Swingers on the mountain

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Good morning family!

I’m writing because I fear that at this moment my brain can do little else. I’m clothed in all sweat attire, from shirt to pants, because when I got out of the tub this morning the thought of wearing clothing that touched my skin was beyond horrifying. So, I’m wearing my LSU sweatshirt and my UT sweatpants. I am a contradiction but I’m also really comfortable.

We didn’t really even get home too late last night. I think we rolled in at about 10 p.m. Then we watched our new favorite show, “Superstore.” It’s on Hulu for any of you who aren’t watching it yet. Get on it. But it was a full 13 hours of driving from Montana back to North Dakota and I did take a Dramamine and I did eat all three meals of the day at restaurants with drive thru windows. For what that is all worth.

This was our third ski trip of the year, which I’m pretty sure means that I have skied more this year than all the total times in years past. Also, I did not cry this time and J and I only got into one yelling match on the mountain. That’s what I call progress, friends. Like most sports, skiing is not something that comes naturally to me. Which means that while other novices proclaim that they’ll be hitting the green slopes with me, then proceed to zoom down blues on the first day, I get left behind.

So this time, while I was protesting loudly and laying on my side on a slightly sloped green slope and a ski patrol Earth momma came and rescued me and told J and I that “we have a really nice ski school,” I saw a golden opportunity. I could go to “school” and have a reasonable excuse to let J finally leave my side and do the harder stuff that he’d wanted to do all along. We both agreed that it was worth our $79 dollars, yes, our martial happiness is worth $79 dollars.

What I found was that I probably should have gone to school a long time ago. Two hours with our hot ski instructor Chris (who, of course, travels to Main in the spring to lead white water rafting trips) and middle aged, dumpy-but-determined Lori (my co-classmate) and I wasn’t exactly doing blacks, but I was doing a lot better. And I now had a few more green slopes in my deck that I could explore without Jarrod. I know that all you married or seriously committed folks already know this, but sometimes being told how to do something by someone you don’t share a bathroom sink with cuts through the fog much more than hearing the exact same from your spouse. Thanks hot Chris.

Oh so all of that is fine and dandy, but I can’t wrap up my post without talking about getting hit on by the swinger! (Way to bury the lead, Emily!) Sunday night we went into White Fish to eat our final hurrah dinner. The lot of us (I think we had about 8 people with us) sat around a bar at a fairly upscale restaurant. This couple was kind enough to move down a few seats to allow us room to sit down as a group. Well, quickly the woman started chatting me up. She was from a nearby town, in her mid 50s, and “still fun even though we’re both old and out of shape.” And I thought she was just being friendly.

It was fairly clear that she and her boyfriend (“he’s a TSA agent, but shhhhh he doesn’t like anyone to know”) were quite drunk. So I forgave quite a bit and tried to avoid eye contact because that seemed to be all that was needed to be drawn into conversation. Anyway, she starts asking me about who in our group was coupled and who was single, so I happily went through the list and told her. I didn’t think that was odd at the time, I just thought that she was being friendly.

Several minutes later I overheard Jarrod telling other people in our group that this woman is a swinger and trying to pick us up. I shooshed him and told him that he didn’t know anything and “why does it matter anyway?”

“She just asked us to join her and her boyfriend in the hot tub later and asked what condo we were staying in.” Oh yea, maybe he had a point. But maybe not, right?

Anyway, the meal went on and the woman and her boyfriend became more enthralled in the attractive young male doctor to their left than our group. Somehow our group got on the topic of switching beds, to which one of the guys in our group said loudly enough for an audience to hear, “well, Emily and Jarrod wouldn’t care because y’all are swingers, right?”

To which the woman swung around on her bar stool with a look of glee that I could only muster up if I found out that there was an “everything is marked at 50 cents” sale at the Goodwill, and said “yall are swingers!?” To which, of course, there we we quickly corrected “no” and the woman turned bright red, apologized and refused to look at us the rest of the meal.

Well, after that fun story, I’m feeling a bit more awake. Time to go to work I suppose.

Much love!

 

A Very Macrander-Sanders-Underwood-Morgan Christmas Poem

Twas several days after Christmas at a hotel desk in Killdeer,

Emily set out to record the just-passed holidays- to help remember the good cheer.

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Christmas was filled with mountains and snow,

And skiing with varying levels of success Dad, Sarah, Steve, Todd, Nick, Jarrod and Emily did go.

