Thursday, May 31, 2007

The one where I talk about wedding dresses

When we were in California, my mom wanted to take me wedding dress shopping. I have to admit, though I'd pretty well maintained all along that I don't *really* want to wear a traditional white poofy dress or spend obscene amounts of money on a dress I'll wear once, for a few hours, I was kind of curious about the experience of trying on actual wedding dresses. Because, as QIR mentioned during our visit, I am actually a girl deep down inside.

Full disclosure: I've been reading a few different wedding-related sites for quite some time, even before we got engaged, probably since we first started talking about it. So it's been a while, and I've read a lot of what other people had to say about dress shopping. Most of what I read made me prepare for the worst. Conventional wisdom seemed to say, about bridal stores, that the staff would be pushy, rude, or both (especially since I don't have a "traditional" large solitaire diamond engagement ring); the selection would be bad; the sample sizes would be either way too big or way too small and I'd have to be bungee corded or clipped in and only have a vague idea about how the actual dress in my size would look. The dresses would look ugly or strange in the bags; they would be in poor condition with stains and rips and holes; they would all be identical strapless white poofy numbers with little difference between them. I would feel humiliated; I would feel uncomfortable. These things and more I was led to expect before my experience, but my mom really wanted to see me in a traditional dress even if I don't decide to go that route, and I had to satisfy my morbid curiosity, so we shooed Dan away for a couple of hours and went inside.

Perhaps it was just the store that we went to, but my experience was, overall, a positive one. We were warmly greeted and given a little tour of the store, including the bridesmaids' dress area when I'd mentioned I might be wearing one of those instead. I was given a handful of thingys to clip onto hangers of dresses I might want to try on and given the run of the store. My mom and I wandered around looking at a large variety of dresses in all levels of formality and price range, and I specifically tried to find ones that had color or something interesting about them, like an unusual bodice or cool beading. One piece of conventional wisdom did seem to hold true; it was really hard to tell what the dresses would look like all zipped up in their plastic bags and eventually we started unzipping the bags a bit and pulling aside the trains to see what the backs would look like (since I'm particularly interested in a corset back style). Once I'd put a marker on a dress, it would disappear while I was in another part of the store, and once I'd picked out 5 dresses a saleslady who looked like she could have used a good meal or 300 over the last 65 years and who was also probably no stranger to the bottom of a bottle of Jack Daniels came over and told me she'd be helping me in and out of the dresses.

I was brought into the dressing room and told to disrobe, to tie on this heavy, hot crinoline/petticoat thing, and to put on a borrowed bustier (luckily, being one of the most popular bra/cup sizes they had one in my size - though the cups were a little small). Then the lady brought in the first dress, took it out of the bag, arranged the skirt and layers of fabric and material and oh my god these dresses have a lot of material and put it up over my head and zipped it up. It fit perfectly. I mean, there is no way I would have needed any alterations done to the thing because it was my exact size. Fluke! I told myself, and I held up the skirt and walked out to the "display" area where there's a pedestal and a mirror. The lady arranged the skirt and my mom got this look on her face like it was something she'd been waiting her whole life to see. This dress had a detachable train, so I put it on without the train and got to move around on my own, turning to see myself in the mirror.

It felt like I'd put on a bride costume, but oh, how that costume fit. No strapping in or clipping was necessary for that dress. The neckline was good, the detail was flattering (though a little overwhelming with all the beading and such), and I felt my little girl self who likes to play dress up exclaiming with glee on one shoulder while the offbeat, indie, non-mainstream self harrumphed on the other. I never expected to feel such conflict, these opposite messages coming from inside. My mom snapped a few pictures and eventually I climbed down off the little podium and went back into the dressing room with Lizard Lady to try the next dress.

Dress 2 had beautiful multicolored embroidery and more interesting detail on the bodice. The lady slipped it over my head and it zipped up to fit perfectly. Again. It was strapless and had a line across the waist, but it didn't seem to matter as she held up the train and I lurched into the mirror area because I could see how well it fit me and how all along I'd been wrong about strapless dresses. Because damn! it looked good on me! I SO was not expecting that. After my mom took some more pictures, the lady held the train up to show what it would look like bustled to show off the beautiful embroidered colors. I got a little hand mirror so I could see what the back looked like myself - now the little dress-up girl was jumping up and down in delight. Counterculture self raised one eyebrow in a wry expression. In the bag, this dress had looked like it would probably not be at all flattering on me - but in a way, it was even better than the first.

Dress 3 turned out to be, on reflection, my favorite. I'd picked it out because it had a corset back and because it wasn't white or ivory but a light gold/dark champagne sort of color. The embroidery detailing on the bodice and skirt were the same color as the satin, and the train was rich and flowy. My favorite part of the dress had been the unusual lines on the bodice and I was curious about what I'd look like in that color, never having worn it before. As the dress fwumped over my head, the lady took some time in lacing up the corset back, making sure the lacing was even. This dress was also strapless, but was a bit of a sweetheart neckline rather than straight-across. I huffed and puffed out into the mirror area, my mom snapping pictures, and I stared at myself in the mirror, because DAMN did that dress look good. Maybe it's because I work out (good arms/shoulders); maybe it's because I have a bit of my family curse going on (skin that tans at the drop of a hat despite wearing copious sunscreen), but I couldn't believe how well that dress fit or how beautiful it was. Holy guacamole was it ever heavy, though; the thing had to weigh at least 30 or 40 pounds. The detailing on the bodice turned out to make my waist look about 18 inches around, which was definitely pleasing to my vanity. And again, no alterations needed; all I would need would be a bit of hemming (and a bustle, of course). Costume girl clapped her hands and did a jig, and even Counterculter girl looked less pissed off.

Dress 4, we all agreed immediately, was just not my dress. It was beautiful and had a unique neckline with some sheer netting on the back and in the front, and would have looked good on a lot of people (it also fit just right) but after seeing the sweetheart necklines the narrow V of this dress just cut off my neck and collarbone. My mom didn't take any pictures.

