Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!!

Each October, my mom would take my siblings and me to the local fabric store and we would leaf through those giant pattern books, turning the heavy pages over in chunks to reach the costume section in the back. Although, now that I think about it, I don't believe my brothers went. They were never as excited about the costume aspect as I was. Or so I assume. One brother was always Dracula. For at least 5 years in a row. Every year I would complain and try and convince him to be something different because "you were Dracula laaaaast year!" Understandably, my mom wanted me to just leave the issue be so she had one less costume to create. I usually had ideas before we went to the fabric store but I was easily swayed off topic by all of the photos in the books on the special slanted top table. After we selected a costume pattern, we would wander around the store looking selecting fabric and the odds and ends to complete the costume. I hated that part. Or, more accurately, I hated that part after I had found my fabric. My mom has always said this was her favorite part of sewing - selecting the pattern and fabrics - so I think she took her time. But time is a funny thing when you are a child. When adults (especially parents) are doing boring adult things, time seems to stop. I make pretty quick decisions, which leaves me with little patience for those who ponder things with a bit more deliberation. Like my sister. Oddly enough, I don't remember the majority of the costumes my created this way.
But I do remember being a genie in 1985. I was 10 and a big fan of watching I Dream of Jeanie. This photo doesn't do the full costume justice. The sparkly tank top was the most beautiful thing in the world to a 10-year old girl. Even one who was never very girly and generally shunned pink. But the silver elasticy straps (you can see it can of makes a u down the front) were itchy. And Utah isn't always the warmest place at the end of October. So, the turtle neck was added at the last minute prior to trick-or-treating. Please note the pink pompom detail at the waist. I am telling you that was an amazing costume that I was proud to wear to the costume parade at school. Did you have those in elementary school? The afternoon of Halloween you got to go change into your costume in the bathroom and there was a party with cake and cookies and everyone marched around the room smiling at the parents who didn't work and came to do their kids' makeup. Again, only the genie costume sticks out.
Although there was one year where I decided to be siamese twins with my friend across the street. We wore those full piece pjs with the feet and a blanket wrapped around us and carried bottles. We were warm but I think it was a dumb costume. Even then we hated the logistics of it.

In junior high, in a half-hearted attempt to emulate my mother, I tried to sew my own costume. We were living in St. George at the time and so we got my grandma involved. Which means, I picked out the pattern and material and my grandma made the costume. I was supposed to be learning how to sew from her. The costume was great and I have no idea why I don't have any photos of it. I was a pirate with a very cute dress that looked more Minnie Mouse than pirate - white blousey top and a red skirt with white polka dots. But I added this black netting slip that made it really fun to spin around in.

***********************************
Note: I am not going to have time to finish the post the way I wanted to. And given the fact that it will be outdated if I wait to finish it tomorrow, I'm just going to leave it at this and show you some photos from past Halloween adventures. Enjoy and HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!





Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I'm emotionally stable

Take this quiz to see if you are too. I think the quiz has some of the best lines from romantic comedies uttered on the silver screen. Although I don't think I scored up to my potential. My final score was 1150 out of 2000 and there were several lines I really should have known. But at least the quiz considers me "emotionally stable". Of course, it also assumed I am male. Hmmm.


My excuse is I have spent nearly every waking moment since about 4:30 last Friday (yes, even Saturday and Sunday) preparing for a major presentation tomorrow afternoon. This quiz was today's break. I was several questions in before I actually started thinking about the lines. And even then I screwed up a few I should have known. Oh, and you will probably all immediately realize that the correct answer is encircled with green lights after you miss one. This also took me a few questions to get.

Good luck and come back here and report your results along with your favorite line from a romantic comedy.

I have many, some are in the quiz. But I will select one not in the quiz so as not to give away any answers:


I don't want to be worshipped, I want to be loved.**
By Katharine Hepburn in The Philadelphia Story.
You can see a clip I posted in an earlier post here.
**Please note, I am in no danger of being worshipped (or even loved at this point). I just believe it succinctly speaks volumes on equality in marriage.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Give Away

Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!!! to everyone who has responded to my little Q&A experiment. I am amazed at how many people have taken the time to tell me a little about themselves. A few of you have raised a couple of additional questions that I am going to answer here for lack of a better place.

First, many of you have attributed your reluctance to comment to the personal nature of my writing. I am writing in a public forum. If something is too private or personal, I don't write it. And despite how open I am in this forum, you should know I do hold back many things so my life isn't quite a fully open book. If I only wanted my friends and family to read my rambling thoughts and amateur memoirs, I would have a private blog or pester them with unsolicited emails. I initially selected a public blogging format to give myself a place to just be myself, even if it was originally quite anonymous. Then I realized I wanted an audience. The first place I looked was my friends and family. And luckily, the word spread and I have been able to meet and get to know other bloggers out there. This is such a unique way to get to know friends and strangers (who can become friends) alike. Please, if you have something to say, let me know. Even if you don't really have anything specific to say, just let me know you are reading. It really bolsters me up.

Second, one commenter raised this question "why did you meet with a Bishop? (Our Bishops are so high ranking you would really never speak to one personally)." A bishop in the LDS church is a lay clergyman (meaning he does not get paid and has a full-time job outside his church duties) who, along with two counselors, presides over and leads a congregation - called a ward. A bishop is more equivalent to a Priest, Pastor, Rabbi or Minister than a Catholic Bishop. Throughout my blog I make an attempt to step outside of my own cultural terminology so people of differing backgrounds will be able to understand where I'm coming from. Sometimes, especially while writing my divorce story, I neglect this and I welcome any questions those of you who aren't Mormon might have on terminology. And I will continue to be mindful of those of you who didn't grow up hearing about wards and bishops. . .

Finally, I have put a lot of thought into this give away thing. I've only done one before and I don't necessarily plan on doing a lot of them so I appreciate the commenters who indicate I don't need to offer bribes to bring them out of lurkdom. However, I am going to give a few prizes away this month and since I am working this weekend and won't have time to select winners, I am going to extend the deadline another week. You now all have until midnight on October 31st to enter the drawing. Please continue to post your comments here to be eligible. And don't forget, if you have mentioned my story on your blog to leave me a second comment so you can be entered for the drawing a second time. I know several of you have done this and I thank you for your kind words. And by the way, you are not automatically disqualified if you are outside the U.S., if you win I'm not afraid of overseas shipping.

Thanks again all, hopefully I will have another divorce post (a kinder, gentler one) in the next few days. . . . if I can finish up all this work stuff.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I wasn't actually tagged . . .

and I wasn't going to tag myself or anything but I was curious . . . yesterday Liz had a post with this cute picture of her daughter Anna on her 8th birthday with the explanation "fourth picture from the fourth folder of my picture files." Cute, but I was worried what would come up if I tried it. Blogging, combined with digital photography, for better or worse, has changed the way I take photos. I snap pics of anything and everything. Multiple times. I take pictures of my plants, I snap photos of the food I make, the food I eat, the weather out my window, the contents of my fridge, my redecorated bathroom, the new taxi designs, flowers, hotel rooms, new haircuts, new clothes I'm not sure I like, my feet, the street, babies, visitors, sporting events . . . you never know what tragedy could strike by pulling out a random photo from my folders. 

Which is why I decided to just peek in my photo file and see, you know, just for fun, what I might pull out. And because I think it is awesome (and slightly ironic), I'm going to post it for all to see:

First off, it is not a digital photo. It is a picture I scanned in a couple of years ago when I was making a very special cd entitled "A Region Dance Valentine" for several of the ladies featured in the above photo. And that puff sleeved beauty on the far right? None other than Liz, the blogger with the tag that inspired me to root around in folder #4. As you might guess, this is not a recent photo. It was taken circa February 1993 at a high school dance. And despite the (ahem) 15 years that have passed since this lovely photo was taken, I am lucky enough to remain friends (even blogging friends!) with the majority of these ladies.

Let's take a closer look at these innocent girls showing off their legs (our signature pose I'll have you know). 

