Few Things Are Better Than A Cross-Stitching Biker: Answer Me This (Vol. 2)

I made a few stabs at posting last week, but pretty much all I could think about was the fallout from our oh-so-lovely stomach bug. And by fallout I mean I pulled my neck muscles so badly that the pain migrated to my head and my ear and it felt like somebody was stabbing me with an ice pick. And I couldn’t stop crying – in the car, at the urgent care clinic, and (most dramatically) at the pharmacist’s counter, waiting for my muscle relaxer.

I wrote up a whole post on the matter, and then thought better of burdening you fine people with that tedium. Aren’t you relieved?

So to get myself over the obsessed-with-debilitating-pain-in-my-ear hump, here I am with another round of Answer Me This, a link-up with Kendra at Catholic All Year. She asks the questions, we answer them. Be sure to head over to Kendra’s to see who else did the answering.

Answer Me This3


1. How often do you take public transportation?

These days, just about never. Once in a great while I’ll get on the Washington Metro to do touristy things with out-of-town visitors, but that’s pretty much it.

When I lived and worked in the immediate DC area, however, I took the Metro almost every day. I mostly loved it. I didn’t like the hot, crowded, stressful days when you couldn’t get a seat and you barely made it onto a train, but I liked the boring, slower-paced days.

Not only did Metro give me great access to parts of the city I would never have attempted driving to (or parking in), it made commuting easy and (at times) even refreshing. Both my apartment and my office were within walking distances of stations, so once I grew accustomed to my route, Metro allowed me to not think much about the process of commuting. I had the freedom to daydream and read (I read far more in that period of my life than I’d done before or I’ve done since) and engage in some fabulous people watching.

When you commute on public transportation, you tend to see the same people over and over again. There was one gentleman who dressed all in white and had a head full of the craziest gray hair. He looked just like Mark Twain. Another man, immaculately dressed, would stand stock-still, so close to the doors that you swore his nose must be touching them. Once they opened, off he would go with maximum efficiency. And then there was a great, big man – a burly, biker-looking guy – who did the most beautiful cross-stitch on his commute.

Hands-down, the happiest day of my DC-commuting life was the day that Mark Twain sat next to Cross-Stitch Guy! I just about skipped into my office and squealed the news to my colleagues, I was so excited.

On my evening commute, I loved watching one young family with a small daughter. Sometimes her mom picked her up from daycare, sometimes her dad did. Regardless of which it was, they would pull out some beautiful picture book and read to her the whole way home. It was entrancing. I loved watching the parents’ tenderness, hearing their gentle voices, seeing that little girl so well cared for. And it was nice, just for a moment, to feel the warmth of being read to, even if the stories weren’t meant for me.

I also, unfortunately, can’t help but associate my metro-commuting days with September 11. I saw smoke rising from the Pentagon from one of those trains. I spent weeks being rushed past the Pentagon station, smelling the acrid smoke. And I spent years wondering what happened to the people I saw get off at that station on that awful morning.


2. How many cousins do you have?

More than you can imagine.

To begin with, I have 32 first cousins: 21 on my mom’s side, 11 on my dad’s. Though I’m one of the oldest grandchildren in both families (my youngest first cousins are only seven years old!), we already have quite a few cousins in the next generation: between the eight of us grandkids who are married so far, there are 22 great-grandchildren. Imagine how many there will be when the rest of my generation marries! (My boys, by the way, have twelve first cousins.)

Then there are my mom’s cousins. She’s got a boatload (I don’t know, 60 or so?), quite a few of whom I know, and some of whom I know well. And then they have kids, so I have those cousins too. (Again, some of whom I’m close to – one was even one of my bridesmaids.) And of course, some of them also have kids.

Then there are my grandparents’ cousins (again, scores of them), some of whom I know. This summer, I’m on a family reunion planning committee with several of my grandfather’s cousins. (It’s mind-boggling to me that the patriarch and matriarch of the family who will gather for the reunion are my great-great-grandparents.)