Dress 5 had green and silver detailing on white, which is why I'd picked it (green!). I liked it from about mid-chest down (especially the netting overlay, which was way lighter than all the heavy satin of the other dresses), but the top wasn't perfect. It was another corset-style back but that dress turned out to be just a bit big on me, so it had to be laced tighter and the balance was a little off. At this point, I was pretty exhausted from all the taking off and putting on and hauling the big heavy dresses around on my person, so I was glad to put on something a little different (a bridesmaid's dress I'd eyed online). However, this sample WAS way too big for me, one of the straps was broken, and the whole thing looked like I was playing dress-up in mommy's clothes. It was also a bit of a let down after all the fancy dresses to try on something so simple with just one layer of fabric. It was hard to tell whether it just didn't look good on me or whether it was because the dress was too big, but I felt a little sad after seeing myself in the mirror. On the internets, the dress was so pretty! but in person? kind of disappointing.

Only after I finished trying on the dresses and was putting my clothes back on did the lady start hustling. She explained to me how the labels on the dresses worked and how if I bought that exact dress (the sample) I'd pay 35% or 50% (depending) off the pricetag, but if I ordered one through them it would be full price. I guess they were trying to unload some of their sample stock, because my favorite dress would have been only $300 and not $750 after I did the math (I guess it was on a super-good sale?). She wrote down the style numbers of the ones I was most interested in (as did I, but dammit I lost the paper I wrote them on!) and was very clear that I should be coming back in again to try on the dresses. "Maybe next time I'm in town," I told her, and we left the store, mom in her happiness to see me all dressed up and me feeling conflicted.

Because honestly? after trying them on, seeing how good they look (and make me look!), and after the good experience I had, I'm not so anti-tradition now. Though from a purely practical standpoint, the place where we're getting hitched isn't a church or a hall or anyplace traditional but outdoors on a beach or a lawn, and I'll want to dance and be able to move around and not be exhausted from hauling around 23098430984 layers of heavy satin. Dan will be very formally dressed but in a more unusual manner than one might expect, so I'd like to find something that kind of goes with his style. After the dress shopping and dancing we did that evening, we went back to my mom's and she and I looked at other dresses on the internets, and I actually found a couple made by one designer that incorporate quite a bit of color - and I have a choice between 46 colors, not 3 (pink, red, black). So now I'm not sure what to do, and not sure what to think about what I want. I still want to incorporate green into what I wear, but now maybe I'm not so hell-bent on being indie. I only get one day to be a bride, one day where I can legitimately wear a dress like the ones I tried on, and I guess I haven't decided yet if I want to give up that opportunity. On the other hand, while $300 is a damn cheap price for an actual wedding dress, it's a lot of money to spend on a dress that I can only wear for one day.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Playing catch-up

The last week? well, it's been made up of slowly unpacking the car, rain, more rain, a fantastic 3-day weekend, and yesterday we got some thunder and lightning and torrential downpour and green-gray clouds and a few inches of hail followed by more rain that went on for a few hours. I walked home in my summery skirt and shoes and was pretty well soaked when I got there.

But yes, the weekend. I think all weekends should have 3 days in them, because this one was perfect - Saturday we put in our garden (veggies and herbs) and put in more plants and flowers. We started a major (and well-needed) house clean, ran some errands, and enjoyed the lovely weather. Sunday we finished the cleaning and the errands - and boy is our house clean! I hope we can keep it that way. We had some social time in the evening and also did some prepwork for Monday's brunch that we hosted for Dan's parents and grandma. We woke up pretty early on Monday and finished up cooking the veggie, turkey sausage, and goat cheese quiche, the fruit salad, the coffee cake, the sweet potato home fries, and the spinach salad. When Dan's family arrived, everything was already done (for once!) and we had time to just relax and enjoy the afternoon. We even got out the fancy silver that Dan's grandma gave us a couple of years ago and got to use that for the first time.

Monday afternoon was one of those times when we were completely free to do anything we wanted; the weather was warm with a bit of a breeze, and our house was totally clean. For once, we could go anywhere or do anything. So we decided to go to the park, toss a frisbee around for a while, lay in the grass and look up through the trees, and relax. Eventually we decided to walk to the awesome ice cream place (Lik's) and I got a child size with my two favorite flavors, chai tea and dark chocolate with caramel. Dan got his favorite, caramel Irish stout with chocolate chips in it. We dropped off the frisbee and the nalgene on our way downtown and then went to sit in a cool movie theater for 3 hours and watched the new Pirates movie, which Dan kindly reviewed here. I went into it with low expectations and it was better than I'd thought it would be, so there you go. I also think they've done amazing things with CGI and it's grown leaps and bounds just in the last couple of years. I can't wait to see what they come up with next.

Yesterday, I was supposed to be in a meeting that was to last pretty much all day, but we got through everything really quickly and it was done in less than an hour (yay!) so I went to the gym for a long time, not expected back at work until late afternoon. When I was finished with the iron pumping and the hamstering I felt guilty and decided to go back to work. An hour later, some coworkers came back from lunch telling tales of green skies and tornadoes and hail, so I got up to see the commotion and looked out the back door of the building. Damn, that was some nasty rain/hail/storm. I was worried about the garden that we just put in, more so as I was walking home through the rain over piles of leaf bits and other plant detritus that were casualties of the hail. Our car, backyard and lawn were covered in more leaf bits and detritus, but it appears that the plants I deemed most important (the peppers and tomatoes) turned out OK. The annuals (flowers) have seen better days, but that's OK; they'll make more flowers.

Today I was prepared and brought a sweatshirt and an umbrella and wore shoes that I didn't care if they got soaked, and of course my walk home this afternoon was lovely. It's quiet in the house now; Dan is in class and the kitties are napping and I am super excited for 7 PM to arrive because 7 PM means So You Think You Can Dance, and I am also super excited because TWOP is finally recapping it. Hooray! I look forward to this show all year because I am lame.