First up, we have hovergirl, you can tell she is the runner of the group since she is clearly exhibiting the best leg, even if her shoe looks a little big. She is also wearing a dress I coveted that day, even though I completely hated formal gowns or dresses of any sort at the time. I still remember that it was an Oscar de la Renta. Very elegant. Oh, and she later married her date from that evening.

Next in line is sassy Tara of the big hair. Wow, was her hair ever meant for that era! This photo doesn't fully capture its capabilities. Oh, and she always wore fresh and BRIGHT! lipstick. How were we even friends? Band is the answer, my friend. Jazz band brought us together. Unfortunately I haven't seen her in years and years. Although I did just receive a wedding announcement about a wedding in Samoa or Tonga or somewhere . . . Tara Harrison are you out there? I miss you, email me!

Then we have Michele in the seaweed dress. I guess we thought it looked like seaweed . . . To know her is to love her, truly. Michele disliked (dislikes?) dresses even more than I did in high school. Probably why we got along so well. That and band. And the fact that neither of us had a curfew in high school so we had someone to hang out with to watch stupid movies after midnight. Her dress was slated to be a bridesmaid dress for her sister's upcoming wedding. But it disappeared shortly before the dance and she almost didn't have a dress that night. For some reason I think she picked up her date in a t-shirt and slip . . . am I making that up?

Front and center is Emily (my "associate" and occasional blog interloper and promotions department). All I can say is Emily and I both wore borrowed dresses and borrowed strapless bras. Neither of us managed to keep the bras in place all evening and dedicated a great deal of time that evening to pulling up (me) and pulling back around (her) our wayward bras. Oh, and she and hovergirl are the only two in this photo who can justify wearing those horrible WHITE nylons. But then again, even then Emily had more fashion sense than the rest of us put together. Probably still does (no offense to the other ladies).

Next is Mary. I cannot look at this photo without laughing about her February "mosquito bite" just above her unbelievable cleavage which shocked and amazed those of us who had not yet reached our full potential in that department. It was a ZIT! There, I said it. I wish she was still willing to talk to us. .  . 

Not sure why we were all scrunched up on this end of the photo but I'm next in line. I was wearing a dress borrowed from Tara. I felt a little bit scandalous for wearing it due to its off-the-shoulder-sort-of-strapless-ness. Of course you can't tell in this photo. Or any photos because I had so. much. HAIR! This is one of two times in my life it has ever been curly. I had to sleep in perm rods to make it do this. And why oh why oh why did I wear those heinous WHITE nylons?

Which brings us back to flirty Liz whose dress was also selected from a collection found at Tara's house. I thought it looked like a Disney-princess dress (before the Disney princess fad was mass marketed) due to those uber puffy sleeves. At least she had the good sense to wear dark hose.

How I Spent My Summer Vacation: On the River 1

In planning my solo vacation, I did not expect my parents to shuttle me around all of Idaho. But I didn't object when my dad insisted on meeting me in Idaho Falls on Sunday afternoon to drive me to Stanley, nor did I object when he agreed to make a second trip to Idaho at the end of the week to pick me up in Salmon. Well, I objected a little bit. Two back to back weekend road trips to Idaho is a lot of car time. But my dad told me "once you see where you are going, you will understand why I'm so willing to make the drive."

And he was right. Mostly.

The initial part of the drive from Idaho Falls to Stanley was pretty bland. Although I finally saw "the site" where my grandpa worked many years ago. I had heard about "the site" all of my life and never really knew what it was. Still don't really (although I know my dad told me). All I know is it is in the middle of nowhere Idaho and has to do with nuclear energy. . . I think. And it is HUGE. Not that there is anything to see other than a couple of buildings, just a lot of wide open nothingness, with a fence and a couple of signs.


Once we made it past there, the scenery picked up as we entered canyons. Although my bladder continually reminded me that my dad's initial 2 hour estimate of the drive was a bit on the overly-ambitious side. We listened to music and laughed and talked and stopped for junk food (also, for the facilities) at a tiny little gas station. My mom was there too and made sure to pass up fresh beverages and snacks as needed from the back seat she insisted on taking.


And can I just take a moment to explain to you how delicious E.L. Fudge cookies are? Seriously, buttery cookies stuffed with fudge in a delightful elfin shape, what's not to love? I hadn't had them in years so I couldn't resist when I saw them on the shelf in that remote gas station. I was, after all in Idaho where my love of E.L. Fudge cookies was born. Sometime in about 1989/1990, my family was vacationing in Island Park and/or Yellowstone. We were driving somewhere and stopped for snacks and discovered a package of cookies we had never seen before and decided to give them a go. Before I explain the rest of the story, I will add this one caveat: Back in the day, these cookies came in a smaller package than they do now. As the family legend goes, I passed a few cookies around for others to try but before anyone had a chance to ask for more, I had eaten the entire package. My defense? I had been warning them that I was hungry and no one seemed to have taken me seriously. So I ate all the cookies. Oh, to have my metabolism of yore. . . . This roadtrip in Idaho, I refrained and did not eat the whole package. But I did eat more than my fair share, along with some licorice - another road trip staple.


We arrived in Stanley with less than two hours to spare before the orientation meeting with my river group. That should have been plenty of time to check into the motel, eat dinner and wander down the street to the meeting. Turns out, you need a lot more than two hours to eat pizza in Stanley. There were only a couple of other tables occupied in the restaurant and an overabundance of workers. Yet, none of them were in any particular rush to offer menus or take our order. Although we did get two full rounds of water from two separate servers within 60 seconds of each other. After we finally managed to place our orders, it was a long wait for food. We were starving and I kept checking my watch as the time before my meeting quickly shrank. Our garlic bread came early enough that I was able to eat something while working out a plan for meeting my parents after my orientation. My cutoff time was 10 to 8. And that is when the pizza came. I shoved a piping hot piece in my mouth and ate quickly before running out. I took my mom's cell phone because I was already practicing being unplugged for the week and left mine at the motel. I had a little trouble finding the room where the meeting was held which means I arrived late. Way to make a first impression on the group, right? They knew who I was because I was the last one to show up.


I sized up the group and felt a little disheartened by the demographics - teenagers and parents. Older parents and even grandparents. No one remotely near my age. Well, I didn't make this trip to meet anyone, I was doing it to clear my head. Part way through the meeting my mom's phone started beeping to alert me to a text message. I had no idea how to turn her phone on silent and the more attempts I made to silence it, the more noise the phone made [seriously cell phone people, shouldn't the button for "SILENT" mode actually be silent?]. Another good impression.


We were divided into different meeting times for our flights the next morning. Without even trying I was put in the later 8 am time slot. That evening I packed my gear into the dry bags I was given and slept restlessly, anxious about arriving on time.


Early morning in Stanley, Idaho is stunning. Our little motel suite was on the second floor and had decks on both sides. It was quite chilly and out the back we had a view of a meandering creek and out the front a glorious view of the Sawtooth Mountains in that perfect light of early morning sun. We tried to go out to breakfast but worried about a repeat from the night before and opted instead to pick up cereal and milk and eat in our little suite.


My dad has a fascination with planes so not only did they drop me off at the meeting spot, he and my mom also followed us up to the the tiny dirt airstrip at the top of a bluff to watch us take off. I let other people sort out where they would be sitting and waited my turn which meant I didn't get on the first plane. And I'm glad I didn't because the last plane was the smallest and relative to everyone else I was the kid, so I called shotgun. Which was an incredible experience!! Although I was a little startled when we took off and the steering column in front of me jutted toward me. The majority of the photos from the video in my prior post were from the flight.


But if you want to see the photos in all their glory (along with a whole lot more), pull out your own tunes (I highly recommend Eddie Vedder's Into the Wild which was essentially this summer's soundtrack for me) and click on the slideshow below. Then you will have visual to acompany you through the tedious narrative of my vacation because as I wrote in my journal the day of that flight "The flight was stunning. I don't have words to describe what I saw - rolling hills with trickling streams and soaring lodgepole and ponderosa pines - many of which were unfortunately dead in groves, stacked on the mountainside." If it helps, think of me as your obnoxious neighbor who invites you over and forces you to watch vacation slides after dinner. I've never known anyone to do that. But if anyone did, it would probably be me. At least this way you have the choice to skip out on the whole experience. . .


