Friday, December 15, 2006


I came... I saw... I conquered Boston. It was, as I had envisioned, a spectacular time. I got in late last night and was only able to proof a few photos, but the one above is one of my favorites from the aquarium that I went to on the last day. Believe you me, there will be a photo extravaganza when I get through the rest of them. It will be as much fun as sitting through a presentation of someone's vacation slides can possibly be. (No, you can't leave yet! There's more!!)
So, I wanted to let all y'all know I was back and I had a great time. I highly recommend taking a few days off every now and then and go explore unfamiliar cities, armed only with Frommer's maps and a good pair of sneakers. And a camera, of course. But in spite of all my good tidings and cheer brought back from the East Coast, I have come back unsettled.
A couple nights ago Mike and I sat at John Brewer's Tavern ("Brewah's" to all you Boston locals out there. Oh! Did I forget to mention that Mike was in Boston for work and that was why I had the opportunity to go out there at all?) and had a late night dinner of sandwiches and beer. Our usual conversation and banter turned serious and we started talking about 'us'. I made a joke about 'sowing wild oats' and instead of coming back with a witty retort, he said that from time to time, he regretted missing out on the chance to do that between his divorce and starting his relationship with me.
This new train of thought brought up a whole host of issues. That things have been different lately.. more separate. That despite all of our similarities, we may have some fundamental issues that we may not be able to overcome. I know I've reflected on thoughts of my own place, my independence, and returning to a time when I was happiest with myself and my place in the world. But I had no idea he was so... unsure about things. We've talked about buying a house together and where we would like to move. We've talked about futures. We've bought two cars and a dog together. We've shared a home for nearly two years. And all of the sudden, he's telling me he's unsure? I asked him how long he would expect me to wait for time to assuage his fears. Five years? Ten? He said it wouldn't be fair to either of us to post-pone our lives for that long.
I thought it might be the beer talking that night, so I didn't bring it up again until this morning, when on our way to work, he asked me what I was thinking. I told him I had been reflecting on our conversation the other night and felt like the rug had kind of been pulled out from under me.
"You've never had any doubts about us - about this?" he asks.
And of course I have, but I had never been faced with the reality of it all. Nor did I know he was feeling similarly. "It's not that I haven't, it's just that I didn't know YOU were feeling that way."
I told him that I no longer felt comfortable or safe in 'us.' That with this conversation, we had lost something that defined that haven of our relationship. That I can't talk about the future or entertain thoughts of house-buying, or pretend we're still a family without thinking of this rift we've created.
It's not like we've talked about breaking up or me moving out or making any drastic decisions as of yet. But I also can't make-believe everything is A-okay. I'm not the type of person who longs to be in a long-term relationship without some type of "future." It's not for everyone, but I've found that I want the kids and the commitment and the weathered house and everything that goes along with that. I've wanted it for a long time and it's taken this to realize I refuse to compromise that part of myself. I love this person and I have a deep affection for him - something I haven't felt in a long, long time. But I can't keep my life in a holding pattern because, after nearly three years, he's unsure of his future with me.
So what do I do? Do I start looking for apartments? Do I wait for him? Do I make that long-awaited break for it and move to P-Town?
Something is breaking...

Thursday, December 07, 2006

This really irks me...

"Just because you can conceive a child outside a one-woman, one-man marriage doesn't mean it's a good idea," Earll said. "Love can't replace a mother and a father."

- Carrie Gordon Earll, a policy analyst for the conservative Christian ministry Focus on the Family

My response to her opinion:

Why not???

Why isn't love and committment to raising a healthy, happy, confident child the most important thing? Why is it so important to make sure that a man AND a woman make up the traditional set of parents? Heck, whole societies have been based on children being raised by women, while the men's role is only to provide the means to do it. I applaud today's standards that have begun to break down this "mother is the best nurturer" stereotype, saying that it is okay to be a house-husband, while your wife goes out and makes the dough. But what makes a good parent? What is the foundation to basic parenting skills? The fact that you can provide for a child's emotional and physical needs? The fact that you are ready to be a parent and have have the desire to start a family? Or the fact that you are of the right gender?

I think Joe Solmonese, President of the Human Rights Campaign, got it right:

"Mary and Heather's decision to have a child is an example that families in America come in all different shapes and sizes," he said. "The bottom line is that a family is made up of love and commitment."

Take off the labels that society uses to define us and see all of us for what we are: PEOPLE. HUMAN BEINGS. We are all capable of incredible and amazing things, no matter who we love.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Princess and the Bounce House

The highlight of my weekend was going to my niece's 3rd birthday party.

I managed to do other things in the two days I didn't have to go into the office at an ungodly hour. I slept in until 7:30 (!), I helped put our house back into some semblance of order after last week's wood floor extravaganza, I went to IKEA and found a great desk - one that accomodates a small room AND has plenty of storage AND hides the clutter (Woohoo!), went out to dinner and splurged on steak and a passionfruit layercake - but not at the same time. I also worked my tail off sitting at the computer, proofing photos. (I had a long talk with Mike about this one and it seems I need to become a little less obsessed with this and more into, uh, daily interaction with my family, maybe?) I thought about quilting, one of my Christmas present projects, but am fully enjoying the suspense that serious procrastination gives way to (kids - DO NOT try this at home). On a rare organizational note, I also brainstormed for Christmas gift ideas and came up with some real doozies. Here is to being optimistic about non-stressful holidays!

