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See you in January!

Hey friends and fiends: I’m on break until January, recharging the noodle, working on new art projects, and eating every cookie that has the misfortune of crossing my path. Wherever you may go this holiday season, I hope you find happiness and make memories to last a lifetime. See you in a couple of weeks!

Sunburn and Bugs 2016: Vast and Salty

After a night filled with dreams about car crashes (thanks, brain), I awoke to discover that my sore throat was not, in fact, the result of having yelled too much at deer about making poor life choices but was instead the onset of a brutal cold.  It may be worth considering that I’m spending too much time locked in my home away from the world’s germs if every time I spend more than a few days away, I end up succumbing to illness, and that maybe I’d be a little more robustly healthy if I spent just a little more time around other people. Or, I could stay home and play just as much World of Warcraft if I just asked the UPS guy to cough on me every time he delivers something I ordered via Amazon Prime. That’d work, too.

At that point, it was just a bad sore throat, so while Emily and Rachel finished breakfast and packed up their belongings, I struck out across the street in search of throat lozenges and found these totally adorable murals painted on the gas station and grocery store.

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Before we left town, I wanted to swing by and see the “giant shopping cart” at Honey’s Marketplace that I saw listed on Roadside America. Because a lot of their content is user-submitted, sometimes I’m rewarded with something truly awesome, and sometimes, well…

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My opinion on the shopping cart would have changed a lot if I was able to go sit up in the basket like an oversized toddler, but Honey’s Marketplace evidently doesn’t give a fig about my opinion. What they did have was yet another vehicle from the movie “Cars”, marking the third “Cars” vehicle we’ve seen in Utah. And this one talked.

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He also talked about their fine selection of french bread…ooh-la-la, managing to be both funny and creepy at the same time. I’m just jealous that there is no talking anything outside of my local grocery store. 

Kanab is the filming location of over 100 movies and a number of tv series, and I’d tentatively put a stop at Little Hollywood Land on the itinerary, but given that our scheduled endpoint for the day was Boise, Idaho, I didn’t feel as inclined to spend a lot of time in Kanab before we left, knowing that would definitely make for another very late hotel arrival and gas station dinner, and I was still feeling a little bitter about the previous day’s late arrival and gas station dinner. All I wanted was a steak the size of a wagon wheel, Kanab! From a sit down restaurant where I could also get a gin and tonic to help me forget about the terrors of the night cows! Or barring that, some goddamned fries and a frosty! We did pull off shortly to take some photos of the scenery, and when I stopped being struck by the view, I realized that there was an entire group of people behind us firing guns into an embankment, protecting us all from some encroaching dirt or something. ‘Murrica!

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I also found it deeply important that we stop at this place with ho-made pie, because I’m the sort of immature person who will always laugh at a sign like this. No one wanted to take a picture with me under a sign indicating that they were a woman both of the evening and of the kitchen for some reason that I can’t begin to fathom.

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Then I tied a bandana over my face* and passed out in the backseat for a while.

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When I awoke, we had stopped at a gas station in Beaver, Utah, and I’m glad that I woke up, because it’s possible that nothing will ever make me laugh harder than a sign for fresh beaver tacos. Because, again, I am immature.

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An hour or more outside the Bonneville Salt Flats, the landscape already was looking seriously salty. As in, the ground looks like it’s covered with snow but it’s actually salt. There were piles of salt so enormous that it was hard to fathom their size, piles of salt so huge they absolutely dwarfed trains and construction equipment. And here I am, paying a couple of bucks for a cannister of salt like a sucker, when I could have brought a bucket with me and filled up a lifetime’s worth of salt for free. Plus the cost of the trip. But that doesn’t count, right?

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And then there’s this thing, a erect pole with salty balls.

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And finally, we were there–the Bonneville Salt Flats, home of some land speed record runs or something. I was much more interested in taking off my bandana for a little while, breathing in some salty air, and checking out the scenery.

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But first, I checked out the flying penis monster on the Bonneville Salt Flats garbage can. Because flying penis monster, obviously that’s where my eyes would go first. It’s like you don’t even know me.

