Thursday, May 12, 2016

Mother's Day - Winning off the Field

I had a great Mother's Day weekend. My husband and daughter served me breakfast in bed followed by ice cream in bed, then allowed me some alone time to work on puzzles in GAMES magazine (Antisocial nerdo, party of one...)

After that, I was presented with a list of potential activities for the day:
As appealing as it sounded, there was simply not enough time for "pull dad's finger."
Ever.

I (incorrectly) assumed that we may do one of the activities I selected, but apparently, my checking activities that sounded fun committed me to doing them all...and in the order in which I ranked them.

And none of these were small endeavors...the fashion show was comprised of 20 outfits, the bike ride was a 16-mile trek, and the golf game involved so many mulligans that it took quite a while to complete (albeit with the best scores we've ever had.)

It was fun (as promised in the list header) but the real gift seemed to be that after the day full of activity, I slept a solid 8 hours -- something I have not done in years.

It helped that all of this also followed a rather busy Saturday. It began with the annual 5K run at my daughter's school, and a Kentucky Derby party that afternoon.

In between, my daughter also went to a piercing and tattoo parlor with her best friend.

Keep your shirts on -- her friend was getting her ears pierced. It was only my daughter who was getting the facial tattoo. (Bieber is such a wannabe.)

Excited about the Derby, her fascinator, and her new face ink.
(Not necessarily in that order.)

I love a good theme...and the hosts of the party did not disappoint by decorating with red roses, serving Kentucky Fried Chicken, derby pie, benedictine and mint juleps.We also bet on the horses and came away with winnins' in the four figures (counting the places after the decimal)

It was very similar to the real Kentucky Derby experience, except that this time around, I was not four months pregnant. (As far as I know, anyway...)
This is me at the 2005 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville.
I am pregnant and in high heels, which seems to concern the woman behind me.
Yes. It's the same hat in both pictures -- what am I? Made of
money for assorted Derby hats?


Hope all you mothers had a great weekend, too. (see what I did there?), 
Brutalism


Thursday, April 28, 2016

There Will Be Nobody Left To Hire Us

I wish I had read this just one more time before sending to several hundred people:
"I am excited to announce [NAME] will be joining the program as a Program Manager focusing on customer engagement and execution."

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Costa Rica - Pura Vida in a Helmet

The Brutalism family is back from a spring break trip to Costa Rica. And as I like to do with all of our international trips (to Indonesia/Hong Kong, Iceland/Netherlands/Belgium, and Italy), I've captured what made traveling to this lovely Central American country so memorable. 

1) From the DC area, you can get to Costa Rica via Panama. And if we learned anything during our 20-minute layover between flights, it is that the most insanely gorgeous people live in Panama. Forget the hats and the canal -- if the Panama tourism board wants to promote reasons to visit this country, it should focus on the fact that every person who works in the airport looks like a supermodel. 

Yes, I'm painting with a broad brush here...but it's a broad, beautiful brush, so I feel that's okay.  

Panamaniacs. I'm including this as it is the only
photo we have in Panama. 
2) With the lush landscapes and laid back lifestyle, it is easy to quickly develop a taste for the pura vida that is Costa Rica. It is also easy to mistakenly text your friend that you have developed a taste for the "puta" vida, to which she will (non-mistakenly) respond, "Well, you were a sorority girl."



3) Driving in Costa Rica can be an adventure - many roads are not paved, none of them have shoulders, and our GPS continually mocked us by announcing a speed bump, dangerous bridge or escuela zone every kilometer or so. I was gringo-knuckling it the entire time. 

What our GPS did not feel was important to include in the dangerous bridge category was the CROCODILE BRIDGE, which we found by literally stumbling across it.


Costa Rican GPSs have an odd sense of what is dangerous.
(I'm fairly certain that's a human head.)
This happened. 
4When none of you has ever ridden a horse and you speak only a little Spanish, it might not be the best idea to go horseback riding with a Spanish-speaking guide. Particularly while heading up a steep, gravelly path when, without warning, he whistles to prompt the horses to break into a gallop. 

