Tuesday, November 8, 2005

Horrid Karaoke

Horrid Karaoke

I don’t have much fear of the stage. I never have. I can be shy in one-on-one situations, but put me in front of a group of people and I’m okay. There is only one exception to this rule: I am terrified of singing in front of people. I sing in the car, in the shower, around the house and I do an all-out performance and, dammit, I’m good. I’m a diva. Once microphones and/or audiences enter the mix, I’m mute. I had a karaoke machine and couldn’t even do that. When I listened to the playback, I was horrified. And I know I don’t really sound like I did on that tape. I was extremely self-conscious, my throat muscles were tight, I couldn’t breathe, and I was in the guestroom-alone. It was that freaking microphone! I knew somebody was going to listen to that tape. I was. My worst critic.

When I was in the first grade, my class had its little Christmas show. All the children were carefully arranged on the risers. I was in the second row directly facing the kid behind me. All the audience could see was the back of my head. I don’t remember this happening, but it’s a story my mom enjoys telling.

When I was in the eighth grade, I auditioned for a solo part in our chorus. I was to sing “Tomorrow” from “Annie”. The piano accompaniment began, then abruptly stopped after a few measures. The chorus director told me I had missed my cue and to try again. The thing was, I hadn’t missed my cue. I sang, but it was inaudible. We tried a second time and I ran screaming from the stage, arms flailing. Okay, that last part didn’t really happen, but in my nightmarish mental re-enactments I run every time.

So fast forward to 1999 and the age of 29, and I’m at a karaoke bar with friends. I decide, with the help of a million Jack-and Cokes, to give it a try. Actually, I filled out a slip but couldn’t summon up the nerve to turn it in. As a cruel joke, my “friend” turned my name in while I was in the restroom. So my name was called, I begged my friends to come up with me for moral support, and I got behind the mic. “Roam” by the B-52’s began to play. I learned quickly that it is not a good idea to perform an upbeat, cheery dance tune your first time. If there is one thing I am afraid of more than singing, it’s dancing. My buddies were behind me groovin’ to the “music”. I stood there with my hands stuffed in my pockets, singing in a dreadful monotone, peppering it with phrases like “shut up!” and “no,stop it!” to their repeated requests that I dance, too. Once that ordeal was over, I decided I had to redeem myself. I put in a non-dance tune, “Hotel California” and performed it later that night. I grabbed a stool and pulled it up with me. It was a much better performance.

A few weeks later, I went karaoking at a different bar, with a different, and rather shy, friend. Feeling like the confident karaoke pro, I persuaded her to sing “Piano Man” with me. “Oh, I was nervous, too, my first time,” I told her helpfully, “but, trust me, once you get up there it’s not that bad.” I was smug.

So our names were called, we got onstage, and I coolly told the dj to “pitch-shift it up a bit” so I could get those male-oriented low notes. The music began, and I realized that, not only could I still not hit those afore-mentioned low notes, I now could not get to the high notes, either. My friend, who shall remain nameless, sang very loud and very off-key looking straight at me, eyes wide, burning holes into the side of my head with her glare. I just stood there holding my mic down by my side, giggling like a fool, helpless.

I know now that it is important to know your material well before going onstage. There are teleprompters,yes, but sometimes they can be confusing. I once tried a Britney Spears slow song called “Sometimes”. I needed a break from my usual songs and figured, hey, it’s Britney. How hard can it be? Unfortunately, I didn’t know the song by heart and had to rely on the teleprompter. The lyrics included everything down to those little improvisational bits she does at the end of the track. I tried my best, singing exactly what was on-screen, which was a lot of “oh baby” “oooooooooooooh”and ”someti-i-i-i-imes”-, but I hadn’t a clue how to actually fit it into the song. I finally gave up and sang with the back up singers.

I do have to say that I have improved. I no longer sit at my table sweating, silently fearing that mine would be the next song called. I am able to socialize and, upon hearing my name, excuse myself calmly, saying “I have to go sing now. We’ll continue this conversation when I come back.” I am able to delude myself into thinking I can sing, and I have fun with it. After all, like my “cruel friend” says, “It’s just karaoke. It’s not ‘Star Search’”.

Thursday, November 3, 2005

Right before the walk down the aisle


I really just wanted to take a nap...