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The holiday was in Denver, the second for Sarah and Steve,

And the first as married couples for the MacSanders and Underwoods – though hard to believe.

Emily and Jarrod came from Devil’s Lake and landed in Denver, well, just outside,

And Sarah whisked us to Winter Park (after stopping in Golden) in her sleek Subaru ride.

But on the way there, the snow was falling hard and fast,

After sliding around a curve – yet excellently recovered – we worried if Sarah’s nerves would last.

So, we stopped and put chains on each tire,

However when we arrived, one chain was gone, and Emily’s exclamation “I got it on! Let’s go.” made her look like a liar.

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But we were there, safe and sound,

Prepared to eat meals in amounts sure to astound.

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How could I forget – the five star chef of the trip?

We finally met Audrey, Steve’s sister, a cooking school graduate who is very-very hip.

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Steve’s mom, Marcia, was there to meet us, too.

And helped us sled the hills of Winter Park, until our fingers and lips were blue.

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Cookies were made by Mom in piles so high,

Though the oozing red frosting made it look like  Mr. Gingerbread was about to die.

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Presents were given and received as they are every year,

And Steve’s gift of Bryer horses to Sarah were the quickest to bring a tear.

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On the last day of our white Christmas vacation, the lads went to ski the mountain some more,

And mom, Emily and Todd shopped a bit – a hobby some of us adore.

All in all, the trip was great,

And it’s hard to believe that for another family gathering – 12 months we may have to wait.

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We left with our hearts more full,

Looking forward to next Christmas – perhaps in London – which surely won’t be dull.

 

 

The Day We Met ‘The Bear’

There are many bear stories now in the Macrander family.  There is the time when we were on vacation in Colorado and Sarah was obsessed with seeing a bear.  We were on a rafting trip on the Arkansas River and were coming around a bend.  Sarah pointed excitedly at a large black animal by the stream and yelled “bear.”  No Sarah, that would be a cow.  She so wishes that the family did not have such a long memory.

There is the stuffed bear, once shot by Jarrod’s father Kent, that Emily now lives with.  That had to be a question that entered her mind as they were getting to know one another. “Can I really date (love, marry) a guy that keeps a stuffed bear around the house?”  I tend to think that it reflects Jarrod’s quirky sense of humor and connection to his dad more than a passion for killing things and displaying them.  I just think that it needs a hounds tooth hat.

I am not really sure that Todd has a bear story, but, am not sure that I would want to know it.  OK, that was shameless.

The story that I am about to recount is from 1981.  You kids have grown up with the picture and the ticket stub to a game from this story prominently displayed in our house.  You have probably heard me tell the story dozens of times, but I will write it down here as another daddy story.  Put on your glasses.  This is a long one.

A lot happened in 1981.  After nearly two years of being grad student acquaintances in Biology, that spring Ginger (aka mom) & I  gradually became friends, then good friends, then more than friends, our involvement and time together growing as spring turned to summer and then to fall.

Rolling the clock back a bit, through two college experiences I had never been to a game and generally viewed sports as a drain and a distraction to the academic reason to be (what a dud I was!).  At Alabama, though, it is hard to ignore football.  I went to a few games when encouraged by fellow grad students.  I rooted for players that I had taught as students in Anatomy and Physiology.  I listened to the games on the radio while doing my field work on Saturdays (nothing else was on the radio, unless you wanted to listen to Auburn).  I even went to the ’79 Sugar Bowl when a friend got tickets and invited me on the road trip.  I had gradually become a fan, but, fully expected to one day leave Alabama and leave behind college football.  I still remember the conversation when it came time to buy student season tickets in the fall of ’81.

Ginger, “It’s time to buy season tickets.”

Michael, “I have never bought season tickets.  That is almost $80 and I do field work on Saturdays.”

Ginger, “You will buy season tickets and we will go to the games.”

Michael, “Oh.”

