Monday, December 28, 2009

Home, and an open letter of apology

There are so many things about being home that I love that I can't even begin to list them all. I couldn't stop grinning as my flight came in yesterday afternoon. Paul was at the airport to pick me up, as has become custom for my trips home. I think it started when I was dating Zac long-distance and Paul decided he needed to hear how the trip went before anyone else did. (Since it's all Paul's fault that I ended up with Zac in the first place.) Now I just assume that each time I arrive home at MSP it will be Paul, alone, picking me up from the airport and driving me to my parents' house. It's a nice chance to talk to him for an uninterrupted 20 minutes.

I got to my parents' house, took a quick shower and got ready for Christmas 2009 vol. 2. My cousin and her husband are also in town for the holiday, they moved to New York City at the same time that Zac and I moved to Hawaii, and so everyone was together once again. The house was packed, I couldn't talk to everyone as much as I wanted, and the kids (Lincoln, and my other cousin's two daughters, Maddie and Hazel) made an enormous amount of noise. I basically just laughed, amused and pleased, through the whole evening.

So this is where the apology needs to placed:

To all of my Minnesota friends, whom I love dearly, I will probably not be able to see you on this trip. As much as I would love to spend a day (or two or three) with each of you, catching up and enjoying each others company, my time here is short and I've found that I want to devote most of this trip to family. We're planning an old-school Ayers/Erickson trip to the cabin (a.k.a. the Dome) to celebrate New Year's, there are a few birthdays that need to be observed, and I simply need a family re-charge. I've missed Megan. A lot. And I know she's missed me. A lot. And we need some sisterly bonding time. And that's what it takes - time. And on this trip in particular (only seven days) I don't have a lot of it.

Next time I'm in MN I plan on making it a friend-friendly trip, with time for socializing, wining and dining. Next time I'll be calling people ahead of time, booking hanging-out timeslots. You have been warned. Also, consider that I live in a tropical paradise and have a spare bedroom plus a fairly flexible work schedule. I would only need a few days' notice to provide shelter for you if you were to, say, find a cheap plane ticket to Honolulu.

I've been desperate for some tradition this year and tradition is hard to come by in a fairly young marriage, living in a fairly new location. I was so content last night at Christmas. Supper, presents, dessert, laughter. And the promise of a few days at the Dome with the fireplace roaring, playing in the snow, lighting sparklers and then playing cards while we thaw out is just what I need to experience some family traditions. It's not that I don't want to see you all - I truly do - I just have a crowded priority list this time. I promise that it won't be long til you hear from me or see me again.

You know that feeling you get when you're being pulled in a hundred different directions and it stresses you out so much that you're just miserable about everything? I didn't want that to be me on this trip, wanting to spend time with everyone and not being able to do it, thus feeling overwhelmed on the whole trip. So I decided on the plane ride here that I needed to make a tough decision and that decision meant limiting my goals for this round.

You guys know I love you. My world is better because you are in it. Much, much better. A phone call, a blog entry, a Facebook status, an e-mail - you guys make me laugh, cry, and feel cared about. I hope you all can understand and forgive me for making you wait (however many months) until I get to see you again. My friends are never far from my thoughts and always near the top of my list of things I am grateful for.

With love,

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Vancouver? Maybe not. But bunny hill? Yes.

So I'm not an Olympic-caliber skier (yet) but I did survive my first runs down some greens (and accidental blues) out here in Tahoe. Success.

Yes, Zac and I are back on the Mainland. Oh, how I have missed you, my sweet, sweet Mainland. We arrived at the San Francisco airport late on the 17th and we headed up to South Lake Tahoe Friday morning. I am not a skier by trade. At least downhill/Alpine. I've done a little bit of cross-country/Nordic skiing before, but I've never thrown myself down a hill on skis. Zac has been skiing a few times out in Colorado with his brother and he loves it. When we decided that we would be visiting Zac's sister outside of Oakland for Christmas this year he decided we needed a few days of skiing up in the Lake Tahoe region. He planned the whole excursion, and I am proud to say he's done a helluva job putting together a vacation for us. (Well, except the losing money at roulette table part, but that was really beyond his control. Evil wheel of doom.)

We stayed in a casino on the Nevada side of South Lake Tahoe. Apparently there are numerous ski resorts scattered around the Lake. Maybe 15 or so? Most of them are up toward the Northwest corner of the lake and we were on the south shore so we usually had to drive anywhere from 20-40 minutes to get somewhere. The drive wasn't bad except for the super-scary switchbacks that dictate 10 mph and kind of make you want to poop the first time you drive on them. (After the first time you kind of cruise through them. And that was with me, Miss Defensive Driver operating the car.) We lucked out and had great weather and didn't have to use the snow chains for our tires - until today, but we're not to today yet.

