Jim

Kickstart My Heart, Part II

So. While I was headed down to the gym earlier tonight (at 10:30! What a joke!) I was struck with the most certain terrifying thought that if I didn’t write down all of the wedding weekend festivities, I’d just…forget.
I mean, hey, we all say things like, “It was a night we’d never forget,” but…well, a girl gets old. Stuff falls out and between the cracks. And besides, I want to share this with peeps who weren’t able to go.
So I’ll give you the rundown of the weekend now. But in the interest of space and your own sanity, I’ll save the rumination for later. There’s a lot to think about.
Got that? Boring timeline now; potentially boring reflections later.
Okay. So when last we left this blog, it was Wednesday afternoon and Lara and I were picking up Ms. Jody. We collected a bizarrely baggage-less girl, and although gullible me just shrugged when Jody waved her small carryon backpack at me and said, cheerfully, “dress and shoes, that’s all I need!” it proved to be that the airline had lost Jody’s luggage.
So we spent part of the trip out of Vegas trying to find mobile phone spots in which Jody could bark at the airline, trying to figure out when her luggage was going to get to Death Valley. We had a minor detour during which we stopped at WalMart and Michael’s to pick up some odds and ends*, and then it was finally, finally off to Death Valley. We checked into our individual rooms, said hi to Jim and Scott and Nichole (Jim’s best man and our officiant, respectively), and then, delight of delights, got a text that Peter was already at the resort, family in tow.
We met Peter for drinks and some light eats at the Corkscrew Salon, and then hot-footed it back to my suite to put together gift bags. This included some small disappointments: The letters I’d had the resort print out came out in a different, decidedly non-1920s font, despite my spending some time having chosen a specific look, and I forgot to add the location of the post-race BBQ to said letter, so Jody spent some precious time and energy writing the location on each of the 52 gift bags. Nuts. This might be why the scene in our room looked like this:

[photo: Jody]
In the end, though, everything looked OK.
photo: cousin Rachel, wicked w a camera
It felt a little bit surreal. I’ve never undertaken such a large-scale “craft” job, unless you count the time I made all those bracelets for Terry, and that was just with Jim helping. This time, having two of my closest friends nearby, felt strange, especially with Kim Kardashian yammering in the background. I still don’t know why Lara chose that channel. But I said I wouldn’t ruminate.
Okay. So. The next morning we gathered for breakfast and then showed Lara and Roj (he’d arrived earlier that morning) and Jody around the ceremony and reception site, and then, with Scott and Nichole and our friends Kathy and Jeff in tow, we finally set off a little after lunchtime for a trip to the nearest sites available to us, Badwater Basin, the Artist’s Palette, and…something I can’t remember right now. Oh, right, the Natural Bridge.
Here’s Badwater.

Photo: Lara


Yes, yes, that’s me and Roj tasting the water. I daresay, I think my plank is better than Roj’s, although I will confess I had a dangerous time of actually getting up from the dip that was required if I was going to taste the wine of the desert.
Here, I like this photo:

Photo: Lara


And here’s a photo from Lara’s camera of our group. Lookit all the friends!

Jody and Lara and Roj and I went back to the Inn, where Jody and I went to sit by the pool and chatted up the race director, and then we ended up deciding that it was a good time to head up to the bar with Lara. The text messages started coming in then; Jen and Ken; Kara Andersen, and Jim stopped by, and I know there were one or two others, but I cannot remember now.**
Dan and Audrey arrived then, and we had drinks up in my room, and then eventually my parents and my brother and sister-in-law pulled in, and after getting them all settled in, we went out to dinner down at the Ranch, where we ran into a whole bunch of other friends, like Ed and Kathleen and Peggy and Amalia and some other people*** and it began to sink in just a little bit that everyone was gathered here for a reason.
It was a most delicious sensation. But I digress.
The next day was race day. We got up and dragged ourselves down to race start, where, oh! joy of joys! My parents AND Kara’s were waiting, to take pictures of the race start, and we heard that Lara had indeed decided to undertake the marathon with Jody and Jim’s brother Jon and his trainer TJ. The half-marathoners were me, Roj, Kathy, Jeff, Kara, Rachel, Ed, Kathleen, Peter, and Dustin. And Jim decided he was going to do the 10K. Here’s this lovely lovely race photo!

