Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Last nights in Cali

Second to last night in Cali. Enjoying wine and good foods with Camille, Matt and Paige. Camille's meat loaf with ground lamb has opened my eyes to sheer joy. The three glasses of wine also probably are helping. I love my friends.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

There and Back Again

Don and I made it back safely to the U.S. of A. although not quite exactly as planned, but better. Our flight home from Frankfurt had us laid over in Michigan with a quick hour and a half connecting flight. For those of you who haven't done much international traveling, that's not much time to arrive, deplane, clear customs and recheck baggage. That's right, at your first point of entry into the U. S., you actually have to go to baggage claim, retrieve your luggage and then check them all over again. Can't trust those foreigners to screen properly - probably a good idea for homeland security.

To begin with we were more than 30 minutes late departing in Frankfurt. Apparently we taxied for too long so our brakes heated up and we had to sit on the runway for 20 minutes while they cooled down before we could take off. By the time we arrived in Detroit we knew it was hit or miss whether we and our luggage would make it to the plane on time. We made it through customs no problem, retrieved our luggage rather quickly, dropped it off at the recheck point and were on to security screening with our carry on luggage.

I made it through pretty quickly but then was selected for additional screening. So I got to stand in a vorpel tunnel with my arms out and turn seven different directions while they scanned me 360 degrees. Also, despite wearing extra thin socks, they still had to feel the bottom of my feet. Not sure what they thought I might be hiding in there. Maybe some dental floss to try to strangle somebody with? So next Don makes it through security screening but then they need to check his carry on bag. Turns out he had brought two metal dice about the size of an egg that were causing a blip on their radar. Even though it was quite obvious that these were the metal items and shape showing on the radar screen, the attendant still had to go back to the beginning of the line and rescan them three times before she was convinced and would let us continue. Too put it kindly, let's just say that this woman was not particularly fit so she burned about 10 minutes of our precious time waddling back and forth and clumsily thumbing through our belongings. At least they didn't confiscate them as weapons though and let Don have his precious dice back.

Finally we were released and started the long trek to our gate. If you have ever been to the Detroit airport, then you know it is basically one long straight stretch about two to three miles from either end. So we started the mile long sprint to our gate and arrived just in time to join the end of the line for boarding and last call. Despite the fact that we had made it to the gate, however, we discovered as we made it to the front of the line that they had already rebooked us for a different flight and our seats were no longer valid along with three other folks from the same Frankfurt flight. Ooops! Oh, well, at least we burned a few calories trying to make it there on time. While Don and I were actually somewhat relieved to not be immediately boarding another 5 hour flight after the 9 hour stint we just did, the other passengers were far more disgruntled and one girl in particular was making a really big fuss and really rattling the attendants chain.

As she retained her professionalism and started to work trying to see if there were still available seats to get us on this outgoing plane, Don and I offered to step aside and let the other passengers be taken care of first since we had no rush to get back. In that end, the other girl's extremely rude behavior in contrast to our kindness, really paid off for us. After the other customers were taken care of she thanked us profusely and said she would set us up for a very comfortable return flight home. We requested a return flight for the next day. Since Don's grandmother lives in Detroit, we thought it would be nice to get out for a visit and see her. So she gave us a hotel voucher, some food vouchers, and set us up in first class on the first flight out the next morning. What a deal! We had a wonderful dinner with Grandma Early, a great night's rest in a comfortable bed, and we finally got to see what it was like on the other side of the curtain.

A few things about first class. Under very few circumstances would I ever pay for it, but when it comes for free there are a few perks. The seats are certainly more spacious and comfortable. You never have to wait in line for the lavatory since you are sharing with a smaller crowd. The drinks are free, served in a glass instead of a plastic cup, and they never run dry. We got served a nice full breakfast while the rest of the plane got pretzels and peanuts. But my favorite part of first class I think, is that in addition to the tray table, there is also an armrest with a small shelf to set your drinks on so you don't have to have the tray table down the whole flight. Plus, getting on and off the plane first was quite lovely as well.

So here we are now, home safe and sound. While it did mess a little bit with our plan to readjust to the time change by spending that last night in Michigan, I think it will be worth the few extra days it may take us to get over the jet lag. Luckily Don has today off and I just have to hang in a few more days to the weekend. With one day back at work so far, it was a welcome reprieve to come back and find that my talented staff had done and excellent job handling everything while I was gone and I was able to pick up where I left off without feeling like I had ever left. Well one thing feels different. I feel refreshed, renewed, and happy. What a wonderful vacation.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Last Day

This morning begins our last full day in Germany. Tomorrow in the early morning we pack up and head to the airport. It is Jim's birthday today and we will be celebrating with a big block party which means, oh dear, more food and drinking! Things have exceeded our expectations all the way around. And while I don't think I could possibly live any farther away from our family then we already do, I do feel that Germany is a place I could be happy if life ever brought us here for some reason. The scenery is beautiful, quite similar to North Carolina in fact with the farm fields and rolling hills. I'm also quite loving the architecture with the beautiful buildings and steep clay roofs. And people really take pride in their gardens here which is something I hope to learn some day. I've picked up a thing or two on hospitality also since I've been here which I will bring home with me.

