Let’s Get Festive

Last week I was moaning about having no decorations in the house for the holidays and Sarah told me: Target, go there and ye shall be decorated to thy fullest. So! Saturday evening, armed with a budget Kamel and I left the house and headed out to find our winter wonderland.

This is the before picture of the living room windows:

This is the after picture of our living room windows:

We also set out to decorate the dining room. Here is the before:

Annnnd… here is the after:

So, what happened? Well… it turns out that decorating for the holidays involves getting crafty. And buying hooks for things. And string. And using push pins to hang ornaments at varying levels, and figuring out how to make the lights stick around the windows, and basically… I figured out that it wasn’t crankin’ up the Christmas tunes while prancing around the apartment marveling at the festiveness of it all. And that sucks. So instead of having a meltdown in Target, we decided to spend our decorating budget on this:

And we drank beer we already had from the America! party and watched bad TV while we waited for a Christmas movie to download – which we ended up never getting to.

Best troubleshooting decision we’ve ever made.

And we’ve decided that instead of jiggering together some shitty crafts (oh trust me, they would have been shitty… your craftiness is not shitty. Let’s just say my present wrapping involved masking tape and a prayer), we’re going to scope out the holiday sales after Christmas and keep our eyes peeled for decorations we really LOVE and want to pull out year after year, instead of stuff we probably would end up throwing away in a week when we move at some point in the future.

So, on this Monday, I raise a hoppy toast to the poinsettia, in all its festive glory, and to the cheese plate, because that’s a tradition worth repeating holidays or not.

The Mucus. OH THE MUCUS.

Ok, so this post may or may not be a direct correlation to the massive amounts of cheering on from the survey (Um, THANK YOU… a bigger post on stats, etc will be coming soon, promise). So many of you were all “tell me more things about your relationship!” and I was all, “that’s not boring and/or lame-o?” and you were all, “hell no! give us the dirt!” and then I was all, “Mucus, you guys… MUCOUS.”

You know I love Kamel. You know this, I don’t have to remind you, but I will… because lately? Lately I don’t like him. He’s so annoying! And he’s been sick for weeks! Which, in general I am very sympathetic towards. I give him medicine and I make sure he drinks fluids and I rub his back and give him sympathetic looks (and then when he’s not looking … eye rolls) because I realize that his man cold is so much worse than any lady cold could ever be. Ahem.

The truth is, he’s been sick since November 29 and now he has a cough that won’t quit (much like my bootay). It’s keeping him awake, and sleeping in the bed is too uncomfortable for him, so he’s been living on the couch. And hearing him hack and cough and belch and be generally gross for weeks is giving me a case of the icks. I realize this is selfish, poor Kamel is sick and I’m all “ew get away from me.” But I can’t help it. It makes me gag. And I definitely don’t want to kiss it… it as in “the gross mucous pie hole that all of the hacking and gunk comes shooting out of.”

We’re low on “The Sexy” over here, let me tell you. Is this what they meant by sometimes marriage isn’t pretty?

It doesn’t help that he isn’t the most polite sick person. There’s a lot of gagging hacks that happen mouth UNCOVERED. And there could be a lot more washing of hands. And I don’t want him on my pillow, touching my computer, or using my phone. But somehow it’s like the world moves in slow-mo as he’s reaching for my things and then rubbing them all over his snotty face and hands, (Exaggeration and batteries included for your convenience) and as I reach for it and go nooooooooooo! I’m always too late.

This combined with the whining has my husband getting on my every last nerve. My patience is tiny when it comes to bad attitudes, leaving kleenex and dirty clothes and wet towels willy nilly, forgetting things I’ve asked him to do, and the list could just keep going.

This makes me look bad, I realize this. The general consensus I’m sure is, “But Lauren, he’s sick! How can you require that he acts like a normal human being during such a trying time?”

And I have some answers for the nay sayers:

1) Because I am not his mother. That’s the big one. Just because you have a cough doesn’t mean you suddenly have two broken arms and two broken legs (oh god, cue flashback to my own mother saying the exact same thing….). Now that he’s out of the fever and feeling like crap stage, I need him to go back to being an active member of our household.

2) Because no matter how hard I try I can’t escape him. He’s always here, touching all of my things!!

3) Because whine-y people are the most unattractive creatures on the face of the planet. [shudder] So although the whining is coming out of the man I love the most in the world, I still want to throttle him until he shuuuuts upppp.