Day 1


The first day on the river was probably the least best day. I say it that way because every single day was amazing but that first day was all about getting oriented, figuring out how to do things, finding routines and getting to know people. Oh, and I was on a boat with 4 teenage girls and a 12-year old boy. Not exactly a relaxing start. The teenagers did not yet know one another so those first hours of paddling were interrupted by lots of questions and giggles while the girls sized one another up. Oh, and two of the girls were from England which meant there was a lot of "how do you say . . . ", "no, how do you say . . . " mixed with comparisons of education systems and pop culture items and phrases. Initially, I forgot I was old and tried to chat with them. Then I realized I must appear ancient to these girls (how did that even happen?). Oh, and somehow defective because there is nothing more horrifying to a teenager than being anywhere alone. How embarrasing for me. Actually, at one point this topic of solitude came up in discussing the sweep boat operator who hauls all our gear ahead of the crew solo. They couldn't imagine anything worse than spending the whole day by yourself. If only . . . but like I said, as far as teenage girls go, it could have been much worse.


A few logistics. There were three boat options: paddling raft, oar boat or kayak (aka "duckies"). The paddling raft is what you would traditionally think of for river rafting - a large inflatable raft with 6 or so people and a guide paddling. I spent most of my time here. The oar boats were similar to the paddling rafts except instead of all the passengers paddling, a guide has a seat in the middle and maneuvers with giant oars. These generally carried gear and one or two passengers who got to just float for the day. The kayaks are self-explanatory - just small, inflatable kayaks. I tried kayaking a couple of times and will share that experience with you in due time. We were allowed to carry in the boats with us our water bottle(s) and our small dry sacks. Although most of the dry sacks were stored in the oar boats except at lunch or when we stopped for a hike.

*************WARNING! This is where I carry on a bit too long about peeing in the river. Proceed with caution!!!****************


Another logistic you may or may not be wondering about . . . bathroom situation. No, there were not any bathrooms. For six days. When we set up camp each night, the guides set up a couple of port-a-potties on the outskirts of camp but they were in the wide open. A wash bucket and toilet paper "key" were placed at the head of a trail leading to the spot. If the toilet paper wasn't at the wash bucket, you waited for it to come back before proceeding. There was a bucket with a toilet seat precariously perched on top for pee (seriously, there were times I would wobble and have a fear I was going to tip over and all the . . . I'll let you finish that thought) and a locking port-a-pottie for everything else - including all paper products. Needless to say, having to switch between seats depending on your business is not an easy thing to get used to. Men have no idea how easy they have it in this department.

Of course, that was only in the evening. During our little toilet orientation before we set forth on the river, we were told to pee in the river and ask a guide if we had to do anything else. I don't know about anyone else in the group but I made sure I never had to ask a guide about any other business all week. It was hard enough to inform a boat full strangers that I needed to stop for a pee. These are not things I generally discuss or announce outside the confines of my family but I am a frequent pee-er. I drink a lot of water. I'm talking a LOT of water. And being back in a hot desert climate, I knew I needed to up my water intake even more so I didn't get dehydrated. I'm pretty sure I drank somewhere around a gallon of water every day of my trip. Yes, a gallon. That's a lot of water. Which lead to a lot of peeing.


I'm no stranger to peeing in the woods. I don't enjoy it, but I don't make a big deal out of it. While I laughed at what a ruckus the teenage girls were making over peeing in the river, I could identify with them. For one thing, all my life I have trained my body not to pee in front of strangers. For another, it is hard to pee in water. There is something unnatural about it. I remember not so long ago being horrified when Michele told me at Lake Powell to just pee in the lake. And finally, most importantly, cold water inhibits the bladder. So I initially tried to only pee when we were stopped somewhere so I could sqaut at the edge of the river behind a bush or boulder and do my business with maybe only my feet in the water. I tried to act all tough and non-chalant about the whole thing like I had no qualms about peeing in a river. But seriously, those first two days were torture. I dreaded having a full bladder. Especially since there wasn't always an entirely private place to squat riverside and there was always the risk of other boats floating by. At the end of my first day on the river I wrote "We have been instructed to pee in the river which initially caused some stage fright. I could not make myself pee! But I'm all good now." Even in a semi-secluded spot, initially, I somehow couldn't function properly.


But I wasn't quite all good yet. I believe it was the afternoon of day two when I thought I might die if I didn't go. It was after lunch and hot. I kept hoping we would stop soon but I was getting desperate. The guide on my boat had mentioned stopping to swim at some point. I waited and waited and waited until I couldn't take the pain. I asked when we might be stopping to swim. I don't know if it was the desperation in my voice or my shaking legs that tipped him off but he asked if I needed a bathroom break. I said yes. And soon, please. He promised it was close.


It wasn't.


We paddled on and on until we finally *FINALLY* reached a large eddy shaded from the hot afternoon sun by the tall canyon wall. I jumped out and tried to relax. But the more I tried the harder it became. I. could. not. pee. It didn't help that people were jumping out of boats all around me as I held onto the side of my boat pretending I just needed to cool off. Other boats had super soakers and were continuing an ongoing afternoon waterfight. There were shouts and yells and laughter. And I could only squeeze out short bursts. I mean, who really wants to pee in their shorts? Before I knew it, my time was up. I couldn't go anymore and I had to get back in the boat without having finished. I survived another 45 minutes before the excruiating pain came back. Luckily we stopped for someone else or something else and I was able to get back in the water and make it happen. After that, I was good to go at will the rest of the trip. Although I still preferred the side of the river to mid-swim. Especially after I picked up a technical tip from the sole female guide . . . ladies, squat low with knees together. Your thighs will thank you and no peep shows.

********************************Pee discussion ends here******************************


Our first night we camped at a place called Marble Creek (or maybe Marble Slab?). We were reunited with our large dry sacks and sleeping gear and tents that beat us to camp and were neatly piled near a large circle of camp chairs. Everything was very organized. And color coordinated! Green dry sacks for personal gear, purple bags for tents and blue bags for sleeping kits. Except mine - which was red because I brought my own sleeping bag. Each bag was labeled with a name or numbered to kep from mixing it all up. After we had a brief introduction on how to set up our tents, I grabbed one and searched out a flat and smooth spot to set up. There was one other solo traveler in the group. A 60-something-ish (I'm guessing here) school teacher from Arizona who seemed rather odd to me initially. Although by the end of the trip I had great admiration for her and her eccentricities. This trip was just one stop in her summer vacation of traveling in her motorhome with her dog for a companion. I can only hope I'm still willing and able to be that independent when I am her age. To give you a flavor for this woman, when people started cliff jumping into the pooled river later that afternoon, she was one of the first to jump (I certainly didn't try it)! And she was always excited to paddle and I'm not sure that she rode in the oar boat more than once. But on that first day, I made a stubborn and rude mistake.


Acknowledging that we were the two solo campers, she approached me as I started setting up my tent and offered to help me if I helped her. I am ridiculously proud of my camping skills. Ridiculous. I can (and have) set up a tent in pitch black night or in a pouring deluge and quickly. I can build fires fairly readily and have out-boy scouted a number of boys I have dated. I realize I am a bit overly proud of my outdoor skills and since I don't get a lot of opportunities these days to put these talents to use, I am not exactly looking for assistance. Besides, I hate looking like an incompetent and needy girl. Hate it. So instead of graciously accepting her offer, I told her I was good but would help her if she needed it.


Not exactly the nicest thing to say, I know. I just wasn't thinking. I was intoxicated by the smell of pine and the sound of the river and the unbelievable scenery that surrounded me. I was so excited to be preparing to sleep with these surroundings for five nights that I rebuffed her showing of kindness. I didn't want to be lumped into a "helpless girl" category in any way. I'm a jerk.


