Saturday, December 30, 2006

Holiday Update, Part Two

So I missed my flight, and I had no way to get to Iowa in time for church or family celebrations. I took a cab home ($30 more bucks down the drain.) I ran to the grocery store before it closed (I'd thrown out my perishable food. $20 more bucks down the drain.) I spent the rest of the night on the phone to United. They disconnected me six times and were no help to me on the seventh time. Friday, Dec. 22, I was practically in tears as I trudged off to work. (On the bright side, that's one personal/sick day I didn't have to use up.)

That night I accompanied Tom to Dom and Tori's Christmas party. I wasn't quite my normal, gregarious self. Usually, I get all fixed up for parties and am very outgoing. For this one, my skin was broken out from the stress and I didn't have time to do my hair and makeup or change from my work clothes. On top of that, I was depressed about missing my flight and it was raining. I made the best of it and, though I was a bit introverted, we all had fun.

The next day, Dec. 23, I accompanied Tom to a coworker's party. When my flight home fell through, Tom invited me to all these parties and to celebrate with his family. I told him, "I hope it's not bothering you, the way I'm tagging along to everything." He laughed and replied, "I was just thinking, 'I hope she doesn't feel like I'm dragging her to all these parties.' It's like our own Gift of the Magi situation." "Well, the misunderstanding part, not the crushing poverty part." "Exactly!" he exclaimed. At the party, Tom's coworker made a comment about me being Tom's fiancee, and we both nearly choked on our hors d’oeuvres. That's right, people, let's not get ahead of ourselves. Some boyfriends last. Some don't. I like this one a lot more than the last one, but that's no gaurantee. I'm going to make any long-term romantic decisions carefully. I'm reminded of a scene in Brigadoon: One character sings, "But when lassies sit and have no men, oh, how long becomes the night." Fiona replies, "But I fear the night is longer when the lad's not right." My sentiments exactly.

On the 24th, we celebrated with Tom's family. These people know how to eat. His mom made enough cookies to feed and army (pecan, lemon, chocolate chip, sugar, oatmeal raisin and ricotta). The meal itself was linguini with calamari tentacles and rings and spungili (I think I've butchered the spelling. Anyway, it's conch.), shrimp cocktail, clams and mussels on the half-shell, baked clams and stuffed artichokes. Then for supper we had lobsters and king crab. The crabs' legs were bigger around than a baby's arm. Anyone who has seen me eat seafood knows I can back away crabs' legs, but I could only eat one of those gigantic things! That night Tom's brothers, Tom and I all camped out in the living room. The next morning breakfast was toast and Christmas Cookies. Then we open presents and Tom rushed me to JFK airport...where I sat for the next six hours.

Again I quote from my letter to United: "The flight that [United Ticket Agents got] me on was delayed significantly, so I didn't arrive home until 10:30 p.m. Christmas Day. In fact, your company booked me on Delta flight 5361 to Des Moines. When it landed for its layover in Cincinnati, I was told the second leg of my flight had already left, and I wouldn't be able to get home until 3 p.m. Dec. 26! It was only when I pressed them that they managed to get me on a United flight from Cincinnati to Chicago and an American Airlines flight from Chicago to Des Moines. My luggage didn't arrive until December 27.

"It was the most stressful traveling experience of my life. Because of your company's management of the situation, I missed every church and family celebration. This was my only opportunity to see some of my relatives this year."

What I didn't include were the details: being driven across a tarmac to make a flight just before the door closed, the other passengers giving me dirty looks (although those looks turned to sympathy due to my obvious asthma attack), crying in various airports (including while I was getting a security pat-down in Cincinnati), and making frantic phone calls on my dying cell phone ("No, Dad, I'm not arriving 10:30 a.m. tomorrow! I'm arriving 10:30 p.m. tonight!")

Mom and Dad were both sick when I got home, so we Dad gave me a quick tour of the improvements on the house and we all went to bed. The next day we rested and tried to recover from the previous day. Wednesday my bag arrived, so I wrapped presents and did laundry. Then I helped my parents empty a semi-trailer full of stuff salvaged from the tornado (the guy who loaned it to us needed it back). That night, we opened presents around the tree.

Thursday I drove to see J.B., Erika and the girls. It was a lot of fun. Courtney has great hand-eye coordination (she rules at peekaboo. J.B. plays a version where she pulls down a blanket to find him.) She's also at a very cuddley stage.

Brooke is smart as a button. She noticed that my hair is longer and lighter that in some pictures we had taken when she was a baby. She answers questions really well, with specific details. (When asked what animals live on Grandma and Grandpa's farm, she responded, "Sheep and...two dogs! Mac and Scooter.") She's also getting to the point where she tells stories, unsolicited. She has a doll named Max ("He's a little girl.") and another named Max's Little Sister. Hee. Brooke has a bag with a butterfly on it. I asked her what it was. She thought hard and exclaimed, "Its...a...BUG!" "Yes," replied, "It's a bug. It's also a butterfly." "A butterfly?" "Yep." The next day I asked her about the bag again. She thought hard and exclaimed, "It's...a...butterwing!"