But even of all the fantastic experiences we have had getting to travel and see a foreign country and do touristy things, it wouldn't have been half the experience it was if we hadn't gotten to do it with our family. It has been really special to get to know Don's Aunt and Uncle and cousins more. Now we have a bond thicker than blood with real experiences and memories to go with it. And even Jim and Sharon whom we have seen so seldom over the past few years, we have gotten to see new sides to them as well. Time goes so fast as did this our longest vacation we have ever taken together. But I do feel refreshed and renewed from this trip in a way that will carry back to every day life.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Differences

In LA we have the shopping carts that are magnetized so if you try to take the carts off the lot, the wheels lock up and the carts won't move. In Germany, they have found another interesting solution. The carts are chained up to the bin and require a euro coin to release and use them. You then have to take your cart back to the bin and put the chain back in before you can get the euro back. It's an interesting solution. Although it doesn't help as well with keeping people from stealing the carts all together, it sure does get people to pick up after themselves and put the carts away when they are done rather than leave them scattered around the lot.

Additionally, a great sandwich they have over here is the turkish version of a gyro called a doner. I thought gyros were delicious until we tried a doner. The meat was a crispy juicy pork and a delicious creamy tzatziki sauce with shredded cabbage and tomato. What they call pita is actually more like a giant kaizer roll than the Greek flatbread we are used to. Not only is it delicious but it holds the sandwich together much better. But what really stole our hearts was the giant brick of goat cheese they served on our doner special. We will definitely be looking up Turkish restaurants when we get back to LA to find out where the nearest place is to get our doner fix.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Family Photos


How can you not smile when surrounded by this beautiful country?

Clan Hall - Uncle Chuck, Don (goes by Donnie here), and Dad (Jim)













Dad - He uses the same charming smile when he asks you to get him a beer. Works every time.













Chuck - getting fresh with the fresh produce













Ripsy and Angie - getting their morning dose of sun.













Sharon - my sweet southern mother-in-law














Cousin Daniel - Breaking out the family Tree. Shortly after this he made the comment about one of these guys on here he thought he was related to. Do ya think? Surely it was a twist of the tongue, but we all had a good laugh over that one.









Chuck and Heike - sporting his Army Barret. Still looks good!













Suzanne and Peter - Great neighbors! They just returned from a two week hiking trip in the mountains with lots of hiking. Talk about my dream vacation! Suzanne and Peter are from Czech but Peter is also half Hungarian. The camera doesn't quite capture it but in real life he has eyes like Daniel Craig. He was very happy to hear this of course!







Dad - with the first glass of beer of the trip. 10:30 AM upon arrival of course!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Heike's Garden

Heike has one THE most beautiful gardens I've ever seen. I may intentionally miss my plane so I never have to leave this beautiful home.



















Cordy Clone


Look Familiar?

Look Closer.

This isn't Cordy, but her brother from another litter - Ripsy.

We owe our our love of doxies to this beloved dog, who first captured our hearts.
Isn't he gorgeous?

video

They don't just look the same either, they move the same, bark the same, act the same. And he's just as smart too.... Here he is, eating a bee. :)


Saturday, September 19, 2009

German Fellowship

Don and I so seldom get to see family. It is really about the only complaint that we have from living in LA, though anywhere else we have lived has not ever been truly "close" to our relatives before this either. But the lack of vacation and minimal time spent with family is a loss we truly feel. The real magic of this trip is not just that we get to travel to a foreign country and experience a new culture, but that we get to experience it with family that we never get to see. I've only met Jim and Sharon (Don's dad and stepmom) twice, at the wedding and a family reunion 5 years ago. And Chuck & Heike I had met only once at the same reunion. Yet they have welcomed us so warmly and openly that I am already lamenting how many years may pass until we see them again. As we have experienced in our short travels so far, getting to meet a variety of people from various cultures (German, Hungarian, Puerto Rican, Czech, and others), people are generally the same. They all like to eat, drink, and be merry, and we are having a blast being merry together. My favorite moments have been those around the table communicating through a mixture of German and English (Germlish), story telling, laughing, and having so much fun. I thought it might be difficult being in a foreign country where we don't speak the language, that communication would be hard and awkward. But we have been so welcomed and language has been such a small barrier to the fellowship we have experienced here. Unfortunately, not everyone chooses to participate in this fellowship. We did have a small disruption this evening from a disgruntled neighbor who called the German police over a noise complaint. So Germans have their disfunctional neighborhood feuds like Americans and any other society. But even the police could see that we were inside our own home, with no music playing, and conducting ourselves civilly so just suggested we close a window and went on our way. On a night like tonight, where I feel so blessed to be surrounded at home and around the world by amazing people with warm hearts, I feel bad for those who close themselves off to the heartfelt fellowship of those around them. I'm happy to belong to a warm and open hearted family, and grateful for the time we have together.

Augsburg Confessions

Well, here I am in the land of the original Augsburg Confessions. When I signed on to blogger this morning, the instructions were actually in German!