So yes, the mucous is invading my marriage. I’m hoping to grit my teeth until it decides to MOVE OUT. And thank you sweet baby jesus that I didn’t catch the thing that Kamel got… cuz hell hath no furry like a Lauren who got sick because Kamel couldn’t keep his grubby hands to himself.

And scene.

Grizzly Bear

Any of you who have ever met Kamel in real life knows he’s probably one of the most easy going men on the face of the planet. He doesn’t honk even when I feel like we’re about to be crushed by an SUV, he doesn’t engage with crazies on the street (I do), he doesn’t get worked up about things very often (even when I think he should), he’s generally up for anything and is the last to be frazzled (unless he has to ask someone to do something for him… he is incredibly shy about that). So I’ve taken to the roll of PROTECTOR.

When we were on our honeymoon and someone down the beach cried out “Shark!” while I was reading and Kamel was out swimming, I jolted up and marched to the surf while Kamel was gleefully trying to hunt it down and take a picture. When drunk man was harassing people outside of the Walgreens and latched onto Kamel while we were aiming for the entrance, I was the one who got loud and threatening. I was the one who told him to “GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM US” the one who stood between Kamel and the man. I can’t help it, it’s my go to setting. Protect my people, that’s what I do.

But this is not what this story is about, because on Monday night things changed.

Kamel and I were laying in bed, doing our nightly “cool down” from the day. Poking around on the internet, playing silly cell phone games, warming the bed, blahblah. Then! a rattling noise came from our living room, the sound of someone trying to force our door open, a sudden thumping and rattling. Someone was trying to break in. I looked at Kamel for less than a millisecond, really I could have imagined both of our eyes flicking past each other before Kamel flung the comforter off himself, lept out of bed, and as he had clear sight of the door yelled, in the loudest, most dominate voice I’ve ever heard come out of his body,


As in… “I’m going to fuck you up so hard you have no idea what’s coming to you get the hell out of my house whoever you are, I’m coming for you so you better move or get bulldozed.”

From my vantage point (the covers), that “hey” meant Kamel was talking to someone in particular, I thought he was yelling at someone he could see. I waited to hear the next move… was it stupid kids playing a prank? Our drunk neighbor trying to open the wrong door? Was it something worse? Should I follow Kamel or does he have it? When do I call 911? I was waiting for a signal.

And then Kamel chuckled. And scuttled back into the bedroom.

“Lauren,” he said, “It was a bag. It fell out of our closet, knocking a bunch of other things down and pushing the closet door open.”

But holy shit. I have to tell you, I’ve never felt more protected (except from my own father…. aww dads). I had never seen Kamel move so quickly, be so aggressive, or clear minded. He was going to protect his house, he was going to stand between me and whoever, phantom or real, was trying to get to me or enter our safe space. And dude – he was out the door and growling before I could even pull the covers back. Let’s do a review of the first two paragraphs and come back to this realization – dude was lightening fast.

And when he came back to bed, he hopped back on the iPad and kept playing whatever stupid game we’re addicted to at the moment, chuckling to himself quietly. In the meantime my eyes were about the size of grapefruits, staring at him and repeating, “You yelled ‘Hey!’ … you yelled it really loud… I’m really impressed…” while Kamel just shrugged it off.

Guestposting by Kamel: Americana Part II

When are you going to become a citizen? Why haven’t you applied yet?

Everyone used to ask me that over and over for years. At first I had zero interest because really I saw no benefit in it. My parents tried to get me to do it while I was still a minor, since it was much easier that way, but me being an obnoxious know it all, I refused.

Once I turned 18 I knew I would have to go through the long process that everyone used to tell horror stories about. I’d hear how it would take years or they’d ask you hard questions. I also believed that once I started I couldn’t travel until I was done. At this point I had just gotten my green card renewed a year earlier, so I knew I was good for 10 years.

So, I continued to rebel and ignore everyone’s suggestions that I should be naturalized. My grandma would even hand me newspaper clippings that had info on the ever changing immigration laws and how it was getting harder and harder to become a citizen. She was also afraid I’d get deported. Everyone was. But really how could that possibly happen? I was good for life as a US permanent resident as I had been since I was a little kid. Even though I was the only member of my family to still be a resident, I was okay with it. Plus the more they pushed me to do it the more I didn’t want to.

And then one day I met Lauren. (editors note: Dun dun duuunnnnn) You all know that story, but I bet you don’t know this little detail: she wasn’t comfortable with me not being a citizen. She, like my grandma, thought I could be at risk for deportation at any moment. But she also wanted us to be the same. For the first time in my life, I actually considered doing it. If only for her comfort.

