Things that go EEEE OOOO in the night

I feel like I have a history with things going off in the night.

A little backstory is required for this particular rendition of shit that kept Belle awake. Our house came wired with an alarm system. To our knowledge, none of the most recent owners had ever used it, it was just there. We really didn’t even notice it because it wasn’t the type to chirp when you opened doors or windows. The control panel beside the front door and back door just lit up to show an open point of entry. The only time this alarm system became an annoyance was during a power outage (or, technically, immediately following one). Whenever the power went out, the main alarm would let out a warning blare every 60 seconds or so and one of us, usually Luffy, would mash buttons on the control panel until the stupid thing reset. This didn’t always happen, mind you, so there would be an occasional middle-of-the-night power outage that would go by without waking us. In other words, it was never annoying enough to motivate us to look into permanently disabling the system during daylight hours.

That is, until this past weekend.

In the wee hours of Sunday morning, I heard the dumpling wake up. To our best guess, he’s been having some bad dreams and he keeps randomly waking up, upset until we go check on him (and sit with him). I checked the clock (1:58am) before turning off the monitor, so as not to wake Luffy, and heading back to the dumpling’s room. While I was back there, patting and shushing, I realized that it was a bit chilly. We had a cold snap blow through Saturday afternoon and had turned the heater on for the first time in a week. I wondered to myself if the pilot was still lit (it hadn’t been, when I’d turned it on last week). So at one point, I decided to give the dumpling some space and went to check on the pilot. I crept through the quiet house, unlocking the inner closet door to the furnace. I didn’t turn on any lights, figuring I’d be able to see the lit pilot without an issue. I opened the panel and peeeeeeered in –


I nearly had a heart attack as I, at first, assumed I had tripped some weird alarm that I had no knowledge of. I did quickly come to my senses and realize that we were dealing with a power outage and off I sprinted through the dark house, trying to disable the alarm. After what felt like an eternity, I finally managed to get the alarm silenced (instead of its intermittent signal, it decided on a continuous one for this night – an ominous sign had I known to look for one). Of course, as soon as I had it quieted down, Luffy came stumbling out of our bedroom, looking for the cause of the raucous.

“Power outage,” I told him, “I’m so sorry you got woken up.” He mumbled something about alarms and gestured to the front of the house and the crying baby.

“Oh, he’s awake separately, but now that you’re awake, you mind checking on?”

Luffy headed back to whisper sweet sleep nothings to the dumpling while I sort of padded around the house, trying to slow my heart rate.


I dashed over to the nearest panel and frantically mashed buttons (there’s nothing like a blaring noise at 2 in the morning to both (1) lower your ability to form coherent thoughts and (2) make you frantically mash buttons until the noise ceases). My mashing did at least silence the alarm though, dubious that I’d done anything productive, I traded places with Luffy to let him deal with the button mashing. He was successful and I sent him back to bed while I comforted a, probably, confused dumpling. Not 60 seconds later….




I waited and waited, listening to a somewhat muffled blaring, but it didn’t turn off this time. I left the dumpling to fend for himself and went off in search of Luffy who I found frantically mashing buttons on the back control panel. When it was clear that our button mashing wasn’t going to cut it this time, I flipped the main breaker to give us some quiet and Luffy decided to go up into the attic, as that’s where the alarm seemed to be coming from.

The following ten minutes or so passed in a haze of a piercing alarm, more button mashing, and Luffy’s unsuccessful search for the source of the alarm in the attic. We switched places (is it appropriate at this point to mention that I was bare-cheeked?? I had only put on a flannel shirt to attend to the dumpling and had gotten too side-tracked with the whole ear-piercing alarm thing to put on undies. It was a little drafty up there, is all I’ll say.) and I immediately spotted the source of the alarm: a self-contained, two tone siren. I know the name of it because I glanced over the label before sending up a half prayer that cutting the wires wouldn’t lead to Phoebe-with-the-smoke-detector levels autonomy. And then… snip snip, followed by blessed silence.

Of course, by that point, Luffy and I were both too hopped up on adrenaline to fall back asleep, unlike a certain small person who decided, half way through the blaring, that on second thought, he could settle himself back down, thanks mom.



