Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A brief post about the trip to California

I'm headed off to Minneapolis this afternoon and won't be back until Saturday, so I don't have time to write all the stories about the trip that I'd like to write. Maybe I'll work on them on the plane in between knitting like a crazy fool trying to get a baby blanket done.

Anyhow, here are a few of the pictures I took over the weekend, in chronological order. Stories to follow.

Hangin' out with QIR

A visit to the club

Favorite cousin's wedding

Albany bulb

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I'm not dead yet; also, about registries

Spamalot was fantastic. I highly recommend it to anyone who has a sense of humor and/or enjoys the work of Monty Python. A great show, despite my sneezing and nose-blowing.

* * * * *
One of the wedding-related message boards I read had a thread recently on ask vs guess culture when it comes to gift-giving. For some family or cultural traditions, people use registries. For others, people give money in red envelopes. In some, it's expected that a money dance be done at the wedding (not ours, I promise; that's all new), while in others it's perfectly socially acceptable to throw a fundraising party for the happy couple planning the wedding (Canada's stag-and-doe or socials). When it comes to giving gifts in general, some families are all about using wish lists or asking for specific ideas, while in others people are just supposed to guess what other people want as gifts and a list would be considered crass or greedy. And in some families (like mine) it's a mix of both. Nobody in my immediate family has gotten married yet (I'm first, sister will be 4 months later) so it's hard to know what's expected when it comes to gift-giving.

In my extended family, there are some "traditions" that I have no interest in upholding. For example, our ceremony won't have mention of Jesus being the center of our relationship (because we aren't born-again Christian). Nobody will mention divorce (because seriously? how inappropriate for a wedding ceremony!). We won't be doing a "money" dance, we will be having alcohol (California wine and Colorado beer (not Coors!)), and when we send out invitations they won't have little cards telling people where we're registered.

But we did decide to register. We've learned from watching other people in our respective families that it's in our best interest, since certain people have very strong feelings about particular gifts they like to give. We don't want these particular people to feel deprived of giving us these gifts; therefore we pretty much needed to register for those things so those relatives knew which specific versions of those gifts we wanted. Despite this, I've felt a little strange about registering for stuff, since we've been living together for more than four years and pretty much have a household set up. Really, what I want most is for people to be able to come to our wedding and have a good time - we don't need STUFF from friends or family, just good wishes and the knowledge that we got to have a day when the people we cared about most all gathered in one place to support us in our pledge of commitment to our community.

However, after doing a lot of research, and a lot of soul searching, I've realized that it's not greedy or gift-grabby to register (at least in our case) because in the family cultures each of us come from, people WANT to give presents when a couple gets married. And so we did some more research, venturing into a fancy kitchen store a few months ago to poke around and make some decisions about some particular things we might want. We also visited Bed Bath & Beyond and Crate and Barrel, and we poked around some more and had some conversations about the kinds of gifts we'd like to get if people really want to give us things.

Then we started a registry at amazon.com because those things are a lot less expensive than if they were purchased in a store, and that way people don't have to go into a store to buy them. We also did a little registry at Target because some people might actually WANT to go into a store to pick something out, rather than relying on the convenience of the internets. And our little fantasy registry is at REI, where they sell stuff we really want, but is generally out of our budget to get more than a little bit at a time. My research had led me to be careful about how much and what kinds of things we registered for: don't want everything to be too expensive, a wide price range is best. We registered for different kinds of things (camping/backpacking stuff, kitchen stuff, linens, etc.) so people had a variety of choices as well.

The actual process of creating a registry was easy in all three cases. In Target and REI we were given a scanner gun and doodad, respectively (Dan wielded the scanner gun and doodad) and told to scan barcodes of the items we wanted. We went around the stores, discussed the things we were interested in, and researched each thing a bit before we made final choices. For amazon, we just had to fill out a few forms and start adding stuff. In fact, it was a little strange just HOW easy it was. Now when I think back on the registry printouts I've gotten for previous weddings that were pages and pages long, I can understand (in a way) how they got so long - it's just so easy to keep pointing and clicking the scanner gun, or just keep adding stuff because ooh, shiny! I'd like to think that we did our best to keep our registries minimal and just put things that we really wanted on there. (Yes, we really do want lexan sporks from REI.) But even if nobody purchases a single thing off any of the registries, it really doesn't matter. What matters most is that they're there for the people that want them, and for those that don't, that's fine, too. I can't say that the whole "telling people what to buy us" thing is sitting completely well with me, but I can't deny that pointing the scanner doodad at the barcodes of stuff isn't just a little bit exciting. Because ooh! presents!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

ugh and Yay!