I realized this as I finished putting my tent together even as I gloated over how quickly I had finished the job and looked around to observe that no one else was finished yet. Ha - take that, all you people who didn't even know you were in a race with me. . . . Miss New Yorker needs to learn to drop the competitiveness, right? So I decided to make up and I went back to the woman and offered to help her finish. She resisted a bit and then allowed me to help. But before we could finish her tent, I was knocked down a peg or two by someone yelling to get my attention because a gust of wind had surfaced and was blowing my tent away. I was so caught up in my own speed and the taunting in my head that I forgot to stake down my tent or even put my stuff inside to keep it in place. Nice.


I sheepishly righted my tent and staked it in place and by the time I was finished, my fellow solo traveler had finished her tent on her own. She never asked me for help again.


We were told there would be a hike that afternoon but I was anxious and didn't know when we were going. I suddenly had all this excess energy and no outlet. I wasn't ready to sit, I needed to explore. After an attempt at writing on a rock that was interrupted by the cliff jumpers and swimmers, I decided to set my sleeping arrangements up to kill time. I then tried to read. After that, no one seemed to be swimming anymore except a couple of the teenage boys who were practicing the next rapid in a kayak (something I should have given a go) but I didn't know where the rest of the group and gone. So I assumed they went hiking and set off toward the trail that had been pointed out earlier.

But the trail was empty so I hiked alone and gulped it all in eagerly. The sights, the sounds, the smells. The big picture and the tiny details. I cursed myself for no longer knowing the names of the various wildflowers and trees that surrounded the trail. I wondered where those wildflower and tree books went that we kept in our trailer and then laughed at how I would pick sample wildflowers and press them in a notebook and copy the description of them in my scraggly handwriting. I even sampled the thimble berries growing along side the trail. After an hour or so of fast paced walking, slowed only to remove especially demanding pebbles that wedged their way between my foot and my chacos and photo sessions, I realized I probably wasn't behind the group and maybe I should have told someone I was taking on the trail before I set forth. When I reached some rather large bones bleaching in the sun layed out across a rock, I decided it was as good a place as any to turn around. Not 10 minutes later I met up with the group coming up the trail led by one of the guides. I decided to keep going with them and reversed directions. They didn't hike a lot longer before resting in a small meadow shaded by tall trees. Except after a short rest, one of the guides decided to press on. So I joined her, still mesmerized by my surroundings. She clipped along at a fast pace which I matched and we ascended higher and higher along the trail getting to know one another as we went. When we finally turned back and I took the lead she commented on my fast pace explaining that she never has clients who can keep up with her. I told her she must not encounter many New Yorkers because we really only have two walking speeds: fast and faster.

That night I wrote:
Why don't I hike more? Oh, right. I live in NYC. I love it. This afternoon I set
off on a solo hike that allowed me the opportunity to let my brain roma without
the intrusion of others. I breathed in the clean, fresh air deep into my lungs
and marveled at God's creation. At once familiar and new. The trail climbed high
above a small stream, then dipped down to the bank and parted ways again as the
stream cut a deeper trail. I realized as I walked that this is a deeply rooted
part of me that has been pushed into back corners for years. Solitary hiking
invigorates and rejuvinates me like no other activity. I think I am just a born
walker. This trip is is reminding me what I am missing in my life by living in
NYC.

We finished the day with a delicious meal and I struggled with how little work was required of me. Other than putting up and taking down my tent each day, all of the camp chores were taken care of by the guides who rotated responsibilities and took turns cooking up incredible feasts. I wish I had written down what we ate each night because it was all so delicious.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Happy Birthday Dad!!!

Happy Birthday Dad!!! I am sorry I wasn't able to catch up with you today. I hope Madam Butterfly is worth missing a phone call from me. Here are a few things that always make me think of you, in no particular order:
  • camping 
  • corn with mashed potatoes - ew, but totally you
  • darn fresh corn
  • creamies
  • the cello - I already know you will haunt me after you are gone through Bach's unaccompanied cello concertos
  • chocolate cake donuts
  • the van
  • math lectures 
  • electronics and gadgets
  • Mulboon's giant shrimp bowl
  • kiwi fruit
  • overpacking, err I mean overprepardness (I give you a hard time because I have inherited this trait)
  • "way cool"
  • German Shepherds
  • red pen editing
  • "LINE UP!"
  • Janie's Got a Gun . . . I don't think many other dad's cranked that up to full volume when it came on MTV
  • orchestra rehearsals
  • Stravinsky
  • Horatio Hornblower
  • The Mission
  • butterscotch pie
  • Symphony chocolate bars
  • chocolate "hidden" in your underwear drawer
  • "I just love this family"
  • the whole fam-damily
  • caffeine free diet coke
  • Clearly Canadian
  • dutch oven cooking
  • Idaho
  • hamburger
  • grilling
  • the patio office
  • extension cords
  • granola bars
  • stealing sheets off my bed to wash them
  • line-dry towels 
  • tight hugs
I could go on but I'm pushing midnight here on my end of the world and it is past my bedtime. Please know how much I love you and miss you and I enjoyed celebrating your birthday by eating at that turkish restaurant you liked with your friend here in NYC. We were disappointed you couldn't make the party. Happy 61!!!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

How I Spent My Summer Vacation: video teaser and time with my grandma

Do not ask me how nearly two months have passed since I returned from my summer vacation without me writing a word about it. Initially, the excuse was I wanted to parse through my photos, select the best and do my version of editing (my skills are very, very limited but I can get rid of red-eye and blemishes). I also wanted to create a beautiful slideshow with music and take the time to really capture the feeling of my trip in words. I, however, have extreme technical limitations. While the slideshow plays beautifully on my wondrous MacBook, I haven't a clue how to get it out of there and onto my blog. Okay, not entirely true, I managed to turn one portion into a YouTube video but the photo quality ran down hill fast which kind of defeats the purpose of the whole editing process. See for yourself here (understanding the real photos will follow in a later post):

If that is all the vacation report you are seeking, you can stop right there, click to something else and ignore all posts until you see another "divorce" tag pop up (I am suddenly very aware of my audience these days, thanks again for all your encouraging words!). But if you are interested in what a two week vacation is like with a river adventure in the wilderness of Idaho, visits with grandparents, road trips through Idaho and Utah and catching up with friends . . . read on. I need to write about it before I forget how amazing it all was.

I flew to Idaho Falls the evening of Saturday, August 9th. My river trip starting point was in Stanley, a couple of hours away but I flew to Idaho Falls so I could see my 88-year old grandmother. I couldn't remember the last time I had been to visit her in Idaho (although I have seen her both while she stayed at my parent's home recovering from a broken collar bone and while she stayed with my aunt for nearly a year recovering from a broken pelvic bone within the last few years so I am not a completely neglectful granddaughter). My grandma has some pretty severe dimensia and is in the early stages of Althzheimer's (a very difficult word to spell!). She also has cancer, has broken her collar bone, pelvic bone and hip bone in the last few years (although luckily not all at once) and is ridiculously stubborn, often cranky and prone to a lot of confusion. She refuses to go to any sort of assisted living facilities and must have home health people (I don't know their official title.....) with her 24 hours a day. And even with that, she manages to get herself into mischief. Did I mention she is stubborn? We seem to have a lot in common.

On my dad's advice, I didn't tell her I was coming until a few days before. Actually, I don't think I told her at all. My dad called her a few days before and the story goes that she wrote it down and her in-home health person didn't believe her and had to call my dad to confirm I was coming so she wouldn't have to spend the night while I was there. I called my grandma on my ride to the airport to remind her I would be arriving that evening. We don't talk on the phone often and my dad reports sporadic success in communicating on the phone with her so I was prepared for whatever. But she seemed fully alert and even chatty (not always the case even pre-dimentia). I reminded her what time my flight would arrive but assured her I would just take a cab to her house. At this point she got a little silly and started telling me that maybe someone would be there to greet me. I found this strange and unsettling. She often insists that she is going to drive her car and a few years ago she was outraged to discover that not only did she no longer have keys to her massive, low-mileage pristine Buik but that my aunt had put a club on the steering wheel. She threatens her children with getting the car fixed and driving around all the time. I don't know if she just doesn't appreciate her limited capabilities or just wants to rebel against them. So I had a little chat with her about how she can't drive and she argued with me by saying "sure I can, I don't see why not." Ultimately, I told her not to wait up since I wouldn't arrive until after 11 pm.