A little older...



Me, age 19, with same cousin and brother (all three of us are the bottom of the pyramid). Denver, Colorado.



Vineland, NJ.
That's me in the middle (both pics), with my cousin and my brother.

Still not thrilled.



Either Oakland or Vallejo, CA. Still not a happy bunny. I wanted to be a clown, like my friends.

A few pics from my files



For Halloween, I was not a happy bunny. I think I was 4 in the first picture, and 3 in the one with the clowns. My mean mommy made me wear the same costume twice. Top pic Honolulu, Hawaii, bottom pic Oakland or Vallejo, CA.

Jamie's Halloween Pics



Jamie, Halloween age 2 (cowboy), and age 3 (spider) Atlanta, GA

Jamie in his carseat


My son, Jamie, age 2

The Chipster


Chip, as a kitten, Christmas 1993

My Kitties!



Boots, as a kitten, 1993

Take My Hamsters. Please.

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This story is copied and pasted (and modified to remove any off-topic babblings I may have added) from an email I sent to a friend a couple of years back, explaining my little predicament. I actually added the updated portion just now.



My son Jamie's teacher asked us if we would mind watching Koker, the MALE class hamster for the summer. The fact that he was (WAS!!!) male is important and the fact that I used the past tense is also significant. SO... I agreed. We went on a family vacation right after school got out, and the weekend after we came back from the beach my husband, Jay, took Jamie to visit his family. Of course Koker died while I was on the clock. I went to many pet stores looking for a look-alike, and found one. It was female, but I decided to take the chance that the kids wouldn't notice the lack of male appendages-besides, Koker had fairly long fur, so it wasn't that obvious anyway. And this new Koker was a dead ringer (no pun intended) for the deceased, otherwise. Well... Koker #2 seemed to be a hearty little eater. She got bigger by the day. But that was good, I figured, since the old Koker was hugely fat, and this one was younger and smaller at the time of purchase. One evening I picked her up (had to frantically tame the vicious little beast because Koker #1 was very docile) and I swear she looked as if she'd swallowed a tennis ball. And it was only her belly, the rest of her was still rather small. And the "tennis ball" felt like a tennis ball- kind of hard. Not mushy, like fat. I told Jay that I was concerned that maybe she wasn't fat. Maybe she was (gasp!) preggers. Jay hated the idea of one hamster in the house, so he was just THRILLED to hear that. I wasn't too happy, either. My little scam was foiled by those pesky rodents. I knew I would have some 'splainin' to do to Jamie's classmates when I brought back "Mr. Koker" and HIS babies. ("Hey, kids! You know that whole birds-and-the-bees story? Forget everything you've heard. You've had it all backwards!") Sure enough, early the next morning I peeked in Koker's cage and she was kind of curled up and uncomfortable-looking. And then I saw the little pink hamster feet peeking out from under her. I couldn't tell exactly, but upon closer inspection there appeared to be approximately 40 little pink hamster feet. It was confirmed about a day later when Koker left her nest to eat and I counted 10 babies. When they're that tiny, it's fun to watch them grow. At about 2 weeks they're adorable. They have fur and are beginning to open their eyes and they can be handled. They were about the size of a very small mouse at this stage. Still all wobbly and cute. But at around 4 weeks, cute as they are, they begin to fight, and they are sexually mature. I had to seperate the males from the females. There was only one female, so I named her Marie after Marie Osmond. (You know, she had like a billion brothers and no sisters). I was able to adopt out 2 of the males to our neighbor Bob's daughters. All the remaining males went into a seperate cage while Marie stayed with Koker.