Post about wedding dress shopping still in the works; I'm hoping to have it done tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

I wonder if he's still there

Oh yeah - so, on the Monday (now more than a week ago!) we got up super early and put everything in the car, refilled all our water bottles with tasty (no, really!) tap water, and started to drive. And drive. We drove and drove all day long back the same way we'd come. Through the Sierras, through dusty dry Nevada, stopping in Winnemucca for gas and lunch meat. We decided beforehand on a definite stop at the rest stop in the Utah salt flats, talked up by Leah and Simon. We actually had a specific purpose in mind, a particular reason for stopping in the middle of the weird alien landscape.

Picture this: Christmas, 2006. It was a Thanksgiving-in-California, Christmas-in-Denver year, so we planned a quick trip to California for early January. Anyhow, my uncle, who has a history of giving strange, odd, or unusual Christmas presents to his siblings and nieces, bestowed upon everyone a weird Santa doll/statue/thingy. They were all different, and all bizarre. So when we went to California in January, my mom had the weird Santa waiting there for us to bring back to Denver. However, since we were flying (and didn't really want it) we brought it back down to the Bay Area where we stayed at QIR's the night before we flew home. We had intended to put Santa out on the curb in QIR's neighborhood and hope someone could love him, but in the early-morning bleariness we forgot to put him outside, so he lived at QIR's for a while. She moved in April and tried to leave Santa behind, but her landlord thoughtfully packed him up for her and he ended up at her new place. While we were out on this trip, QIR told us that Santa had to go. So we put him in the car, all 18 inches of strangeness, and when we got to the rest stop at the Salt Flats in Utah, we pulled him out, snapped a couple of photos, and left him there. I do hope someone decided to take pity on him - or perhaps he'll become the mascot of the rest stop - people stopping just to view the weird awesomeness that is the Salt Flats Santa. He's even white to blend in (better to catch prey with, I'm sure).

After we left Santa behind, the car's mileage got a little worse, and worse after we went through Salt Lake and up over the mountains. We stopped in Evanston to add oil and poke around under the hood, ate dinner at a low-rent Denny's (though it was actually better than it could have been), and continued on. I got sleepy and napped a bit, and when I woke up the weather had gotten worse - it was raining. Then it was snowing. Then it was blizzarding, and the only vehicles left on the road were semis which barrelled through the weather despite the danger and covered our car in water for a minute each time one zoomed by. The wipers on highest speed did nothing to improve visibility, and things just got worse when fog started rising up like ghosts in the middle of the road. Our visibility at that point was about 10 feet in front of the car, we'd been driving for about 16 hours and Dan was exhausted, and we were going about 30 mph because of the horrible conditions. So I made a command decision, and we pulled off the highway at the next exit, we found a spot in a dirt lot under a street lamp, and we pulled the sleeping bags out of the car and slept for a few hours in our seats.

Awakening at 6:30 AM, we discovered that the weather had cleared, and our mileage had significantly improved. I called work when I got a bit of a signal and left a message saying I'd be in later than expected, and we made it to Denver by 11 AM. I pulled all the plants out of the tub (we'd bought plants for the garden, hadn't had time to put them in the ground, and were worried it would be hot and they'd dry out and die), and took an extraordinarily-needed shower (seriously, I stunk!). Then, I went to work in a weird fugue state and was cracked out all day and didn't even get through all 180 of the emails in my inbox. But we were home, and sleeping in our own bed that night was heavenly.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Saturday and Sunday: More excitement than a barrel of monkeys on crack


So, as I said, we got up and made some breakfast, called my cousin to confirm plans, and drove back down to the City. For those of you unfamiliar with the west coast, San Francisco is referred to as the City by most people, SF or San Fran by a few, San Francisco if you want to be wordy, but never Frisco (that's a small town in Colorado, actually). If you are in (or near) San Francisco and you call it Frisco, people will secretly think you an idiot.

Anyhow, it was a lovely drive with very little traffic, and then we were across the bridge and driving up 19th Avenue to Geary and then driving much of the way out to the ocean. We met up with my cousin, lucked out on parking, and ate delicious Indian food at a highly-recommended place in the inner Richmond district. After lunch, we went to the ocean and played in the stingy sand. I reveled in the smell of the ocean and put my bare feet in the cold, salty water, and then ran back to where the sand was warm.

Hulk spent some time looking out to sea.

Eventually, it was time to return to real life, so we got back in the car and drove over to where QIR was graduating. We dropped off my cousin and I climbed in the back seat to strip out of my clothes and into other clothes while Dan stood in front of the window so passers-by couldn't see my shameful wickedness. Or my boobs. After a quick change (I'm good at that from years of practice backstage at ballet recitals and plays) I emerged from Moxie all gussied-up and did my makeup quickly in the right side mirror (a first, for me). We hightailed it up a very steep street to the fancy church where the graduation was held, got our tickets from QIR and took her purse to give to Lawboy.

We went into the church to find seats, only to find that this one person was saving an entire pew, and since each graduate only got seven tickets, we couldn't figure out why he felt like he was entitled to all that butt room. Some other nice person scootched over so we had some seats in a part of the church where we couldn't see a thing. Luckily, they had the whole shindig broadcast on big screens so we got to see and hear, and I took some pictures in the church. It was purty. Then, just before the ceremony started (very pomp and circumstance, very liturgical, almost wedding-ish, as only a group of 250 brand new lawyers in black robes can be), a cavalcade of brightly-dressed Nigerians rushed in and hurriedly filled the entire pew the one guy had been saving, and kind of pushed their way in to other rows nearby. The women wore beautiful dresses, some of them with scarves or head wraps, and the men had long robes over long pants and the boys were in bright blue suits, the girls in flowergirl dresses, and the babies were wearing whatever Nigerian babies wear to a graduation ceremony. There had to be at least 30 of them, and we found out later that they were all there to support one of QIR's classmates who had begged extra tickets from everyone so her friends and family could all be there.

The ceremony was actually quite nice, the speeches were interesting (especially the keynote, which was given by a kind of famous person), and then each person got his or her picture taken, crossed the stage, and got a piece of paper that was not actually a diploma. When the whole thing was over, everyone clumped across the street to the law school for the cupcake-and-apple-juice reception. It was quite crowded, as there's really noplace for a thousand people to hang out, so people were on stairways and in hallways and generally trying to stay out of the way of other people. We saw QIR's future nephew, or at least, saw her sister in which he is currently housed, and schmoozed a little, and then we all drove back over to the east bay to relax a bit before dinner.