I flew through Salt Lake which was strange. I had less than an hour to change flights and it felt so odd not to have even a brief rendezvous with a friend or family member in my hometown. By this time I was exhausted and worn out not only from the travel but from all the errand running and packing of the morning and early afternoon before my flight making final trip preparations. Luckily my tiny little plane took off and landed in Idaho Falls without incident other than a woman sitting in front of me with the irritating habit of flinging her stringy, overly processed bleached hair over her seat back to dangle limply over my lap. Ew. She was unnaturally tan with acrylic nails and a too little clothing for the chilly flight and chattered incecessantly with her teenage daughter seated next to her (who thankfully kept her hair to herself).

I beelined off the plane as quickly as possible to find a bathroom and locate a cab before collecting my luggage (I assumed correctly they wouldn't be lined up at the curb like they are at JFK). With task #1 out of the way I made my way to the luggage carousel checking out the ground transportation signs in the deserted airport. As I was contemplating whether renting a car would be easier than getting a cab (and allow me to take my grandma to brunch the next morning), I became annoyed by someone following me a bit too closely for the not at all crowded baggage claim area. I turned to give my space encroacher a good NYC "back the hell off" look only to be startled by a strangely familiar voice saying "where's your fishing rod?" By the time I had turned around completely I discovered a familiar face smiling back at me - my uncle! He and his wife live in Salt Lake City but unbeknownst to me they were stopping over at his mother's house on their way home from a fishing/camping vacation in Island Park (a place I had really, really wanted to visit while I was in Idaho because it is one of the most beautiful places on earth). My grandma wasn't crazy afterall - she just couldn't contain a secret!

I stayed up later than I had anticipated catching up with my grandma and getting tips from my uncle about the wilderness area I was about to venture into. You shouldn't be surprised to discover that I come from a family of story tellers. We love to tell and re-tell stories. What is fun is to listen to my father's siblings repeat their side of stories I have heard from my dad's perspective all my life. 

My uncle and aunt left Sunday morning before my parents arrived and I had some alone time with my grandma. She is like a stubborn child and doesn't like to eat. One has to coax and bribe and cajole a bit to get her to take just a couple more bites of whatever is on her plate. The irony of sitting at her kitchen table telling her to finish her food was not lost on me. I have a very vivid childhood memory of sitting in the corner of that kitchen in the old black swivel kitchen chairs they had way back then sulking. I believe I was there on my own and that I was quite young because my grandmother and I were in a stand-off. I refused to eat my peas and she refused to allow me to leave the table with peas on my plate. I have no idea how that battle of wills ended but in the adult role reversal version I won, after a hard fight. Like many elderly people my grandmother has a whole slew of pills that must be taken with each meal. At lunch, she only had a couple of pills. I followed my aunt's lead and removed them from the pill box and put them in a cup next to my grandma's lunch I had prepared. I chattered away with her and let her have a Diet Coke with lunch and prompted her to take her pills. She ignored me and slowly picked at her food and wandered into different times as she spoke and asked me questions. I finished my lunch, washed up and went to the bathroom. There was my mistake. She always waits to do things she is not supposed to do when someone goes to the bathroom.

When I returned she was at the sink rinsing out her cup. I asked what she was doing and she told me the cup was dirty. I asked her if she had taken the one pill that was remaining in the cup. She acted confused - emphasis on acted. Then she told me she didn't know what it was so she threw it away. UGH! All I had to do was give her two pills with lunch and I had failed. I looked in the garbage and couldn't find it. It was a distinguished looking pill (big and green I think) so I pulled out the massive pill box and stole the big green pill in the Monday lunch compartment and made my grandma take it. 

I enjoyed spending one on one time with my grandma in her backyard as she pointed out all the things people had done wrong to her garden and told me how she was going to get the ladder out and trim the bushes. She told me so and so had used the wrong color string to tie back the flowers on the driveway and that of course she could take care of all of that on her own. I enjoyed sitting in her living room with her showing her pictures of her great-granddaughter - my niece - on the computer my dad has hooked up to her tv. 

This is unique and noteworthy because I haven't always had a good relationship with my grandma. It has been up and down and never quite the relationship I wanted it to be for a variety of reasons. But now, I am finally starting to appreciate what we share for what it is.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Chapter XXI: reunited

Despite the fact that Mitch didn't even spend an entire night in jail, thanks to my parents' willingness to pay money they didn't have to bail him out, I did not see him for several days. While I took a deep breath and committed myself to giving this marriage thing one last shot (until June I resolved), Mitch stayed with his brother, who happened to live with Mitch's best friend, in an apartment complex only a mile away. Mitch was already spending a great deal of time over there, so a few full days at once should not have made much difference.

I learned a few things about domestic violence that March. Despite the fact that I begged and begged the police not to arrest my husband, I was told that in the case of a domestic violence call, they always have to separate the couple, even if the only violence is a broken plate. That broken plate example stands out to me. I believe the explanation was repeated to me over the phone after Mitch was taken away and I was waiting for him to come back. It was repeated to me by my parents after they spent several hours completing the paperwork at the city jail to retrieve their son-in-law. But there weren't any broken plates at my house and I was in the process of convincing myself the police over-reacted.

Out of fear. I needed to convince myself that it was someone else's fault because I was afraid Mitch would view it as my fault.

In times of deep emotional stress I have two extreme reactions. I either burrow myself deep in bed or the couch under a heavy quilt and refuse to move. Or, I become extremely ambitious and keep myself excessively busy. Hence, my propensity toward being a work-a-holic at times - it is a coping mechanism for emotional stress. Hence the job hunting. But that is not all I busied myself with. I also set about cleaning the house to prepare for when Mitch would be allowed to come back.

Another automatic feature of a domestic violence arrest is the implementation of a temporary restraining order. What is known in legal circles as a TRO. Normally, an application must be made to the court to have a TRO issued, but in Mitch's case it was perfunctory. Although I never saw it, I assume the TRO prevented Mitch from coming within a certain number of feet of me and our home for a set time period. A TRO is issued on very little to no evidence of wrong doing with shortened notice of an evidentiary hearing for either a temporary or permanent injunction. TROs are issued to prevent all types of behavior - not just to keep pissed off husbands recently sprung from the clink away from vulnerable wives.

I don't remember the length of time Mitch was kept away but I do remember that during that time I went on a crazy cleaning binge of our apartment. While tackling the cleaning and organization of our second bedroom, I came upon some pamphlets that were given to me by the police on top of the bills and random papers I was sorting through on the desk. I didn't look at them that dark night and with a couple of days' removal from the incident and the sun shining in the window, I felt they were irrelevant and swiveled my chair toward the garbage to toss them. But as I turned to do so, something on the back of the pamphlet caught my eye. I believe the word "pets" jumped out at me for some reason. I believe the back side of what was most likely a standard domestic violence pamphlet contained a list of warning signs. The one that caught my eye and made my stomach knot up was "abusive toward pets." I glanced at Stuart, our not-so-bright charpei/chow mix puppy mindlessly chewing on his bone in the middle of the room.

In a flash, scenes I had dismissed flashed through my head. Scenes that pain me to admit. Mitch kicking the dog. Mitch throwing the dog across the room. . . I really can't write about it, even now. Besides, I think the worst of it came later.

The list was in check-list format and that one item caused me to inspect the list more closely. I picked up a pen and ticked off the applicable indicators. I was stunned at how many were there. I abandoned the pamphlet along with the organizational project and walked out of the room - leaving the pamphlet with its neat little checks sitting on top of the desk.