Koker needed her "space", I guess, and no longer having maternal feelings toward her daughter, she started going after Marie. I moved Marie into her own place. Then the brothers fought. At first it was play fighting, then it started getting bloody. So the Instigator was placed in his own cage. That's 3 cages, so far. One hamster died- I think he was suffocated because all seven hamsters insisted in sleeping all crammed together in a little plastic tube thing. I had to divvy up those guys then, to avoid another fatality (although it WAS one less hamster to deal with...). Bought another cage and put 3 hamsters in there. (That cage is in Jamie's room. It's some futuristic habitrail thingy and is "soooooooooo coooooooooool"-Jamie's words). The two that remained in the original cage were to go to the school as the new class pets. And they seemed to get along fine. Until THEY started fighting. I couldn't buy another cage (Jay's exact words after the so-cool habitrail cage were: "If you bring another cage into this house, I'm going to be fucking pissed off." and he said it calmly, so I knew he meant it. Gulp.) So I devised a divider in the existing tank (an old plastic piece of crap habitrail that was basically held together by packing tape-it was the original Koker's cage and the cage Koker-the-sequel lived in when the "kids" were born) out of a cardboard box that my cell phone came in-just kind of crammed it in there and put a hamster on each side. I knew it wouldn't last, since the hamsters could chew through just about anything, but I figured it would do until the next day when I could figure something else out. The next day both hamsters were on the same side (literally and figuratively- they weren't fighting) so I took the box out. That's where they are, today. So I have a big wire cage for Koker, another big wire cage for Marie, an old piece of crap plastic cage for the as-yet-unnamed-school pets, a kick-ass (ha ha) cage for Oingo, Boingo, and Anthony (Jamie named Anthony, I named the others), and a small plastic "critter keeper" for the bully (I call him Bulldog). So, short-story long, "A funny thing happened on the way home from the pet store..."

Oh, yeah, and Jamie's pet mouse (and my namesake),"Val" has been on the lam for the past 2 weeks. We see her about every night but have yet to catch her.

UPDATE!

I had the cage with the class pets in my room, all duct-taped together, bread twisty-ties holding various entrances shut, and it looked smashing. Rather, it looked as if it had been smashed. But there would be no escaping this cage. I woke up at about 5 am one day, needing a drink. Out of the corner of my eye I see a little light-colored creature waddling across the floor. No way! How did this little guy escape my hamster Alcatraz? I scooped him up and headed for his cage. I was a bit puzzled when I saw that the duct tape, twisty-ties, etc. were all intact. I had a little Houdini on my hands, it seemed. Just to make sure I had the right cage for the right hamster, I checked in Jamie's room. Oingo, Boingo, and Anthony were all happily doing little hamster things in their cage, so I peeked into the living room where Bulldog's cage was kept. Bulldog had been moved from his critter keeper temporarily to Jamie's mouse's cage. His hamster wheel was spinning, so no problems, there. I put whichever school pet I had in my hand back into his cage, having to undo duct tape to do it.

I went into the kitchen to get my drink, and passed Bulldog's cage on the way in. I noticed his little food dish, which attached to the exterior of the cage, had fallen off, spilling food on the fireplace hearth. As I reached down to refasten the thing, I saw a long tail coming out from the wheel area, which also attaches to the exterior. Val was in there! I didn't have time to block the opening where the food compartment had fallen off, so she was able to escape. Damn. And I realized I had just put Bulldog in the cage with the class pets, which could not lead to good things. Bulldog was rehoused in the critter keeper, and Val's cage was left by the fireplace with the food dish next to it. A day or so later, I found her running in her wheel again, and was able to trap her in there.

Poker? I don't even know her!

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I've done my research for this one, my friends. I have a poker theme going here for ya. I have played some, but am by no means an expert. So I was gonna do this really cool thing and write in all poker jargon and metaphors and such, but I didn't know enough of the lingo. So I looked up poker sites on the net. I realized that my first idea was idiotic, pretty much right away, but I expanded on a thought I've had before using my newfound vocabulary. Poker terminology can be divided into categories. And here they are:

Drugs: toke, pot, trips, hit, crack, cut, deal, steal, roll, rush, wired, chips (you know, for the "munchies"), and now "family pot" makes me wonder what trailer park inspired this.

Good Sex: stud, raise, flush, big slick, straddle, dominated hand, hold 'em, pocket rockets, leg up, exposed, split, spread, squeeze, suck out, two pair (woo-hoo!)

Bad Sex: flop, back door flush (heh-heh, heh-heh), nut flush (heh-heh, heh-heh)

Solo Sex:, unpaired, come hand, dead hand (hate when that happens!), wake up with a hand (especially after a night of heavy drinking and you don't remember which hand it was)

Violent Crime: limp in, bad beat, under the gun, deck, kill, kill blind (poor guy never saw it comin'), missed blind ( luckily for the blind guy the guy had bad aim), lock up ( Jeesh, if ANYONE deserves to be somebody's bitch for 5 to 10, it's the guy who commits assault and battery on blind people...) ,steal, suicide king, kicker, busted hand, table cop (whew! Thank God for those!), weak, aggressive, shoot out

Laundry: fold, suit, okay boring

Nice places to meditate: rainbow, berry patch, river, coffee house, rock garden

Cartoon Superheroes Underdog (ah, shoe shine boy...there's no need to fear!)

