Monday, July 31, 2006

Shower RSVPs

Can someone please explain to me why, in 2006, I need to RSVP to a shower invite with a phone call?

Typically, I do not even know the person throwing the shower. For example, let's say that I have a male cousin who got married and now they're having a baby. I've never met his wife. The baby shower is being thrown by someone in his wife's family. I have to call this person, who will have absolutely no idea who I am, just to say that I have no intention of coming to the shower.

Doesn't anyone else find this to be awkward? Why insist on a phone call? I, personally, am prejudiced against phone calls in general. When calling someone, you have no idea what they're doing or what their plans are. Unless I'm very close to a person, I'll never call and expect him or her to chat for longer than 5 or 10 minutes. I guard my time very closely, and figure that others do the same; unexpected phone calls can be seriously detrimental to accomplishment of my perpetual list.

So I don't tend to call people very often. Now I'm forced by a lack of contact information (no mailing address or e-mail address) to call a complete stranger about a complete stranger to say "thanks for the invite, but you people really aren't that important to me and I'll have to pass." But of course, you can't just say that—even tactfully. You have to make small talk. Will I have to talk about the house, Cleveland, Keith? Will I get to hear about the first ultrasound and the games they plan on playing at the shower I will not be attending? It's completely unknown ... and a complete waste of time because I never intend to talk to this person again.

At this point, the best I can hope for is an answering machine. I'll be keeping my fingers crossed. And I expect that the next shower invite I get from one of my (5) loyal readers has an e-mail address, too.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Our Happy Family Will Be Complete

Well, the good news is that Bandit the dog will be arriving at our house tomorrow, delivered by his current owners Ben, Jen, and little Audrey. We've met Bandit once before at his home in Michigan, and are very excited to have him as a part of our family.

I've grown up with many, many household pets including dogs, guinea pigs, rabbits, hermit crabs, cats, birds, and hamsters. I've missed having a dog of my own—while we lived at my parents', I shamelessly stole their dog and walked her, petted her, tried to claim her as my own. But now, finally, I really will have a dog!

Keith, on the other hand, has never had a dog. Believe it or not, he actually talks about getting a dog even more than I do. So both of us are thrilled that it's actually going to happen. At this time tomorrow ... we'll still be anxiously awaiting Bandit's arrival, because they're not coming until around noon. But at this time on Sunday, we'll have a dog!

What we've been debating for the past several days is whether or not we should change his name. In the many years that we've talked about getting pets, we've chosen a few of our favorite names: Gomez and Beckett. The cat is going to be Gomez (which is a whole different story), so should we change Bandit's name to Beckett? Jen assures me that Bandit would adapt very readily. Keith read one website that suggested you should always change an animal's name, but the reasoning wasn't applicable in this situation: their argument is that you don't know how the animal was treated by its previous owners and how his/her name was used, so you should start with a clean slate.

However, we know that Jen and Ben treat their animals extremely well and are very loving parents so that's not a concern. I don't know .... maybe once we get him it'll be easy to decide. Either way, the most important thing is that we're getting a dog!

Unfortunately, I was planning on blogging yesterday about how we'd gotten Gomez from the APL and how wonderful she was and all the fun, frolicking we were doing .... but the APL is holding out on us. We put a hold on her last Friday a week ago. At the time, she was waiting to be spayed--the worker told us that it would probably happen early this week, Tuesday at the earliest. Well, when Keith called yesterday she still hadn't even been operated on and the worker mentioned something about there being a "Kittyfest" of some sort. So pretty much, since Gomez already has a home, they're going to push her to the back of the list and operate on all of the kittens that are still looking for homes.

I know their goal is to get animals adopted, but really. Doesn't the fact that she has owners who are very eager for her to come home count for anything? So our happy family will be complete hopefully soon, but not quite as soon as I'd hoped.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Required Reading

My mom and I were having a discussion over the weekend about required reading.