Coming full circle after the above laundry list of weekend activities, I went to my niece's princess and Barbie-themed birthday party. When I got the invite in the mail, I think I audibly groaned. Barbie? Ugh.. Even that particular shade of pink gets on my nerves. I know I played with Barbies when I was a kid, but mine were cool. And fairly illicit, but that's another story....

So I winced at Barbie, but knew I would enjoy this most girly-girl of occasions. Mostly because I knew they were balancing out all the pink & purple with a bounce house. I actually thought that I would have a good time IN it, but once at the party, I never really made it inside. It was so much fun taking pictures of everyone having a really good time.

The best part was watching my niece. Since she was a baby, she's always been one of the most solemn kids I've ever met. It's not easy to get her to crack a smile and when you do, it's blink-and-you'll-miss-it quick. At the party she's surrounded by presents, balloons, party favors, and cupcakes. But like a moth to a bug-zapper, all she wanted to do was bounce. And bounce. And bounce. She even stopped mid-present-opening to run over to the bounce house and pull off her shoes. I loved the single-mindedness of it all.

Come to think of it, I think she's got it right. I am SO getting a bounce house for my next party.

A few more of my favorites from the afternoon:

You can see the rest of the set here.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Over the River and Through the Woods

Spent a whirlwind weekend in Gresham - about 20 minutes away from Portland, Oregon. The weather was perfect at 50 degrees and steady showers. I felt rehydrated, like a frog's first dip after a long dry spell. And then I come back to hot, dry perpetual summer of SoCal. {Sigh} I'm in the wrong city. But back to Gresham...

When I go up north, I always try to take some time to walk around with my camera. I have hordes of family up there and it seems someone is always calling up to hang out or have dinner or visit. It's fun being the popular girl for a time, but it gets exhausting. Sometimes I'd rather just go for a walk or curl up with a book. Relatives don't always understand that. Anyway, I was able to escape for a bit and took a walk around my grandmother's neighborhood. It was pretty much the same as any neighborhood around here except for the rain-slicked streets and brilliant fall colors.

You can see the original set in it's entirety here. (If you're interested, some of them are better at their original size.)

Hope you're enjoying your cozy quilts, pumpkin lattes, and spiced ciders as much as I am!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Decisions, decisions, decisions

Just when I thought things were going according to plan, I decide to second guess myself. You see, I really like having a plan. I like having goals and little boxes I can check off along the way that show me I am getting closer to my intended purpose. I like being able to say, "I only have 1 more year to go in The Plan and then I'll be done." When I don't have a plan, I feel like I'm just floating along. I'm picking up life experience, for sure. But a plethora of life experience does not pay the bills. Nor does it necessarily make one happy. I've done enough swimming to last a lifetime, and was barely able to keep my head above water. Yessir, I like my plans.

I also think the fact that I've had a plan or two in the past couple years is the reason I've been so happy. My life is
more organized and I feel in control of my destiny. It may not be as romantic as Fate or Kismet, but I'm ready to hand that off to someone else for awhile. My two on-going, peaceful mind-inducing goals at the moment have been (1) paying off all my outstanding debts; and (2)attending school to get that little piece of paper, also known as a degree. The bill part is coming along fine. It's the other that concerns me at the moment.

Six months ago, I decided to quit waffling between the two artistic endeavors that seemingly pulled me this way and that and make a choice as to what studies I was going to pursue. Graphic Design won out since it seemed to be the fast-track to a career. All things pointed to it being the more responsible of the two because writing and layout and computers seem to be the way to go. It was also the more versatile as I could go into print or web or whatever fell in between those two forms of media. But in the past week or two, as I've been reading Photoshop tutorials almost as quickly as I can download them, I am finding a real creative joy in what I'm doing. I'm relaxed, I'm happy and the hours fly by as I click and tone and mask and see my photos really become what I see in my mind's eye. I've found myself missing the hours in the old photo lab, anticipation building as I uncover a roll of negatives ripe with found imagery. I find, as much as I love words, I am in love with my camera and the craft of photography. And now, my formerly unsinkable plan is now the Titanic.

So, for my new plan... I don't know, yet. I'm taking two graphic design classes this semester - both of which started
only last week. I have 3 months to figure out what I want to pursue between now and the end of January, when the next semester begins. So far, I'm looking at a lighting class and maybe Large Format? or Portraiture? I don't know. It bothers me that this is all going to take me longer than I thought (what do you want to be when you grow up? A professional student.) but the decision to go back to photography is already making me get those happy butterflies.