Okay, now put yourself in my brain and see if the following make any sense. To me. I call this section (drums, please!):

What the hell does this sentence mean? My interpretations:

1."Susie outran my set when her flush card hit on the river."

Just plain "HUH???"

2."I wouldn't have called with that hand, except that I was on the button."

So what hand would he have called her with? Does one of his hands not work? And is "button" another name for "toilet"? Oooooooh, maybe that's it. It would be rude to call with his wiping hand.

3."When I called his all-in bet, I didn't realize he had made trips, but I was lucky enough to draw out on him with my backdoor flush."

Okay, so when this dude called this other guy's all-in bet (that part I get), he didn't realize the guy had gone on vacation, but he was able to draw him back with the promise of an enema.

4."I missed my pre-flop raise, and lost the hand when the big blind made a gutshot on the river."

Ooooooh, boy. Here goes. Well, missing the pre-flop raise happens to a lot of guys. They make a little blue pill for that. But as for "losing the hand" when the fat blind guy puked in the river? I doubt that would be anybody's masturbatory fantasy.

5."We don't spread high only stud"

Something a flight attendant for Hooters Airlines might say...

6."I was doing well earlier, but my stacks have been dwindling. Pre flop it was fine."

Again, little blue pill. It happens to most men as they age.

Lactophobia

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I think everyone has a weird phobia of some kind. I have a couple. I am roach-phobic. I am also “lacto-phobic”. My worst nightmare: finding a roach in a cereal bowl. As a matter of fact, I think that’s where my fear may have begun on both counts. When I was in highschool, I had a bowl of Raisin Bran for breakfast. I was especially hungry that morning, so I went back for seconds. (Bet you know where this is going by now!) I remember it in slow-motion: Me lifting the box. Me opening the box. Me unrolling the wax paper “freshness bag” or whatever it’s called. Me tipping the box so that the cereal begins to fall. One raisin. Two raisins. Three raisins. Me noticing raisin #2 has now flipped upright and is running for the safety of the bran flakes. Me dropping the box, the bowl, and the habit of eating Raisin Bran. I remember the panic when I realized that I’d just eaten out of that very same box, and horror of all horrors, there MAY have been a little more than two scoops of raisins in this particular box.

Well, that little scene caused a whole mess of trouble for me later on in life. I lived in a non-airconditioned dorm in college, and my room was right next to the kitchen. I went to college in L.A. (Lower Alabama) and the roaches there are huge and plentiful. We had the German cockroach (thanks, Germany) to deal with inside, and the dreaded Palmetto bug (horror-movie huge) to contend with outside. And many of the little Palmetto rascals would find their way inside, up the stairs, and into my room.

One weekend my room-mate, my suite-mates and I decided it was time to fog the place. We set up a fogger in each room and stayed the night at a friend’s apartment across town. The next morning we came back to the dorm to find little roach carcasses everywhere. We swept a pile up under the bathroom sink, and there must have been fifty in the bath-tub. But nary a live one in sight. Satisfied, that night I slipped into my night-shirt, ready for bed. I was talking to my room-mate as I was buttoning my shirt, and out of the corner of my eye I saw a black thing on my arm. I immediately went into Daffy Duck mode, hoo-hooing as I danced around the room trying to get my shirt off. My room-mate came to the rescue and squashed the bug. She thought it was funny. She did impressions of me all night. “Look, Val! Who am I? Hoo hoo! Hoo hoo!” Ha ha. ANYWAY, I put on some roach-free garb, and lifted up my blanket to crawl under the covers. Millions upon millions of roaches had found safety under my blanket! Again, frantic screaming. I think I slept standing up that night. Read the can, folks. Remove all bedding and clothing from the room before fogging.

So, on to the milk thing. I just have a few rules I have to follow in order to comfortably drink a glass of milk or enjoy a bowl of cereal. They are:

1.)Never drink the left-over milk from the cereal bowl. (backwash. Ewwww.)

