Tuesday, September 25, 2007

only in fairytales

Saturday was another long day full of travel, friends, wedding festivities and the fantasy of what a great beginning to a love story this day could be, if only my life were of the happily-ever-after sort.

You see every couple has a story. The story of how they met. The story of one or the other realizing this is someone I want to be with. Howard and Ramona's story started with Howard's friend meeting Ramona at a party while she was visiting friends in DC and a blind date in LA where they both lived. He admitted he knew she was the one the first time he met her. It took her a bit longer. But not much since that blind date was in January. When one is not yet part of a couple, each crush has the potential to be the beginning of that story and sometimes one cannot help but wonder when that story will begin or if it already started years ago.

If this were the beginning of my story, I would one day be able to look back at Howard's wedding day as the catalyst. I would remember the rain pouring down as I drove to the temple after an early morning flight, feeling thrown together, tired and a bit rumpled, trying to smooth away the stress of the week. I would remember being frustrated with the fact that I couldn't find the entrance to the temple and running in my wedged heels across the parking lot and around the huge building as giant drops of rain streaked my bright green dress. In a movie there would be romantic music playing as the temple door automatically opened and standing right there in front of me was a familiar face. If this were my story, I would strain to remember the details of that first moment when he seemed so grateful to see me walk in the door. I would look back with fondness on the memory of everyone mistaking us for a couple and how we sat whispering on the pew in the chapel as if we were better friends than we actually were as we waited to be called to our mutual friend's sealing. I would remember how red his face got from suppressed laughter after I showed him where I stowed my recommend not having any pockets available. But since this is not how my life generally progresses and, more importantly, since I did not feel any spark of mutual interest, these memories will just have to fade away as a short-lived crush that held great potential but didn't take. Besides, it is probably for the best since he lives in a far off city in the southwest and if things were to work out now I might be upset that our paths have crossed so many times in the past and I might regret not clicking sooner. After all, our paths first crossed at some vague point in 2001 or 2002, he once tried to teach me to surf in Costa Rica and I spent the 4th of July with him this year. If it didn't click then, why would it now just because we happened to walk into the temple at the same time. I admit to being a fatalist but I have to draw the line.

Other than the wedding induced romantic fantasy that was thrust upon me (and encouraged by a certain friend), it was beautiful wedding. I didn't have any of the sadness or sense of loneliness I anticipated, perhaps the temporary crush helped.

The rain cleared up before the wedding was over and the sun was out in full force for photos. I even managed to snag one alone with Howard looking snazzy in his tux.
In the days and weeks leading up to the wedding Howard kept telling me he just wanted the reception to be a fun party. We discussed different tactics that had worked at other weddings - specifically Mormon weddings lacking alcohol - that helped keep the energy high. I told him Cinco carried his bride in and while I was still changing at a friend's apartment between the wedding and reception, Howard sent me a text message saying he was going to do it. My short-lived crush and I were not too worried about being late until I got that message (although I think he was a bit jealous that his buddy texted me since earlier in the afternoon he had commented that he didn't realize we were so close). We then noticed the time and literally raced down Wilshire Boulevard in ridiculous traffic (seriously LA, how do you deal with it nonstop like that?) dodging and weaving in our separate cars searching for the hotel, feeling like we were close when business signs were printed in Korean. We walked into a packed ballroom of seated guests and were relieved to note that the wedding table was still empty. Of course walking in that late to a table in the front and center of the hall together didn't help alleviate the "aren't you two a couple questions" but I was mostly just thinking about how glad I was we hadn't missed Howard and Ramona's introduction.

The only way I can describe the atmosphere is that it felt like we had stumbled onto a Korean television game show. There were two emcees - the man spoke only Korean and the woman gave truncated English translations. I know they were truncated because he would talk and talk and talk and people would laugh and react and she would say one simple sentence or a couple of words. Possibly 85% of the guests were Korean and they were definitely enjoying a different show. We walked in as they were leading the guests in practice cheers for the introduction of the wedding party. Shortly after we reached our table, Get Ready For This, by 2 Unlimited, started thumping on the speakers and the doors behind us were opened wide. You may not think so but you know this song, it is generally used to introduce sports teams or get a crowd pumped up - at least they use it at the arena formerly known as the Delta Center. The bridesmaids and Howard's brother danced their way in and then Howard came running in carrying his new bride in his arms. He ran down the aisle and spun around on the dance floor with her. It was fantastic and everyone clapped and cheered and yelled. I think that was the energy he was looking for.

The game show hosts kept things entertaining and it was one of the most unique weddings I have ever attended. I, of course, managed to make a fool out of myself in front of the 300 guests when they decided to put a unique twist on the tossing of the bridal bouquet tradition. I was one of two non-Asian girls lined up on the dance floor, towering in my 3 inch heels that put me near six feet tall above the other 15 or so girls who were 5'5" at best. We were instructed (luckily Howard's cousin standing next to me translated for me because she gave more details than Ms. Gameshow) that we had to dance for this older Korean man who was plunked up from one of the tables and placed in a chair in the center of the dance floor to judge our dancing skills. Not always exhibiting my best judgment when it comes to restraint in dancing and sometimes lacking the embarrassment instinct at the moment I need it most (before I do something embarrassing), I let loose. Maybe too loose because Mr. Gameshow said the only two English words I heard him utter all night as I was making my way back to the lineup when he made them stop the music and said "Too Sexy!" Great. Reinforcing my ridiculous display, I received this email yesterday from a woman I was introduced to because her daughters are living in New York: "I have to tell you again how fun it was to watch you 'dance' for the older gentleman at Howard & Romana's wedding celebration....we all agree you brought the house down and were in our estimation...the best!" Umm, yeah. I especially loved the quotes around dance, like it wasn't really dancing somehow. The worst part was that after embarrassing myself, I didn't even win the contest! It may have been rigged since the maid of honor won.

Luckily the wackiness continued and even included these two grandmas being the first to jump on the dance floor after dinner. And no, they were not doing any type of traditional dance. They were dancing to If you Think I'm Sexy or some other such ridiculous song.
Needless to say, the wedding was a lot of fun. The couple was beautiful and everyone seemed to have a great time. I was able to reunite with a number friends I have known through Howard over the years whom I haven't seen in quite a while and recount our past escapades and meet their wives (because all the good guys get married). It was just unfortunate that I had to end the night looking slightly greasy. Seriously, I would have posted more photos but the stress of the week all ended up in a greasy blob on top of my head. At least the bride still looked beautiful.
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Monday, September 24, 2007

Doubt is a privilege of the faithful

It is rarity to have a performance, whether it be a play, an opera, musical or other type of concert strike a chord deep enough to have complete recall of all the thoughts, feelings and emotions it evoked. One such performance for me was of the play Doubt which I saw on Broadway over two years ago. The opening monologue was so powerful that even sitting here today I recall the hair on my arms standing on end and a faint stinging in my nose and eyes as I struggled to hold my emotions back. Just over this simple opening:

FLYNN: What do you do when you're not sure? That's the topic of my sermon today. You look for God's direction and can't find it. Last year when President Kennedy was assassinated, who among us did not experience the most profound disorientation. Despair. "What now? Which way? What do I say to my kids? What do I tell myself?" It was a time of people sitting together, bound together by a common feeling of hopelessness. But think of that! Your bond with your fellow beings was your despair. It was a public experience, shared by everyone in our society. It was awful, but we were in it together! How much worse is it then for the lone man, the lone woman, stricken by a private calamity? "No one knows I'm sick. No one knows I've lost my last real friend. No one knows I've done something wrong." Imagine the isolation. You see the world as through a window. On the one side of the glass: happy, untroubled people. On the other side: you. Something has happened, you have to carry it, and it's incommunicable. For those so afflicted, only God knows their pain. Their secret. The secret of their alienating sorrow. And when such a person, as they must, howls to the sky, to God: "Help me!" What if no answer comes? Silence. I want to tell you a story. A cargo ship sank, and all her crew was drowned. Only this one sailor survived. He made a raft of some spars and, being of a nautical discipline, turned his eyes to the Heavens and read the stars. He set a course for his home and, exhausted, fell asleep. Clouds rolled in and blanketed the sky. For the next twenty nights, as he floated on the vast ocean, he could no longer see the stars. He thought he was on course, but there was no way to be certain. As the days rolled on, and he wasted away with fevers, thirst and starvation, he began to have doubts. Had he set his course right? Was he still going on towards his home? Or was he horribly lost and doomed to a terrible death? No way to know. The message of the constellations -- had he imagined it because of his desperate circumstance? Or had he seen Truth once and now had to hold on to it without further reassurance? That was his dilemma on a voyage without apparent end. There are those of you in church today who know exactly the crisis of faith I describe. I want to say to you, Doubt can be a bond as powerful and sustaining as certainty. When you are lost, you are not alone. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. Amen. (He exits.)

