that it's time for the first wedding DIY project. These STD's need envelopes and DIY'd lined envelopes at that. Post Christmas rush and baby crafting, I'm going to take a day and go to town on these things. Some facebook friends said to send them out asap, but honestly, I need the time to craft and get addresses first! Plus these warrant some sort of special zazzle-designed stamp I think.

Another thing I did this week was book a string quartet for the ceremony and cocktail hour. My sweet dad offered to pay for it, though out of guilt I paid for the deposit. It feels weird asking them for money...yet if they offered I doubt I'd turn them down, LOL, but still, it's sort of awkward. Anyways, the quartet came back with a great bid for the time and I'm sending the contract off today. Great stuff. I just hope that we can make the music work. I love "traditional" wedding music, but am hoping to walk down the aisle to a Coldplay instrumental:
I guess we shall see :)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

How My Neuroses Help Me Thrive on Christmas

So Christmas can be stressful, right?
Yes. Totally.

The sick thing is, I eat it up. The shopping, wrapping, decorating, crafting, cooking MESS. I am at my best when stressed and tired. It's when I do my best work. This scares the crap out of me when I think about the big jobs that I will have to tackle in the future, like wedding planning and moving in with Jamaal. Will I be knitting or cutting and pasting til 3AM on the morning of our wedding? Will I pack the night before move in day?

Maybe I should plan it that way, since that is when my productivity soars and flourishes.

I wrote about the bird and how I couldn't have a normal day after that. I didn't. I truly lolled about the house wondering what to do with myself. Sunday, however, was a different story. Not only was I expected to partake in some tree decorating, but I also had to make snacks for the Jr. High Fellowship kids AND finish some homemade Blurb books I have been making my parents for Christmas. I wasn't too worried about getting everything done....well not worried until I noticed the holiday deadlines on Blurb. If I wanted to get my books by Christmas Eve Day, I had to finish them by Monday at midnight. How did I let that completely slip by?

Naturally I was hustling around Sunday. After church, I worked on the book, then decorated the tree while simultaneously cooking about 2 dozen cupcakes. Then I blurbed some more, went to fellowship, made Christmas ornaments, came home and blurbed til 2 AM. The books got done though and they are going to look AMAZING.
Of course I was a waste of space on Monday and Tuesday and actually slept in til 8AM Tuesday morning (I'm usually at least halfway to work by then). By yesterday I was feeling better, and now I'm fully recovered from my almost all-nighter. Of course right now I am dying for a coke zero. I haven't had one in like, 2 weeks, but I need a lift. UGH.

Back to the point - I love the pressure. I am a procrastinator, and I think it's not a result of being lazy, it's a result of this neurotic need to feel hard core and accomplished. Sick, isn't it? I love having the huge list of things that must be done in the next week and crossing them off one by one. I feel like I am a rockstar when the list is done. Grrr hear me roar.

Here's my list til Christmas:


buy stamps
pick up picture for Jam's parents at Walgreens
upload photo contest pics to Ritz
wrap Jam's parents' gifts, address it
write thank you to bird people, include burned cd of photos, address it
write out Christmas letter (short)
double check holiday card addresses
go to MGH party with old coworkers
start cards for card exchange

mail Brenda and Sharif's package
mail thank you package
mail Christmas cards
work on card exchange cards
meet sister at Derby St
pick up prints at Ritz
get Summer Shack gift card for parents
get holiday outfit (maybe)
finish Christmas gift for sister
finish Christmas gift for friend

mail card exchange cards
mail photo contest submission
buy craft supplies at AC Moore for friend gifst
work on friend gift
work on sister's gift
buy squeeze bottles for cookie decorating party
buy food for Lily
wrap gifts
work on baby gifts
celebrate dad's birthday

decorate cookies
work on baby gifts
work on sister's gifts

make sure girl's gifts are done
work on sister's gift
work on other friend's gift
begin Jam's stocking
wrap more stuff
buy canned goods for office food drive
buy toiletries for blood donor clinic drive

dinner with my Smithies!
pack car with crap for coworkers, food drive, toiletry drive

drive to work
wrap things up
donate platelets
finish crap at home that wasn't finished