Wardrobe Malfunction

For the past (does some math…. THAT CAN’T BE RIGHT…. does math again) three years, I’ve taught an exercise class after work. Before the dumpling came along I taught Monday and Wednesday at 6:30. I just cover the Monday class now (along with my Saturday morning class), but the point is that I’ve been teaching after work for three years now. My routine has always been the same – I pack up my exercise bag the night before with my clothes and I change in the bathroom at work (the bathrooms at the center where I teach are communal bathrooms for the entire retail strip and they are a little…. gross). One time, shortly after I picked up this schedule, I left my socks at home and had to work out without socks. It wasn’t pleasant, but I made it through and I always have a spare pair of socks in my bag now – just in case. Probably at least once a month though, I always wonder what I would do if I forgot some other essential piece like my pants or my sports bra. Oh man, that wouldn’t be good.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is exactly what happened on Monday.

I was changing at work, like usual, balancing on one foot as I removed my dress socks and put on regular socks, when it suddenly occurred to me that I hadn’t pulled a bra out of my bag when I pulled out my clothes. No, I thought incredulously, I must have just missed it. I pawed through my bag again, although it was painfully clear that I did not have a bra. Honestly, I couldn’t do anything but laugh at myself. What on EARTH was I going to do now? I didn’t have time to stop to pick one up (although I briefly contemplated if it was worth being late over). I also happened to pick the worst possible top for a no-bra situation. It was a loose tank with cut-out sides, in other words, no support and a side-boob situation going on. I didn’t even have a crappy shelf-bra to console myself with!

So what does any girl do when confronted with a dilemma regarding boobs and bras and the lack there-of? I called my mom.

Moooooooooooooooommmmm!!!!! HALP!

She, of course, talked me down and suggested I just wear my regular bra. Don’t worry, she said, your students will all think it’s hilarious.

And they did! It was a lovely time to meet a new student of course (nice to meet you! sorry about the side-boob), but we all laughed about it. I joked that at least I hadn’t forgotten my pants (ohdearlordinheaven, please let me never forget my pants). It also wasn’t entirely bad. I expected my regular bra to majorly fail me through all of my jumping and hopping and lunging, but it held up just fine. I had to adjust my straps a few times, and I’m sure it helped that I just happened to be wearing a no-frills, full coverage bra (as opposed to some sort of balconette, push-up, lightly lined, unlined, plunging, etc etc contraption). But really, 7/10 would recommend.

And now I have to tell you about how hard it was to come up with a title for this, bearing in mind that I don’t want to appear in any questionable searches. Top contenders were Peek-a-boob and Don’t Fear the Nip Slip. Why no, I am not a twelve year old boy. Why do you ask?

Somewhat sleepless in Seattle

Hello again! Luffy and I made it back and the dumpling did wonderfully, sans parents.

We went to Washington (Seattle area), primarily for a concert Saturday night. It was a whirlwind weekend of eating and drinking and driving (but definitely not in that order). We arrived Friday around noon and promptly dove headfirst into soup dumplings at Din Tai Fung a restaurant I feel positive I’ve mentioned before. Since it was our first vacation since having a child, we ordered a bottle of champagne to celebrate VACATION!!! It was real good. We spent the afternoon doing touristy things and traipsing up and down the downtown area enough to (hopefully) burn off all those soup dumplings.

On Saturday, we got waffles (WAFFLES!!!) and crepes, killing time until our noon check out. We then drove about two hours east of Seattle, to a tiny town in which we were staying. The concert was being held at a venue that is literally in the middle of nowhere (the Gorge Amphitheater). Our little town was only about 40 minutes from the amphitheater, so once we checked in and freshened up, we headed back out. The amphitheater itself is gorgeous, overlooking the Columbia river. The weather was cool, getting downright cold once the sun went down. I quickly realized that we only really know how to do outdoor festivals in Texas. Between three of us, we brought three 20oz bottles of water, as well as one refillable Camelbak. We were supposed to have two, but our friend forgot his. We also bought sunscreen and dressed in layers that we could “take off” as needed. …… Yeah. I was ridiculously cold by the end of the night even though I thought I’d dressed warmly. I realized that I should have brought a blanket after watching very nearly every other festival-goer huddling under a blanket at different points in the evening. We only finished two of those bottles of water and, though we filled it as soon as we got there, we didn’t even touch the Camelbak (probably because it wasn’t a thousand degrees out and thus we weren’t losing water through sweat as fast as we could replace it). And I completely forgot the sunscreen that we purchased expressly for the concert. Eh, we didn’t need it.