It is so good to be here. After 18 hours of traveling, we arrived to a warm greeting from Don's parents who had arrived about 30 minutes before us from North Carolina, and his Aunt and Uncle and their two children, our host family. We've been made to feel right at home and had a wonderful day yesterday of eating, drinking, visiting, and loving on some dauchshunds which I can now pronounce with a real German Accent. We also got to meet an array of German companions yesterday, two sets of neighbors, grandma & grandpa, great grandmother, and retired Army friend Jose from Puerto Rico. We're enjoying the crossover back and forth from English to German and already picking up a bit of the language.

We're hoping to have already kicked the jet lag. We got expert advice from our family which told us the best thing to do is stay up as late as possible the first night and sleep in to about brunch time but don't oversleep. I limited myself yesterday to one 1 hour nap and I think that did the trick. We will see how we do today but so far I feel pretty good. Don and I are set up in a nice room in the basement, rather comfy for a hideabed but lots of privacy and room to spread out our luggage so we ware quite happy with the accomodations.

One thing I love about Germany so far: they have cake time every afternoon at 3:00 or 4:00. So yesterday as we sat around the picnic table and were presented with a Plum Tart, Black Forest Cake, and Lemon Cheesecake, or at least their German equivilants. I opted for the Plum Tart yesterday and today I think I may try the lemon cheesecake. I think we should start this tradition in the U.S. I also like the way Germans do their baking, subtly sweet instead of overladen with sugar.

I love that we have 10 full days here. Our host family has taken vacation too so we will all get to enjoy our time together. I haven't bothered to take many photos yet. I thought for the first day we would just enjoy our time and settle in. Plenty of time to take pictures later and will try to post them as I am able.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Burning

We are safe from the fires. But the air is disgusting. No sign of rain in sight and the valley doesn't get much wind. Who knows how long we will be trapped in our homes with the brown clouds looming outside. At least we will escape for a couple weeks in September.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Book Binge

I've gotten myself onto a reading kick. I have this idea that I want to write a book some day. It's like a bucket list kind of thing. I don't know what it would be about, but I used to write for fun as a kid: fiction, short stories, poetry. And I'm a kick ass professional writer now in all of my work correspondence. But I like the idea of producing something creative. Something also that maybe could earn me a book deal some day? :)

But since I've graduated from school I've very much fallen out of the habit of reading. I love reading. Bookstores and libraries are the most inspirational of places for me. In fact, a friend just talked about going to see the movie Julia and Julia. It's about a woman who decides that she's going to spend a year of her life cooking through every single recipe in Julia Child's Cookbook. When I heard about the concept, I loved the idea of cooking through an entire cookbook, but the next thought that popped into my head was, I wonder if I could read through an entire library A to Z. Uh yeah, that would be a dream come true but may take me about ten thousand lifetimes.

Anyway, I made a trip to the library recently. I thought I would try out downloading some audio books on my ipod. That way I could listen to literature while walking the dogs and getting some exercise. I found a book on CD on the shelves called "The Good Wife" by Steart O'nan. The plot snagged me immediately. It's about a young pregnant couple who one night the wife gets a call in the middle of the night from her husband who's "gotten himself into some trouble." Turns out he was involved in a burglary which went awry and a woman accidentally got killed. The book basically goes through the trial, conviction, and 25 year prison sentance of the wife trying to hold their marriage together, raise their son on her own, and survive their separation until his release. Well I checked it out, downloaded it to my ipod, and listened to it on a few walks. What I discovered was that I was really into the book, but I was not good at listening to it audio style. The CD skipped around and my mind wandered before I could catch it. So I took it back to the library and exchanged it for the old fashioned hard bound book. Burned through the entire 300 pages in two days. It was a great read and I highly recommend it. Made me think about my own marriage and the lengths I would go to before I would ever give up on my partner. It also shed light on the sad subject of our prison systems and how unrehabilitative they really are. But although it sounds depressing, their are also firm nuggets of wisdom and inspiration that make this read worth while.

After finishing that book so quickly, I had the reading hunger, so I moved on to the next one on my coffee table (I checked out three at the library). This one was called "Remember Me?" by Sophie Kinsella. This one was very much more of a Chick Novel with caligraphy title and flowers on the front, sure to be full of drama and fluff. To give you an idea, the author is most known for her title "Confessions of a Shopaholic." I haven't read the book but supposed to be a New York Times Best Seller. So quite a bit different flavor than the last book but I thought I'd give it a try. To be honest I wasn't that impressed with her writing style and found myself thinking I could do it better. But the idea or concept of the book was pretty fun. It's about a girl who's life is in shambles to start. Her career is going no where, her boyfriend is a loser who treats her like crap, she's broke, overweight and out of shape. She gets in an accident and wakes up in the hospital trying to remember what's happened. As she comes to it's explained to her that that accident was three years ago. She's had a second accident, only she has a sort of temporary amnesia where she can't remember anything that's happened in the last three years. Come to find out she has the "perfect life" now. She's lost weight, she's married a handsome millionaire, her career has taken off, and she seems to have all the success she's ever wished for. The story is about her trying to unravel the mystery of what's happened to her in the last three years and come to grips with her new happily ever after as she comes to realize that maybe this dream life isn't all she dreamed it would be. To be honest it wasn't until the last 100 pages of the book that one of the plot hooks finally got me and her writing started getting better. Still I burned through the book in a few days and really enjoyed the ending. Don asked me why I was spending all this time reading the book if I didn't think it was that good. My answer was that it's been a while since I have felt this hunger for books and I want to feed the craving, build the habit and keep it going. Plus, I really did like the idea of the book, I just thought it could have been executed better. Like, maybe I could do it better even. So we could call it good research for the book that I may someday write. We'll put this in the research category of how not to suck.