By the time Mitch was allowed to come home, I had a new job. I was contrite and apologetic and sympathetic towards Mitch, if you can believe it. I let him rant at the police and whatever neighbors were nosy enough to call the police and apologized profusely. Over and over. I begged him to forgive me for getting hysterical that night. He just glared at me accusingly telling me I had no idea what that felt like to have to go to jail for no reason.

I asked if he could ever forgive me.

He said no.

A few days after he was back, I re-discovered my pamphlet with its accusatory check marks torn up in the garbage.

*************************************************

[As a side note, if you would like to read the entire story from the beginning or you want a link to the whole story for your blog (I'm not assuming anything here, just giving you information), you can get it here. But the most recent chapter appears at the top so you have to scroll to the end to start at the beginning. If I were clever, or if my brilliant web designer were so inclined (Please Emily!), I would add a link on my sidebar. Until then, just search for the label "divorce" and the complete story will show up.
Also, THANK YOU one and all for coming out of the woodwork (blurkdom) to answer my questions. I am completely surprised and absolutely touched by how much my story resonates with people and I have some curiosity about my audience (wasn't sure if this only appeals to those from a similar culture/background or if it has a broader appeal). Also, while I AM going to select a winner after the 25th, I'm not really trying to bribe you for comments - that question was just thrown in for fun. I just want anyone who reads this to know they are welcome to do so whether you know me in real life or not and if you leave a comment all the better. Your kind words have been incredible motivation (and reassurance that people are still reading) to keep writing. Thank you.]

Thursday, October 16, 2008

spontaneity

The morning of Friday, October 10th my only expectation for the day, or even the weekend, was to attend a hearing Friday morning. I had two goals for the weekend: laundry and pulling my winter clothes out of storage and swapping them for summer clothes. The hearing went better than anticipated (although I think we still lost. . . .) and I returned to my office around 100 to pick at a bland lunch while browsing through blogs and emails. 

Unexpectedly I was overcome with the urge to go home. Not my apartment home a mere 20 minute walk away, to my home home - the one with unconditional love waiting for me. The next day would be my mom's birthday and I couldn't believe I hadn't planned on going home to spend her birthday weekend with her. I tried to get back to work but I was completely distracted by this homesickness. I don't get it too often. After all, I was just there in August. The desire was strong enough I decided to look up the cost of a ticket. 

It was within the realm of justification.

But I went back to work. 

Still distracted.

Around 2 I called my mom. She wasn't there. I didn't want to tell her I was thinking of going home but if I was going to get serious about this I had to make sure she wasn't planning on flitting off to Idaho or St. George for the weekend.

So I called my dad. I asked him what he was doing for my mom's birthday weekend and asked for suggestions for gifts for my mom. Then made an excuse to get off the phone.

I refreshed my flight search. The flight was scheduled to leave Newark at 5:20 pm. It was now 2:15. 

My closest work friend was in Chicago getting ready for a marathon but I needed a voice outside of my head to assure me I wasn't being crazy.

So I walked down the hall and talked it out with a co-worker. And got very excited about it and by 2:30 I had purchased the ticket, shut down my computer and walked out of the office. 

Out on the street I was weaving through the crowded sidewalks in the unseasonably hot sun staring at my cell phone wondering if I should tell someone of my plan and if so, who. 

I nearly ran over another co-worker who was returning from a recruiting lunch with a student I had interviewed. I shook everyone's hand and said something strange like "I'm off." I'm sure I looked slightly crazy as I tried to think through what I should throw in a suitcase and calculated what time I had to leave my apartment and whether I should take the train or a cab or call a car to pick me up . . . 

I decided to call a long time friend, one who will from here on out be termed my ever-reliable cohort in all things stealth. We started conspiring and hatching mystery plans and practicing our drive-by skills back in our teenage years. I knew she would help me formulate a good surprise attack. She readily agreed to pick me up at the airport.

I arrived home just before 3 and could not get the air conditioner on fast enough. I was so hot. I started pulling clothes out of my closet and then realized I had no idea what the weather was like and guessed it wasn't pushing 90 with humidity there. I was right, forecast was for snow. 

Hmmm, remember those two things I needed to accomplish for the weekend? Laundry and winter clothes . . . . yeah, I really didn't have much other than a few transition sweaters and I didn't have a single pair of clean underwear. So I decided to take the laundry with me.

I walked out of my apartment to run down the hall to my storage unit to grab my suitcase and possibly a couple of sweaters. When I heard my door latch shut, I realized I didn't unlock the door. 

Yup, I locked myself out.

Luckily I was able to retrieve a key from the doorman after running down 6 flights of stairs (not helping the overheated issue). I overpacked. I had no plan. I just needed clothes. And shoes. And if I'm taking a few things to wash, I might as well take enough for a whole load, right? Right. And maybe I should take a couple of wii games in case my sister wants to play. And a book or two for the flight. And I'll just throw a couple of things in my purse for a snack. And oh, I should take my Peru book so my sister and I can look at that. And maybe (!) I'll go for a little hike. Should take my hikers. Oh, that would require socks. Maybe a dress for church. And my trench coat. But I don't want to haul that on the plane so maybe another jacket.

Yeah. Not my favorite way to pack. 

My goal was to get out of the house by 330. At 330 I was standing in my kitchen inhaling some food so I wouldn't starve on the cross-country flight. I then threw a bag of cashews in my already bulging purse and was on the corner hailing a cab at 340. 

I wanted the cab to take me to Newark. He wouldn't. So I settled on taking the train. And I've already told you how that portion of the trip (HA!) went.

What I didn't tell you is my train left at 417 and my flight was leaving Newark at 520. Yeah, I should have been at the airport when my train was still sitting in Penn Station. I was nervous but kept telling myself there was no way I could miss it at this point.

I assumed it would only take 20 minutes. And it did. 

What I forgot to factor into my crazy timing calculations was the time it would take to ride the crazy slow shuttle to my terminal. As soon as I was released from the Disney-like Airtrain, I ran with all my junk. I rain up stairs. I ran down stairs. And I remained fully upright. Then I reached the security line. 

It was long. 

And it was 5 pm. 

And the departures sign was flashing "BOARDING".

So I did something I've never done. I marched to the front of the line and started asking people if they minded if I went ahead since my flight was boarding and leaving in 20 minutes. 

People were nice. I'm sure I looked pretty crazed by then. I was still sweating.

I walked onto the plane just in time for them to squeeze into a window seat next to a very large man (luckily it was the exit row so there was leg room) and sit on the tarmac for an hour waiting to take off. 

Nice.

In flight I concocted a plan while watching episodes from the first season of Pushing Daisies (please watch that show if you aren't already - love it). 

Amanda picked me up at the airport and we caught up on the drive to my parent's house. As we turned into their circle, I called my mom and asked if she had received my package. She said no. I told her it was left on the porch and she sent my dad out to look. 

And there I was running up the driveway yelling surprise! as I dropped my phone on the driveway and left Amanda sitting in the car with my luggage and the door open. I wish I had taken a photo of my dad's face. It was great. My mom heard the commotion and was upstairs and at the door only a few seconds later. Hugs all around and we spent the evening chatting in the living room with Amanda as our guest until we released her from surprise duty to return to her family.

My dad was anxious to tell my sister. But I wouldn't let him. I wanted to lure her down the next morning and surprise her too. While my plan worked, it took much longer than anticipated. I made my mom these pumpkin pancakes while we waited for my sister to wander down to the south end of the valley.

