Thursday, October 23, 2008

I love this city. I could relocate here and be happy, despite the fact that I'm not a Mormon. Everyone is friendly and polite and gives money to their homeless people. And their public transportation is free within in the confines of downtown, which is fantastic for me.

I got to the airport in Charlottesville yesterday, and for once, everything went fine. Minus the weird guy I sat next to on the flight from C-ville to Atlanta. But I got seated next to a mom and her adorable baby girl on the 3 1/2 hour flight to Utah. The mom was my age and Mormon, and therefore had 100 different suggestions on places to go and things to see that tourists might miss. She even recommended I make the drive down to Provo and come out to photograph the gardens by her. She said if I missed all the autumn stuff I used to do in Michigan, I should come out and do the corn maze in Lehi.

Usually I hate being seated next to moms and their little kids when they're traveling in lap. It's always squished and no baby can be happy for that long on a plane. Hell, I tend to get cranky myself. But we were in the very back, and this woman was supermom. She brought her daughter on the plane in a baby sling (like me, she thinks strollers the size of Jeeps are just a pain), and brought this neat cover so she could breastfeed and no one would know. Well, I knew, but the woman was next to me and did all her maneuvering undercover. Never saw a thing. We were also lucky enough to have the center seat between us empty, and her adorable little girl fell asleep for a big chunk of the journey. Of course there was fussing. But not a whole lot of it. I had a blast playing peek-a-boo, and everytime I giggled, she'd giggle. It was a riot!

I picked up my rental car, and, lucky me, they were out of compacts. I am rollin' in some sort of SUV with enormous blind spots. And since I picked it up at night, when I got to the hotel and couldn't locate the trunk button in the dark. So I had to drag my suitcase out through the backseat. Checking in was fine, my room is huge for a standard. Room service rocked because they brought me two cans of soda instead of just one. And yes, it is soda in Utah.

I woke up this morning way too early. My hotel has a Starbucks, so I got a latte and tried to plan out my day. But I couldn't figure out where I was on all my maps, so I got dressed, grabbed my coffee, and went to guest services. Five minutes and a marked up street map later, I walked downtown. It took me almost a half hour, but I meandered and enjoyed my coffee. It was so breathtaking to cross the street and see the Mormon Temple come into view. If you look at the rest of Salt Lake City, you wouldn't guess it's there.

After wandering around the square a little, I took the advice of the nice woman on the plane and headed to the conference center. When she said they gave guided tours, I thought I'd be with a group of people at a set time. But when I walked in, I was greeted by this nice older woman who asked how much time I had, and since I was in no hurry, she took me on the long tour. Just me.

The conference center was finished in 2000, and can seat 21,000 people on three different levels. There is a massive organ with almost 8,000 pipes. They were building stage risers during my tour, and everytime a hammer hit a nail, you could hear the phenomenal acoustics. I got to go up in the balcony, and I can confirm there isn't a bad seat in the house. And on the roof they have a garden. I don't mean a little garden. I mean with trees and fountains and a field. The sweet guide and I chit chatted for awhile and she hugged me when I left.

The next stop was the church office building. This is not some little office in a corner of a basement, like in so many churches. This is its own building, and it's 28 floors. The secret is the observation deck on the 26th floor. Ok, so it's not a secret, but you'd never know if someone didn't tell you. Security there was tighter than at the Pentagon (and they laughed at the information desk when I told them so, explaining that it wasn't for any other reason than the security of the employees in the building, like many other businesses....I guess that makes sense). You could see everything from the deck, and I got some really fantastic pictures.

On the recommendation of the guest services guy at my hotel, I caught the Trax train over to the planetarium and the outdoor mall across the street from it. I toured the planetarium and saw a show, then went shopping. I've known for awhile now my wardrobe needs serious updating. And the Ann Taylor I went to had a stellar petites section. I came out with skirts and tops and jackets and tights and even some new shoes. (Note to Sara: remember all those jackets I tried on out there, the ones that looked great except for the sleeves? I found one with the same shape and much smaller sleeves. You'd be so proud!) The store had some really great deals, and I got 15% off my whole purchase. And did I mention the skirts were all size 8? And I no longer wear a large in shirts or jackets? That's what I call progress. I even got a cap sleeve top because my push-up toned arms are looking awesome.

