I don’t even remember when I met Jen online. It was years ago, I know that. I loved her immediately, I know that too. She doesn’t blog a whole lot anymore, but she used to write at Problem Girl. If you haven’t read her, you should go read some of her archives, because holy hell is she hilarious. She is also an amazing person. She would probably shrug that off, but she is.
For a lot of years we’ve emailed and messaged and texted and made inappropriate jokes about lurking in each others’ driveways and peeking in windows. We always talked about meeting someday, but it seemed unlikely that someday would ever come.
Jen came to visit me in April. She flew all the way to the DC area just to visit me. Me. I feel pretty awesome about that. I mean that’s brave of her, right? For her to put herself out there to come and visit someone she’d never met? I’m sure that says something about her, but I’m also pretty sure that means that I am the most magnetic person in the world.
Anywho, I was thrilled. I was nervous and excited to meet her, but it didn’t feel weird to open my home to someone I’d never met because she was already my friend. We’d just never happened to, you know, meet before. I mean, sure, Alex was all, “She’s not going to kill us, is she?” and my therapist’s eyes just about popped out of his head when I told him, but for the most part it didn’t seem strange at all.
And it wasn’t. She is easy and fun and hilarious and one of the best people I’ve met. We got along immediately. Having her in my home wasn’t stressful, which is always a risk for houseguests in Stimeyland.
I mean, sure, I panicked in the airport parking lot because I couldn’t find my car and also because I couldn’t find my keys, which were actually in my hand (“I thought they were in your hand, but I didn’t want to say anything, you psycho” is a paraphrase of what Jen said when I finally located said keys by lifting my hand toward my face), but after we got in the car and I drove in 16 circles to find the exit of the garage, everything was smooth sailing.
I was extremely relieved to discover that not only is Jen even more awesome in person than she is online, but she is my people. There are just a few of those. I feel really lucky to have found another.
Jen and I did everything in DC while she was here. You may think I’m kidding, but I’m not. We went to every monument and memorial on the National Mall, plus four museums. And the zoo. My feet still hurt.
She also introduced me to risotto, which I have never before eaten in my life. Can you believe it? We went to Joe Squared in Baltimore, which has something like 17 kinds of risotto on the menu. After I took my first bite, I was furious at myself for never having eaten it before. Jen was in town for five days. We drove to Baltimore to eat risotto twice.
See? My people.
I could talk for a long time about Jen and how awesome she is, but most of you probably don’t want to hear all the fun little jokes we came up with over the weekend. But I would like to take you on a little photo tour of parts of her visit.
I’m going to start with my favorite photo that I took of Jen during her visit. She is a photographer and for maybe the first time in my life, I wasn’t the person who took the most photos whilst out and about. There is a lot to photograph at Arlington National Cemetery, which is where we started.
From there, we headed to the White House, where we both took a lot of photos, but then we found this tree that was almost even more interesting. This tree was otter interesting. (Don’t worry. That will make sense later.)
Okay, fine. I’ll show you the White House too.
From there, we traveled down the Mall to the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and then a looooong walk back to my car. That long walk back always sucks so much. I was smart enough the next day to suggest that we park near where we were going to end our day, which was brilliant. Weirdly though, this scheme involved a long walk to our first destination. Stupid giant National Mall. They could have crammed things a little closer for us lazy people, don’t you think?
But! The long walk was okay because we got to see some awesome sculptures like these…chairs?
Then we found this very flamboyant pizza cutter.
This next piece of art entertained my brain for the remainder of the day. I’m pretty sure that Jen is going to kill me for posting this here, but I have to because OMG, WHO PUT THIS ON THE NATIONAL MALL?!
All of this before we even set foot in a museum! We headed off to the speediest tours ever of the Natural History Museum and the American History Museum. It’s tough because you could spend an entire day in just one or two exhibits in any one of these museums, but we wanted to see a little bit of everything.
We ended up taking the teaser tour of DC. What? You want to check out the extensive and in-depth exhibit on human evolution? Sorry! Pick your favorite skull to look at because we have to go see the Star Spangled Banner!
I did manage to get a photo of Jen in the crystal ball that I always take photos through at the Natural History Museum.
From there, it was off to see the memorials we missed the day before.
Having lived here for a long time, I had already visited all of the places we toured in DC, except for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. I was super excited to go there. I can’t wait to take Jack there sometime. He is going to LOVE it. He absolutely loves his friend Martin, so I can only imagine his eyes if he were to see this memorial. It is gorgeous.
From there, we swung around through the Korean War Memorial and then began the long trudge back down toward the museum end of the Mall. We decided to bypass several of the museums lining the south side of the Mall because we were running short on time and also we needed to find food.
Of course, we had to traipse back down the mall, which included passing an ultimate Frisbee game and a kickball tournament to find that food. Happily, these hipster gatherings at least gave us something to make fun of on our slog down the Mall.
Fortunately I remembered that I had heard people talk about how yummy the food was at the American Indian Museum cafe, which is something that Team Stimey hadn’t experienced the other time we’d been to that museum, on a particularly ill-fated trip downtown with my children a while back.
