Friday, September 08, 2023

A Very Involved Process

I'm becoming acutely aware of how little time I have left in my current position. 

I'm not referring to my full-time job - that will continue for the foreseeable future. I'm talking about my part-time job - the one where I provide administrative, catering, and emotional support to my kid. I can't even think about it most days, as we have been a lil team of three for more than 18 years and knowing our time with her will be limited in less than a year is a big, fat kick in the gut.

In anticipation of having a lot more time to myself, I've determined I better start filling up my schedule NOW, and have looked into different activities and classes to see what sticks. (Side note: You may recall I was a founding member of the Dilettante Club, so "finding something that sticks" is not really part of my DNA.)

So far, this little venture has gone about as well as anticipated. 

Attempt at Getting involved #1: 

Mr. Brutalism and I went to a recruitment meeting for a local volunteer organization to which we were invited. Deciding this would be a good way to learn more about our community and meet new people, we followed up with the recruitment chair asking if we could join even though we could not make EVERY SINGLE WEEKLY MEETING HELD AT LUNCH TIME DURING THE WORK DAY (capital letters are for purposes of this blog post - I promise we were much more genteel in our correspondence with him). 

Result: No response to our email. (Yes. We were ghosted. For a volunteer position.)

Attempt at Getting Involved #2: 

As a kid, I took fencing lessons through the Virginia Beach Parks and Rec department for a couple of years. I remembered enjoying it and figured I may want to re-visit this as an adult, so I was DELIGHTED to learn that a local fencing academy is only a few miles from my house and has beginning adult classes. I emailed the contact and she replied almost immediately about dates and times that were available for me to try a free introductory class. I was riding in the car when I read this, and started to reply to her email when I realized I'd need to check Google calendar for my availability first, and put my phone down so I could talk to my husband, who was driving.

Result: Apparently, when I put my phone down, I recorded whatever (intellectual, non-ranty or judgemental) conversation Mr. Brutalism and I were having, which went into the body of the email I had opened earlier, and then I somehow SENT THIS TO THE FENCING LADY. I did not realize this until I received a reply from her saying, "Excuse me. What are you talking about?" I still have not read what exactly was included in the talk-to-text because I think it's better for my mental health. I will also not be pursuing fencing until I move to another country. 

Attempt at Getting Involved #3: 

I convinced my friend, Lisa, to take a self-defense class at our local community center and we attended our first session this week. After an initial snafu of the class being scheduled for one room and the instructor being in another, we finally found each other and began the class.

Result: When Lisa asked me what I thought of the class the next day, she said she expected it to be more women-centric, with more practical methods of self-defense, such as screaming "no" and stomping on the attackers' feet. I agreed with her, as it seems like what we were taught had more to do with martial arts and street fighting. I suggested we review the class description from the online catalog and read the following:

Small details that we both seem to have glossed over. But hey - when the next rumble breaks out in Oakton, we'll be ready to go! 

At this point, it may just be easier to adopt a baby,


Thursday, August 03, 2023

Hitting Rock Bottom

Not to brag, but last night I cleaned some display shelves in my kitchen that were so dusty they were almost furry. 

Yes, I've noticed they were dusty but usually in that "I should clean those" way that seems to enter and then promptly exit my brain as I'm making a beeline for the coffee. 

But as with many people who finally have that clarifying moment when it is time to make a change - I did it! I grabbed a kitchen chair, stepped upon it, and got to work scrubbing the shelves and every item on them. 

And that's when it occurred to me that perhaps I was subconsciously avoiding this task because it would require me to assess what I felt was display-worthy in the most public room of our house. Which I now feel compelled to share with you.

Let's begin with the top shelf:

This is reasonable. This was the cake topper from our wedding lo, these many years ago. We were married in an art museum featuring a Dale Chihuly art glass display, so my best childhood friend presented us with these, which were made by a glass artist friend of hers. Promising start. Beautiful, meaningful, cool:

I mean, sure, I'm represented a little more
Venus of Willendorf-y than I'd prefer, but it's art,
so it's an interpretation...right?

Next, this shelf:

This is where the seamless melding of functional kitchen items and personal effects begins: GG Allin and Marky Ramone prayer candles next to salt and pepper shakers, two tiny original art pieces from art-o-mat machines (vintage cigarette vending machines re-purposed to dispense tiny, original works of art), a Troll doll given to me as a birthday gift one year, and two small (serendipitously, Troll-sized) pumpkins. 

Shelf three also has some meaning - this is where the mementos from traveling friends find a home:

Fun! A Turkish tile nestled among a New Orleans voodoo doll, a Russian Matryoshka doll, a wooden Japanese Geisha doll, bottles of sand from Jordan and some East Coast beach, a beaded South African doll, a Celtic spiral from Ireland, Moroccan mini-tagine-pot salt and pepper cellars -- all of which are happily ensconced next to a foam Peep and two original phallic art pieces, courtesy of our teen daughter.

And finally:

Again, some functional kitchen items: cream and sugar set, mortar and pestle (for all the herbs I grind), and my silver baby cup that holds the packets of sweetener Mr. Brutalism uses in his coffee. But what's that? An emergency clown nose! A mini charcuterie board art piece! A resin coaster and initials created by the same phallic-artist teen daughter I mentioned earlier...

Perhaps most interesting of all - the "ghost" candle my daughter and I found while sourcing Peeps diorama elements at the local dollar store. We have no idea if that is supposed to be a tongue, a horn, a cigar, or something else, but we knew we had to have it. And even gifted a second one to a friend. (Yes these were created in bulk. Why I didn't create my own art installation with several hundred of these still eludes me.)

Now I've lost my appetite,

Thursday, July 13, 2023


Scene: Evening walk in the neighborhood with my friend, Lisa

Lisa: (Spotting marsh plants in a lake we walk by): "I love those plants. What are they called? Pussy willows?"