For posterity, Brooke's favorite movies right now are Mary Poppins (she can sing all the songs, even when they use words like "precocious" and "atrocious.") and The Wizard of Oz. I told her that's a scary movie. She replied, "Erin, it's T.V. It's not real." Undoubtedly, she's repeating something her parents have told her several times, but it still cracked me up. When I put on my black trench coat to leave, she asked if I was a witch. I replied, "I do wear a lot of black, don't I?"

Friday afternoon I went to see Karen, Connor, Hannah, Helen and Unkie. We did a gift exchange. I got a lovely journal, some scrupmtious Choxie and a fairy tale Hannah created for me on the computer. I also got to read the play she wrote. The kids seemed to enjoy their presents (a doodle book for Connor with some cool codes and hints to improve his artistic techniques and a craft book for Hannah that also included some fun recipes). We used Connor's pogo stick. Hannah played a song for me on the piano. We all sat around and chatted.

That night, I joined up with my college suite-mates (the Heritage 11 Suities) for Chinese food and conversation. I had a great time, and I'm glad I got to see them. Kelly surprised me by arriving as Kelly-brown-hair. It's a running joke that she loves dying her hair brown, but it hates staying that way and quickly fades back to its natural blonde.

That basically brings us up to date. Mom and Dad went to a football party. I would have gone, but was given insufficient warning. ("Want to come to a party in half an hour even though you haven't even showered today?" Sorry. I can't get around that least not happily.)

If all goes well, I'll be back in New York by 1:30 p.m. New Year's Eve. Who knows what the night or the New Year will bring. Here's hoping your holidays were happy and that your New Year is a blessed one for you and your family.

Holiday Update, Part One.

There have been complaints (or at least hints) that I've been remiss in my blogging. 19 days! That's almost three times my normal time between posting. Okay, okay, people. What have I been doing all that time? Sometimes I was sick. Sometimes I was at work or checking papers or lesson planning. Sometimes I was doing housework or resting or sleeping. Sometimes I was working on Grad school applications (I won't make the ones with Jan. 3 deadlines, but I will make the ones with Feb. 3 deadlines). Sometimes I was Christmas shopping.

One night (was it the 15th?) Tom and I helped his friend Danno (Dan-O?) celebrate his birthday. He's quite the character and the place was like a hybrid between a bar and a Chuck E. Cheese. My favorite was playing Skeeball. Tom and I proved surprisingly good at this military game where you have to hold big fake guns and kill people. His friend Dom crooned, "Aw. The couple that kills together..." Um, I don't think that's how the saying is supposed to go. I'm not sure how I feel about violent video games. I definitely don't support children playing them. Generally I think adults should find better ways to spend their time, but for one night it was okay. We pooled all our tickets for Danno to buy prizes with. In the end he had more than 4800 points, which allowed him to buy several things. He didn't get the blender, as Becker suggested, or the basketball hoop I suggested, but he seemed happy with his remote control cars and other goodies.

Another night (the 16th?) Tom took me for Medditeranean food. I had the most delicious lamb kebabs. On the way there, we heard a lot of honking and saw police lights flashing in the distance. Suddenly, I saw something strange. A COW! A calf? I don't know. It wasn't a baby, but it wasn't full-grown, either. Anyway, this cow was running down the sidewalk, full-tilt, its hooves slipping and sliding a bit. It was obviously terrified.

"Tom, A COW!" I exclaimed.

"What? Oh, it is a cow," he replied, surprised as six cop cars with their lights blazing and sirens screaming came tearing around the corner.

"Should we stop?" I wondered, "I know how to catch a cow, and they obviously don't."

"No, Erin, you are not going to catch the cow," he said.

"Why not? I can do it!"

"Because they are the NYPD, and they might not understand who you are or what you're doing or that you know how to catch the cow. So no, we are not stopping." Okay, good point. There've been some problems lately with them shooting first and asking questions later. Anyway, it was a bizarre moment.

On the 17th, I went to my church's fake Christmas Eve candlelight service. You see, so many of the church members have families far away. This way, we could celebrate with our church family. Monday was the work holiday party. Tuesday Tom took me to an amazing bakery for cupcakes (the person who runs it helped create the famous Magnolia bakery). Wednesday my girlfriends and I had a gift exchange at Blue Angel, home of the cutest salt and pepper shakers. (See photo at left where we posed them with umbrellas from our drinks.)

Thursday, I was supposed to fly out. Well, for this part I'll just quote the complaint letter I sent United Airlines: "Before leaving for the airport Dec. 21, I checked online, and my flight was supposed to depart on time. I arrived at 5:45. My flight that day was delayed from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. I wasn't allowed to use online check-in, supposedly because I wouldn't make my connecting flight. (I would have made my connecting flight, but if I missed it I could have found alternate transportation from Chicago to Des Moines.)