Crazy stuff! My college friends used to say, “Can’t we go anywhere without running into one of your relatives?” Umm… nope. Not in this region. That’s what you get when (1) your family is good at – ahem – propagating and (2) your family has been in the same place for hundreds of years.

My mom's side of the family at our wedding five years ago. Something like ten more family members have been added since then!

My mom’s side of the family at our wedding five years ago. Something like ten more family members have been added since then!

3. Have you ever fired a gun?

Yes, but I did not enjoy it. My family are very into hunting and shooting, and each year on Thanksgiving morning, my uncle and aunt host a “Turkey Shoot” – that is, a trap shoot for the adults and a turkey-shaped target shoot for the kids. My husband and brother and most of the menfolk (as well as some of the women) love it. I just love that they love it.

One year, the guys insisted that I give it a go. So I – begrudgingly – hoisted up a big ol’ shotgun and pulled the trigger. I liked absolutely nothing about the experience: the gun was too heavy, it was too loud, it kicked too hard, and I didn’t come anywhere close to hitting my clay pigeon.

Never again. (With a shotgun, at least. I do have a modest desire to learn how to shoot a handgun, just because I think it’s one of those skills that would be good to have.)

My preferred way of spending Thanksgiving morning.

My preferred way of spending Thanksgiving morning.

4. Do you ride roller coasters?

Absolutely not. I rode a few, many years ago, but they were not happy occasions. And as my motion sickness has gotten progressively worse over the years, I’d better not try them again.

5. What’s your favorite flower?

Lily of the Valley: they’re so dainty and refreshing and they smell so sweet. I tend to prefer other flowers that are clusters of small blooms too, like hydrangea and lupine and lilac. Oh, and I just love peonies and roses – what’s not to like about them?

6. Are you allergic to anything?

I’m allergic to three or four antibiotics and what feels like almost every skincare product I encounter. I have one soap, one lotion, one perfume, one brand of make-up, and one brand of hair products that I’ve been using for years. I dare not try new ones because it seems like every time I do, I have an allergic reaction.

That said, I am very grateful that neither my boys nor I have food allergies. Boy, does that make life easier!

And with that… we’re done! Stop over to Kendra’s for more!

Answer Me This

I’m on something of a link-up kick right now. This here post is my fourth in four days. Whew! I’ve been using the link-ups as a kick in the pants to get myself back in the habit of regular blogging after my post-baby hiatus. (Speaking of which, look who’s one month old today!)


I promise to emerge from the pattern soon. It’s about time to post something a little more original. And whether it’s my four (link-up) posts in four days or some brain synapses that are recovering from pregnancy and newborn-hood, there are a bunch of topics I’m excited to tackle soon.

‘Till then, welcome to “Answer Me This,” a new link-up from Kendra at Catholic All Year. Each Sunday, Kendra invites bloggers to answer a new set of questions. I was a little hesitant to participate at first, because really, I kind of doubt anyone will be interested to read about my beverage preferences or whether I think I’m becoming my mother. But! I always enjoy reading such things from other people – so maybe, just maybe somebody out there will enjoy reading mine. Here we go!

Answer Me This3


1. Are you becoming your mother?

I don’t know. Mom, what do you think?

It’s certainly been strange, in the handful of years since I became a wife and mother, to see myself doing things that I’ve always associated with my mom. But as far as becoming her goes, I guess I think that would require us to be more similar, personality-wise. And I think I inherited more of my father’s temperament, so… maybe I should consider whether I’m becoming him?

2. Coffee or tea?

Coffee, mostly. But also tea.

I kind of dabbled in coffee a bit in college, but didn’t develop much of a fondness for it (or a reliance on it) until I started lobbying. At that point, work was (at times) so relentless that I needed that caffeine crutch to get me through it. Also, it was really, really nice to take a break from all the pressure/frustration/wandering/strategizing/waiting to saunter down to a cute little coffee shop for a sugared-up pick-me-up. And a scone. I love scones.