The plant we were trying to identify.

Me: (Matter of factly): "No. Pussy willows are the smaller ones - the little puffs. Those are called cat o' nine tails." 

Pussy Willow.

Lisa: (Assuredly): " o' nine tails are a type of bondage implement, so I doubt that's it." 

[She then suggested we pause to Google the plant and helpfully offered to search "pussy willow" which surprisingly had much tamer search returns than "cat o' nine tails."]

The results showed she was 100% correct due to her vast knowledge of S&M equipment.

Cat o' nine tails. This should bring some new friends
to Brutalism who search that term and determine
a blog named "Brutalism" seems on theme
with their interests...

Anyway, I was close - the marsh plant is a cattail

Best part? I've been referring to them as cat o' nine tails my entire life without ever ONCE questioning why the hell they were called that. And all this time, I've assumed people found me outdoorsy and nature-loving when really they've determined I'm into the kinks and enjoy a good flog.

I apparently suffer from the same disease my mother has, which she refers to as "CE" (meaning "close enough.") Examples of this are when she asked my daughter if she was excited for the "One Way" concert (she was going to see One Direction) and if I had seen that great film by Emerald Fennell called, "She's Got Potential" (Promising Young Woman). I always know exactly what she's talking about, even if she's not technically accurate. 



Tuesday, July 04, 2023

College Tour de force

Team Brutalism spent time in Southern California for spring break in an apparent attempt to set a world record for the greatest number of college tours completed in the shortest amount of time. We successfully toured eight colleges in five days, which left about 47 minutes for freestyle fun. 

Which schools, you ask?  (Assessments of each, in order of visit: best-looking guys, too shiny, just right, too "cohort," too snooty, love it, no way, too Jesus-y.) It's science, people!

While there, I was reminded of my conflicting feelings about the LA area. I would not be so extreme as to say I have a love/hate relationship - I'd say it's primarily love with a soup├žon of head-scratching mild amusement. In the "Oh, LA, don't ever change" category, please enjoy the following:

And as with every trip we ever take, we enjoy exploring and come away with a ton of fun memories. So with that, I offer:

SoCal, the College Tour Trip:

We stayed in a super-cute cottage in Culver City, which was half a mile to Sony Studios, close to downtown, and also close to the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook; and the Ballona Creek bike path which links Culver to Marina Del Rey: 

A little fam bike ride on the Ballona Creek bike path

Another gentleman riding his bike -
to bring his groceries home, via the
bike path. Oh, LA...

Up to the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook
At the top

Our lil neighborhood's proximity to the studio meant we had a Jason Alexander sighting at the adorable and mostly hidden neighborhood deli down the street when I literally ran into him as I was heading outside after purchasing my coffee. I immediately ran up to Canetto who was outside the store and told him he had to go back into the store to confirm it was Costanza, which he happily did as Seinfeld was his favorite show of all time. 

We also had a neighborhood denizen who seemed to be doing some sort of high-energy martial arts whenever we walked through our neighborhood park - he was either aggressively pursuing his sport or high on meth. We'll never know. 

We visited a couple of smaller colleges on the first day of the touring agenda, and after walking about a zillion steps, went to dinner before heading back to our place. I had not eaten that morning and had half a gin & tonic pre-dinner, which was the catalyst for this: 

The near-constant sunshine seems to ensure people are outside enjoying the weather at all times, which is why we came across scenes such as this on every campus:

We had two more tours planned the next day, which put us near Pasadena - where we conveniently had tickets to a recording of "America's Got Talent" at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium. Our daughter had never been to a television recording before, so this was very exciting for her. I have never seen the show, but pickins' were slim for the date we were able to do this and we ended up about five rows back from judges Simon Cowell, Howie Mandell, Heidi Klum, and Sofia Vergara. 

My friend, Jimmy, actually found us in the audience when 
the show aired a few weeks ago. I seem to have a seed caught 
in my tooth. Tim is unamused. Avery is enthusiastic. 

After touring schools the following day, we headed to Hermosa Beach in the evening. We walked on the beach and played our favorite game of "Is that a skunk or is it weed?" It can literally be either there, and we are never sure. (Flashback: when we lived in Hermosa in the summer of 2018, I noticed what I thought was a cat in the next-door neighbor's backyard one day. Investigating further because...CAT!, I realized it was actually a skunk! At the beach! Some research showed there is actually a bit of a skunk problem in the South Bay. How? What? Oh, LA...)

The following day, our daughter visited with an old friend in Newport Beach for a couple of hours. After we dropped her off, Canetto and I wandered into a restaurant called Joey. As we walked past the lineup of Bentleys outside with Tim in shorts and me in ripped jeans, I asked the supermodel/hostess if we were dressed appropriately to have lunch there. She said we were "perfect" and offered us a complimentary glass of bubbly while we waited for our table. We then had a great lunch and the best service, ever. Yay, California casual.  

Another evening, we opted for a tour of Sony Pictures Studios, which was a short walk from our rental. Our tour guide for the evening was Keith Coogan - a character actor you will recognize if you have seen "Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead" and "Adventures in Babysitting," He also starred in bunch of national commercials and some other films outside his babysitting oeuvre. Notably, he is the grandson of actor Jackie Coogan (Uncle Fester from the Addams Family) for whom the Coogan Law was named, which is pretty cool. (Cool that he got legislation passed to protect others...sad that he had to.)

                      Canetto doing his best Kramer impression on the Seinfeld set at Sony. 

Jeopardy! is! filmed! there!, too!