So with two recent books under my belt, I'll be turning to "Nature Girl" next by Car Hiassen. I don't even know how to describe this one. The description is pretty long and complex. But let's just say it's one of those "chaos and hi-jinx ensue" kind of books with crazy characters and even crazier plot twists. So three different books, three very different flavors. I hope I can keep up with this reading bug although I'm going to have to learn to balance better reading while still getting stuff done. Let's just say that the chores and the treadmill have been a bit neglected over the past week.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Time is the Currency of Life

I just had the wonderful most amazing, refreshing, soul nourishing weekend with one of my closest friends, Kristi Kunkel. Kristi was my housemate from seminary and it is a shame, really a shame that we had not seen each other for over five years since my wedding. She was of course my maid of honor. When everyone else was off having a last shabang batchelor party with Don on the town, the night before my wedding, Kristi and I had a quiet slumber party, just the two of us in the hotel where my wedding reception was. It was our last chance to be roomates before I became the new Mrs. Early and I wouldn't have wanted to spend it any other way.

From the moment her plane landed, we filled every single moment with experiences and companionship. With two full days and two half days, I did more in 72 hours than I normally do in a year! It was fun going around LA with a tourists eyes and seeing different sights. We made it our goal to have as many "California" experiences as possible while she was here so in addition to doing things like going to Griffith Park Observatory, viewing the Hollywood sign, and walking the Hollywood walk of fame, we also made a point to include things like cheap pedicures, illegal U-turns, barbecues, and walking outside barefoot at 8 AM. It was a great exercise of living in the moment and we made a point to get something out of every moment. For example the last night she was here, I laid out in the living room with her and we talked until we both fell asleep. I had no intention of sleeping in the living room. I knew at some point I would go back to my own bed, but not until after I had initially dozed off. We just didn't want to miss out on a single moment of consciousness.

I really do believe that Time is the Currency of Life. It's the most valuable thing and I feel like we really got the fullness of the gift of the time we had together. We slept a little, talked a lot, laughed a lot, saw a ton, worshipped fully, listened and enjoyed. We're definitely committed to not letting another five years go by before we see each other again. So though our goodbyes were tempered with sadness, anxiety, and holding back watery eyes, we were blessed to not have any regrets and to have future trips to look forward to.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Dancing Queens

With Don out of town for the weekend and me thinking of ways to fill my time, for some reason I just got the urge to go dancing this weekend. Now I have a couple of girlfriends already that go dancing a couple of times a week - mostly swing dancing, maybe some occasional salsa. That is all fun and well, but I really wasn't particularly interested couples/structured dancing. I wanted the get out and beebop on the dancefloor shake your moneymaker kind of dancing. Heyyeah!

So after an A-MAZING dinner last night at the Sprays with Matt and Camille (homemade shephard's pie, crispy potatoe skins, garden salad and Camille's incredible family recipe for delicious brownies from scratch), I pursuaded Camille to go out on the town with me while Matt, Jeremy, and Katy opted for movie night and went to see GI Joe.

Living in LA for more than two years, as a married person with a senior citizen's body clock, I have yet to really explore the night life here. Like most married people, we tend to stick to routine. Our favorite evening gathering place is the Springbock Bar and Grill for amazing hot wings and beer. Depending on the night of the week they also host fun activities such as karaoke, rockband, and live music. If we want something a little more active, we also like Champs in Burbank for their inexpensive pool tables. When we really want to change things up, we'll go down to Santa Monica and hit the promenade, all though it's been a really long time since we've done that.

So doing something "new" is not common for me. But I was up for an adventure, and luckily so was Camille. I have to say, I did feel a little ancient when I was researching clubs to try to figure out where to go and it was quite a task, so many choices and the websites were confusing. Is there a dress code? What kind of music do they play? Do you have to be on a guest list? Is there a cover charge? Drink minimum? What about parking? After much research during the day, I found a couple of options that intrigued me - a lesbian bar called "Girl Bar" in West Hollywood and a multicultural mecca called "Zanzibar" in Santa Monica. Neither of them I was really sold on, however, and most of it had to do with driving far away in unfamiliar territory. Plus, who wants to try to find parking in West Hollywood? Luckily, Camille came to the rescue with a little hot spot that popped up on her GPS called SkinnysLounge in North Hollywood right here in the Valley. You had me at local. Nothing else seems quite so important (music, style, theme, cost) when compared to convenience.

So we dolled up. Camille wore her sexy new sparkly green top and smoky smouldery eye make up that loses you in her big brown eyes, plus, super sweet new brown patterned pumps that I am TOTALLY jealous of. I had just watched Dazed and Confused earlier in the day so I was feeling a little more retro and opted for brown slacks with an orangy striped halter top. Snapped a few photos on the modeling wall to capture the evening on film (er, digital cyberspace), and off we headed to NOHO.