A definite good sign.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

My Malleable Mane

I was recently taken to task a couple posts back when I talked about all sorts of change in my life over the last 12 years. "Not once," he said, "did you mention all your different hairstyles." Believe you me, my friends, some of them were shocking indeed.

So, in light of this terribly overlooked issue, this post is dedicated to William. Thanks for pointing this out.

I had long hair until I was 15 years old. It was my mom's pride and joy.

Even at this young age, 5 minutes post-womb, I had long hair. (And no, I am not part Eskimo.)

Here's my mom, trying to braid my hair for the day. I think I'm 3 or 4 here and it's down to my waist. She also had 2 other kids at this time, under the age of 4. Why she didn't cut it, I don't know. Masochist.

Couple more cute kid, long hair pictures. Enjoy 'em while you can.

The long hair continued into my tween years, although I started experimenting a little bit here and there.

As a child of the late eighties and early nineties, I was so excited to get my first spiral perm. Unfortunately, I seem to have burned all my big "wave-bang" pictures from the same time period.

As high school started, I stayed innocent for the first year or so. Yes, freshmen really are fresh meat. Long hair still abounds. (God, how boring was I???)

Okay, now things get interesting.

Every kid goes through a period, usually high school, where they want to set themselves apart from the rest of their peers. In the early 80's, it was safety pins and punk rock, the 70's had their "who has the biggest bells on their bell bottoms", and now there are those rebellious teenaged guys who grow their hair out long and share skinny jeans with their girlfriends. For me, it was my hair.

Why hair? Because if it turned out bad, I could always grow it back out. To me, it was a temporary way to make a statement. (Although what statement is made with pink hair, I don't know.) Others were shocked as they pictured their own perfect coiffes in funky colors or sheared off. It just wasn't important to me to keep up that appearance.

When I was a sophomore in high school, I asked my mom to make the ultimate sacrifice - cut my hair. She wouldn't do it at first. This is the woman who took care of it when I was a little kid, dragging my pigtails through the mud and the muck of the Alaskan wilderness, curled it before every school dance, combed out the tangles after my bath, and sat for hours with the hair dryer and brush to straighten it. The hardest thing for her was remembering how in the 3rd grade, our whole class got headlice from one of our classmates and instead of cutting off my locks, she sat for hours and combed it all out with one of those teeny little fine-toothed combs. (Even today, she brings that one up.) But finally, I convinced her to do it.

The before shot, for posterity. The during shot to show my anxiety (look at how my fists are balled up. I ended up plugging my ears too.).

This Final picture is to show the big Texas hair.

It took me a while to get ahold of the short hair thing. But then I was off and running!

A little bit shorter now...

My folks called me Gina Lollobrigida.

GI Jane


And then there were all the colors: Burgundy, pink, red and...

Punky Colors: Blue (and you thought mullets were never hot) and my quest to be a platinum blonde.

So there you have it. The good, the bad, and the downright ugly.

And for those of you who are worried you won't be able to introduce me to dear ole mom, so far my hair is dark brown and wavy, just as Allah/God/Flying Spaghetti Monster/Mother Nature intended.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Bits and bobs and summer rain

I drove to work this morning with the driver's side car window rolled all the way down. Somehow, even the exhaust from my stop and go rush hour traffic tango smelled better. Wet smog smells better than dry smog? Who knew? I didn't get very wet since the rain was more "spit" than shower, but that smell puts a smile on my face every time. (The rain part, not the smog part.)

Less than 3 weeks until I take leave of sultry San Diego and hightail it up to P-town. Can't wait. Of course it's only temporary, as I have to come back home after a week and a half. But still... my cousins and I are scheming every which way how to maximize the fun in this trip. I bought my camera last year in time for that Portland vacation - I can only wonder at what difference a year will have wrought in my photographs this time around.

I'm going car shopping today. Ugh. The new car part, that's okay. But the whole haggling with car salesmen. On top of that, the car-buying process for someone with sketchy credit is even worse than the usual rigamorole. I'll have butterflies (not the good kind) in my stomach all afternoon.

I've finally decided to stop procrastinating on my website upgrade while all the cool media jobs pass me by. I finally settled on a domain name and registered it this week. Then I went into my old site and in one fell swoop, deleted every single page. I've slowly started to build it back up again - put in a few links and the bare bones of my photography gallery. It'll probably take about a month or so, but seeing it develop is so exciting.

One final note - I joined a book group. Last night was the first meeting I was able to attend and I was nervous. I kept trying to picture myself back in Schaffer's class and how much I enjoyed discussing the texts we read, but that was 10 years ago and it's not like academia has been a huge aspect of my life in the past several years. But as the discussion started, I found myself being drawn in and soon I was posing questions and trying to understand the significance of the underlying themes with the best of them. It was so refreshing, being able to sit in a coffeeshop with a group of 20/30- something like-minded people. The conversation was intelligent and the wit was sharp. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and as I drove home, I was aware of a sense of posession. This was an activity that was mine and not something I wanted to share with my partner. There are so many things we do together, but this one... this one I want to claim for my own. Is that wrong? Anyway, if anyone has any book suggestions for the next read (Thom, I'm looking at you), please let me know, as we're supposed to vote on the next one by Friday. (To give you an example of the kinds of stuff we read, the last book was Love and Other Demons by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. And if you're interested in joining, I can send details.)