Dinner was at a schmancy restaurant. I got super schmancy pizza, while most people got steak, and we all schmoozed some more. We hightailed it out after dinner and met Leah and Simon at the pub, had one drink and decided to call it a night since we were meeting the next day in the city. I volunteered to ride bitch in Simon's car, skirt and all, since we really didn't feel like walking back to our car. Photographic evidence can be seen here.

Sunday dawned bright and beautiful, but we dressed warmly because you never know what the weather will be like in the City; ah, microclimates. We BARTed to the city only to find out that we'd chosen wrong and for once, it was warm and beautiful there, too. Leah and Simon were waiting for us pretty close to the start of the Bay to Breakers race, and we spent the morning in the herds, throngs, and crowds of drunken, costumed, and/or naked people, taking pictures, gawking, and scoring free beer (Simon). I didn't actually take many pictures, but these are the ones I took that I liked best.

You can see Dan's and Leah's photos here.

After we'd made it into the park (complete with hilltop pee stop for me), we headed for a much-needed lunch on Haight street. Leah and Simon then took a test drive of an 08 Scion xB and scored some schwag, while Dan and I waited, and then we meandered back through the city to downtown.

We BARTed back across the bay, exhausted, and made it to Berkeley in time to have some gelato and go to Dan's favorite comic book store. I had to beg a Peet's employee to let me use the bathroom because somehow the Public Library locks theirs 15 minutes before closing and I was desparate. We BARTed up to my sister's house and sat on their couch and vegetated for a couple of hours in the warm quiet stillness, with only Elvis's chirping and the movie playing on their awesome huge flatscreen TV making it into our aural conciousnesses. My sister drove us to Trader Joe's to get food for the drive back and dropped us off at QIR's, where we visited with people at her celebratory barbeque, and then packed up and fell asleep since we had (yet another) early morning Monday.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Friday: All weddings, all the time

My sister works near QIR's house, and I called her when we got in, so she came over and ate lunch with us, discussing her indecision about wedding location (they did make a decision and set a date while we were out, incidentally) - two different locations, same price, with different positives and negatives. Then she went back to work, and QIR came back from the city with her parents, and we walked over to a shopping area near where she lives and I got to go to H&M, even scoring a few new pieces for my wardrobe. Then we walked to the part of town where there is a Trader Joe's, and everyone (QIR, her parents, Hulk) went in while I ran across the street to Shoe Pavilion with a single-minded goal: to find a pair of brown strappy shoes that could be dressed up or down to wear with the graduation outfit I'd brought. And though it was really hard for me, I managed to only look at shoes that could fit that description, and I found a pair and bought them in like 5 minutes. I believe it was my shortest foray into a Shoe Pavilion ever. I'm so proud of myself.

Friday morning we got up early (again), walked around a very long corner to a bakery and ate pastries on the way back to the house, then piled back in the car and drove up to Sonoma County to meet my mom at the place where we're getting all marrified next year. Hulk took tons of pictures, we asked the event coordinator lady a lot of questions, my mom got all teary when she realized that we're Really Doing This, and I marveled at how beautiful it was, even more so than I'd remembered. They've even renovated quite a bit, so the bathrooms are now superfantastic, and the kitchen is incredible, and the whole thing is all spiffy and shiny. We even talked some about where we'll have the ceremony, facing which direction, how we might set up the chairs. And speaking of chairs, one of the questions I had was about whether the chairs and tables and such were extra, and it turns out they are not. So we are getting tables, chairs, picnic tables, dishes, glassware, coffeemakers, and silverware all included in the rental price, plus 3 hours set-up, 5 hours party time, and 2 hours cleanup for a price that you would not believe even if I told you. I didn't believe it. Email me if you really want to know, and be prepared to change your pants because you might pee in them. Here's a photo I took inside of the patio outside.

After that, we stopped in at a hotel in town to get some literature, had lunch, and stopped in the next town over to ask about flowers at a local farm that does pick-your-own. Unfortunately, they won't have anything but greenery available then because they don't have a greenhouse, but it's better to know that now. And then we went to Santa Rosa and sent Hulk off to play in the super exciting Coddingtown Mall while my mom and I went dress shopping, which will be another post entirely. After all that was done, we had dinner and went out dancing at a place that does a ballroom lesson and then an open dance afterward, and we started to learn the tango, which in my opinion is the most difficult ballroom dance. My mom's been taking a lot of ballroom classes lately and SHE had a hard time with it, and I had 15 years of ballet and took some ballroom about 10 years ago and I had a hard time with it, so you can only imagine how hard it was for the Hulk. Poor guy, but at least he soldiered through. On our way to dinner, we were stopped at a light behind this enormous overcompensation vehicle, complete with skull and eye sockets that glowed red when the brake lights were on.

We stayed the night at my mom's, petting the wiggly dog and the purry kitties, and the next morning we got up early (again!), made some breakfast, and drove down to the city.

It turns out you can put the internet ON a truck

Last Tuesday, after some last-minute packing and rushing around, we put the kitties in their carrier/torture devices and drove up to HulkRents for the evening. We made one little side trip to meet up with my coworker whose baby got the blanket I made, and sat on a comfy couch in Macy's while he slept and ate in my arms and we chatted for a few minutes about babies and weddings and stuff. It had been many years since I'd held a baby that young; at that point he was 7 weeks old (and weighed 12 pounds; not too shabby). He also, as I suspected, had a lot of hair.

We spent Tuesday night at HulkRents and woke up bright and early Wednesday morning, put our bags in the car, said goodbye to the kitties, and took off northward. Hulk set the trip meter to zero and we popped in a CD. Less than an hour later, we were driving through an uncharacteristically foggy Colorado/Wyoming border.