For her part, Ginger grew up in a family steeped in Alabama football.  To say that graddad was a fan was to entirely miss the passion. Ginger was simply raised Crimson.  Vandy be damned, she was going to “The University.”  But,Ginger’s football tradition was further shaped by years of sorority life – beautiful girls dressed to the nines, neatly groomed boys in three piece suits and starched shirts, bourbon poured from flasks into stadium cups of coke, shakers and yelling “ROLL TIDE” on beautiful fall afternoons when victory was virtually assured.  Life can be beautiful sometimes, and, oh to be young…

And roll they did.  They won national championships in ’78 & ’79.  Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant reigned over this kingdom like an invincible deity.  If asked the question from ghostbusters, “Are you a god,” there would have been no question.  From the hounds tooth and tweed hats that he wore, reminiscent of the time when a gentleman wore a hat, to his posture leaning against the goalpost watching the teams warm up, and the observation tower on the practice field, he was a transcendent presence.  While students sometimes made fun of his gravelly grumblings and seeming besotted confusion on his Sunday afternoon game replay show, in the fall of ’81 he was nationally recognized as the greatest college football and he was ours.

The ’81 season had not been perfect, however,  having lost to once arch rivals Georgia Tech and tied (yes that could happen in those days) a perennially weak Southern Miss team.  Perhaps it was the pressure of Coach Bryant closing in on the record of the winningest college football coach of all time.  There were whisperings of Bear having lost his edge.  There was a young black quarterback (never before at Bama) and discipline issues with a talented but cocky running back (Linny Patrick) who had just never really produced as expected.  Still, with one game left in the season, the record of 314 victories had been tied and a victory over our hated rivals Auburn, who were even more reviled because they were now coached by a Bryant acolyte who had turned coat, would seal the record.

Also in ’81 Ginger and I were approaching the end of our grad school days.  There is no other time in your life when you are so immersed in the process of intellectual becoming.  I am sure that it is the same for law school and medical school.  It is a selfish time of total dedication to this chosen academic profession and it is an insular and esoteric world not fully appreciated by people outside of the process.  Your community is small, dominated by fellow grad students and professors.  A large university and even a city spins around you mostly unnoticed while you read journal articles, debate the merits of the latest theory, and imagine your work to be on the edge of breakthrough.  Married grad students were rare and all but one that we knew at that time were divorced along the way.  Perhaps it is a sign that four couples also got together during these years and, to my knowledge, all are still together after 30+ years.  Having been there for several years and being nearly finished Ginger and I were medium sized fish in this small pond.

The biology department had gotten some grant money and over a year had the opportunity to bring in truly top scientists for multiple days of interaction with students and faculty.  We got to hang out and receive advice from people like Edward O. Wilson who had done both undergrad and Masters at UA before going on to Harvard to become the top celebrity scientist in ecology.  During the week prior to the Auburn game, a couple of guest scientists were leading a workshop in Ginger’s field.  They were actually developing mouse embryos in vitro, or outside of the female’s body.  Imagine that, in 1981, actual development, though short in duration, of embryos in a “test tube” incubation chamber and Ginger was learning the procedure from the two guys who developed it.  Although tops in their field, these guys were fun loving down to earth guys who insisted on being called Tom and Norm.  These were seriously fun guys, as well as being great in their field, and for a week Ginger & I were their social guides taking them out for fried catfish, to off campus bars, and generally having a great time, sometimes including an undergrad pre-med girl (Beth) who tagged along.

On the last day, Norm (the older guy) suddenly said, “before I leave, I want to meet Bear Bryant.”  Ginger’s major professor (Ron) said, “I think he is pretty busy.  He IS trying to become the winningest coach of all time AND beat Auburn this Saturday.”  Being bold, however, and having faith in The Bear, Ginger called up the athletic department and told them about the visiting scientists that would like to meet Coach Bryant.   “Of course,” they said.  “He’s not here right now, but he should be back soon.  Come on over and he will see you.”

So Tom, Norm, Ron, Beth, Ginger & I jumped in a car and drove over to the coliseum, an impressive structure that housed the basketball arena and the athletic offices.  We walked up two flights of stairs and into the receiving office of athletics.  There were three admin desks, each with footballs resting on pedestals signed by Alabama football legends like Joe Namath, Kenny Stabler, Lee Roy Jordan, and Johnny Musso.  On the walls were large aerial shots of the Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl, and Orange Bowl stadiums before any of these were in domed stadiums with teams lined up to run a play at mid field.  Our excitement levels grew as we realized the greatness that resided here.

Shortly, a phone rang.  “Coach Bryant will see you now.”  The attractive mid 40s lady escorted us down a long crimson carpeted hall past the offices of coaches of other sports and assistant coaches.  We came to a huge door with a plaque that said Paul W. “Bear” Bryant Football Coach and Athletic Director.  She knocked before entering and when the door opened there stood The Bear dressed in a suit.