Enjoy the rain!!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Map of my life

Although I grew up in a fairly religious environment, none of it really seemed to stick. My brothers and parents are all firmly on the Mormon bandwagon while I do my own thing. At family gatherings, we steer clear of politics and religion lest I end up on the losing side of a "them vs. me" kind of battle. So you can imagine their reaction when, at 19 or 20, I told them I was interested in getting a tattoo someday. (I think at the time, my dad - mostly jokingly - tackled me and pinned me on the ground and threatened to take a pink pearl eraser to my skin if I got one.)

Over the years, I searched for that perfect design. I wanted it to reflect me, an experience of my life, a facet of my personality. For a long time, I wanted a sea turtle. And then a sketch from one of the Gryphon and Sabine books. For some reason, I kept putting it off - perfection is so elusive. And after years of hearing people - my peers even, say, "Can you live with that forever? Do you know what that will look like when you're 60?", I became a little intimidated. But when my life went through some serious upheaval, I really thought about the reasons I wanted one. And I decided I could answer yes. I didn't want one to keep up with a trend or because all of my friends had one. It was because I wanted to remember.

I've always had a mediocre memory. I can't remember what I did last weekend or what I had for breakfast that morning. I can't remember what type of deodorant I buy at the store, even though I've used the same brand for over 8 years. I love my camera phone because it makes it easy to bring along with me the exact picture of what I want, just so I won't second guess myself when I get there. I write and I photograph because I want to remember. So why wouldn't I want to remember those big, life-changing events in such an intimate way? I once heard someone describe their tattoos as a roadmap of their life - what they had been through and even sometimes, when they had done it. All these years later, that idealogy stuck with me.

A close friend told me about a tattoo artist she was dating and I stopped thinking/overanalyzing/being scared and I went in to check out his portfolio and see what he could do for me. I went in wanting a bird design and he worked with me and sketched out a few things before I picked out the one I liked. He reworked the sketch over the next week and when I came back in, it had gone from rough draft to final and was in full color. I loved it.

Nothing can really prepare you for an experience like this - you just have to do it. Sure there are things that hurt and can probably help you gauge what your tolerance for pain is: a piercing, a brazilian bikini wax, childbirth. But until you actually have someone put ink into your flesh with a needle, it's really hard to empathize with someone who's done it.

I went into the shop and my artist got me prepped. I was scrubbed down and shaved, like I was being taken into surgery. When I get nervous, I get quiet. I get cold and clammy and sweaty. I make sarcastic jokes, but don't smile. I was glad a friend was there - I definitely appreciated the moral support. Mike came about 1/2 of the way through. The outline was the worst. Egads. But when he started on the color, it was too light, not the vibrant, bright blue we had talked about. He switched to a better blue, but warned me it would probably need to be touched up in a few weeks. After that, there were no more problems.

Mando, My artist

The first cut - Yeow!

Halfway there!

About 3 hours after I first sat down in the chair and felt that sharp sting of the outline begin, I was done. I was pleased with the outcome. I was ready to be done. But I also realized, it was something I could do again.

I'm already working on my next design.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

The beginning of the Up-side (Part 3: 9th Grade)

Freshman year, 1992.

After two years of whining and complaining to my mom about how awful it was being in junior high and how snobby and mean-spirited the girls could be and two years of my mom reassuring me that in high school I would finally find people with whom I could fit in, after two years of waiting for that horrible right of passage to be over, I entered the ninth grade.

This was the year they decided to go high-tech and put digital photos on our ID’s. It made us all look like we had run around with black Sharpies in our noses right before pictures were taken.

And you know what? My mom was right. Sure, there were still those mean girls trying to rule the roost and be self-important, but for every one of them, there were 15 kids that didn’t care about them at all. I hung out with kids who went to the same church as me. I met kids in my honors classes that cared about academics as much as I did. I joined clubs and met people with similar interests. I played basketball and ran track and made friends with people who even had the same schedule as me. I finally did find a niche that I fit into and people who not only accepted me for me, but were also a lot like me.

Midway through my ninth grade year, I met Ryan. A girlfriend of mine was actually the one interested in him, so I perpetuated typical freshman behavior and ran over and let him know oh-so-subtly (like a Mack truck) that my friend liked him. It turns out, he didn’t so much care for my friend as he did talking to me. Looking back, maybe this wasn’t such a great “friend” move on my part, but I continued to talk to him and we got to know each other over the next few weeks. He was a junior to my freshman, a self-assured 16 year old to my innocent and meek 14. (Yeah, at 14, innocent still fit.) At first blush, I wasn’t so into him being that he had this long hair that had earned him the nickname, “Jesus.” But in getting to know him, it became part of who he was – the boy who would soon hold the title of “my first boyfriend”. After those first few weeks, we were inseparable.

