Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Gift of the Magi

For Christmas this year I gave Jeff a mini bamboo steamer for cooking shumai and gyoza snacks. He gave me a bamboo steamer for cooking vegetables.

For Christmas this year I gave Jeff two poach pods for cooking poached eggs. He gave me fried egg molds for cooking eggs in the shape of roosters.

A sign perhaps, that we were meant to be together? At least for the next year?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

In for a penny, in for a pound

$ 617 - New couch
$ 800 - Plumber to replace the water heater on the weekend
$ 120 - "Donation" to Animal Rescue League of Boston as a thanks for getting our
cat out of the neighbor's tree
$ 260 - New BBQ grill and various accoutrement
$ 300 - Trip to Syracuse to visit Gretchen's family
That's how much we've shelled out in the last three weeks for various and extraordinary house expenses.

To be fair we've brought in cash too.
$111 - Garage sale proceeds
$150 - Sale of the futon
$600 - Garage sale proceeds of two year ago
$860 - That's our cash in hand to cover these expenses

So, the total we've shelled out in the last three weeks is only $1,237. Maybe not as high as $2,097, but still overwhelming. Gulp.

One of the upsides of the cash spent is that we've decided to build a joint checking/savings account to pay monthly expenses and to build a slush fund for things like hot water heaters and vacation.

We may not be getting married (yet) but if we're in for $1,237 we're in it for the long haul.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Ideal party

We hosted an impromptu BBQ last night, for all of the very very smart people who didn't schlep to the Cape this weekend.

The idea for the party was started when a girlfriend and I, while enjoying a workday lunch in Somerville's Union Square, realized our grad school gang had not seen each other in a while. She said she'd host a party, but then agreed to let me and Jeff host so we could invite other friends. The vision I had was a backyard filled with people, playing badminton while laughed echoed off the porch.

About 90 minutes before the party, while reflecting on the nine definite RSVPs which included Jeff's parents and godmother, Jeff asked me how I was feeling. Only one of my grad school pals was on the "yes" list for the party. One never even replied in spite of an email and a follow-up phone call. He then said, "I feel bad that you put so much energy into planning these parties, and then always end up being for my friends and family. I think you need to plan around them better."

My reply, "I give up too much of my own desires already. I don't want to plan parties around people who are inconsistent. I think what I need to do is adjust my expectations of the people I call my friends, particularly those with young children. Between their obligations to their children and their own families, and the alleged difficulty of traveling with kids, I can't count on them to be present when I want them to be."

Jeff countered, "I think many people don't realize the point of dragging yourself out of the house is to spend time with people you care about. If the venue is less than ideal - maybe you don't want to go to that golf tournament, or concert, or bat mitzvah - but you do want to see the person who invited you. So just go and be with the people you care about."

With that as the reflective thought for the day, we headed into the party. Jeff's best friend from childhood and his lovely wife were the first to arrive. Followed by Jeff's godmother and his parents. We sipped water and wine and caught up with one another. Then our neighbors arrived, the wife a friend of Jeff's, with their 15 year-old son, who promptly got to work setting up the badminton "court" and exploring the bocce set laid out on the dry grass. We started cooking, laying out the meager but delicious potluck. Then, to my surprise, two friends from graduate school arrived. One sans her 3 year-old daughter and the other with her two young boys in tow. We all got food and drink and settled into the grass to reconnect. When the badminton set was fully assembled we popped up and played three or four horrible but fun games while Jeff's dad took photos from the porch. As the end of the party the neighbor and her family were still here, along with two friends - sweethearts - Jeff and I have both met through social media. We did a little trash talking, poked around on the Internet and generally relaxed with one another.

It all felt nearly perfect. What would have made it perfect? If my family had been there too, and maybe a relaxed board game or card game at the end of the evening.

And, because there was such a tiny crowd, clean-up was a breeze.

The lesson for me? It's not entirely who's in the room but how you use the time that makes the ideal party.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Jeff called me at work at 3:40 PM to ask if I would be at the office in the next few minutes.

"I have a meeting at 4:00," I replied.

"Okay, I'll hurry over there. I have something to give you."

"Oooh!" thought I. Earlier in the day Jeff and I had a virtual exchange about the possibility of ice cream which didn't pan out. But I knew HE had gone for a scoop or three with a friend and I immediately assumed he was bringing me an ice cream treat as solace for my inability to get out of the office to get my own.