"Doubt can be a bond as powerful and sustaining as certainty." This was the line that struck me the hardest. Somehow my doubt is what keeps me close to my faith, something I rarely discuss let alone write about publicly so forgive me this indulgence.

My doubt also allows me to drift and float to an unrecognizable place where I am no longer striving to learn but allowing doubt to overpower and cripple me to a point I question whether I ever had faith to begin with. I doubt that brief moment when the sky was clear and the stars were twinkling clearly overhead and instead decide they must not be there if I cannot see them now. I stop calling upon God because of the silence. My truly spiritual faith affirming moments are rare and less than dramatic, so they are easily forgotten, cast aside as imagined or coincidental. I allow Doubt to take over the silence.

But tonight I must confess there is vast and inconceivable power and overwhelming sense of comfort that results from the concerted and united focus of prayer for one individual. No matter the religious persuasion, when people selflessly align their thoughts in a private moment for the healing of one, prayer is an overwhelming force. My problem is I don't do it. I forget it. Ignore it. Push it aside as inconsequential and I Doubt its power.

Late Wednesday night I sat in a chair at the foot of my dad's hospital bed and I doubted him as he promised that he knew he would be fine. Tears rolled down my cheeks as he promised me happiness if I would open myself to it. The unstated part of his sermon was I needed to stop shoving aside happiness with Doubt. That night I prayed as I fell into a restless sleep.

The next morning, my mom, sister and I returned to the hospital at 6:30 a.m. and I began a reluctant fast with my mother as my dad was wheeled down the hall toward the operating room. I confess I considered eating breakfast when my sister and I returned to her apartment to shower before returning to the waiting room. My mom would not know and at least my stomach could be at peace. But something stopped me, I knew this would be a bond between us - a unified fast for a successful surgery - even if I doubted its impact.

The three of us sat in the waiting room hour after hour, waiting for the brief and non-specific updates from the nurse which I quickly typed into my blackberry and emailed to the family. I struggled to concentrate on the work I had brought with me. Fatigue made reading nearly impossible and even flipping through the magazines my sister bought when she took a walk took more concentration that I could muster. So we sat. Hopeful. Optimistic. Yet acknowledging with our restlessness that at any moment we could find our name scrawled on the door labeled "Crisis Room" and be given the unthinkable news. We each knew our thoughts occasionally got away from us as we tried to wipe away visions of life without him. I couldn't. I refused. Not because he was so overcome with optimism and faith and spiritual assurance that he had more to do in this life but simply because I KNEW it wasn't time.

I knew I still needed my dad.
I knew he needs to see his first granddaughter born sometime this week.
I knew he needs to see me happy.
I knew that he needs to share a daddy-daughter dance with me at my wedding.
I knew he needs to spend a Christmas in Mexico like I've been promising for the last couple of years.
I knew, more than anything, that he needs to continue to be my mother's companion and best friend for many more years to come.

Doubt had no place in that waiting room with me.

After saying farewell and good luck at 730 am, it was with great relief and gratitude that we met with the surgeon at 5 pm and listened in awe as he described how he performed a miracle and reconstructed my father's heart. How he removed the overgrown tissue of the aorta and patched the holes around the aortic valve and stitched in a new artificial valve, how there was severe arithmea they managed to contain and control, how they saved his life in seven relentless hours of surgery.

We were then ushered back to ICU to see him - still asleep only an hour after the operation. I was grateful my mother had warned me how he would look from her experience at this last time. Other than the seemingly exaggerated rise and fall of his chest from the tube in his throat that was breathing for him, he looked dead. His head was leaned all the way back flat, not propped up with multiple pillows as he prefers. His face was ashen and puffy, his eyes were closed and tubes and wires were shooting out of him in all directions connecting him to multiple screens with zig-zagging lines and changing numbers and dripping bags. His legs, especially his feet were so pale. The nurse had not yet cleaned off the iodine and whatever else was staining the skin across his chest and neck a burnt orange and in the center of his chest a thinner than expected strip of pristinely white gauze gave away the point at which they had so recently closed his chest. The nurse encouraged us to talk to him and I stood at his head stroking his hair murmuring how much we love him as I noticed how he seemed to have gained more gray hair in the last seven hours. My mother stood on the other side of the bed holding his hand looking somehow lighter when his eyes fluttered briefly in recognition of our voices. The stress and tension seemed to lift up and float out of the room and the tenderness of my parent's love and strength touched me. I thought of that moment again the next morning when I had a few minutes alone with my dad and the first thing he said to me was "your mother is a rock." And she is.

Doubt continued to plague me and I failed to recognize the power of the fast I was breaking in the rush of typing a hurried email to the family as we walked across the hospital parking garage and as I explained over and over to my uncle, my brother and others the doctor's reassuring words and the nurse's statement that he already looked better than expected between ordering and subsequently inhaling my Cafe Rio salad. What I did feel was a solidarity with my mother after fasting together for such an important purpose. But this took time to sink in.

Soon we were able to laugh and focus on other matters over delicious pastries from The Bakery on the covered patio where we met my aunt before returning to the hospital. The warmth of the sun was a shock after the chill of the overly air-conditioned waiting room and we lingered, grateful for other distractions.

It took days for the import of what had happened to sink in. My dad is doing amazingly well. Better than anyone expected. So I got on another plane and went to my friend's wedding and there, sitting in the temple witnessing his marriage vows I re-discovered my faith. Doubt slipped away and I was nearly overcome with joy at the realization of what prayer and fasting did for my dad. For that brief moment, the clouds parted and a vast array of stars winked down at me filling me with peaceful silence.

Introducing. . .

My new house:A few of you may recognize this home as belonging to my grandparents. No, I am not leaving New York. This is my little investment property - a "second" vacation home. My grandparents will remain in the home and act as care takers and I will gain the benefit of a tax break for being a loyal American by taking out a mortgage. Yikes! Plus I will have a great place to vacation. Aside from all the memories formed in this home - and oh, there are many -, the best part is the view:
The beautiful Red Hill. I spent hours and hours wandering among the rocks on that hill as a child searching for horny toads and lizards, trying to catch dragonflys and just exploring. Back then the condos weren't blocking the access, just an open field to wander through.

My great grandparents built the home in about 1945. My grandparents purchased it in 1955 for $10,000. That is far, far less than my down payment! This is what the house looked like originally: Notice the garage? That is now a very large, dark windowless bedroom with a half a bath filled to the ceiling with shelves of my grandmother's fabric. Eventually I am hoping to make the first photo a before picture and do some renovating of my own. My great aunt sent me the below photo from some undisclosed time before the condos across the street were built, confirming that my childhood memory of open space was accurate.
This has been an exciting and sometimes scary venture. Of course the closing was a bit anti-climactic given the facts that I am not moving in, didn't receive a set of keys (until about 10 or 15 years ago no one knew whether keys to the house actually existed!) and won't even visit until after Christmas this year.
So, if you want to see me, you can probably find me in St. George, Utah at least once every six months. Most of my friends through the years have stopped off to see my grandparents at one point or the other because I have fully taken advantage of their open door policy, I plan to continue that tradition.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

real quick

Quote of the Day:

In real life, I assure you, there is no such thing as algebra. - Fran Lebowitz

Today is National Talk Like a Pirate Day (TLAPD) (not to be confused with National Swear Like a Sailor Day, don't know when that is but I'll keep you posted). My brother alerted me to this first thing this morning and encouraged celebrating over a breakfast of Marshmellow Matey's. I think this is possibly the worst cereal ever created so I declined and haven't done much celebrating as of yet because I wasn't sure how "shiver me timbers" would have gone over in my meetings. Although a loud "Argh" may have been well received. Had I known earlier I could have accessorized with some sort of scarf in my hair.

I'm slightly delirious from lack of sleep . . . hoping that means I can sleep on the plane tonight.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Birthday Spotlight

This is an official birthday tribute to a friend who has continually challenged me, amazed me, loved me, surprised me, entertained me and always been there for me. So here you go Amanda, a walk through the memories . . . mostly very old because those are the funny ones, but a sprinkling of more recent ones too. Maybe this will prompt you to make your second ever comment or maybe to start your own blog for your birthday (PLLLEEEEEAAASSSSE!!!!)


I moved around a lot growing up so I do not know what ever became of the occasional friend I made before junior high. Amanda and I met when we were 13 which makes her my oldest friend with a history 19 years! Which somehow does not seem possible. We met in 8th grade, standing next to each other with our "E" last names in gym class line-up. My earliest memory of Amanda (which was oft repeated) was her lapping me when we had to run. She was always a runner and I never was. After finishing the mile and a half or whatever distance we had to run, she would run up next to me and cool down as she urged me to the finish line. We had gym together again in 9th grade and I'm sure the running thing continued.