The idea had two different potential applications: students and adults. Mom had been to a reading teachers' conference last week, and had been inspired by a speaker that urged teachers to allow students to put down books they weren't enjoying. The argument is that, if you force children to read, it will be seen as an unpleasant chore. Conversely, if you encourage them to read (appropriate) fiction and nonfiction that they enjoy, you'll help them cultivate a lifelong love of reading.

On the other hand, there's adult "required reading." As in, the great literary books that are intimidating, but I feel like I should read them and if I do, I'll be a better person for it. As in, the Top 100 books of all-time list that I'm trying (and failing) to read 12 books from during 2006. As in: Don Quixote.

When I chose Don Quixote as my next classic read, in a kinder, gentler time that seems like many eons ago now, I thought it was a good choice. True, it was a thick book. And old. But if high school Spanish students can read it, surely I can get through it, right?

Mom foolishly offered to read it with me. So for several months now, we've both been struggling to get through it. I have to tell you, I'm not really enjoying it. And because I haven't been enjoying it, I've been starting and stopping ... and every time I pick it back up again after a hiatus, it seems even more difficult to get through, and to have grown immensely in size and weight. Don Quixote definitely feels like required reading.

So after her conference, my mom put forth the argument that we shouldn't have to finish Don Quixote. If we're not enjoying it, we should just put it down and move onto something better.

I (somewhat reluctantly) argued against this position for several reasons. First, I'm stubborn. I'm not going to be defeated by some inept "knight" that's hundreds of years old.

Secondly, I think that adult-chosen required reading is different from that of kids in a classroom. I've inflicted this on myself. And suffering through Don Quixote is not going to make me stop reading. I'm already a bibliophile, and will continue to be one long after the Don has grown dusty on my bookshelves ... again.

So I'm curious as to what you guys think. Mom and I have now given ourselves until Thanksgiving to finish Don Quixote, which would make me very thankful indeed. If you've committed to reading a book for one reason or another (book club, classic, recommended, etc.) and you don't enjoy it, do you put it down or keep reading until the bitter end?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Bear Is Just to the Left, I Swear

As I may have mentioned previously, Glacier National Park is Grizzly Country. If Grizzly Country had a capital, Glacier would be a strong candidate. Or if not the capital, then the runner-up. Like how many foreigners may incorrectly assume that Hollywood is the capital of the United States, Arnold Schwarzenegger is our President, and Bush is the equivalent of a powerless monarch figurehead that waves and smiles and is possibly inbred.

I can't say that the possibility of coming into contact with grizzly bears is really what drew me to Glacier. I actually considered it a detraction. Apparently, I was the only one.

"Have you seen a bear yet?" Tourists ask each other, breathless with anticipation of another bear-sighting tale. The lodges are abuzz with vicarious harrowment and fear. You can almost smell it (a potent combination of burgers and huckleberry pie). Upon arrival at the Swiftcurrent Inn, we saw flocks of tourists armed with cameras and binoculars, peering anxiously at a hillside where a bear had been spotted at some point earlier in the day.

When we took the boat to the Grinnell Glacier trail, the ranger asked who'd seen a bear. Nearly everyone except our group raised their hands. Then the ranger quipped, "So the rest of you just got in last night." And everyone laughed (some more bear humor). We'd actually been there about 3 full days, and Keith's parents for even longer.

What was wrong with us? Why didn't we even catch a hint of a bear? If everyone else could see one, why didn't we? Are we unobservant? Slow-witted? Or just unlucky?

Keith's cousin Anna tried to console us by suggesting that, even if we didn't see a bear, plenty of bears probably saw us and we could have been eaten at any moment. Strangely, I didn't find that comforting.

p.s. Before anyone bothers to say what a great picture that is, Keith took it. So I don't want to get in trouble for taking the credit.

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Glacier: Not What You'd Expect

On Saturday, we hiked to Grinnell Glacier, which turned out to be my favorite hike of all. We'd been there for 3 days at this point, and I was getting very concerned that I wouldn't get to see a glacier in Glacier National Park. I mean, you have to, right? Because that's what everyone will ask you about.