Our last night in town, we headed to downtown Culver City, which is home to some cool restaurants, the Culver Hotel, and the bougier cousin of Whole Foods, Erewhon Market. While I appreciate Erewhon's eco-conscious packaging and their vast assortment of sea moss juices (gak!), the pricing on most things certainly makes it a "not for my weekly grocery shopping" kinda place. I considered purchasing a reusable Erewhon shopping bag for my friend as a memento from the trip...until I priced them. And while she is definitely worth it, I would not be able to live with myself if I spent $135 on a CANVAS BAG.  

It was also during this excursion that we visited Salt & Straw - where you go for the black olive brittle and goat cheese ice cream, but stay for the spritz of culinary perfume ("flights" of this are available online so you can experience this in the comfort of your own home - likely after a gummy or two). When my daughter asked the lovely person helping us what exactly culinary perfume was, she replied with a straight face, "ice cream does not have an aroma, so this gives it a bit of an aroma and also a little extra flavor." (See "Oh, LA, don't ever change" above.)

And some other pics from the trip:

Venice: where you pay for a $5 million house to overlook algae.
Perhaps this is where Erewhon harvests the sea moss for their juices?

#irony #veniceisgross

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Portmanteau-ing the Line

Our local trivia night awards prizes both to the team that answers the most trivia questions correctly and also to the team with the best team name of the night, as determined by the waitstaff.

Of course, the regulars take full advantage of the quizmaster saying the team names aloud each round and in the past have used team names such as "I wish this microphone was a penis" and other gems to get the quizmaster to laugh. There are often references to current events, many puns, and a lot of lewd humor. It's great. And quite honestly, it feels almost as satisfying to win the team name contest as it does to win trivia. (Not-so-humblebrag-notice: I've been on teams that have done both, so I know this firsthand.)

Last night was the first time I went to trivia with my husband and his friend, Mike. And while our trivia showing was respectable-ish (12th out of 27 teams), we WON best team name with this submission: 

"Team Mansplaining (that explaining)"

There is always someone at trivia who annoys me, too. Which is kind of surprising because I'm very tolerant and patient and rarely get indignant about anything. In the past, it has been drunk people who shout out answers, or someone who insists their answer is correct when it obviously is not, or the quizmaster pronouncing "leeward" as "LOU - erd." (No. Never. Stop It.) 

This week, we were treated to a guy screaming "HEY-OH!" every time he got an answer right when the quizmaster was reviewing the answers. He would occasionally mix in a "NAILED IT!" I wanted to throttle him. 

He looked like a normal person but obviously was not. So, I couldn't help but create a narrative that he was on a first date, and the person who accepted the date ran him through the usual screening questions, and was delighted when he invited them to a trivia night. Because: fun and interactive for a first date!

Then, when the answer reveal began, the date would realize that this dude's most current pop culture reference is from the Tonight Show Ed McMahon era - which ENDED in the early 90s. Something they probably never thought to ask in the pre-date get-to-know-you texts or calls.


Tuesday, June 27, 2023

My Missionary Position

Our daughter has many Mormon friends.

She made one friend this year who is Mormon, and by extension, met and became friends with many more. She goes to Mormon social events, went to the Mormon prom, and is currently on a Mormon camping trip. She comes by this honestly, as part of my youth was characterized by The Mormon Years.

(Disclaimer: I now feel about Mormonism the way I feel about all organized religion.)

And while I did not anticipate this scenario, I will say that her socializing with teenagers who by definition do not drink or do drugs allows me to be slightly less neurotic when she is hanging out with them. (Note: the lack of drinking and drugs does not guarantee the kids are good or safe drivers. One of her Mormon friends managed to get into a car accident on a recent sunny afternoon because he's a dumbass teenage boy and was driving as such. However, he is a sober dumbass teenage boy, so in my mind, it could have been much worse.)

Our daughter attended another camp prior to Mormon camp - one where girls from all over the state convened for a week to learn about the legislative process. When she returned home from the week, she was excitedly telling us all about it and mentioned she met a Mormon there. Curious as to how she identified the girl as Mormon, she said the girl had visited all the floors in the dorm asking if there were other Mormons in attendance.

Of course, when I shared this story with my friend, we came up with an alternate explanation. One where my daughter is able to identify Mormons on sight as she spends so much time with them. Like "gaydar," but with less caffeine. 

As we attempted to determine the correct term for this phenomenon, we came up with "Mordar" but dismissed it right away as sounding too middle earth-y. We remained stumped for a few minutes until she brightly suggested what is obviously the perfect epithet: "Latter-Daydar!" 

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Do You Feel Lucky, Punk? (Spoiler Alert: I DO!)

Eight years ago, I was in severe pain. My joints hurt so badly that sleeping through the night was impossible, and carrying my laptop bag into and opening the heavy doors at my office were so excruciating I was often on the verge of tears. My husband and daughter had to help dress me in the morning, as I was not able to accomplish actions as simple as putting on a bra or brushing my hair. (This was pre-COVID, back when those things were considered fairly important.)

And I have a pretty high tolerance for pain – I lived through 80s fashions and a couple of Seth Rogen movies.

As you may imagine, this was pretty fucking depressing. Adding to it, this all started at the same time I joined a new company and had a very stressful job. In an attempt to help, my husband suggested I start working with a personal trainer, because he knew I needed to prioritize my health and also assumed (correctly) this would help manage the stress and (incorrectly) the pain. And although I found the idea intimidating, he signed me up for some training sessions and I agreed to try it.

Thanks to three amazing trainers with whom I worked, I fell in love with training and weightlifting. They worked around my limitations and made the training sessions fun, so it was the one thing I truly looked forward to three days a week. When you are in that much pain, it is very lonely – there was so much I wasn’t able to do and so many times I stayed home feeling sorry for myself, so this also had the added benefit of getting me out and around other people. (This became a habit: I still weight train 3-4 times a week. I love being strong and there have even been times that thanks to training, I am able to see an ab. One. Singular. And fleetingly.)

