Tuesday, February 28, 2006

We are quite the 21st century couple

I'm fully convinced that I've developed ADD as a result of technology. Right now I'm playing Mine Sweeper on my laptop, watching TV, half-watching the DVD on our new hometown that J is watching on HIS laptop, and trying to pay attention to Arcadia.

This can't be a good thing.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

A must-read

Jenn's Journal

For anyone who knows someone who is going through infertility. Big thanks to Jamila for the link.

Well, it's not exactly a plague of locusts

Today was our second (or first, depending on which way you look at it) open house. The good news is that we think we may have two interested buyers. One even came back later in the afternoon to look around again.

The bad news is that because J and I had to clear out of the house for three hours, I decided to get a haircut. On my way out the door I commented to J that this might not be a very smart thing to do until next weekend because February seems to have it out for me this year, and I really didn't want to chance another bad haircut. Sadly, I didn't listen to myself and proceeded to go to the not-cheap salon near our grocery store.

To set the stage, I need to go back three months to Christmastime. I had grown my hair out to below my shoulders for the first time since high school, and I decided that it was time for a change again. One day, against my better judgement, I let a mall salon stylist cut my hair. The cut looked fine for the first few days, but before long it became pretty obvious that one side was slightly longer than the other. Rather than finding a new stylist to fix it, however, I elected to go around for the next few months looking like someone who didn't know how to use a curling iron.

Today was my first haircut since that awful one, and I showed the stylist what had happened. She nodded, spent 10 minutes looking at my hair from all different angles before she sent me to be shampooed, and I was feeling pretty good about things. Then she started to cut. She cut and cut and cut, and before long I could clearly see that (yet again) one side was longer than the other. Not just a little longer, either. Like half an inch longer.

When I pointed it out to the stylist, she didn't quite believe me. Then I pushed my hair behind my ears (like I normally wear it) and it looked even worse. She snipped and snipped again and it still looked like crap. When I (again) showed her how awful it was, she started getting defensive, as though I was asking her to do something completely unorthodox and not at all what I'd originally told her I wanted. I didn't want to yell because I needed her to fix the problem, but I was thisclose to just losing it and telling her that I'd gotten far, FAR better haircuts from my sister when she was still in beauty school, much less from someone who was charging as much as she was.

Julia, if my hair still looks like ass next month when I come to visit, will you fix it for me?

Ninety minutes after I'd first walked in the door, she'd finally gotten it to a point where it was good enough for me to be seen on the street, but certainly not something I was happy about paying $50 for. I didn't even leave a tip, I was so mad. It wasn't even just that the cut had been bad, it was that she acted like I was completely out of line to expect that my hair wouldn't look like it was two different lengths when I wore it straight or pushed it behind my ears.

In any case, I think I'll just hide under the bed for the next few days and wait until March arrives to try anything else new.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Love is...

Coming home after a long day and finding out that your husband has gone out and bought you a feel-good chick flick because he knows that you've been blue lately.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


Doctor ordered a few tests, talked to us about possible causes, and referred me to an RE (reproductive endocrinologist). It was pretty much exactly what we expected, aside from the fact that my veins were stubbornly not cooperating and I ended up with four needles sticks and had to take a trip over to the hospital phlebotomy lab before they were finally able to take my blood.

Note to self: find out who invented those butterfly needles and hunt them down. Those things really hurt!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Update on the update

Three posts on one day. Good God, I need a life.

Anyway, Arcadia is doing much better now. She's home, eating lots of food, and had so much energy at dinnertime that J literally had to tackle her to get her to take her medicine. She and Codi have evidently made up, since the first thing Codi did when I walked in the door with Arcadia was to come over and sniff her, and then half an hour later Arcadia tackled Codi sort of like teenage guys do when they haven't seen each other in awhile.

It's nice when the babies love each other.

Update on Arcadia

Apparently Arcadia is really sick, in a lot of pain, has probably been this way for awhile, and we had no idea.

(I'd insert a crying smiley face here if I had one, but I don't, so you'll just have to use your imaginations.)

I'm torn about how I feel. On the one hand, she does cry sometimes when we pick her up and she sometimes runs for her box when we approach her, but on the other hand, she cries about EVERYTHING, and spends most of her time running around, playing with Codi, and rolling on the floor with her toys. She doesn't ACT sick or in pain, but she is. I shudder to think that we almost didn't take her to the vet to get checked out last weekend because we thought we were soooo smart and knew exactly why she was misbehaving.

I also have my suspicions about whether the supposedly ultra-healthy food we put her on last summer has played a part in this. If so, Codi could be having the same problem, but because she's so anti-social and anti-human contact anyway, how would we know?

(more crying smiley faces)

The good news is that the vet thinks she can treat it with medication only, and we can pick her (and her meds, new food, and a few guilt-inspired treats) up tonight. I can't wait to hold my little girl and tell her how sorry I am.

Reason #547 why I shouldn't be allowed in the kitchen

Scene: Our house, Sunday night

That's a kitchen knife. It's impaled on the floor because I dropped it while trying to open a bag of frozen chicken poppers. After dropping it I spent 10 minutes running around the condo trying to find the digital camera just to take a picture of it because really, it's kind of cool.

Here's J, shaking his head because I convinced him to pose his foot next to the knife so it would be easier to see that it is, in fact, sticking up out of the floor. The things we do for love...

Monday, February 20, 2006

Not so cute kitties

Codi is pissed. P.I.S.S.E.D.

It all started on Saturday when Arcadica peed on the couch. She'd never done it before (thank goodness) and even though both J and I were 95% convinced that it was just her little way of telling us that she was fed up with strange people coming through the house, we figured that it was a good idea to take her to the vet "just in case."

Our appointment was this afternoon, and after much deliberation we decided to bring Codi too. She didn't need to see the vet, but we hoped that she'd be a calming influence on Arcadia, who has a violent hatred of the car. We have one big dog-sized carrier for both of them, and the drive over was predictably uneventful.

It was a busy day at the vet, so we ended up waiting for over an hour to finally see the doctor. She poked and prodded Arcadia for awhile and determined that she needs to go back tomorrow for more tests.