I have a very vague memory of the first time I visited her house - that all important step of removing a friendly acquaintence from the confines of a shared class to a friend you call incessently and hang out with. I don't remember when that happened - maybe between 9th grade and sophomore year? Or maybe it didn't happen until we were sophomores, bonding in the lunch room as Amanda made fun of me for eating my "dessert" pudding pack before the rest of my lunch. She didn't have much room to talk because she liked eating fritos with bananas.

As our families are sure to attest, it is highly likely that we were the nerdiest sophomores to ever grace the halls of our high school. During that transition year before boyfriends, jobs and other friends, we lived in our own world. We rarely had a class together but we passed an endless stream of notes to each other and after running out of stuff to say in our notes we began writing sagas - picking up the story where the other left off. The first thing we did when we came home from school was get on the phone and talk about who knows what.

Amanda was the smart one, the studious one, every teacher's favorite with nearly straight A's. I was a bit less focused and often begged her to sluff classes with me (with little success) to get breakfast at Hardee's when we should be in sewing class (yes, Amanda was responsible for my attempts to learn how to sew) or head for the canyon when we should be in seminary.

To literally steal a page from the yearly page long entries we reserved for each other in our high school year books, I will list the memories, some of which might be a bit too revealing but probably not as embarrassing as some of these photos I dug up:
  • I could not start this without mentioning squids and the "standard of squidness"
  • DuranDuran
  • you never calling me back . . . (I forgot abut that)
  • cheep-cheaps
  • helping you get ready for prom with that really tall cowboy. . . ?
  • willia . . . poor willia
  • notes and sagas, especially sagas
  • yo-gurt (too bad I don't currently owe you any)
  • The Bet
  • Kevin - the square one
  • me enduring not one but THREE dates with a boy I didn't even like so you could ask your crush to Husky Howl . . . and eventually marry him
  • car tag (more endurance on my part)
  • hunting for gas in the nerdmobile
  • beads - Zims!
  • you getting lost driving to Zims . . . or anywhere else for that matter
  • 22, two-twenty-two and the magical hour of 22:22
  • FHA Convention (a gathering of conservatives) - your words from my yearbook
  • Park City FHA convention running away from Hicks and getting stuck in the elevator
  • the covert mission to Hicks house, note the photo above!
  • planning Husky Howl
  • how do you spell Rowdie?
  • drive-bys that never happened
  • slushees from Rainbo
  • with tiny tarts
  • all our nerdy trips to the library
  • SL Egg
  • Cinnabon (it counts!)
  • broken neck
  • camping (once you figured out you didn't need the butane curling iron) . . . but with a chaperon
  • Marie Claude
  • AP Bio
  • how I took chemistry with you for a day or two
  • Adam
  • Frank the Wo
  • Nene L. Wo
  • SHANE! that was his name
  • your cute little Honda
  • the magical mystery mazda
  • El Karlo
  • balloons on state street
  • Gandhi-Gi
  • Drop Dead Fred
  • VL
  • Born Again VL
  • learning to buy a "real" bra
  • cross-country
  • red velvet cake
  • whole-wheat cookies
  • football games
  • Band
  • waiting for a ride at the Top Stop (is that what it was called?) after football games
  • Tiffany Brooke
  • foo-foos
  • no smoking signs
  • "Eat Meat"
  • The Long Life Veggie House
  • scrunchies
  • the mall
  • when you worked at the mall, in that kiosk - I don't even know what you sold
  • mall food courts
  • how you liked to buy things without any money
  • tagalongs
  • the cabin . . . wow, that is an ancient memory I almost forgot about - floating/climbing down that river
  • the love machine
  • being questioned by the sheriff near La Caille . . .
  • DMB concert at the E Center where we had our own personal row
  • walks with Malcolm and Murphy
  • oreo cows
  • a memorable heart to heart in your driveway
  • fights I don't remember
  • but always making up
  • even when my mom forced me . . . with your favorite whole wheat cookies
  • Quinn scouting out the torches in my backyard
  • Emery asking me for stories about Malcolm
  • all the thoughtful notes and cards and emails you have sent me over the years
  • and oh, so much more. . .
Amanda, I vividly recall sitting in the food court at Valley Fair Mall in high school watching some ladies we perceived to be old (who knows, they could have been our age!). We discussed at length whether that would be us one day - lunching as old ladies together. I'm happy to say, I think it will (only we will pick a better lunch spot than the mall - a little Cafe Rio maybe?).

Thank you Amanda for following through with the promise you made me in my senior yearbook to be my friend "always and forever for eternity and more. . . " I love you!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Weekend Wrap-up

I really meant to actually write something here but all I managed to type was "Saturday morning I . . . " and then I got stuck. I meant to write about the sun playing hide and seek behind the clouds . . . and something about alternately wanting a jacket and wishing I had worn short sleeves . . . perfect fall day. . . la, la, la, . . . an indulgently long brunch with a friend I hadn't seen in months at Norma's, and if you have never been, I promise to take you if you ever come to New York - you will love it!

But my brain is fried because I spent 8 solid hours in the office today only to get home at 9 pm to do laundry. So I really don't have the energy left to tell you about the my trip to Macy's to see the Martha Stewart windows. Emily made a special request that I visit the windows for her. Coincidentally, my mom emailed about a clutch she found at Macy's and after some more online shopping together, I found this one. So after brunch I ventured down to Macy's to check out the purse and the windows. Both proved successful. The purse was on sale and the windows were beautiful.

And since you all can't come to New York, I'm going to take you on a little tour:

Friday, September 14, 2007

dress update

My mom and I did a little long distance online shopping together last night. Which, by the way, is great. I mean, how else would my mom and I be able to go shopping together living thousands of miles apart? Plus, I don't have to actually go in a store. I really dislike shopping, I find it exhausting and department stores often overwhelm me. Ordering online I can try the clothes on in my own real life. No funky mirrors. No feeling sticky from the humidity in the summer or staticky from pulling clothes on and off. I can do it without interacting with other obnoxious shoppers and I can try the clothes on in the morning after I shower and have fresh makeup on - when I feel good, something I have found really influences my reaction to clothes.

Anyway, my mom also loved THE dress but having someone else witness the price knocked some sense into me so we continued looking and selected this dress instead: An option that turned out to be more than HALF the price! I am worried about the fit and the color but I think it could be beautiful. Especially with these shoes which my mom found at Dillard's and luckily Amazon had them which means free 2 day shipping with the Amazon Prime membership I accidentally purchased by not cancelling my trial period and now I use it ALL the time:
I'm hoping this necklace will work well too but I haven't ordered it yet. Why, oh why don't we have Target in New York City?

All I need now is a really great patent clutch to match the shoes!

And if I the dress doesn't fit (please let it fit!) or I don't like it or the color washes me out or some other issue, I will just pull myself together and go to Nordstrom's and buy the expensive dress. Since the dress is being delivered to my parent's house in Utah I guess I better pack a back up alternative dress just in case things don't work out.

Weddings are stressful.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

I just fell in love . . .

with this dress:

Am I crazy? I think it would be perfect for Howard's wedding next week. I love the color although I'm not sure how the gold would look on me. I love the square neck and the sleeves and everything about it. Trouble is it is very pricey. Very pricey. As in, I've never purchased a dress for so much. And it would require new shoes. Because what do I own that matches "driftwood/gold" the color description of this dress? The answer would be nothing.

What to do, what to do . . . any thoughts? reactions? encouragement? I can't believe I'm considering this dress the day after I emptied my savings account. . .

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

taking deep calming breaths (indoors)

I thought I was past the freaking out stage but I just closed out my cd (I actually had a cd!) and transfered nearly ALL my money out of my savings account for this big leap I am taking into adulthood that does not involve planning a platinum wedding or purchasing maternity clothes. Apparently there was another freak out moment in me - not of the regret type, more of the I've-never-managed-or-even-imagined-I-could-save-that-much-money-and-now-I'm-giving-it-away! type freak out. But I'm okay with it. Really. I am. I can always save more. . . .

In other less vague news, this morning's walk to work reminded me of the one big down side to fall - fall allergies. I was sneezing before I walked in my office door and had to use three tissues to make myself presentable for my 9 am meeting. Why am I allergic to things that are dying? I don't get it. I understand spring allergies - blossoms and pollen blooming back into life. But September is the beginning of the end of the cycle, the part just before heading into hybernation. Are the trees and flowers and grasses just putting up one last fight before dormancy? What is more, while some of the streets I pass in my twenty minute walk to work have trees, there aren't too many flowers and I don't think there is any grass. So where are the allergens even coming from?