At this point, I was loaded down with a bag half my size from the planetarium gift shop with a huge and heavy puzzle in it, and three bags from Ann Taylor. I was headed toward the Trax stop when I saw a Victoria's Secret and decided to pop in. Can't do any harm, right?

It's been a long time since I lingerie shopped. As many of you might recall, the last trip bra shopping was to Penney's, and I dragged my husband with me to hold the stack of potential undergarments while I stood there and swore because they weren't fitting. I ended up with a couple that fit ok, but I've lost 17 pounds since then, and nothing fits anymore. And the sexy stuff? It hasn't really been necessary for a long, LONG time. Two husbands in a row who deployed means I have no clue how to shop for all those little lacy things. Yeah. Me. Clueless. I know, who'd have thought?

For those women who haven't gone to Victoria's Secret for a bra fitting, and can afford to invest in bras, I highly recommend you stop in. Honestly, there have been many years where I couldn't afford their bras and made do with what was within my price range. While I was standing there clueless, a nice woman came up and asked if she could help. I explained that Jere was going to be home on R&R, and she told the sizing specialist exactly what I wanted and why I wanted it. So the sweet lady sized me (17 pounds, I haven't lost a bit of cup size, hooray, because I thought they shrunk a lot, but it turns out I just lost a couple band sizes), and what they do is hand you a box of all the different bras they carry and send you in to try them on. You take out what you like, they write it down along with your size, and then they take you out to the store, find the bras in the right size, help you pick out a color and matching panties if you'd like them, and take you to checkout. There was no hunting, no frustration, and I came out with some really cute matching bras and panties that FIT! I walked away so happy. And the best part is now that I know what I like, I can go to their website and reorder anything I want. Until I lose 30 more pounds, that is.

I'm back at the hotel now, after having dinner at the restaurant downstairs. Duck breast with fig and mushroom sauce, yum. And I got another latte to take back to my room for dessert. Tomrrow is another day, and I should probably map out a plan. So excited, but a little afraid of getting back in that SUV.

Today's lesson: You don't have to leave the country to enter another world. You may just have to explore a new city to learn about different cultures and enjoy someone else's history.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Found the cat's sanity. Now where's mine?

Ginger is now flea free. It was very lonely last night sleeping without her, but she got the run of the rest of the apartment while I holed up in my room. I kept waking up every hour to go check on her and let her know she didn't do anything wrong. This morning, I let her come up on the bed with me so I could take the flea comb to her, and she was free of the little buggers!

However, the house is not fully sterilized yet. I overestimated the ability of my water heater and my own motivation. After getting through my room, my bathroom, the dining room, and the kitchen, I was exhausted. So I got up this morning and did the living room and started on Jere's room, once again running into the hot water problem. Luckily, all the rooms that aren't finished have closable doors. I know fleas can get out, but my cat can't get in. Besides, anything that touches her will drop dead.

Right now I'm annoyed because I've got a bit of a lady bug problem. I went to the new girl in the apartment office and told her yesterday that there were upward of 100 of them crawling around. She made a note and said she'd do a work order and maintenance would be out today. I waited all day. No maintenance. Surprise surprise. I probably sucked up 75 of them during the day, and just got another 40 with the vacuum attachment off of my ceiling. Yeah, they like the nice, soft, pink light from my lamp.

At what point does it become a good idea to break your lease? Is it when you complain about the fact that you get more bugs in your apartment than you ever had in your entire house when you lived out on a farm? Is it when your favorite girl in the front office quits (always a sign something's gone wrong)? How about when your neighbors creep you out, or they start coming around for apartment inspections that are supposed to be announced but never are? Twice now I've been in my bathrobe and the apartment wasn't picked up when one of the office girls, the maintenance guy, and the exterminator have gone tromping through here. Luxury apartments my ass. I'm moving back to the ghetto, where there are no bugs.

Actually, I will be moving in the spring. Back to Jere's old apartment complex, closer to his mom and with bigger, better bedrooms. The closets are smaller, but they can fit more. And I'm looking forward to a walk in pantry and being around the corner from Michael's and Panera Bread and Target. OH TARGET!!!!!! And the mall. I'm going to miss being so close to Andrea and our cute little downtown, but it's not even half an hour away.