Kathleen and I ran almost all the way together. I’m sure I was holding her back, but by mile ten my hamstring was seriously jacked up and I told Kath to go on. We had a nice run together, anyway, and I enjoyed the company and stopping to take photos and the scenery and all of it. I do love that race.
I came in nowhere near where I wanted my time, but there’s not a whole lot you can do about crap training.
Roj won his age group, and Jody won her age group in the marathon, and and and … well.
After that, we stumbled back to the hotel and did stuff I can’t remember, like…ummmmm. Gosh. I really don’t know. This is awful. I know I was with Jim. Maybe we were looking for my parents. Maybe we hung out with my brother? Maybe we hung out by the pool again. Or maybe I went down to the Ranch to hang out with Jody. No, that’s not right, cos I was back at the Inn in time for rehearsal.
Yes, rehearsal!!
Here was our wedding site, pretty much:

Photo: Alan


If you look real closely you can see all the chairs set up for the ceremony in the upper right hand corner of the photo.
So rehearsal happened, and then there was a post-race BBQ where there was a ton of roasting and a ton of laughs and just some really good times and apparently the cameras didn’t come out until, at 8PM, it got windy and we all repaired to the bar at the Ranch.
Oh. My.
It was crazy buffoonery and there was rather too much drinking for the night before a wedding, but hey, what the heck. You only live once.
Jim went to stay in another room (why? why? I will never understand this), so when I woke up hungover then next morning at 5:45, having been awakened by the howling whistling wind, I totally freaked out. And I called Jim.**** This is the problem with outdoor weddings, you see. Things could Go Wrong.
Well, they didn’t go wrong. The wind died down, we took our pre-wedding photos, which included a little bit of this:

Photo: Nichole Donje


and some of this:

Photo: Scott Allinson


and finally some of this:

and then we went back to the Inn and put our feet up for a wee bit, and then there was a ceremony and some vows and then there was this:

Photo: Matt Siber

Photo: Scott Allinson


And then there was an Epic Fricken Party with the best friends in the world and a pretty good after-party, and that’s all I have to say about that for now, cos this post is SO LONG.
But I will risk a bit of rumination and just say here that it was one of the two best weekends of my life, for a few reasons. One, everyone who was there mattered. Really, really mattered. And two, it was the best ever for its normalcy. Think about it: We had drinks and dinner, we ran a race; we had a post-race BBQ, and then we had a big event and everyone went home happy.
This is the way every weekend should be.
Next post, some Deep Thoughts. Well…some thoughts, anyway.

*these included some gift bags and an item of clothing which I will er, reflect on later.
**See? How awful is that? I’ve already started to forget! If someone out there is reading this and was there, could you remind me?
***Seriously, brain is for shit.
****It would have been so much easier if we had been together, so I could have just pounced on him and yelled, “MAKE IT STOP!” instead of doing it over the phone.

Writer, editor, general crazy-pants.

Kickstart My Heart

Last night, one of the students in the class I’m teaching on the essay wrote about one of the moments that she’ll never forget in her life. She relived the two days leading up to her wedding, and how special they were, in part because of her father’s cancer’s remission and the homespun nature of her wedding. These things combined allowed her to experience her father as if they were just leading casual normal lives, instead of prepping for a major life event on the heels of a narrow scrape with death.

Her recounting prompted me to recount my own wedding week, although I’m not one to air things like planning details and information on color choices and whatnot. After all, Jim and I have been together for so many years; it seemed almost a superfluous task, to tell everyone we know and love that we’re  together and committed. It’s hardly a newsflash.

But that’s another story, another argument, and the fact is, when we set out to plan this event, we did it with the full knowledge that what we were planning was an event to honor our friends and family, and the role they’ve played in our lives. What we got was so much more than that, and so quintessentially us, that I fear we’ll never be able to plan a better event.

The whole thing started, as do so many, with a sporting event. I’d run the Death Valley Marathon two years ago, and been rapidly enamoured of the place and of the event; it’s a low-key gig with no starting gun, no big finish banner, no TV coverage. The landscape is ridiculously gorgeous, the entire venue, indeed, perfect, and we wanted all of our nearest and dearest to experience it.

So we planned our wedding around the race and around the Furnace Creek Inn and Ranch.

Lemme tell you, there is something tangibly delicious about sharing something you love with people you know will appreciate it. As always, there was some worry, because Hello! Death Valley?? Even the name is off-putting. But whatever.

Wedding week started off with insanity. I didn’t know if I’d make my flight out because of a massive storm that was brewing and threatening to cancel a ton of flights, so I left twelve hours early. That was interesting in and of itself, and if I needed any more proof that Jim’s practice of making lists was the way to go, well, let’s just say that if I hadn’t made the list, I’d probably have forgotten everything that mattered. It turns out I didn’t forget anything–quite the reverse! I had so much stuff that we couldn’t find one or two things.