(It is here I proudly announce my first-ever attempt at humor in other than my primary language. While my horse took off at full speed, I screamed toward the guide, "Como se dice en espanol, "WHHOOAAA?")
The guide laughed appreciatively with at me.
(Or at my helmet. Hard to tell, really.)
5) Even when you're not naturally an adrenaline junkie, you become suddenly willing to zip line 450 feet above the ground through a cloud forest, "Tarzan swing" off a 150-foot-high platform, and walk across suspended treetop bridges that are held together with zip ties and luck. 

(You might also become willing because your 10-year-old chides you by calling you a "cream puff" when you initially hesitate at the idea of jumping off a perfectly good platform.)
Yet another helmet. Which should help
tremendously when you fall 450 feet.

So not a cream puff.





















6) You become used to roommates such as the one below during your trip, something with which you would normally not be okay. 

It helps to be so physically exhausted from a day o' activity that you would rather sleep with a lizard on your face than stay awake another minute.

The Costa Rican Face Lizard.


7) When you wake up one morning and share a bizarre, convoluted dream you had overnight, your husband will patiently listen to the ridiculous details. Even when it involved him sitting in a refrigerated grocery case next to another guy who threatened to expose himself until you spilled hot coffee from the carafe you were holding onto his lap.

Then when you ask him, "what the hell do you think that dream means?" - he will pause a moment and inquire, with a straight face, "well...was it Costa Rican coffee?"
He should be a psychiatrist.

8) When you stay at a resort that has a huge array of natural hot spring pools and soaking tubs heated by the nearby volcano, you are slightly hesitant to use them because you have read about brain-eating amoebas that tend to congregate there. 
This is the amoeba - Naegleria fowleri. More commonly known
as "terrifying clown amoeba that will forever haunt your dreams."
But she wanted to, so we let her. 
Solid parenting.
9) When you are driving through the "downtown" area of Monteverde and see a restaurant billed as one of the "World's Top 10 bizarre restaurants" you of course go there for dinner. (It was not really bizarre...just kind of cool since it was built around a huge tree.) You also decide to have ice cream -- for breakfast -- and are surprised by the huge amount of people doing the same (both turistas and Ticos...)

The cloud forest area of Monteverde is known for its dairy farms
thanks to Quakers settling there and farming.
Breakfast of champions.
10) You can tell how hospitable a country is based on its toilet tissue. During my semester abroad in college, the UK scored a big, fat "F" with its non-absorbent, waxed paper-like TP, which I can only assume was payback for that whole "independence from them" thing. Conversely, Costa Rica, with its fragrant, pillowy-soft version, receives an appreciative "A+." 

I was so excited by this, I wrote down the information from the toilet paper label, as I'm hoping to score some stateside. (Note: never has the phrase "hoping to score some" been used in such a lame context.) 

British TP

In addition to the above, we saw the most gorgeous beaches we have ever seen, watched wild monkeys and sloths climb in trees right near our hotel balcony, experienced the rain forest, cloud forest and beach, and had an adventure-filled vacation. We'd go back in a second...particularly if we were routed through Panama...








Friday, April 01, 2016

I Hear...The Secrets That You Keep...

During the night, I heard some mumbling coming from my daughter's room.

She has always been a sleep-talker and if I've learned anything as a parent these past ten years, it's that I can usually count on her REM sleep ramblings for comedy gold.

Last night was no exception.

I went into her room and heard the following:

"De-bah-dee, de-bah-dee, de-bah-dee, bomp, bomp, bomp" (scatting in her sleep?)

So I repeated it back to her and said, "oh my god, you're hilarious."

And, while still asleep, she replied, "Well, thank you, m'lady"

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Finding Mr. Write (aka Bob Balaban)

For the third year in a row (you can read here about years one and two), I've been fortunate to attend the Writer's Guild Awards (East) show in NYC as my friend, Meredith's, date: 
She's a great date, albeit a bit handsy.
Her husband, John, is the Executive Producer and Head Writer of the awards show. (And this year, he was also executive-in-charge-of-making-the-BB8-costume-from-a-giant-soccer-ball-outfit.)