In an attempt to rule out possible irritants, I also stopped ingesting anything I thought might be contributing to the joint pain, including gluten, alcohol, tomatoes, other nightshade vegetables, and processed foods. As a result, I was very thin. Also as a result, I had more people compliment me on my appearance than any other time in my life. Forget Ozempic, if you want to look svelte, simply have your body attack itself!

I did not share my condition with many people as I don’t think most people find ailments an interesting topic of conversation, which was confirmed when I confided in two friends who were close to me how much pain I was in and how frustrated I was that nothing was helping me feel better. One of them replied, “Sucks getting old,” and the other countered with how another person she knew had it much worse.

Don’t be either of these people.

It took three years to find a diagnosis for what was causing my pain – and I’ve lost count of how many doctors I visited and how many different medications I tried - none of which were the least bit helpful. Thanks to good medical insurance, persistence, and the help of friends like Meredith, who somehow finagled an impossible-to-get appointment with a top specialist in NYC, I eventually found my way to gastroenterologist, Dr. Scudera, after being misdiagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, getting no pain relief, and seeing alarmingly worse bloodwork results.

Dr. Scudera scheduled a liver biopsy to confirm his suspicion of autoimmune hepatitis. (There are only 100,000-200,000 cases of this a year, which explains why it was so hard to diagnose. Particularly because the symptoms can vary widely from person to person.) This-lifesaving-physician-to-whom-I-will-be-forever-indebted prescribed the correct medication, and I was pain-free in about two days and have remained so ever since. The liver biopsy results from that test in September 2017 were a STAGE 2, GRADE 4, as measured on the Batts-Ludwig scale below:

I’m not sure if I was just so relieved to have a diagnosis that I didn’t focus on this too much at the time, but looking back now, I’m a little terrified by how serious it was. I’m not exaggerating when I say that if this had been left untreated, I absolutely could have gone into liver failure and died.

For the past five years, I have gradually decreased the medication dosage as the bloodwork numbers improved, with the ultimate goal of stopping the medication altogether. To ensure I was ready to discontinue the medication, I needed a follow-up liver biopsy. After correcting an initial snafu of the hospital mistakenly scheduling a LUNG biopsy (and my friend, Kath, sending a package of Sharpies so I could draw arrows all over my body pointing to my liver as an added assist to the medical team) I had the biopsy a couple of weeks ago.

I just got the results, and they are exactly what I and my doctor hoped for – I am 100% in remission with the best possible numbers and can discontinue taking medication. That’s a GRADE 0, STAGE 0 on the Batts-Ludwig scale, baby! You know it’s a good day when your doctor is just as giddy as you are when he shares the news. (This doctor is Dr. Scudera's successor. Dr. Scudera retired a couple of years ago, and his successor is also a great doctor who spends a considerable amount of time talking to me and shares my "let's not take medicine if at all possible" philosophy.) I feel exceptionally lucky to have come across these amazing doctors.  

This could come back – one does not “heal from” autoimmune hepatitis. However, I now know what to look for and will still get bloodwork done regularly so if anything looks concerning, I will go back on medication to mitigate it.

*Not a funny post, but probably the one I've most enjoyed writing! 


Friday, February 17, 2023

Sometimes Work is Fun


Entyrely Confused

A good friend of mine had a very interesting experience while having her car serviced recently.

At the dealership, she saw a desk with a nameplate featuring a name she recognized as that of a woman she was friendly with during high school in Northern Virginia. This name is unusual enough that it caught her attention.

Curious, she inquired of the gentleman assisting her if the woman was in. He replied, “no, she is a representative for a tire company and is onsite only on certain days.” Wanting to confirm whether it was the woman she knew, she asked a few questions about the woman and her family, all of which the man confirmed was accurate. However, he also indicated that it was likely not the same person because the woman is British and speaks with a British accent.

My friend figured this was all too much of a coincidence and did a quick search for her online, where she found a recent photo and showed it to the man who verified that it was, indeed, the same person. The same person who is FROM and GREW UP IN Northern Virginia and is NOT BRITISH nor did she ever speak with a BRITISH ACCENT.

Because my friend and I are both naturally inquisitive types, we had the following questions:

  • Are they sure she is the rep. for a tire company and not a “tyre” company?
  • She works in the same area where she grew up and went to high school – surely this is not the first time a former classmate has come into this dealership. Wouldn’t you think moving to another area to attempt this ruse would be a better idea?
  • And finally – doesn’t it sound tiring to carry on the charade of being something you’re not every single day at work? I mean, I have to pretend I’m competent at my job and it’s exhausting.

Cheerio, Whilst, Bangers and Mash, God Save the Queen,


Thursday, December 08, 2022

He's not wrong

Last night, we attended our favorite weekly trivia game with friends.

During the event, the crowd gets a choice as to what the final round should be - and last night, we had the option of voting for "General Knowledge" or "Four-letter Words." Based on applause, Four-letter Words was the runaway favorite. 

And we were killing it in this round by answering the first eight questions very quickly. Then it all fell apart when we had to guess the answer to the following question:

What can you find both on your desktop and in a church?

Group: "That's definitely 'icon'"

Canetto: "Porn"

He totally deserves extra credit.

Tuesday, December 06, 2022

Fa La La La La La La La Yuck

 Ah...the holidays.

I always get in a funk around the holidays. I've learned the best way to get through is to PLAN A THOUSAND ACTIVITIES SO I'M TOTALLY EXHAUSTED AND THERE IS NOT ONE SECOND OF DOWN TIME. A tired brain is a non-ruminating brain. 