Meanwhile, Codi decided that she'd had enough of the vet's office and didn't want to be touched, breathed on, or even looked at by anyone. Unfortunately, she didn't tell Arcadia that, because the second she got back in the carrier Arcadia did her best to meld her body with Codi's. This did not go over well, and we spent the entire drive back yelling at Codi to stop hissing at and attacking Arcadia. For a few minutes I was really worried that we'd have to pull over to break up a full-fledged cat fight. I figured that as soon as we got home, though, Codi would go back to her usual loving self and would forget all about being mad at Arcadia.

Boy, was I wrong.

We've been home for over three hours now, and so far Codi has hissed at/tried to attack Arcadia a dozen times. At one point, she had Arcadia pinned in the hallway and Juan had to physically move her so Arcadia could come into the living room. Given that Codi usually lets Arcadia be the dominant cat, this is exceptionally unusual behavior.

So, as unfortunate as it is that poor Arcadia will have to spend all day tomoorrow at the vet, I think it's best that they be separated for awhile so hopefully Codi gets out of her funk.

Please make up, babies!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

In other news...

I'm a very happy camper this weekend. I've spent some time with friends, someone toured the condo yesterday, and (wait for it) I got a new laptop! An iBook G4 to be exact.

It's a combination birthday present/something frivilous to make me feel better after the last few sucky weeks. So far, it's doing its job very well. Plus, now I can bookmark every little shopping page/blog/message board I want, and Juan can have only manly sites bookmarked on his computer.

The cats seem to approve, since laptop=Mama sitting on the couch=LAP TO SIT IN. No day seems bad when you have a purring cat to snuggle with.

Thursday, February 16, 2006


Today has been one shitty day. I don't want to say too much about it publicly yet (lawyers are involved) but I'm not sure how much I'm going to be updating for the next little while. I really don't know what's going to happen and I'd rather not just post "this sucks" over and over again without at least being able to talk about what "this" is.

Codi and Arcadia

Almost three years ago I moved to D.C. J and I had just gotten engaged and we'd talked extensively about getting a cat when I arrived.

J and I are both cat people, and in fact one of the first signs I had that he was "the one" was that my cat Checkers (who lives with my parents) latched onto him in a big way the first time he met her. She was usually glued to my side when I would come home for the weekend, but the second Juan appeared she dropped me like a hot potato and was loyal only to him.

In any case, we had decided to get a cat of our very own since Checkers was just too old and set in her ways to make the 2,000 mile car trip with me. My dad drove out with me, and at some point along the way he suggested that we get two cats so they could keep each other company while J and I were away every day. Being a cat person, I immediately siezed on this idea and told J that we HAD to get two cats. Two cats would equal twice the snuggles, twice the purring, and twice the fun! It just made sense!

The morning after my dad and I arrived in Washington, I convinced Juan to go to PetSmart's adoption fair with me, "just to look."

Ha! HA HA HA! J has since learned that when I want to "look" at something, I usually mean that I want to "get" it immediately. Delayed gratification isn't something I've learned to appreciate.

So, we looked. There must have been a dozen cats at the adoption center that day--most of them very recent arrivals. This little girl was the first one to catch my eye

She was friendly and talkative, and right away I knew that she was coming home with us. She shared her crate with a slightly shyer cat, who didn't seem very intereseted in getting petted

J really liked her, and after some discussion we decided (well, I decided and J didn't say no) to get them that day. We filled out oodles of paperwork, bought food, a litterbox, and toys, and brought our babies home. By the time we made it into the apartment I'd already named the first one Arcadia (from a book by Isaac Asimov) and the second one Cosima, or Codi for short (from Barbara Kingsolver's Animal Dreams.

They were skinny as rails, scared of us, and spent the first few days finding all the good hiding places in their new home. We just fell in love with them, and even though they have a tendency to misbehave, I wouldn't trade them for anything.

Who wouldn't love this face?

Or this one?

Now, if we could just get them to stop waking us up to play every night...

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Random real estate musings

Well, after yesterday's Valentine's excitement, I'm a little pooped! I talked to both my parents last night, and they're really excited about planning their vow renewal. My mom is even going to see if her wedding dress still fits (and I'll be $10 it does).

No open house this weekend, per a phone call from our realtor last night. Apparently there's some big NASCAR race on Sunday. This means that the plague of locusts probably won't arrive until next weekend, since that's when our third/first (depending on how you're counting) tentative open house is scheduled. You've been warned.

Someone came down from Columbia, MD this morning (which is a significant drive) to see the condo, so that's good news. We'll see tonight if they liked it or not. The realtor mentioned something about maybe coming down in price a bit in the next few weeks if we don't get any offers, which J and I are going to have to do some serious thinking about. On the one hand, I really believe we can get what we're asking and it's not like we're in a huge hurry to get the place sold, we just want it done by June 1. On the other hand, we did bump the price up $10,000 from where we originally agreed to list it because a number of units went under contract all at once last month, so bringing it down $10,000 isn't that big a deal. However, $10,000 is still an awful lot of money and I want to get it if we can.

All of that is really boring, though, so to energize myself a bit I started making a list of the things I really want in our next home.

*two stories
*3-4 bedrooms
*2+ baths
*a fenced backyard with at least a little grass and a patio
*a front yard that's been desertscaped (this is Texas after all)
*a 2 car garage
*a little courtyard between the front yard and the entrance
*separate living and family rooms
*a formal dining room
*carpet or tile flooring
*nice neighborhood (which means that bars on the windows are not necessary, which they are in a large part of the town)
*kitchen with lots of counterspace and cabinets
*storage space

Sounds nice, huh?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


Let me just say, this has been a really sweet Valentine's Day.

J surprised me with chocolates and a beautiful garnet necklace AND took the whole day off work (fooling me this morning by leaving at 5:00 as usual and just going to the neighborhood Starbucks to wait until I'd left) so he could surprise me at my office and take me out to lunch.

Then, as soon as I got back, my dad e-mailed me to let me know that he proposed (again) to my mom this morning, and they're going to have a vow renewal for their 30th wedding anniversary this summer in the same chapel where they got married.

Everyone say it together--Awwwwww!!!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Hope you all have a very happy Valentine's Day!!!

Monday, February 13, 2006

I'm famous!

My trip to Maine was so exciting, it made the news!