(Of course, this turned out to be false: Everyone asks if you've seen a bear, and of course the answer for me is "no.")

When you think "glacier," what do you see? In my empirical research, 97.6% of test subjects imagined a big hunk of ice. Of those, a whopping 68.2% drew a picture of that ice hitting the Titanic with Leonardo DiCaprio on board. The remaining 2.4% of subjects mistakenly heard the word "glazier" and envisioned a person putting in new windows. But they were British, so they don't really count anyway.

I guess I'm not exactly sure what I thought a glacier would look like. I thought it would be more majestic, awe-inspiring, cold.

My favorite hike at Glacier was when we took a boat across two lakes and then hiked up to view, up close and personal, three glaciers. The entire hike was about 8 miles and most of it was along a path carved into the mountainside. Like the rest of our time there, it was a gorgeous, sunny day and I was torn between looking at my feet to ensure I stayed upright and alive, and wanting to look out at the amazing vista spread out before us.

From the ferry boat, the park ranger pointed out Salamander Glacier. It didn't seem nearly deep enough or wide enough to be a glacier—it just looked like snow pack on the side of the mountain.

At the summit of our hike, we snacked while overlooking Salamander Glacier, Grinnell Glacier, and the Jem (glacier). We were far enough away from them that we didn't feel much of a chill. The coldest part of the hike involved following the trail under a small waterfall on the mountainside.

I'm not saying I'm disappointed in the glaciers. I would have been highly disappointed if we hadn't seen a glacier at all. Or, conversely, I'd seen glacier without even realizing it, because they aren't quite as imposing as I'd expected.

I'm sure if you traveled somewhere further north, there would be glaciers aplenty like the ones we all imagine. But, even so, I'm not sure that I'll be planning my next vacation there just to get that tingly fresh "glacier awe" feeling. I'm feeling a hankering to see what the perfect 12-oz. strawberry margarita looks like at sunset ...

Friday, July 21, 2006

Slightly Uneven Tan

And by "slightly" I mean parts of my face and neck are adorned with strange, geometric figures.

I burn easily. This is why I wear sunscreen every day, in my face moisturizer. Even in Cleveland, which has been excessively cloudy of late, one can never be too careful. Once in middle school I spent an entire day at the beach without sunscreen, and spent the next week in bed until my entire back blistered and peeled off. So I always wear sunscreen.

A week ago today, we were traveling across the Going-to-the-Sun road from West Glacier to the Many Glacier area. We stopped at Logan Pass, which is at the top of the Continental Divide. While there, we learned that the Continental Divide splits the water flow—if it lands on one side, it flows to the Pacific and on the other side to the Arctic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico. (Did you know that's the big deal about the Continental Divide? I'm sure I knew that at some point in 2nd grade, but it was quickly pushed out of my brain by the fact that Robbie put boogers on his PB&J sandwich.)

So anyway, the Continental Divide is high. Logan Pass, as clearly illustrated in the picture, has an elevation of over 6,000 feet. In contrast, Cleveland's elevation ranges between 600 and 1,100 feet. This is also something I learned the hard way: higher elevation = thinner air = more UV rays + walking across highly reflective snow = oh my god, the burning!

It wasn't really that bad. I do still have skin on my back. But my usual SPF 15 in the moisturized wasn't cutting it. Or it sort of was. I discovered the next day that my nose was burnt, as well as a thin strip of skin just along my hairline that I missed.

So for the hike on Saturday, I covered myself in recently purchased 30 SPF sunblock that smells just like Creamsicles. Which made me a little nauseous, applying it before breakfast. And also made me feel like a bear treat.

You would think this meant I was safe? But no! Apparently a spot on the leftside of my neck somehow escaped the slathering, so in addition to 1) a burnt strip across my forehead, and 2) a gleaming nose, I also have a curved triangle of bright pink skin on my neck/upper back that is slowly fading.

I've never tried very hard to be tan, because I knew that it was probably a genetic impossibility. Once in my life I did feel tan: when we got back from spending a week in Mexico for our honeymoon. The tan didn't live to see the following month, and according to most people I wasn't really that tan anyway.