I got into Vegas, where Jim was already spending time with Scott, his best man, only three hours late. Not bad. Crashed into bed and slept for a whole three hours before I had to get up for a 7AM conference call; then went back to bed. Vegas was CHILLY. So not cool. I mean, cool, but not in the way I wanted.

Jim left the next morning to get to Death Valley, and I was left with a nice quiet day with which to wander around our hotel, get to know it, book appointments and hunt down various needs, and then, after an hour or two of work, Lara arrived. Oh, joy!! We’re in touch quite a bit via things like chat and Twitter, but we only get to see each other once a year, so it was nice nice to have her in person. Our suite at the Hard Rock had a wet bar and some nice stereo system, so we chilled with a beer, and then, just as Lara was needing to really get to sleep (it was 4 AM UK time), we went out for dinner.

There is something really heartbreaking about watching a friend fall asleep in her salad. We each had a margarita and then crashed into bed at around 9:15. Yes, yes, we did.

And if that doesn’t sound very Vegas to you, guess what we did the next morning? We ordered room service, admired the view of the parking lot from our hotel room, finally tottered off to our manicure appointments, and then spent the rest of the day in the strip malls looking for things like craft supplies and outlet malls.

We did, however, find a gorgeous dress for Lara and a really cool top for me, and then it was back to our suite for a quick change and a civilised glass of wine, and then off to see “O” at the Bellagio. Dinner later at Noodles, and then back to our suite again, where we sat up and chatted until midnight.

How lovely!

Do you want to know why there are no pictures of our brief time in Vegas? I’m convinced it’s because we were too busy taking advantage of the proximity of good friends. That, and the combination of too many things to do and the need, for me, at least, to preserve the memory in my head and heart rather than on film nullified the desire for photos.

We did room service yet again the next day, quite happy to be lolling about in our big fluffy beds with pillows all around and the weak February sunlight filtering through the screens, meandering from room to room when we felt like it. It was lovely. Really and truly lovely. And then, before we knew it, and after a lot of messy packing on my part, we had just enough time to scoot over to the Bodies exhibit at the Luxor.

So here’s what I’m saying about experience vs. photographic evidence. Obviously, photos are meant as memory aids. Some really skilled photographers can produce evocative evidence of the things that happened. But in some cases, the photo just can’t even come close to the actual experience, and it’s even depressing to think of how do try and capture, at least for a lumpily unskilled sort like me.

Case in point? The Bodies exhibit. Obviously we weren’t allowed to take photos in there. But I’ll never ever forget discovering it with Lara, each pointing out the sheer wonder of the things, and marveling at the beauty and work of some of it. I also will never forget me sniff-sniff-sniffing, faucet-head-o-rama, and Lara going, “Do you want a tissue?” I don’t know why. It was a particularly tender moment, only underscored by the fact that Lara didn’t, in fact, have a tissue to offer.

Eventually we went to go pick up Ms. Jody at the airport. And I’ll leave the rest of the trip for another post, because the rest of my day beckons.

Writer, editor, general crazy-pants.

Photo crazy

Is it art?

Sprocket doesn't think so.

I call this one "study in noodles"

We went to the PepsiCo Gardens with Jim's family.

I like this sculpture of a bear crawling out of the pond.

I also like the filagree pattern this tree casts on the ground.

Wow, look at the pooch on me. Not the dog, the belly.

Lillies! I like!

big fat tadpoles were on every stalk of the lily pads.

Love this angular tree trunk. Dunno what happened to it.

I went to Philadelphia last Wednesday. Nice city. Great clients.

The sky over White Plains on Friday evening was wonderfully Hudson-River-School-like.

I caught Jim mooning over this deluxe edition of Stratego.

We took our friend Anna, her soon-to-be stepsons, and her fiance on a hike in Harriman. Here are the stepsons.

Here's crazy dog Sassafras, Joe, Anna, me, El Jefe, and Sprocket,

Sprocket got wet.

I went into the city yesterday to meet my friend Alexandra for lunch. She was in from Chicago. We had a picnic on the High Line and I got a burnt nose.

The MTA set up a TV in Grand Central so everyone could watch The World Cup finals. Beat sitting in a sweaty bar.

Perfect clouds again over White Plains

Look! The Ritz-Carlton building is the same color as the sky! Or maybe it's just a reflection. 😀

Writer, editor, general crazy-pants.

‘sTrueth! A good time was had by all.

Jim and I spent the weekend at the Trues’. I had a ridiculously busy Friday that involved a ton of networking (which, it seems, could be a full-time job even if you’re not actually following up on any of the networking with anything concrete); took some time off for lunch with a friend here in White Plains; and then bolted home to throw some final few things in a bag and drive up to Boston to squeeze in an overdue visit to an old friend before heading out to Melrose via the convoluted-but-beautiful Route 1. (Evans: Are you reading this? You are next.)