Today I made a spa appointment. For those who don't know, Jere will be home for his R&R in less than three weeks. I have to thank my ex-husband for one thing (um, specifying because I have to, my second husband). When I married Jere, I came in with military wife experience. Because of that, I know that the next three weeks are going to drag along and make me crazy. Part of me needs to keep busy, but another part of me needs to hand out the most frustrating tasks to other people. That means I'm going to pay someone else to do the mani/pedi and the unpleasant waxing of things, and I'll get a massage and facial to boot. The cleaning and obsessive worrying? I'll keep those tasks for myself.

I'm sure you all will hear more about preparing for R&R in the next few weeks. I have so many goals that need to be accomplished. The biggest is dropping the last three pounds to get to my R&R goal weight. We'll see if I have the motivation and patience to do that. Going to Utah next week will help as long as I keep busy. I'm going to go raise my blood sugar with some chocolate cake now. I can feel it dipping too low.

Today's lesson: You have to learn that there are limits to what you can do. None of that "the sky's the limit" bull. The sooner you let someone else pick up a stressful task or stop when you've hit your breaking point, the sooner you can enjoy your sanity.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Sanitizing for my cat's sanity

Ginger and I have fleas. Well, technically she has fleas, but as the vet told me, if I hadn't caught it early, they'd multiply and come after me. On top of which, Dr. Brown informed me that I gave her the fleas, as she is an indoor cat and one must have come in on my clothes. Living next to a field filled with ladybugs, spiders, crickets, ants, and grasshoppers, I'm not surprised there are fleas in that field as well. Great. So we have fleas.

Today was my first time meeting Ginger's vet. She's been there a few times, but they've always done her medical stuff when I'm on vacation and she's there for boarding. I absolutely love him! He's older and friendly and didn't once make me feel like an idiot for not noticing the fleas. He even showed me how to find where the cat and her fleas have been in my apartment so I could sanitize. He suggested I have the exterminator come, but after I told him about the field and the other pets in the complex, he decided it wouldn't help. My indoor cat is now on monthly flea treatment, and I have to be more pro-active about grooming and vacuuming. I was, of course, bemoaning the fact that I'll be spending the day washing everything, but he assured me fleas were more fixable than stress or allergies (which was what I thought was going on). He shook my hand on the way out, commented on how beautiful the day was, and told me to open the windows and enjoy it. "It's a beautiful day to kill you some fleas!" Ha.

So that's what I'm doing. I'm starting on one end of the apartment and working my way across it. My room is first, as Ginger doesn't spend any time in here until the evening and I can close the door without her freaking. The doc said her fleas will be dead in 12 hours, and told me to call if she didn't stop itching within a couple of days. We went three hours ago, she's already stopped itching. Fantastic! In fact, and this is kind of gross, but it made me happy, she was sitting on one of my piano books and you could see the dead fleas falling off of her. My baby is going to feel so much better!

Praises for me, by the way. The vet tech who was helping the doc told me Ginger doesn't look even close to her age. Her eyes are clear, her body functions are good, she's well groomed and at a perfect weight. I'm a good mom. And after I told the vet that Ginger was an old lady, he said, "Naw! She's not old yet." That made me feel so good. He said she hadn't scratched herself raw or anything, just a couple spots, and wanted to know how I knew something was wrong. "Honestly," I said, "she started sleeping on the other side of the bed." She'd stopped sleeping on my left and had started sleeping on the right. Can you tell I have no kids? I know my cat's sleeping habits enough to be concerned when she's being weird.

Well, it's time to switch out the laundry. And sanitize the bedroom, since the bathroom is finished. After that, I'm shutting her out of here and waiting for the flea meds to finish their job before I do the rest. May as well get it all at once.

Today's lesson: Never underestimate the knowledge you can gain from being observant. It may keep you from being attacked by fleas.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Another Happy Sunday

Writer's block. I have it. Normally, I have a ton to say. That hasn't changed, as I've had some really great ideas float through my head lately. But the motivation to put it together just hasn't been there. I think the California sun fried my brain. Which is actually fine with me, except that I had to come home and try to get back to normal life. I need a writer's vacation. Like Colin Firth takes in Love Actually. A quiet spot on a lake with no distractions. But I'd bring my cat.

Unfortunately, I don't have the time for that. I'm booked through the end of the year, and then I start school. That's right. School. I finally qualified to go to college as a Virginia resident. Everything fell right into place with the transfer program and the finance stuff. To be honest, if there had been a snag with either of those, I wouldn't have followed through. I've tried to go back to school here before, but something always got in the way. And in less than a month, I register for classes. Somewhere in there, I need to meet with the transfer advisor. Busy girl!