And that’s it. To sum up, freshman year was a time for me to realize that just because you’re different (me = the poster child for different) doesn’t mean you’re going to be alone the rest of your life. Oh, and that boys, specifically one boy, really rocked.

Friday, May 19, 2006

It gets worse before it gets better (Part 2: 8th Grade)

This is probably my most unfortunate school picture. As you can tell in all of my other portraits, school photo or no, I have no problem with smiling. I really like to smile. At the time, my 3 years of braces had only been over a short while and my teeth were still smooth and shiny and seemingly new. My parents and grandparents constantly harped, "Smile! We paid for those teeth! We own your mouth! You owe us a lot of smiles for years to come!" But this particular photographer decided I didn't smile enough. No, he had to try extra hard to make sure I smiled. Maybe he was new. Maybe if he knew me better, he would have known I was an affable type who aimed to please. But he had to go and crack jokes and make me laugh. One flash of the camera and it was all over - no do-overs in case I blinked or anything. That's what picture make-up day (a few weeks later) was for.

A few weeks later, right before the picture make-up day that I was determined to attend (I will smile but not laugh - they cannot make me laugh!) we got a phone call that my mom's father was dying. He had cancer, the type you get when you spend years in the Navy handling asbestos without gloves, before they knew how awful it was for a person and what exposure to it did to their body. We knew he had this cancer, but we didn't know how long it would take for it to take him away from us. The last time my mom had visited her father, he had transformed from the robust, lively person he always was to a feeble, old man who had to wear suspenders on his pants just to keep them up. When we got the phone call, we knew he didn't have much time left.

I decided to live with the bad school picture and accompany my mom and my grandmother up to see my grandfather. 3 generations of women: My maternal grandmother (whom I was named after), my mother and me. My grandmother was once married to this grandfather - they were high school sweethearts. But 3 children, an affair, and an alleged pregnant mistress (a hoax) later, the union ended in divorce. My grandparents had made an uneasy peace since then... mostly when my grandfather admitted he had made a huge mistake. My mom (a daddy's girl) had a really hard time with the split, dealing with abandonment issues. Not only did her parents divorce, but while her two older brothers remained with their father, she and her mom moved to Alaska - several states away. I had grown up separate from all of this extended family drama, but we still visited these people on family vacations. I knew my grandfather from week-long summer and winter holidays and through birthday cards in the mail, with $5 or $10 stuck inside the envelope. I wasn't particularly close to him, but I had fond memories.

It was October when we made the drive up to Portland, OR from San Diego. I remember sitting in the back seat of an 80's model Toyota Celica hatchback snuggled under a blanket, glad I didn't have to go to school for the week. I also remember having to put chains on the tires when going through the snow in the mountains, my waist-length hair dragging through the dirty brown water and slush in the gutters as I was under the car putting the chains on and later untangling them from the axle.

The week was a blur. I remember visiting with a lot of relatives as they came through the house to see my grandfather one last time. I remember quiet talks as my mom or my grandmother huddled over his skeletal form - making peace, I guess. I remember all the women relatives saying they needed a break from the stress of the situation and going to the mall for the afternoon. As we were in JCPenney or Sears or some big department store, my grandmother called home to check in and got the news that he had just died. She crumpled into my aunt's arms, my mom hugged me tightly, everybody crying. Before we left, my mom bought the two of us matching bracelets with our initials on them, tying us to each other and to that moment.

The funeral was the next day. I remember that I didn't have any black clothes, so I borrowed my an aunt's black dress and shoes. I got them muddy playing with my cousins, but no one seemed to mind. The adults talked and laughed and reminisced and as the evening wore on, I heard so many different stories of my grandfather - things I never knew.

By the end of the trip, I was so much closer to all of these people that I had previously only known from a distance. I have cousins and aunts and uncles who have all kept in touch and with whom I have grown closer over the years. I guess I have my grandfather to thank, one last time.

By the way, my mom never did order school pictures again.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Nostalgia - My school years (Part 1: 7th Grade)

With my high school reunion only a couple months away and a plethora of schoolmates coming out of the woodwork, I dug through some pictures and brought a few in to share. (This was also inspired by Adam's school picture show and tell.)

Things I could barely tolerate remember about 7th Grade:

I schlepped computer stuff for my grandfather's computer repair business all summer to earn money for school clothes. My brothers did not work that summer AND still were outfitted with new duds by the time September rolled around.

I played basketball at the park near my grandparent’s house in my free time. I was 14 years old, a girl, and was good enough to not be picked last. Happiness is...

I got my braces off this year.

Somehow, (I say somehow because I was not one of the popular kids) I was not only nominated, but also selected as one of the princesses for the Valentine’s Dance “court”. Those popular kids recognized I didn’t belong and were as puzzled as I by the fluke that had allowed my presence. My “prince” escort refused to walk up to the front of the room with me until he came up with a Plan B – to rush me up there as fast as he could to show that he really didn’t want to be there and just wanted to get it over with.