Our immediate impression of the place was very positive on several levels. First, ample free street parking (at least if you arrive early in the night). Second, no cover charge for womeon before 10:30 (great for old ladies like us). Third, really nice, clean decore with good lighting (not to light, not too dark). We started the evening by pulling up a couple of stools at the end of the side bar where the music (good music) was very present but not too loud so we could easily enjoy conversation over a couple of rounds. The drinks were within reason, $7 for shots, $6 for a beer.

After we finished our drinks we headed out on the dance floor to do what we came there to do - get our dance on! We were definitely one of the first people to grace the floor and we chuckled in good humor with some interesting people watching. Of particular note was the girl with the size 2 jeans and the size 14 hair (she looked like an 80s Sarah Jessica Parker), slightly intoxicated and freely getting down on the dance floor. Some guy was trying to boogy with her but she seemed more like an elusive slippery fish that he couldn't hang on to. It was quite amusing. Very into the back bends she was.

But we spent little time watching other people and quickly got into our own groove. Camille put in an early request for Outcast to get our blood pumping and we cut loose and had a great time. There are few people in this world that are more fun to dance with than Camille. The combination of confidence from her classic training, appreciation for the music, and overall goofy spirit explodes into an infectious energy that spreads immediately to those around her. In fact, I don't think I've ever seen anyone combine goofy and sexy before as well as Camille did last night. Too fun!

I'm glad to discover at 31 that I'm not too old to go dancing. I worried a little bit that I might not recognize any of the music or that the energy of the scene might be too young to get into. But actually, I think I had more fun than a lot of the younger folks there. It's rather funny, but as dolled up as Camille and I were, we were probably the most casual folks there. Lots of women in very short dresses, with great legs in stilleto heels, with a drink in one hand and gucci purse in the other, and trying not to dance too vigorously so as not to ruin their hair or makeup. But that is LA for you. And when I saw one girl coming back from the bathroom brushing her nose, I had to wonder how many people there that night were on coke or ecstasy. Just another reminder how much I do NOT want to raise kids in this town. How hard it must be to be young and single and searching for real human contact here. It reminded me of how grateful I am to be married to my best friend, to have the greatest friends and family on earth, to have a sense of myself greater than what I look like on the outside, to be pumped up on my own natural endorphins, and to express all of that that for one really fun night through music and dance.

Since Camille and I were one of the first ones on the dance floor, it was only fitting that we were one of the first ones to leave around 12:30 when our old ladie knees and ankles gave out. But we left happy, and satisfied, and open, very open, to the idea of going back again sometime real soon. SkinnysLounge has definitely made it's way into my lovely, ordinary, repetitive, routine life.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Traveling

I have a little bit of extra time this morning. Don has a late morning flight out of Burbank so I'll head in a little late to work and drop him off on the way. Lucky bastard gets to go to a Gaming Convention in Boise, see his family, and skip work. You could call me a wee bit jealous. All of my vacation for the year is tied up in our upcoming trip to Germany in September, which I don't think I have blogged about yet. That's right, Don and I are headed to Germany for 10 whole days of luxurious travel. I can't wait to have that feeling like we did on our honeymoon. There is nothing like crossing an ocean to make one feel free and far away from any kind of real life obligations. Now that's a vacation!

As if Germany itself were not exciting enough, we also get to meet up with some of Don's family which we haven't seen in about 5 years. Jim and Sharon (Don's Father & Mother-in-Law) are flying out from North Carolina and we'll be staying with Chuck & Heike (Uncle & Aunt) and their kids who live there.

I'm also hoping we'll get to see another distant relative - Ripsy, the first wiener dog I ever fell in love with and Cordy's brother from another litter. At the last family reunion we were able to attend in North Carolina, Chuck & Heike & their boys fell in love with Ripsy so Jim & Sharon let them take him back to Germany - the Doxie Motherland. Six months later when we shared with Jim & Sharon that we were looking for a black & tan wiener dog, they shipped Cordy out to us on a plane from North Carolina. She is without a doubt, the best gift we have ever received.

When I first realized we were going to Germany, I thought I would run out and take a crash course from the library or something on German 101. Well, I've given up on that idea as time is dwindling. My only goal now is to lose a couple of pounds since I'm sure there will be copious amounts of photo taking, plus I plan to consume about a billion calories of German food and beer while we are there. We started a new weight loss weigh in group at work again. First week was pretty much a wash. But everyone needs a good warm up. We'll see if I can lose a pound before the next weigh in.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Job Blues

Usually my job is not too stressful but last couple of days have been a real bugger. Monday got my blood boiling when one of my lenders went behind my back and tried to do a deal direct with my customer and cut us out of the process. Without going into too much explanation, just take it at my word that this is the cardinal sin of third party funding and a major betrayal to our working relationship. The funny part was that when we went back and confronted her on it, she lied about it! Can you imagine?! Fortunately for us, this is a loyal customer whom we have had a relationship with for over 10 years so they are still working with us. But boy did it ruffle my feathers.