But now that I have these strange patterns in noticeable places, maybe I should consider going to a tanning salon to try and even things out. But then I would probably not get the sunblock exactly on the burned skin, so I would end up with burned/tan skin, tan skin, and a strip of completely white skin separating the two. If you can imagine it ... but I wouldn't recommend trying.

On second thought, I think I'm just going to stick with being pale. It's coming back into fashion, right?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

A Whole New Set of Jokes

The day that we arrived at Glacier, we only went on a short, easy hike. A warm-up to the comings days' activities.

On the second day of our trip, we meant business. We hiked 7 miles in the morning, took a break in the afternoon while Keith's aunt and uncle retrieved his cousin from the Kalispell airport, and then hiked another 4 miles in the late afternoon/early evening. It's easy to lose all sense of time when you're (1) on vacation, and (2) in a place where the sun rises about 6 am and sets close to 10 pm.

So we set off mid-morning from McDonald Lodge on our first big hike. Our surroundings were so different from any park in the Midwest that I'd ever been; there were different types of trees and wildflowers. We were at a significantly higher elevation and surrounded by mountains.

But what really struck me was the sound of the bear bells as we hiked. Typically when one hikes, one attempts to be as quiet as possible so one can see and hear nearby wildlife. However, in Glacier there's a significant possibility that nearby wildlife may be a Grizzly bear.

For this reason, all tourists buy bear bells. They're like what you think of as Jingle Bells, but with a Velcro strap to attach them to a backpack or hiking stick, and they continuously jingle as you hike. In theory, the sound scares bears off. In reality, it seems like they're just a tourist gimmick.

Listening to the bear bells kind of gave me a "you're not in Kansas, anymore" feeling. A constant reminder that I could be devoured at any moment. Exciting and appalling all at the same time.

That evening, Keith's parents and aunt and uncle (who had all arrived a few days before us) were sharing some of the Grizzly country humor they'd picked up.
Uncle Jerry: How can you tell the difference between Black Bear scat and Grizzly scat? ..... Black Bear scat has berries and the bones of small animals. Grizzly scat has berries, small animal bones, and bear bells.

I laughed, and thought about how that joke wouldn't have made any sense to me at all the day before. Although really: scat is always amusing. I felt like I'd been initiated into a really cool club. That knows about bears. And whose members may be devoured at any moment. Now that's a cool, edgy club.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Post-Vacation Blues

Well, we're back, and I'm depressed.

I'm not sure if I've mentioned it before, but I don't handle change very well. Even the transition from planning a trip to reminiscing about it is somewhat traumatic for me. I wish it wasn't so, but there it is.

Glacier was absolutely amazing. I've never seen anything like it before. We had a great time hiking and eating and sleeping, then repeating the process the next day. In the next few blogs I'll talk a little more about the trip, but for now all I can do is mourn its passing.

I have many, many other things to look forward to. We're getting settled in our house. Now that the trip's over and we don't have any others planned for a while, we're going to get a kitten and a dog. Overall, life is good.

But it will probably take me another day or so before I can really start focusing on those things. For now, I can only look backwards and sigh. Yesterday at this time, we were hiking up a trail and immersed in nature. There were so many wonderful things to look forward to, and now they're all behind me.

It was a wonderful trip. And once I've accepted it's over, I'll tell you all about it.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Overheard at My Desk

So I thought for today's blog entry, I would try something that requires little thought or effort on my part. I wanted to do an "Overheard at My Desk" in homage to fabulous, useless sites like Overheard in New York and the off-shoots, Overheard in the Office and Overheard at the Beach (a summer addition).

But I don't hear anything. I knew the office was quiet, but I hadn't realized until I actually focused on it what a dearth of interesting conversations there is. I hear things like:
Supervisor: Have you finished all the filing yet?
Me: No.

Supervisor: Don't stamp the first page of the legal-looking documents.
Me: Okay.