On a lighter note, very happy that the humidity left New York and it was almost cool this morning for the very first time. Now I am anxious to pull out my sweaters and jackets and start layering. I'm also anxious to start making soup and possibly some pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. Hmmm, I wonder if I could make pumpkin cupcakes. . . .

Carry on (obviously my muse is still out).

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


This is a repeat of what I wrote last year on this day. The difference today is instead of a cloudless blue sky, it is raining. The same way it rained on September 10th and days after the 11th. Today for the first time the anniversary falls on a Tuesday, the same way it did in 2001. Somehow this feels significant. A friend sent an email this morning with her thoughts and memories of that day six years ago. She explained how she remembers exactly what she was wearing and what song she was listening to on her subway ride and all the events leading up to that moment and all the emails and phone calls of people reaching out to her. So do I.

I wore a grey shirt with three-quarter length sleeves and a black pencil skirt with black mary jane shoes. I didn't change for hours because there was something in me that kept expecting that I would need to go to work soon. Nothing felt real that day.


I looked out my window this morning and was greeted by the same brilliantly blue sky devoid of clouds I marveled over 5 years ago. The sky which seemed not to mourn with the rest of my city and my country that day. The sky seemed unaware of the tragedy and added to the surreality of the day.

Five years ago I thought the only variance to my routine was my house guests - my mother and my aunt. I was lingering with them that Tuesday morning, making French toast for breakfast as they planned out their day's activities, reluctant to go to work. The night before they met me downtown near my office in the pouring rain - across the street from the World Trade Center. I had advised them not to visit Monday night but to wait for a clearer sky before going to the top. Maybe tomorrow. It was decided, if the rain cleared up they would go on Tuesday, September 11th. But they didn't go. I don't come from a family of early risers. We are late night talkers. So we were in my new home, making breakfast and watching the weather on the Today show when the story broke. We had no sense of the tragedy that was already in progress as television reporters speculated over the whys and hows of what was believed to be a private aircraft gone astray that was smoldering in the side of one of the towers. My dad called and as he talked to my mother my aunt and I started to eat the breakfast we never finished.

The second plane hit.

We abandonded our plates and forks and uneaten breakfast at the table, staring in disbelief at the television. We went to my roof where I could normally see the top of both towers at the end of the City skyline. I could only see one tower and a little smoke. One of my neighbors who had also gone to the roof to see for himself informed us one tower had fallen. In disbelief we returned to my apartment and the tv that remained on for days. It was true. I returned once again to the roof and strained to see with my own eyes what was happening a few miles south, a couple of blocks from the office where I was supposed to be. Soon there was nothing. The wind pushed all smoke and dust toward Brooklyn leaving midtown Manhattan sunny with an eerily clear sky - no clouds, no smoke, just a vast expanse of endless blue.

Wanting to escape the tv and the tears we left the building and were greeted by streams of dazed people returning home before noon on a Tuesday - unsure of what to do with themselves. I had lived in the City just over a month, I barely knew anyone. But on the steps I saw a familiar face - a guy I had met on Labor Day at a stake beach activity who later became a good friend. He also worked downtown. He told us his story. Watching the towers collapse from his office window, helping people escape, tearing his undershirt into pieces to cover his mouth and nose and to give a piece to a woman who didn't have anything to protect her lungs. It was the first time I saw the dust. The "dust" that covered downtown Manhattan where I worked for months. The "dust" the EPA reassured as was fine to breathe.

This morning as I crossed 9th Avenue walking to work I remembered the trucks, the giant construction vehicles and empty buses driving downtown toward what would forever after be known as Ground Zero.

We wanted to give. We wanted to help. What could we do? We wandered. I saw my new city as I had never before seen it and in a way I doubt I will ever see it again. It was a beautiful Tuesday and the streets were full of the displaced. Those walking home, those escaping their television sets, those wanting to do something. We were a bonded group. But with all the people, things were missing - there weren't any cabs, there were very few cars on the street at all. Stores were closed. It was quiet. The usual cacophony that fills the streets and seeps in your windows was silenced.

There was respect.

Central Park was full of other wandering souls like us, wanting to find solace, shaking their heads in disbelief, hoping this didn't feel real because if it wasn't they could return to their homes and the television would no longer be full of tragedy. We were all hoping and praying together for miracles large and small. Their faces belied their actions. Parents pushed children on swings. Dogs were being walked. Frisbees were tossed. Bicycles were being ridden. All the paths were full of runners, walkers and rollerbladers looking to escape. You saw it on their faces, the hushed tone of their voices and the way they kept their heads down. When eye contact was made restrained smiles were exchanged as if to express sympathy for the shared loss.

A friend of mine had joined us that day, she, like me, was new to the city and had nowhere else to go. I had my mom, she had me. I walked her to the subway station at 50th Street and Broadway that evening, a short distance from Times Square. When we reached Broadway the emptiness renewed the sense of tragedy. Drawn in by the novelty of an empty Times Square, we walked down Broadway and shook our heads at being 2 of only about 15 people in all of Times Square. A once in a lifetime experience. A building construction site was towering above us with a giant white sheet with the words "God Bless America" in spraypaint. More tears fell.

Other than catching myself in my own reflections of the day and pondering the personal effect that tragedy had on me, today was not out of the ordinary. Until I arrived home this evening and looked out my window - there, rising above the parking garages I normally look at and throug the sky are two blue pillars of light memoralizing the twin towers. A reminder that were they still standing, I might be able to see the top floors from my window.

Monday, September 10, 2007

waiting for inspiration

Unfortunately my muse (if I ever had one) has checked out for the time being. Perhaps she has tired of my abusing her terrific ideas with not entirely well-thought out (or well-proof read) posts. Or maybe she just needed a vacation. Whatever the reason, I've got nothing. Instead of writing nothing, I am choosing to steal an idea from Tiffany and write 100 nothings about today, about my weekend and well, nothing whatsoever:

  1. it threatened to rain all day today
  2. luckily I never got wet
  3. sometimes I'm bothered that we refer to weather generically as "it"
  4. as in "it's cold outside"
  5. or "it might snow"
  6. maybe weather would be nicer if we weren't so harsh
  7. maybe weather can be female like a ship
  8. I think it might be feminine in French
  9. but then again, my French is tres, tres rustique so I wouldn't rely on it for anything
  10. except maybe a simple bonjour
  11. Monday is never a fun day at work
  12. I snoozed through my work-out alarm for no good reason but laziness
  13. and PMS
  14. I seriously thought that was a good reason not to go to th gym this morning
  15. then I had a HUGE lunch to welcome a new associate at work
  16. I found her irritatingly chatty
  17. I countered with my own irritating chatter because I could feel our boss was slightly annoyed as well
  18. that probably compounded the problem
  19. the worst part was when she mentioned her "grandma's tobacco farm"
  20. neither of us had any response for that
  21. lunch ended with a GIANT fortune cookie filled with whipped cream, fruit and a giant fortune
  22. but I actually had molten lava cake, perhaps the best dessert ever invented.......... mmmm, molten lava cake
  23. which is why I am not eating dinner or even hungry for dinner at 830 pm
  24. this weekend I was excessively lazy
  25. I've grown tired of "nice days"
  26. I am tired of summer clothes and tired of humidity
  27. I'm ready for fall and sweaters and blazers and . . .
  28. okay, I'm not ready for boots
  29. I want to keep wearing flip flops everywhere
  30. I watched the movie Bridge to Terebithia last night
  31. It was one of my favorite books as a kid, I remember it being one of the first books to make me cry
  32. the movie made me cry, a lot
  33. I probably needed a good cry, because of the PMS
  34. or perhaps I was just overdue
  35. I really love my Ring Road playlist, I listen to it constantly (including right now)
  36. It really brings back some of the images of my vacation, which makes me happy
  37. I had scheduled brunch with my favorite group of girl friends this weekend, unfortunately two got sick and canceled at the last minute so I just met one
  38. we changed the location to Chelsea and ended up eating somewhere gross
  39. I hate having brunch wasted on a bad restaurant, I didn't even know there were bad restaurants in Chelsea
  40. I cleaned out my desk filing drawer this weekend - I kept reserving this task for a rainy or cold day in the fall or winter but it was making me crazy just cramming paid bills into an overstuffed file folder
  41. I filled an entire garbage bag with shredded bills and statements
  42. I finalized a contract over the weekend, more details later . . .
  43. I really need a new vacuum. I bought mine when I finished law school 6 years ago and it is barely worth using.
  44. I want the Dyson slim that is currently being advertised on my tv
  45. I don't know why my tv is on right now. I'm not watching it, it is on mute but for some reason I didn't turn it off.
  46. I rely on my tv too often for company.
  47. It has been very, very poor company as of late. Can the new fall line-up just start already?
  48. Maybe this should have been 50 nothings of the day . . .
  49. I skipped out on a birthday dinner Friday night for no good reason.
  50. Okay, I had a good reason. I didn't feel like trekking an hour on a bus to the upper east side and another hour home.
  51. Some cab drivers were still posing some silly strike which meant the remaining cabs were difficult to find and were given free license to RIP YOU OFF!
  52. After the gallery exhibit last week I had a difficult time finding a cab and when one finally stopped I had to share it with another woman already in there.
  53. She lectured me about how dangerous the area was where the cab picked me up. It wasn't an ideal location but she was overly paranoid.
  54. The cab cost me $10 when it should have only been $5!!!
  55. I have a couple of options of where to hang my painting but I think I need to paint a wall - it really can't hang on a white wall.
  56. I've never painted anything in my life.
  57. No, that's not true. I had this hutch when I was a kid that I tried to paint yellow when I was about 10 years old. Rather than the bright lemon yellow of my bedroom furniture, the paint was an ugly mustardy yellow that didn't match at all. I didn't care and painted the whole thing anyway.
  58. Oh, I guess I also painted a 3-legged table with Emily once. And a shower curtain.
  59. But I think I mostly painted her and she painted the table and the shower curtain that we never used because our apartment had shower doors.
  60. I sometimes wish I could re-do some college experiences with my hormones properly medicated. I think things would have worked out much better.
  61. Although I still loved a lot of things about college.
  62. I graduated from college ten years ago.
  63. TEN YEARS AGO!!!! I have been out of college a whole decade. Wow.
  64. I was really lazy Saturday night and made dinner out of the random ingredients I had lying around after not grocery shopping since before my vacation.
  65. I ended up with macaroni and cheese made from tri-colored fusilli pasta, butter, velveeta cheese (yes, I had some in my cupboard!) and half & half (I had some that was still good but no milk).
  66. It wasn't as good as I had hoped.
  67. Friday night I had a ridiculous craving for meat (this is very rare for me) and tried to order ribs from my favorite bbq place but they stopped taking delivery orders at 7 pm. I was so sad.
  68. Especially since they also have the greatest red velvet cupcakes (next to mine) and I wanted one of those too.
  69. I ordered a skirt steak instead and was very happy - especially with the yummy mashed potatoes that came with it.
  70. I pulled out the Arrested Development dvds this weekend.
  71. That show is SO funny and my bitterness has been renewed over its cancellation.
  72. Please no one cancel The Office, it is all we have.
  73. I couldn't bring myself to start a new book this weekend, I'm pretty disappointed in myself over this.
  74. It is hot in my apartment.
  75. Opening the windows doesn't help because of the humidity but if I turn on the air conditioner it just gets cold.
  76. Eating at nice restaurants always leaves me thirsty all afternoon. The secret to their fancy food must be a lot of salt.
  77. Seriously, this girl mentioned her grandma's tobacco farm over lunch. I can't get past that.
  78. I'm going to another wedding next week.
  79. I think I'm okay with it.
  80. Even though I never received an invitation. Apparently the mailman really wants to go.
  81. Saturday the groom told me I am his only girl friend who is attending the wedding.
  82. Luckily he still has other single friends who will be in attendance and I even know some of them. He told me who I'm seated with at the dinner.
  83. I don't know what to wear.
  84. I have dresses, I am just tired of them or I don't want to wear the shoes that accompany the other option(s?).
  85. I hate platform shoes - I have one pair of black patent peep-toe platform shoes that look amazing but feel like torture devices after five minutes of standing.
  86. And Howard made me promise I will have fun and dance at his wedding. He is very concerned about people having fun at the wedding.
  87. I'm making a very short stop-over in Salt Lake on my way to LA next week.
  88. Mostly so I can eat fry sauce.
  89. And take a very adult step.
  90. And be with my mom while my dad has a heart valve replaced.
  91. And take my dad Iceberg milk shakes to help him recover.
  92. Wow, now I'm hungry.
  93. Last night I had a dream I went back to college and shared a dorm room with my sister - we also had to share a bed. I am sure she would not be happy with that. She hates sharing a bed with me. Hates it. She is always afraid I will cuddle with her.
  94. I'm a good cuddler.
  95. I will be an aunt in approximately three weeks. I am very excited and anxious to meet my niece and find out what her name will be. My favorite name got dropped by the wayside. Sad.
  96. I have a lot of house plants but lately I have really been craving a trip to the plant district (a fantastic street in the 20s with cheap plants) for more greenery. Fall seems like a good time to add more green to my home for the winter.
  97. Why did I mention winter? I think the dread of winter ruins the joyous season of autumn for a lot of people. Or so I have been reading of late on many a blog.
  98. My grandparents are so fun to talk to on the phone. Yesterday I had emailed something to my Grandpa to print and when I told him I couldn't hear him anymore on the phone he claimed it was because he had "set the phone down on the desk" and then when he had to change the printer cartridge and couldn't find it my grandma suggested it might be in the fridge! I was impressed they were able to get it changed all on their own.
  99. Can your grandparents change a printer cartridge? Can you??
  100. I made it! So sorry to take up all your time if you managed to read this whole stream of consciousness dribble of nothing. . . I promise to improve once my muse returns. Or when I allow myself to write about my big news.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

call me a collector

I am not the type to chat up seat-mates on a plane. I find it awkward, often tedious, occasionally offensive (long story, flight to Costa Rica where I was upgraded about my religion for hours on end!) and difficult to stop once it has begun because umm, where are you supposed to go to end the conversation gracefully?

Somehow and for some reason, I broke this rule on my flight home from Iceland. Much to my and my sister's disappointment, a small man took the window seat at the last minute, just before our flight took off. He slept most of the flight but shortly before we landed we started chit-chatting. To me this is the only time where it is acceptable to engage in conversation because there is a way out - when the plane lands! Well, after I told him I live in New York and that I'm a lawyer (I promise he asked, I don't volunteer that too readily), he got excited, pulled out his bag and rifled through it to extract a stack of postcards and handed me this: He invited us to his exhibit opening and I looked forward to it all week. Earlier today I googled his name and browsed the collection on the gallery's website. My sister and I exchanged a couple of emails commenting on his style and we each emailed a favorite.

I have spent the occasional Saturday wandering the galleries in Chelsea and I have been to a couple exhibit openings - one in SoHo and one in midtown - but I have never been to an opening night like this. According to my friend Brooke who works at one of the galleries this is one of the biggest gallery opening nights of the year as it kicks off the new season of exhibitions. Tenth Avenue is not one of the most populated areas of Manhattan and foot traffic is a bit rare but tonight it was packed. What a pot potpourri of people - hipsters of every ilk, a few post-work business casual types like me, a smattering of what I call the Upper West Side liberal sprinkled with the truly random artsy type who appears to use his body as an expression of his art. Fascinating.

I rode the large industrial elevator to the sixth floor of a warehouse type building on 25th Street and walked into the tiny one room gallery. I made two attempts to invite a companion to share this trek with me and gave up after two people turned me down. I didn't need more rejection. I felt a bit awkward pausing alone in the entry wondering what to say to this stranger from the plane.

But I didn't have to pause for long. As soon as we made eye contact, this sweet little man broke into a wide grin and gave me a huge hug. He greeted me like a long lost friend. Better even. He took me by the arm and introduced me to his wife and son and grandkids who were constantly underfoot, as they were on the plane. It was fantastic. I fell in love with his work immediately. It is full of beautiful clean lines, intriguing texture and one painting in particular grabbed me, the same one I emailed my sister. I wandered around the room inspecting the other paintings with brighter colors but I was continually drawn back to the one titled "Dancing All Night".

I didn't go thinking about buying. I hadn't even considered it but I inquired as to the price anyway. It was much less than I anticipated and he offered me a 20% discount! Before I even thought about it I agreed to buy "Dancing All Night". I love the title and I love the painting. He was sweet and kissed me on the cheek as he hugged me goodbye. All I had to do to "buy" the painting was give the gallery my business card. They will contact me at the end of the exhibit to arrange the transaction.

So, without further adieu, let me introduce you to my new painting:

If you want to see it in person (which you must in order to truly appreciate it), it will be on display at the Amos Eno Gallery through the 29th, after that you just have to come visit my apartment! Now I am just trying to figure out how to rearrange my apartment to find a suitable place to hang it.

fry sauce, shakes and taco salads

One unexpected similarity Erin and I discovered between Utah and Iceland was fry sauce. For those of you who have never experienced the joy of dunking a french fry into this salmon-colored sauce, a trip to Utah may be in order. As a kid growing up in Utah I assumed this concoction of ketchup and mayonnaise was just another standard condiment. It wasn't until my family moved to California for a brief stint in the late 80's that we discovered most fast food restaurants only offer ketchup with fries. If we wanted fry sauce we had to mix it up ourselves by smearing ketchup and the sometimes harder to find mayo packets together on that paper with puzzles on the plastic tray. To this day I can take or leave ketchup but will always pick up fry sauce when offered.