Which is why I agree to anything my family wants to do (see: Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, from which we just returned and for which I will have to write a separate post). To wit:

In our area, there is a small historic building that rents its space to a home decor boutique every year. I went one time and while it is nice and beautifully merchandised and laid out, I do not share the rustic "live - love - laugh" aesthetic - so I assumed the one time I visited would be the only time. 

But this weekend, as I was driving by with my daughter and she saw signs posted for the event, she asked if we could go. I agreed, and we parked and made our way into the building. And right into a wall of stink. I don't know if someone had just used the one restroom in the tiny, historic building, or if there was a plumbing issue, but the entire place smelled like sewage...

...and not in the good way. 

We spent exactly 20 seconds inside - as long as it took to walk in one door and out the other. 

I mean, the place is lousy with holiday-scented candles and potpourri - why wasn't EVERY SINGLE one of these things working overtime? We cannot be the only people who noticed this?

Based on my current mood, I like to imagine this as a metaphor for the holidays,


Monday, November 07, 2022

The Dark Side of Lanolin

Two neighbor friends and I go to local trivia nights as often as our schedules align.

In addition to doing pretty well in trivia, we pride ourselves on choosing a creative moniker, as the trivia game we frequent most often offers a prize for not only trivia prowess, but also best team name.

In the past we've been:

  • Team "My Stepbrother is part of a throuple and my family largely ignores this"
  • Team "The Twerking Corgis" (for which we won best team name and some Guinness glasses)
  • Team "Keep our Team's Name out your effing mouth" (following Will Smith's infamous slap)

Last night, we tried a different trivia night and could simply not think of a name. We racked our brains, tried to think of topical ideas...nothing. In a fit of desperation, my friend, Lisa, suggested using the first two letters of each of our names, so we'd be Team "Kaboli." However, when she typed "Kaboli" into her phone, it erroneously autocorrected to "lanolin." 

Gentle reader: I have an endearing personality trait of finding things like "lanolin" hilariously funny and repeating the word about 800 times while laughing so hard tears stream down my face. And last night was no exception. It got even funnier when Lisa mentioned that lanolin was made of sheep's wool, and I accused her of keeping her in-depth knowledge of lanolin a secret for the entirety of our friendship - particularly because we have walked thousands of miles together while chatting about almost every topic. (Everything but wax secreted by the sebaceous glands of wool-bearing animals, I now realize.)

While I googled to ensure she was correct about its origins, I came upon an article entitled, "The Dark Side of Lanolin," and just like that ... we had a team name.

Team "The Dark Side of Lanolin" settled into the trivia game at a new location for us - a local brew house in a Brutalist work/live development in Northern Virginia. While we wanted to like it, there were many strikes against it: acoustics being so bad in the concrete-heavy, Brutalist building that we could not hear the emcee and heard way too much of fellow competitors sitting around us; being required to read questions and answer on our phones which made us wonder why they even had an emcee and how they could possibly prevent people from googling answers as there was plenty of time to do so between questions; and poorly-worded questions that were ambiguous and caused confusion. Additionally, we had to go to the bar to order food and drinks which is not a big deal usually, but when you are in the midst of a trivia competition, you don't want to take the time away from the game to do so.

Granted, we are also biased as we love our "home" trivia location, where answers must be written and submitted on paper and phones have to be stowed throughout. There are good acoustics and table service, and the emcee is hilarious. And the trivia is exactly the right amount of challenging so the three of us can most often noodle through to the correct answers.

I mean, one time Lisa almost came to blows with an opposing team whose representative WOULD NOT ACCEPT the fact that we were right and he was wrong, but she stood her ground and we were ultimately granted the win. (She may have been slightly scared to walk into the parking lot following the game, but hey, WE GOT THE POINT!) 

The word "sebaceous" is giving me hives,


Friday, October 07, 2022

All Fowled Up

About a month ago, I got my hair cut and colored. The hairdresser who did the work has colored my hair one or two other times...adequately-ish. 

After the appointment about a month ago, however, the color looked terrible. I get high and low lights, so when my natural hair starts growing in, it blends much better than if the color is uniform. Unfortunately, the color after this appointment looked like a single, dirty beige tone. I mentioned it to the stylist at the time and she generously offered to re-do the color at no charge if I still did not like it within a week. I thanked her, waited a week, then called to re-schedule corrective color for my single-tone beige look.

Important point: I am a very generous tipper. I lean toward over-tipping and made sure to tip both the woman who shampooed by hair and the hairstylist very well even though I was not happy with the color.  

Because the hairstylist works a 9-3 schedule, I was not able to reschedule the corrective color appointment for another three weeks, when I had a break in my work day and was able to go. 

On the morning I went back for the corrective color, the stylist had to re-color it twice. It still looked monochromatic and very beige-y in a very unappealing way. And it took two hours, which means I had to take PTO from my job for this appointment. When she was finished, I left the salon and immediately sent the shampoo woman a tip through Venmo but could not decide if I should tip the stylist again since the color was her error and it actually cost me a lot in time/PTO to get it "corrected." As I like to tip, I even reached out to friends to ask their opinions on what to do - and almost everyone (including another hairstylist) said, "It's really up to you." 

Dear readers, I ultimately did not tip. And because I'm me, have obsessed over whether this was the right decision ever since.

Yesterday, I got my answer when karma found me. 

I stopped at the grocery store in the afternoon to pick up ice cream and pretzels for my sick kid, as it was all that sounded appealing to her. While in the store, I also added a rotisserie chicken to the cart for dinner. With my three items, I headed to the self checkout to complete my purchase.

<cue foreboding music>

As I was making my way to the self checkout, I looked up to see none other than the hairstylist I had stiffed a few weeks ago coming toward me. I put my head down, turned down an aisle, then made my way to the checkout line as quickly as I could with the intent of quickly scanning and purchasing my three items and leaving before she had a chance to see me.  