The concert itself was incredible. Just beyond words. And over too quickly, as wonderful things tend to do. We made it back to our hotel around 1 in the morning, which is when we discovered that my driver’s license (which I’d needed to get into the concert) was missing. Sigh

So this is where our story devolves into my usual absurdness.

Luffy realized Saturday night in the wee hours of Sunday morning that my ID wasn’t in his pocket anymore. Being one in the morning, we decided to search more thoroughly after some sleep, but found nothing the next morning. As I was about to try to get on a plane, I managed to dig out a copy of my passport from my email. TSA was actually really nice about the whole thing. I provided the copy of my passport, along with a debit card and my health insurance card, and essentially got an expedited though thorough passage through security. They went through my bags and gave me a pat-down, but they let me on the plane! Woohoo!

Monday I went to the DPS. That was rather uneventful, even fortuitous in a way. I happened to lose my license close enough to its expiration date (this November) that they just renewed it at the same time. So helpful! Plus, I’ve hated the picture on that license since I got it four years ago and got to take a new one. Double yay!

But then – on my way to lunch with Luffy I picked up two nails in my tire. I went out to the garage Tuesday morning to discover a pancake for a tire, completely derailing my plans of having Luffy pick me up from our mechanic after I dropped it off for patching. We were unsuccessful in pulling the flat tire off to replace it with the spare (the lug nuts were practically cemented on there) and had to cash in a free AAA tow. In more not-so-great news, the leak couldn’t be patched because the nails were too close together. We had to replace the tire. Now, I’ve honestly gotten nails in my tires maybe a handful of times before 2017. Right before the dumpling arrived last year, we replaced all four tires on my vehicle because they were due and we figured we might as well knock that task out before the baby arrived. Since then I’ve managed to have two, TWO, unfixable flats necessitating the replacement of a practically new tire. I’m sort of wondering if the driving gods are mad at me or something.

So that was fun. We picked it up yesterday and handed over the keys to Luffy’s car because he had three mechanical issues pop up yesterday. THREE. Like he’s trying to one-up me or something. Sheesh. Sit back down, this here’s my blog.

So yeah, that’s been us over the past few days. Lots of tedious adulting. Today is picture day at the dumpling’s daycare and I can’t wait to view the proofs. Last time he had picture day, we got several gems back including one alarmingly (or hilariously??) similar to this meme:

Good work son! You’ve got a knack for expressing your disregard for the whole school picture thing. Already getting a head start on years of this fool business.

A last aside – the dumpling is sporting a new tooth! One of his top center erupted while we were gone! He’s now enamored with grinding the top and bottom together, but I’m hoping he gets over it.

Yes, I am a capable adult…

Why do you ask?

When I work from home, my agenda for the day typically includes several home-related tasks or errands. A trip to Target at lunch. Running a load of laundry. You get the idea. All of these things take place in the time I would ordinarily spend dicking around on the internet in the office, (I am just so productive at home!) Anyway, today’s to-do list included getting my car washed. We’re leaving my car at the house for my mom to use this weekend (for car seat reasons) and it was beyond time to get it thoroughly cleaned out.

So off I went!

In the wonderful tradition of me, I managed to play out a mini-drama while I was at it.

I pulled into the local car wash chain and surveyed the options, having my first dilemma of the day. You see, I am a pansy when it comes to car related things (again linking to this because it explains everything) and while I knew that the interior of my car really, really needed a thorough cleaning, having it cleaned would also mean dealing with such terrifying tasks as choosing a slot to pull into and interacting with the attendant. In my car! About my car! And exiting my car!! GASP!! So I pulled into the longest line, thinking that would give me plenty of time to mentally debate whether I had the guts to get a full cleaning or not.

To my horror, the occupants of the cars ahead of me either (a) had their shit together enough to know exactly what they wanted or (b) did not have as much anxiety about this purchase as I did. Regardless of which option it was, the line dwindled quickly until it was my turn far too soon and I blurted out the first option – the full cleaning – and pulled away. Whew. Crisis averted. I congratulated myself on navigating that minefield and girded my loins for the real battle: getting my interior cleaned out.