When I married Brennan, my coffee attachment became more of a commitment. Because he’s pretty much obsessed with the stuff. He actually roasts his own coffee. He buys raw coffee beans (online) and roasts with his fancy roaster about three times a week. Then we grind them up in his fancy grinder and brew them up in his fancy coffee machine. And on weekends when he’s on an espresso kick, Brennan dolls them all up into the most wonderful, proper cappuccinos with his fancy espresso machine. Yum.

This is what a home coffee roaster looks like -- or ours, at least. There are different kinds, but for the most part, they're all glorified popcorn poppers.

This is what a home coffee roaster looks like — or ours, at least. There are different kinds, but for the most part, they’re all glorified popcorn poppers.


Here are some coffee beans before they’re roasted. What a lovely shade of drab olive green.

In progress.

In progress.

And... the perfect light roast!

And… the perfect light roast!

So, I’ve been spoiled. It’s hard for anybody else’s coffee to compare. Starbucks? Not even close. Though I do enjoy the place for the convenience factor and the social aspect. (Yay for mommy dates during preschool!)

It’s even harder for anybody else’s coffee to compare for Brennan. He’s an admitted coffee snob. But (and this is a little random), do you know where we – to our great surprise – tasted the best cappuccinos of our lives? Not in Italy, nor Austria or Germany or any of the other continental European countries we’ve visited. Not in a major American city. Nope – it was a small town in rural County Clare, Ireland, in the back room of a touristy little gift shop. Let me tell you, that stuff was amaaazing. Just perfect.

We actually had lots of other great coffees and cappuccinos on our (honeymoon) visit to Ireland. We couldn’t have been more pleasantly surprised – we’d figured Ireland was more of a tea country. (Undoubtedly it is a tea country, but they sure can do a decent coffee!)

Which brings me to tea. I like it, especially on a rainy afternoon with an interesting book to read. (And the TIME in which to read!) My favorite is a good Earl Grey, with milk and sugar.

3. What foreign country would you like to visit?

I’d really like to visit the United Kingdom. I always kind of figured I’d get there first, before visiting any other foreign country. I considered it a stepping stone, of sorts, into international travel. But lo and behold, I got to Canada first, then Germany, Austria, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Ireland, and the Cayman Islands. And I’ve still never visited the U.K.!

I’ve read so much British literature and history and news, I feel as if I’ve been there. I’ve known bunches of people from the U.K. A decent portion of my ancestry is English or Scottish. So… someday, hopefully, I’ll get there. Someday when we’re in another international-travel period of our lives, I suppose.

4. Do you cry easily?

Not usually, but sometimes, yes. That is, though I’m not generally much of a crier (nope, didn’t cry when I got engaged or married; didn’t cry when my kids were born), I cry quite easily when I’m the least bit hormonal or when I’m over-tired. So, umm… in these newborn days? Yes, I cry. This afternoon I started to cry over a country song that I must have heard hundreds of times before. Tonight I just about started crying because I was hungry and tired. (I know, I know: Eat a snack and go to bed, Julie!)

5. How often do you wear heels?

Almost never. I used to wear them all the time when I was in the professional world, but now I stick to my comfy Clark’s flats. I do, however, keep a few pairs of heels in reserve for when I attend the odd wedding or formal dinner. Of course.

6. Do you play an instrument?

Nope. I took clarinet for two years in elementary school, but I wasn’t very good at it and I didn’t enjoy it much. When we were made to choose between band and chorus in middle school, it was an easy decision. I went with chorus and never looked back – I’ve sung in choirs for something like sixteen years of my life and I’ve cantored for seven or eight years. So I suppose my voice is my instrument. Kidding – I’m kidding.


Alright. Thanks to Kendra for hosting this fun new link-up. And thanks to those of you who were interested enough to read my contribution to it. Head on over to Kendra’s for the rest!