I have 2 or 3 posts in my head, specifically one about this weekend and the whole process of registering (REI was fun!) and stuff about culture and gifts and expectations and whatnot; and also I am super looking forward to our trip to CA on Thursday afternoon (my favorite cousin is getting married) but Dan has gifted me with his head cold (that, I'm sure, was bestowed upon him by a fellow student; he's around a lot more people than I am on a regular baisis). I thought I would be successful in staving it off (he's had a few colds off and on in the last couple of years and I've managed to avoid getting most of them) but yesterday at the gym I knew I didn't have it beat, and by the time I got home yesterday afternoon I could totally tell I would be sick. Today I am sick. I really don't want to be sick with a sinus pressure/pain head cold on the airplane to Oakland, so I am considering taking an hour of sick time and heading home for a nap.

Oh! But we have tickets to Spamalot tonight, which my poseable Jesus on wheels has been nice enough to hold for us for the last several weeks. It's been a long time since we've seen a show (I think the last one was the Lion King?) and I'm super excited. Also, this weekend I bought some new nail polish and some makeup brushes at Target (yes, for the girl who almost never wears makeup. I realized when I was poking through my makeup stash this weekend that I have some stuff that is almost 10 years old. Maybe I should throw it out.) so I'm getting my coldy self all gussied up for the show tonight.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

This is one of those "thinking" posts

My route home from the gym (if I go to the gym after work) takes me by one of Denver's big concert venues. Usually I gym at lunch, but lately I've been skipping lunch (eating but not taking "a lunch"), leaving at 4 and gymming then, so my walk home yesterday afternoon took me by the concert venue as a whole bunch of people were lining up.

Usually when I pass by a crowd outside this venue, they're a good 5-10 years younger than I am (on average). I feel kind of old when I walk by most times, kind of like the other day when I was in the grocery store and saw the "You must be born in 1988 or earlier to purchase tobacco" and I said, out loud, "Holy crap, 1988! I am so old!" They're all in tight jeans and floppy emo hair or in saggy jeans and hoochie shirts, depending on who is playing. Yesterday was the rare exception, as I was a good 20-30 years younger than most people lining up outside the concert venue. I was starting to feel a bit like I was in the twilight zone until I got to the marquee out front and saw that the featured act was Chicago. Really, I kid you not. There's still Chicago. But I realized as I walked by, passing the same middle-aged scruffy guy who's always asking if people need tickets (or have them to sell) regardless of the performer, that if *I* felt old when I walked by the usual concert-going crowd, the people in line for Chicago must feel ancient. Hell, it's probably their kids I'm passing most of the time.

I've been thinking a lot about aging these days. We spent a little while with Dan's grandma last weekend, and his parents have started making plans for retirement. And then one of my coworkers this week is dealing with a severely ill husband (like, so sick they don't actually know what's wrong with him after several days, and it's quite likely he won't make it through). It's horrible for me to think about, what she must be going through - she's had a bad time recently because her father just died a few months ago. And now she might lose her husband, and there's nothing she can do about it. Her family is in my thoughts, and by extension I have been thinking about this big step I am about to take and how in just a few months I will have legally, emotionally, spiritually and morally officially bound my life to another person's, and how important that is to both of us. My coworker and her husband are in their early 50s and they've been married for at least 25 years. They've been partners, friends, lovers, raised two daughters to adulthood successfully. They thought they would have 50 or more years together, what with the average life span in the US being something like 78, but as it turns out they may not.