Now, I know – I KNOW – it’s not that big of deal. You find an empty spot, pull into it, hop out, and the rest is taken care of. The problem is that I constantly worry about the unspoken-ness of it all. There are rules, rules which are not stated, and what if I break those rules? What if I’m not supposed to use this spot? What if the attendant that is here isn’t actually the one for my wash? Do I tell someone my car’s here to be cleaned? Do I just wait off to the side? Do I wait inside? Do I take my keys with me?  Plus, being in my vehicle just adds a extra layer of visibility that I’m not up for.

Anyway – geez Belle, is there a point to this story? – I hopped out of my car and staked claim to a nearby bench, firing up the latest game on my phone and that was about when I remembered that I didn’t have any cash on me. Zero cash. No back-up five or random one hanging about. I went through all of the pockets and folds of my wallet – naddah. I did have a solitary gold coin in my car, but that’s it. I lamented to Luffy via text that I was the world’s worst human before realizing that I was sitting right next door to a giant gas station. CASH BACK!! I could get CASH BACK if I bought something.

I hesitated for a minute, paralyzed by fear over leaving my car unattended (what if they got done and I wasn’t there?????) and then literally took off running for the gas station. Grabbing a soda from their fridge, I headed to the front.

“Do you still provide cash back if I pay with a debit card?” I asked the cashier.

“No, but there’s an ATM outside if you’d like,” she helpfully replied and then asked me if I’d still like the soda.

“Sure,” I quipped and explained that I was trying to get cash for a tip for the car wash next door.

I hit up the ATM on my way out, almost blowing the entire transaction because the very first option was to withdraw $200. Which, holy smokes, why is that the very first option? Do people routinely pull $200 in cash out of the gas station ATM’s? Why was the option for a measly $20 way down at the very bottom, behind all sorts of other ridiculous options like $400 or $300? So many questions, but it didn’t matter because I had my cash! I had my twenty dollar bill! I had my tip! ….. Oh, right. My tip. I most certainly did not want to leave $20 as a tip and the gas station wouldn’t break my fresh bill for me.

Whomp whomp.

I walked back to the car wash with my ice cold soda and my crisp twenty and lamented to Luffy – again! more! – that I didn’t have tipping cash. After all that!

It’s times like these where I really sometimes wonder why Luffy puts up with me. And can I claim that I am an intelligent human being when I am routinely befuddled by the most simple of problems? Is overthinking issues an actual problem? Because I think I have it.

Why don’t you buy a pack of gum? Luffy asked me, when I told him the gas station wouldn’t break my twenty because I wasn’t buying anything because I had already bought something. Oh yeah, that would have been a good idea,  said my brain.

Since I was already back on my bench, I yet again debated the decision to abandon my car and head back to the gas station, but I did. I couldn’t let this situation get the best of me, not when I had come so far. So back I went, to get into an even longer line this time, to buy gum. To break my twenty. That I got here just moments ago.

The cashier gave me a confused look when I got to the front but it dawned on her pretty quickly what I was doing.

“My problem solving skills aren’t always the sharpest,” I joked, as I waited for my change.

But! I managed to leave with a five that was more suited for a tip and I got back to the car wash before the attendant was done with my car so I got to avoid those particular disaster scenarios playing out in my head. She finished a couple of minutes after I got back and I was very relieved to be able to hand her my hard-earned tipping cash in exchange for my immaculately cleaned car.

All in all, procuring cash for a tip last minute is an excellent way to pass the time while you wait for your car to be cleaned. 10/10 would recommend.

Six months!

So first off, these past couple of weeks have been insanely busy at work. They’ve been the type of weeks where I’ve only managed to scratch of an item or two from my to-do list, while simultaneously adding three or four more items. They’ve been the type of weeks when I’ve been insanely busy each day, yet at the end of the week I can’t really pinpoint appreciable progress on my current tasks. In other words, screw these past couple of weeks.

On a much higher note, the dumpling officially turned six months old this past Tuesday! He had his six month check-up and the pediatrician was satisfied by his growth and progress. He weighs 14.5lbs (5th percentile!) and measures 26.75in (56th percentile – holy cats!!!). He doesn’t roll except when he’s in his crib, but he’s sitting almost perfectly unassisted. He doesn’t have much interest in toys, which was starting to alarm me because he doesn’t really grab for things. He has though, in just the last couple of weeks, started to really analyze what he’s holding. He still doesn’t reach for things much, but he’ll take it from you if you give it to him. He loves fabric though (and paper it seems – the paper liner on the pediatrician’s scale, for instance, he had to bring that with us back to the examination room). He’s officially tried sweet potatoes, peas, squash, egg, and avocado. Although, the egg and avocado, I’m fairly certain he didn’t actually swallow either of those.