We hung a left in Cheyenne onto I-80 and drove through the Wyoming countryside, mooing at cows, antelope, deer, horses, and llamas. Shortly thereafter, we were in Laramie, about which I know nothing other than the killing of Matthew Sheppard. A while later, we were on the open road and we saw that while the internets might be a series of tubes, not a truck that you can just dump stuff on, you can put the internets ON a truck. Take that, Senator Stevens!

After passing the Sinclair refinery, we stopped in Rawlins for gasoline at a friendly pay-inside service station that had 40-year-old pumps selling dinosaur gas. A kindly old gentleman sold us some water and sent us on our merry way. We broke out the trail mix and popped in a new CD, and passed over Elk Mountain. The signs tried their best to convince us to stop at Little America (who could give up the chance at 50c cones?) but we managed to resist.
Turns out it's not as impressive as you might think.

We passed through Green River and Rock Springs and stopped at the border town of Evanston so I could pee. We decided that Mormon cowboys must live in Evanston. And then we were in Utah.

I-80 crosses hundres of miles of Wyoming and Nevada, but just under 200 miles of Utah, so it goes quickly. Around Salt Lake City I pulled out the bread and hummus and cheese and turkey and I made us some sammiches and we also had some red bell pepper strips. I had enough time to snap a picture of the Salt Lake and laughed when I saw the Morton Salt factory.

The next area of interest was, of course, the salt flats, miles and miles of sparkly whiteness interrupted by dark rocks spelling out people's names and messages for the truckers to read. And some balls.

Then we were in Nevada, and stopped in Wendover (another border town, technically we were in West Wendover where the casinos beckoned with sparkly lights), and decided that Wendover must be full of Mormon gamblers or something. Eastern Nevada is much prettier to look at than I would have expected, and I-80 goes past some sort of mountains that weren't Rockies or Sierrras or anything, but still pretty impressive. At Winnemucca, it was time for us to stumble out of the car, into Subway, order some sandwiches, and stumble back into the car for our last bit of drive to the campground at Rye Patch State Park, where there's a river and a lake and a dam and some wild canaries that will totally steal things from you. Our camping area was adequate and deserted, so we set up the tent and took a little walk along the "nature trail" with awesome signs that didn't describe any wildlife that was actually near the signs, and with lots of horse poop. We stumbled back to the tent, ate our dinner, and fell exhausted to sleep at about 9 PM, right about when it got dark.

It was bright and early the next morning when we de-tented and got back on the road, passing through Lovelock in time for an awesome showing of a really old yellow crop duster. The rest of Nevada was sparse and dry and brown, what I remembered Nevada looking like the time I went to Burning Man. We hit Reno at around 8:30, got our last tank of gas, bought some poptarts and a big ol' jug of water, and climbed the Sierras behind some very slow-going people.

Caltrans had decided to block off one entire lane of the highway for much of the stretch going through the Truckee-Tahoe area, so we took our opportunities when it did turn back into two to pass the poky trucks and sightseers, and I read a chapter of our book aloud until my voice got hoarse. It was suddenly the other side of the mountains, and we passed through Auburn and Roseville and got into Sacramento, telling QIR we were nearly there. The last stretch from Sac to Emeryville took us over the Benecia Bridge and down the eastern side of the Bay, and then we were there. The trip meter had already clicked over once, but it had been 1250 miles.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Twitch twitch twitch

For the last four hours, my right triceps muscle has been twitching. You know how sometimes your eyelid twitches for no particular reason? Well, today, I have an arm twitch. This past weekend it was a right calf muscle twitch. This has never happened to me before - I wonder if it's some sort of psychosomatic "get your twitches out while you can" thing since we're going to be in a car for 12 hours tomorrow? It doesn't hurt, but it sure is weird to feel the same muscle twitch, twitch, twitching.

Oh yeah! We're going on a road trip tomorrow. We'll spend most of the day in the car and then find someplace to camp in Nevada, and then we'll get up early on Thursday and finish the trip. Man, I can't wait. I'm going to take a ton of pictures, and I'm excited to see friends and family, visit some wedding vendors, and show Hulk the place where we're getting hitched next spring. I'll take pictures there too so people who are interested, all 3 of you, can see it. And I'm super excited to see QIR graduate, because she rules.

Yeseterday at the end of our staff meeting, my friend/coworker who had the giant baby a couple of months ago showed up, peacefully sleeping son in tow, looking a little frazzled. She says he sleeps just fine when he's not at home, but he doesn't sleep at home, like, ever, so she's maybe just a bit sleep-deprived. Her mom is visiting from India to help her and won't be leaving for another month or so, and her son has just as much hair as I expected. We're planning on visiting them tonight when we're up at HulkRents since they don't live too far from there. That way I'll get to hold the kid and won't have to compete with 40 other women who want to hold him, too.

I've pretty much completed my to-do list for work today, so I'm headed off to the gym. Maybe lifting some weights will make my arm stop twitching.

Update: It didn't work. Arm still twitching. How bizarre.

Sunday, May 13, 2007


Today, I drove my own car for the first time. I am very proud of myself. It's not an easy task, learning to drive a stick. I spoke with my little sister last week and when she found out I had bought a manual she laughed and said, "Getting started is the hardest part. Once you figure that out, the rest is easy."

It's not often that my 20-year-old sister knows significantly more about something than I do, but in this case I trusted her wisdom. She bought her first car when she was 16; it was a 10 year old 2-door purplish Civic with a manual transmission, and she figured out how to drive it all on her own. "If you can drive on my car, you can drive any stick," she told me, "mine's a bitch to shift." Luckily, one of the first things the person from whom we bought Moxie told us was how easy shifting was compared to other cars she'd driven, and Hulk seems to have had no problem driving it for the past few weeks. Going into today, when we were trying to figure out where to go so I could practice without much traffic, we picked a neighborhood in South Denver that I'd learned to drive a couple of years ago before I got my license. It's got wide streets, a slow speed limit, and almost no traffic, so we figured it would work well for a first time practice on the stick.