(If the link sends you to the main page, go to "Editorial" and "A Big Enough Umbrella".)

Hee...this is Kathleen's column about the trip, and all the really neat things we got to do. Thanks again to her for being such a wonderful host and tour guide!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

It Comes and Goes

Feeling a little down tonight.

I actually had a pretty good weekend. Given that yet another cycle has come to an end (number 10) and my appointment isn't going to be for a week and a half, I didn't really dwell much on not being pregnant. J and I spent a quiet Saturday at home reading (me) and playing on the computer (him), then used up most of today cleaning and going to the grocery store.

After dinner I decided to watch "Warm Springs", a movie about Franklin Roosevelt's struggle with polio and the rehabilitation clinic he started in Georgia before becoming President. I'd rented it from Netflix a couple weeks ago, but hadn't made time for it until tonight.

About halfway through the movie, there's a scene where all the patients and their families, including Franklin and Eleanor, are in the dining room celebrating. Kathy Bates, who plays a physical therapist, asks everyone for their attention, then urges a young patient to stand up. The girl walks--for the first time--as everyone watches in amazement. The camera focuses on on Roosevelt, as he sees this little girl doing the only thing he himself wants to do. Walk.

It's probably a testimony to Kenneth Branaugh's exceptional ability as an actor that I saw on his face the same confusing mixture of emotions I've been feeling lately. Happy for the little girl who won't spend her life confined to a wheelchair, but at the same time more jealous of her than he can say.

I hate that I feel this way. Hate that I can't walk down the street without seeing someone who's pregnant or who has a young child without feeling that horrible jealousy. I hate that I can't even watch TV or read a book without coming across a character who's pregnant or has young children. Last week J and I watched an episode of his favorite show, "House" where the patient didn't want any more children so she was taking birth control pills on the side while also undergoing fertility treatments to make her husband think that she still wanted to have a baby. I hated that woman so much. I kept watching because I wanted to spend time with J, but if I had been alone I would have turned off the TV after the first five minutes.

Most days I'm fine, some days I'm not. At this point the good days far outnumber the bad. December was the first time I cried, January was predictably awful, and thus far February has had its moments. Mostly, though I'm absolutely fine and don't obsess about it. It's days like today, however, when this sad/jealous/angry feeling comes over me at a completely unexpected moment that I feel it most acutely. Writing about how I'm feeling helps, and so does e-mailing with the group of people I've come to trust and respect over the last few months.

For now, there's nothing to do except wait and focus on all the other good things I have in my life. I have a wonderful husband, a supportive family, great friends, two lovable cats, a roof over my head, a good job, and basically everything--save one--that I ever wanted. For now, I have to be happy with that.

5 Measley Inches

We got 5 inches, and people are still acting like it's the end of the world.

My parents called a few hours ago, worried about us because all the 24-hour news networks were talking about how bad the storm was and how tens of thousands of people in the DC area are without power. I assured them that we're perfectly fine, that the power went off for a little while last night when we were asleep, but that it's sunny and warm now and the snow is already melting.

Five inches in Utah is nothing. It's Thursday. It happens so often that Mark Eubanks (local weather guy) hardly even bothers to put on his white "snow jacket" when 5 inches is coming. Here, though it makes national news.

Granted, the snow was much worse further north in Maryland, and New York, Pennsylvania, and New England were all hit pretty hard. I'm really glad that I didn't schedule my Boston/Maine trip for this weekend (like I originally planned to) since I'd probably be stranded there right now.

Oh well, it's supposed to hit the 50s by mid-week, and all the snow here will probably be gone by next weekend. Just in time for (guess) our next Open House.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

The Snow of the Century!

Weather forecasters here are whipping themselves up into a frenzy over the stom that's supposed to hit most of the East Coast today. On Wednesday they were predicting a sunny, chilly weekend, which we thought would be perfect for the open house we're supposed to be having tomorrow. By Thursday that prediction had turned into a possible 6-10 inches of snow between Saturday and Sunday. Then, last night I heard one forecaster mention the possiblity of getting over a foot of snow, and our realtor called to let us know that she was cancelling the open house since no one was going to want to come out in a storm. Excuse me while I go roll my eyes.

Now, maybe I'm a little skeptical that we're actually getting a big storm because I learned how to drive in a state where 6-10 inches of snow is nothing unusual, and maybe it's because I haven't bought into the D.C. philosophy that even a light dusting of snow means that the world might be coming to an end, so you'd better go to the grocery store and buy all the milk and toilet paper you can get your hands on. It could also be because weather forecasters here are notorious for exaggerating how bad a snowstorm is going to be. Last winter their predictions for snow led to several snow days for local school districts where it was sunny and perfectly dry. Suffice it to say, I'm not holding my breath for the storm of the century, and if we get more than 5 inches I'll eat my new hat.

I am, however, really looking forward to the day when an open house of ours actually happens, since we're 2 for 2 at this point.

In other housing-related news, the guy who was thinking about making an offer last weekend is still thinking about it. Apparently he's going to watch how other homes in his current neighborhood are selling before moving himself. This actually doesn't bother me at all, since he's still out there, still interested in our place, and we're really in no hurry to move.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Happy Birthday Little Sister!

22 years ago today, I got a little sister.

For the first 21 years of her life we didn't get along well at all. Even once we were both out of the house and living apart we didn't seem to have much in common. She liked fashion and styling hair, I liked books and arty movies. When I graudated from college I moved to D.C. while she stayed in Utah, and after that we only really talked when I was in town visiting our parents.

Then a year ago our dad got sick, and everything changed. I went home to stay with my parents when he had surgery, and somewhere around that time Julia and I started to bond as friends as well as sisters. It happened gradually, but these days we talk on the phone a few times a month, e-mail, and I'm really looking forward to hanging out with her when I visit my parents next month.

So, happy birthday Julia--I'm so glad that I have you for a sister.

Circa 1986

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Wicked Cool

Finally, the Booston/Maine post! Last weekend was one of the best times I've had in recent memory. I got to hang out with friends, go shopping, eat some excellent food, and just relax.

Kathleen met me at Logan Airport around noon on Friday, and we drove over to the North End for an amazing Italian lunch. We also made it over to Mike's Pastries, a famous Boston bakery where I had the best cream puff ever.