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The Bonneville Salt flats are 30,000 acres of nothing but salt and water. Or sometimes just salt I would imagine, since it’s hard to set land speed records in calf deep water. No insects, no plants, one dead tree. They were, in Rachel’s words, “vast and salty”.  And once we’d heard it described that way, it was difficult to find any other words to describe it. Large and salt-filled? Grand and, uh, high salinity? So vast and salty it was and is. Rachel was the only one of us who ventured into the water, and once again using her lyrical magic, described it as “warm and gross”.  So, vast and salty and warm and gross. That’s about the long and short of it. I was surprised at how many families were out playing in the water in swimsuits, and how many dogs they brought up to the edge even with numerous signs prohibiting it. I also briefly considered scooping some up and gargling with it to see if it would benefit my sore throat, but then almost immediately reconsidered it, because every once in a while, I can make a good decision. Not often, not consistently, but every once in a while.

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After we’d gandered enough at the vast saltiness, I was feeling well enough to take a shift behind the wheel, and I drove us from the salt flats the rest of the way to Boise, taking us through a corner of the last new state we’d visit on the trip, Nevada. This route took us on a number of two lane roads, which meant I got to recreate some of my favorite scenes from Fury Road and shout “WITNESS ME, I AM AWAITED IN VALHALLA” while passing Sunday drivers on their way to and from spending their pension at the casinos.

We drove into Boise just as the sun was setting, and since we were going west, that meant driving straight into the blinding sun. Straight into the blinding sun as wind shears were grabbing the car. Emily was looking up options for places to go for dinner and telling us about them, and it was right at that moment that my sickness fully set in. In case you’ve never experienced a special moment like this, I’ll do my best to explain. It’s the point where I go from “I think I’m getting sick” to “Oh fuck, I’m sick. I am so sick”. My ears close up, my eyesight goes to tunnel vision, there’s an overwhelming stuffy sensation of being a balloon headed monster in a world that hates balloons. So, to reiterate, I was driving directly into the blinding sun, wind was grabbing and shaking the car, my hearing went from fine to being able to hear very little but the underwater whooshing sound of my blood gravy rushing to my face in a hot sweat and my world has collapsed to that blinding tunnel in front of me. Oh, and for some reason, I also had simultaneous searing gas pain, the kind of fart that rips through your intestines with razor blades, only we’d just had a conversation in the car where I learned that Emily’s husband isn’t even allowed to fart in a room that’s not the bathroom so there was no way I was letting that motherfucker go. My anus was Alcatraz. And my poker face is so goddamn good that I’m pretty certain no one in the car had any idea that any of this was going on, inside of me and outside of me, all at once.  At least until the point where we reached our exit and I snapped that the directions were going to have to be given a lot more loudly because I couldn’t hear anything (and also because I was still holding in The Devil’s Fart and he was angry about his imprisonment). I remember very little from the rest of that night. There wasn’t much to remember for me: as soon as we checked in, I went straight to bed.

 

 

*Why the bandana? They say hunting humans is the most dangerous game. I would like to posit that the most dangerous game is trying not to get sick when trapped in a car with a sick person and recirculated air conditioning for fourteen hour days. Considering there were two other people in the car who needed to get back to work and school and not take still more time off for illness, I wanted to do everything I could to keep from infecting anyone else. The bandana was my best option for making sure the worst of my germ goblins stayed with or on my person, even if (when) I fell alseep and wouldn’t be in control of coughs and sneezes. Basically the car version of how I treat Jason when he’s sick. AND IT WORKED.

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Getting Better With Age

Last April, when I set a goal for myself to run a 5k within a year’s time, I didn’t put a ton of thought into it. I’ve never been good at running, and it would be cool to be better at it. Sure, I was able to walk (and complain through, let us never forget how much I complain) a half marathon, but run it? Hell no. I was always the kid who came in last when the time came to run the dreaded mile in gym class, wheezing my way over the finish line and making Arnold Schwarzenegger weep into his pillow at night over my lack of physical fitness.

I’ve tried and failed before. This time was going to be different. I’d develop one of those easy, self-assured strides, not elicit a single snicker when I go out in public suited head to toe in technical fabric, and should I ever find myself in a Jurassic Park dinosaur escape type situation, I’d be able to do more than shamble a few steps before giving up and bellowing “Jesus, just eat me already, running is worse than death!” After all, I had all of the knowledge of what made me quit in the past, so I’d effectively be able to avoid those pitfalls this time around. First, I reasoned, it would be best to lose a good chunk of weight before I began seriously training, to reduce impact on my joints and avoid injuries. To that end, I’ve lost sixty pounds (and counting). When I’d lost a reasonable amount with still about six months left on the calendar, I started the couch to 5k program, the premise of which is that they can take you from sedentary to fit enough to run for thirty minutes straight in nine weeks.  Not outside, where there are both monster hills and soggy weather to contend with, but on a teensy elliptical machine. It’s not the same as actual running, certainly, but close enough for government work, and with the added bonus of less stress on my knees since I’m still preeeettty fat. Good enough to get my heart pounding, my legs working, to sweat buckets. I dutifully did the workouts three times a week, shifting them to avoid holidays that I knew the lazy golem inside of me would use as an excuse to not work out at all. I finished the nine week program in January, and I definitely found it challenging and made progress through those nine weeks, pushing each workout until my legs wobbled when I stopped. My 5k is scheduled for early March, so I felt it was imperative to get out there and run on actual ground, just so if there was any deficit from training on an elliptical instead of outside, I’d have time to train to make it up. So, naturally, it poured out for two weeks straight.