It’s amazing watching him grow. His hair is coming in. His little legs are getting longer and hammier. He’s long and lean and adorable.

If I may though, can I relate to you the night of hilarity that occurred at my house this past week? Yes? Oh thanks.

So Luffy had to travel for business Wednesday and Thursday. No biggie. I was preparing the dumpling’s bath when I heard what every homeowner dreads – three chirps from a smoke detector. Le crap. I carried the peanut with me as I tried to track down the chirping unit. Unfortunately, after three rounds of chirping, the unit was ominously silent and I STILL hadn’t found the culprit. Well, I thought, might as well get the dumpling off to bed first. The only good thing in this scenario was that I had happened to be standing directly under the unit in the dumpling’s room as the last set of chirps went off, so I knew it wasn’t his.

So I continued with bedtime and got the dumpling off to bed, his bottles washed, his milk made, my pump parts cleaned, all without another peep from the detector. I naively hoped that it was a fluke and that it wouldn’t sound again. I knew it wasn’t a low battery signal and none of the other units had gone off, so it wasn’t an alarm state. All of the units showed steady green lights, so no issues to note there (also no help in determining which of the units was chirping). Around 10:30, I was about to head to bed when the chirping started again. Le double crap. I hurried around the house, but still couldn’t determine which unit it was because the thing still only chirped three times. When the house was silent again, I sat back to think about what to do. I figured three rounds of chirps every two hours or so wasn’t bad – I might even be able to sleep through it and it didn’t seem to bother the dumpling. I headed to bed with the hope that it would be a smooth night.

HAHAHA – I foresee much fail.

I got ready for bed and climbed in, settling down into my pillow right as the chirps started going off again. I ran through the house to figure out which one it was – again with no luck. I finally decided that maybe it was the hallway one and went to get a new battery and a chair.

Now let’s pause here. I knew, KNEW, that it wasn’t the typical battery dead chirp, but I, for some reason, did not consider that information. That’s basically all I know how to do with smoke detectors. Hear chirping – change battery. These are all of the things I know. Secondly, I should have just pulled them down to disable them (ours have A/C power as well as the battery back-up). I was worried that if I did that, it would set them all off with some sort of malfunction alarm as they sensed a fallen brother (not too crazy, ours are interconnected).

But I didn’t do any of that. At 11pm, I drug a chair into the hallway and replaced the battery in the hallway unit and then somehow managed to set off a test phase which meant that all of the units in our house suddenly blared their alarms. I prayed to ALL OF THE GODS AND LANDS AND EVERYTHING THAT IS HOLY that the dumpling would sleep through the racket. And he did! Praise be! I climbed off the chair, ready to head to bed when – CHIRPCHIRPCHIRP. (F&*%)

So at 11:15, I drug the ladder in from the garage and climbed atop it to change the battery in the office unit (again, see above and all of the things I know regarding smoke detectors). The damn thing kept chirping, even with the new battery. So at 11:30, I frantically looked up the manual to try to figure out what the freaking beeping meant and how to shut it the hell up. (My language was getting worse through this ordeal, so glad the dumpling wasn’t awake to witness it.) I discovered that this specific beeping pattern meant the unit was malfunctioning – FANTASTIC – and decided to disable it for the evening. So at midnight, I climbed up the ladder again and pulled the entire thing down. Since I still wasn’t 100% sure that the office unit was at fault and the thought of getting out of bed AGAIN for chirping AGAIN made me want to murder someone, I decided to pull down a couple of others for good measure.

So at 12:30 in the morning, I finally settled into my bed, completely on edge, waiting for more chirping. Which didn’t happen. Whew. But then my night fell apart farther as an unholy trinity of leaky diaper and gas and uncomfortableness got the dumpling up at 1:30 and kept him up until 4. Fun times. At least I didn’t have to call the fire department again. So win?

Hello again!