One problem though, my green card was about to expire (wow ten years in one post). And one major requirement to being a citizen is having a valid green card. The renewal would take a while, cost around $600 and I wouldn’t be able to apply for naturalization until I had the new card. Also that meant that I had to pay for the new green card and then pay for citizenship. That was way too much for us at the moment.  So I renewed the green card in sept 2010 and we moved on with our wedding planning life.

In early 2011 I promised Lauren that I would apply for citizenship before our wedding. Why? Because I felt like I didn’t want her to feel like we weren’t both the same. I didn’t want to be a foreigner within my own family. I also wanted to do it. I was ready! …23 years later.

I researched the crap out of it and found a major roadblock. The process could take up to 6-7 months and I had to be in the city for 3 important dates: The biometrics appointment, the interview and the final oath ceremony. These dates could fall at any time and not attending could delay your application for a while. Too many delays and they reject you (but they, of course, keep the money). With lots of wedding travel planned plus a honeymoon, we decided to wait until after everything to apply.

A few days before I was ready, Lauren and I watched Citizen USA: A 50 State Road Trip by Alexandra Pelosi on HBO. This documentary took us through 50 oath ceremonies, one in each state. It was so moving that it made Lauren cry. So many people wanting so badly to become US citizens. Just like me now. 🙂

At the beginning of August, I went to the USCIS website and started working on my N-400. Wow. So many questions! Have you ever overthrown a government? Are you a habitual drunkard? Are you a prostitute? Others were much harder like, List every single trip made outside the US since becoming a Legal Resident. Yes they want all trips listed since 1988 for me. Ouch. I only had my last two passports that covered only since 2001. Earlier trips I decided not to list. (Spoiler alert, it worked out in the end as they just want to make sure you’ve been here for the last 5.)

On August 8th I overnighted my completed form, along with all fees and photos to the processing center in Phoenix as requested. The next day I received a text from them stating that my application was accepted and the process had officially started! A few weeks later I received my Biometrics appointment letter. By the end of the month I had
completed biometrics (retina scan, fingerprints) and in mid Sept I received my interview date for early October. I was on my way!

With each new notice and update I kept going back to a message board website to track my progress against other fellow immigrants. I also kept reading the site to try and get a better insight to what others were experiencing. Some cases were obviously going to be rejected and they were shocked when they were. Like a gentleman who was furious he got denied because they found his arrest record for selling cocaine a few months prior. Or another fellow who was rejected because his record showed he beat his wife. He was annoyed because they didn’t “get him or his culture” and duh, it was only a minor bruise on the wrist! Whatever dude. I’m glad he didn’t get in.

And of course I’d always keep Lauren up to date with each thing. The closer we got the more excited she got. She confessed to me that when I had my oath ceremony she would probably cry.

On October 11 I went to the USCIS processing center in downtown San Francisco for my formal interview. I was nervous because I’ve always heard how they could be tough on you. But Lauren came with and helped sooth me while also talking sense into me. See, I was ready to fight if they got snippy with me, but Lauren suggested I just play along and be nice no matter what. So I did.

The interview went well, save for a couple of mistakes on my forms that we corrected together. The interviewer then gave me the famous civics test. 10 questions and 6 must be correct. In the weeks prior I quizzed my coworkers and Lauren with these to practice. A lot of people, natural born citizens too, failed… horribly. When it was my turn, I rocked it. One question was, “what happened on 9/11/01?” Wow, so much I could say, I was building the story in my head and I started with, “Well, these terrorists attacks started…” and she cut me off and said, “Terrorist attacks is fine.” Handled.

On November 4 I received final approval and my ceremony was set for Nov 30th!! I had made it! I immediately let Lauren know and she was just as excited as I was. I love her. 🙂

I updated my stats on the website tracker, and noticed that the entire process took 114 days. Well below the national average of 5 months and way below some problem cities like Miami or Seattle which can take over a year.

So, there I was, at the Paramount Theater in Oakland at 8:15am. Lined up with 1202 approved-Citizens-to-be. I was excited and couldn’t believe it was finally going to happen.

Even Lauren’s parents flew down to see the event. I couldn’t wait for it to begin. I kept wondering if we would sing I’m Proud To Be An American as they do in others. (We did! and Lauren sent me a text: “Oh no they didn’t…. Oh YES they did!!”)