You'd think that being a VIP at a glamorous awards show and mingling with some of the best writers in the industry would be the highlight of the weekend. Alas, it is but one of the many highlights, which included going to the dog groomer so the dog could get something sticky cut out of it's paw fur, sitting at Meredith's office while she finished up some work and doing the grocery shopping.

Don't be jealous, haters.

Perhaps the real highlight of the weekend is pictured below. It is the DVD cover of a horror movie Meredith and I filmed many years ago at a farm house that belonged to the family of my then-boyfriend. As a Christmas gift this year, her husband edited and scored the film, which they presented to me while I was in town. It is probably the single best gift I have ever received.

Please note: probably the scariest thing about the film are our fashion choices -- it still makes us wake up screaming that these were captured on film...
The cover of the DVD. I tried to upload the five-minute video in its entirety,
but was not able to do so. Please enjoy stills from some of the key scenes below,
which I think nicely illustrate the high-quality plot development and performances:
Foreshadowing...
Me screaming when I see the murderer in the barn.
Me after being impaled by a pitchfork. 
Meredith after the murderer gets her.
Meredith being amused after the murderer gets her.

And even though we felt our acting and especially the writing were spectacular, we were not nominated for any Writer's Guild awards. (How's that for a segue?)

For the awards show this year, we again got our lashes done at Rouge, ran home to get dressed, then hopped in a cab. And as soon as we did, the cabbie hopped out.We were confused at first, but he explained that since it was about a zillion degrees below zero, he wanted to go into a store to get some coffee and asked if we minded sitting in the running cab while he did so. We did this happily, as it kept us out of the frigid weather. (And we enjoyed that even something as mundane as a cab ride is never just a cab ride when you're with Meredith.) When we got to the Edison Ballroom, we checked in with John and said hi to Rob, who was starring in one of the sketches during the show:

Rob starred in one of the show's sketches with Michael Ian Black. 
(Fun fact: Rob and Mr. Brutalism are friends from high school.)
The show was hosted by Michael Ian Black, and included presenters like Tituss Burgess, Margo Martinale, John Slattery, Emmy Rossum and Michael McKean. Also, Senator Al Franken was in attendance to receive an award for bringing honor and dignity to writers. (I also saw Fred Armisen and Gina Gershon walk by and brushed by Bob Balaban, who you likely know as Phoebe Buffay's dad from Friends, and many other notable roles - one of which landed him an Oscar.) It was at this moment that I decided I had a mad crush on Bob Balaban and not just because it is fun to say his name.
Bob Balaban
Actually, it's pretty much because of that. (Note: Ask me how many times Meredith and I have texted each other about Bob Balaban since this weekend. If your answer falls somewhere between 19 million and infinity, you are correct.)

Who did I wear, you ask? A Vera Wang dress that has a built-in-bodysuit that is 
nearly impossible to figure out how put on. 
(Meredith loves that all of my awards show clothes are so high-maintenance.)
With this, I wore pewter sandals and clutch. (Necessary point of clarification:
pewter-colored, not made of pewter - that would be uncomfortable.)
My feet look huge in this photo. Fortunately, the shadows
(fairly successfully) camouflage the self-tanner debacle.
One of the writers of the awards show and generous Cosmo-sharer, Bruce Cherry. 
The show was fantastic and we also got to go to the after party at the ski-lodge themed rooftop bar at the Sanctuary hotel - where our little posse got to surpass everyone standing in line (thanks, executive producer John Marshall) to head for the cocktails.We stayed out til the wee hours celebrating and laughing -- it was a blast.

As I was leaving NYC early the next day, we went for a quick breakfast at The Mansion (neighborhood diner that is not as fancy as it sounds) and I ate my body weight in cheesecake (as I tend to do the day after I've eaten nothing to fit into a dress for an awards show), then Meredith accompanied me back to the area where the bus picks up to head back to Virginia. I have made this trip several times, so Meredith is just as familiar with the process as I am, and was concerned when she did not see any other passengers lined up outside the Starbucks where we were waiting.

I assured her that this was probably due to people waiting inside as it it was one degree outside (literally...one degree), and that she should not worry. She humored me until about five minutes before the bus was to depart, and then asked, "does the bus company have a web site?" I went to the web site and realized that the bus pick up area had moved (something that I also learned -- and promptly forgot -- when they sent an email a few weeks prior to my trip -- and also when they dropped me off at the new stop two days earlier).