The best part of convincing my sister to come down is I called her that morning and asked what she was doing for our mom that day. She said she was having brunch with her and then going shopping. I told her I want to go and she said - you should! We have those conversations a lot. So she obviously didn't expect me to be standing in our parent's kitchen a couple of hours later:
We had a great girl's day. After our late breakfast, we set off for the mall - South Town Mall. I hadn't been there in ages and memories of hanging around a certain mid-mall cart selling odds and ends where Amanda worked in high school at the then-nearly empty mall flooded over me. Now, many of you may love a day at the mall. Me, not so much. And not so much for my sister and mom either. We start out with grand ideas but tend to fizzle. We have zero shopping stamina. I can walk all of New York City on a Saturday but you throw a little shopping in there and I am completely drained within the hour. Not sure why that is.

But in celebration of my mom's birthday, we pulled ourselves together for the cause - the cause being new clothes for my mom. Having watched a lot of What Not to Wear, my sister and I felt more than qualified to select a new wardrobe for our mother. We filled a dressing room with a variety of outfits and gave our mother a make-over. And you will understand how much fun this is if you have a mother like mine who has always insisted on purchasing clothes for you instead of buying anything for herself. And as we all understand, it is much easier to select items when you have honest opinions being offered.

Our stamina flagged after the first department store. We tried rejuvenating ourselves with an orange julius but that can only take you so far. The shopping spree was a success but ended with three exhausted women dragging their bags to the parking lot. And by the way, what is with the over-heated malls? Just because the temp drops a few degrees outside does not mean you should crank the heat up to sweat box. 

That night we went to dinner at the closest place that didn't have a line because due to afternoon scheduling hiccups, we were all about two to three hours past our desired feeding time. Here is my mom and me - notice her snazzy new ensemble (the semi-matching stripes and vests were not purposely coordinated)!
I had to post this picture of my dad - I took it because he was standing in front of a Ute sign (GO UTES!). He is not normally a fan so I was proud to see him coming around.
And this was our dinner. All 20+ pounds of it. I love barbeque. I feel like I shouldn't but I do. That is my sister with her fiance, both eager to dig in.
And here is my sister and me - practicing our self-portrait skills for our upcoming vacation.
The next morning, I was the one to get a surprise:
SNOW!! Sure, the weather guy said it would snow. But the forecast was for snow on Saturday and once there was snow in the mountains I figured that was that. I found it beautiful and curled up on the couch to read while parents went to church and I waited for my sister to arrive (I got in trouble for waking her up too early at 858 am).
The snow cleared up pretty quickly, but started falling again in the afternoon:
Then I made a birthday cake (yes, it was a day late but after our massive bbq dinner, we needed a day to digest): a chocolate tort with pumpkin cheesecake filling . . . yeah, I made this one up.
I admit, it was a bit over ambitious. You shouldn't ever try to layer a thick, heavy batter on top of a thinner batter. The top one doesn't spread very easily. But it all worked out - except for the edges that didn't slide out of the pan as planned.
To go along with my overly ambitious cake, I decided to top it with ganache and ginger whipped cream. But I decided to make the ginger whipped cream with fresh ginger . . . . here it is making a syrup with sugar and water - little ginger pieces simmering away. It is very tasty, just time consuming.
After the ginger was finished simmering, I spread it out to dry in some sugar. Seriously, these are yummy. I put them in trail mix or in cookies or whatever. If you like ginger . . . try it!
During the lengthy cake preparation process, my sister entertained herself with my camera:
I'll let you guess which butt belongs to me and which is hers. I'll give you a hint. Hers was a self-portrait . . . 
In case you are wondering, I have no qualms in posting these. If she chose to take them, she can live with them being shared . . . this is my favorite:
FINALLY, the cake is ready. . . . isn't it pretty?
Not my favorite finished look but it tasted good. And my mom was happy . . .
Here it is topped with some of that ginger whipped cream and a few candied ginger pieces. Delicious!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

my answers and my questions . . . with the promise of prizes

Thanks for all your questions, below are my answers. Keep in mind that I did reserve the right to refrain from answering if I did not deem the question pertinent or appropriate or whatever. I apologize if all your questions were not answered after this rigurous screening process. The questions I am answering are in italics with my answers following:

I haven't asked a question previously (at least that I remember), but, I do wonder if your marriage and subsequent divorce soured you on the idea of being married? Having a very good marriage myself, for over 15 years now, I often wonder this about single people who have had a bad experience with men or women/marriage.

No, I do not think my bad experience has soured me on marriage. Has it made me more cautious, selective, neurotic? Yes, yes and probably. I went through quite a bit of counseling after my divorce and I have spent a significant amount of time examining my own attitudes toward dating and marriage and divorce. I have had minor to major panic attacks when marriage was starting to look like a possibility in subsequent relationships but with the advantage of time and perspective, I am able to realize that neither of those two instances would have been the "right" fit for me anyway. With each serious relationship I have been in since my divorce I have had to deal with a smaller and smaller piece of the baggage I carry along with the title "divorcee". While I mostly think any lingering negativity in my attitude toward marriage is long gone, I am sure there are hidden elements that are waiting to resurface when given a chance.

What is your ex-husband doing now?

I do not have any contact with my ex-husband whatsoever. I have neither seen nor heard from him since the divorce papers were signed in 1996. Nor do I want to see or hear from him. I do, however, know someone (who reads this blog!) who is married to someone who is related to someone who is married to the sister of my ex (did you follow that?). Consequently, I occasionally receive vague updates of where he is and what he is up to through this grapevine of gossip. By last account, he lives in the same town he grew up in and works for a nursing home or retirement center or something like that. And is divorced a second time. I can't remember if he is married again or not . . .

Can I spoil Parker's answer? Think Walmart...

No, Emily you may not spoil the answer . . . wait, you already did. As I explained, he doesn't work for Walmart anymore. But at one time when I was working on Wall Street (yep, I was once one of those evil Wall Streeters -probably still am!) he was working at Walmart and that gave me some evil pleasure.

And I know your story is not done yet (as of the last installment you are still married) but I am interested in how you got from the divorce to law school and new york city.

Well, the answer to that is longer than I will tell right here. Some elements of how I got to law school will come into the story. How I landed in NYC is pretty simple. During my second year of law school I interviewed on campus with a New York law firm on a whim. I had never been to New York in my life unless you counted a long layover in JFK (I don't, but did then so I could claim a tenuous connection to the City). I didn't expect a call back but when I got it I jumped at the chance to head to NYC for a couple of days all expenses paid. Despite an emergency room trip for a kidney stone a few days prior to the interview, I had my first trip to NYC in October 1999. I stayed at the Millenium Hilton hotel across the street from the then still-standing World Trade Center and took two rolls of film from the top of the Twin Towers (because cameras took film in those days) and walked about 10 miles in two days trying to see as much as possible. I went to a Ben Folds Five concert with a class mate who was also interviewing at the same time, rode the subway, took a cab and tried New York pizza and Krispy Kreme donuts for the first time. I also screamed in my head as I walked into the reception area of the law firm I was interviewing with all calm and serene in my black suit as I admired the unbelievable view of the Statue of Liberty - my first glimpse of her. The energy of the City took a hold of me then and there. Although I had mostly been interviewing in southern California, I knew it wasn't for me. I was offered a job for the following summer and I accepted it. Fell in love with the City even more and moved out here permanently in August 2001 and other than a 2 year hiatus in the middle, I have been here ever since. I owe most of it to luck.

I was wondering if your ex knows about your blog, and if so, are you at all concerned about the ramifications of telling your story in such a public way? Is he the type to try to get revenge?And let me just say again--this is in no way a criticism of your approach to telling your story. I think you're fabulous. I've just had my own unfortunate bad experiences with some online stuff . . .

Since I have zero contact with my ex, I have no idea whether he knows about my blog or not. There is always the possibility that he (or someone from his family) could stumble upon my blog after clicking through various links. However, when I started blogging, I was extremely private and I didn't include my first or last name or even pictures. As I have become more comfortable with the forum, I have been more open about my identity and shared my blog with friends and family and added photos and I don't worry about my first name being used. That being said, I do not use my full name for a reason. Professionally, I do not want someone to be able to google my name and find out my whole life's story. If you know my full name, you can google me and discover my full bio on my firm's website, a couple of articles I have written and court appearances I have made. But my blog does not come up. I didn't do this to hide from my ex-husband, but it does make me feel that it would be difficult for him to hunt me down with a simple google search.