We really wanted to get to Louisa May Alcott's house before it closed at 3:30, so Kathleen brought out some directions she'd printed from Google Maps.

Lesson one: do not trust Google Maps. Ever. You will get lost in the maze that is downtown Boston, have to call someone who will try to give you directions, and end up going the wrong way on a one-way street with cars headed straight for you.

Clearly, the trip was off to an eventful start.

Once we figured out where the right streets were (and Google Maps was so incredibly wrong, I can't even tell you) we made it to the Alcott House, but not before it closed. The gift shop was still open, though, so we went inside and browsed for a few minutes. Kathleen asked one of the women working the register if we could possibly peek inside for a minute, and she refused so emphatically that I was all for getting out of the shop right then and there. Kathleen, however, has a kind of magic hypnosis that she pulls out for occasions just like this (she did the same thing when she came to visit me and Jamila in November and a store she really wanted to shop in was ready to close) and hypnotized the woman into not only letting us peek inside the house, but taking us on a private, 10 minute tour of the entire place.

Lesson two: Kathleen has scary magic powers that thankfully she only uses for good. Most of the time anyway.

After the Alcott House we drove to Walden Pond and acted goofy in front of a statue of Thoreau.

And desire only the simple life

We are clearly very mature adults.

It was getting dark, so we drove up to her house in Maine. I go to meet Brett, and we ate yummy stir-fry while watching the first six episodes of the British series "The Office" (not to be confused with the American version). I feel like I must be the last person in the country to watch this show, but it is so freaking hilarious. It's been three days and I'm still giggling about the stapler in the Jell-o mold.

Saturday we spent the day in Maine, going to the beach

seeing pretty lighthouses

and snarking about other peoples' poor fashion choices.

Lesson four: if you're sneaky about it, you can take a picture of just about anyone without their noticing it.

We also tried to stalk one of Kathleen's former coworkers, but unfortunately he wasn't at his usual watering hole.

We went to dinner that night at an amazing organic woodfired pizza place, and I ate the best pizza of my life. If you're ever in the Portland area, you must go to this restaurant, even if the wait is an hour. It's that good.

Sunday we lazed around in the morning, and Brett made us his grandma's famous pancakes for breakfast. The secret ingredient is apparently sour cream, and they're delicious. Then we packed up the car and headed back into Boston to meet up with our friends Famaya, Zoe, and Zoe's four-month-old daughter Alexandra.

We had a wonderful time (do you see a theme developing here?) and even took Alex on her first Sephora shopping trip. By this time it was getting late, so we headed back to the airport to meet up with our friend Teddy, whose flight from Paris just happened to be landing a couple hours before mine took off.

It was great getting to hang out and essentially take over an airport Starbucks. Then it was time to say goodbye and I headed for home. The weekend was so much fun, and I'm so depressed that it's over. I don't think Kathleen and I shut up the entire time I was there--we had that much to talk about. I'm so happy I went, and we're already planning to get together after we both move this spring.

Not Boston, but something fun

I love Project Runway. Love it. I don't know the first thing about fashion, and have never read a fashion magazine in my life, but I'm hopelessly addicted to this show. It takes the best parts of reality TV--terrific characters, interesting challenges, and lovable hosts--and eliminates annoying things like alliances and people being "safe" from elimination every week. If you don't watch it, you should. 10:00 Eastern every Wednesday night on Bravo.

If you DO watch Project Runway, you'll understand why I'm currently in love with this t-shirt. It cracks me up.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Today is a much better day

Hoo boy, I just didn't catch a break yesterday. Work drama, personal drama, and both my lunch and my dinner turned out icky. Note to Whole Foods--brown rice California rolls are gross. Please make an extra tray of WHITE rice rolls just for me on Tuesday nights because some days I need at least one thing to go right.

So far, today is kicking yesterday's ass. By way of keeping score about how much better today is: I didn't have a car accident on the way to work today

Today: 1
Yesterday: 0

I haven't had to make any difficult personal decisions

Today: 2
Yesterday: 0

All in all, I'd call that a successful morning.

That's pretty much it. I know I promosed a big post about my Boston/Maine trip, and I swear it's coming, but I just haven't downloaded the pictures (necessary for the full experience) onto my computer yet. I'll do it tonight, and get the whole thing up in time for AW Thursday.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Today is not a good day

Two things:
  • I got in a fender bender on my way into work. Before you freak out (Mom) I was rear ended by somoene going less than 10 mph. I'm fine, a little sore, but fine, and the car has only some very minor paint damage.
  • I had to call my doctor to make an appointment I've been dreading. It's been 10 months, and we're still not pregnant. It's starting to get me pretty depressed, and picking up that phone was really hard.

I can't go home to be miserable because there's a ton to do at the office, and I'll I've managed to accomplish so far today is cry. So, I'm going to sit at my desk, write memos, make phone calls, and just try to keep my shit together until 5:00.

Sunday, February 05, 2006


Well, I'm back. The trip was awesome, and I'll post more when I've downloaded all the pictures I took. Also when it isn't almost 1:00 in the morning.

The big news is that we may have a buyer for our condo. I got an e-mail from our realtor on Saturday that someone who saw the place last week is seriously considering making an offer. The only catch is that the contract would be contingent on the sale of his current townhouse, which is in a very trendy neighborhood the next town over. This is actually perfect for us because ideally we don't want to have to move out of our place until we leave for Texas in May. Depending on how long it takes for the sale of this guy's home to go through, the timing might be perfect.

I'm trying not to get my hopes up too high because we don't have a formal offer yet, but he did come see the place again today, so hopefully we should hear something soon. Until then, I'm feeling relieved that we've at least gotten a nibble.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The happiest day of the year

Happy Groundhog Day to Everyone!!!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

New England, here I come!

Friday morning I take off for a fabulous weekend with my friend Kathleen in Boston and Maine. After the big conference I just finished and some other work aggravations this week, I am so.very.ready for a vacation. We're going to see the city, visit Louisa May Alcott's home, see some gorgeous lighthouses in Maine, and just have an all-around good time. Best of all, we'll get to see three other friends on Sunday before I leave.