So it's not that bad...but it smells like a challenge. Oh, and that's exactly how I want it.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Unwedding Wednesday 12/54

Again, no wedding junk today! We are again at a lull. The happy news is that our invitation suite proofs will be done today...and since I don't anticipate any edits, I'll probably be ordering the first round of samples from, a recommended printer from Printable Press - catprint is wind-powered - how awesome is that? I have, at times, stressed about the "disposable-ness" of our wedding, i.e. so much junk is purchased and thrown away. I've tried to cut down on things that will just be thrown out but the invites were one thing I wasn't really willing to budge on, as the only way to truly cut down on trash is to send out something like an e-vite. Uh, no. At least our invites will be produced at a green facility. And given the amount of scrapbooking friends I have, probably only 50% of the invites will get trashed, 25% will actually get scrapbooked and 25% will hang around in a box for years waiting to be scrapbooked. Oh, and I will probably fall into the last category, since I have a box of stuff waiting to be scrapbooked that goes back to 2006. Yeah.

Anyways, I just wanted to quickly share some pics for any bird nerds out there :)

Last Saturday, I had the chance to see a rare bird, an Allen's Hummingbird. While this bird isn't rare in the sense that it's endangered or there's only a known population of 50 individuals or something crazy like that, it is incredibly unusual to see one in Massachusetts - it's only the second documented Allen's EVER in Mass. How it got from California/Mexico to Massachusetts is anyone's guess. Most likely a storm system picked this poor lady up, crashed into an eastern storm system that flung her into Mass. Sucks, because she must be like 'um wait. why is it so cold? agh.'

The "keepers of the feeder" have been keeping this girl in nectar since the end of October and it is a testament to their dedication that she has made it this far. They've had the Audubon Society come out to band, measure and feather type her to confirm the species too, just to make sure the find is as rare as they thought. The couple lives near our friend and wedding photographer, who mistakenly told them I was an ornithologist (LOL). They thought that an ornithologist would jump at the chance to see their bird, so they called my dad, who in turn called me. While I clarified that I was not actually an ornithologist, but just a bird enthusiast, I did say that I would absolutely jump at the chance to see her. I was instructed to call at 8am Saturday morning to confirm that the poor birdie was still alive, and when I found out that she was still around and visiting the feeder, I hopped in the car and made it to the house in record time.

She visited twice while I was there, and I was able to snap these photos (which have been cropped and sharpened in Picasa):

Allen's Hummingbird

Allen's Hummingbird

It was so glorious. The lady of the house said "stop with the camera, look through the binocs!!!" but I explained that I see better through the camera - photographing something forces me to stop and concentrate, since you can't exactly shoot telephoto on the fly (frustrating for me sometimes). I got a great glimpse of her through my doubler, but I have a love/hate relationship with that thing, especially when I need to shoot quickly, and of course the pics are totally blurred. I wish I could go over to their house again and set up a tripod and the works, but I don't want to bug the people any more than I already had, though I think they were pleased when I arrived to find that I am totally not averse to sitting still for two hours waiting for something to happen. They went about their day while I sat, camera in lap. I didn't get into it with them, but I told them that I had spent six weeks in Kenya basically doing the same thing with large mammals and that I was used to sitting or standing for hours waiting for an animal to do something. Plus my bird walks in Kenya were usually most fruitful when I sat still and let something come to me. It is possible for me to have all the patience in the world if necessary.

So you may already get the sense from this post that I am hardcore into birds, and that this sighting is pretty much the pinnacle of awesomeness for me. Srsly. I actually had a hard time having a normal day after that as I went about doing mundane things like shopping for crap at Target and cleaning. Of course, at the same time I was incredibly grateful this little hummer had not chosen our yard to stay in - I would not get ANYTHING done for the stress of it all. The home owner said she often spends hours in front of the window, waiting for the bird to arrive - this is possible because I think she's retired, but oh my God, if it were me, I'd have to work from home or cash in some sick time. I'd be worried sick! For now, I am sending the bird "stay alive" vibes; hummingbirds can live on nectar for a while as long as their diet is supplemented with small insects, but I'm afraid those may become scarce in the dead of January. I suggested breeding fruitflies and releasing them but I'm not sure how practical that may be. Apparently other vagrant hummers spending the winter in Mass have made it, but I think the other Allen's only survived til January. I am really keeping my fingers crossed for this bird. I'm asking Mother Nature to not be such a b*tch for once, to send us a mild winter and an early spring, so this bird may find her way back home....