It was a good decision to go there. (Fry bread!) Plus, because it was Jen’s birthday, it was totally legitimate for her to chug wine directly from the bottle in a museum cafe at lunchtime.
It was getting late in the afternoon, so we took a quick swing by the Capitol on our way to the National Gallery of Art. We also spent some time enjoying the pigeon hanging out on this statue’s hat.
We had a little over an hour at the art museum, which is totally enough time to pass judgment on all of the art hanging in the museum. I didn’t take any photos, maybe because I was having too good of a time listening to Jen complaining about the art at the museum. I will forever remember her standing in front of a Gauguin painting with a grimace on her face saying, “This is not a good painting.”
Honestly, I think she was right.
Once Jen started passing authoritative judgment on a few paintings, it was all over. I have spent every moment of every day since that moment pointing out faults in people (“This is not a good child.”), places (“This is not a good soccer field.”), and things (“This is not a good dead gerbil.”). You should try it. I think you will like it.
The museum closed at 5 (“Ladies and gentleman, the National Gallery of Art is now closed. Please make your way to the exit,” a guard bellowed loudly in a room where only he, Jen, and I stood.) and we had people meeting us at my house at 6 to go to a birthday dinner with Jen. It was 5:50 when it occurred to me that I should probably call Alex to tell him that people would be arriving on our porch and we wouldn’t be there yet. This was the first he had heard of people arriving on our porch.
(This is not a good wife.)
Alex all but hung up on me, saying (with a fair amount of resentment in his voice if I’m being honest), “I have to go clean now. Goodb—QUINN! SAM! JACK! GET IN HERE! PICK UP THIS TRASH! *click*”
Quinn almost didn’t let the first two people who arrived in, telling them, “You can’t come in. We’re cleaning.” For Jen’s and my blog-friend Susan, whom we were meeting in person for the first time, this was an abrupt welcome to Stimeyland. Fortunately, she knows what we’re like so I can’t imagine she was too taken aback. Can you imagine though? Showing up at someone’s house where you’ve never been and the person you’re going to see isn’t there yet, but there IS a surly Alex and an insolent 7-year-old telling you you’re not welcome? I probably would have gone to cry in my car.
Fortunately, things turned around quickly after Jen and I arrived and Alex forgave me/publicly shamed me in front of my friends. We had assembled an all-star cast for Jen’s birthday dinner.
We had such a good time. I am in love with this group of women. We had Mexican food, margaritas, cake, and an offensive and hilarious party game. It was maybe my favorite night of the year thus far.
The cake was a Minnie Mouse cake with a photo of Alex on it. It’s a long story. But worth it for the look on Jen’s face. I was pretty pleased with the cake and the writing that I forced the grocery store decorators to put on the top. Let me tell you, “Happy Birthday to my Internet Soul Sister” takes up a lot of space on a quarter of a sheet cake.
The next day we, along with half of the DC Metro area, decided to go to the zoo. Originally I had thought that this would be a fun thing to do with my kids. My kids didn’t want to go to the zoo though, so Jen and I got to go by ourselves. I have to say it was awesome and sliiiiiightly less whiny to go to the zoo with another adult.
I was pretty excited because I got to introduce Jen to a real, live panda bear.
I have to tell you though, the best animals at the zoo were the Asian otters. There was a whole pack of these little guys and they were the best thing I’d ever seen. (These are good animals.) They swam. They sat on their haunches and looked at visitors. They ran in little adorable packs. Frankly, they set the bar pretty high for zoo animals that day. (Which leads me to, “Yeah, the elephant is interesting, but it’s not otter interesting.”)
We saw lots of other animals as well. In fact, because of my poor navigation skills, we traveled the maximum uphill distance you possibly can at the zoo in order to see nearly every animal you can see at the zoo, including the invertebrates, which my kids never let me see because they are afraid of the spiders that are kept there with no barrier between them and the general public. Those spiders make an entire wing of the zoo off limits for most of Team Stimey.
One of our favorites was the hyrax, which seems to be the Debbie Downer of the animal kingdom. They are fun to anthropomorphize in the most dejected kind of way. They just look so disgruntled.
We also saw this monkey:
After the zoo, we met my family for dinner. It was at that dinner that we were discussing the names that my kids want to give the kittens we are considering getting. Jack told us that he either wants to name his Steve, after a Minecraft character, or Jenny, after, well, Jen.
(This is a good name for a cat.)
I think it is safe to say that all of Team Stimey are fans of Jen. We miss her. We want her to come back. If it weren’t still snowing where she lives, we would want to go visit her right now.
I have felt lucky for a long time that Jen is my friend. Now that I have seen her in person and been able to have long conversations, I feel even luckier. Thank you for taking a chance and coming to visit, Jen. Thank you also for not killing us. We are going to be friends for a long time.
(This is a good friendship.)
You all continue to bring magic by donating to the the Montgomery Cheetahs Cheetah-thon. Thank you so much for the most recent donors including an anonymous friend; Barbara; and my sister, her wife, and their family. Thank you all so much. So, so much. I love you. You all have donated $775 so far. You are amazing.
Jack and his teammates would be so grateful if you were to donate to his team. We’d also like it if you were to come out and skate with us on May 11. Details about the Cheetah-thon and how to donate are online.