The best fry sauce in Utah is at truly local fast food places such as Crown Burger, Arctic Circle (who claims to invented the stuff), Hires and Iceberg Drive In (not necessarily in that order). But even the national franchises will usually offer it. Although I did learn on Wikipedia that McDonald's stopped carrying it in 1999. I guess I didn't notice since I doubt I have been in a McDonald's in Utah (or elsewhere) more than a half a dozen times since 1999.
Since I don't eat hamburgers (I really dislike the taste and texture and greasieness) and I try to avoid greasy food, I rarely to never eat fast food. I think I have been to Wendy's once this year and that was on my trip to San Diego because it was the only thing open and that is probably the extent of my fast food dining for the year. I don't say this to brag or be demeaning to fast food diners or anything, just to help you understand the contrasting fact that despite this aversion, I really love good french fries with fry sauce. And now, despite having already eaten lunch, I am craving either the turkey club from Hires (where I always had at least one sibling working for a span of about four years, maybe more) with their thick cut french fries and fry sauce or a BLT from Crown Burger with their comparable fries and fry sauce. Mmmmmm, Crown Burger. Oh, and Sconecutter also has great fry sauce and fries - and scone sandwiches! Those are the greasy indulgences I love and miss. I threw Iceberg into the mix for their unbelievable shakes. I'm not really sure why I don't prioritize a trip to Iceberg for a rocky road or cookie dough shake when I'm in town but I think it will top my list on places to go on my next stop-over.

So what does this all have to do with Iceland you ask? Well, in reading my guidebook nearly cover to cover prior to my trip, I discovered a tidbit about a special sauce Iceland uses with their fries that is a combination of ketchup and mayonnaise. I was disappointed when my first meal in the country (a ham and cheese pannini with fries) was served with plain old ketchup. Lunch on day two greeted us with the same disappointment - no fry sauce. Our first encounter with the special sauce was actually on a hot dog, late Sunday night shivering near the water. Later on in the trip, far from Reykjavik, on the Skagi penninsula in the northwest, we were finally served the mix with fries. Iceland's version is slightly different, like maybe they add something else or use a different ratio of ketchup to mayo, but still quite tasty.

We also learned, thanks to the coincidental timing of a Mormon pioneer trek exhibit at the Cultural Museum that there is a sizeable community of Iceland decendents living in Spanish Fork, Utah. This connection and many hours in the car led to a theory. Either Arctic Circle and/or Iceberg were created by some of these Icelanders living in Utah (hence the Arctic and Iceberg names) and one or the other imported (or possibly exported) the sauce in from Iceland. Now Wikipedia indicates that Arctic Circle claims to have invented the stuff in 1948 while Iceland developed it in the 1950s. Either way, I'm claiming a connection and if you know anything to support my theory, please let me know. Somehow I think Emily will know something about this.
Also, since I brought up Arctic Circle I have to reminisce about a story that will only be funny to the people who were there and since a couple of my readers were actually there, I'm going to proceed. In high school, the era before cell phones, my little hodge podge group of friends and I would round each other up on a Friday or Saturday night by piling into someone's car and driving to each house to collect one another and then sort out where to go and what to do. For some reason when we did this no one ever wanted to go to the effort of getting out of the car and walking to the door. Instead, the driver would pull into the driveway, honk and wait impatiently for the summoned friend to run out the door waving parents off with a "I don't know where we're going" as usual. Emily was the best at being collected, probably because she was generally last on the circuit due to the location of her house. She would run out the door before the driver could honk and on one memorable occasion she was waiting in a tree out front. Yes, actually up in the limbs of the tree.
One cold evening, I pulled into Liz's driveway with Michele and Mary already in the car with me and honked as usual, then waited impatiently. Liz worked at the Midvale Arctic Circle and got off work not long before we arrived. Since it was the early 90's and none of us (okay maybe with the exception of Mary and probably Mickey) dedicated much time to such tasks as picking out our clothes or putting on makeup (most of us didn't wear any) since all we wore was oversized Gap jeans, extra large t-shirts topped with a flannel shirt and those nike hiking boots we all seemed to own in varying colors, there was no excuse for the hold up. After more honking didn't nudge her into walking out the door, I sent Mary inside to hurry Liz along.

Michele and I waited and waited and waited some more until I lost all patience, shut off the car and in an unprecedented move stormed into her house to see what the hold up was. There, in the Granquist kitchen, standing at the island with forks frozen half-way to their mouths with guilty grins on their faces as they realized they had been caught were Liz and Mary. They had made Michele and me wait in the cold car for what felt like an hour (okay it was probably 10 to 15 minutes) while they ate a taco salad Liz brought home from Arctic Circle. Ever since that day, when we would be forced to wait for someone one of the girls would comment that the tardy friend must be "eating a taco salad". Now, I can't help but snicker when I hear Arctic Circle or taco salads mentioned.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

wednesday's rambling thoughts and musings

Yesterday I called to make a long overdue appointment to get my hair cut. I delayed this for a while on purpose because I wanted my hair to be long enough for a pony-tail on vacation but I have spent the last month hating my hair because of that decision. Although it was nice to be able to throw it all back in a pony-tail while in Iceland. Needless to say I am anxious to insert some style into my hair as soon as possible. Especially since I have another wedding to attend in a couple of weeks. Well, my stylist was not available this week because she is working Fashion Week. Yes, I share my stylist with runway supermodels. How comforting. Maybe she will have some fun stories to share when I see her on the 15th. A bit intimidating I guess except my hair may actually be the one thing I have that is thinner than a super model. Plus, last time my stylist said she "loves" cutting my hair because it just goes perfect . . . or something to that effect. Needless to say I was shocked. My hair must just put on a good show for her because I have never had it just go perfect for me.

I hate when I waste a good outfit and good hair (despite the shaggy overgrowth, a curling iron actually is capable of making it presentable) on my desk, my computer and the workers at the deli next door (for both breakfast and lunch). I could have shown up dressed for Iceland in cargo pants and sans make-up for all the interaction I have had with live people today.

I'm trying to use my jet lag to my advantage and turn into a morning person. So far so good. Both Sunday and Monday I woke up without an alarm at 530 am. This is definitely not normal for me. Yesterday it was a bit later - more like 615 and I didn't get out of bed until just after 7 so I felt like I slept in a bit. Today it happened again and I crawled out of bed with my alarm at 715. I am using this extra time to get back into a gym routine. Yesterday I met with my trainer so that was my primary motivation for getting up there (I'm so lazy, my gym is only up one flight of stairs from my apartment). We haven't met in about 5 weeks so I was in rough shape and today I'm sore. Which is good. But today I actually went to the gym again and I wasn't paying anyone to meet me there - just me, the eliptical and Matt Lauer interviewing Bill Clinton. Yeah me! I am going to try and keep this going and go again tomorrow. Wish me luck!

I want to leave work now, even though I have lots left to do.

I read this article in the NY Times today. I'm pretty concerned. I already have asthma, I don't need my beloved microwave popcorn giving me more lung problems. I can't give it up. I'm just hoping that the fact that I use 97% fat free popcorn or natural is safeguarding me from this popcorn lung thing. At least I'm not eating it twice a day or breaking “open the bags, after the steam came out, [and] . . . inhale[ing] the fragrance,” as the man in the article did frequently. I prefer to dump the steam quickly into the bowl to get the m&ms I add a bit melty. Mmmmmm m&ms and popcorn. Seriously, this better not be giving me more lung issues.

Lately I've been watching episodes of Coupling on BBC America. It is really very funny, although probably closer to an R rating than PG13. I thought it was particularly funny when one of the female characters said she felt like each time one of her friends got married it made her more single. Well put. And the two single women complained about how personally offensive it was that all these men were going around marrying other women. This is what a friend of mine and I were trying to articulate the other day when discussing people who never thought would get married but did before us and sure, we don't want the guy she married but it is still somehow offensive. I thought it was funny.

I looked at my statcounter today. I don't think I really know how to interpret most of the stuff on there other than to realize I have some regular readers I cannot identify who I would love to hear from - even if anonymously just to know what brought them here or why they come back or what they think. Please, come out of lurking even for a moment to say hi. I love and appreciate comments and really enjoy making new friends. Really. I'm jealous of blogs with loads of comments.

Speaking of which, I've been getting braver about commenting on other blogs, sometimes I make new friends or reconnect with old friends, which is great! But sometimes I get silence in return. I don't know how to interpret that. Not sure if there is an ettiquette one is supposed to follow here and if I am the one in breach by leaving unsolicited comments or they are for failing to acknowledge it or neither because there are no rules. If you comment, I promise to acknowledge you.