This scares the crap out of me. I've never really thought much about the whole death thing, other than during the Terri Shiavo fiasco a few years ago during which time Dan and I mutually agreed to not let one another end up like that. I guess I just assume that we'll have 50 or 60 or hell, even 80 years together, dying together in our bed, hand in hand, ages 102 and 104 respectively, but chances aren't great for that particular scenario. Ultimately, we'll get as much time as we get to enjoy one another's company, have adventures together, and hold hands, so perhaps the best thing to do is just to cherish that time.

Right now I feel both young and old, on the precipice of a huge life change, seven years out of college. I'm both young and old to be getting married, depending on one's perspective. I'm both young and old compared to the local concert-goers. I'm young to be working where I work, surrounded by people at least 25 years my senior, yet old when I read blogs written by people still in college (and college-aged) that are as articulate and well-written as anything by people ten years or more their senior. My coworker is young (in this day and age) to be losing her husband, yet my maternal grandmother lost two husbands by the time she was 45 (and died at age 47). And her sister, 87, had nearly 50 years with her husband before he died in 1991.

After my yoga class yesterday, I was thinking about how awesome it is to have a body capable of all the stretching and flexing and balancing that I'm able to do. I decided long ago to enjoy (relative) youth while I can, to stay in good shape so I can enjoy my body 60 years from now if I'm lucky enough to live that long. I think I need to add to that, to enjoy the youth that WE have, to climb mountains and dance and travel and do all the things that it's more difficult to do as we get older and have more responsibilities tying us down to the earth, to one spot. I hope to be the spotty, wrinkled old couple dancing at someone's grandchildren's wedding, moving together and enjoying one another just as much in our 80s as we have in our 20s. If we don't get to be that couple, that's OK too, as long as we relish the time we do have together. I'm keeping my appendages crossed that our time together is both lengthy and joyful.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


We awoke on Saturday morning to find that Colorado had, in one day, switched from Summer to Fall. The air coming in the bedroom window was crisp and cool and I wanted to cuddle under the covers rather than throw them off from overheating. We had to close all our windows and put the spread on the bed because it got so cold on Sasturday night. This weekend was one of the most relaxing I've had in a long time; it was the first one in close to two months where we didn't HAVE to do anything or go anywhere. We slept in, made breakfast, cleaned up the house a little, lounged around, went to the movies (finally saw sStardust; it was great!), went grocery shopping. Sunday we ran a few errands and visited with some family. It was a fantastic weekend.

It was definitely fall, though, the last few days. The weekend was overcast and foggy/cool, even a bit rainy. And yesterday it rained for a good part of the day, only to feel like crisp fall air even when it warmed up. Today was the first morning since May that I walked to work wishing I had brought a sweater, and I wore pants rather than a skirt. I've written before about the changing of the seasons here in Colorado, and I've lived through enough years of seasonal changes to recognize the subtle ones before the leaves turn and the snow starts. The air feels different; the sky's deep blue has a quality that is somehow changed; the static electricity has begun. Something deep in my bones tells me winter's going to come early this year, so I'm focusing on enjoying fall while it lasts. I just hope we don't have another winter like last year's, because man, that was enough snow and cold for a while.

* * * * * *

I had to spend all day yesterday in a day-long "retreat" with my coworkers. I had to get up nearly an hour earlier than usual to take a bus for an hour (in the rain) in order to get to the "retreat" location on time, and when I got there the promised breakfast/coffee (not that I wanted coffee, but still) hadn't shown up. Then coffee showed up, but it was cold. They finally brought in warm coffee and pastries, but the pastries were kind of greasy and gross and I was really glad that I'd eaten a bowl of cereal like usual and hadn't depended on the breakfast. We spent about six hours in useless busywork and discussion, punctuated by a terrible lunch, and then went home. Luckily, the dinner Dan made last night totally made up for the crappy cafeteria food - he used veggies from the garden and made a fantastic recipe from a Rick Bayless cookbook. Man, I'm so lucky.

* * * * * *

In a way I'm more excited about our trip to Italy than I am about the wedding. OK, not really. But I'm super excited to share some of my favorite places, some of my favorite food, some of my favorite art with my favorite person. I spent about a week in Italy on my big eurotrip back in the summer of 2000, but that was 2.5 days in Rome, 1 day in Venice, 2 days in Florence and a day and a half in/near Cinque Terre. Not nearly long enough in Rome/Florence to see/do/eat everything I wanted. I'm already salivating thinking about the margherita pizza, the gelato, the fresh everything, the cheap yet delicious wine. I'm kind of excited to be going on a big trip BEFORE the wedding so we don't have to worry about wedding planning and trip planning to happen in such a short period of time.