I got good grades and was “teacher’s pet” in most of my classes. (Probably one of the reasons I was not a popular kid.) I hated when some of my fellow classmates rebelled and made our substitute teachers cry. Usually when the regular teacher came back, we were all punished.

Our school colors were yellow and black and our mascot was a… bumblebee? Hornet? Wasp? Some insect with a stinger.

My P.E. teacher had a round shape and skinny legs; she looked just like a bumblebee when dressed in our gym uniform.

I had a small group of close friends made up of both boys and girls. At the end of the year, one of those friends signed my yearbook saying, “[He] would have liked me as more than a friend if only I had bigger tits.”

We learned how to deep-fry donuts in home ec, use bandsaws in shop, and balance a checkbook in math class.

On rainy days, I painted a lot of abstract watercolors when P.E. was held inside.

I was tormented a lot by the popular girls' leader and her henchmen. Trying to fit in, I left the house in one knee-length skirt and changed into a short, tight, mini-skirt when I got to school. This queen bee and her cronies came up and surrounded me, asking why I had changed and that she thought it looked terrible. Ughh. (Self-esteem? What's that?)

My math teacher's name was Garr and he had hair like Elvis. Old Elvis.

Monday, April 24, 2006


As anyone who's read my blog for any length of time knows, I'm a "dog person." I've wanted a dog since I was a kid - every Christmas, every adolescent birthday wish - was for a puppy. I'm pro-pitbull (Judge the Deed, Not the Breed) and break my own heart every time I go to the pound and see all those soulful eyes pleading with me to take them home. Unfortunately, I've never been in a position to do just that very thing, what with my landlords' rules and all or, in my current situation, the resident canine demanding the place all to himself. So, I took the stereotypical single girls' route and became a crazy* cat lady.

A couple years ago, I went to the Humane Society and adopted a couple of lithe, bat-eared Siamese kitties. One of them is practically a dog, as he will fetch for hours and follows me around like a little shadow. (Of course, this will probably be the death of me as he tends to follow and lead at the same time. This attempt at anticipating my every move has resulted in more than a few trips and spills in my efforts not to squash his little body.) The other is scared of pretty much everything, including her own shadow. You look at her cross-eyed and she is running and diving under the bed, her little heart ready to bust at all the imagined attempts on her life. When you ignore her, she's alright and will try to go about her own business. She's very bonded to the other cat (the reason I adopted both of them in the first place) and when it's just the two of them, they're really sweet with each other. The only time she'll let herself relax in the vicinity of a person is when you're asleep. Then, the two cats will curl up in the crook of my knees and sleep until morning. I don't kid myself about this - I know they're only in it for the body heat.
Anyway, the only reason I bring all this up is that lately (after 2+ years!) she seems to be mellowing out a bit. Enough to let me take up-close-and-personal pictures of her that are not from under the bed, peeking from behind a closet door, or from 10 feet away. But, judging from the expression on her face, I don't think she liked it much.

(* Crazy is most likely a pre-existing condition and didn't have much to do with the cats.)

Friday, April 21, 2006

The Solution to all of your problems

So, I regularly read this brilliant blog named Dooce. And by regularly, I mean everyday, sometimes refreshing 2 or 3 times a day just to see if she's posted again. Anyhoo, she has come up with what she calls "the Oh My God Our Plumbings Fucked Cookie."

But really, I think this would work in pretty much any problematic instance.


Let's think globally here, people. How many of these would we have to ship out for World Peace?

Thursday, April 20, 2006


Got ready for work this morning and for once, didn't worry about my feet being cold. I for-went the socks and slipped on a pair of sandals with my jeans and peasant blouse. Slid into my car, put on my new shades and headed out to work, not sad to be up and about on this glorious spring morning. The sun is warm but the breeze is cool and it's one of those perfect days in San Diego's blink-and-you'll- miss-it springtime. Once I got to the office, my mood dampened at having to be closeted indoors and I was restless and bored until lunchtime, which I spent walking around in the plaza by my work. Lunch was a smoothie and salad paired with the warm sun on my bare arms. It even makes this sun-cynical girl smile. My favorite part of spring is getting to shed all of our winter layers. So-Cal winters are weird in that the mornings and nights are damp and cold but the days are anyone's guess. Rain, sun, wind... even the weatherman can't predict what's in store for the afternoon. So, we dress in layers to ward off the chill. Thin-skinned me tends to be too lazy to shed her sweater to acclimate during the day so I end up being overly-warm or too cold for months at a time. But now! Now everyone is all about easter egg colors and white and earth tones and bare legs and arms and shedding those layers because we don't have to worry about being too cold. Too hot, maybe. But getting nekkid is ever so much more fun than putting more clothes on.

Yesterday, with my tax return burning a hole in my pocket, I went to Target on my lunch hour to update my working-girl wardrobe. I lucked out on a pair of black, flat-front trousers, and an ocean-blue button-up blouse. But the shoes! I fell in love with a pair of shoes that teased me with 2 sizes too big and one size too small. I've been in love with these since I first saw them, but I'm the girl who thinks shoes with a nine west label are considered designer. So when I saw these at Target for a mere $23.00, I figured it was Destiny at work! Apparently, Destiny called everyone else with the same sized feet as me last week, because after trying 3 Targets (and trying to squeeze my feet into shoes a size too small) I gave up and ordered them on-line. Sometimes, you just have to take matters into your own hands.