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On the only nice day in the immediate forecast, I slapped on my running clothes, took my headphones, and headed to Greenlake Park, a 2.8 mile loop that’s relatively flat. As I drove up, I began to psych myself out a little. Is that how long 2.8 miles is? That lake is huge, I don’t remember it being so large. But I firmly and resolutely told my inner worrier to shut the hell up, that I’d been training and going well beyond 2.8 miles in my practices at home, so this would be no problem. Cake. I began to believe it once I pressed play on my c25k podcast. The familiar cues told me to warm up for five minutes, and when the warmup was done, I was ready to go.  I started off great, taking measured, powerful strides. First song down. I’m doing this! I’m doing great!

…Then the second song started, and that’s when my lungs filled up with warm glue, my legs began to burn, and I was forced back into a walk, wheezing audibly. Really?! I’d run, what, half a mile before my body gave out? I felt sick and frustrated. Just how much had I been deluding myself about the progress I’d been making on the elliptical? I blinked back hot tears and choked back my shame barf, not wanting this run to be exactly like high school. Little old ladies ran past me while the podcast continued, congratulating me on running for ten minutes and telling me that I’m doing great. A wave of shame so great rushed over me that I momentarily contemplated drowning myself in the lake, but ultimately decided that even as an abject failure, I had more dignity than to suck a lungful of icy water filled with goose poop in front of a dude sleeping on a bench and a group of fit jogger moms whose strollers cost more than my last car.

At this point, it’s safe to say that there is no way I’ll be ready to run a 5k in five weeks, given my general crapitude and what seems to maybe be some undiagnosed exercise-induced asthma. I don’t even know if there’s a point to showing up if I’m just going to make an ass of myself and get shuffled off the course because I can’t make their pace, and accomplish nothing other than make my wet rattling breaths sound like I’m a member of the undead for days afterward.

Maybe running is one of those things I’m just always going to be naturally terrible at. I guess I’m never going to be one of those easy-breezy people trotting down a trail, sweat free and fabulous. What I can do is glare at them from my hate cave, sweating away on my elliptical. The good news is, should we ever find ourselves in a Jurassic Park dinosaur escape type situation, I’ll  go a long way toward filling up those rampaging dino bellies so you can escape. Think of my noble and lazy sacrifice.

What’s the point of having a Hyundai if you can’t show it off a little?

“You know, I used to think a car was just a way of getting from point A to point B, and on weekends, point C, but that was the old me. That man died the moment I laid eyes on the 1979 Honda Accord.”

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This is something that’s been in the works for a while. The Ford Taurus Assault Wagon had long ago gone to that big rubik’s cube of crushed cars in the sky, and while we’d been making do with one car, it was far from ideal, especially since the other car is approaching legal drinking age and has decided that a number of its functions are now optional, like air conditioning and the radio. Not really ideal on summer road trips, especially through desert areas, or really even on cross-town trips now that Seattle is getting the population of a major city without the supporting infrastructure. Sure, we get to advance the fields of scientific study involving human sweat, but sometimes the cost of science is just too high.