The next few minutes is sort of a blur.  He apologized for keeping us waiting, saying that he had just returned from attending a funeral and remarking that, at his age, you start doing that more and more.  He politely asked what Tom and Norm did and listened while they tried to explain in awestruck tones.  Part way through, he laughed and said, I’m afraid that is all over my head.  Noting the camera that Ron had with him, Coach asked if we wanted to take a few pictures.  There was one of Tom and Norm with The Bear and one of Mom and Beth with The Bear.  Sadly, I was too shy and stupidly aloof to get into one of the shots, but, I was there.

Soon our time was up and we were ushered out.  We were all walking on air.   Tom and Norm were like kids who had just visited Santa Claus, talking constantly and pumping fists in the air.  Ginger was the hero that day, having had the nerve to dial the phone and arrange the audience.  As soon as we got back to the Department she called her daddy to tell him.

Norm and Tom left that afternoon with many thanks and fond goodbyes.  Ginger may have seen them at a science meeting, but I never saw them again.  Waiting for time to take them to the airport Tom and I were shooting hoops in the back lot of a local bar.  He asked, “So, you and Ginger, is it serious?”  It was the first time anyone had ever asked that.  “I guess so,” I said.  “It is good so far.”

That Saturday we were in the South end zone student section of the Iron Bowl at legion field.  I still had no clue as to how important that game was to both fan bases, but I knew that Alabama would fight hard to make Coach Bryant the winningest of all time and Auburn would fight hard to prevent it.  The game was close and hard fought with momentum swinging back and forth.  In the 4th quarter Linny Patrick (the running back who had been perennially in the dog house and generally failed to live up to expectations) took over the game ripping off multiple runs of 10-20 yards.  With the game finally secure, it was the first time I remember doing the na na na na hey hey goodbye song or rammer jammer (a truly obnoxious cheer where the band plays dunt duh dunt “Hey Auburn” dunt duh dunt ” Hey Auburn” dunt duh dunt “Hey Auburn. We just beat the hell out of you, rammer jammer yellowhammer give em hell Alabama).  What great fun!!!

Alabama had won, Coach Bryant was the winningest coach, and I was in love with this beautiful, brilliant, and confident girl.  It all fit together somehow.

In January Alabama lost its bowl game to Texas.  The ’82 season was disappointing with four losses and discipline issues on the team.  Coach Bryant retired at the end of the season, but won his last bowl game, the Liberty Bowl on a cold night in Memphis.  28 days later he passed away.  I-10 was shut down as the motorcade took him from the church in Tuscaloosa to the cemetery in Birmingham.

That May Ginger and I were married.  I married into an Alabama football crazed family and found that it fit pretty well.  It sort of all came together one gorgeous fall afternoon.

Curmudgeon in London

There was a great Warren Zevon song from the 80s called Werewolves of London.  It was one of those great songs that had a catchy opening chord progression hook that is instantly recognizable and pulls the listener into an otherwise silly little song about that “hairy handed gent who ran amok in Kent.”  Interestingly, the chords (DCG) are the same as the chords from Sweet Home Alabama but are played on a piano, rather than a guitar, and with a very different syncopation.   Still, great songs start alike, sort of, and the chorus of “Ah-oo werewolves of London…” is a fun howl.  You can find it on Youtube and with only a little bit of messing with the phrasing, you can turn werewolves into curmudgeon and use it as the score to walking about town with a scowl.

Now London is a great city with impressive sites and beautiful people.  To a certain extent, living here (even for a short time) is a privilege.  Still, it is congested, at times dirty, and not without its irritants that become curmudgeonly complaints.  Here are a few in no particular order:

 Gum on the streets – The streets of London are not paved in gold.  They are paved in gum.  In the busier parts of the city you literally cannot put a foot down on a sidewalk without stepping on a flattened disc that is now an integral part of the pavement from gum spat upon the street.  I really cannot imagine that that many people chew gum and, really, that that many people just spit it upon the street.  The evidence is right there, however, and  it is obvious.   Fortunately, it is usually dried and does not stick to your shoes, but it is there as a reminder of boorish behavior.  Yuck!