The best part of going on vacation to visit friends is that you get to see a new city through the eyes of someone who lives there. I'm not a very adventurous traveler, partly because I'm cheap when it comes to vacations, and partly because I get so overwhelmed when trying to plan a trip to a place I don't know that I just give up and settle for someplace familiar. Going to visit friends who live in places I want to see is the perfect solution, because I get to see the best places in my destination city, plus spend time with great people.

I also love playing tour gide myself in DC. In the almost three years that I've lived here, we've hosted my parents, my sister and brother-in-law, my aunt, my friends Michele and Tim, our nephew, Kathleen, and my husband's entire family is coming out for a week in May. I love going to the museums over and over again, I love introducing people to my favorite restaurants, and I love getting to go home at the end of the day feeling like I saw something new about the city I sometimes take for granted.

So I'm packing my bags, picking some good books for the plane ride, and getting ready to have a seriously good time.

Big night in

Tuesday is my favorite day of the week. It's the night DH and I get takeout, watch "Gilmore Girls", which is our favorite show, and spend time together. Last night was also the State of the Union, which is fun for very different reasons.

I'm a Democrat, but I always watch the State of the Union. Partly because it really is required watching for my job, and partly because I think that even if you don't agree with the President, you owe it to yourself to know what he's proposing for our country, and to object if you don't agree with those proposals. So, if you didn't see the State of the Union last night, I've pasted the text of the prepared speech below.

As Prepared For Delivery

Mr. Speaker, Vice President Cheney, Members of Congress, Members of the Supreme Court and diplomatic corps, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens:

Today our Nation lost a beloved, graceful, courageous woman who called America to its founding ideals and carried on a noble dream. Tonight we are comforted by the hope of a glad reunion with the husband who was taken from her so long ago, and we are grateful for the good life of Coretta Scott King.

Each time I am invited to this rostrum, I am humbled by the privilege, and mindful of the history we have seen together. We have gathered under this Capitol dome in moments of national mourning and national achievement. We have served America through one of the most consequential periods of our history – and it has been my honor to serve with you.
In a system of two parties, two chambers, and two elected branches, there will always be differences and debate. But even tough debates can be conducted in a civil tone, and our differences cannot be allowed to harden into anger. To confront the great issues before us, we must act in a spirit of good will and respect for one another – and I will do my part. Tonight the state of our Union is strong – and together we will make it stronger.

In this decisive year, you and I will make choices that determine both the future and the character of our country. We will choose to act confidently in pursuing the enemies of freedom – or retreat from our duties in the hope of an easier life. We will choose to build our prosperity by leading the world economy – or shut ourselves off from trade and opportunity. In a complex and challenging time, the road of isolationism and protectionism may seem broad and inviting – yet it ends in danger and decline. The only way to protect our people … the only way to secure the peace … the only way to control our destiny is by our leadership – so the United States of America will continue to lead.

Abroad, our Nation is committed to an historic, long-term goal – we seek the end of tyranny in our world. Some dismiss that goal as misguided idealism. In reality, the future security of America depends on it. On September 11th, 2001, we found that problems originating in a failed and oppressive state seven thousand miles away could bring murder and destruction to our country. Dictatorships shelter terrorists, feed resentment and radicalism, and seek weapons of mass destruction. Democracies replace resentment with hope, respect the rights of their citizens and their neighbors, and join the fight against terror. Every step toward freedom in the world makes our country safer, and so we will act boldly in freedom’s cause.

Far from being a hopeless dream, the advance of freedom is the great story of our time. In 1945, there were about two dozen lonely democracies on Earth. Today, there are 122. And we are writing a new chapter in the story of self-government – with women lining up to vote in Afghanistan … and millions of Iraqis marking their liberty with purple ink … and men and women from Lebanon to Egypt debating the rights of individuals and the necessity of freedom. At the start of 2006, more than half the people of our world live in democratic nations. And we do not forget the other half – in places like Syria, Burma, Zimbabwe, North Korea, and Iran – because the demands of justice, and the peace of this world, require their freedom as well.

No one can deny the success of freedom, but some men rage and fight against it. And one of the main sources of reaction and opposition is radical Islam – the perversion by a few of a noble faith into an ideology of terror and death. Terrorists like bin Laden are serious about mass murder – and all of us must take their declared intentions seriously. They seek to impose a heartless system of totalitarian control throughout the Middle East, and arm themselves with weapons of mass murder. Their aim is to seize power in Iraq, and use it as a safe haven to launch attacks against America and the world. Lacking the military strength to challenge us directly, the terrorists have chosen the weapon of fear. When they murder children at a school in Beslan … or blow up commuters in London … or behead a bound captive … the terrorists hope these horrors will break our will, allowing the violent to inherit the Earth. But they have miscalculated: We love our freedom, and we will fight to keep it.

In a time of testing, we cannot find security by abandoning our commitments and retreating within our borders. If we were to leave these vicious attackers alone, they would not leave us alone. They would simply move the battlefield to our own shores. There is no peace in retreat. And there is no honor in retreat. By allowing radical Islam to work its will – by leaving an assaulted world to fend for itself – we would signal to all that we no longer believe in our own ideals, or even in our own courage. But our enemies and our friends can be certain: The United States will not retreat from the world, and we will never surrender to evil.

America rejects the false comfort of isolationism. We are the Nation that saved liberty in Europe, and liberated death camps, and helped raise up democracies, and faced down an evil empire. Once again, we accept the call of history to deliver the oppressed, and move this world toward peace.

We remain on the offensive against terror networks. We have killed or captured many of their leaders – and for the others, their day will come.

We remain on the offensive in Afghanistan – where a fine president and national assembly are fighting terror while building the institutions of a new democracy.

And we are on the offensive in Iraq, with a clear plan for victory. First, we are helping Iraqis build an inclusive government, so that old resentments will be eased, and the insurgency marginalized. Second, we are continuing reconstruction efforts, and helping the Iraqi government to fight corruption and build a modern economy, so all Iraqis can experience the benefits of freedom. Third, we are striking terrorist targets while we train Iraqi forces that are increasingly capable of defeating the enemy. Iraqis are showing their courage every day, and we are proud to be their allies in the cause of freedom.