This brings me to my recent thoughts on unrequited friendships. Probably a topic for its own full-blown post but here are some raw thoughts. Recently my sister was blown off by a couple of high school friends she tried to reconnect with. They literally stood her up on dinner plans. Both of them. It goes without saying that this hurt her. It hurt me too. And made me angry. Who do these girls think they are to blow off my super amazing sis? Not worth her time. But as the saying goes, easier said than done. It is hard when you feel you once had a connection with someone, a genuine friendship that is seemingly discarded or carelessly cast aside as out-of-date by the one time friend. It stinks when you muster up the courage to pick up the phone or send out an email that goes unanswered or is not received well. It leads to the type of self-doubt and personality examination that is generally uncalled for. I hope I am not unwittingly guilty of this shameful and hurtful brushing off behavior. I know of one instance where I am. On purpose. For a purpose. I had to rid myself of a toxic friendship to protect myself from future pain. I'm not even sure he has realized what I have done, blocking him out of my life by ignoring phone calls and failing to email. And for some reason that makes me feel a little bad too. But otherwise, I really hope I am not guilty of inflicting this type of degrading rejection on former friends or even acquantences who believed we once had a connection.

Today I took an important step toward full fledged adulthood. One of the big ones. This has been in the works for a while but I have been too afraid to pull the trigger to move the process along. Now I'm a bit superstitious and afraid to write about it out of fear I will jinx the whole thing. Is that vague enough for everyone? And no, this does not involve a boy.

One last thing. I just finished off a bag of Maltesers I brought back from Iceland with me. They are like Whoppers only much, much better. I fell in love with them when I was living in Australia. Seriously, why is the chocolate in our country so subpar? I am co-chairing a banquet next month (because I'm crazy and can't say no) and the keynote speaker we are trying to get is from Hersheys. I may have to interrogate her on this chocolate problem. There was an article in the Times a while back on the substandard chocolate in the US (relative to the UK, Canada, etc)that I meant to blog about but failed to save the permalink and now it is lost in their only-for-a-fee-archives. But in all honesty, if all amazing chocolate were readily accessible here I may lose that last tiny bit of will-power I am hanging on to now.

That is all (good thing, that was far more than I intended to write), carry on and enjoy the rest of your week.

P.S. a bit of a blogger meltdown scare just now. Luckily all was not lost . . .

Monday, September 03, 2007

Closing the circle

Friday we hoped to make it to the Blue Lagoon before it closed. But we took many detours and realized our goal was unrealistic. I would have enjoyed one last soak but I wouldn't trade any of our stops for it.

One thing I should note about the photos - the snap shot/vacation looking photos are mine, the artsy and beautiful photos are my sister's.

Myvatn and Dettifoss

We lingered around the Myvatn area most of the day Thursday and didn't leave Dettifoss until after 5. I knew we had a lot of driving to do to make our flight Saturday morning so we only had a glimpse of the Eastfjords because it was dark, rainy and foggy. We made it to my goal of Hofn by 11 and stayed in a really nice guesthouse.

The Skagi Peninsula and Godafoss

Wednesday we took a detour up the Skagi Peninsula in the northwest along the Skagafjordur fjord and explored a bit more than we planned and didn't get to Myvatn until early evening. As you can see, it was beautiful and well worth the detour.

The Golden Circle and West Fjords

Day one of driving took us through the Golden Circle where we stopped at Geysir, Gullfoss and Dingvellir. We then drove north skirting the edge of the West Fjords which looked beautiful but unfortunately we didn't have the time to explore them more. The captions give a brief overview:

Reykjavik - Sunday and Monday

Good thing today is a holiday and I don't have to be at work quite yet because I am just now easing back into productivity after mourning the completion of my much anticipated vacation. I highly recommend having a few re-cooperation days before jumping back into the routine. Saturday we were back in my apartment by 2 pm but it felt like 6 pm and we were worn out by the travel so the only thing we accomplished was ordering Thai food, going out for pedicures, a little email reading and a dvd during which I fell asleep before it was half-way through. Yesterday I wanted to just catch up on blogging and continue the relaxing but Erin wanted to take advantage of her one day in New York. So we went to MoMA and saw the Richard Serra exhibit (which we both really enjoyed) and did some shopping at H&M where Erin bought a very cute dress for a wedding she is attending next weekend. After the isolation of Iceland, the Labor Day weekend crowds on Fifth Avenue were more overwhelming than usual and we quickly retreated back to my couch for an evening of tv movies and chocolate chip cookie making. Once again I fell asleep on the couch around ten.

I easily woke up at 6 am to help Erin to the car that whisked her away to the airport. I wasn't tired so I made breakfast, watched some tv, caught up on my blog reading and had a very long conversation with my parents. I've been piecing at the unpacking and the cleaning and the laundry and I have also created slideshow number one: Reykjavik, where we spent our first two days in Iceland.

Personally, if I had to do it over again I would only spend one day in Reykjavik. It was a very cute little city but there wasn't a lot to do. When I booked our flights Icelandair had a special where we could add a few extras to our trip for $7 a piece. The extras included the whale watching trip I mentioned in my top 5 - an amazing bargain! - and a 48-hour Reykjavik pass which granted us admission to various museums, free use of the buses and some other things we didn't end up using. We used the pass to visit the Cultural Museum because of all things they had a display on the trek to Utah by the Icelandic Mormon converts. Erin wasn't too excited about it but I couldn't pass that by. The final $7 add-on we purchased was admission to the Laugar Spa which was the fanciest, most amazing sports club I have ever visited! It was located outside the city center so we had to figure out the bus system to get there which was a bit of an adventure but we had some help. I didn't know what the passes included and was a bit surprised and bewildered when I handed over the voucher and the woman at the desk simply gestured for us to follow her to get our retinas scanned!! I am not kidding. She scanned our eyes then asked for our birthdays (not our names and she had already handed me my voucher . . . strange). She scanned us past a security system more high tech than my office building with giant panes of glass that swooped in to block the way after one person was swiped in. We followed her down some stairs and down a hallway where she used her key pass (not her eyes, or ours) to swipe us past another security door leading to the locker room. The only instruction she gave us was that this was the locker room, we must shower without our suits and a concierge desk was on the other side of the locker room. Confused we walked into the locker room and located a couple of open lockers and tried to decide what to do next. Do we strip down naked and go take a shower or do we wear our suits and remove them once in the shower? What is the protocol? Seeing women walking around completely naked I decided to use one of the robes provided and carry my suit to the shower where I encountered that bizarre sign instructing where I must wash before going any further. I stuffed my suit, robe and towel in a cubby hole outside the large open shower area facing the mirrors (awkward!) and took my shower - a bit embarrassed when I had to walk over to the open entry to get soap out of the one dispenser. I was curious how Erin would do in this situation. I'm not one to strut around naked but she is extremely private. We lived together a few years ago and she always shut and locked her bathroom door (we did not share) regardless of who was around and she always went in her room to change with the door shut. Unlike me, I have no qualms about changing in front of my sister or even most friends. Or strangers at the gym, but I know this is uncomfortable for her. But she did it and we laughed and giggled about how silly it felt. Still unsure of the protocol we put our suits on under our robes and left the locker room clutching our locker keys and towels. We were standing in a long hallway that was completely empty with doors leading to mysterious places. We first checked the concierge desk that was completely empty. While we were debating what to do someone walked up to the door to the right of us, scanned her eye and entered a darkened room that looked like a sauna of some sort. We walked out the glass door leading outside and up some stairs to the outdoor pools. The pools and hot tubs are shared with the public pool facility next door. We removed our flip flops, robes and towels and slid into the hot tub. No one else had robes or flip flops or even towels! Strange. Erin spotted a hippy couple we had been shadowing all day - they were at the church that morning, on the whale watching trip and here they are at the pool! We talked to them for awhile - he was from the UK, she was from Georgia and they had an adorable 6-month old who really seemed to enjoy the water although they were paranoid her diaper might not hold and they would end up with an embarrassing incident.