Plans for the weekend include wine-tasting with Devlynn and her crew, picking up my camera tonight (Hoorahh!) and frantically finishing Photoshop work for both my on-line class and my in-class classes.

Meanwhile, I'll be waiting for those shoes....

Friday, April 07, 2006

A dingo ate her baby!

I just left mine with a strange man who said he would give it back in two weeks.

Give or take.

What kind of mother am I?

Okay, okay. So the "baby" in question is actually my camera. I took it in, got the metering problem diagnosed and then got a quote for 200 bucks. Then they said I could get around that if my warranty wasn't expired. I took my camera and left the store, meaning to check my receipt after work, but then turned around and went back in the store and had them check it. Lucky, lucky me - can you believe we bought it 11 months ago (meaning the warranty is still good for another 30 days)? So, dropped my camera off with the promise that it will be returned to me good as new... in 2 weeks.


I hate waiting.

The camera... she is sick

Its been raining for the past two days. None of this sprinkling nonsense, but real, delicious, torrential downpours. Except for the 30-60 minutes it adds to my morning commute, I love it.

I took pictures this past weekend as I went on a neighborhood stroll. Mike and I leashed up the dog and walked over to the Home Depot a couple blocks away. The sun was out and the temperature was just right and the weather even made this grumpy girl smile. I took about 60 pictures - some of the dog, prancing in his poodle way, some of the flowers in front of the Garden Center while waiting for Mike. Some of the plum trees that dot our Temeculean sidewalks (and are as close to cherry blossoms as I get but you know what they still look like spring to me). I was really pleased with the compositions and excited to return home and start the camera downloading. Unfortunately, once home, I did not have a charged battery. So, had to wait until the next day. I started it before work and when I came home, I was eager to see the fruits of my labor. And that's when I realized my camera has a calibration issue.

I shot everything in manual mode with the white balance set to sunny. The meter was right on before I snapped each picture and I didn't foresee any problems. But when I opened the folder and looked at each one, they were all so dark... a lot of color noise, big grain {sigh}. What a bummer. I might try and salvage one or two, but after consulting the Magic 8 Ball - "Outlook is bleak."

So, the camera is sick. Taking it to the shop this weekend where it will hopefully be a quick, and easy (and cheap!) fix. Then maybe I can start taking pictures that dont go straight to my "round file".

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Culinary Cultivation

So I've been teaching myself how to cook. Actually, my "Sunset Quick Weekday Meals" cookbook has been teaching me how to cook, but he just sits there while I do all the work. I've always proclaimed (loudly) that I've hated cooking. I don't like to get all hot and sweaty while baking... It's like I'm trying to make SoCal hotter than it already is. I don't like having to follow all the instructions, but I don't know enough to improvise. I don't like people getting in my way when I'm attempting to do something that is clearly out of my comfort zone. Nevertheless...

I'm tired of eating Hamburger Helper and frozen dinners.

(Sorry.. got a little carried away, there.)

So, I bought my cookbook and tried my hand at creating edible art. And art it is. My first project was Turkey Enchilada Casserole. I felt a little more comfortable on the second, Shrimp Linguine, and ended up substiuting the shrimp for chicken breast. I faked it for a couple days and made a Chicken Caesar Salad and then Grilled Chicken Quesadillas with veggies. (See a pattern emerging?) But then last night? Wooowee! I made Seared Tuna Steaks with Papaya Salsa and asparagus on the side. It actually turned out okay. The asparagus were a little oversteamed, but in snooty restaurants, they make you pay extra for that. The tuna was seared well - even my non-fish eating BF said it tasted pretty good - and the salsa was sweet and spiiiiiiiiicy! The only thing I don't have down is my timing... Sunset swears this only takes 15 minutes.. an hour later I had finally gotten the table set and was able to pour myself a G&T. (A whole hour! If we had had wine in the house, I woulda been drinkin' that shit throughout this whole creative process...)

Anyway, so it's been going well. Mike (usually) does the dishes when I'm done, so that's my incentive to do the cooking, I guess. That and it feels cozy and domestic and I want to learn to cook something other than pastas and pizzas (which are super easy - noodles and any veggie you want or dough and any veggies you want). Since I'm trying to cut down on the breads, it's making me have to actually plan my meals and shop for them and... it hasn't been too bad. Partly because Mike knows to leave me alone until I say it's ready. I can crank up my music, sip my drink and saute away!