But Tuesday was one of the most unpleasant work days I've had in a long time. We have had a couple of transactions that booked recently wherein there was an error in the way the tax was constructed. After the transaction had already been booked and funded, the vendor came back to us in a panic saying that they had 48 hours to reverse and correct the transaction or face potential damages. Boss was on vacation and unreachable on a European cruise. Other owner of the company was out. None of us in the office new the answer at the time. The lender and the vendor needed to work it out amongst each other but they were not cooperating. Based on my limited knowledge I made a recommendation as to how to correct the situation that I thought would work but a couple of weeks later and well past the "window" we are just now discovering that the situation has not been resolved. Vendor is pissed. Lender is not being helpful. No matter what the customer is going to have to end up paying more taxes. We've identified the solution but still have to get everyone to cooperate even though we are the only ones with no liability in the situation and advised against this structure in the first place. Anxiety is high and tempers are flaring as this is most definitely a red flag for an audit and with our bankrupt state on a blood hunt for any and all sources of income they can drum up, nobody wants to do what needs to get done to correct the situation and draw any more attention to their books. Of course I feel a bit like a bit of a failure for not being able to handle the situation while boss was on vacation but unfortunately didn't have enough experience or knowledge in the matter to fully understand it. This one scenario has given me a world of knew knowledge and understanding in a lot of parts of leasing that I didn't have before so there is very much an element of now I know better and we won't have to run into this situation again. However, at this point, I just want it to be over with and done. So all of that combined has gotten me a little wound up and I'm not sleeping too soundly tonight as you can tell.

On the flip side of the equation, I have started to notice that every time I have a bad day at work Don has a good one. He's sold three cars in the last two days! Although, one hasn't totally closed yet but they've already put down a deposit and are coming back Friday to finish the paperwork. It sure makes a difference when he closes a sale. Obviously, we've established by now that this job is just a passing ship until something better comes along, but for all of the hard work and sacrifices that go into it, it's nice to be rewarded with a satisfied customer and some freaking income. The job has been hard on both of us. I of course am sensitive to and absorb all of Don's stress and unhappiness. I tried helping him with his job search but it turned out to be just a bunch of wasted time which wasn't helpful. So I'm sitting back in the stands to cheer him on and let him find his own way. When I have to, I remove myself from the situation mentally and physically and do a little self care. My treadmill is getting a LOT of use lately. But it was very nice last night to actually have an enjoyable evening with my husband who was feeling happy and good about himself. Of course he also had a bit of an extra spark as we discussed and internet browsed for what is about to become our newest prize possession - a new barbecue! More to come on that one. I'm running out of sleeping hours so I better get back to bed.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Let Freedom Ring



We celebrated 4th of July this year with a trip to the beach. Destination was Zuma Beach north of Malibu where the water is clean, the parking is free (if you get there early enough) and not too crowded all things considered. What all is needed for a one day trip to the beach? Coolers, water, towels, blankets, chairs, tatami mats, food and snacks, shade umbrellas, swimsuit, sundress, extra change of clothes, sandals, games (horseshoes, badmitton, and volleyball), books, and extra toilet paper incase the public facilities are not sufficiently stocked (which usually they are not).



Unfortunately, I started the day by braking the zipper off of my hoodie.


The view from our sand plot.



Given the swimming atire, not many photos we can share worthy of posting on a public website, but here's a headshot of myself, Paige, and Camille that captures the spirit of the day. Matt D and Jessica also joined us and Paige's friend Ben also stopped by for a few hours to join in the beach fun.



Because Don's job sucks, he had to work for most of the day but we were ecstatic to get his texts that he was getting off early for once. He headed over to the beach in the early evening as it was starting to get cool and got lucky with a parking spot as people were starting to pack up and go home. We had a few minutes to take in the fresh sea air and squeeze in a beach snuggle before heading home to finish off the day with a little backyard BBQ.




Don had a most unusual craving on the way to the beach -- cheap American beer to celebrate our Independence. Pabst it is! So we picked up a case at Ralphs on our way home along with some fixings to make sliders on the grill. I think the wife beater tank and trucker hat really sell the photo more than the cheap beer does.

Hope everyone had a happy and safe 4th.

Friday, June 26, 2009

R.I.P. Michael Jackson


I don't know where blogging will be 20 years from now, but I like to think that somehow, this electronic record of my life and thoughts will still be accessible. When I go back and read this in the next generation, I thought it would be worth mentioning something of one of the greatest pop icons of all time on the day following his unexpected passing. His death is a shock and a loss. I'm grateful for his music that lives on and plan to listen to his music all day for the remainder of the week. I appreciate Michael's music mostly for the dancibility of it which is a true measure of rock for me. You can't listen to it without grooving which is another thing the man could do was dance. He was responsible for the best music video ever made - Thriller. He also had a few songs that really meant something. One of the most moving songs ever written was "the Man in the Mirror." I watched his performance yesterday of the song live at the Grammy's from 1988 on YouTube yesterday. It's like he gave birth to the song on stage. It was that organic and that awe inspiring. Leaves you feeling both spent and reborn. Thank you Michael for sharing your talent. My life is better for it. Our world is better for it. Rest in Peace.

Paige, this picture is for you.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Things to get your mind off how hungry you are

So Don and I both had really long and busy work days. It's 9:30 and we're just now starting the BBQ to cook some steaks and corn on the cob. Really looking forward to the finished product! Very hungry! So in order to pass the time while the coals heat up and the food grills, we decided to do a co-blog. On the spur of the moment I'll be giving an impromptu interview to Don with questions even I don't know the answers to.