The new stop was SEVEN BLOCKS from where we were, and the bus always leaves right on time, which means I had FIVE MINUTES to run that distance. So, in boots and a dress, while carrying my suitcase and regretting that I ate a slab of cheesecake for breakfast, I tore down the street as fast as I could, with Meredith shouting directions behind me. And as I turned the corner where the bus was parked, I ran up behind it waving my arms so the driver would spot me and not take off. As I ran up the bus steps, the driver opened the door and invited me aboard, laughing and telling me that I lucked out because they had run out of hand sanitizer on the bus and his assistant had gone to a local bodega to stock up.

I have never been more grateful for an understocked bus bathroom in my entire life.

A glamorous end to a glamorous weekend.

Bob Balaban's bae,
Brutalism

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Wowzy Wowzy Woo Woo, Incorporated

I'm a manager at my place of employment, something I have aggressively tried not to be in my last several positions, and not just because those I manage do not respond positively to my (extremely effective) general management philosophy:

I plan to write a book and begin a seminar series centered around this concept.
Move over, Steven Covey!
I've also tried to avoid management because I find it basically entails keeping track of a trillion crises that seem to occur only on work days and in a disproportionate amount to the general population. Call me cynical, but I find these sorts of things never seem to interrupt a vacation or day off.

I was explaining this to a friend who could totally relate and who shared with me, without exaggeration, a list of work-missing issues that affected her own team (of just a few people) in the past couple of months (she honestly pulled this list from her emails):
  • running into the garage door while trying to exit the garage
  • getting into a car accident 
  • getting a flat tire
  • having a car broken into
  • having general car trouble
  • having a check engine light come on
  • having computer trouble 
  • having a sick cat
  • having a sick dog
  • having a sick kid
  • having a kid break a bone
  • having a kid get braces
  • having a sinus headache
  • having a migraine
  • having a regular headache
  • having a colonoscopy
  • having food poisoning
  • having general malaise
  • oversleeping/running late
  • being snowed in (along with everyone else in the area)
  • being snowed in (when no one else in the area was)
  • being delayed due to transportation planning issues for an upcoming trip
  • being delayed due to sitting behind an accident on the way into work
  • needing to take a relative to the airport
  • needing to be home for a renovation project
  • forgetting a laptop at home
Wowzy Wowzy Woo Woo...it's the schleprock-ification of the workforce.
Forget the management seminars, I'm going to develop a screening tool for people to apply to potential new hires to determine the risk to their productivity. 

Step 1: those with a rain cloud over their shoulder don't get a second interview. 

The Butt of The Joke

Due to a little extra focus on the glutes during a workout last week (all part of 2016's "transform flat white-girl butt" initiative), I had an extremely sore posterior. As I do when this happens, I decided to take a nice, long soak in the tub when I got home from the gym.

And it was delightful. My muscles felt better, I warmed up, I relaxed...it was everything I had hoped.

Until my bath was over and I attempted to exit the tub.

I put my hand on the side of the tub to balance myself but because there was a lot of water on the edge, my hand immediately slipped out from under me. And somehow (though I'm still not exactly sure of the physics here), the side of my head followed and slammed into the porcelain.

It hurt. A lot. And if that was not humiliating and painful enough...my ear started bleeding.

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry, so I did both. And after my husband consoled me and determined there were no serious injuries, he gently suggested that I wear a helmet during all future soaks.

Embarrassing as it was, I decided the story must be shared with my trainer at our next session because, frankly...a funny story is a funny story, even if it makes me look like a complete idiot...also I pretty much consider this to be all his fault.

As I began recounting the saga, I laughed so hard I could not finish the story, and then during every exercise I did for the rest of the hour, no matter how hard I tried to focus, I burst into laughter.

In fact, I laughed so much my abs were sore after the workout.

And even though I really wanted one, I decided to play it safe and skip the bath in favor of taking some Aleve.

Don't worry -- I put the helmet on first.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Rave on!