4:00 rolls around and there is no Jeff, so I head into the conference room to run what I think is going to be a 30 minute meeting. All the while I'm day dreaming about the ice cream sundae Jeff is bringing to me. "Will he know to put it in the freezer if I'm not at my desk?" I continue, "Maybe someone will tell him to find me in the conference room and he'll hand deliver a banana split." Panicked for a moment I also thought, "Gosh! What if the place gets locked up and he can't get in? Will he eat MY ice cream? Will he wait in the parking lot with it?"

I look up at the clock and realize the meeting has been dragging on for 70 minutes. I excuse myself and run to my office, imagining a small Ben and Jerry's cup in a ceremonious puddle on my desk. But no. What I find instead is a thermal bag from the Lindt chocolate store standing upright in the middle of my workspace. I think to myself, "Do they serve ice cream? Ohh! I bet it is good!" I open the bag eagerly and find three pounds of their famous truffles. "Huh. This is odd. I bet Jeff got them for free and he thought I might enjoy them because work has been SO stressful lately. It isn't ice cream, but it is nice."

I grab the bag and head back to the conference room where the meeting is breaking up. I open each of the bags of truffles and offer them to my colleagues, and then fill our chocolate bowl.


Later I speak with Jeff and learn that the truffles weren't a gift for me, but rather candy he bought for himself that he wanted me to ferry around on his behalf.


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Different Perspectives

I drew a very bad picture of Jeff while he and I sat in a bar together. I had been teasing about tattooing a flower on his forehead, or maybe drawing one in permanent magic marker. He wouldn't let me (go figure) so I got my doodlebug on by drawing his picture.

He snorted derisively and said, "That's supposed to be me? I don't look like that." I admit I'm not a remotely talented artist. But I TRIED to capture the shape of Jeff's head, his round cheeks, his messy, vaguely spikey hairstyle, and his square glasses. It wasn't a museum quality, really wasn't even a fridge-worthy, portrait. But I felt I deserved a "B" for effort.

"So I'm not a good drawer," I sniffed defensively. "You try to do better." So he did.

I have nothing else to report.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Jeffronym (jeff-row-nim): An acronym for an activity/relationship that partially defines Jeff Cutler's life.

Why Jeffronyms? My sister lovingly complained earlier this week that she "had no idea what all of the "x"s mean in Jeff's Facebook updates." SXSW @ NOMX3? What DOES that mean? So I'm here to help you understand these acronyms so you can interpret and appreciate Jeff's life as I do. Have a Jeffronym not yet addressed here? Put it in the comments and we'll try to answer, or feel free to add your own Jeffronym here.

BMM (bee emm emm): BMM stands for Boston Media Makers, which is a monthly gathering of "media makers" (e.g. bloggers, video bloggers, twitters, etc.) for networking and professional horn tooting. They gather over breakfast at Boston's (in)famous Doyle's Cafe.

iRoadtrip (eye road trip): This was a road trip Jeff took with a group of four other social media gurus last year. They drove from Detroit, MI to Austin, TX (see SXSW below) in some sort of fancy Ford provided by, well, Ford Motor Company. Along the way they visited companies, like my beloved, that are doing interesting and innovative things with social media to reach out to their customers. This was a

NOMX3 (Nahm ex 3): Jeff's TV show he co-hosts with @mikelangford. NOMX3= nom x 3 or nom nom nom. Nom is geek speak for yummy. The TV show is like a talk show for guys, and involves eating lunch, thus the yummy yummy yummy or NOMX3.

RT (retweet): This Jeffronym is popping up on Facebook. It is actually Twitter speak for repeating something someone else has said on Twitter. People retweet if they read something particularly witty, smart or compelling. RT is also used for political reasons - to show your support for someone else's great work or to be noticed by someone you admire professionally or personally. While Jeff is an excellent writer he is humble and/or smart enough to pass along cool info he finds on Twitter.

SPJ (ess pee jay): Society of Professional Journalists, the professional organization of journalists. Jeff is the official social media trainer for SPJ, and he is flying all over the US delivering training for news organizations and journalists on the use of tools like Facebook to research stories, find sources, and deliver content.

SXSW (south by southwest): The annual social/new media conference Jeff attends in Austin, TX. It is sometimes called South By.

TTWA (things to worry about): Jeff's blog in which he inspires readers to be afraid of the things he is most afraid of.