Friday, December 11, 2009

Unwedding Wednesday

Yup, I skipped Wedding Wednesday 11/54
It's been uber-busy at work
It's been uber-busy at home
I have nothing new and wedding-related to report, as we are stuck in the mud when it comes to wedding planning.

Maybe after the holidays.
We did pass a crazy milestone this week - 10 months to go. We'll be under 300 days to go next Monday. The time is flying by...

Thankfully this day has flown by as well. I am ecstatic that I only have to sit in my back-distorting office chair for another hour or so. Then I'm off to go Christmas shopping (so close to being done!) and be crafty for a few hours.

THEN tomorrow morning I am going to do something super bird-nerdy, but I can't write about it just yet, not only because it's supposed to be under wraps for a bit, but also because it might not happen. I will have to remind myself to go back home afterwards and not get sucked into birdwatching on the Driftway or some sh*t, because once I'm in bird mode, it's super hard to snap out of it. Especially with a camera in hand.

Because I have nothing else to share, here's a cute bird pic I took last winter. It's definitely going into my mother's Christmas gift (photo book...more on that later):

Tufted Titmouse

Happy happy weekend all!

Monday, December 07, 2009


So my hair has this awkward bump in it today. I tried to be like all the cool girls I've been seeing out in the world, rocking the french braided bangs:

I kind of failed. It's cute, but it's not great, probably because I am shaky in the morning. Anyway, the style resulted in a weird bump in the back of my head that I didn't even notice til I glanced at myself in the rearview before exiting the car at the train station. At first I was horrified, then I thought "who cares, these people don't even know me." The more I thought about this though, the more I realized it wasn't necessarily true. Maybe I don't know them personally but I know my fellow train and shuttle bus drivers well enough to recognize them...I usually can tell I'm on the right bus or train according to the faces of my fellow passengers. So yeah, I totally recognize people, and that means other people must recognize me. I definitely see people consistently enough to notice things like hair and clothes too. SH*T. So others noticed the bump. Dang. Hopefully they won't judge me on that.

In other news, I can't believe it's Monday. Last week was a whirlwind, so I planned on having a busy, but very planned and evenly-paced weekend. Not to be. My car died on Friday, as I was driving to work. Everyone at my office was like "oh I hate it when my car won't start." Um NO my car started, it just decided to stop running about a mile into my commute. THERE'S A DIFFERENCE! Thank goodness I was able to pull over and wait for my dad to bail me out, yet again. This time he got in the car and experienced the problem (every other time the car has done this, he's driven it and it has run fine) and decided that it was time to cut the bullsh*t and take it to the dealer. I braced myself for significant financial damage and decided that if the cost of fixing it was over three grand, I'd price out a new car. Jamaal was all "we'll figure it out somehow!" but I really dreaded yet another monthly payment before next year's nuptials. I wasn't sure I'd be able to afford bills, wedding savings, and a car payment all at once, which pretty much took paying rent (ie finally moving out of my parent's house) off the table. I was a bit distraught.

Finally at 3pm the call came through: I needed a new catalytic converter, o2 sensor and right axle for $900, though the Subaru people said they could not replace the right axle and it would be about $650. Since I know people who drive Subarus who've had the right axle go WHILE DRIVING I gave them the go ahead to have that done too. The last thing I need is for the car to come to a full stop while I'm going 70 on the highway. Yeah.

Saturday morning I picked up my beloved Forester. Though I was $880 poorer, the car felt like new. For the first time in about two years, the car didn't chug at a stoplight. It was glorious. It was also a little bit of a special eff you to my know-it-all boy coworker who informed me that "cars don't use catalytic converters anymore." I raised my eyebrows at him and said "interesting, because not only is my car getting a new one, but I also know that that is how cars basically filter their emissions to mee the stringent state regulations for clean emissions in Massachusetts." Ha HA TAKE THAT sexist beast! For once high school chemistry/bio/physics came together to help me outsmart someone, lol.

