What I Learned When I Was Miserable

You may have noticed it was all crickets and tumbleweeds on the blog last week. I never apologize for not posting anymore (hey, how am I supposed to have anything to write about if I never have a life, right?), but last week actually has a good explanation: I was horribly sick.

{my nurse)
{my nurse)

After what I thought was allergies evolved into what I thought was a cold into what I think was a flu into what was diagnosed as a throat and ear infection, I’m now on antibiotics for the next six days and feeling much better. But I literally didn’t go into my office once last week and spent most of the day drifting in and out of naps with Boges and the rest of the time feeling miserable.

Never one to ignore the opportunity to find a silver lining, I realized there are a few things that being really sick teaches you:

1. I have really good friends. My friends texted, called, brought soup, and came over to sit on my couch and watch TV with me. Good friends make being sick feel not so bad.

2. I have a really good job. Not only is my job flexible enough that I can get pretty much everything done from home, I also work for people who not only don’t make me feel bad for missing work but who also encourage me to stay home if I feel terrible. I mean, sure, they’re also total germophobes looking to avoid infection, but they also genuinely know how much it sucks to have to go to work when you don’t feel well and didn’t want that to happen to me. That’s pretty dang nice.

3. I have a really good husband. Joey knows that I rarely get sick, and I almost never get really sick. It’s also impossible for me to be home for an extended period of time without doing dishes, straightening the living room, reorganizing my closet, etc. So when I start lying around the house instead of dusting the book shelves, he knows things are serious. He would come home every night with cans of soup, vitamin C packets, and virtually anything else I said I wanted. He even came home a little earlier each night because he knew I was bored after a long day in quarantine. A kind, considerate husband makes just about anything easier to deal with.

So I felt miserable last week. But I’m feeling really good this week. (Minus a little mental fog from the antibiotics.)

I’ll take that trade-off.

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Two weeks of Bogey

Sometimes it’s hard for me to believe we’ve only had Bogey for less than two weeks. He’s already become such an integral part of our lives, I can’t really imagine going back to how things were before we adopted him.

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I think pretty much anyone who has ever gotten a puppy would agree that it’s a lot of work. I cracks me up how the things we’re experiencing parallel what my friends and family with children have told me about raising kids. I discuss sleep schedules, training methods, feeding routines, and bowel movements pretty much every single day — I don’t even bother to remark on what a weirdo I’ve become anymore. But while getting a dog has meant sacrificing a few notches on the “look how cool I am” pole, it has also meant just about everything about my life is a little bit better. (Besides, I was never that high on the cool pole anyway.)(Cool people do not use the term “cool pole.”)

We’re still learning about our little guy every day. He’s pretty much housetrained (6 days accident-free!), he’s getting better and better at walking on a leash, and he’s even starting to tackle “sit” and “stay” like a pro. We started using a dogwalker last week, and it has made such a wonderful difference in his energy level and general obedience.

I mean, it’s not all sunshine and roses. We’re still learning to sleep past 5:30. We’re still working through his teething/nipping stage. He still manages to find tissues in the trash and chew them to smithereens if we don’t catch him first.

But it’s nothing that I didn’t expect to experience when we finally adopted a dog. And the positive things Bogey brings to our lives (lower stress levels, more general contentment, an unlimited amount of snuggling) far outweigh any negatives.

Bogey and I spend mornings together. We’ll take a few walks, I might give him a bath if the weather has been especially grimy, I give him breakfast, and we snuggle before I have to leave for work. By the time I put him away (he hangs out in the bathroom until his dogwalker arrives), he’s calm and practically falling asleep anyway. Honestly, that’s the greatest way I can think of to start my day.

The more we get to know him, the more I feel like we ended up with the perfect dog for us. It’s like I’ve always said: Dogs just make life better. And that little dog makes me so happy.

I know, I know, I’m being a total mush ball. Sorry (I’m not sorry).

But, you guys. The weather is getting nice, and I have a puppy. Life is pretty good right now.

A man who cooks.

I’m pretty sure even my husband would have no problem admitting that, between the two of us, I’ve always been more of the chef.

“Chef” used loosely here. I mean, I can cook. But nine times out of ten I’m just throwing things in a pan, incorporating one of my tried-and-true cooking methods, and then just holding my breath and hoping for the best.

One meatloaf mishap aside, I think we could say with a fair amount of certainty that this system has been pretty successful. And in general, I like cooking. It’s a good way to unwind at the end of the day sometimes.

Then I got that pesky new job in the city. (Still accepting postcards, by the way!)

And while so far I love everything about the job, the commute does limit the time I spend at home in the evening. So we were faced with a choice: Either we don’t eat until after nine every night, or Joey learns to cook.