WWJCE (double you, double you, jay cee, ee): What Would Jeff Cutler Eat, the picture blog that details on a meal-by-meal or snack-by-snack basis what Jeff has been ingesting. Want to know how many Twinkies one person could possibly eat in a single day? WWJCE can tell you. How much cheese can one man eat between lunch and dinner? WWJCE has the answers.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Zombie Squirrels

"You know how the squirrels have been taking the top off the bird feeder at home?" This is the question Jeff asks me during our drive-home check-in. "Well, there is one less squirrel in the neighborhood to steal our bird's tasty treats, because I hit a squirrel today while driving to work."

"WHAT!?" I shrieked while sitting in traffic on 93 South, "Did you stop to help it?"

"Well, I would have stopped to check on the squirrel if I hadn't hit it with both wheels AND if the two cars behind me hadn't hit it also."

"You killed another creature today! How can you stand it!?"

"Well, I wasn't happy about it when it happened, but it was only a squirrel."

I continued to moan into the phone, bereft with grief over the loss of the rodent life. "When I'm not overwhelmed with worry about becoming homeless or losing my hair I worry about hitting and killing small animals. I can't even drive over the flattest deadest roadkill without feeling like I'm crushing the animal's soul."

"If you are that concerned," Jeff nonchalantly replied, "why don't you check on the squirrel when you get home. I'm pretty sure you'll be able to see it in the road. And, if it is there can you go home and get the shovel..."

I interrupted. "I'm not going to check for the dead squirrel and I may not even go home tonight. Because I'm pretty sure there is a zombie squirrel waiting on our porch to kill me."

Monday, February 8, 2010

No Cat Disease

Childless by choice I often find myself having awkward conversations about babies with random strangers. In these conversations I give various explanations as to why Jeff and I choose not to have kids. "We love to travel and know we wouldn't have the money or the flexibility to travel the way we like to if we had kids," and "I give so much to children at work that I know there wouldn't be anything left over for my own children," are two of the more inane excuses. "I know parenting is a lot of work and I just don't have it in me," "We're both pretty selfish and would have a hard time with parenting," and "I've never had that burning desire to be a mom that drives so many women I know" are among the more honest and crass answers to the question, "Oh, you don't have kids? Why not?"

I was shopping for baby clothes for several friends who are in some state of pregnancy or new parenting the other day. A kindly older woman was ringing me out and making idle conversation about the pieces I had purchased. Inevitably she asked me if I had any kids. "No I replied. My partner has a chronic illness and he has decided NOT to take a risk and pass it on to any children." (This is a GREAT excuse to use if I want to abruptly end a conversation.) I continued with the sales clerk, "So we have the joy of visiting with other people's babies, and then going home together to be with our cats."

"Cats?" she said skeptically, "You have cats?" I felt a rush of judgment coming on. The clerk continued, "I've never met anyone who had a chronic illness who could also have a cat."

Dumbfounded I cocked my head at her and mentally began cataloguing all of the chronic diseases I knew of that didn't involve breathing - cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, Huntington's Disease, Addison's Disease, Crohn's Disease, Colitis, any number of heart ailments. The list could go on. Then I looked back at the clerk, politely accepted the bag of gifts I had just purchased and walked out of the store without saying another word.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Accepting our bodies

One of the great things about living with someone with a chronic illness is that there is no stone throwing when it comes to one's physical imperfections. I don't worry about Jeff eyeing my occasional, and nearly predictable, weight gain with suspicion. And I hope Jeff doesn't worry about any judgments that may briefly pass through my consciousness about the failings of his organs or his weight or the cowlicks on the back of his head.

Let the record show we both carry our own internal diatribes about our bodies - the focus may be our weight, digestion, or wrinkles. Or maybe we worry about heart and lung capacity, muscle strength and grey hair. Our internal complaints certainly seep into our shared life, occasionally poisoning our physical closeness or our ability to create spontaneous fun. And we deal with this when it happens. The good news, however, is that we don't exacerbate the physical anxieties of the other with snarky comments, snide observations, or non-verbal judgments.

This is one of the many reasons this relationship is peaceful and comforting to me.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A fight to end all fights

Not really, but we did have a hearty discussion last night about many things. You'd think that after going out for 3.5 years we'd know everything about each other. Not so.

But what's the result? Have I been sent packing with the good cat and my one shirt? Hardly.

From time to time a 'discussion' can help people grow a little closer and prove that adult communication isn't just pillow talk, chat over finances or mature discussion over why Scott Brown is better than Martyr Coakley.

No, talk can be loud (some might call it shouting) and irrational and angry. Because when that talk is done, the sorting out of feelings and thoughts gives you better insight into who you're with.

I think we both emerged from last night's discussion in better shape. And still in love.