And this plan worked great with the ice cream and the pretzels - it looked like I was going to make a clean getaway as I confidently reached for the rotisserie chicken in the bottom basket of my cart. 

Which is when I picked up the rotisserie chicken and it burst open, dropping the whole chicken and about eight gallons of grease on the floor where I stood. If my plan was to unobtrusively finalize my purchase and get out of the store, I was doing the exact opposite of that. 

I decided the best course of action was to tell the employee who floats around that area to see if he could assist me in figuring out what to do, but as I took a step toward him, I slipped in the grease and did what felt like a very graceful slide to the floor. The employee and the manager came over and tried to help me, covered in grease, looking pathetic, and creating quite a scene. 

And in was in this exact moment I looked up and saw the hairstylist, standing at the next register over, looking down and smiling, wryly.

(This was all true until the part about me slipping in the grease - that part and everything after is completely made up. It's just how I imagined karma should work. In reality, the manager and employee were so nice and watched my cart while I went to wash my hands, then helped me finish checking out. Then another employee came over with a mop. I never saw the hairdresser after the initial sighting.)

And this afternoon, I'm heading to a new stylist at a different salon. One I'll tip generously no matter what.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

And BINGO wasn't lame-o

My daughter is part of a student group that volunteers with several local organizations. This has given her a chance to showcase her skills and talents, such as dressing in the Clifford the Big Red Dog mascot costume in 95 degree heat, and being a buddy at a 'Night to Shine' event. Preparation for this event required getting instruction on what to do if your buddy keeps running away from you or wants to keep going back to the buffet. (I suggested that in lieu of attending the info session, she could just ask me to recap every date I had in college...)

The first time she dressed as Clifford was during a community day at a local community center. I arrived early to pick her up so I could see her in action. As I walked in, I saw Clifford heading toward an ambulance surrounded by EMTs, then climbing inside to sit on a stretcher. As I tried to elbow my way closer to get a better view of Clifford's sneakers to determine if this was, in fact, my child, I said, panicked, to the EMTs, "I think I'm Clifford's mom - is she alright?" 

Turns out, she was heading into the ambulance for a photo op with the EMTs. EMTs who wondered how I was unsure whether I had given birth to this thing.


Clifford the influencer.

A couple of years prior to this, she and a friend also had a memorable stint at the local assisted living community running the weekly Bingo game. 

Seemed like a sweet way to pass a couple of hours and as the two girls who volunteered were only 14, I got to be the designated "adult supervision." (stop laughing)

Turns out, Bingo can bring out the worst in assisted living residents, and while she and her friend were leading the Bingo game, they were treated to the following:

  • Arguments stemming from perceived Bingo slights (who got the best cards/table/seat) followed by accusations of cheating
  • Loud complaints about whether one woman should be able to participate because she was hard of hearing and kept calling "Bingo!" when she did not actually have it, because she could not hear the numbers being announced
  • Lots of whining about the available prizes for winners, which included deodorant, snack bags of chips, fun-sized candy bars, shaving cream, and travel-sized tissue packs. And to be fair - for an assisted living facility that costs roughly a zillion dollars a year, you'd think the merch would be a little better
After mediating running the Bingo game, the girls determined they must do this particular activity again.

Months later, when they had the opportunity to do so, they learned that management had apparently tired of the 'feedback' and upped the game on the prize cart (well, at least the prize cart display - it was still a bunch of crap-ola).

You've lived longer than most of your contemporaries -
please celebrate by wearing these novelty socks on
a slippery wood floor 

There was no improvement on the perceived slights or complaints.

Randomly calling "Bingo!",

Saturday, August 06, 2022

Vengeance is (Not) Mine

Note: In coming up with this blog post title, I googled the origin of the phrase and learned it is from the Bible - specifically, Deuteronomy (which before I knew better, I once spelled "Duderonomy" to the delight of my friend, who was like, "I'm stoked to read the Bible, bro").

Still not sure why I was referencing a book of the Bible in an email to a friend (or an email to anyone, for that matter), but as most of my 20s were a blur, it kinda tracks. Amen.

I digress.

Last night's stormy weather meant outdoor activities were a no-go, so I suggested to my fam that we go to an actual theater to watch a movie. They agreed, so I purchased tickets online for the film, "Vengeance," and was delighted to see we were three of only 10 people who had reserved seats for the show. This was good news both because COVID is still very real, and primarily because I'm a misanthrope. 

We got to the theater about ten minutes early and settled into our seats. There was one man directly behind us and a couple of others scattered throughout the theater and we happily chatted in anticipation of seeing a movie together in God-knows-how-long. (Another religion reference - Deut!)

A few moments later, a man came into the theater by himself, briefly sat in the seat on the floor closest to the exit (in hotels, this would be the equivalent of the "murder room" at the end of the hall closest to the stairway that provides quick egress), then set a large black bag down on the floor and exited the theater.

My vigilant daughter noted this seemed a little off, and suggested we leave the theater and see if this guy was at concessions or in the restroom. He was in neither place, so Mr. Brutalism talked to a manager, who assured him he had seen the man enter and had looked through the bag before permitting him to take it into the theater. We re-entered the theater and the bag man came in about ten minutes later and sat in his murder seat, noisily munching the popcorn he had procured - from a concession stand on a different floor, presumably.

Immediate threat aside, we enjoyed previews and the beginning of the movie, which started strong with its interesting premise and solid cast, and let it transport us, as movies do. This lasted 15 minutes until the gentleman directly behind us began snoring loudly. 

Moments later, a couple entered the theater and sat one row and about three seats behind us (a "knight's move" away, if you will). My daughter nudged me and pointed to where they were sitting and I saw what was horrifying her - their disgusting bare feet (or as she referred to it, "them dawgs") stretched out over the seat in front of them. 

