31 July 2018

house

Oh, hey. We bought a house.

We did not set out to buy a house, other than the fact that we've been going to open houses for well over a year. But that was just for fun, right? We'd sort of decided that buying a house while planning a wedding was a little too much.

Oops.

I happened to see that there were open houses near the park where we almost always take the pup, the park with the big trees for shade or shelter from the rain, the park with wood chips so it doesn't get too muddy or dusty. It was a whim, something to do on a weekend afternoon between errands and housework.

The next morning, J. went back with the realtor, and a month later, we had a (second) house. (J. already owns one.)

It just so happens that this house has a wall of south-facing windows, and a finished basement, and a yard with beautiful trees. It just so happens that it has a fireplace, and a bright clean kitchen, and a garage for all the stuff we've been cramming into the small third bedroom here. It just so happens that it has fruit trees in the yard, and a cozy family room, and a pantry cupboard. 

So we bought a house. We're moving stuff into it a little at time, and we're never quite sure where things might be - is the dog's second food dish here or there? For that matter, is the pup herself here or there? (On hot days, we sometimes bring her over to the cooler basement there to wile the day away without constant panting.)

Because we are just that smart, we also went camping twice in the weeks before our wedding. 

I even took a day off work to drive out to the mountains - J. and the pup were already there with another friend - and hang out next to a lake. The pup learned to swim. We all got a little sunburned. It actually cooled off at night, which was a welcome break from the unrelenting heat in town. 

When the pup woke me up at 6:05 am, I walked with her the nearly 5 miles around the lake, through the woods, through the campgrounds, hrough the white trunks of trees that burned years ago and past the views of the mountain, to keep her from waking everyone else up. She bounded over logs, then raced past me to sniff something invisible, then dashed past the other way. 

I breathed in mountain air, and all was well. 

Then we got back, and we made some lists in lieu of panicking about all that we have to do before the wedding. 





12 July 2018

delight

Life is so delightful sometimes.

I've been riding my bike to work for six or seven weeks now. Getting started was the biggest hurdle, but once I started, I remembered why I love it so. It's so lovely to walk out into the cool morning air and jump on a bike, with the breeze in your face. 

My current ride to work is 2 miles, mostly downhill, on quiet bike streets, so there aren't so many stop signs or lights. I whiz along with my lunch and my purse in bike bags. I loved it so much after a week that I went and bought a new bike. (This was, of course, before I knew that we were about to buy a house. Oops.)

At work, there is a bike room in the basement, which requires an id and a code to get in, so I don't even need a lock. I ride my new bike to work. If I'm going to need to lock up my bike somewhere, I ride my old one,which clanks and clatters and takes a lot more work.

I've been riding my bike other places, too: to the other work location, downtown to a gathering, up the hill to Pilates. I'm trying to look at riding my bike not as exercise but as one of the viable means of transportation. Fortunately, it's such a pleasant means of transportation, absent rain or extreme heat or busy roads, that I choose it more and more.

...

Ten days ago, we went camping out at B.'s parents' place, up in the mountains. On Saturday, we all put on shorts and sandals and meandered a mile or two up the creek, wading through the water, climbing over fallen trees. The pups ran ahead, and then had to be helped down off high logs when they dared not jump down the other side. 

The sun was bright, and the trees made everything all dappled and lovely, and it was so delightful to wade through the ice-cold water that J. and B. and I took a creek walk the other direction the next day, dragging a tired pup with us.

Too bad it turned out she was getting sick. Poor little lady. (A few antibiotics and she's fine now.)

20 February 2018

happenings

Things that happened:


  1. The dog got puppy mouth warts and we couldn't take her to play with other dogs for a month. She lives to play with other dogs - there is nothing she loves more, except maybe sleeping on a human bed with a human - and has more energy than can be dealt with at home, so things were difficult. We ended up doing things like wandering around parks in the dark after everyone else was gone, throwing a light-up ball. (Too bad she doesn't like balls that much.) We also tried standing at opposite ends of the house, calling her back and forth in exchange for handfuls of her meal. It kind of worked, but it was exhausting.
  2. A pebble caught my windshield as I got on the highway, and by the time I got to work, there was a 12-16 inch crack across the driver's side. I need to get it replaced, but no time, people. No time.
  3. A tree fell on J.'s car while he and the pup were hiking with a friend. The car turns out to be totaled, so he doesn't have a car right now. This means that we have to decide whether to get a new Subie or have him drive what was previously my car to work and buy something small and fuel-efficient to drive only in town (see #7, below). I'm not-very-secretly angling for a little scooter in addition to whatever else we get, and J. does not seem as anti-scooter as he was before. 
  4. The water line to the ice maker on the fridge sprang a leak and leaked down between the wall and the wood floor, causing water damage that required tearing out flooring and drywall and all the lower cabinets and counters, and the insulation down in the crawl space, and then a weekend of fans and dehumidifiers that sounded like an airplane was landing in the kitchen. The pup despised it, to the point where we had to carry her past it, cringing, and she would run away when we tried to lure her back inside the house. The mitigation is done, but the repairs have not yet begun, so currently there is a table set up next to the sink on the plywood floor that currently constitutes the kitchen. Also, the fridge is in the dining room and the cabinets are outside. 
  5. J. and I made a bid on a house that needed a lot of work, like $100K of work, and then the seller tried to get us into a bidding war, and we backed out.
  6. I'm on my last week at my current job (today was my second to last commute) and of course it decided to snow. It snows once or twice a year, and this turned out to be the week. Fortunately, it didn't get down to 32 degrees on my commute home until I was just about to my exit. The side streets are slippery, but the highway was fine. I made it home in only 56 minutes, which may be a record, because everyone else stayed home or ditched work early.
  7. A week from now, my commute home will be 2 miles instead of 52. That makes up for a lot. I can walk, even, or take the bus. That, my friends, is good news. I feel like I finally get to have Gone West back. I've missed it, these years of spending my days in State City. 