I should clarify that he can cook. The boy makes a mean omelette, and he once whipped up a gorgeous dinner of pork chops, sautรฉed asparagus, and mashed potatoes. He just doesn’t do it often, and it takes him a while. (The pork chops? I kid you not, took him about seven hours from start to finish.)(They were, however, the best pork chops I’ve ever had.)

I think the main thing holding Joey back was just an unfamiliarity with the kitchen and cooking. He knew the basics, but as soon as he encountered anything new, he got nervous and just had no idea what to do with it.

In the weeks leading up to my new job starting, I tried to incorporate Joey into cooking more. Even if he was just hovering over my shoulder watching how I do things (“This is how you roast broccoli…this is how you make sure the chicken is cooked through…”), the main goal was for him to have a general idea of how to cook just about anything.

Wednesday was his first night in the kitchen since I started the job.

He made baked chicken Parmesan and roasted broccoli.

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Success! it really was delicious, and he will probably be eating the leftovers tonight.

Then Thursday, he took a play from my book and threw a bunch of veggies and some sliced chicken sausage in a pan to sautรฉe. Then he even created his own creamy cheese sauce to put over some whole wheat pasta. I didn’t even teach him that one!

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He even threw together a little spinach salad for a starter.

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So our little experiment has been successful so far. But more important than the actual food, it has made me so grateful to be married to someone who has no problem stepping up when his family needs something. At the risk of getting mush all over this blog, it makes me love him even more every night.

And, you know, not just because he’s handing me a warm plate of delicious food.

25 Things to Know Before You’re 25: Part 1

My 25th birthday is five days away.

I don’t celebrate birthdays (so this isn’t me fishing for cards and gifts), but I wanted to talk about this particular milestone because, well, it is a milestone.

When I was a wee little Justine, I used to have this mental plan that went something like this: I’m going to get married at 20 and have kids at 25.

Okay, so…we’ve learned that wee little Justine was kind of a psycho. Or at least vastly overestimating how quickly she would get her life together. I mean, seriously, you’re still very much in college at 20. This is why we don’t take life advice from 6-year-olds.

But the point is, from the start, 25 has always signified something big for me. Twenty-five is the age (in my brain) that I was supposed to be completely and utterly grown up. Settled. Life was supposed to be figured out.

Needless to say, that isn’t exactly what happened.

I mean, to my own credit, I have some things figured out. The marriage thing? I’ve figured the crap out of that one. The job thing? The where we want to live thing? The money thing? Eh…that’s what the second-half of your twenties is for, right?

But for this commemorative post (available for two easy payments of $39.95!!)(I’m the only one that thinks of infomercials when I hear the word “commemorative”? Okay, moving on.), I wanted to focus on the stuff I can check off. More than that, I wanted to get input from some people who I really trust and admire on what they think is important to check off before you hit 25. So I sent out a Facebook message to a few people who fit that description and compiled their thoughts with my own. Some of these are silly things. Some of them a bit weightier. But they’re all 100 percent true.

And just in case you’re already overwhelmed at the thought of reading all 25 in one sitting, I’m splitting this post into five parts. Check back over the next five days for the rest!

So without further ado, here is the first half of our list of the 25 things you should know by the time you turn 25:

1. “You should know how to host a dinner party without completely freaking out.” – Madison Mayberry Hofmeyer

This is probably kind of a weird thing to say about someone who I’ve only met once before, but Madison is kind of one of my favorite people in the world. (Yup, I’m putting it all out there, Madison.) Not only is she insanely nice and smart and funny, she’s also a pretty fabulous cook. (You might recognize her from when she won Rachel Ray’s “Hey, Can You Cook?!” competition in 2008.)

And while you might think, “Sure, a girl like that could easily throw a dinner party,” I think Madison’s thought is incredibly valid. Because a dinner party doesn’t have to be a fancy sit-down event for 20. I think what she means is that you should be able to entertain guests for dinner without losing your mind, and I can completely get behind that.

2. You should know how to use a public restroom.

Okay, this one is from me. And what I mean is, you should know to check if there’s toilet paper before you’ve disrobed and sat down. And you should know to make sure you flush the toilet properly. And you should know to put some paper towels in the stall if you’ve used the last of the toilet paper. And you should know how to wash your hands without leaving soggy paper towels clogging the drain in sink. And for the ladies, it should go without saying, but for the love of all that is holy, you should know not to leave used tampons in the toilet. It’s disturbing to discover.

It never fails to shock me how many grown-ups still have not learned how to do this properly.