(Only in Boston would a relatively straight course end up looking like a misguided bowl of noodles.)

This route goes over the Tobin Bridge, by the way, which is stunning, to say the least.

photo: Estrip.org

Anyhow. We went to visit my friend Sarah, who had her baby boy, Jesus Jr., back in late December. I don’t know why there is only this photo of me, Jim and JJ and none of Sarah, me, Jim, and Jesus Sr. It seems people disappear when there are babies involved.

Baby Jesus is cute. He is just like the teddy bear he looks to be, warm and squashy and round.

Jesus and Sarah took us to the really great Village BBQ, where I had beef brisket, and Jim had…something I can’t remember. Jesus had hot wings whose flames could only be quenched by tequila, and Sarah had an entire rack of ribs. Have I mentioned that Sarah is but a mere waif? I never understood where she put the food. For that matter, I’m not sure where she put Jesus Jr.

Then it was off to the True household for a promised weekend of mountain biking.

That didn’t really happen. I mean, Jim and Colin went, and came back suitably muddy. The story is that Jim executed an awesome endo, but there were no photographs. However, as these were the photos that happened that night, I think it’s obvious that everyone had a good time. Indeed, Jim look properly relieved to have gotten out of the afternoon with nothing more than a good endo story to tell:

We girls went to hot yoga instead. It was very, very hot, although I know it wasn’t the 100 degrees on the thermostat. It was aggressive and I had some sort of aggressive woman next to me who flexed her hands wide open when she was doing Warrior and jumped back and forth with an annoying plip plopping noise whenever our instructor said to “jump or step back into upward facing dog.” You could see her tendons and she seemed to be very competitive. Anyway, Carli lost the lid to her WaterBox and it went rolling in a lopsided confused way underneath me before she caught it, which sent me into fits of snorting laughter that, thankfully, no one but Carli heard, I don’t think. This must be why Carli and I look so composed in this photo, because all of the giggling snorts had been sweated out of us.

Lily is a right proper angel.

Most days Carli is, too. I said most days.

Later on that night there was watching of the most ridiculously gleeful movie ever, The Hangover. Bradley Cooper has incredible hair in that movie. And that’s all I’ma say about that.

Photo: David Gabber, TopNews.in

Er. What happened just now? I got distracted. Oh, right, the weekend.

Perhaps one of the most cliché-and-yet-not moments of the weekend was when Colin dragged out his home videos, made back when he was, oh, I can’t remember, eight or so. People. You’ve never seen home videos like this. To be fair, they were shot by someone I think was an aspiring filmmaker (not Colin, but a childhood friend of his). There are sound effects and visual effects and great costumes and fake fighting and everything. They are from “Peter/Paul Productions,” with a proper nameplate, and they. are. hilarious. Seriously. I think I might have liked watching clips of those better than I liked.

Bradley.

Cooper’s.

Hair.

What? Ahem.

Okay, so we knocked off to bed shortly after that, as Jim had to get up the next morning to ride in the King of Burlingame time trial race. People. Watch the video. Sometimes I cannot believe Jim rides this stuff. Sometimes I am sick with envy.

King of Burlingame Time Trial

Other times I look at that and go, “Agh, mud, trail erosion…eeeEEEeee…bridges!” In this case, I was not around to see the actual race; I was inside the car, trying to get a head start on editing the newspaper. We left shortly afterwards, and stopped on the way home to consume what would eventually be The Bane of Our Existence.

Doesn’t it look benign? And lovely?

It was, at the time. And then, four hours later, it was not, as Jim and I were rapidly overtaken with horrible food poisoning. I still haven’t decided if I can write up a Yelp review of this restaurant. Jim has fond memories of it from his days working in Groton, CT at Pfizer, but…oh, le sigh.

Anyway. So our wonderful weekend fizzled to a stop, as we both, in separate rooms, moaned our ways through the night (we didn’t know if it was flu and didn’t feel like passing it back and forth to each other). Jim gamely went to work Monday morning and I moaned my way through all of Monday and into Tuesday morning and now finally feel 100%. I am convinced that the hot yoga which made me sweat out all of the water in my system contributed to a slower recovery time for me.

Anyhow, we’re already halfway through the week, and I ahve a ton of work to do, because I have a houseguest coming Friday and things to do in the city tomorrow evening, I think, and then I am going to Haiti on Sunday.

Yes, I’m going to Haiti on Sunday. More on that later.

Bradley Cooper’s hair!

What?