This life is a bit of a comedy of problems right now, but you can either laugh or cry. We are doing a lot of laughing in these parts. 

20 January 2018

backdrop

On Monday, our second full day in El Nido, we took a tricycle to Las Cabanas beach, a few miles down the road. Whenever we asked anyone what to do, this is what they suggested. "Oh, go to Las Cabanas. It's the best beach." So off we went. 

It really is a lovely beach. The thing about Palawan beaches, and the reason we chose Palawan over all the other islands in the Philippines, is that it has beautiful sandy beaches, but then it also has all these little rocky islands and outcroppings out in the water. There's no here-to-eternity-of-water view until you get out past the smaller islands. 

We walked all the way down the beach to the end, and then we walked back, and on the way we asked about the zipline. The zipline ran from above the beach across to a small island. The tide was low, so we could have walked across the wet, slimy rock to the small island, but where's the fun in that?

Someone walked us up the steep hill to the zipline, and then we sailed out over the water toward the other island.

Unfortunately, there was a headwind, and no matter how aerodynamic I tried to make myself, I drifted to a halt most of the way over and had to be rescued by the guys running the zipline.

We had lunch on the beach, and settled into beach chairs. I read a book, and then I took a picture of the top of the book and the ocean behind it. I laughed at the picture, telling J. that I couldn't post it on social media, because I accidentally took a picture of a page on which a girl fended off advances by saying, "I'm engaged. To be married," and people might take it the wrong way.

We moved to open sand and laid on the beach for the rest of the afternoon, until we had to go do our fluo night dive. 

The next night, after a day of cruising the islands with a bunch of Russian 20-somethings, we took a tricycle back to Las Cabanas beach to catch the sunset. We found a little bench facing the setting sun, with a bench table in front of it. We ordered a ginger soup and some other food I've forgotten. I'd taken off my motion sickness patch, and apparently taking it off after a day on the water resulted in rebound nausea (I really wasn't made for boats). 

And after dinner, J. proposed. 

This was surprisingly surprising to me. I know that proposals are a thing these days, but I never felt like I needed one. I expected just to do what my parents said they did - have a conversation and decide that it was time. 

Spoiler: I said yes. 

We hadn't talked about rings, or wedding dates, or anything in other than general terms, and so J. did not have a ring. He tried to get an O-ring for the top of a scuba tank from the dive shop, but the person he asked seemed very skeptical, so he was ringless when the right sort of moment presented itself.

A few minutes later, he went to the bathroom and came back with a piece of toilet paper twisted into a ring, and I put it on and took selfies and he was embarrassed not to have had any kind of ring, but I loved the toilet paper ring. I loved the surprise. I loved the quiet moment between the two of us. I loved it all.

A day or two later, we did scrounge some O-rings from the dive shop, and we both wore those on our right hands until we got back to Gone West, by which time they had stretched out enough that they would not stay on our fingers (even my middle finger), and we ordered silicone rings online, in blue, which we are both wearing on our right hands while we wait for the jeweler to finish the rings she designed for us, which we will also wear on our right hands until our wedding day in August. 

It turns out that when you wear a silicone ring on your right hand and don't post an engagement announcement on the f@cebooks, no one knows that you are getting married unless you tell them about it. We may drop some more hints as time goes by. It's fun to have a little secret, although here I am blabbing it to the 8 or 9 people who read my blog. You're in the know, now.

And if we are friends on the f@cebooks, you can go see the photo of the book with the words, "I'm engaged," in front of a beautiful beach in the Philippines. 

08 January 2018

beautiful misery

We decided that it would be smarter not to schedule dives for the day we arrived in El Nido, because jet lag is a jerk.

So we scheduled four of them for the next day. (I said smartER, not smart.)

I had a grand idea a few days before we left on our trip, and I had my doctor call in a prescription for the motion sickness patch. This thing had some downsides - it didn't completely get rid of my motion sickness, you can't drink on it, and it makes you sleepy, to start - but it worked pretty well the first couple of days.

So we hopped into the water and dove, three dives. And then we went back to the dive shop, where I took the night diving class, and we went back out and dove again.

I'm not going to lie, I was exhausted. I was jet lagged and dopey from the patch and, actually, diving at night is a little scary. It's really, really dark down under water.

Fortunately, we had the next day to zipline from one island to another and lay on the beach.