Our work in Iraq is difficult, because our enemy is brutal. But that brutality has not stopped the dramatic progress of a new democracy. In less than three years, that nation has gone from dictatorship, to liberation, to sovereignty, to a constitution, to national elections. At the same time, our coalition has been relentless in shutting off terrorist infiltration, clearing out insurgent strongholds, and turning over territory to Iraqi security forces. I am confident in our plan for victory … I am confident in the will of the Iraqi people … I am confident in the skill and spirit of our military. Fellow citizens, we are in this fight to win, and we are winning.

The road of victory is the road that will take our troops home. As we make progress on the ground, and Iraqi forces increasingly take the lead, we should be able to further decrease our troop levels – but those decisions will be made by our military commanders, not by politicians in Washington, D.C.

Our coalition has learned from experience in Iraq. We have adjusted our military tactics and changed our approach to reconstruction. Along the way, we have benefited from responsible criticism and counsel offered by Members of Congress of both parties. In the coming year, I will continue to reach out and seek your good advice.

Yet there is a difference between responsible criticism that aims for success, and defeatism that refuses to acknowledge anything but failure. Hindsight alone is not wisdom. And second-guessing is not a strategy.

With so much in the balance, those of us in public office have a duty to speak with candor. A sudden withdrawal of our forces from Iraq would abandon our Iraqi allies to death and prison … put men like bin Laden and Zarqawi in charge of a strategic country … and show that a pledge from America means little. Members of Congress: however we feel about the decisions and debates of the past, our Nation has only one option: We must keep our word, defeat our enemies, and stand behind the American military in its vital mission.

Our men and women in uniform are making sacrifices – and showing a sense of duty stronger than all fear. They know what it is like to fight house to house in a maze of streets … to wear heavy gear in the desert heat … to see a comrade killed by a roadside bomb. And those who know the costs also know the stakes. Marine Staff Sergeant Dan Clay was killed last month fighting the enemy in Fallujah. He left behind a letter to his family, but his words could just as well be addressed to every American. Here is what Dan wrote: "I know what honor is. It has been an honor to protect and serve all of you. I faced death with the secure knowledge that you would not have to…. Never falter! Don’t hesitate to honor and support those of us who have the honor of protecting that which is worth protecting."

Staff Sergeant Dan Clay’s wife, Lisa, and his mom and dad, Sara Jo and Bud, are with us this evening. Our Nation is grateful to the fallen, who live in the memory of our country. We are grateful to all who volunteer to wear our Nation’s uniform – and as we honor our brave troops, let us never forget the sacrifices of America’s military families.

Our offensive against terror involves more than military action. Ultimately, the only way to defeat the terrorists is to defeat their dark vision of hatred and fear by offering the hopeful alternative of political freedom and peaceful change. So the United States of America supports democratic reform across the broader Middle East. Elections are vital – but they are only the beginning. Raising up a democracy requires the rule of law, protection of minorities, and strong, accountable institutions that last longer than a single vote. The great people of Egypt have voted in a multi-party presidential election – and now their government should open paths of peaceful opposition that will reduce the appeal of radicalism. The Palestinian people have voted in elections – now the leaders of Hamas must recognize Israel, disarm, reject terrorism, and work for lasting peace. Saudi Arabia has taken the first steps of reform – now it can offer its people a better future by pressing forward with those efforts. Democracies in the Middle East will not look like our own, because they will reflect the traditions of their own citizens. Yet liberty is the future of every nation in the Middle East, because liberty is the right and hope of all humanity.

The same is true of Iran, a nation now held hostage by a small clerical elite that is isolating and repressing its people. The regime in that country sponsors terrorists in the Palestinian territories and in Lebanon – and that must come to an end. The Iranian government is defying the world with its nuclear ambitions – and the nations of the world must not permit the Iranian regime to gain nuclear weapons. America will continue to rally the world to confront these threats. And tonight, let me speak directly to the citizens of Iran: America respects you, and we respect your country. We respect your right to choose your own future and win your own freedom. And our Nation hopes one day to be the closest of friends with a free and democratic Iran.

To overcome dangers in our world, we must also take the offensive by encouraging economic progress, fighting disease, and spreading hope in hopeless lands. Isolationism would not only tie our hands in fighting enemies, it would keep us from helping our friends in desperate need. We show compassion abroad because Americans believe in the God-given dignity and worth of a villager with HIV/AIDS, or an infant with malaria, or a refugee fleeing genocide, or a young girl sold into slavery. We also show compassion abroad because regions overwhelmed by poverty, corruption, and despair are sources of terrorism, organized crime, human trafficking, and the drug trade.

In recent years, you and I have taken unprecedented action to fight AIDS and malaria, expand the education of girls, and reward developing nations that are moving forward with economic and political reform. For people everywhere, the United States is a partner for a better life. Short-changing these efforts would increase the suffering and chaos of our world, undercut our long-term security, and dull the conscience of our country. I urge Members of Congress to serve the interests of America by showing the compassion of America.

Our country must also remain on the offensive against terrorism here at home. The enemy has not lost the desire or capability to attack us. Fortunately, this Nation has superb professionals in law enforcement, intelligence, the military, and homeland security. These men and women are dedicating their lives to protecting us all, and they deserve our support and our thanks. They also deserve the same tools they already use to fight drug trafficking and organized crime – so I ask you to reauthorize the Patriot Act.

It is said that prior to the attacks of September 11th, our government failed to connect the dots of the conspiracy. We now know that two of the hijackers in the United States placed telephone calls to al-Qaida operatives overseas. But we did not know about their plans until it was too late. So to prevent another attack – based on authority given to me by the Constitution and by statute – I have authorized a terrorist surveillance program to aggressively pursue the international communications of suspected al-Qaida operatives and affiliates to and from America. Previous presidents have used the same constitutional authority I have – and Federal courts have approved the use of that authority. Appropriate Members of Congress have been kept informed. This terrorist surveillance program has helped prevent terrorist attacks. It remains essential to the security of America. If there are people inside our country who are talking with al-Qaida, we want to know about it – because we will not sit back and wait to be hit again.