 Get that out of my face – In Houston, many intersections have people at them selling flowers, or washing windshields for money.  In Anchorage, the mid-town intersections are frequented with people with signs that invariably say something compelling like “wounded vet,” “homeless and hungry,” or “God bless you,” and they walk up and down gazing into the windows of cars stopped at the traffic light attempting to make eye contact and elicit a charity.  Those kinds of things occur a bit around London, but the pervasive and, I find, irritating thing is people giving away papers.  There are a number of soft news publications that are distributed around town and given away free (or, in some cases, with an implied hint for a donation) at entrances to tube stations and other high foot traffic areas.  These are basically flyers filled with advertisements around some modest stories masquerading as news.

So, I am used to Houston Press and Anchorage Press real estate offerings and other local news as being free give away rags available to the public.  The difference here is that, rather than simply placing a stack on a stand and letting people take it, if they want, here they hire unfortunates to hand them out and apparently train them to be aggressive in how they do it.  So, at the entrance to the underground, the exit from the underground, the top of the escalator at the office, every two blocks on the local high street someone is shoving something at you and saying something like Daily News(?).  On weekends shopping sometimes you have to pass the same person 2-3 times and still they stick the damned thing in your face.

It is a really small thing and really no inconvenience, but to Mr. C. it feels like the drip drip of water torture of invasion of space and interruption.  I try to signal, leave me alone, don’t stick that crap in my face, I don’t want it by refusing to acknowledge their existence.  Still, they stick it out there and ruin my day.

Stroller warfare – I will admit to being a part of that generation that turned the pretense of parenthood into a noble enterprise, rather than something that just happened to us.  We purchased and proudly displayed cautionary baby on board signs on our cars warning, and expecting, other drivers to take special care in proximity to our precious cargo.

Living in upscale Hampstead, however, the young parents, or their nannies, are seemingly everywhere taking up way more of their fair share of the sidewalks and commanding right of way, as if to scream, ” I have a baby here, can’t you see.”  So often, I have to stop or step aside to accommodate these baby benz’s with their plastic rain covers and little platform on the back for older brother or sister to stand upon.  I get it, hauling 1-2 kids around with you and dealing with all the crap is a pain.  Still, that is not quite my problem and I am not a second class citizen, simply because I am not pushing a pram.

While on the subject, I also have a curmudgeonly grudge against pre-school scooters.  Imagine the razors that were employed by adolescents in the early 2-thousands to jump curbs and skate around neighborhoods on a skateboard that had a handle.  These scooters are like that but have two wheels on the front to increase stability to the point that they are used to give wings to British tykes in the 3-5 year range.  These little s—s buzz around the sidewalks flying ahead of their calling parents and mindlessly tripping running old farts off the pavement.  Of course these beautiful British children obediently stop at each street, so as not to be flattened by cars.

Attack of the mummies – privileged British children, especially girls, have perfected the act of calling for  their mother’s in a way that drips of superiority and selfishness.  Mummy, I have done my homework.   Mummy, may I have a pudding now.  Mummy, MUMMY, MUMMY I demand your attention.  Enough said….

Walking abreast – In the 60s there was a popular comic called doodles that took random quick scribbles and made something funny out of it.  Imagine one large circle next to several small circles.  That was a mother cannonball walking her bb’s (ha ha ha).  One of those doodles that caught my adolescent attention was one with two stick figures on either side of a large circle with a smaller circle at its center.  This was two men walking a breast (snicker snicker).

That is not what I am talking about here.  What gets my goat is groups of people walking down the street or corridors mindless to the fact that their preference for walking beside one another forces others to avoid, step aside, or stop altogether to avoid being run down.  In my view, we must share the space that we collectively inhabit, and my right to hang with my buds should give way to free passage.  To be honest, this is certainly not unique to London and well cultured Brits tend to be hyper vigilant and aware of their impact of those around them, issuing a “sorry” in place of what Americans would say “excuse me” for.  London is, however, a city of many people and many cultures and not all are as aware, or, caring.

Connected and clueless – Okay, this is truly not a London only experience, but given the congestion of London streets and walkways, it becomes problematic.  We have become a world of people who are connected electronically but disconnected personally to other people, or, our surroundings.  We get on airplanes and trains, and collect in public places ignoring those around us, in favor of our handhelds flipping our way through cursory life.  Now, in London, it is considered rude to intrude on others around you by gazing at them, or, listening in to their conversations.  Everyone effects the thousand yard stare, so as not to intrude.  So, what else to do with your eyes and mind, but to engage in on-line or electronic games, and yes, I use my kindle.  It becomes an irritant, however, when people walking down the street are unaware that they are approaching someone and force them to take evasive action or stop completely, simply because they were selfishly clueless.  I want to snatch their device and smash it to the ground while yelling, “get into your life.”