When I first learned to drive back in high school, I was deathly afraid of the car and of driving. My first time ever behind the wheel I almost wet my pants I was so scared of what being behind the wheel meant if I hit someone or wrecked the car. I sweated buckets, something I never do even when I'm furiously hamstering on the elliptical, all flop sweat tinged with fear. I got to the point during driver's training that I was reasonably comfortable in the car and in my mom's minivan, but a near-miss when driving home one night from a relative's house with my whole family in the car made me refuse to drive again for many years. My family still talks about how I almost killed us, and whenever they bring that up I get uncharacteristically angry - it was completely an accident, and it turned me off from driving for years.

My college boyfriend drove an old manual Jetta and he just shrugged about the whole me not driving thing; he was definitely not the right person to teach me, as evidenced by the time he was in a pissy mood so he made me get behind the wheel in a parking lot once when we were on a road trip and tried to force me to drive the thing. At that point, I hadn't driven anything in about four years, let alone was I ready to try to learn a stick. So I had a panic attack and refused to budge, and he had to let me cry my eyes out in the passenger seat teasing me all the while about what a baby I was.

I didn't start driving again until the fall of 2004 after I'd started my current job and I *had* to get a license in order to do my job (travel around the metro area and the state are parts of the job). I had a good feeling that Hulk would be a much better (and more patient) teacher than College Boyfriend, and he had an automatic car that hadn't died yet, so I relearned on that over the course of a couple of weeks, got my license, and haven't looked back. But when I first climbed behind the wheel in that sleepy little neighborhood where Hulk's parents live (my first behind-the-wheel experience in about 8 or 9 years) I felt that same abject fear, the same rush of sweat making my palms all sticky. I got through it, and I was right about Hulk - he was a great teacher. That day I got used to neighborhood driving and even some rural highway driving, and I practiced a few more times in various parts of Denver and got my license and was driving state cars only a week or so later. I've had my license now for about 2.5 years, and I've driven long distances alone and with passengers, I've driven all kinds of rental cars and various state cars, so I've gotten a lot more experience than most people when they first have their licenses. I even drove through San Francisco a month after I got my license, and not many people can say they've done that!

This time, the feeling was different. It's something I have to get done - I own this car, I want to be able to use it and not be dependant on Hulk or anyone else to get me around in the thing. It was such a good deal that I didn't once hesitate when I found out it was a manual transmission - I just figured that we'd spend a few more hours in the car while I got comfortable with the whole stick shift thing. Today was my first opportunity. I didn't feel fear this time, just annoyance and frustration with myself that I was like a 16 year-old learning to drive for the first time. Because seriously? That stick shift thing is HARD. Today, I started out by feeling out the gears, practicing shifting, and practicing starting the car. I also practiced reverse a little. It took a good 20 minutes of trying before I could even get the car to go forward for longer than two seconds - the engine died every time I tried to make it go. Every time, over and over. I wasn't giving it enough gas. I was giving it too much gas. I hadn't timed the position right for the clutch pedal to know when to ease down on the gas pedal, so it would jerk forward a few times and stop. Finally, finally I managed to get the thing to go forward a bit, and then I had to turn around (3-point turn!) and go the other way down the street.

Eventually, I was getting it from stopped to going about half the time, so I got to start driving around the neighborhood, and figured out how and when to shift into second right away; how to time the clutch so the braking wouldn't be sudden and jerky, when to shift back to first at a stop sign. After a good solid hour of driving around the neighborhood, I think I got to the point where I only killed the engine about one in four times when starting from a dead stop. The shifting into second thing was fine. The shifting down to first thing was fine. Reverse was OK except right at the end where I tried to do a 3-point turn on a hill and couldn't get the car to go backward because every time I took my foot off the brake it went forward and crunched the curb a little bit. Eventually I gave up and had Hulk do it, and even he had trouble so I didn't feel so bad about being so inept. I'm still not comfortable moving on to the next step of driving where there's more traffic, so maybe next practice time (on the road trip? perhaps!) I'll get to shift into higher gears and practice shifting down to first from third or fourth. I'd like to at least be able to do that before I attempt driving in any significant traffic, because it's no fun to have someone behind you honking when you've killed your engine at a stop sign for the third time in a row. My sister was right; getting started is the hardest part, but so far after that it's not so bad. On our way home I told Hulk I felt like it was a kind of a dance, the coordination of one's feet on the various pedals to get the car to respond. I look forward to the day I can perform the dance without counting out the steps in my head.

Friday, May 11, 2007

The week of stuff

Wednesday I was in a meeting all day with over 100 people and I didn't learn a single thing.

Thursday I was in a meeting for most of the day with the same over 100 people, and I learned quite a bit about deaf education and blind education in my state. I translated a braille saying. I had to skip out on part of the meeting to attend ANOTHER meeting on my cell phone via conference call for an hour. The quietest place I could find was near the bathrooms, so I hope my fellow board members will excuse all the toilet flushing noises. When my huge meeting was over, I drove home and Hulk and I went to get some new plants for our yard (our landlords pay for perennials, most of which came back after our brutal winter, and we pay for annuals, the ones that are pretty, and also the vegetables and herbs.) We had homemade taco salad for dinner because it was too warm to have anything else.

Today I took a state car to attend YET ANOTHER meeting this afternoon. It's hot outside. Just in the 15 minutes driving to and from the meeting, my arm turned red from being in the sun. I guess I'll have to start bringing sunscreen with me for mid-day reapplications. Sheesh.

This has been an interesting week in some respects. I watched two people I don't know get married live on the internets yesterday afternoon. Well, I tried to, but the connection wasn't great and I'm sure hundreds of other people were all trying to watch too, so I waited until this morning at work when no one was around and got to see and hear the whole thing rather than see nothing and hear stuff. It kind of made me tear up a little. A friend of mine announced a major life change, another friend is taking her last exams, my little sister called to tell me she was still alive and to gab about wedding stuff. And Wholahay Brown got kicked off ANTM, proving that sometimes they do kick off the right person even though the other person is all phegmy and took one bad picture.