The new catcon gave me the opportunity to go on a Martha Stewart Glitter Pack hunt. Amy and I had been to two stores looking for this. I really wanted it for the holidays, for future wedding crap that I will inevitably be diy-ing, as well as for a holiday card project. Both stores had been bought out completely. I had a list of all the AC Moore's and Michael's within a 50 mile radius of my hometown as well as my GPS - nothing would conquer me, and I would not give up til I had my glitter dammit.

I had to travel about a mile before I found it. I was almost disappointed that it didn't take an all-day search and 15 stores to find it, but I was willing to settle out of the sheer convenience of not having to leave town limits to buy it. Here it is, in all its glory:

I even had a 40% off coupon. Of course I also bought three Martha Stewart holiday craft punches, a 12-pack of food coloring for Christmas cookies, 3 skeins of yarn for the stocking I'm supposed to be knitting Jamaal, a Scotch gift-wrap cutter, and fabric to make curtains for my bedroom. Um yeah. Bad girl.

The rest of the weekend was spent 1. at the Apple store with my sister, where I had to speak face to face with my archenemy from high school. I think I won the faceoff, for a bunch of long and ranty reasons ;) 2. cleaning 3. crafting 4. doing church things (how did I get so roped in? Oh right, because no one says no to Jesus) 5. saving my pet fish and 6. Christmas decorating.

Yep, you read that one right. In one of my only animal-saving victories EVER I rocked this one. My poor neon was for a few...days (ok I am not the best fish owner in the world) and I noticed it was only swimming straight up and almost tipping over backwards. Cause it's old for a fish, I thought "let it go" but the thing would not croak. Then I was overcome with guilt: the pain! the suffering! I decided to extensively google fish diseases and found that the fish was either constipated or poisoned by high levels of ammonia and other contaminants in the tank. Or it possibly had an undiagnosable, untreatable disease. Uh ok. I decided to go with a 50% water change, a filter change and some water conditioner. Wouldn't you know, it totally worked?!! After a few hours Mr. Neon was swimming parallel to the ground, finally looking normal.
I probably give myself way too much credit, but I was all "who needs vet school?!" walking around my house, patting myself on the back. Sad, but these are the things that keep me entertained.

Now that the Monday morning calls have stopped, I'm off to eat lunch and do some work. Fun times. Hope you all had a good weekend!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Wedding Wednesday/Thursday 10/54

I really don't have too much to report in terms of wedding junk.
I ordered our invites/std's/thankyous/rsvps this week, which was great. Of course, because I'm me, I had to fight with Jam a little bit before ordering. Ha ha. I felt bad later, bad enough to tell my mom about it, and she said "yeah, your father and I are like that, but we agree on the big try not to worry about it." I guess what annoyed me was feeling like I'm doing this entirely on my own, then having him pitch in his two cents. Not that I even really cared in the end, nope, not at all, it's just that I was sort of like "uh excuse me, when you're ready to help, then you can have an opinion." Bitchy! Oh well. He helped. By making up the know, that we won't actually need until a week before the wedding. Ugh. Whatever.

So I guess the goal of sending out save the date's with holiday cards has officially been thrown out the window, but that's ok. Some of them would've been lost in the Christmas madness anyway, plus January and February are, to me, two of the most boring and unpleasant months on the calendar (dark, cold) and I'll need something to keep me entertained, right? Yeah. So we'll tackle that stuff after the new year.

For now I am plotting some crafty stuff for Christmas. I've tried to limit the amount I'm doing, but it never ever works. I've worked out what I'm giving my girlfriends and am literally PRAYING that I'll get it done in time. Who knows. Hope they like it too. I at times feel bad for the people who are subjected to my homemade gifties year after year, but so far no one has really complained...thus I continue to holiday/birthday craft. My sister is getting a little crafty something, I'm supposed to be making a stocking for Jamaal and I have to finish up my ornament swaps by next Monday. So I'm on a tight schedule.