Enough rants from a COF (cranky old fart).  I do truly enjoy living in London.  Congestion aside, it is quite the life experience.  Ginger & I jumped on the Tube last sunday and were quickly at the Tower of London, strolled across the tower bridge and along the Thames to London bridge.  Not bad.

 

Adventures in Backcountry – Just the Beginning

 

Backcountry skiing is not something to embark on cavalierly. Unlike resort skiing, backcountry is unforgiving and, for some, deadly. To enter into the backcountry safely requires training, gear and acute gumption.

This winter my goal is to rock backcountry terrain.

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For me, this is a goal that three years ago would not have been remotely possible. Now it is pretty much all I think about. To the extent that it is not uncommon for me to watch a single ski clip multiple times throughout a day and with each iteration my muscles twitch for action. In reality, my body nor skill set are at the level needed to be successful.

So how does an individual begging prepping for the backcountry experience? First, educate yourself! Learn as much as you can about safety, terrain, avalanche risk assessment and rescue techniques. This endeavor has, admittedly, been a bit difficult for me as I like to learn by doing and that is not safely possible. If you are unsure of where to start I recommend, http://www.americanavalancheassociation.org/.

Conditioning is also immensely beneficial for a positive backcountry experience. Conditioning should include three things in my opinion: cardio, weights, and more squats than thought to be generally rational.  Also all conditioning should, if possible, start way before you begin dreaming of skiing.  I swiftly learned on my first day in “side country” that although I think I am in decent shape; I am not.

Next, get people involved with your quest. Especially those who have experience and don’t mind spending time helping you figure stuff out. Work out, skill practice and generously thank these people as they are your Virgil in your ski purgatory.  Most important: share the stoke! Outdoor experiences have a keen ability to create lasting relationships. Embrace it, these people will likely be lifelong friends.

Another necessary step is to inevitably get the appropriate gear. No longer will just skis, boots, bindings, polls, water resistant jacket and pants suffice. In order to be safe/capable one must now acquire beacon, shovel, probe, skins, touring bindings and possibly different skis and poles. These items are not cheap but can be bought through Craig’s list or eBay at a fairly low-cost.

Once you have completed aforementioned steps it is then time to start practicing skills on undeniably safe terrain. This is my current juncture. Over the weekend I took my first steps into the realm of backcountry terrain. It was fantastic and very educational. In a short amount of time I learned that I have a good bit of knowledge to obtain before being remotely proficient. Best of all though, I was able to demonstrate to myself that my crazy season goal is obtainable. It will take a lot of time, energy and patience but it is obtainable. I can’t wait. Bring on winter 2015-2016!

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Wedding Update Part One: Thank God for Etsy

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I finally feel like I’m making some ground on the Whole Wedding Thing. In the past couple of weeks, fast approaching my two-month engage-iversary, we’ve checked several big items off our to-do list.

Premarital counseling: Because everyone needs a good counselor. Our Pastor from Canvas Church, Chris Parrot, will be leading out premarital counseling. Unfortunately since Jarrod is in North Dakota and not traveling to Houston as often as he thought he would, we’ll be doing perhaps the first-ever teleconference premarital counseling. We’ve got that scheduled for June.

Wedding dress: By Olivia Zavozina at Nordstrom. This was the fifth place I went (David’s Bridal, Blush in Austin, BHLDN, Impressions and finally Nordstrom). I was so burnt out on wedding dress shopping I was seriously considering just buying one online. Then my bridesmaid Sarah Neill asked if she could go dress shopping with me and she set up the Nordstrom appointment. We were all the way at the end of the appointment when I showed my consultant Rachel a dress I liked online. She went and pulled the dress and said, “let me tell you why you won’t like this.” Well, I did like it and I’d finally found my dress.

Shoes and earrings: In the moments following purchasing the dress, I had a mild freak-out in the Houston Galleria parking garage and started The Endless Scroll which is when you (I) scroll for an embarrassingly long amount of time looking for The Perfect Thing. Sitting in the parking lot, I bough a pair of shoes, earrings and brooch to wear with the dress. Though the purchases were for sure impulse buys, it’s a weight off of my shoulders that I know longer have to worry about those things.