3. “You should know how to write a grammatically correct cover letter. That’s inspired by a resume I just read that included, among other hilarious things, ‘An understanding of chivalry’ listed under ‘Honors and Awards’. –Joe Thuente

Joe and I have been friends since the seventh grade when we rode the bus together twice a day every day. I don’t tell him this enough, but he’s someone I’m insanely proud of in terms of what he has accomplished in the time I’ve known him. He has checked off making a major move, getting a graduate degree, and getting his dream job from his life’s to-do list, and I consider it an honor that he’s kept me as a friend this long.

But enough mushy stuff. The dude also knows a thing or two about applying for and getting a job. (Plus, his anecdote is hilarious.) The fact is, it’s never going to be cool to sound uneducated. Learn yourself some basic grammar, folks. And, seriously, have a trusted adult friend read over your cover letter before you turn it in. We don’t need any more of these guys.

4. How to survive away from your family.

5. “You should know how to give a good handshake. And, for God’s sake, if you are male, you should know how to tie a God damn tie by this point.” -Joe T., again.

There’s nothing to really add to that, except I would say that ladies of the world should know how to tie a GD tie at this point too. You never know when you’ll be called on to save a male friend/boyfriend/husband from embarrassment.

Thank you to Madison and Joe from your contributions! See everyone tomorrow for the second installment!

The Dog Days of Summer

Well, you guys, I’m a little bummed today.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I would really, really like to get a dog. Joey feels the same. It’s part of what makes us such a great couple. (Ok, a fairly small part…but it doesn’t hurt.)

But we’ve been holding off. Partly because we feel guilty about having a dog at home all day while we’re at work. (I know, I know, everyone does this. People have to work. And since we plan on adopting a shelter dog, isn’t it better that at least they’re in a loving home than in a cement cage somewhere? Trust me, I have played out this inner dialogue more times than I care to share.)

We also take the commitment of a dog pretty seriously, and we want to make sure we have the time to dedicate to training and giving the pup plenty of attention. So even though we would love to get a puppy, we’ve become open to the idea of getting an older dog.

After over a year of going back and forth on the idea, and after a host of job changes (on my part), we’re finally at a place where we’re ready to make the leap into pet parenthood. (Yup, I called it that. You’re taking on a completely dependent life form, so yeah, I think it applies.)

The problem is, we haven’t found the right dog yet.

We came dangerously close to taking home a puppy a few weeks ago. We were with our friends Brett and Heather, when Heather (who is equally as enamored with dogs as we are) casually suggested swinging by a pet store to kill some time.

You know. Just for fun. To look. Nothing serious.

This is known as the point when we should have known better.

After I nearly sprinted into the store, I was immediately drawn to two tiny beagle pups. I made myself do a lap to appreciate every dog (Am I the only one who does this? Dogs are apparently like fine art to me.), but it wasn’t long before I found myself crouched in front of that little glass window.

One of the puppies stood out. She had immediately spotted me and was licking the glass to try to get to my fingers.

I asked if we could play with her. You know. Just for fun. To look. Nothing serious.

This is known as the point where I started playing with fire.

One of the store associates fetched the puppy (see what I did there?) and set us up in a little room with a bench full of toys. After a few minutes of warming up, it’s safe to say my husband and I were in love. (With the dog. I mean, with each other too, but that’s nothing new.)

And just to give you a point of reference as to exactly how tiny she was:

I know it looks like I’m begging for the puppy in this picture, but really I’m having a joy-meltdown because she started licking my fingers. Let me tell you, I am an excitable individual around dogs.

In a matter of minutes, our just-for-fun-to-look-nothing-serious puppy visit turned into Joey and I playing with the numbers, debating names, and figuring out how much work we could take off to train her.

In the end, though, we forced ourselves to step away. Besides the fact that pet stores skeev me out a bit, the puppy was really expensive. To the tune of $1,300. Ahem.

(For the record: A quick internet search when we got home led me to a local breeder who charged a third of the pet store’s price. AND the puppies would be more socialized and we would know where they came from and the list goes on. Don’t even get me started on what we would save by going to a shelter.)

In short, we made the responsible decision. And sometimes being responsible sucks. We’re both still a little heavyhearted about the whole ordeal. (I mean, come on. Look at that face!)

Then earlier this week, family friends of Joey’s parents told him that they were trying to find a home for their 1-and-a-half-year-old boxer/pit mix, Bella. Joey met her first, and she’s a total sweetheart, but as soon as I met her, it was pretty clear she was way too big for our apartment. A hyper beagle-sized dog is one thing; a hyper 50-pound ball of solid muscle is another.