P.S. Carli made this thing out of WikkiStix. I have never heard of them until this past weekend, but I was suitably impressed:

Writer, editor, general crazy-pants.

A life in six eBay items

This weekend I spent some time working through my closet and dresser. Both are jammed full of items I was sure I didn’t use very often–life has changed a lot in the past few years and I’m a bit of a packrat, especially when it comes to clothing. So I went through both and set aside a stack to Freecycle and a stack to eBay, and was left, at the end of it, feeling very tired and pretty drained.

I think this is because going though all that clothing was a lot like going through pieces-parts of my life. It wasn’t until relatively recently (1996?) that I started to like clothing and figure out what worked for me, so going through clothing is like watching my life move before my eyes. Giving it away is a little bit like giving away pieces-parts.

Here’s what’s in someone else’s hands, or floating on the Interwebs, as we speak:

1. Peach Banana Republic handkerchief-hem dress:I wore this dress exactly once and bought it something like eight years ago. Originally, I purchased it for a friend of mine’s 60th birthday (we were all asked to wear pink to underscore an inside joke) and ended up going with another outfit instead. I wore this instead to a friend of ours’ 30th birthday. This is the first time Jim and I had ever been to a party together where we both knew the person being celebrated. And this is the very first time I ever saw my girl Anna in something other than spandex or sweats. Obviously, me and Anna’s relationship has changed quite a bit since then, veering more towards the above than anything in spandex. 🙂

2. Red Benetton suit

I’m not sure what possessed me to buy a suit in bright red, but it worked for me. It was definitely a power suit of sorts, even if I did look a little bit like a realtor–or Nancy Reagan, eurgh. If I still fit into this suit (when I bought it I was at my trimmest, a svelte 128 and neurotic), I’d perhaps dress it up with something other than the black tank top I usually wore it with, but back then, it was enough to be busy all the time, working, effectively, two jobs–one for a not-for-profit and the other for a career I wasn’t sure I wanted–and living a crazed social life. Life was fun, outrageous, and more than a little uncertain and inelegant. Life then was a lot like this suit.

3. “Jog and die” T-shirt

So. This is interesting, this one. This is probably the most recent acquisition to go (2006?). First of all, it shrank in the wash.

See? It is teeny tiny on me (I’m on the right). Second, the time I bought the shirt, I must have been feeling very aggressive: On the front of this tee it says, “Jog and die.” At the back hip it says “yes it hurts.” I like the sentiment of this tee, but the reality is, although I’ve been heard swearing profusely on race courses in the past, that was all for show, some kind of sick need to be heard exerting myself. (I bet I was a grunter in the gym, too.) I’m not an uber-aggressive athlete, and on the days that I do feel aggressive, I tend more to seethe quietly on the inside and be internally annoyed at either myself or competitors. I’ve found, for me, that swearing does help, but swearing quietly helps more. It’s what I’ve settled on, and I don’t need to shout about it as much as I used to. So–out it went.

4. Laundry by Shelli Segal LBD

Every girl needs a little black dress. Somehow, I settled on this one for my 25th birthday. It cost me an arm and a leg at the time, but I loved it, and it was by far the most daring–and, at the same time, classically shaped–item of clothing I owned. The thing is 32.5 inches from top of shoulder strap to end of hemline. There are no photos of me wearing this thing. Probably for the better.

5. Gap linen dress, ca. 1994

Sweetheart neckline, nice lichen-green color. I purchased this dress in Boston, I think, on my very first real job. (I guess by “real” I mean it was out of state and my mom didn’t get it for me.) I was an intern at the Atlantic Monthly and had free rein to purchase what I wanted to, since I was also working at a $5.75-an-hour job at Brookstone in Copley Center. It was a great summer. I had a terrific time, and came home with items like this and a long-distance boyfriend. It was a little bit big in the bust and a little short in the leg, and I only wore it twice. Also, I was a bit of a chunky monkey back then. Anyway, I think, after years of wearing boyish plaid or struggling to find something that really worked for me, I went a little girly-nuts in the opposite direction. (As I recall, I also came home with a pair of vegan Mary-Janes.) The last time I wore this dress was out on a picnic with friends with Lincoln Park after a trip to the zoo in 2007. The best thing about this dress? There’s enough material in the skirt that you can sit cross-legged and not expose the world to your undies. I will miss this dress when it goes. If it doesn’t go, well…I’ll probably wear it again.