That night we went diving again, again in the dark, but this time with fluorescent lighting. I'm not sure that I would have done this dive if I'd known what a fluo dive meant. I thought it meant phosphorescence, but no. 

What it meant was that we wore amber lenses over our masks, and we held blue lights, and the only thing we could see at any given moment was the living thing at which we were directly shining the blue lights, which then started fluorescing, and it was extremely claustrophobic, and I don't even get claustrophobic. It was the most claustrophobic I've ever been. 

During our safety stop at 15 feet, near the end of the dive, the dive master suddenly grabbed me and pulled me toward the surface, and on the way up he grabbed J. and pulled him up, too, and it turns out that we were surrounded by tiny, lovely, blue-fluorescing jellyfish that would hurt if they touched you, and a bigger one had been right where I was going but I didn't see it.

This was kind of the story of the rest of our dives: So many pretty, dangerous jellyfish. One of our dive masters got stung (by a little one, thank goodness). I got massively motion sick, because I managed to put the second motion sickness patch on wrong so it wasn't in full contact with my skin, and then when I moved it, I managed to get some of it in my eye, so my eye dilated way too much (a known side effect) and things were blurry up close. Two people got separated from the group on one dive, and I mistakenly followed the instructor when he went to look for them instead of staying with J., who was my buddy. The instructor and I got back to J. and the group, but we had to surface early to find the missing pair. (They'd gotten lost taking photos.) We had a strong current on one dive. The whole boat got so motion sick in the large swell that I had to stand at the front staring forward while other people lay in agony inside the boat. I got a little panicky about my breathing, even though I've loved diving since the first time I went under water. 

I make it sound miserable, and sometimes it was, because diving can be, with the wetsuits and the ocean swell, but then I would look out at the gorgeous green water with the gorgeous green rocks standing up out of it, and I wanted to stay forever. 

31 December 2017

off to the Philippines

We flew out on Thanksgiving Day, to Tokyo and then Manila and then, the next morning, to El Nido, Palawan. The flight to El Nido passed over blue, blue water, with green islands scattered about, and we descended among craggy rocks rising out of the sea.

We approached the runway over that kind of blue-green that makes up dreams of tropical islands, and all of a sudden there was a jolt to the side and we were going up, up, up over the island instead of landing. 

I mean, I try to be all cool about flying. Mostly I am. Mostly I can handle turbulence and engine sound changes and rising and falling and the occasional armrest-clinging landing. I know that flying is safer than driving. But there's still a tiny part of me that has read too much about plane crashes and doesn't quite trust the science of being in the air in a metal tube.

The pilot came on and said, in his American accent ("Was that an American voice?" I asked J. when the pilot started talking in Manila) that there was a strong cross-wind and we would make a second attempt at landing. J. continued playing sudoku. I pressed my face to the window. 

We made a high circle over a ridge and a bay and a few islands, and then back down toward the bay that contained the airport. This time everything was smooth, and we landed with barely a bump.

Among the many things that I did not know about the Philippines is that it would be the first place since Liberia where I did not need so much as a thin extra layer at night. We walked out of the plane into tropical humidity, and it was glorious. 

There are no taxis or buses at El Nido airport. (This is what happens when you do little to no research before getting on a plane.)

It was fine, though, because there were tricycles, the little 100cc motorbikes with a car built over them so they have a wheel and a seat on the side. We stuffed our big scuba gear bags onto the back and J. and I squeezed into the little seat, taking turns leaning forward and back so that our broad American shoulders would fit. 

We rode through the jungle - I smiled widely the whole way, because it reminded me of Liberia - and then, after dropping our stuff off at the hotel too early to check in - we walked along the sand of the bay, looking out at the perfect ocean with the rocky islands jutting up.  

19 November 2017

pre-Thanksgivinging

I like Thanksgiving a lot. It might be my favorite holiday. No presents to buy, no decorating to do, just lots of delicious food. This year, though, J. and I are getting on a plane on Thanksgiving morning to go scuba diving in the Philippines. 

I've known that we would miss Thanksgiving for many months, ever since January when I got all excited about scuba diving and started looking at the best dive spots in the world and then checking kayak for flights costs to those spots. Fiji was $1000, which seemed pretty good. But Manila was $630 if we left on Thanksgiving Day, so we bought flights without stopping to think about it. 

I'm excited about this trip. I have a whole new regulator/dive computer/octopus set, thanks to J. thinking ahead on my birthday and a quick trip to my favorite dive shop. (My own! My very own regulator and dive computer!) We have eight dives scheduled, including my first two night dives. (I also bought a dive light at the dive shop.) The island looks stunning. 

I also started feeling a little sad about not getting to have Thanksgiving dinner. Wherefore the pies?

So I managed to talk J. into having a pie and game night last night. He also wanted mashed potatoes, so we made those. And corn pudding and burgers and brats. Because what says Thanksgiving like burgers and brats? 

We invited people over, and we did the cooking and baking, and we ate the delicious things. And now we have leftovers until we get on the plane. I just had a veggie burger with a side of mashed potatoes and corn pudding. 

I'd call that winning Thanksgiving.