Speaking of wedding planning, we're about to send out Save-the-Dates, the wedding website is getting spiffed up, we started registering and we're doing a site visit with the caterer when we're in CA for a couple of weeks. Honestly, there isn't a WHOLE lot else that needs figuring out - some stuff needs DOING but mostly we know what we're doing, it's just a matter of doing it/having it done. Cake is the next thing that needs figured out, and as long as it tastes good I don't care what it looks like. Maybe we'll have a few different cakes and Dan can pick which one to top with Han Solo and Gold Bikini'd Princess Leia.

Friday, September 07, 2007

It was a dark and stormy night

I still remember the first time I was exposed to A Wrinkle in Time. I was about 7 years old and my mom told me she had this book she wanted to start reading to me. She read me the first chapter on a dark and stormy night in the winter; we were huddled up on the couch under a blanket and had a fire going in the woodstove. I remember thinking how appropriate the first line, and first chapter, of the book were for the weather we were experiencing at the time.

I don't remember whether my mom read the entire book to me aloud that first time, or whether it was just the first chapter after which I took the book and devoured it on my own. But it was the first sign that I'd love science fiction and fantasy; the first hint that I'd go on to read all of Madeleine L'Engle's books I could find by the time I was 10. I don't think there's any way to describe the amount of influence L'Engle's books had on me, on my way of thinking, on my ideas about science and space and religion and spirituality and relationships and the world. Let's just say "a lot" and leave it at that. Over the years I've owned and worn out at least two copies of AWIT and its sequels; I've probably read those three books a good 30 times each, not to mention its later sequel about the twins, all the Austin books, and the various books about Polly O'Keefe (daughter of Meg and Calvin). Despite its dated-ness, one of my favorite books about young love and romance remains And Both Were Young, and a few times a year I pull out one or another of her books and re-read. It's like visiting an old friend.

Today her publisher announced that Madeleine L'Engle died at age 88, of natural causes, at home. When I saw the ticker announcement on Yahoo my eyes welled up with tears. So much of my later childhood and adolescence was shaped by the reading of her books: my relationship with my cousin (being four years older, there weren't a lot of things we had in common when we were kids, but we both loved Madeleine L'Engle), my understanding of science and math, my interest in marine biology and in a variety of other scientific topics. I have strong temporal memories associated with certain of the books, depending on important things that were going on in my life as I read or re-read a particular book.

For some reason, I never did read any of her books for adults, and as I've gotten older and re-read the same books from a more adult perspective, I realize that L'Engle had her faults and prejudices just like anyone else. But there is something pure and beautiful about the stories L'Engle chose to tell, and her characters still feel like well-known friends every time I re-read one of her books. RIP, Madeleine L'Engle, and thank you for your stories.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

My mouth doesn't hurt

Today I spent the morning in the dentist's chair getting my cracked tooth repaired by a temporary crown (the permanent one goes in October 1st, because I will be out of town the last week of September). It took them four tries to make the temporary crown - why? I do not know. My mouth was numb for a while afterward, and then it hurt, and then I went home early from work because it really didn't feel good.

I came home, put on the Princess Bride, and took a nap. When I woke up, the upstairs neighbors were blasting music that I liked, so I went up to ask them what band it was.

They plied me with spicy rum. And an otter pop for my face. Now I am tipsy. But my mouth doesn't hurt anymore.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Hummingbirds, wet doggies, and a tricorn hat

This weekend Dan and I were attendants in our friends' wedding (I was a bridesmaid, he was the best man). After a lot of hard work, blood, sweat, tears, folding, cutting, arranging, braiding, hanging, throwing, driving, and hot gluing, our friends managed to get themselves all marrified.