6. Thomas Pink plaid shirt

Another item from the working days. Each of the four years I worked in a high-paying job in the city I went out and purchased two Thomas Pink shirts. I went for the trimmest fit, since I had by then figured out what my body shape was and liked it, and was just getting into colors. I favored narrow button plackets and deep or French cuffs. My first pair of cufflinks was based on a Frank Lloyd Wright design and made from sterling silver. They were like a talisman. The year I left my job, I lost them. Anyway, I was introduced to Pink by an ex-boyfriend, a guy whose parents were Old New York and who Knew About Such Things. I bought this when Pink still made their shirts in Great Britain (they’ve since moved their production to Myanmar, or summat), and so I don’t buy them any more. Anyhow. An era gone. I’m not sad to see this shirt go; I never much liked it, and a good friend of mine once asked if I was going to a hoe-down when I saw him for lunch in it. Sigh.

Writer, editor, general crazy-pants.

Perhaps our last snow day

It was near fifty degrees out yesterday, so Jim and Sprocket and I went for a stroll at a nature preserve that I’ve been reading a lot about, but haven’t actually visited myself.

The Teatown Lake Reservation is in Ossining, New York. They are the hosts of Eaglefest, an annual event celebrating that most noble of carrion-eaters, and have 15 miles worth of hiking trails. They’ve been in our local news quite a bit, as they’re about to acquire another 72 acres of land as part of an open space initiative.

It was such a beautiful day out, bright sunshine everywhere, and, obviously, mud, as all of the snow that was piled up from the previous weekend melted. There were lots of people out everywhere–the overflow parking lot was full–and although we didn’t get to visit the nature center, we did have a really nice day.

I wore my slick-soled Blundstones, which proved to be a big mistake–the snow, which was wet and heavy, was also packed down in enough places where folks had walked earlier that day. Anyone who’s ever skied in the late afternooon knows what that means: mini-berms everywhere, some iced over, some mushy, some hidden under kicked up snow.

I had my twenty-pound pack on, too, all of which combined to make our 2.5-mile walk quite adventurous, at least insofar as my core, hamstrings, ankles, and knees went. Here are some photos.

I love this bridge, although I wasn’t able to capture the running water and the reflections it made on the rocks just above the brook. Jim crossed this bridge stomping at the crusty snowy bits and kicking them off, all in the guise of making it easier for future visitors to walk and not slip, but he inadvertently let loose his true intent by muttering, under his breath, “DESTRUCTOR JIMMY!” Sigh. Boys are so transparent.

I love these trail markers. They were everywhere. I was very tempted to pull them off and use them as coasters in my own home.

There’s apparently a permanent orienteering course at Teatown. Very cool. This marker says that if you turn 96 degrees from looking at the sign and walk 23 paces, you’ll find the next marker. Orienteering. The sport that proves that the universe makes sense, after all.

Why does everyone say “mossy green”? Personally, I prefer this color, which I am calling licheny green. Okay, so they’re two different colors. Still, this one is preferable to me.

Some deer had been before us. I did not take pictures of the deer poo. This was good enough evidence.

Spotted this way-cool underbelly of tree. Looks like a massive star anise. Good for a garnish on a massive cocktail.

Overlook Trail is very very short but very steep and slippery and sometimes treacherous. At some point I slid down on my rear. Stupid pack!

I liked this little wishbone in the snow. Sprocket was completely insane on the ride up there. Now he is lying flat on his side, moaning. He must be pretty pooped, too.

I hope this is not the last of our snow days yet, although it’s supposed to rain later this week, and I must confess that standing outside in nothing but shirt-sleeves was really nice this morning.

In May we will have been here a year. It hardly feels that way…!

Writer, editor, general crazy-pants.

Florida, and what I found there

Almost exactly a week ago I began a long trip to Florida via Philadelphia. I met my friend Bill in Philly so we could catch a plane to Florida and ShelterBox USA’s winter workshop meeting. It was terrific to catch up with Bill and spend some quality time with him, and to see other friends I hadn’t seen in a long time, and meet some people I’ve been communicating with on the telephone or by e-mail.

Really, really cool stuff. Of course, today the work begins–I’m back to scheduling stuff and just waiting, waiting, to go on deployment while I steal a few moments here and there to devote to my other clients.

“Other clients”–ha! as if ShelterBox is a client! Still, I find the work they’ve set upon me interesting and a natural extension of the work I’d be doing anyway. However, now that I know I have some folks depending on some productive results, there’s an added extension of pressure. At the moment, I’m itching to deploy. It seems all of my friends are going! Agh. Nothing to do but move forward and wait for the call.

In the meantime, here’s some of what I saw in Florida.

nickjimmies

Erica picked me up from the Winter Workshop. We got locked out of her car–it was still running!–and E’s brother Nick tried to make it right. Three older folks (we were in Florida, after all) stopped by to help, and two hours later, the locksmith showed up.