Elsewhere in the theater, we heard hacking and coughing.  

Which means that out of ten people in the theater, a solid 50% were boors - an unreasonably high boor percentage, if you ask me.

Nostalgic for quarantine,


Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Brutal Conversations

The dynamic at Brutalism HQ is that I tend to get a second wind around 10:00pm when the other members of my household are winding down from the day. This second wind often consists of me making up and singing a song in the most obnoxious voice I can muster or doing some sort of dance while brushing my teeth.

The other night, however, I deviated from the usual creative format to discuss an insight I had while perusing Next Door earlier in the day - that being if you are Jesse D. from Fox Mill's older child, you can simply print out the following ad and hand it, wordlessly, to your therapist. 

That was not all that bothered me about this situation. Call me germophobic, but I firmly believe that bedwetting alarms (and breast pumps, FWIW) should be one-owner-only devices. I queried my husband, "If you are buying a used bedwetting alarm, aren't you effectively paying for someone else's pee?"

At which point he regarded me with very tired eyes and mumbled, "I don't want to have this conversation."

Last night, I was energetically delivering a reggae-style song about my feet which received no response from him. Frustrated, I inquired, "Nothing? No reaction? I'm selling it here."

To which he aggravatedly replied, "I'm half asleep" - and then under his breath added, "I wish I was fully asleep."

Happily ever after,

Wednesday, March 09, 2022

It's A Sign

A charming little burg near us is going through quite a bit of redevelopment lately. Part of this development involves tearing down Vienna's only two-star hotel that in recent years has been - shall we say - narcotics adjacent. 

(I posted pics of the sign on Instagram with the comment about it being a two-star hotel and a neighbor commented, "Huh. Two stars seems generous." This may give you an idea of why this particular plot is being redeveloped.)

This is the Gen X of hotels. Partly because it was built in 1971,
and partly because it loves to make fun of what you spend on avocado toast.

We've been watching the demolition progress over the past week and my husband noted after walking by a couple of days ago that the only thing left standing amidst a pile of rubble was the original roadside sign. Which is when I became determined to own the sign sporting that glorious 70s font. And if this required multiple phone calls and a couple of trips to the demolition site in order to infuse my dull life with some much-needed shenanigans, preserve some Vienna history, then so be it!

Unsure of the process of acquiring a hotel sign, I began my sleuthing by emailing a friend who works for the Town where this hotel is located. She did not know, but learned that I should contact the building owner (based in NJ) directly. I called and the NJ office referred me to their Annapolis office and a woman named Lisa, who excitedly approved my request right away - and suggested that because all debris was being removed that day, my best bet was going directly to the demolition site to tell the demolition manager we had permission to remove it and taking the sign.

This led to a frantic call to my husband, letting him know he needed to come and get me so we could go get the sign NOW! (Adding to the fun is that I recently broke the wrist on my dominant hand and have not yet been cleared to drive and/or handle freeing/moving large hotel signs at demolition sites.) My doctor is uptight.

When we got to the site, Mr. Brutalism went to find the demo manager and I used the time to text my friend a recap of the morning's antics, which is when I noticed some other items available on the site, which I graciously offered her because I am a good friend:

Her response? "Yes, please! The more stains, the more memories!"

then followed up with this sentiment...

The demo manager would not give us permission to take the sign until his boss (who was not on site) approved it, which led to another phone call - this one to the office of the demo company. We were not able to reach the boss, so we left a message and returned home, dejected.

Early the next day, I called the demo company again, hoping the sign had not been razed - and again - my call went straight to voice mail. So, I called Lisa again and she offered to call the demo guy directly - while again giving us permission to just take it, as their company owns the building. I thanked her for graciously helping in our quest for the sign and again called my husband to come get me while I assembled a variety of tools we would possibly need for this operation. 

When we got to the site, I again remained in the car on a work call while Mr. Brutalism went to assess the situation - and moments later, he returned to the car with the following: 

Two signs! And only one has bird poop on it!

Of course, we are the only family in the entire DMV metro area that does not own an SUV, so there was a moment of panic when we realized these would not fit in the car. But because he's a planner and brought twine, Mr. Brutalism had these strapped to the roof of the car in no time.

Cool, right?

My hero.

I texted Lisa the photo of Tim with the sign, thanking her for all of her help  - and she wrote back, "Yay!!! So happy you got it!" because she is cool and a nonsense enabler.  

After all of that, I never really considered what we would do with these if we were successful in our acquisition. Thoughts? 

Monday, January 24, 2022

Not All Heroes Wear Capes

My daughter plays club volleyball in the high school off-season. This gives her a chance to keep her skills sharp, play with different people, and gain competitive tournament experience.

Part of the tournament experience is learning how to keep score and make calls, so during a tournament this past weekend, whenever her team had a 'bye', they functioned as line judges and kept score for other teams' games.

While the girls were scorekeeping, they were also supposed to push a button when someone made a great play so the company hired to record these events would know when in the game great plays occurred and be able to easily locate and edit them into the video highlight reel for the tournament. 

My daughter's friend, sensing that an all-great-plays reel may lack a little dimension, thusly decided to also press the button when girls got conked in the head with a ball, or collided, or fell on their butts on the court. 

And it is because of this generation I have hope for the future.

Monday, January 10, 2022


Team Brutalism just returned from a trip to Lima, Cusco, and the Amazon Rainforest in Peru. It was both our first time in South America and first time traveling with an organized tour. Planning for this trip happened very recently and was scheduled for the Christmas holidays, when both the Omicron variant of COVID was spiking and thousands of flights were being cancelled due to employees getting sick and quarantining. Pretty much everything needed to go exactly right for this trip to be successful and for us not to get infected and detained in Peru, and did!

Our route. We generally like to travel in a cat's eye formation.