"Your agents at LaGuardia made anyone flying through Chicago stay in line for hours (pulling other travelers out of the line, but telling us to stay), which caused us to miss our flights. I assume people flying standby or the many people whose flights had been delayed or canceled took our seats. At 8:45, the agents told us to go home. I stayed to make new flight arrangements. The agents couldn't get me a flight to Des Moines (or any nearby airports like Minneapolis, Kansas City, St. Louis, etc.) until December 25. They informed me that the flights were oversold."

Monday, December 11, 2006

Rocking the Holidays at Rockerfeller Center

Kelly came to visit, YAY!

Knowing that she was coming on Friday, Tom and I decided to get together on Thursday. We met up at Rockerfeller Center and snapped a few photos. Then we went to see a cool Christmas window display. After that, Tom took me to see a piece of the Berlin Wall.

Then we went to lovely Mill Korean. I love that place. It serves lots of yummy food quickly for a reasonable price. It was also nice to go out with him on a weekday. It gave me something to look forward to when I was at work. Then he stayed over. Friday morning, it was so nice to have him there. Getting up was...less terrible.

Friday night Kelly got in late (delay and change of airport), and Tom was sweet enough to drive me to pick her up. We slept in the next day, then took a bus to LaGuardia to get her luggage.

We also went to see Morningside Park, St. John's Cathedral and the nearby Peace Fountain. I also took her down to the village where we explored the holiday market. We went to Frutti Di Mare for scrumptious Italian food. Then I bought an adorable hat. (Argh, splurge! Why must I spend, why?)

We met up with Laura and Riza later for drinks and dancing. Riza was sad (boyfriend trouble), so I drew smiley faces on her knees.

We went from place to place looking for a fun place to dance, but none were working out. An old fave, Opal, completely changed formats. (No more dancing. Why?) Then I had a the beginning of a brilliant idea, but not the mental capacity to finish it. "Laura, what's that place we go to and dance and it's like a basement and there're these benches?" "Ooh, yes, let's go there. What's it called?" Then Laura had to make about 10 phone calls before she reached someone who remembered the club's name and location.

Niagra! Oh, Niagra, how we love you and your stage and your raised dancing platform. We drank and danced on the floor and the stage.

During the go-go dancer's break, Riza asked me to take over her platform. I agreed, but only if she came with me. We had quite a captivated audience...well, the guys, at least. At about 3:45, we went for munchies at the diner across the street, 7A. By a little after 5, we were home and in bed.

Sunday we didn't make it out of bed until after noon. We had some cereal, then went to see the adorable Kristin Chenowith in a musical, The Apple Tree, which was delightful. Then we went shopping at H&M, followed by Chinese food.

Later we spent Kelly's last night in the city back at Rockerfeller Center so she could see the tree. It made me feel like a child, somehow. I think the tree is bigger this year than when I've seen it in the past, like a recently-living skyscraper. On the other hand, maybe it's the same size. Maybe seeing the tree is like that every year: it always seems new -- bigger and brighter.

Monday, December 04, 2006

I am a Master.

Guess what I have in my hand? (Or did right before I put it down to type this?)

My diploma! Yes, I officially have my Master of Science in Teaching degree. I have had it since August 31, but no one told me. I only have the diploma because I walked in, stood in a line, asked the enrollment services lady, "Excuse me, I think I graduated, and I haven't received a diploma. Do you know how I could get one?" The folks in the office did some investigating, then gave me a cardboard envelope. Voila! I'm a graduate. If I were pretentious, I could sign things "Erin Kiley, M.S." I'm not pretentious...although if I get a Ph.D. or a D.A. I think I'll be rather tempted to make people call me Dr. Kiley. Heh.

As it is, I am busy applying to go back to grad school, this time for a Master's of Fine Arts in Writing. (I was thinking about a Doctorate of Arts in writing, but I don't know if I'm up to it.) I'm researching programs, tracking down letters of recommendation and transcripts, writing application essays, filling out forms and polishing my poetry, fiction and nonfiction portfolios. I'm also trying to adjust my finances so I can afford grad school.

With work, moving, being sick (three respiratory infections in three months!) computer trouble, and spending time with my friends and my boyfriend, this all kind of got away from me. The same thing happened last year, and I missed the deadline. Well, not again! Right now the U of I Writer's Workshop and Hunter College here in NYC are the frontrunners. I just hope one of them likes me, too.

In other news, work is kind of aweful (the less said the better) but I can handle it. I'm still annoyed with my roomie, but I can handle that, too. My boyfriend's fun and supportive, as are my best friends. I made it to church Sunday and enjoyed singing. Afterward, I managed to get some Christmas shopping done. Money is tight this year, between my expensive plane tickets home (I'll be in Iowa at 11:55 p.m. Dec. 21 and leave at 3:45 Dec. 28), the cost of living in NYC and trying to save for grad school so I'm trying to find presents that are thoughtful, not expensive.

Oh, and my friend (and former college roomie) Kelly is coming to visit this weekend. Yay! She gets in Friday night and leaves Monday morning. I'm trying to get a lot done this week so I can just hang out with her all weekend. We're going to have so much fun!