We’d done some test driving and tire kicking, and I had my heart fairly well set on the Hyundai Veloster since I first test drove it way back in August 2012. It’s a hatchback that doesn’t look too “sandals with socks” hatchback-y, it gets killer gas mileage, and it still has a functional backseat (unlike the also-ran Honda CR-Z). The only problem? I’m so damn cheap. The thought of buying a brand new car and having it lose significant value the second I drove it off the lot galled me deeply. But I also felt like one of the best selling points for Hyundais was their extended warranty, so buying a depreciated used one didn’t seem like a great value, either. Thus began my search for a “sorta used” Veloster. I believe I typed the word “Veloster” into Craigslist every week between August 2013 and June 2015, and most often, I turned up cars that were a year or two old with extraordinarily high mileage (we’re talking 80-100k miles) and not much cheaper than a brand new model would have been. I didn’t want to pay nearly full price for a car someone else had beaten to shit over a twelve month period and was now out of warranty, so I kept searching. I found a couple others that had low mileage and a relatively low price but had a salvage title–hell no.  Eventually, I found my white whale–a Veloster that was less than two years old (which qualified it for a better financing rate), with only 5,000 miles and was selling for significantly under blue book value. I was so suspicious of the seller, figuring that it had to be a scam. I ran carfax: clean. I called the title department: clean. I checked the guy’s driver’s license against the title: match. It was the situation that everyone hopes for when buying a used car–it was senior owned, and they rarely drove it because they spent most of the year out of state. SCORE.

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There are still a few things the car needs to be perfect (for me), like a phone mount so I can better use it as a GPS–right now, the cubby under the control panel is too big, and the cupholder places it too far back for glancing at the screen without taking my eyes off the road which is a huge no-no. I think I’ll also end up getting a couple of blind spot mirrors for extra visibility and safety’s sake because the blind spots in this car are sizable. But I’ve already made my first non-essential mod, a screensaver with the new name of the car, the Velosteraptor:

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If only I could figure out how to get it to make a raptor sound instead of the startup music, then I’d really be in business! It didn’t really feel like it was mine until I outfitted it with the best keychain ever, though:

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It’s been a total dream to drive, the interior is really roomy and the seats are comfortable even on long stretches. I’ve already put on a couple thousand miles on it, and I hope it serves me well for many, many, many more thousands.

Spotted on the Roadside: The Golden Joan of Arc in Portland, OR

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Shining and golden, Portland’s Joan of Arc looks ready to lead a charge into the traffic circle, which may be a little confusing to the cavalry (“Do we exit here? Keep going? Do we yield to those cars or do they yield to us?”) . Donated by Dr. Henry Waldo Coe in 1924, this Joan was cast from the same mold as the famous Parisian Joan and gilded with actual gold leaf, which makes it really expensive to repair her when pranksters do things like epoxy unicorn horns onto her charger. Man, city officials are going to be pissed when someone gauges Joan’s ears.

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Bits & bobs from the week

11081389_10152842194198940_6746867744265110191_nI’m  always poised, waiting for the shutter release so I can close my eyes and take the least-flattering photo possible. That’s where I’m a Viking.

 

* Jason’s family was in town last weekend, so we did a ton more eating out than normal. First, we went to the Portage Bay Cafe for breakfast last weekend, where the slogan is “eat like you give a damn”. They’re all about organic, sustainable, ethically sourced foods, which is how they can get away with charging twelve bucks for oatmeal. I ordered a goat cheese omelet, imagining pillowy eggs slathered in creamy, tangy cheese. What I got was eggs with about an eighth of a teaspoon of goat cheese on top. I think I would have had to break it apart at the molecular level to get it to spread across the entirety of my eggs. Now I have to assume that was the ethical portion of cheese to include, and every other restaurant that uses more than a whisper is using cheese from a goat who has been waterboarded into giving up her cheesy bounty. If you haven’t already imagined the sounds a waterboarded goat would make, give it a try. It’s been cracking me up all week. BAAAAAWHARRGARBLE. BAAAABLLLLLL. BAAAABGBLLLLLL.

* We also hit up my favorite breakfast place that weekend, Mon Amie bakery. As it turns out, the owner goes to the same church as my brother and sister in law (formerly often referred to as a ‘cult’ in the news, so hey, that’s something). I’m used to being recognized by the employees there, but I was surprised that the owner recognized me as well, because I think she’s maybe helped me once. And when she said she recognized me, it didn’t come out in what sounded like a positive fashion, so now I’m wondering what I did or said. I always tip well, I’ve never gone in crabby, so I’m at a loss. And then when one of the baristas came to the table to clarify my drink order, I heard the other one call out “I told you so, that’s what she’s always gotten for like the last year.” Uh, maybe I need to change things up a little bit. For the record, it’s an iced blackberry white chocolate mocha and it is the fucking bomb and I only get it like once a month.

* I got my brand new camera from Olympus this week, which wraps up that saga. It both turns on AND focuses so it’s already leagues ahead of the previous two cameras. There’s a small issue of the battery catching inside when I try to remove it, but I think I’m just going to let it go for a couple of reasons: one, I am so tired of dealing with their CS (and I’m sure they’re tired of dealing with me), and two: there’s no way I could get the camera to the repair center and back before my upcoming trips. Let’s just call it good enough. For now.