I was in the 4th row and Lauren and her parents were up in the balcony. We went through the entire ceremony (Which was very moving by the way. All natural born citizens should attend one once in their lives.)  and once we completed reciting the oath, boom, all 1202 of us were officially Citizens of the United States of America.

No more lines, no more waiting, and no more having to carry any form of proof of residency. Everyone was excited, taking pictures, waving American flags. It was quite the experience. We could all vote now or run for office! Finally, after years and years of people begging me to do this, I had done it. And honestly, it took a Lauren to get me to want to. For me and for her and for our new family.


Yesterday Kamel became a citizen! Tomorrow he’s going to be here, guest posting, about his own experience with the whole thing, but for now let me tell you – for anyone who was born here, seeing a citizenship ceremony is a must do.

Aside from the part where I was bursting with pride for Kamel, and choked up from the moment my parents and I dropped him off in his seating line, the ceremony itself is incredibly touching. People from all over the world are still scraping by to be part of the United States and that makes me appreciate the freedoms we have here so much more. As my parents and I talked about afterwards, we think every citizen should have to go through the oath, the ceremony, see why people make such a long journey through time and money and physical space to be here, to be able to vote, to have freedom of speech and religion and have the option to have a better life. Because even though the American Dream may be over blown, it still exists.

Yes, poverty exists in the United States. Yes, our government is flawed and big business rules in ways it shouldn’t. But! We can say we hate the government on a public blog and call them names and the law upholds my right to do so. I don’t have to worry about men with guns busting through my door. And I have the option to opt out of saying, “In God We Trust” or any other acknowledgement of God in government forms.

And while I scramble to build my career out of what I “like to do” and what I’m “good at,” I give thanks to being fortunate enough to live in a country that allows me to put my passions first. There are always going to be exceptions and unfortunate events, but their are success stories of people coming from poverty, from war torn countries, from dictators and oppression and being able to live a life of success and safety and comfort in the United States.

And for the humbling experience of taking a moment to not thumb my nose at the government and instead knowing the ability to do so is a right few people have, to understand in a real way how proud others are to renounce their country of origin and become an American, I am incredibly grateful.

Suburban Living + Losing My GD TGIF Mind

This weekend Kamel and I decided to explore more of the peninsula and the little cities that are all around the new apartment. Our first stop was Cupertino, the world of Steve Jobs and Apple. I was expecting something hip and fresh. Ya know, edgy with smooth lines, a place that’s just a touch more into the future than the rest of the world, technologically advanced.

Let me debunk any myths for you. That is not an accurate image of Cupertino by any stretch of the imagination. We headed to a mall where there was a movie theater (to see the new Twilight movie, yes we did). We thought we’d go check out the theater and then scope out a lunch spot around the area. First, because I have a love of mall food courts, we walked around the mall to see what delicious eateries they had to offer. You guys, there is nothing like a half empty mall that really screams of the total destruction of America’s hopes and dreams. It was extra depressing. The entire first floor was pretty much dark with empty shops. And the once bustling food court (mmmm!) was now 50% boarded up. A Subway, Burger King, Burrito place, and generic asian food stop were all that was left.

So! As my hunger kept pace with my growing desperation, we hoped to find a restaurant within walking distance. And guess where we ended up? A TGIFridays. And this is how that moment happened:


Kamel: Really?

Me: Yes! Mmmm Can you smell the fried food? Can you SMELL IT?

Kamel: You’re on a suburban high, aren’t you?

Me: Ahhhhh!!!! (Lauren’s head explodes into confetti)

And then, just as my suburban excitement has begun to wain, my mind started to clear, the fog of godknowswhat began to lift.

Me: [while flipping through the menu] Why did I think I liked this place?

Kamel: I have no idea.

Me: [while realizing how dark and old and used up this particular TGIF was] I don’t even know what to eat here. Why was I so excited??

Kamel: I was just riding the wave, Lauren.

This is all to tell you that the first reason I married Kamel was because he felt like home. And the second reason is because he makes me laugh like a crazy person, and makes weird or disappointing situations hilarious. I haven’t laughed as hard as I did on Saturday in a long loooong time. Like when we are walking back to the movie theater and Kamel is walking directly behind me saying, “You know what I’m doing, Lauren? You know what I’m doing?? I’m being a Lauren! Where you look, I look, where you walk, I walk. It’s QUITE educational.”

What?! Who is this man? I have no idea, but I love it.

And thank god. In a world of frustration, and disappointing suburban meccas, at least I have this one following me around like a crazy person. Aw, love.