This bird seemed to think it was such a good sight that it stuck around to watch how we did.

birdWe had lunch and then we went back to Erica’s place, where we walked Russell, Erica’s dog, and I met all of Erica’s various pets and friends:

erussellstarThere is no photo of either bunny, the cat, or the fish cos, respectively, I am a bad photographer; the cat and I had a raging fight and I have started to referring to it as North Korea, a la Erica’s boyfriend Kevin; and I did not want to scare the fishies with the flash on my camera.

Anyway, E and K went off to Tampa to celebrate Valentine’s Day and I proceeded to spend the rest of the night editing, watching the Olympics, and fighting with the cat.

I went to volunteer at the ShelterBox USA offices the next day. Good fun. Busy. Crazy.

The following day E and I went to the Ringling museum to check out the Norman Rockwell exhibit. It was way, way cool.

eringlingCool, right?

And then I go to meet Lindy for lunch! Lindy! Lindy! Lindy from my ARFE life! Crazy! She’s started up her own company based around Nordic Walking…we had a really lovely day on Siesta Key, and I realized that I need sunglasses if I’m going to do this kind of thing. I mean, I have them, but I’ve been wearing my spectacles a lot, and I wanted to see everything crystal clear, so I went without on this bright day. What a moron. Needless to say, I went and ordered a pair of photochromic glasses then next morning.

melindyWe walked about five and a half miles along the incredible sands…they were beautiful. I was so grateful and happy to see Lindy. It’s not that I had despaired of ever seeing her again, but I didn’t know if we would stay relevant to each other after she left her job and I left ARFE. But personalities don’t change with jobs, and I always liked Lindy. Along the way we did this:

shadowand saw a bunch of terns lined up like a runway:

ternrunwayand also discovered these things:

seablobLindy says they’re “seablobs.” Jim is informing me over my shoulder that they are actually jellyfish, and that he and his friends used to throw them at each other when he was growing up in Rhode Island. Yuck!

That night I had dinner with some ShelterBox USA board members and then drove home to hang out with Erica, read, watch some Olympics, and have a glass of wine.

Next morning, last day of my stay in FLA, Bev, another SRT, came and picked me up. We had lunch at Simon’s, a lovely little whole-food joint. I had some gorgeous haddock wrap thing with smoked gouda and a mango salsa. Yum.

mebeve

it was an hour ride to the airport filled with terrific conversation, then, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

I had a great time. It was well worth the effort to go down there. If I hadn’t, I doubt I’d be either as energized or as overwhelmed by the work ahead. In the end, the added energy and sense of cohesion about the organization–and face time with key folks, friends, and admin alike–make it all worth it.

Writer, editor, general crazy-pants.

In the mud

I have read a lot of words these past few days, working on the local paper doing some copy-editing and writing for them, and then reading a working draft for a friend of mine. Busy is good, but the past few weeks have left me with very little inspiration for my own work, or even my essays, which are due in a work or so for the MFA applications.

So here’s a photo dump.

We went home on the 22nd for the hols and spent the night before going back to Claremont with my brother and his fiancee, Laura, making sugar cookies.

They were not the most perfectly shaped things:

Xmas trees, not shrubs.

Xmas trees, not shrubs.

And then we frosted ’em.

finishApparently I enjoyed myself.

pigI also got smacked down for making this cookie, which was, in Laura’s words, “Not your best work, Yi Shun.” Hmph.

To be fair, Laura added the weird white drizzling.

To be fair, Laura added the weird white drizzling.

Then we went home to Squaremont on the 23rd. We went to the Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Garden, where I’d only been once before. I thought it absolutely gorgeous. There is something really magical about a desert garden and the sheer variety of desert plants.

I've forgotten what this is.

I've forgotten what this is.

This is a manzanita berry shrub. Isn't it gorgeous?

This is a manzanita berry shrub. Isn't it gorgeous?

Winter sage, paired with manzanita berries. Love the contrast!

Winter sage, paired with manzanita berries. Love the contrast!

Fishbowl!

Fishbowl!

My town is best known for Mt. Baldy, which serves as our everyday backdrop and has nice bowl skiing when it’s not dusty and dry out. I haven’t been there in years, but the view of it is always in my head.

memtbaldy

Adrianna spent the night on Christmas Eve (we banished mom to the living room and Jim, Adri and I cooked). Mom got drunk later. I didn’t get nearly drunk enough.

testing the tonality of her wine glasses.

testing the tonality of her wine glasses.