I've only been to the gym twice this week, which is extraordinarily low for me. I'll go again in an hour or so when I've digested the barely passable chicken caesar salad they fed me at today's meeting. I think today's going to be a weights and cardio day; I've been skipping weights for a while because I keep retweaking my neck/back and it's not fun to lift when your shoulder feels like it's being pulled out of the socket. This weekend we're gearing up for next week's road trip, and I'm going to call my no-longer-pregnant coworker and see if she's up for a visit on Tuesday evening since we'll be in the area. I predict her baby, being Desi, will have a lot of hair.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Road Trip

This time, we are driving to California. We have Moxie Crimefighter (the Honda)(named for her plate), we have a tent, we have sleeping bags, we have a cooler, and we will spend on gas less than half of what we would spend on plane tickets and a rental car. Yes, Southwest is FINALLY starting nonstop service between Denver and Oakland for a good price ($79 each way! so cheap! everyone come visit!), but it doesn't start until June. And we have a hot date on May 19 at 3 PM because someone we know is graduating law school.

I'm kind of excited about the idea of a roadtrip; we haven't done one since the trip to move me to Denver back in January of 2003. That time we took 8 days to trek leisurely through California, Arizona, and New Mexico; this time we're just doing a straight shot on I-80 through Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada and getting there as quick as we can. It will be Hulk's third time doing that sort of a trip, though this time he'll have me to help with the driving and share the road rather than doing the entire 18 hour drive alone. And we'll probably break it up into a long day of driving, an overnight stay, and a few hours the next day. I doubt my butt and hips can handle 18 hours of sitting in one stretch.

A lot of the drive will be dry and flat, especially through Utah and Nevada. That's OK; we'll be reading to one another and singing along badly to our collection of mix CDs and playing car games. We'll leave early on Wednesday and get there mid-day on Thursday and have a couple of days to hang out with friends and visit our old haunts and do some wedding-related junk in addition to celebrating QIR's graduation. We haven't been in CA since January, and that only for about two days, so I'm getting really homesick and definitely looking forward to being there. I missed an entire northern Californa spring for the first time in my life this year - no lupines, no daffodils, no camelias blooming in my mom's yard. It's time for a visit.

We have a couple more trips planned out to the Bay Area this year for weddings and other things, and we can definitely take advantage of the new Southwest deal for those trips. But I'm looking forward to testing Moxie's moxie in a long drive, our little cocoon of reliable Japanese automobilery carrying us across the salt flats and desert and the Sierras to dump us out by the Bay. I'm going to eat an entire loaf of sourdough all by myself, shop at H&M, maybe have a honey martini, and cry my fool head off when my friend gets the piece of paper she's worked so hard to earn. I can't hardly wait.

Monday, May 07, 2007


I think I may have figured out how humans are unique among animals. We have the capability of planning, of looking to the future, of hoping and dreaming for events when they are still just hopes and dreams. So much of our lives revolve around the concept of potential - what things MIGHT be if we make this choice, if we do this action instead of that one, if we plan ahead and follow the steps proscribed in order to gain a scholarship, enter a career, or have a baby. But no matter how carefully we plan ahead, make our choices, or wish for an event, there are never any guarantees.

Today I spent a good few hours reading through scholarship applications. I've done this every May for the last four years, and each year I find it fascinating what kinds of activities the kids are doing to help them in their goals of going to college and their future careers. This year's group was varied - some kids were scholar-athletes, others were Eagle Scouts, some planning to go to Harvard or Stanford or Caltech and others deciding to stay in Colorado and attend a university here. One girl maintained a 4.0 GPA while successfully battling cancer twice - along with a classmate who lost his battle. She's planning to become a pediatric oncologist. The group of kids who apply for this scholarship are the best of the best, some of the best students in the state, and it never ceases to amaze me how driven, focused, and talented they are. Yet despite their drive and talent, who knows what will happen in the future? Will the kid who wants to be an actuary get to college and end up deciding he'd much rather be on Broadway? Will the girl going to Harvard join the Peace Corps instead of going to law school? People change so much from the beginning to the end of college; I can't imagine that every kid whose application I read will end up exactly where they thought they would when they were 17 or 18. The potential is there for world leadership, scientific innovation, medical breakthroughs, but it's also there for alcoholism, bad relationships, and disappointment - in short, life's going to happen, despite the best laid plans of each of these kids (and their parents, counselors, and teachers who helped them to where they are now). They won't be kids for much longer - they'll be adults with choices to make, and those choices will affect their careers, relationships, and achievements.

Today I also spent in kind of a sad funk. One of my friends was very happily and excitedly pregnant last week, and now she is not. Her story is not mine to tell, but she does read my blog and I hope she knows that her friends and family are thinking of her and her husband. My friend was very excited about this potential person, of all the things that the baby could have or might have been. And now that potential is no longer there. It's going to take some adjustment, I think, to rearrange the expectations for the future that she and her husband had. My own thoughts on reproduction have always been primarily in the hypothetical - what might the baby look like, sound like, be like as a person, but I've only really thought about it in a fanciful, pie-in-the-sky sort of way. My friend got to really dream and hope about what the potential person she carried for a few months would actually become.

I find the Catholic stance on reproduction to be interesting - that every time a couple has sex, they should be open to the possibility of conceiving. Without birth control, every month there's the potential for a new person to start being made. Even with birth control, there's still a slight chance. And there's also the possibility that bad things will happen, that one in the thousand or ten thousand, that baby who dies during childbirth or of SIDS, the child who didn't win his battle with cancer. The relative rarity of birth defects and stillbirth and infant mortality in this modern age makes the stories all the more heartbreaking because they are so rare. Luckily for my friend and her husband, they have families and friends who love them, support them, and will be there for them when they do welcome their first (and any additional!) child into the world. It won't be in October, like they thought, but it will be.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Santa brought Oldest Friend a present

I got an interesting phone call this morning. Here's what went down.

Oldest friend and her roommate have been feeding a feral cat who lives under their house. Apparently, the cat comes inside to eat but they hardly ever see it - so they took to calling it Santa (they put out food, food gets eaten, but the cat never makes an appearance). Last night, her roommate told her that he'd seen Santa come in the house, which was somewhat of an unusual occurrence. She didn't think much of it, but in the night she heard some strange noises and in the morning found Santa barricaded in a dark corner of her room behind some stuff. And Santa had kittens.