Real Life Conversations: Thursdays

Yes, today is Friday but it hasn’t happened yet. Thursday! Thursday is the name of the game (And this post).

Me: I think I hate Thursdays

Kamel: haha me too.


Kamel: Go to google.com and type in the seach “do a barrel roll”. Enjoy.

Instant day maker. Go ahead… you’re turn.

Happy Friday!

The Video Tour of Gooberville

If the pictures weren’t awesome enough for you today, check out the video Kamel and I shot. If this isn’t the perfect example of our relationship I don’t know what is. Welcome home.

Home Sweet Home

We’ve been packing and packing every day this week. I love packing for the cleansing of it all. Old things we’ve just been holding onto for … whatever reason… most of the time it’s “Why do we even HAVE this?” are now thrown out, gotten rid of, recycled, given away. I love being able to start over, being able to say, “ok, in the new place – we’re not going to pile mail on the kitchen table until it’s 3 feet high. Never again!” And there’s hope that we’ll actually stick to it.

The part I hate about packing, is the feeling that there is never not going to be STUFF. There is stuff under the bed, up inside the closet, and when we’ve finally cleared out book shelves and the tops of tables, counter tops, etc., we realize there is still a bunch of random crap inside drawers, cupboards, the medicine cabinet. So much stuff.

So much stuff makes me feel panicky. It means a quick escape is impossible because we’re dragging so much stuff behind us. I’m the one who is quick to throw things away. “We haven’t even looked at this or remembered we have it in a year! Just throw it away, don’t even show me what it is, just get rid of it, quick!” I don’t want to let nostalgia creep in. Nostalgia is a pretend feeling – our memories are intact, I don’t need an old t-shirt to remind me of that one time in high school or that fantastic trip down the coast Maris and I took. I don’t need it, I have stories.

Living room!

Kamel is not so quick to let go of things. But I’ve moved about 3x as much as he has. I’ve learned that there are some things that just aren’t worth it. But he’s getting there. It’s not worth it to agonize over a tiny thing that fits in your palm when you have a whole house to relocate. It’s not worth it, to drag bags and bags of clothes from place to place only to have them sit in your closet and still never be worn.

Dining nook! Kitchen door!

Bag it, toss it, give it away. Make room for space to breath.

Snow Angel

We’ve hired movers. We have boxes filling our entry way. We have naked walls. We’ll be here, filling this space with our stuff on Saturday evening. Saturday. This morning Kamel was laughing and telling me how we totally disregarded our timeline. We just threw it out the window and up and moved. Can you believe it?

We hit a wall, I said. We hit a wall and we just left. Sunday afternoon we heard scratching and rustling somewhere in our kitchen. We sat in the living room, unmoving, listening as hard as we could. Was it the neighbor? Was it inside our house or outside? Little nails scratched on something metal, something wooden, something metal again. Was it the sound of mice? I know that sound very well. Or was it the sound of foil blowing in the breeze?

“It doesn’t matter,” Kamel said, still unmoving on the couch next to me, “We’re leaving in less than a week. It doesn’t matter. Thank God.”

A real hallway. Facing the front door from our bedroom door.

We still wonder if we made the right choice. Did we pick the right apartment? Did we jump in too fast? Should we have looked harder? Found a better deal? Should we have gone with the other place we were looking at.

A real, normal sized closet in the bedroom!

My answer to these questions is always that it doesn’t matter. We signed a lease. Even if we did totally mess up, we signed a lease, the end.

Testing out where we're putting the bed.

But really, I think no way. This is an adventure. This is a happy place. Even if, right now, we’re scraping by because of moving costs, and pro-rated September rent on top of our full September rent of the SF apartment, even if we’re crunching numbers in bed every night. Even if all of that, I’m excited. And I’m so, so grateful to be doing this with my buddy.

And I freaking love these windows.

Real Life Conversations: Watermelons

Me: I am having the worst PMS of the entire …. year. Seriously. Physical symptoms, they are killing me. I’m bloated. My boobs feel like they are swollen to the size of watermelons, it’s awful.

Kamel: ….can I see?…

Me: ….

Kamel: I mean for … medical reasons… obviously.

[pulls his shirt open like a porn star]

Kamel: Like this.

Me: Hold on! I have to document this on the internets right now!

Kamel: What?! No! You know whatever you say I’m going to blame on the wine! IS NOTHING SACRED?

Me: Shh… I’m typing. And I need content.