1. Of all the customer's you've helped so far at your new VW job, who did you find the most interesting?

Don: "It's kind of a tie between three of them. One couple was looking for a used car and she happened to be deaf. And recently had a surgery and now is starting to hear. And so filtering the world's noise is very difficult. And she hear things that we normally tune out. #2 was a young duo, our age, who are in the polic academy and when I asked what did they do for a living they said "We're actually not supposed to tell you, but since we're buying a car we have to say something, so we are training to be police officers." And then the third was today where a couple was going to buy a minivan and hopefully tomorrow they will. Two years ago they were in an airplain crash and she has permanantly damage and is in a wheelchair but he is walking."

2. If you had the opportunity to reenact any on stage play you have ever been in, which one would it be?

Probably Barry in "The Murder Room." It was the biggest part I've ever had. There was a character in a play that I did a scene of for a class that I would like to play the full play as this character and that would be Dracula. However, I think I'm still a little young.

3. What do you think is the perfect age for you to be at to play Dracula?

I think I need probably another, well, I'd say age 40.

4. If Bruce Campbell was coming to our house for dinner, what would you cook for him?

I'd probably cook him what we're having tonight (New York Steaks and spice rubbed Corn on the cob) or a Tri Tip.

5. If you had the luxury of being 18 and starting college over again, what would you study/major in?

Probably business marketing and business management. I really think that it doesn't matter what you study in undergrad. A business major has got about as successful career as a religion major and classics major. We're all doing pretty well.

6. List 5 of your favorite movies.

Boondock Saints, The Crow, hmmm, what are my favorite movies? I don't know I'm having a hard time of that one. I'll tell you what constitutes a favorite move for me is high rewatch value. A movie that I can watch over and over again. Those are the ones that usually make my list. Also, from Russia With Love I guess.

7. Your Mini gets set on fire and you have to get a new car. What do you get?

I custom order a Golf TDI.

8. What customizations?

I'd have to know what comes standard and I don't know that yet. But Blue Tooth, Nav, upgraded stereo, maybe Ipod Adapter, upgraded wheels, and maybe a custom color, I don't know it would be yet but I'm impartial to a lot of the blues I see.

9. What if money were no object at all, then what car would you get?

Probably a custom Mini. Probably a Clubman just so that I could have a little bit of utility. Or, I would buy a classic Mini Cooper and have your Dad go nuts with it.

10. What are some of your favorite memories of Cordy as a puppy?

Her snuggling up to the wall heater, right after she was fixed. That's about my only memory of her as a puppy. Oh, I know what my favorite memory of Cordy was as a puppy. The hand game. I miss the hand game. It's a little bit like the claw from Liar Liar only it's your whole hand and you just play like your hand is a little doggy mouth and you play wrestle.

11. How about Seumas?

I knid of like that one when we first visited him at the breeders and he was climbing all over me. That one where he just kind of is looking up at me and I'm looking down at him. I think we've got a picture somewher.

12. What do you miss most about the Weddington House we lived in?

Space and privacy. An actual spare bedroom, not just an office. The gaming room. I can answer the opposite of that question too. I don't miss the windows.

13. You have a $5000 budget and 4 weeks to travel (you don't have to spend it all if you don't want to). Where do you go?

Are you going with me? (Me: Yes, but you don't have to include me in your budget if you don't want to). I'd kind of like to spend several weeks back in Scotland during the warmer months. I don't know that we could do it on a $5,000 budget. It would be kind of fun to go backpacking and just travel by trains and busses, camping, and hostels.

14. Is our dinner ready?

I think so.

Just Another California Morning

I wake up once again to the sound of Diogee barking in the back yard. He's a cute little min pin, a great friend of Cordy and Seumas, but if our neighbor Steve leaves him alone in the backyard at 6 am one more time to bark, I'm gonna kick that dog to the curb. But in truth, he's just barking over the sound of my alarm clock anyway so out of bed I crawl. I let Cordy and Seumas out and stroll out into the backyard. It's 6:30 a.m. and already the sun is bright and warming the earth, a pleasant 65 degrees or so. The cool cement feels good on my bare feet. I give all three dogs a scratch while they tumble and play fight with each other with their frisky morning greetings. After a little picking up around the yard and house and a quick water conserving shower, I fix myself up a quick cup of Americano from Don's delicious coffee press and sit down at the kitchen table with the laptop. I start to go over some work that I brought home with me which I never got to over the weekend. As I'm breaking down the file and as the caffeine seeps into my blood stream my brain starts to wake up and begins chewing over the numbers and figures hungry for a challenge. Lots of questions with this file that don't add up. I continue breaking down the financials, making note of the inconsistencies. I'll have to get a second opinion from one of the veterans at work to see if I'm missing something or if the people that filled out this application are full of doo-honkey. As it nears 8:00 a.m., I face the fact that I must finish getting ready for work. If only I could stay here in my PJ's all day sipping coffee and listening to jazz and work from my kitchen table. It would be so much more productive. Don mentions it is his goal in life to come up with a business plan where we could both work from home. He has no idea what that would be yet. I mention we will need a bigger house. I finish getting dressed and drying my hair. No makeup today, just comfort and practicality. The drive to work is especially pleasant this morning. Having left the house about ten minutes earlier than normal traffic is a breeze, especially considering that it's late June now and there's no more school traffic either. It takes me only 18 minutes to get to work instead of my normal 25. Along the way, I have a moment where I realize that I'm singing rather boisterously to the radio and tapping my thumb to the music on the steering wheel. Ahhhh, so this is what it feels like to have coffee before I leave the house! Normally I don't have my coffee until I get to work. I drive with the windows cracked welcoming the fresh morning air. I have a few extra minutes so as I near work I pull into the grocery store to pick up a few things for work: some more coffee creamer, a bag of pita chips and hummus, and a couple of yogurt cups. As I'm putting my recent purchases away in the kitchen at work, I pop a few slices of turkey bacon in the toaster oven and refill my coffee cup. Definitely not as good as the Americano I had from home but with enough creamer it will do. The awesomeness of the toasted turkey bacon makes up for the unremarkableness of the coffee.