Well hello there! Nice to see you again; it’s been a while, no? I, unfortunately, had to buckle down before Thanksgiving to get through all the work stuff that I needed to get done. And then Thanksgiving happened and I was too busy stuffing my face cooking for my wonderful family to post anything.

So! I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Luffy and I, with Jas in tow, set off to my West Texas hometown Wednesday morning. We made record time now that the speed limits are pretty much all at 75 MPH (which means we go 82, but shhhhh). It was wonderful to see my parents and they’re at the tail end of a home renovation so it was weird/fun to see my childhood home look COMPLETELY different. My mom and I dived right into cooking (a new Brussels sprouts recipe for that evening’s dinner) and drinking (champagne, our favorite). Jas dived right into being Queen and ruling over my parents’ three boy cats (with much hissing and growling). Luffy dived right into eating (ice cream cones that my parents always get for him, like I never feed him anything fun). It was glorious.

On Thanksgiving day, my mom and I made doughnuts for breakfast (baked, for the record, pumpkin and a plain powdered sugar one). Then I made mini cheesecakes and an accompanying caramel sauce. My mom started cooking for Thanksgiving lunch. Everything came together right on time for my half brother and his family to join us. It was all delicious, of course.

(A side note – I have the perfect cautionary tale of why you should never ever, EVER drum up more enthusiasm for a dish/present/whatever than you actually have. Several years ago, my half brother’s wife made a pie for Thanksgiving. It doesn’t really have a name, that I know of, but it has a chocolate cookie crust (think crushed Oreo’s), with a peanut butter filling (it’s lighter than peanut butter, I’m thinking perhaps peanut butter with whipping cream), with a whipped cream top, drizzled with chocolate and peanut butter sauce. Now. Reread that. Do your teeth ache just reading it? Cause mine do. One bite is good. Two bites are ok. And any more than that are just upsetting. The pie is so sweet – too sweet. Plus, I’ve come to loathe these types of desserts that are “no bake, just throw crap in a pan then refrigerate and who cares that everything going in is super sweet on its own and that it’s not really a pie but more like a blob of semi-firm ingredients!” – ahem. Anyway, the first time she brought it, I was being my nice self, I’m sure, and gushed about how delicious it was. The fact that I only made it through 1/4 of my slice blob clearly didn’t matter. But that’s ok! I was just being nice. Surely nothing bad could come from being nice! Flash forward five or six Thanksgivings and she’s brought that pie EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR. This year, she even brought two. TWO! When we can barely get through half a pie with the obligatory post-Thanksgiving-feast slice. And this, my friends, is why you never say you love something when you kind of just tolerate it. YOU’VE BEEN WARNED!!!)

The rest of Thanksgiving passed with a haze of tryptophan and snacks and football until about 6:15, when my phone rang. As I answered the 1-800 number, I saw that I had also gotten a notification from my Amex app. A sense of foreboding spreads…. Sure enough, an automated voice on the other end of the line was notifying me that suspicious activity had been noticed on my Amex account and that I should verify that I had made the following purchase. In a panic, I hit the option to repeat and urgently asked Luffy if he’d used my credit card that day. He hadn’t. I hadn’t. But someone had.

When I responded that I hadn’t made the transaction, I was immediately forwarded to a live-person-type representative who went over the charges with me again. Strange transactions from Google Payments and some restaurant I’d never heard of. I assured the rep that I hadn’t even used my card today – I’d been at home! He shut my card down immediately, issued me a new one, and marked the transactions that had gone through as fraudulent, assuring me that I’d bear no responsibility for them. YAY Amex!! He was very polite and exceedingly helpful and I will forever be grateful that Amex was watching my card while I was enjoying the holiday.

When I got off the phone, I recapped the conversation for Luffy and pulled up my card activity through my app. There were about eight transactions that had gone through, totaling about $90 (Amex had declined the transaction when the thief had tried to push through a transaction for $164). You could see that they’d done several small payments to see if the card number was good. Once they finally had it, they pushed through increasingly larger transactions.

I’m not responsible for any of the charges, of course (YAY Amex!!), but it is a very strange feeling, to have one’s credit card number stolen. I feel vulnerable, like I’ve had my privacy invaded. I have no idea how or where they got it. If it was a pull from a swipe of my card at a physical location or  a hack into a database that stores my info. I don’t know if they got it months ago and just got around to selling it/using it or if they stole it recently. All I can do is update my accounts to my new card information and hope that it doesn’t happen again.