We arrived at the lodge (in the mountains outside Colorado Springs) around 4 PM on Saturday and greeted our friends' relatives, some of whom we knew and most of whom we did not. The weather was beautiful, and we met a doggie who loved playing fetch so much that she'd jump right into the water after a stick or a ball. Two hours later the guests of honor showed up with a car packed full to the gills. We had a lovely rehearsal dinner and then attempted some chair set-up and had a really quick run-through before it got completely dark. The six of us (bride, groom, bride's sister and her bf, and Dan and I) headed over to our cabin to fold programs, cut ribbons, smoke stogies (not me!) and relax in the hot tub.

Sunday dawned beautifully, and I took some pictures of the view from our cabin. The resort is in an area that was very nearly decimated by the Hayman fire several years ago, and you can see a few living trees and a lot of wildflowers and undergrowth mixed in amongst the burned trees.

Hummingbirds fought over the feeder on the front porch, and Dan attempted to get some action shots of them for a photography project. Eventually we headed back to the lodge and ate brunch, after which I pulled out all the flowers and acoutrements needed for making bouts and bouquets, and (with the help of an aunt and the bride's sister) proceded to strip roses, separate baby's breath, and wire/hot glue/tape together the needed floral accessories. After some brief consultation with the bride, we decided what would be in the bridesmaids' bouquets versus hers, and sweat dripped down my neck as I put together all three bouquets. Luckily, I had the opportunity to watch a video on youtube last week about how to do a bridal bouquet, so I wasn't operating on sheer luck alone.

We headed back to the cabins to eat lunch and start getting ready. I did the MOH's hair and the bride's hair, which left me about 5 minutes to do my hair (and I never did get to look at the back, so I hope it turned out OK. I did my makeup and the bride's makeup. I threw on my costume at the last possible minute because I knew I'd need that few minutes to finish the bouquets (hadn't wanted them to be out of the water for hours), and just as we finished getting ready and started to drive back to the lodge it started raining.

The fortunate thing was that the staff was prepared to empty the furniture out of one of the rooms in the lodge. The unfortunate thing was that it kept raining for over an hour, so as I feverishly wrapped and hotglued and pinned the bouquets, ran other errands and helped the bride get ready, Dan was sent back and forth between the lodge and the cabin to pick up things the bride had forgotten, getting soaked in the process. The "rain plan" wasn't called until it had been raining for a good 45 minutes, so the lodge staff got drenched hauling all the chairs in from the outside and had to towel them off before setting them up in the now-empty indoor room. The thing about the weather in Colorado, particularly in the summer, particularly in the mountains, is that it is entirely unpredictable - though assuming it might rain on a late summer afternoon is not a bad plan.

Finally, the guests were all ushered upstairs, the wedding party gathered in the getting-ready room, and the rain stopped. Photos were taken as we walked around the outside, up the stairs, and through the lodge into the ceremony room. Our friend Julie made it just as the ceremony was beginning, and I totally coveted her pretty purple skirt.

The music wasn't entirely set up right, and several of the planned ceremony events didn't happen (or happened differently than expected) including the ribbon thing, but it was lovely anyhow and everyone got sniffly when the couple read their own vows to one another.

After the ceremony, it was time for more pictures, food, and beverages. It got dark and cold rather quickly (it being an hour later than planned), but Dan got to say his best man toast (and a few jokes prepared by the bride's father) and I figured out how to tuck up my sleeves so I could eat without dripping them in my food. The sparkling mead was yummy; the cake was fantastic; and the magician did some pretty awesome tricks. The polaroid guestbook (complete with bin of costumes) went over like a house on fire. The weather was too cold for many people to want to be outside, so most people just crammed into the billiard room, and the playlist that Dan and I spent hours working on wasn't played until we went back to the cabin. Eventually, most of the guests had gone home, so 12 of us youngins packed up the keg of mead and hauled it back to our cabin, put on the playlist, and danced, did karaoke, enjoyed a bonfire and some hot tub 'til the wee hours. One of the guests had a tricorn hat (genuine leather!) and various people took turns wearing it.

Monday, everyone was totally exhausted. We did some cleaning and organizing, some eating, and some sitting around doing nothing, which was exactly what was needed. Dan and I said our goodbyes after everyone had gathered again for dinner. We headed the 2+ hours home and had to decompress a bit, because though it had been a long weekend, there was no rest for the weary.