So when I realized that recollecting my daily conversations actually became even more boring the second time, I thought maybe I could make up some "overheard comments." Like:

Girl: And then I was like, you have a monkey, don't you!
Gay Friend: Doesn't everybody who works in paper distribution have a monkey?

Geek #1: I'm so hungover right now.
Geek #2: But it's 2 o'clock on Tuesday afternoon. And you don't drink.
Geek #1: I know. But I was really high on life last night, and I'm paying for it now.

But it's just not as funny unless you know a real person said it and actually meant it. Whatever it may be. So maybe you should all just go and check out all the "Overheard at" sites. And keep checking them out while I'm on vacation.

Maybe I'll overhear something at the airport tomorrow. Or maybe I'll say something retarded to make someone else's day.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Mental Vacation

So it's happened again: I have writer's block. It's actually kind of surprising that it took this long, but I guess it helps when I am only committed to 2 or 3 blog entries a week, instead of a solid 5.

Everything I think of writing about I've already done—the rainy weather, a work snow day, the World Cup ... even writer's block! That's a sad state of affairs, I must say.

So it's actually good news for everyone that I'll be on vacation from Wednesday through next Monday and there's no chance of a blog entry. Okay, I'll give it maybe a 3.12% chance of getting a blog entry written in the airport, but that's about it. We're going to Glacier National Park to hike and admire nature and be far, far away from technology and the modern world.

I didn't handle it very well, not having Internet access during the move. But that's different—not having Internet access whilst at home is considerably more traumatic than planning on not having it during vacation. So hopefully I won't be experiencing too many withdrawal symptoms, and will come back refreshed and ready to write fascinating blog entries about the experience! .... The vacation experience, I mean, not the trauma of being Internet-less for nearly a week .... I think ....

Friday, July 07, 2006

Thank you, ladies and mortgage brokers...

In the past few weeks, as we filled out reams of house-related paperwork, a personality trait of mine came into sharp relief.

I feel the need, in somewhat awkward social situations, to be the entertainer. The hostess. The talk show interviewer, putting everyone at ease.

I think I've always done this at parties, in meetings, etc. But it became extremely obvious during the mortgage process when it was me, Keith, and the lender in a small office. Keith was signing paperwork like crazy, and the lender and I just kind of sat and looked around.

So I kicked into entertainer mode. I told stories about work, childhood, whatever seemed appropriate or at least tangentially related to the subject at hand. As Keith signed, I mentioned that, as a left-hander, I always end up with ink smeared along the side of my palm. I told somewhat amusing anecdotes about when Keith and I were looking at houses.

It was interesting, to hear myself talk and realize that I was obeying a compulsion that I couldn't control. If I had commanded myself to sit quietly and not make small talk or even do the little laugh that substitutes for conversation with strangers, I don't know if I could have done it.

Which reminds me: Did I ever tell you about the time ....

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Big Move

Ahhhh! It feels so good to be back amongst virtual friends!

Since the Big Move Friday morning, we've been without Internet access and it's been traumatic. I'm used to spending 8 hrs a day with my gmail account open and waiting for any important/entertaining missives to arrive. We watched Fever Pitch on Saturday night and it drove me crazy that we couldn't turn to IMDB to find out whether Nick Hornby's original version was about soccer (it was) and if the game footage was from actual games (also true). We couldn't look up directions or store hours or the real name of Dr. Seuss, just for kicks. It was torture!

But I suppose there were a few other things to occupy my mind. Like unpacking all of our belongings and figuring out where to put them. And the little details, like finding all of the outlets in every room and working out exactly how I need to jiggle the key in the back door to get it loose. (I still haven't gotten the hang of that one.)

We spent most of the weekend being amazed that this beautiful house could possibly be ours. I think that it'll be a long while before I can believe that we're not just renting it. Nearly two years after our wedding, I'm still coming to grips with the fact that I'm old enough to get married. And now we have a house? It doesn't seem possible!

Once we get a few more boxes unpacked and our Internet hooked up, I think it will feel more like home.