Of course, staying up til 1am making cookies did not help ANYTHING. I am still trying to figure out what the HELL made me stay up that late to make what will amount to be a tray's worth of bookclub snacks. I should've thrown away the dough when I realized it was a disaster and gone to the supermarket and purchased a snack. This is what happens when you are afflicted with the sad condition of "first-born overachiever syndrome." Sad. Those cookies better taste like little slices of heaven that were baked to perfection in a pan greased with my blood, sweat and tears, dammit!

What else? Oh. I have to go to the dentist today. Kind of a bummer. I hate it there. I often wonder to myself on the way to the dentist "would I rather be here, with someone's gloved hand in my mouth....or at the gyn...with someone's" Well you get it. The gyn usually wins, though since my friend brain integrated me and did whatever to try and quell my dental anxiety, I do not experience that sick feeling of badness I used to feel. So that's good, right?

Yikes. I'm so going to crash in about 20 minutes. My head may hit the keyboard. Might have to log onto hulu to have something going on in the background to keep me distracted.

P to the S: someone is feeding my work fish behind my back (I know because whoever they are broke the top of the food dispenser!) and it's causing a disgusting film of algae to grow on the tank sides. I actually had to hide the food this week. Annoying.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Poking Fun

So there aren't too many laughs here at the cancer hospital, as one might imagine.
Not that we don't have a good time, but it is sometimes a sad and mostly dull place to work. I do like my job, sure, and I think the work that I am doing is good and very useful, but it's not exactly a barrel of laughs, you know?!

Every once in a while, one of the physicians I work with does something so stupid I laugh about it all day. Thank GOD no one's life is at stake in the research field, unless you talk about death by stupidity, LOL.

We started a study about four months ago looking at the survival rate of patients with a certain type of disease receiving a certain type of treatment. We went back and forth between our country-wide team of physicians trying to figure out exactly WHAT types of chemo we'd be looking at and what course of treatment. We narrowed it down to patients getting A1, B2, and A1 plus transplant. B2 plus transplant is another option, but usually these patients had had a lot of chemo before transplant, had issues, did not receive treatment in a certain amount of time, etc. SO basically B2 plus transplant did not put patients on an equal playing field with A1 alone, B2 alone, and A1 plus transplant, so we took it off the board completely. We had a few phone calls about this, submitted a proposal that was approved by all our colleagues, and then submitted to a big hematological conference. The paper, to our delight, was accepted as a talk. Woohoo!

With that success under our belts we got down to the gritty details of the project. Even though the talk is officially based on an abstract and not a paper, we wanted to cover all the bases, which not only made us look good but also made publication an easier and more likely process. The doc who is my direct boss is a perfectionist and has worked tirelessly to make everything just so. We discussed the talk on our HUGE conference call two weeks ago. We sent out the presentation last Wednesday for the rest of the doctor's approval. And heard


I sent a reminder last night giving everyone til Wednesday night to respond.
Who should pipe up but a doc from the West Coast who 1. never responds to emails 2. never joins conference calls OR RSVP's for them and 3. allegedly ignores her data collection person to the point where they can't even schedule a meeting together. Not only is her email a grammatical nightmare (not that I can talk b/c you've seen this blog, but at least I'm not sending professional emails here!) but she writes "On slide 3 you should really have B2 plus transplant because that what a lot of people get here"

I want to hit reply and say "Dear Dr. X. Thanks for your keen observations. It is quite obvious that you have looked at all of the slides. If you had been as observant the past four months as this study moved through the various phases of approval and discussion, you would be aware that we dropped this specific group of patients from our study for a number of reasons. The study parameters will not be changing, as the presentation at the annual meeting will be taking place in less than a week."

UGH. While I did have a good laugh over that (though nothing will ever be as funny as the dr. who could not read a bar graph and morning conference) it is equally irritating to have to deal with these people. Some would probably say that this proves that doctors are human too. Of course. We all make mistakes. We all have insecurities. The thing that gets me is that this doc, much like the bar graph lady, made a huuuuge deal about the "mistake" and "omittance" they "discovered" and even after letting them down easy, they continued to make a fuss. They seem to have no sense of self-preservation, no instinct to save themselves from embarrassment. This woman's name is on our paper...what if someone had asked her a question about it? That would make the whole lot of us look bad!

I think I'll let the doc I work for handle this one. I think today I might just sit back, relax, and bear witness to what I know will be a very interesting conversation.