I tend to forget that the annual Washington Post PEEPS diorama contest is perhaps not as significant an annual event to most other (reasonable) people. This became painfully apparent when I shared the fact I was up late on a recent Monday night submitting my diorama during the course of a manager's meeting on Tuesday and was met with confusion and blank stares.

It's not my fault their priorities are misguided.

I found myself explaining the contest and scrolling through photos of my oeuvre conveniently saved on my iPhone so they are always close at hand. 

(Note: I asked for and was granted an obnoxiously large raise shortly thereafter. I'm pretty sure these two things are related.)

This year, I pulled from my vast collection of rave experiences to create the following masterpiece:

It's PEEPS! At a rave! With peepmau5! 
Detail photo of PEEPS with pacifier, sunglasses and MDMA necklace.
(I used my daughter's beads -- something about this does not
feel like especially good parenting, though I'm not sure what...)
Anyway, as with all of my dioramas in the past eight years, the Washington Post shut me out yet again. I used to liken this phenomenon to Leonardo DiCaprio's genius never being acknowledged with an Oscar, so I now need a new frame of reference.

An oddly appropriate tribute to Leo. 
However, because I am freakishly competitive and quite possibly clinically insane like to hedge my bets, I also entered this year's work of art into the Pioneer Press contest, with the hope that a state smart enough to elect Al Franken as senator is also intelligent enough to appreciate fine art.

Hoping it's good enough and that, doggone it!, people like it,
Brutalism

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

No Stranger To Sarcasm

A short play:

Me, coming out of a convenience store, where I had run in to buy a much-needed cup of coffee, to the family: "You know, I was going in to get coffee, but when I was in the store, I realized that I was really thirsty, so I grabbed a bottle of water. And they had this lemon water that looked really good..." (voice trails off and I then note, "Wow - that is the most boring narrative, ever" and laugh at myself.)

Avery, ten minutes down the road, after I exclaim, "Oh, you guys! Guess what happened last night?" and without looking up from her iPad: "Well, whatever it was, I hope it is as riveting as your water story."

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Pound Foolish

This past Christmas, my friend bought her 7-year-old nephew this t-shirt:


He is a big SpongeBob SquarePants fan, so she knew he'd be delighted with it. 

What she did not expect was how much she'd be delighted with it, because when the child opened it, his father (her brother) exclaimed excitedly, "Awww...they're number bros!"

He was not trying to be funny -- he had not seen a hashtag before and had no idea what this meant (#livesunderarock). And also apparently thought that "number bros" was a thing (#confused).

(Aside: "Gretchen, stop trying to make number bros happen. It's not going to happen.")

Number sign wetting pants,
Brutalism

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Brutalism Holiday Gift Guide 2015

After an inaugural run in 2013, I am bringing back the Brutalism gift guide this year. Again, I have selflessly spent countless hours culling through the thousands of press releases I received from major manufacturers to give you what I believe is the finest holiday gift guide ever assembled. So with that, here is...

Brutalism's Holiday Gift Guide (the 2015 edition):

1. Wine Away. I learned about this must-have when we entertained people recently and someone spilled red wine all over our couch. While I jumped up to retrieve a cloth, the spiller sat calmly and directed her husband to run home and get the Wine Away. And this stuff works exactly as advertised -- the wine spot came up in just a few minutes and the couch looked good as new.

The product also removes coffee, blood, ink, fruit punch, sauce, red medicine and even 
pet accident stains...which makes me feel our party, which produced only a wine stain, was on the more boring end of the spectrum...

Wine Away also earns rave reviews on Amazon, including this one:
 "I've used it on white slacks with me in them and made it through the night without everyone thinking "wine slob." It's cleaned up after my wine group and impressed them all enough for them to keep it on hand at their houses." 
Perhaps this is the ex-drinker in me talking, but when one of your biggest housekeeping issues is cleaning up wine spills, it may be time to further investigate why you are so evangelical about this stuff.

But that can wait until after the holidays. Right now you can embrace the sloppy drunk you are without anyone ever knowing.

Like the baby Jesus intended.