So despite her totally loving disposition, we again made the responsible decision that we weren’t the right people for this dog.

This story could end there and still be a total bummer, but, in true me style, I’m going to take it a step further.

Last night, we decided to swing by an animal shelter to see what our options were there. We scoured every single cage, but we didn’t find anyone that really jumped out at us and headed home dog-less yet again. I mean, there are other shelters we can check, but I’m just feeling a little disheartened.

I’m just…bummed, you guys. I’m one of those people who truly believes life is better with a dog. Both Joey and I always had them growing up, and it’s a little weird to not have a furry little body snuggling with you on the couch after work.

For my pet-owning readers, where did you get your dog/cat/whatever? Do you work full-time? How’s that going? Any advice for me on finding the right dog?

Sorry for this bummer of a post. I’ll work on something more upbeat for tomorrow.

The best anniversary ever.

You guys! I’m back!

Hopefully your whole day without me wasn’t too difficult to bear. I’d like to be all like, “Oh maaaan, you guys, I was like dyyyying without you!!!! LYLAS!!” But I’m afraid the hubs made our 36-hour anniversary extravaganza a bit too awesome for me to wish I was anywhere else.

And just because I love to brag on my handsome man, here’s a run-down of just how great he is:

1. On Tuesday, I got a special delivery at work right before lunch. The flowers continued to open while I was out, and they’re even prettier today. (Plus, my desk smells amazing.)

2. When I got home that evening (after my boss let me out EARLY – woot!), after Joey finished packing, a town car picked us up around 5:30. Um, hi? I can go into the city without worrying about fighting traffic or slogging along on the train? This is the ultimate in luxury for me. (I’m a fancy, fancy girl, obviously ha.)

3. Hotel room! We stayed at the Four Points Sheraton in Times Square. It was perfectly located for our (yet unbeknownst to me) planned activities, plus it had a gym in the basement so I could go running Wednesday morning.

4. Before dinner (at Tre Dici, which I highly recommend)(Get the lobster mac and cheese. You’re welcome.), Joey gave me yet another surprise. We were going to WICKED the next night! Cue my girlie shrieks.

5. The next morning, we grabbed a delicious egg sandwich at Piccolo Cafe. At this point, I knew we had plans around 1:30, but I didn’t know what they were.

6. Surprise! The plans were that we were going to see Once, a musical based on one of my favorite movies. Yes, you’re counting right, that’s TWO shows in one day. Obviously, I could not be more thrilled.

7. What’s that? We have half an hour to kill before our show? Why, yes! I do think the correct answer for “how should we spend that time” is getting a drink at a nearby pub. I mean, it was after noon…so…yup. (Side note: We were both mildly concerned that we would have to explain ourselves as we bellied up to the bar shortly after lunch, but there was literally a crowd of people drinking. Apparently we’re the only ones that don’t imbibe on our lunch breaks?)

8. You guys. Once is so good. Seriously. If you like folksy music, people who start bands, Ireland, somewhat tragic love stories, amazing singing, or just generally talented musical people, this is the show for you. It is SO GOOD. (Plus, the stage is a bar before the show and during intermission. That’s just never not awesome.)

9. After Once, we grabbed dinner and drinks at Spice Market, a southeast-Asian restaurant in the Meatpacking district. The ambiance is super cool, and everything we had was delicious. I had the kumquat mojito, and Joey had the whiskey passion fizz.

10. For dinner, we split the crab dumplings, seafood laksa, curry duck, and broccoli with baby corn. Dessert was a cookie bag and a half pint of Vietnamese coffee ice cream. We’re fat kids at heart.

11. THEN IT WAS TIME FOR WICKED WHICH IS JUST SO GOOD AND YOU NEED TO SEE IT. I had seen it once in Chicago my junior year of high school, and it was just as amazing as I remembered. The girl who plays Elfaba? A. Maze. Ing. And Glinda knocks it out of the park. So funny. So good. JUST SEE IT ALREADY.

12. And then it was time to get on a train and head home. I think it’s safe to say that we’re both a bit exhausted today, but it was totally worth it.

I had SUCH an amazing time. (And I still have the Augustana concert to look forward to! I mean, the first anniversary is the paper anniversary, so I guess all these tickets are only appropriate!)

But more than anything, I’m so excited to start our second year of marriage. Love you bub!

OK, I promise, no more mushy stuff for a while. Just had to get it out of my system. ๐Ÿ™‚

Now, I’m going to spend the rest of the day reminding myself it’s only Thursday and that I’m getting on a plane in 48 hours to go see some of my best friends.

And you can all look forward to that groggy post next Monday. Anyone else having a crazy (but super awesome) week?