Today is Sunday. Once again, my favorite day of the week. I got up. I went to get coffee and a donut. And I saw a man get out of his car with his two little girls. The older one was carrying the newspaper like it was made of glass, straight out in front of her. They were at the cash register next to me, and he ordered two bottles of chocolate milk, and let the girls pick out what donuts they wanted. The girls stood there and debated and picked out their donuts like it was the most life changing decision ever. And they all sat down at a table, the girls with their milk and donuts, dad with his paper, and quietly hung out.

I've never been able to imagine my husband as a dad. And this is not an insult to Jere (seriously, hun), but for those of you who know him, try and picture him changing a diaper. Are you imagining it? You can't, can you? Jere, at 45, does not seem like a diaper changing man. However, while watching that man and his daughters today at Dunkin' Donuts, I actually saw what kind of dad my husband will be. He's going to be the dad who chills out with his kids and spends mornings giving them sugary foods before he brings them home for me to deal with. It makes me even more excited for him to be home so we can have a family. Someday.

There's a lot of change coming down the chute. There's school and an upcoming move closer to Jere's mom. And after Christmas, it'll be time to buckle down into full fertility diet mode. I also suspect the doc will increase my meds, making me a sick girl once again. But finally getting the right diagnosis gives me hope, and the motivation to do my part. And I really have done my part so far. I've lost 17 pounds. 17, yeah, that's right. That's a little less than a pound a week since Jere left. Slow and steady. And permanent. No more of this yo-yo diet crap.

Well, it's piano practice day. And we'll see if I go to the gym or not. Maybe a little distraction will kill the writer's block.

Today's lesson: There's beauty and inspiration in the little things. Like watching a man with his kids, or looking in the mirror at 17 pounds that are no longer there.

Note: In case anyone doubts what a huge accomplishment 17 pounds is for anyone, know that a gallon of milk weighs 8 pounds. 11% of my body weight. That's two gallons of milk I'm not dragging along with me anymore. Good for my heart, good for my knees, and good looking in a pair of skinny jeans. Only 3 1/2 more gallons of milk to go.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Everytime I come here, I never want to leave

October 4, 2008

I have to say, California is one of my favorite places to be. There's just something about the warm weather, the water, and the shopping that makes coming here bittersweet everytime. I always seem to do my craziest things in California.

The first time I came out here, I got a tattoo. A big one. Don't get me wrong, a large reminder of my second marriage on the back of my neck is not my favorite souvenir, but I wouldn't trade doing it for anything. I was supposed to stay with Tami for a week, and ended up staying for three. I wholeheartedly blame her for this California fever I've seemed to develop, what with all the boxed wine, nights sitting on the porch laughing, and tacos at 9 AM.

I've made it out here to Cali twice since then. The second time was for a cruise that took off from LA and went to San Diego, Catalina, and finally Mexico. It was April and the weather was sunny and gorgeous. My favorite part of that trip was shopping with my sister on Hollywood Blvd. and seeing the Chinese Theater. Everything was such a landmark of Hollywood, and finally being there in person was fantastic.

And now I'm out here again, for what I'm sure will not be the last time. This trip is the most different of my experiences out here. I'm out here visiting my friend Sara, who is adorably pregnant. And she and her husband live on the Marine base. So I'm staying at her home. If you get in the car and drive 20 seconds, you can see the ocean.

So far we've made it to the zoo, SeaWorld, and went shopping. Shopping is so much more fun when you have people to do it with and tell you yes or no. I ended up walking out of the stores with a new Coach purse, and two beautiful dresses from BCBG. And having Sara and Rickey there to help me pick out dresses made my life so much easier.

Yesterday I was even treated to hearing her baby's heartbeat at her doctor's appointment. It's truly an experience that will knock the wind out of you, and I was completely fascinated. But the best part of that was glancing over at her husband and seeing him listening to his child's heartbeat.

And are you ready for this? Today I'm going to learn to surf. Or, more accurately, I'm going to learn to wait and be pushed into the waves. I'm charging the extra camera battery so Sara can take a ton of pictures, and all of you can laugh at them later. I know my husband is quite looking forward to some hilarious photos.

Today's lesson: Travel doesn't always involve hotels, rental cars, and rushing to see and do everything. In fact, the best travel doesn't include any of that. Having the time to sit back and enjoy your friends is quite possibly the most rewarding vacation of all.