(Boring, explain-y disclaimer: We are fully vaccinated and boosted. Additionally, we did at-home tests before we left to ensure we were not bringing COVID with us, even though this was not required for fully vaccinated people. We flew Copa Airlines, which required/enforced KN95 masks while onboard. And finally, Peru's COVID rate is much lower than ours in the US. All of these factors made us feel it was worth the risk to keep our plans and take this trip - something about which we made a final decision three days before we left.) Phew!

As with all of the trips we take, we learn a lot, which I'm thrilled to share with you in a handy bulleted list format.

Peru travel, what we learned:
  • When you are apprehensive about traveling in a group because you have never done so before and don't know what to expect, you will be delighted with the people who are part of your small group, including your amazing tour guide. We were three of just 10 people in our group, which was the right size and mix of well-traveled, interesting people who were also (most importantly) a lot of fun. We even had a bonus group member join us in the jungle and she was such a great addition to the group, we were sad when her trip came to end and she had to leave us. Best of all, there were four kids in the group and our daughter was thrilled to have other kiddos around. We are now all friends on social media and feel like we have such a bond and would love to see any of them again down the road.

(Bonus: the organized trip removed all the usual logistical stressors for us on this adventure trip. We were on the go constantly on every mode of transportation: buses, planes, boats, trains - and we just had to show up. Heaven.)

  • The Miraflores neighborhood of Lima is lovely - which I suppose is what you'd expect from a name that literally translates to "look at the flowers" - and the Barranco neighborhood is artsy and cool (which is a little more of a head-scratcher as Barranco literally translates to "cliff").  An interesting part of this neighborhood is an abandoned church whose roof is slowly being pecked apart by the vultures who sit atop the structure. It looked like something out of a Hitchcock movie. A movie that should possibly be titled, "Miravultures." 

Christmas decor at our hotel in Miraflores.
Vultures. Eating a roof. As they do.

  • Lima is a culinary destination for a reason - oh my god, the food! You will enjoy ceviche many times including one version you make during a cooking class. You will also have causas, alpaca, great coffee, great chocolate, pisco sours, and the black corn drink chicha morada which you have (randomly) tried before at the Peruvian-influenced restaurant in your neighborhood at home. 
  • Based on the what is being sold in market stalls everywhere, you learn that Peruvians have a penchant for both Panettone and yellow underpants. Panettone because of the Italian influence and yellow underpants because it is tradition to wear a pair of yellow underpants inside out underneath your clothes until midnight on New Year's Eve, which you then flip around when the clock strikes twelve. You understand that yellow represents luck and happiness, although you will question what kinds of NYE parties these are that require the removal of pants. You will then become determined to get yourself invited to one.

Luck and happiness, briefly (heh)

  • When you forgo a pre-dinner shower in the rainforest one evening, opting instead to sit on the porch at the lodge and sip a local starfruit IPA while others from your group wander by and join you one-by-one to have a beer and visit until your whole group is assembled and the kids get involved in a rousing game of Jenga and the soundtrack consists of Titi monkeys calling to each other in the trees above and the lodge staff brings out salty plantain chips fresh from the will realize you have achieved total contentment. Total stinky, sweaty contentment, but contentment nonetheless.

Trying 'noni' - a superfood fruit that
smells and tastes like blue cheese.
My daughter loved it.

  • You will see cabybaras, macaws, caimans, yellow porcupines, howler monkeys, Titi monkeys, tarantulas, bullet ants, snakes, bamboo rats, piranhas, and countless other creatures on your boat ride and evening hike through the jungle. This will fascinate you. What will terrify you is when you leave the dinner table to use the women's restroom at the lodge and when you turn around to lock the door, you see a gigantic, meaty gecko on the wall of the restroom. You will do some sort of jig out of the bathroom while screaming your head off which will cause all guides and children in the group to come running. 
Capybaras. We sadly did not get a photo of the 'gecko jig'
  • You will think you are in pretty decent physical condition until you are hiking straight up, at altitude, in a KN95 mask. 
  • While you will feel bad tourism has been so negatively affected in Peru due to COVID, you will also appreciate visiting Machu Picchu at half capacity and never feeling crowded or unsafe in other tourist areas.

Watching the clouds part and dramatically reveal Machu Picchu
was one of the cooler things we've ever experienced.

  • When your guide takes you to a scene-y restaurant/bar overlooking Cusco and you see the most amazing cocktails at the next table, you immediately order one without even asking what the ingredients are because that is totally secondary to your enjoyment:
When I finished the drink, Barbie raised her arms in victory.
She then did a downward dog. (And she apparently
got the memo about yellow underpants. 
Though hers appear to be constructed from cotton candy.)

Running around the block
with a suitcase.
  • When your tour guide graciously invites you to his family home on New Year's Eve - GO! New Year's Eve is a big holiday in Peru and you'll experience all the traditions, food, and family that are central to this celebration. This includes fireworks, running around the block with an empty suitcase to manifest travel in the coming year, brushing people with a wheat sheaf that has money attached to bring prosperity, and singing the Peruvian equivalent of "Auld Lang Syne" before eating 12 grapes for luck. It is amazing and generous and such a cool part of the trip that you'll be forever grateful. 
Andre's family 

Wheat sheaf and soles

More fam and yellow

And more photos from the trip:

Kids all bought matching chakana necklaces as mementos.

Little cutie. And a baby alpaca.

Maybe next time...


For what we learned, Indonesia and Hong Kong, click here
For what we learned, Costa Rica, click here
For what we learned, Iceland, Belgium, and the Netherlands, click here
For what we learned, London, click here
For what we learned, Bahamas, click here
For what we learned, Italy, click here
For what we learned, Southern Spain, click here
For what we learned, France and Morocco, click here