In all these areas – from the disruption of terror networks, to victory in Iraq, to the spread of freedom and hope in troubled regions – we need the support of friends and allies. To draw that support, we must always be clear in our principles and willing to act. The only alternative to American leadership is a dramatically more dangerous and anxious world. Yet we also choose to lead because it is a privilege to serve the values that gave us birth. American leaders – from Roosevelt to Truman to Kennedy to Reagan – rejected isolation and retreat, because they knew that America is always more secure when freedom is on the march. Our own generation is in a long war against a determined enemy – a war that will be fought by Presidents of both parties, who will need steady bipartisan support from the Congress. And tonight I ask for yours. Together, let us protect our country, support the men and women who defend us, and lead this world toward freedom.

Here at home, America also has a great opportunity: We will build the prosperity of our country by strengthening our economic leadership in the world.

Our economy is healthy, and vigorous, and growing faster than other major industrialized nations. In the last two-and-a-half years, America has created 4.6 million new jobs – more than Japan and the European Union combined. Even in the face of higher energy prices and natural disasters, the American people have turned in an economic performance that is the envy of the world.

The American economy is pre-eminent – but we cannot afford to be complacent. In a dynamic world economy, we are seeing new competitors like China and India. This creates uncertainty, which makes it easier to feed people’s fears. And so we are seeing some old temptations return. Protectionists want to escape competition, pretending that we can keep our high standard of living while walling off our economy. Others say that the government needs to take a larger role in directing the economy, centralizing more power in Washington and increasing taxes. We hear claims that immigrants are somehow bad for the economy – even though this economy could not function without them. All these are forms of economic retreat, and they lead in the same direction – toward a stagnant and second-rate economy.

Tonight I will set out a better path – an agenda for a Nation that competes with confidence – an agenda that will raise standards of living and generate new jobs. Americans should not fear our economic future, because we intend to shape it.

Keeping America competitive begins with keeping our economy growing. And our economy grows when Americans have more of their own money to spend, save, and invest. In the last five years, the tax relief you passed has left 880 billion dollars in the hands of American workers, investors, small businesses, and families – and they have used it to help produce more than four years of uninterrupted economic growth. Yet the tax relief is set to expire in the next few years. If we do nothing, American families will face a massive tax increase they do not expect and will not welcome.

Because America needs more than a temporary expansion, we need more than temporary tax relief. I urge the Congress to act responsibly, and make the tax cuts permanent.
Keeping America competitive requires us to be good stewards of tax dollars. Every year of my presidency, we have reduced the growth of non-security discretionary spending – and last year you passed bills that cut this spending. This year my budget will cut it again, and reduce or eliminate more than 140 programs that are performing poorly or not fulfilling essential priorities. By passing these reforms, we will save the American taxpayer another 14 billion dollars next year – and stay on track to cut the deficit in half by 2009. I am pleased that Members of Congress are working on earmark reform – because the Federal budget has too many special interest projects. And we can tackle this problem together, if you pass the line-item veto.

We must also confront the larger challenge of mandatory spending, or entitlements. This year, the first of about 78 million Baby Boomers turn 60, including two of my Dad’s favorite people – me, and President Bill Clinton. This milestone is more than a personal crisis – it is a national challenge. The retirement of the Baby Boom generation will put unprecedented strains on the Federal government. By 2030, spending for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid alone will be almost 60 percent of the entire Federal budget. And that will present future Congresses with impossible choices – staggering tax increases, immense deficits, or deep cuts in every category of spending.

Congress did not act last year on my proposal to save Social Security, yet the rising cost of entitlements is a problem that is not going away – and with every year we fail to act, the situation gets worse. So tonight, I ask you to join me in creating a commission to examine the full impact of Baby Boom retirements on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. This commission should include Members of Congress of both parties, and offer bipartisan answers. We need to put aside partisan politics, work together, and get this problem solved.
Keeping America competitive requires us to open more markets for all that Americans make and grow. One out of every five factory jobs in America is related to global trade, and we want people everywhere to buy American. With open markets and a level playing field, no one can out-produce or out-compete the American worker.

Keeping America competitive requires an immigration system that upholds our laws, reflects our values, and serves the interests of our economy. Our Nation needs orderly and secure borders. To meet this goal, we must have stronger immigration enforcement and border protection. And we must have a rational, humane guest worker program that rejects amnesty … allows temporary jobs for people who seek them legally … and reduces smuggling and crime at the border.

Keeping America competitive requires affordable health care. Our government has a responsibility to help provide health care for the poor and the elderly, and we are meeting that responsibility. For all Americans, we must confront the rising cost of care … strengthen the doctor-patient relationship … and help people afford the insurance coverage they need. We will make wider use of electronic records and other health information technology, to help control costs and reduce dangerous medical errors. We will strengthen Health Savings Accounts – by making sure individuals and small business employees can buy insurance with the same advantages that people working for big businesses now get. We will do more to make this coverage portable, so workers can switch jobs without having to worry about losing their health insurance. And because lawsuits are driving many good doctors out of practice – leaving women in nearly 1,500 American counties without a single OB-GYN – I ask the Congress to pass medical liability reform this year.

Keeping America competitive requires affordable energy. Here we have a serious problem: America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world.
The best way to break this addiction is through technology. Since 2001, we have spent nearly 10 billion dollars to develop cleaner, cheaper, more reliable alternative energy sources – and we are on the threshold of incredible advances. So tonight, I announce the Advanced Energy Initiative – a 22-percent increase in clean-energy research at the Department of Energy, to push for breakthroughs in two vital areas. To change how we power our homes and offices, we will invest more in zero-emission coal-fired plants; revolutionary solar and wind technologies; and clean, safe nuclear energy.

We must also change how we power our automobiles. We will increase our research in better batteries for hybrid and electric cars, and in pollution-free cars that run on hydrogen. We will also fund additional research in cutting-edge methods of producing ethanol, not just from corn but from wood chips, stalks, or switch grass. Our goal is to make this new kind of ethanol practical and competitive within six years. Breakthroughs on this and other new technologies will help us reach another great goal: to replace more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025. By applying the talent and technology of America, this country can dramatically improve our environment … move beyond a petroleum-based economy … and make our dependence on Middle Eastern oil a thing of the past.