Having gained some courage after our soak we went back into the spa facility in search of the hidden perks - and we found them after I scanned my eyes to the right of the mysterious unattended concierge desk. Beyond the door was paradise. It was warm and the lighting was dim, the walls were tiled and a waterfall was on the opposite wall. People were happily walking between steam rooms and saunas in swimming suits. We deposited our robes on a hook and entered a steam room smelling of citrus and verbena with citrus colored tiled benches conforming easily to your back. We put our feet up on the tile islands in the center and breathed deeply. We moved from there to a slightly salty hot tub and then tested the saunas where the wooden planks were too hot to sit on. I discovered this giant plunge barrel full of icey cold water. I walked up the steps and managed to climb down the ladder into the ice water only up to my knees before retreating back to the hot tub. Later I was more brave and plunged in nearly up to my neck sending water splashing over the sides before I jumped out and ran to the welcome warmth of the hot tub that stung my frozen legs as I slid in. We spent a happy three hours here, moving from room to room, discovering what I deemed the nap room - a dark room with a fire in the middle and lounge chairs in a ring. I nearly fell asleep lying on my back with the fire flickering shadows on the ceiling. There was also a cafe that smelled heavenly but we had no idea how to order food so we just sipped glasses of ice water flavored slightly with chunks of orange. We didn't leave until closed. Erin was happier than I had seen her in a long time.

Here is the Reykjavik slide show:

Sunday, September 02, 2007

My Iceland Top 5

1. Jarðböðin Nature Baths: A large geothermal pool in the northeast that uses the area's hot water for bathing. The pool is similar to the Blue Lagoon (which we didn't have time to visit) but far less touristy. After a short morning hike through lava fields, we eagerly handed over the 1100 Krona admission price (about $15) and made our way to the locker room where we were instructed to leave our shoes on a shelf outside, shower without a suit per the instructions (photo below) and then enter the pools. This was our second time through this protocol and with an empty locker room we didn't mind the open, naked shower as much. Holding our thin towels as shields against the rush of bitterly cold air that greeted us as we exited the building, we opted to dash into the sauna a few cold steps away from the door to warm up before walking down a few steps to the lagoon. Instead of steps into the pool, the entry was a gentle slope that I quickly slid into up to my neck, flat on my back. The blue of the water is like nothing else - an aquamarine, ethereal color with clouds of steam skimming off the surface of the water and pushed north by the wind, occasionally engulfing us completely. We were all alone much of the time or shared the large outdoor pool with four people tops. It was sublime . . . we roamed the pool for over an hour, testing the constantly changing temperatures from the cooler spots we swam away from to the extra warm patches we gravitated towards and quickly jumping away when an overheated spurt rushed by. We entertained ourselves by exploring each corner of the pool, Erin enjoyed throwing the lava pebbles from the floor of the pool at me and I practiced a few handstands and tried to coax Erin into trying one too - she wouldn't. Erin decided we should have a stamina contest in the most exposed section of the lagoon where we stood up (the water was never much more than waist deep so we basically crawled around or crouched down leaving only our faces exposed to the wind) facing the brisk wind that dropped the temperature below the already cold 40 something degrees. Erin won after the cold destroyed my competitive spirit but the water felt even better once we sank back into it. With the beautiful blue water, lava rocks along the perimeter, an amazing view of Myvatn lake and the perfectly conical shaped Hverfjall volcano, we did not want to leave this place, even with the sulfur smell. It was sublime.2. Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon: As we were driving along the southeastern portion of the Ring Road I kept catching brief glimpses of the massive edge of the glaciers getting closer to the road but obscured by fog and sand mounds standing between us. I was frustrated that there wasn't a road cutting back toward the mountain where we could get a closer look. Then Erin spotted these large white sails up in the distance. At first we couldn't figure out what they were - tents, homes? Then we realized - they were icebergs! We were so excited and eagerly turned off with all of the other cars to get a closer look. The Jokulsarlon was created in the 1940s when the Breidamerkurjokul glacier began shrinking, creating a large pool of powder-blue icebergs that break away from the glacier and float around the lagoon before melting and flowing out to sea. We spent about an hour walking around the lagoon taking in the amazing scenery and watching the seals we happily discovered swimming around with just their noses poking out and sunning themselves on the smaller, flat icebergs. We extended our stay here by making a lunch of pb&j with paprika potato chips in our car on a cliff overlooking the lagoon.3. Dettifoss: Possibly the worst road we encountered in Iceland was Route 864 in the northeast on our way to Dettifoss - the most powerful exhibit of nature I have ever witnessed. This was one of my most anticipated sites. All of the photos I had seen made me a bit afraid of it, with good reason. Both of our guidebooks advised that the 864 running up the east side of the Jokulsa a Fjollum river in the Jokulsargljufur National Park was the better road and offered the best views of the waterfall. If we were on the good road, I have no idea what the other road must have been like. The entire drive in was forty minutes of bone jarring maneuvering over, around and through lumps and rocks and pot hole after pot hole full of muddy brown water that sprayed up and over our miniature SUV. We quickly discovered that the Suzuki Jimny does not offer much in the way of shocks. As we were tossed around by the road, a thick layer of fog settled in making it impossible for me to see more than a few feet beyond the hood making the final approach to the cascade a bit ominous and foreboding. Just before reaching the parking lot, I had a small panic that there wouldn't be anything marking the end of the road and instead we would topple off a cliff into the river 120 meters below. To my relief, the fog parted just as we pulled into a small lot with a handful of cars. Relieved to be off the choppy road for a bit we layered on our rain gear and hoped we would be able to see through the fog and mist to make the challenging ride worth the effort. As a small side note, I have to explain a small difference between U.S. National Parks and national parks in Iceland. Growing up visiting Yellowstone, Zion and Bryce, we became accustomed to the rules and regulations of national parks. There are signs advising where to go and where not to go, well-maintained paths with strict warnings to stay on the wooden or cement pathways and park rangers to answer questions and enforce the rules. There are also garbage cans, visitors centers and other amenities. I wasn't exactly expecting this but Iceland was nonetheless a shock. There are almost always signs pointing out the various points of interest and often there are signs explaining a bit of history of what you are viewing, but not always. Every once and a while there is a sign warning of danger, but only the extreme variety. There are paths, usually just dirt paths beaten down by a lot of foot traffic, sometimes lined with rocks to add some formality, very rarely a wooden boardwalk covers the path. Infrequently, like at the hot pots and geysir, there are ropes (and sometimes signs) warning onlookers away from the dangerous areas. The ropes are always significantly closer than where I imagine they would be placed if they were in the U.S. I believe I only saw a fence or safety rail once. I never saw park rangers anywhere in the country. The rest of the time, tourists are left to their own common sense. Dettifoss had none of these amenities - no signs, no real path to speak of and definitely no ropes or safety rails. A primitive rock staircase pointed the direction out of the parking lot and toward the increasing spray that was indistinguishable from the rain. At the bottom of the switchback "stairs", we were left to pick our way over rocks and boulders to the spectacular force of nature that was bursting over the cliff right in front of us - completely unobstructed. Dettifoss is Europe's most powerful waterfall at 100 meters wide and a 44 meter drop. Everything was gray - the water, the rocks, the sky, the mist, the fog - creating a desolate and awe-inspiring scene and imposing reverence for the power of nature. Without the national park amenities we are accustomed to, it was far easier to imagine how an explorer might feel when first encountering such a scene without protective railings and signs warning of slick rocks and steep cliffs. Stunning.4. Grettislaug Pool: While eating lunch in Saudarkrokur at a small cafe called Kaffi Krokur, I read about the Grettislaug hot pool in my guidebook. We had to back track along a terrible abandoned road along the edge of a fjord and were surprised to see a couple of other cars parked at the end, including the familiar blue station wagon of two older couples we deemed to be Swedes (although they could have been Icelanders, Norwegians or Finns for all we knew!) who we seemed to shadow most of Wednesday. Grettislaug is located on an abandoned farm at the end of the 20 kilometer road from the Saudarkrokur harbor. Unlike Jarðböðin, this pool didn't have a locker room, or showering stipulations, just a couple of pools with a nearly translucent white-haired old man in a speedo with mittens on his feet cleaning the pools. We were left to awkwardly change in our car, trying to avoid the curious looks of the Swedes and some youngish travelers finishing up their soak in the pool. When we dashed over to the warmish pool, the Swedes were already there having an uproaringly good time laughing and talking and pointing at things on the cliffs behind us. Unfortunately for us the warmer pool was being emptied by the old man (sitting in the pool behind Erin below) as he cleaned it. He tried to chat with us but we could barely understand him. We had to change again in our car and this time we were a bit more cavalier, opening doors to pull on our jeans. 5. Whale Watching in Reykjavik: I went whale watching once before off the coast of Oregon and we didn't see so much as a hint of a whale. Erin claimed I am bad luck and during the early phase of the trek when the whales were scarce she blamed me. Happily, this trip we saw whale - a couple of minke whale. It was amazing. The weather was perfect - blue skies, calm, flat water and about 55 degrees. The whale was amazing and spent a considerable amount of time swimming under and around our boat which the guide claimed was quite rare and exciting. We quickly learned how the minke got his nick-name of "stinky minke" - a pungently foul fish odor wafted by whenever he was near. We were also lucky enough to see a few stray puffins bobbing along in the water despite the fact that they leave in mid-August. So much fun!
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