All that being said, I have no fear of my ex-husband. The only reason he was able to hurt me all those years ago was because I allowed it. At this point, if he was angry or upset about anything I have written I say let him. I am writing the truth. The only caveat being it is all subject to my own memory. When I don't remember something clearly, I tell the reader but, as we all know, everyone has such differing perspectives that no two people will remember the same thing in the same way.

I don't know if Mitch is the type to seek revenge. Back then? Yes, he was. But I don't see there is any way for him to hurt me now unless I allow for it. That is the advantage to never having kids together I guess.

I'm wondering...have you considered compiling your story, after you've finished the last installment, and publishing it? Of course, I can only guess at the end, but I think that it could do a lot of good for other women out there who put up with things they shouldn't from guys.

I haven't considered that but flattering comments certainly have put the little seedlings of it in my mind. I wouldn't have any idea where to begin in pursuing publication but I'm definitely open to suggestions . . .

Does your ex know you are a succesful attorney in New York while he is a loser working at Walmart? Ha ha.

I don't know. He may receive vague updates about me that trickle back through the same grapevine I receive updates. Of course, even as a successful attorney in New York, a single divorcee can feel she is coming up short in many other things so I try not to gloat (especially since it makes for bad karma).

How has your experience effected your view/attitude of the LDS Church? Or did it effect it at all?

Another big question. Of course my divorce experience (which is what I assume you are referencing) has effected my view and attitude toward the LDS church. But so have innumerable other factors and experiences. I have written some of my thoughts on my church and my faith (either directly or indirectly) here, here, here and here. To sum up - it's complicated. I have doctrinal questions. I have doubts. I have issues with cultural norms. But I had many of the same questions and doubts and issues before I was ever married.

That being said, the one thing I wish would change in the LDS Church that is a direct result of my marriage experience is to tone down the push to get married young and fast. I think everyone could benefit from a little bit of pre-marital counseling. I witnessed the engagement and marriage process for a Catholic co-worker of mine several years ago and thought they had a good idea. As part of marriage preparation for their high mass wedding, her particular church (I'm not sure if this is universal to all Catholics) had the couple complete a compatability type test. The priest then assigned them to meet with a married couple they did not know to discuss the results of the test. I think they met with the couple on two separate occasions. My friend thought it was a great opportunity to discuss their conflicting and their overlapping ideas that were brought out by the test. She said they had conversations they never would have had otherwise. And it helped that both meetings were casual over dinner. The couple then went on an overnight retreat with other engaged couples to some sort of engaged camp where they participated in different workshops and activities geared toward marriage preparation. She thought it was great and was surprised Mormons didn't do anything similar. I realize there are marriage prep classes taught at church schools and in institutes around the world and that many stakes offer a marriage prep seminar. But what stood out to me was how personal the efforts were in examining the couple's prepardness of marriage. They started with a test and went through everything else with the results. I don't think this will prevent divorce but it does create a mechanism to be a bit more cautious in making this momentous decision of marriage. I realize some bishops take an approach more similar to this but I have also been in many a singles ward where the bishop kept careful statistics on how many members he married off. And I can tell you, they were pushing more than they were cautioning.

Have you had significant, long-term relationships after the divorce?

Yes. I pretty much jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire immediately after Mitch with a year-long relationship that was ultimately good for me emotionally/psychologically but for a variety of other reasons was not the right fit. I've probably had about three other relationships I would consider significant although none of them ever quite reached the year mark so depending on your perspective that may or may not meet your definition of "long-term." I've also had a smattering of other boyfriends. I would probably qualify as a serial monogamist if I could account for having had a relationship of any sort in the past three years, but as it stands I've been in a bit of a drought.

Where did you go to law school, and how did you choose your school?

I went to BYU law school and I chose my school because they accepted me. I was pretty naive about the whole process and only applied to 5 schools - BYU, University of Utah, University of Oregon, University of Washington and UCLA. All in the West. While I was in the midst of applying for law school, I was living with my parents and working through a lot of the residual divorce trauma with their bishop - a BYU law alum. I greatly admired and respected him and he encouraged me to go to BYU and wrote a recommendation for me in my application which I am convinced got me in. I was accepted first by BYU, wait-listed by the U and accepted at Oregon. I didn't receive any respose from UCLA until August. I took it as a snub but I was probably on a wait-list there as well. I have some issues with where I went to law school that I won't go into here but I will say that I don't regret it because I don't believe I would be where I am now if I had gone somewhere else.

Did you know what kind of law you wanted to practice, or did you "fall into" your practice area through a job or clerkship?

I made several definite decisions to avoid my current practice - bankruptcy. I wanted to be a litigator so I practiced in the litigation department of a large NY firm for a couple of years before taking a clerkship with a bankruptcy judge - despite the fact that she was a bankruptcy judge. I surprised myself by loving the field and I've stuck with it.

Have you tried your hand at fiction? Your non-fiction/autobiographical writings here are fantastic, so I'm just curious.

First, thank you.

Ever since my freshman year of college when a creative writing professor essentially told me I suck, I have had zero creative writing ambitions. I just considered myself a technical writer - decent at history papers in college and legal writing in law school. I've always been a sporatic journal writer so that is where my creative writing generally landed for many years - all of which is, of course autobiographical. Then, while I was living in Utah for a couple of years, a friend convinced me to try a writing club she attended each month which was hosted by a friend of hers. None of us had blogs at the time. For the first time since high school I began sharing my writing with others. And it was fun. Mostly it was autobiographical as well. When I moved back to New York my sister gave me a small moleskin notebook so I could continue to write. That worked for a bit but it felt so similar to journaling. I missed sharing my writing. So I started a blog. Secretly at first. Then I told one friend. Then, not long after I started my blog, Tiffany - the writing club hostess - started one of her own. So I participated in correspondence would-be-writer's club. Again, all non-fiction/autobiographical.

But getting back to your question. No, aside from the play I thought I could write in junior high and the sagas I wrote with a friend via notes passed between classes and a handful of high school and college assignments, I have never tried writing fiction. I've thought about it. But for one thing, I can't write dialogue. For another, I think the only voice I am good at is first person. But then again, I've never explored much else. So maybe once I finish my divorce story I will give it a whirl.

***********************************************

Thus ends the Q&A portion of our program. Thanks to those who played along. Now, it is my turn to ask some questions. While I primarily keep this blog for myself and writing my divorce story is definitely a journey I've wanted to make for myself as well, I am curious about who is reading.

I don't write for comments but comments are encouraging and inspiring. In preparing these answers I have gone back through my comments a bit to see if there were other questions I have left unanswered and I realized there are a number of commenters who have popped up once or twice but I've never heard from them again. I realize we all lurk. And at times we don't know what to say in a comment. But, just out of curiosity, how many people are still reading? I look at my google analytics report but I can't say I learn much of use from it other than what search terms point people to my site (ew, ew and ew to all the "Nascar dessert sex" searches - I have no idea what you are looking for and I promise you will not find it here). And if you are reading, would you mind leaving a comment answering the following questions (I don't even care if you do it anonymously but if you leave a link to your blog I will check you out as well):

1) do you only read my divorce story or do you read all my rambling posts?
2) do you remember how you found my blog and when that was?
3) where are you located?
4) are you mormon?
5) do I know you in real life?
6) would periodic giveaways (aka bribes) make you more likely to leave comments?

Just curious. Now, please go break my comment record. Oh and yes, there will be a surprise for one or two lucky commenters. A good one. I just don't know what it will be yet. But last time I did this, my prizes were good. Just keep that in mind.

***The REVISED Rules:***
You have until midnight on October 25th October 31st to answer my questions to be eligible.
The more comments I receive, the better the prize(s).
You must answer all 6 questions to be eligible.
If you promo my story on your blog, you can leave a second comment and be entered a second time for the prize(s).
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