Oldest friend called me because she didn't know what to do about the possibility of kittens, or whether they had died, or how to deal with a feral cat mother. I suggested she get a flashlight to try to look in on the little family, move one of the obstacles, and then cover the whole den with a towel or blanket so Santa felt safe but could still get to the food and water she'd put down. She wasn't sure at the time whether the kittens had been born that night or whether Santa had brought them up to den in the house from outside, because she couldn't really see, it being dark in the Santa Cave. I also suggested she call the Humane Society to ask for advice on dealing with newborn kittens of a feral mamacat, and mentioned to her the possibility of Santa abandoning the litter, which would mean she's probably have to bottle feed them until they could be taken to a shelter.

It reminded me of the time when I was six years old and we had a pregnant cat; we'd adopted her at 4 or 5 months and she was already (unexpectedly) knocked up before we even got her home. My mom made a little bed/nest out of an old diaper box (yes, diapers used to come in cardboard boxes)and an old towel, and showed the cat where the little bed was so she'd use it when the time came for the babies to be born. The cat had other ideas, however, and one night I awoke about 3 AM to find that the cat had decided on top of me (and my smurf sleeping bag) was a far better place to have them. I groggily climbed down out of my loft bed (I still don't know how an enormously pregnant cat managed to get up that high) and went to tell my parents. The sleeping bag carried the stain of the catbirth until it fell apart, and the last kitten of that litter (there were three) died about five years ago at age 17.

This afternoon I got an email from Oldest Friend telling a truncated version of the story; turns out it was an already-born litter that Santa (now dubbed Mrs. Claus) decided to relocate. And I got this:

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

I still have the photo

It was June of 1992. My classmates and I got up at the crack of dawn, sodas and snacks packed, pockets full of bills bestowed by lenient parents, smelling of sunscreen and adolescence. We congregated in the parking lot and piled onto Bus 7, which Brett's dad drove, and which was the newest, nicest bus the district had. The bus was full of nervous, excited, 13-year-old energy, and the girls were braiding each other's hair while the boys impersonated Beavis and/or Butthead and everyone sang the lyrics to "Baby Got Back."

A couple of hours later we'd made the trip down to the South Bay and everyone scrambled off the bus, showing prepurchased wrist bands at the entrance, and all of a sudden, poof! everyone was gone. I found myself standing alone at Great America, packed with young teens all itching to ride the rides, eat the greasy, crappy food, play the pubertic and mean-girl games with each other. I didn't have many friends at the time; my best friend was a grade ahead and had already moved on to high school. The few people I could call friend in my own grade had gone off without me. My stomach dropped out of my feet, and I almost started crying, but then I realized that that would be just about the worst thing someone could do in that situation, so instead I started walking.

I walked around for about an hour, just walking, not stopping to smell the cotton candy and curly fries or stand in line for any of the rides. It was still morning and not hot enough to take off my shirt to my bathing suit underneath, but I had it tied up in a knot on the side just the same. (Hey, 1992. I was entitled to shirt-tying.) Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a guy who was also just walking, walking, not stopping. Eventually he looked at me. Then we started walking together, and started that oh-so-awkward conversation of name, school, why are you walking? Oh, I said, I've lost my friends. Me too, he said. We walked some more, and talked. He was really cute - light brown hair, blue eyes, dimples, much taller than I was. A glimmer of something sparked in my chest, and the sob that had wanted to come out since I'd entered the park dissipated.

Eventually, one or the other of us suggested we try a ride, so we did. Then we got some food. Then, we found his friends, who joined us for more rides, giving us askance glances and each other knowing looks. He made plans to meet back up with his friends in a particular place, later in the afternoon, and the two of us went off on our own to ride more rides, and I even took off my shirt when we rode the water ride because it got sopping. I bought a hat that said Great America because I'd lost my sunglasses and my eyes were hurting from the June glare. Noticing my squint, he suggested we go see the IMAX movie, and I agreed, since I'd never seen IMAX before. We filed into an enormous dark room with an incredibly large screen, and watched something about volcanos, I think, but I can't remember because I spent the whole time aware with every pore on my arm and hand of how close his hand was to mine. Soon, he began to hold my hand, and I stifled a gasp. This guy! was holding my hand! in a dark movie theater! which had never happened before; no hand holding ever. My heart went faster and I tired to relax and watch the movie.

When it was done, we rode a gondola ride, holding hands in oour own private car and enjoying the view of the park. At the other end, we were still gripping each other's hands despite the heat, and rode the water ride again. At one point, some girls from my class saw us walking along and holding hands, and they called out to me, and I waved but didn't say anything. A very small yet self-satisfied part of me felt smug and superior; I'd found a guy to hang out with at the park and they hadn't. And he was SO cute. We found one of those photo booths, the kind that give you a four-picture strip. When it developed, we tore it in half, and I kept the bottom two. He wrote his name and address and phone number on a napkin, and I did the same, looking into his eyes, watching his dimples flash. It was the end of the day and we'd both have to be leaving soon, him to meet up with his friends and me to get back on the bus and head home.

I knew it was coming. We walked over to the entrance of the park, and he enfolded me in a bear hug. Then he held me at length, leaned down, and kissed me (!)
That's what I felt, with that first kiss I'd ever recieved. ! It was warm and soft and yes, with tongue, and I wasn't sure what to think of it. He promised to call me soon, despite the 3 hour drive between his hometown and mine and the fact that we were both 13. Our hands unclasped and I walked toward the entrance, my mouth still tingling with the day of sun and the kiss, and several of my classmates hurried over to get the details, since several of them had seen us walking around and holding hands throughout the day. But it was my secret, my triumph, and I wanted to keep the details to myself for a while, to mull over this whole experience that was holding hands with a boy, connecting with a person on a deeper level than just hi, how ya doin. I think there was a smile on my face the whole drive home.

(courtesy Amanda's meme)