And to keep America competitive, one commitment is necessary above all: We must continue to lead the world in human talent and creativity. Our greatest advantage in the world has always been our educated, hard-working, ambitious people – and we are going to keep that edge. Tonight I announce the American Competitiveness Initiative, to encourage innovation throughout our economy, and to give our Nation’s children a firm grounding in math and science.

First: I propose to double the Federal commitment to the most critical basic research programs in the physical sciences over the next ten years. This funding will support the work of America’s most creative minds as they explore promising areas such as nanotechnology, supercomputing, and alternative energy sources.

Second: I propose to make permanent the research and development tax credit, to encourage bolder private-sector investment in technology. With more research in both the public and private sectors, we will improve our quality of life – and ensure that America will lead the world in opportunity and innovation for decades to come.

Third: We need to encourage children to take more math and science, and make sure those courses are rigorous enough to compete with other nations. We have made a good start in the early grades with the No Child Left Behind Act, which is raising standards and lifting test scores across our country. Tonight I propose to train 70,000 high school teachers, to lead advanced-placement courses in math and science … bring 30,000 math and science professionals to teach in classrooms … and give early help to students who struggle with math, so they have a better chance at good, high-wage jobs. If we ensure that America’s children succeed in life, they will ensure that America succeeds in the world.

Preparing our Nation to compete in the world is a goal that all of us can share. I urge you to support the American Competitiveness Initiative … and together we will show the world what the American people can achieve.

America is a great force for freedom and prosperity. Yet our greatness is not measured in power or luxuries, but by who we are and how we treat one another. So we strive to be a compassionate, decent, hopeful society.

In recent years, America has become a more hopeful Nation. Violent crime rates have fallen to their lowest levels since the 1970s. Welfare cases have dropped by more than half over the past decade. Drug use among youth is down 19 percent since 2001. There are fewer abortions in America than at any point in the last three decades, and the number of children born to teenage mothers has been falling for a dozen years in a row.

These gains are evidence of a quiet transformation – a revolution of conscience, in which a rising generation is finding that a life of personal responsibility is a life of fulfillment. Government has played a role. Wise policies such as welfare reform, drug education, and support for abstinence and adoption have made a difference in the character of our country. And everyone here tonight, Democrat and Republican, has a right to be proud of this record.

Yet many Americans, especially parents, still have deep concerns about the direction of our culture, and the health of our most basic institutions. They are concerned about unethical conduct by public officials, and discouraged by activist courts that try to redefine marriage. And they worry about children in our society who need direction and love … and about fellow citizens still displaced by natural disaster … and about suffering caused by treatable disease.

As we look at these challenges, we must never give in to the belief that America is in decline, or that our culture is doomed to unravel. The American people know better than that. We have proven the pessimists wrong before – and we will do it again.

A hopeful society depends on courts that deliver equal justice under law. The Supreme Court now has two superb new members, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Sam Alito. I thank the Senate for confirming both of them. And I will continue to nominate men and women who understand that judges must be servants of the law, and not legislate from the bench. Today marks the official retirement of a very special American. For 24 years of faithful service to our Nation, the United States is grateful to Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

A hopeful society has institutions of science and medicine that do not cut ethical corners, and that recognize the matchless value of every life. Tonight I ask you to pass legislation to prohibit the most egregious abuses of medical research – human cloning in all its forms … creating or implanting embryos for experiments … creating human-animal hybrids … and buying, selling, or patenting human embryos. Human life is a gift from our Creator – and that gift should never be discarded, devalued, or put up for sale.

A hopeful society expects elected officials to uphold the public trust. Honorable people in both parties are working on reforms to strengthen the ethical standards of Washington – and I support your efforts. Each of us has made a pledge to be worthy of public responsibility – and that is a pledge we must never forget, never dismiss, and never betray.

As we renew the promise of our institutions, let us also show the character of America in our compassion and care for one another.

A hopeful society gives special attention to children who lack direction and love. Through the Helping America’s Youth Initiative, we are encouraging caring adults to get involved in the life of a child – and this good work is led by our First Lady, Laura Bush. This year we will add resources to encourage young people to stay in school – so more of America’s youth can raise their sights and achieve their dreams.

A hopeful society comes to the aid of fellow citizens in times of suffering and emergency – and stays at it until they are back on their feet. So far the Federal government has committed 85 billion dollars to the people of the Gulf Coast and New Orleans. We are removing debris, repairing highways, and building stronger levees. We are providing business loans and housing assistance. Yet as we meet these immediate needs, we must also address deeper challenges that existed before the storm arrived. In New Orleans and in other places, many of our fellow citizens have felt excluded from the promise of our country. The answer is not only temporary relief, but schools that teach every child … and job skills that bring upward mobility … and more opportunities to own a home and start a business. As we recover from a disaster, let us also work for the day when all Americans are protected by justice, equal in hope, and rich in opportunity.

A hopeful society acts boldly to fight diseases like HIV/AIDS, which can be prevented, and treated, and defeated. More than a million Americans live with HIV, and half of all AIDS cases occur among African-Americans. I ask Congress to reform and reauthorize the Ryan White Act … and provide new funding to states, so we end the waiting lists for AIDS medicine in America. We will also lead a nationwide effort, working closely with African-American churches and faith-based groups, to deliver rapid HIV tests to millions, end the stigma of AIDS, and come closer to the day when there are no new infections in America.

Fellow citizens, we have been called to leadership in a period of consequence. We have entered a great ideological conflict we did nothing to invite. We see great changes in science and commerce that will influence all our lives. And sometimes it can seem that history is turning in a wide arc, toward an unknown shore.

Yet the destination of history is determined by human action, and every great movement of history comes to a point of choosing. Lincoln could have accepted peace at the cost of disunity and continued slavery. Martin Luther King could have stopped at Birmingham or at Selma, and achieved only half a victory over segregation. The United States could have accepted the permanent division of Europe, and been complicit in the oppression of others. Today, having come far in our own historical journey, we must decide: Will we turn back, or finish well?

Before history is written down in books, it is written in courage. Like Americans before us, we will show that courage and we will finish well. We will lead freedom’s advance. We will compete and excel in the global economy. We will renew the defining moral commitments of this land. And so we move forward – optimistic about our country, faithful to its cause, and confident of victories to come.

Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless America.