So that put a bit of a damper on Thanksgiving. We tried to turn the evening around though (champagne to the rescue!) and dug up old videos of my brother to initiate his girlfriend.

The rest of the week passed quickly with family activities. More baking. Watching movies together. Cooking. Chatting. Watching more movies. Fun times. And Jas did eventually stop hissing at my parents’ cats every time they moved – success!


A story for a very special Monday

On a hot and muggy Wednesday a little over four years ago, I sat down at a table in a small conference room of a Big 4 public accounting firm. It was my first day. There were dozens of newly minted auditors milling around, trying to form connections and bonds and not screw up our first day. We received laptops and email addresses, played dumb ice breaker games, and tried to remember all of the useful bits of information we were bombarded with. Wednesday through Friday we had a local orientation, where we were introduced to how our office worked. The next week, we were all headed down to Houston for national training.

On Friday, about midway through the morning, I received an email. It was a short email, something along the lines of “this is useful – share it with your class.” The sender had attached a spreadsheet filled with Excel shortcuts and commands. (I sent it to a couple of people I had tentatively made friends with, but was too shy to send it to the entire group.) I quickly found out that the sender was a Staff II on my first scheduled engagement (I had about four weeks of unscheduled time after training). I couldn’t pronounce his name, and showed it to my table mate because I was already freaked out that he had contacted me. She knew him, through college, and said he was a cool guy.

Over the next few weeks, I had a crash course in adulthood. I traveled by myself for training, which was fun but stressful and also required that I make dinner plans with these tentative friends (is it apparent by now that I really don’t make friends all that quickly???). I learned that working meant that I’d sometimes have to do things I didn’t want to do. (I vividly remember my first day after training, I was picked up by one of my future engagements to do some work at the office. They wanted me to scan in permanent files so they’d have electronic copies. I had hundreds of files checked out and when it came time to head home for the evening, my senior didn’t have anywhere for me to store them. He asked me to ask the mail room clerk if I could store the files there. This paralyzed me and for a solid 10 minutes I tried to think of a way I could get around imposing on a stranger like this before finally coming to the realization that I’d just have to do it. The clerk turned out to be a very nice and helpful man, and didn’t mind in the least.) I put down some roots by finding local exercise classes to teach and worked them into my already busy schedule (I taught at 5:30am!).

By mid-September, I was all set to head out to a new engagement. (I should pause and explain that as an auditor I rotated through teams and engagements as needed. Sometimes I worked with the same team for a few weeks, others I only worked with for a few days. During unscheduled time, I might get picked up by a random team that just needed an extra person for a week or so. For my regular clients, I had a recurring schedule.) It was a small team, just myself, the staff II who’d emailed me, and a senior. We were doing SOX work for a few days. The senior was nice, although a tad bit self-absorbed, and the other staff was very helpful. He patiently walked me through all of the work I was assigned and never seemed annoyed by my questions. I still wasn’t confident on the pronunciation of his name, so I avoided saying it. What struck me most about him, that first week, was how smart he was. He was easily the smartest person I had ever met. He basically made the senior obsolete (a fact which she thoroughly took advantage of as she left the bulk of the work to him) and was able to keep up discussion with the engagement partner on complex accounting matters. Not only was he brilliant, but he was also fast. He could flip through spreadsheets and assignments so quickly, even the senior had trouble keeping up.

I remember lamenting to my mom, how was I ever going to follow this guy? He was so smart and I was … not that smart. Don’t get me wrong! I am smart. Very smart. I have the GPA and the degrees and the license to prove it. But this guy, he was brilliant. How could I ever step into his role the next year when he moved on and I moved up? My team would be so disappointed in me, I told my mom.

When our team came together again in late October, personal matters were interfering with my work. My trusty truck broke down not once, but twice! Over the course of three days, I was towed twice and in the repair shop three times. My truck first broke down as I was on my way to my 5:30am class. The second time was after work, at the client site, a good 45 minute drive from my apartment. I sat in their private drive for two hours, waiting for a tow truck. When I got to work the next morning, the team admonished me, saying I should have called one of them. The other staff, in particular, told me that he would have come back for me, if nothing else but to keep me company as I waited. (And to possibly defend me from the tow truck guy who merrily informed me that he had just been released from prison earlier that year! Lovely information, isn’t it, when you realize that it’s after dark and you’re alone with this man and he’s driving you through an area that you are completely unfamiliar with.) “You can always call me,” he said.