2. Your own Yeti.I frankly cannot believe this gem-of-a-gift did not make the first Brutalism gift guide, as our own Yeti has brought us so much joy.When Yeti joined our family, he quickly became the neighborhood mascot -- others on the block dress the Yeti (not a euphemism) in an assortment of themed costumes for holidays, celebrations and in gear from their favorite sports teams.
Yeti is also a cross dresser. Who buckles up for safety.
Sadly, SkyMall catalog (from which we purchased our faithful friend) is now defunct.
But I can get you a heck of a deal on a "nused" one. (In great shape with the
exception of a rather severe case of vitiligo.)

3. Babies diaper surprise. You feed the doll water, it poops a charm and then you add the charm to a bracelet that's included in the package. I'm recommending this for the simple reason that I'm in awe of the marketing genius that not only makes you defy your natural instincts of consciously avoiding any surprise found in a diaper, but also manages to get you to pay $60 for the privilege. 

I suddenly feel cheated by my business school. 
If I am ever back in the dating scene, I'm totally using 
"I magically poop charms" as my Tinder profile headline.

4. Morrissey dolls. I saw Morrissey live once. He played for all of 40 minutes, had obvious disdain for the audience and kind of phoned it in. 

It was absolutely perfect. 

As are these handcrafted Morrissey dolls:
Or at least they would be if they had "Initiate Me" embroidered
across his tiny, woolen abdomen.

5. A whiteboard calendar. While this may sound too practical to make a good present, it is actually a gift that keeps on giving...to you. After you bestow this upon your friends, you can add "appointments" and "meetings" every January, then continue to enjoy it throughout the year. 
Not a calendar, but also a nice use of a whiteboard.
What better way to help them keep track of all their NAMBLA father / "son" dinner dances, taint-jazzling appointments and boil lancings? 

Bonus: You can also use it to commemorate the date the recipients stop inviting you to their house.

TIMELY UPDATE: Last night, I received a text from a friend who told me that her 7-year-old son had read their whiteboard calendar moments before and asked, "Mommy, what does "Pete's (his father's) nipple piercing" mean?" I'm so proud to help mold the next generation.


6. A nutcase helmet. These days, it seems you are required to don a helmet before you even blow your nose, so you may as well wear one with a sense of humor. Enter the Nutcase folks, who have helmets with British flag, 8 ball, and dia de los muertos designs among many others. Now you can be that person in the neighborhood who not only rides the beach cruiser she got as a teenager, but also wears a ridiculous helmet while doing so. Theoretically.
A watermelon for your melon! So awesome it hurts.

7. A young trainer.  Not only will this keep you in shape...it will keep you relevant, as you will learn an entirely new vocabulary during your weekly sessions so you can communicate like the cool kids. 

You will find yourself using terminology such as: litt, shorty, gassed, e, side bae, b, one hunnit, and tho, while eschewing standard punctuation and capitalization and overusing emojis.

And besides, this focus on your hip lexicon will help distract from the fact that you are (easily) old enough to be your trainer's mom. >sad trombone<


8. Ramekins. There are many uses for these handy little dishes -  including tormenting your husband by taking him shopping for them when he's tired and saying the word so many times that he offers you $20 to never say the word "ramekin" again.
 
There are ramifications for saying ramekin too many times, apparently.

They are perfect if you want to create individual servings of anything autumnal, artisanal or featuring ingredients from your local cheese purveyor. They're twee-rific!

What better way to show off your snooty-tooty-foodie status?

9. 8 Sensible gifts for Hanukkah - Challah! I'm kvelling over the latest from the folks at Cards Against Humanity. Looks like Savta and Zayde won't have to buy your socks and chocolate gelt this season, as you can look forward to (probably) receiving  those and other dreck and schlock in the mail through the month of December when you enroll.
Oy gevalt!
(Ed. This has already completely sold out, so I'm really just including this so you know what you're missing. Don't plotz - there are always Morrissey dolls.)


10.  Cloudy Day Toilet Paper Storage. I am totally in love with this toilet-paper-storage-as-work-of-art. Seriously. It makes you feel like you're going to the bathroom in the middle of an art museum when you look up and see this. (Without those pesky museum guards getting all like, "Hey...what are you doing?  Pull up your pants and get out of here, sicko!")...again.

Hope you all have a litt new year, baes

Brutalism