Veil: I bought mine on Etsy. It’s a dead-ringer for the pricey veil I fell in love with at BHLDN but cost only only a fraction of the price.

Reception tables: I’m thrifting glass from Goodwill and that is going well. And its just another reason to hit all of the thrift shops…like I needed a reason.

Reception site: AvantGarden. This art house is really special to me because my church has done art shows at this venue for several years. It’s cool that now I can do my wedding reception here as well.

Ceremony site: First Christian Church. The ceremony will be held at First Christian Church. This is where Canvas Church has held Christmas Eve services the last several years. Our church meets in an elementary school, so unfortunately that was not an option, but we are both so excited to be able to have our ceremony at First Christian.

Room block: We have a room block set at Hilton Americas in downtown Houston.

Save the Dates: Ordered those today!

Meanwhile, I have a million little projects going on. I’m learning calligraphy so I can hand-address the Save the Dates – so don’t you dare open it and chunk it in the trash. Really though, I might cry. Just kidding.

When I think of you, I think of roses.

MomandMeDear Mom,

When I see roses I think of you. Roses remind me of hours spent tending the dirt gingerly pruning  each plant and a look of simple content after days spent in the sun. Watching you tend your garden growing up provided me with patience for nature and an appreciation for the attention needed to bring beauty into our world. I hope that one day I have roses so that you can come to my garden and help me tend them.

Another thing that reminds me of you is Goodwill. Countless hours spent sifting through rows upon rows of used clothing to find that one marvelous thing that some silly person thought was of no use or out of style. It always has amazed me how skilled you are in this endeavor. As much as I may have protested in high school about wearing a used formal dress I am incredibly proud that my dress seldom cost more than $50 and was always unique. It set me apart from the rest of my class and I have you to thank for that. Not to mention, it instilled in me an appreciation of unique used clothing. Why buy something new when you could buy something used for a fraction of the price?

Mom, above all thank you so much for being my Girl Scout leader and encouraging me to continue participation in the program. Many women I know started scouts but quickly left simply because they didn’t have a leader like you.  You made scouts fun and took it upon yourself to ensure that we were given diverse experiences and skill sets. Because of your dedication I and other girls were able to horseback ride, sail, rock climb, start a fire without accelerants, and most importantly view the world from other peoples’ perspectives.

I would not be who I am today without your love and guidance.

Happy birthday Mom – may your day be filled with sunshine, roses and love.

Sarah

 

Engagement story: A trip to California to remember

I had an editor once that told me never to bury the lead – so, J and I are engaged!

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J has a training in Bakersfield this week, so months ago he invited me to go on to Los Angeles with him the weekend before.

Unfortunately, a couple of days before the trip I got ill. But it was nothing that a little (a lot) of Mucinex D couldn’t tackle, so Thursday morning I boarded the plane.

I arrived at LAX just in time for J to pull up in the new Mustang convertible he rented for us for the weekend. We were going to the filming of the Jimmy Kimmel show, so we quickly headed into town to grab something to eat and go wait in line for the show.

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We ate at Hard Rock Cafe and were served by a waiter named Elvis who had long painted, pointed black nails.

Back on Hollywood Blvd. we went to find the long line waiting to get into the show. I love this picture of Jarrod.

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The show took us into the evening and we were both so exhausted that we skipped the post-show Neo concert and went to the home that we’d rented on Airbnb (Thanks Mary Nevaire for turning us on to Airbnb. We can’t stop using it.)

The home is owned by a couple and their love of fine art is apparent. Every wall, including the laundry room and bathrooms, has original art hung on it. Gosh, the house was just beautiful. Both of the guys are in the entertainment/television/movie business so they had really interesting stories to share. One of the guys had a cousin and his friends in town from Denmark, so they were also staying at the house. I think Jarrod’s favorite part of the trip may have been talking politics and healthcare with the guests.

Here’s a picture of their backyard. Mark described it as “English garden meets drought-proof.”

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Friday we slept in and enjoyed a vegan breakfast provided by our hosts. We then headed out to the beach and took a small walk, ate at El Coyote and visited a vintage store called It’s a Wrap. The store sells castoff clothing items from movie and television sets. I got a jacket from True Blood! We finished out the day with a hike up to the Hollywood sign (after napping in the car post Mexican food in a random rain shower)(Don’t tell Jarrod, he “didn’t” fall asleep).