On Friday we left Zac's sister's house and drove up I80 to Travis Air Force Base to rent ski gear. Once we loaded up the car we made our way to our hotel/casino/home base of Montbleu. Saturday morning we got up and headed to a place called Homewood. We picked our ski locations based on the discounts they provide to active duty military (and sometimes family members). Homewood has the most generous policy by far. I highly recommend it for anyone active duty who wants to take the family skiing. We signed me up for an all-day ski lesson so I could learn what to do while Zac spent the day reacquainting himself with skiis. (This also was suggested to us to save our marriage - one spouse trying to teach the other spouse how to ski apparently has almost ended marriages.)

I was nervous for a few reasons. Falling down isn't high on my list of things I like to do. Also, I was afraid that my teacher would be some teenage, X-Games-wannabe who was only interested in looking attractive to the opposite sex in their uber-trendy winter gear, noshing on chili fries in the chalet and who only worked there so they could snowboard for free. Luckily, I was very wrong. Because Homewood is a smaller resort, it has less people traffic which means I was in a class of two students taught by an exemplary teacher named Laura. (Who was not a teenager, but more of a snow-loving/live-to-teach/women's-power type - loved her!) I started the day not being able to do much, but by the end of the day I did two runs on my first (very short) green. Zac was pleased beyond words that I had conquered my fear and kicked a tiny bit of tail. Laura was so cool that she said that if we came back to Homewood on Monday, she'd come over (her day off) and spend another hour or two with me to refine my skills for free. Loved, loved her.

Sunday we headed to another resort, Sierra-at-Tahoe. The tops of my feet and the lower fronts of my shins were destroyed from the ski boots of the day before and I could hardly walk, more or less attempt skiing. So I sat in the chalet with my book and some coffee while Zac spent the morning hitting the slopes. We were both happy. Monday we decided to head back to Homewood, but I decided not to call Laura because Zac said he was willing to tackle the longer greens with me. The ones that start at the top of the mountain! Ack! While I have much to learn about the art of getting off the damn ski lift, 0-3 in my attempts, I had a blast. After the first run that is.

My first run down the hill scared the bejeezus out of me. It looked sooooo steep and I couldn't believe that the runs were green. (Green=easy, blue=moderate, black=hard, double black=we'll meet you at the bottom with a neck brace and snowmobile.) But Zac was my trusty navigator and we eventually made it down the mountain after more than a little freaking out by me.

Now, to set the scene, whenever we drive anywhere and we don't know where we're going I navigate. Apparently there is a reason for this. Maybe because Zac is a terrible navigator. I did not realize how terrible until Monday. Because when we got to the end of the run and up to the chalet, where I was sucking down a hot chocolate in an attempt to calm my nerves, we looked at the map and we realized that Zac had led me down two blue runs and totally missed the green run we wanted. On one hand I wanted to beat him about the head with a ski pole, on the other I was grateful that I knew I could make it down a blue run without dying a terrible death and was keen on taking on a green. But I would navigate this time.

We went back up the mountain, wind blowing, snow pelting, lips chapping, and headed down a green. We went about halfway down and then took another lift up to an even higher point and headed all the way down. It was awesome! Yes, my form is not great. Yes, I wiped out spectacularly a couple (many) times, but we did it. Zac was patient and gracious and a great sport about hanging out on the greens with me. We finished the day sopping wet from the snow/sleet and headed back to the casino and the hot tub for a victory soak. And then, to top off an already amazing day, it snowed. Beautiful, big, wet snowflakes fell for hours. I have never been to happy to see the while stuff fall.

Today, as I type this, I am sitting in an Irish pub in Squaw Valley. I'm sore from yesterday and my feet/ankles are burning again. No skiing for me. But I am enjoying a Smithwick's while Zac takes in a few more runs before we head back to the Bay Area this afternoon. (They have free wi-fi here. Score!) We had 4-8 inches of snow last night in the area and we had to put the snow chains on the tires in order to get here. That worried me a little, as I have no experience with chains and assumed that meant that the roads were practicably impassible. Wrong. As we were driving along the winding roads through the snow-covered pines I thought to myself, "This must be what Heaven looks like." Breathtaking.

Once Zac finds me in the pub we'll head back to Travis, drop off the gear, head back to his sister's, change clothes and then head down to visit a couple of family friends for supper. Tomorrow Zac's folks arrive and then Christmas has officially begun. And it continues (for me) til until at least the 27th. I'm anticipating that this is going to be one of the best holiday seasons ever. I got to spend a fantastic time in Lake Tahoe with my husband and we get to celebrate with both families. (I do, at least.) I couldn't be happier right now.

Did I mention I'm surrounded by snow?

SNOW! (Go on. Visit the link. It will make you smile.)