Bon apetit!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Losing Buckaroo Banzai

My mom just called me with the news. I should have known something bad was on its way, since she was the bearer. FOr some reason, my mom has this uncanny knack of retaining the saddest, most ragic stories of the world and community events. Tales of bright futures cut short, horrific child abuse, and heartbreaking animal neglect are the ones she chooses to share with me. Why does she do this? To remind me of my mortality? To unburden herself by sharing her knowledge of such terrible things? Everybody knows misery loves company. It's not like she takes pleasure in telling me these things, in seeing me saddened by her words... she just does. So when she called me today with that catch in her voice, I should have known that what she was about to tell me was not going to be good.

"Aric just called me and told me Walter Ludlow was killed this morning. I think it was some kind of car wreck." Instantly my mind flashes back to this morning's traffic report.

"A sigalert is in affect on the 52 in Santee. Officers are at the scene of a fatality crash between a motorcycle and a semi." Even then, before I knew who was involved, I winced. The motorcycle guy never had a chance.

But that motorcycle guy isn't some random person in a faceless sea of the San Diego County population. He was my friend. As my mom keeps talking, I log onto the Union Trib website, still having a hard time believing that what she says is true. She must have made a mistake. People Iknow aren't the ones who are killed in traffic accidents.

The article isn't hard to find.

"A 26-year old El Cajon man dies today... Walter Scott Ludlow fell off his motorcycle and was struck... Officials don't know what caused the bike to crash..." There it is in black and white. It's so jarring to see his name next to the word death... like someone spelling your name wrong. You see it and you know it isn't right. But here it is. It can't be avoided or denied.

I get off the phone with my mom who reminds me to drive safe and that she loves me. "I love you too, Mom."

There are so many thoughts swirling around in my brain right now - it's hard to grasp even one. So many memories... so many times our paths crossed, each one making an indelible impression.

Buck was the kind of person everyone said was unique... and probably the one person of whom it was actually true. His real name was Walter, but he started going by Buck sometime in jr. high or high school to distinguish himself from his father, also a Walter. He was 1 of 5 close-knit siblings, all of them freckle-faced and impish, nearly carbon copies of each other in physical description. In his teenaged years, his divorced mother married a man who had 5 children of his own. I started referring to them as the Brady Bunch. After a period of adjustment, they referred to their combined Ludlow/Woodward family as "The Woodlows."

I was friends with Buck's older sister (by 1 year) first. She was my age and we were in the same grade at school. I met her at a summer camp hosted by our church and we became fast friends. I started hanging out at her house, during the summers and after school. You couldn't help but like Buck, right from the get-go. He was wholesome (being a Mormon kid) but was warm and friendly and funny and could always make you laugh. When swingdancing was big, he was one of the guys who would twirl me around the dance floor. He grew his curly orange hair out into a giant, Ronald McDonald-esque 'fro and then used clippers to style himself a new 'do every week, starting at the mohawk and finishing with a buzzcut. He was an artist - one of the best cartoonists I knew. His birthday was the same exact day as mine - just one year after. We used to joke that it was our destiny to get married, just so our families would be related. At one point, I started hanging out with Buck and his friends when Sharlyn wasn't around. We would pile into his Geo Metro at 3:00am and tear around our local 24-hr Wal-Mart before heading over to Dunkin' Donuts for a sugar boost. We shopped in thrift stores, trying to find the most outlandish things to wear. One of Buck's favorite outfits was a grew sweater vest and red bowtie. Another was a pair of slacks, button-up shirts and yellow power ranger suspenders. They were way too small, but that didn't matter - they were too cool to pass up. He liked to wear his get-ups to church and shock all the conservatives. He had this crazy laugh that would send everyone into giggles when they heard his "hoo-hoo-hoo-haaaaa" except for his teachers who would turn around and glare at him. This only made us laugh more. He became good friends with my brothers and the group of us would go to dances together or play capture the flag in the local park at midnight.

When he was older, he served his mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Australia, learning a new language in the process. This gave him the distinction of being of one the few pale, freckle-faced carrot-top fluent Mandarin Chinese speakers in the world, I think. When he came home, he created a life for himeself, getting a job, a car. Living near his family. Getting married and have one and then two children. One looks just like him. Today, the oldest is not quite 3 years old.

The last time I saw Buck was right after Thanksgiving at my niece's 2nd birthday party. He was there with his kids and wife. I hugged him and introduced him to Mike. I enjoyed the party, relishing the friends and family were who there, still friends after so many years. Sharlyn and I used to talk about our "rocking chair" futures... that years and years out of high school, we would be able to sit on our front porches and reminisce. It seemed like we were on our way there.

Mortality and time are funny things. I can go home and open up my yearbook and read his crazy entry, all crooked lines and funny doodles surrounding the text - his tribute to that previous high school year. But in reading, the little voice in the back of my mind will be reminding me that this person is no longer here. It's hard to picture this vibrant and colorful person without the life in him, like someone turned off this lightbulb inside of him and now all is dark and cold and... dead. What of his friends and family? His brothers and sisters and wife and children? How does Rachel tell her son that Daddy's not coming home? And how does she handle a crisis like this? One minute her husband is home getting ready for work, kissing her goodbye before he goes out the door... and the next she gets the news that she will never see him again.

How do you handle tragedy when it hits this close to home?