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Saturday (big day!), Jarrod planned on us driving up the coast on the PCH. We made it through Malibu and suddenly hit a block in the road. Apparently there was a mudslide a few months ago and the highway is shut down. So, we stopped for lunch and were advised to head to Santa Barbara.

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The drive was amazing. Because we were circumnavigating the mudslide we drove through beautiful tree-covered mountains, all the time with the top down in the convertible. Sorry for the crappy car window pic:

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We made it to Santa Barbara and very quickly had to turn around and head back to Malibu for our 5:30 dinner reservations. I had a hint that something was up because Jarrod usually doesn’t make reservations days in advance and we never eat while the sun was still up, but I thought he was just trying to do something special and didn’t think much more of it. I was convinced that since he hadn’t asked up until this point that he was not going to ask on the trip at all.

Well, the drive back took longer than expected and we were literally racing against the sun.

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We got to the restaurant and were disappointed to find out that the table J had requested along the railing was not available. Usually we’re go with the flow kind of people, but J asked me several times if the table we were put in was really ok. I thought his persistence was odd, but again, didn’t think much of it.

We had drinks and a fine dinner. Our waiter was lovely and attentive. As the dinner was winding down I was certain that nothing was going to happen – we were about to order dessert! So, I got up to go to the bathroom and give myself a pep talk.

On my return, I launched into a conversation with J about the inside of the restaurant and, I’m horrified to admit, the shape of the doors to the restrooms. They were round. It was weird.  J interrupted me and said, in a very serious tone, “I love you.”

I was like, “Yea, yea I love you too. But I’m mean those restroom doors…”

And Jarrod started fishing around in his pocket and pulled out the little black box.

I was shocked. And the rest of the evening is guessing because it was a blur. He asked me to marry him. I kissed him. He said, “Is that a ‘yes?'” I said, “Yes!”

People were clapping. (I now know that the waiter had gone around and told everyone that J was about to pop the question. Major pressure.) I finally looked around and saw that the waiter had filmed the whole thing on J’s phone, including my opinions on the bathroom doors.

The waiter then led in a series of poses to take photographs – again, all a blur.

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The next couple of hours passed texting and phoning friends and family. There were some questionable gifs exchanged between Kyle, Jarrod and Layne…

The next morning was a hard goodbye. We said goodbye to our new LA friends and headed to In-and-Out Burger where we ate double cheeseburgers and well-done animal fries.

I’m back home now and still recovering from California-time. I’ve yet to start blowing up J’s phone with wedding ideas, but that’s coming soon. He’s already busy with all of my home renovation emails.

To Be or Not To Be a Skier

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In a land of snow and ice I stand on a precipice. My chest heaves with anticipation as my breath billows in wispy clouds before me.  Looking down I search for a path of least resistance. To my left and right snow capped rocks peak out as if to remind me of the hazard that lies beneath their pristine facades. I need no reminder. My mind hums with a thousand possibilities. Only some of which would NOT result in my hospitalization.

This is the first time I’ve followed Steve and his friends down un-groomed terrain. This is my first time to ski out-of-bounds. Standing, looking down the steep slope in front of me I can’t help but feel uneasy. I’ve never thought of myself as a skier and certainly not a skier who tackles out-of-bounds terrain.

In my boots I am literally shaking. A queasy feeling rises in my throat. I think to myself that there is no way I can do this and not crash horribly, probably directly into a rock or tree. In my mind I see myself in a hospital bed. I want to go back. I don’t want to do this.

Then, I look up. I look at Steve. He is smiling. “You can do this” he says. “No, I can’t” I reply.  “Yes, you can. But if you want to hike out I will go with you” he assures me. Looking up the slope we’ve just come down I recognize that hiking out really isn’t an option. Taking a deep breath I stare down the snowy chute in front of me. A part of me wants to cry.

IMG_20150111_131031488 “You’ve got this” Steve says. And with that, I point my skis down hill, lean forward, and let go. Light powdery snow  swells  up around me. A couple of quick turns later I am staring up at Steve from the bottom of the chute. I made it.

For the rest of the day it is impossible for me to wipe the ear-to-ear grin off my face. Even later when I crash and  snow drips down the back of my pants I jump up squealing with glee. I tested myself, passed and earned the right to  be called a skier. It is an amazing feeling and I can’t wait for our next adventure.