We had a very active Christmas Day. We all exchanged presents and then we went for a walk in the hills with like, a gazillion other people who all had the same idea.

pneguinparents

My parents look like bookend penguins in this photo. adorable. I look like a treetrunk.

And then we picked up Kara and went to Laguna Beach to sample some incredible Japanese food. First we had more exercise in the form of a nice walk along the beach.

I love this photo! Two of my favorite people are smiling!

I love this photo! Two of my favorite people are smiling!

When we finally got back to New York, our friend Dave was happily ensconced in our place awaiting our arrival. Then Dave left and Jody arrived. We spent a lot of time doing this:

sitting on the couch in our PJs, I mean, not picking at split ends.

sitting on the couch in our PJs, I mean, not picking at split ends.

And then there was New Year’s Eve. Alan and Helene came up to a very loud place in White Plains. We ate a lot of food and had some margaritas and then we exited the madness, but not before this photo was taken.

NYE2And then the next day we went to Jen’s for a New Year’s Day party

NYD

And I think that’s quite enough photos for today, don’t you think? Meh.

Writer, editor, general crazy-pants.

Gwen Bell’s Best of 2009: Place

December 11 The best place. A coffee shop? A pub? A retreat center? A cubicle? A nook?

I really had to think about this one. In the end, I picked the most mundane of places: our current apartment. Back in Chicago, we lived in a huge, drafty 1400-square-foot spot. It was a ton of room and badly put together, and, frankly, I didn’t want to be there. Chicago, I mean. I got to like it by the time we left, but it wasn’t my idea to move there and it took me a good long while to just shut up and live in this terrific city for however long I got to experience it.

It's huge! This room isn't even the bulk of it! (New Year's, '05)

It's huge! This room isn't even the bulk of it!

It was in an awesome, post-Victorian-era greystone that had been gutted and re-done. We liked it, but it had so many elements already built in, like an original sideboard dating from 1912, when the building was built, and pocket doors. High ceilings and poor insulation made the place super-chilly, so we ran the fireplace a lot. Perhaps the thing I hated the most was the fact that it was so big that Jim and I just spread out. Things got lost and hidden, and, with the addition of basement storage just below us, it was a recipe for way too much clutter.

We lived on the first floor, where the front door is, of this house.

We lived on the first floor, where the front door is, of this house.

Also, I had a terrible habit of walking around without either my contacts or glasses in, so I probably didn’t see the clutter part of the time. It was awful.
Before the move to Chicago, we lived in a small place in Croton Falls, New York. It was about 750 square feet. It was Jim’s place; I moved in when my Manhattan roommate got married. It felt tiny, expecially for two people who owned two bicycles apiece and, eventually, a 19-foot kayak. But we loved it. It was Sprocket’s first home.

Our back door was arched and exited onto a massive porch. We loved it. So did Sprocket. (Fuzzy!)

Our back door was arched and exited onto a massive porch. We loved it. So did Sprocket. (Fuzzy!)

Anyway, in May this year we moved from Chicago back to New York State, to White Plains. It’s a weird place. The social divide here feels tremendous at times. But our apartment? I love it. We’re back down to 1100 square feet, and the missing 300 square feet has allowed us to regain some of the efficiency we had when we were living in 750 square feet.
Now, when we’re done cooking, we put things away. We store extra things in the storeroom. We keep most stuff stores away in cabinets. It’s not perfect. But it’s closer to the way we want to function.
Perhaps best of all, this new home was a blank slate. Aside from the obnoxious radiators, which stick out of the wall and reduce the published living space by something like 20 square feet in each room, it had no quirky features whatsoever. So it’s truly become a place that we’ve made our own, and in full partnership.

our couch in Chicago was big enough for three hounds & three people! 98 inches!

our couch in Chicago was big enough for three hounds and three people, all at once. 98 inches!

So this is the place I call home. Really, really and truly. Not “Jim’s place, which I crashed into,” or “our Chicago apartment (we had to move for Jim’s job),” but “our place.” Great things will happen here.
Oh, and there is a spare bedroom and a spare bath, and spare keys. Our friends are always welcome.

I have wanted an Arco lamp forever. it's too big for the room, but whatev.

I have wanted an Arco lamp forever. it's too big for the room, but whatev.

galley kitchen; dining table under bar, funky lighting.

galley kitchen; dining table under bar, funky lighting.

elements of a bedroom: lamp, ratty old bear; books; lint brush; 400-count sheets.

elements of a bedroom: lamp, ratty old bear; books; lint brush; 400-count sheets.

elements of an entryway: a Sprocket and a ShelterBox. Um, yeah.

elements of an entryway: a Sprocket and a ShelterBox. Um, yeah.

Writer, editor, general crazy-pants.