I finally got the courage to say his name when we worked together again after Thanksgiving. Our senior had another engagement scheduled and couldn’t make it out, so it was just the two of us. He again showed the patience of a saint when it came to teaching me and answering my questions. His humor also started to show through as he joked around with the company’s internal auditor who shared a conference room with us. He let me go an hour early on Friday, but I stayed around for a while, chatting.

In January, we ramped up for busy season. We worked twelve hour days during the week and met in our firm’s downtown office for another six hours on Saturday. I got permission to be a tad bit late to work on Saturdays, since I taught an 8:15am class on those days. I had to report by 10am at the latest, which meant that I was often flying in with damp hair, flushed from the rush and the recent exercise. Saturdays were more relaxed and I was startled, the first Saturday, when I arrived to find him in athletic shorts and a t-shirt. I hadn’t realized he was in such good shape.

I forgot my charger that first day and had to share his. I remember feeling oddly excited about this. Like a teenager, asking to borrow a pen from a crush, I had that giddy rush of nerves. I mean, it’s his laptop charger! It plugs into his laptop! I’m sure my bizarre reaction was one-sided. We kept up the share-a-charger thing throughout busy season.

That was also the day that I told him about Michael. It was after lunch, our senior had gone somewhere for a while, and that left just the two of us. I honestly didn’t mean to and I definitely hadn’t planned spilling the whole story to him that day (or, you know, ever). He was just such a good listener, I found myself spilling those dark stories, something I’d only told one other person. I don’t even really remember how we got on the subject that would segue to my abusive past and to be honest, I don’t really remember his reaction all that much because I was so horrified with myself. (There are boundaries Belle! You’ve just crossed about a million of them…) He must have taken it in stride because he didn’t seem to treat me any differently afterwards, like I had feared.

A turning point came in the last of our three back-to-back weeks on this particular client. Our senior had a breakfast meeting and the intern had car trouble, so we found ourselves alone again. I remember making myself tea as I waited for my computer to start up (auditor’s computers are notorious for taking a good 20 minutes to boot up because of all the encryption software). We idly chatted as we waited. And then, it wasn’t just chatter to fill the time. We were ignoring our computers, though they were ready to go. We had turned to face each other, fully engaged in our conversation. We talked about music and cars and college and life. We were so deep into conversation, that our senior completely surprised us when she came in. I was irrationally annoyed that she had intruded, until I realized that it was nearly 10am and we had been talking almost an hour and a half. Later that day, he sent me an IM, inviting me to a happy hour with his friends the following Monday.

All weekend, I looked forward to it. I called my best friend Liz to get her opinion on whether this was a date or not. I texted the boy, trying to figure out if he was flirting or just friendly and hilariously sarcastic. I agonized over what to wear, particularly since I wasn’t sure I’d have time to change after work. True to form, I put together a detailed outfit plan, complete with built-in contingencies. Monday went by quickly and I was actually able to leave early enough to change into jeans and got to the bar on time. I was nervous when I walked in, afraid that I wouldn’t recognize him (I see someone out of typical context and it’s like, I have no idea who you are). I spotted him at the bar (or was it him?!) and said hello. We moved to a table in the back where we had room for his friends (who yes, eventually did come). I had a wonderful time with him and his friends, laughing and talking. I decided it was a date when he paid for my drinks and I had already decided that I really, really liked him when he asked to see me again the coming Saturday. He told me he’d cook for me and I gave him a few bonus points. He walked me to my car and I let him kiss me goodnight. Then I decided he hadn’t kissed me enough and used his lapels to drag him down for another kiss or two. I drove home with the widest smile imaginable.

That brilliant, kind, and funny staff II was, of course, Luffy. We’ve been together ever since that happy hour date (I tease him that it was actually a trial date, as he brought along his best friend to judge me – he claims he only did this to make me feel more comfortable). By October of that same year, we were engaged, and by the next October, married. It’s been two years since we stood in front of our family and friends and pledged our life and love to one another. I’m thankful every day that he’s in my life, that we found each other and chose to spend our lives together.

Luffy, I’ll love you till the sky falls down.