2.)Never drink the leftover backwash milk from anyone else’s cereal bowl.

3.)Never eat cereal at a table full of people who are also eating cereal. (You know that thin white line that you see between the lips of a person eating cereal? I hate that.)

4.)Never let anyone who has just eaten cereal, or any milk product, kiss you.

5.)Always brush your teeth immediately after eating cereal or drinking milk. (Do not let milk-breath happen!)

6.)Do not eat cereal or any milk product while creepy cartoons are on tv.

7.)Do not eat cereal or any milk product while Celebrity Death Match is on tv.

8.)Do not let the milk in your cereal bowl get warm.

9.)If a second bowl of cereal is necessary, then dump out the old milk and pour new milk in. (Always rinse bowl before adding fresh milk, too. You don’t want any residue.)

10.)I remember this one from college: do not smoke after eating cereal or any milk product, and do not ash in an old glass of milk that’s been left on the floor for days (old room-mate of mine, you know who you are!!!)

11.)If anything falls into the milk in your glass (like lint, a cat hair, dust particle) the milk is now RUINED and must be discarded immediately.

12.)This is a biggie: Milk mustaches must be outlawed. And the Dairy Farmers of America need to get rid of the “Got milk?” milk mustache campaign. It’s just plain gross.

13.)Last but not least: milk must be thrown out on the expiration date. I would like to know who started the urban myth that milk is good for a week after the date printed
on the bottle. That person most certainly has NOT had milk plop out of the jug and onto the countertop like a rancid Twizzler when trying to prepare a cup of coffee.

I hate to leave on number 13 because I’m sure I will have to deal with some kind of roachy, milky bad luck thing, but I really could go on all day. Living by these rules is second-nature to me so I was never aware how nuts I am until I read over this. Milk. It does a body good. But it does bad bad things to your brain.

Male strippers and serenades

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Male strippers and serenades

These two things, in my mind, are bound by a single question: Where do you look?

Several years ago, for my bachelorette party, I was at a strip club in the Atlanta area for Ladies’ Night. It was also Buy One Table Dance Get One Free night, so my vicious, evil, but well-meaning friends treated me to a couple. Never have I felt more awkward. Never did I feel the need to get drunk so fast.

A fully dressed man appears at our table when we first sit down. Nice guy, attractive, and the conversation was pleasant enough. He leaves the table after our brief chat. A few minutes later and with “Rico Suave” blasting in the background (which gives an approximate idea of the time of this adventure), aforementioned pleasant gentleman is now back at my side gyrating his hips and taking off his shirt. No big deal. I’d been to Chippendales-type clubs before. Nothing too embarrassing. Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight. With a flick of the wrist (his,not mine), down come the pants. And the man is not wearing any underwear.

Okay, here’s the thing that guys have to understand. A man goes to a strip club (or, hell, the grocery store) and wants to see boobies, it’s a simple glance downward, mere inches from the woman’s face. Glance back up, quick recovery, simple procedure. No movement of the head is necessary (unless you’re lewd, crude, and obnoxious). When a woman has a naked man in front of her at a strip club (or, hell, the grocery store) and the time comes to look at his…”thing”(she has to look. He’s expecting her to. Why else would his pants be on the floor?), it’s much more complicated. His “thing” (what am I-in the second grade? Jeez.) is at her eye-level, depending on her height while seated and his while standing. To glance without awkwardness is impossible. Head movement is necessary. My method- look quickly, say something stupid, like “cool”, and then make extreme eye-contact for the rest of the dance. I wouldn’t recommend this method; the guy tends to get a little creeped out. Luckily, by the time my second dancer had arrived, my forehead was pressed to the table, too drunk to look up. I tried for a bit, but then he did that little “spinning” trick (think: "propeller") and I got a little motion sick. I held my hand up; time to head home.