* A friend recently announced her upcoming birthday theme: Jem and the Holograms. I somehow missed this one as a kid, so I’ve been watching through the series on Netflix and have subsequently been way overanalyzing a show for seven year olds. I have spent a truly outrageous amount of time thinking about the show’s message and underlying themes and rolling my eyes at myself. I’ve also been watching a lot of Walking Dead, and last night, the theme songs blended in my mind in a truly, truly, truly horrifying way.

 

Snow Day

This winter has been super mild in the PNW.  The only snow we got was one light dusting and even that was gone after a day–heck, it had started melting by the time I bundled up and went outside. (Sorry to rub it in, east coasters!) Spring is on the horizon. The breezes are blowing warmer, the days growing ever so slightly longer, and the frogs living across the street sing me to sleep every night with their lusty croaks. My mind is occupied with thoughts of things that grow. Still, I couldn’t resist one more look back at winter and thumbing my nose at the season.

How would you like it, if ten years from now, people were laughing at things you did?

Ten years ago today, I packed up my car with everything that would fit and moved into an apartment in Redmond, Washington sight unseen to live with with a friend I’d made at a community college in San Diego. The Northwest had been calling to me for a while: I’d been offered a sizable scholarship from the University of Puget Sound, a friend had suggested that the PNW might be a good fit for me, and another friend had already moved up and given me a standing job offer. Moving here seemed inevitable. What blows my mind is that if I had taken the scholarship from UPS, I would have never met a single one of the people I just mentioned. Possibly none of my friends. Probably not my husband. Change one thing and the entirety of the last ten years (actually, twelve, if I went to UPS immediately after returning from Taiwan) would have been different, even if the place was the same. I never would have gone to Drexel. I never would have quit Drexel. I never would have gone to Palomar. I never would have met my roommate and gotten my first job in the game industry. That same roommate took me to a party for Digipen students, where I made the friends through whom I eventually met Jason.

When I got here, things were touch and go at first. The friend who had offered me the job was transitioning out as I was transitioning in, and it looked like there wouldn’t be a job for me after all for a while. I was dating an abusive liar. I spent my last dollar and insisted that I be hired based on the promise that was made. And somehow things worked out for me: I got the job, I was able to cast off the asshole, I eventually got on my feet with the help of some friends.

Now I’m married. A homeowner. I have made some of the best friends of my life here: a chosen family. The Pacific Northwest is beautiful, and it is a good fit. Sometimes it’s gloomy, sometimes it’s snarky, sometimes it’s passive-aggressive…and so am I. It’s been good for me.  I was not the most open-minded, whole, adult person when I moved here, and through people’s patience and kindness, I’ve learned better, to be better. Obviously I could still learn a lesson or two about being less self-centered but that’s neither here nor there. I may not live here forever. There’s so much to see, and I want to see everything. But I wouldn’t give up the last ten years for anything.

In richness and in poorness (poorness is underlined)

One year ago today, Jason and I got tired of shacking up and made it legal with a crazy dance party and the best people in the world. I had friends fly across the country to be there…even one of the friends I met in Taiwan from Australia happened to be in the area that weekend and was able to attend. At the time the party happened, I was so freaking stressed out over every last detail that I lost track of the big picture…but now when I look at photos or listen to our jammin’ playlist, I feel nothing but grateful to everyone who helped me celebrate an important life event and so very incredibly lucky to have so many special people in my life. The last year went by so fast, and it was all the better for having a committed partner by my side who is down for any adventure I want to undertake. Married life is awesome. It makes me want to live forever.

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newspaper All above photos ©Brilliant Imagery Photography (Hire her, she’s great!)

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Bonus bridal shower picture because it was so damn pretty and girly.

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Ladybug Ladybug Fly Away Home

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The garden store near our house advertised that they had ladybugs for sale on their roadside sign, and I practically squealed the tires of our old Saturn in my rush to acquire some for our garden. They package them some 1800 per bag, and once released, they’ll happily set up shop in our backyard and munch aphids and other pests so we can reduce/eliminate the pesticides we’d otherwise use AND reduce the number of times I shout “GET OFFA MY CROPS” and scare the everliving daylights out of the neighbors. The only downside is that so many were crawling on my arms and legs and even in my hair that hours later I’m imagining every little tickle is an insect crawling on me. How long until I start slapping myself due to imaginary infestation? Place your bets!