Monday, December 14, 2009

In the eye of the beholder

Just a quick note. Zac and I went out to finish up the Christmas shopping this evening and we decided to swing by a yogurt place on the way home. (These yogurt shops are the hottest thing going out here on Oahu - they're popping up everywhere. You put as much soft yogurt as you want - as many flavors as you want! - into a cup and add copious amounts of toppings. Then you pay by the ounce for your sins. It's delicious.) We both got a bowl of goodness and then went outside to sit like we usually do.

When I was about half-way through my bowl I realized that I was freezing. Although I was wearing a tank-top and jeans I still had goose bumps all over my arms. I shivered and looked around at the other people that were walking around the strip mall and more than a few of them had the arms-crossed-tightly-because-I'm-cold-walk going. After we finished our dessert and got back in the car I looked at the temperature on the dashboard and it said 74. Brrrrrr.

Once I got home I put on a sweatshirt, hopped on my laptop and pulled up Looks like it's 0 degrees in MN with -20 to -30 windchills. That's 16 months in Hawaii for you - my concept of 'brrrrrr' is way off. :)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Ok, ok. I'm slacking.

I've had a couple of people inform me that I haven't posted in awhile. Your protests are answered! Sometimes I forget there are people out there in the world that actually take a few minutes out of their day to read these entries. . .

I've been busy lately. Not with any one, major, thing, but with an assortment of medium-sized things that seem to eat up my days. Some of them are so mundane that I can't even recall what they are. Some are more notable. I started a new assignment at work which means I am back on the up-slope of the learning curve. The new project is loosely related to the previous project so it's not a total jar to the system. As I go through sets of rules of civil procedure for (at least) the second time I am again reminded that the world would be a much better place if I was in charge. (At the very least if I was in charge of the rules of civil procedure. I would be willing to expand my sphere of influence as I go.) Honestly, I'm just happy to be working and earning a paycheck. I don't take employment for granted, especially since the company I contract with has eliminated a number of jobs at least twice in the last 12 months.

Christmas season is upon us. Zac and I are heading to the mainland next week - California for a spell and then I continue on to Minnesota while Zac returns to Oahu. This meant I had to complete our Christmas shopping by this weekend: 1.) to ensure everything gets in the mail in time, and, 2.) to ensure we can enjoy our time off instead of running around in a unknown city trying to finish up. Zac and I put up a tree for the first time this year. We took out all of our ornaments and hung them up. I was a bit of a sentimental fool, but even Zac enjoyed telling me about his ornaments - who they came from, how old he was when he made them, how his family decorated the tree. Fact about me: Christmas lights make me obnoxiously happy. I love them. And while they are the prettiest when they adorn houses covered in show, they still look lovely on houses with palm trees in the front yard.

We've had a lot of guests over lately. Wait a sec. Have I even blogged about Thanksgiving? [rummaging through past posts] Oh dear. I haven't even talked about Thanksgiving. I guess you readers were right to get on my case about not posting . . .

Abbreviated version of Thanksgiving: We hosted. We roasted the turkey. It was delicious. No "I Love Lucy"-style mishaps in the kitchen. My first attempt at a pecan pie was successful. The guests brought yummy things to share. Boccie playing, darts throwing, cocktail drinking, enjoyable evening followed.

Last weekend a group of us went to go see "Irving Berlin's White Christmas" at a local theater. Zac is slowly starting to warm up to my love of musicals. We watched the movie version of "White Christmas" a couple weeks ago. Yes, I still want to be Rosemary Clooney when I grow up. I noticed that in a couple of months the same theater will be performing "Guys and Dolls" so some time in January I'm going to have to convince Zac to watch that one with me. Zac might not be all about the drama/comedy and the costuming and Technicolor, but he does appreciate people who can sing and dance. I appreciate that he appreciates people who can sing and dance.

Last night was ATG's Christmas party. I was a good time. Most of the people from Zac's office were sitting at one table which left Zac and I and another couple sitting at the table next to them. It just so happens that where the Captain and his wife, plus the XO and his wife, were sitting. I've met the Captain and his wife a couple of times and they've always been very pleasant to me. Of course much of the officer/enlisted dynamic is foreign to me so I still regard the Captain as Zac's boss more that the supreme overlord who needs to be feared. I hope people don't think we were trying to kiss up to the Captain by sitting at his table - honestly that's just how it turned out. My purse was on that table and I had no idea whose red purse was on the opposite side of it (Captain's wife's). Upside to the seating arrangement? Captain's table got to line up at the buffet first. Any awkwardness evaporated when I got to start loading my plate with food. Yeah, I'm easily mollified by food.

So the remainder of today will be watching the Texas/Nebraska volleyball match and then Hawaii/Michigan. (We're women's college volleyball fans around here.) Minnesota has already advanced to the Final Four. If Nebraska wins against Texas they will be playing Minnesota. Things could get tense around our household if that happens. Despite that, I'm rooting for the Huskers tonight. Now if they win? Sorry Zac. Go Gophers!