Similar problem with serenaders, but with more clothes. In college a group of friends and I went out for wings one night at a popular restaurant. A really nice guy with a “great personality” who somehow got the idea that I was his date for the evening surprised me by singing a song he had written for me. Now, I think my attention span (or my comfort level) is enough to appreciate a poem-maybe a nice haiku or limerick. But an entire song? Again, awkward to no end. As he began to sing directly to me over the table, looking into my eyes the whole time, I think I did all the appropriate things. I smiled, blushed (it really was a sweet gesture, I’m just an incredible goofball) and tried to maintain eye contact with him. Second verse, a little less comfortable, my eyes began to dart around the room and I became acutely aware that people were watching, gauging my reaction (I am also slightly paranoid). I continued with the smile, but now I was blushing from embarrassment at having so much attention directed toward our table (to make things worse, I had a huge mountain of buffalo wing bones in front of me which I quickly covered up with a napkin). I would occasionally throw in a “that’s so sweet” or “thank you, awwwwwwwwwwwwww.” for good measure. Verse three- I was now trying to keep my lips curled up in a smiling position, but I was losing my strength. My lips were actually shaking, and my cheeks hurt. He continued singing, oblivious to the sweat beading on my forehead. I was a trooper, but when he pulled out the kazoo, I had to put an end to it.

Okay, I made that last part up. There was no kazoo, but there might as well have been. And I might as well have been wearing nothing but my socks, too.

The Stupid Things We Say and Do

Due to a severe case of writers' block, I am going to publish a few things I've written over the past few years to keep this blog going. These are just little things I've written, true stories all, just for fun. Never really knew what to do with them, so I'm blogging them.

The stupid things we say and do

I have said some really stupid things. I get embarrassed easily though, so some of the things probably weren’t even noticed by the person I said them to.

If I’m talking to someone who has a really thick accent, I will pick up that accent. Then I become extremely self-conscious and nervous and awkward and have to force myself to talk in my own accent. I have never been to Newfoundland, but when I’m talking to my Newfie friend I find myself talking like her. I will pick up a southern accent when I’m talking to someone with a southern twang, but that’s not so bad since I live in Atlanta.

I worry that someday I may offend someone who may think I’m mocking him. But it’s not just in conversations that I do this. When I watched Trainspotting, it took me half the movie to understand the dialect and once I got it I was stuck with it in my head. My thoughts were in a Scottish accent for an hour after the movie was over. I didn’t speak in it, but I had to work hard not to. And after watching Snatch and trying to figure out what the hell Brad Pitt was saying throughout the entire flick, my thoughts were completely unintelligible. I had no idea what I was thinking. I walked around in a serious state of confusion for a while.

When I’m nervous, I tend to greet people in the exact same way they greet me. I had a crush on a guy in college and I passed him on the way to class one day. He said “Hey. How’s it going?” as he was passing me. I said “Hey. How’s it going?” with the same inflections and everything back to him. I was overcome with embarrassment the rest of the day, but I’m sure he didn’t even notice. He must not have cared if he did notice because we dated for five months soon after.

What’s really bad is when a person with a really thick accent I can’t understand is talking to me and I reply with something that makes no sense. I had a bag-boy take my groceries out to my car for me after grocery shopping once. He was a very nice Chinese man in his forties or so and he was trying to make small talk. He said something to me I couldn’t quite get, but I assumed he was asking me how I was. The actual conversation went something like this:
Chinese man: Nice weather today.
Me: Fine, thanks. And you?

My dad was living in England for a little while and he rented a bungalow . The owner of the house lived next door, and she invited me over one day to play with her daughter. She brought out some cookies and said something to me. I asked her to repeat it. She repeated. I asked again. She repeated. I still didn’t understand, so I said “Yes”. She gave me a strange look and went back inside. I will never ever know what she asked me.

I think the worst “misunderstanding” occurred on the night my husband proposed. My then-boyfriend, Jay, was at Lowry Air Force Base in Denver for tech school. I flew out to visit him after not having seen him for about two and a half months. He had already told my mom and my Aunt Linda (I was to stay at her house in Denver) about his plan to propose. My Aunt Linda knew just the restaurant and just the waiter at the restaurant. She called ahead and arranged for Antonio to be our waiter. She said he was really fun- he did magic tricks at the table. The restaurant was a really nice place that looked like a lodge and was set in the mountains. Antonio greeted us and did a few magic tricks. He had a very thick Italian accent, which didn’t matter while he did the tricks-I knew how to “pick a card” in any accent. But when our food arrived, he said “I’ll leave you two alone.” And I called after him “I love you too!”. Jay still proposed to me that night, although I think he may have had his doubts after that.
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