Don recently posted on Facebook that mornings do not agree with him. This morning at least, we agree, the morning and I. In fact, it's the day and evening that promise to be far more pretentious with it's growing demands and interruptions. This morning, it's just me, my coffee, and the work I have in front of me, and maybe a quick splurge for some self-indulging blogging.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Lakers

The Lakers just won a champoinship. And I cheered for them. I guess I am becoming a Californian.

The Wife of a Car Salesman

It's Sunday morning, 10:00 a.m. I've just finished a nice homemade cappuccino and now I'm sitting at the computer catching up on everyone's blogs and feeling a bit inspired by all of the insightful things my friends have to say. So maybe it's time to catch up a bit on my blog too. Since I'm not so good at the phone calls, if I don't write often enough, our family wouldn't know if we were dead or alive.

First of all, I'm so proud of Don and his new job at Volkeswagon. Last month was frustrating for sure and he definitely struggled in the beginning with whether or not it was the right decision to take this job. And too be frank, I did too. It was a long commute, long hours, a declining industry. We had our hopes set so high on the Mini Dealership. When that didn't come through, it wasn't so much that Volkeswagon was a close second, but more like the only offer on the table at the time.

So I held my breath and played the supportive wife roll , whatever you decide I'm behind you, while Don waded his way through a frustrating first few weeks of incompetent IT department taking forever to get his computer hooked up and figuring out the strange and bizzare workings of the car business. It's different than he's used to, the biggest factor being that he doesn't close his own sales, his manager does, and therefore he doesn't set his own margins, nor does he even know what they are. He may have flubbed up an opportunity or two in the beginning, and his first sale that he closed was an all day process, but his managers of course love him and kept pleading to just give them 90 days to see what the car business can do for him. Apparently it takes about that long to really develop your contact base and have consistent leads to turn over.

Well, Don seems to be on a much quicker path than 90 days. He's been able to take his professional skills and process and combine them with this crazy industry and already with less than 6 weeks under his belt is coming in 2nd in sales this month. And this couldn't be more exciting for me. I find myself really getting into his job actually. A born athlete like myself, it has been a long time since I've followed anything which resembles keeping score and my competitive nature is really coming out. I told him the other day that I don't even care how much money he makes anymore, I just wanted him to win! Haha. But it is interesting, and I always look forward to hearing about his day, what kind of customers he had, how the test drive went, what kind of car they were into and why. We are riding the tide a bit and the days when people don't buy are monotonous and frustrating but when he does make the sale it's excitement and celebration time.

I'm not surprised in the least that he is doing so well so quickly. He is a professional in a very bizarre industry. He's honest, listens to his customers, cares about their concerns, gets excited with them, and willing to take extra steps that will lead to greater satisfaction overall. One of the sales he closed last week the customer told him that he had already been into the dealership several times and met with several other people. If anyone else had helped him, he probably still would have walked away from the deal but he wanted to buy from Don because he was the only one that he felt he actually connected with and made the sales process a positive experience. Yeah babe!

But yes, there are downsides. Loooooonnnnngggg hours. And there's no such thing as a day off. You're on the customer's schedule not your own so if they want to come in on your day off, what are you gonna do? Give the sale to someone else? Maybe after we have made our first Mil. ;) So no doubt that sucks but we are making the most of it. I've adjusted my sleeping schedule a bit to stay up later so we can spend more time together and I've been cooking late night dinners so we can eat together when he gets home around 8:30p.m. For me actually it works out pretty well. I have a solid few hours when I get home from work before I even have to think about cooking. Excellent! So far I have been filling my time with chores, errands, meal planning, blogging, chilling with my sister on Skype, walking the dogs, cleaning, and a little exercise here and there, and wayyyyyyyyyyy too much time on Facebook.

Now that I'm over the initial adjustment of our new lifestyles, and have made some progress on my home organization, the next big goal coming up is a half marathon with my sister-in-law in October. So I'll be starting a running program for that and have a long way to go to get in shape.

My other big goal is to read 25 books in a year, so I just started #1. It's called "The River Wife" by Jonis Agee. Just something I grabbed quickly from browsing the shelves at the library that sounded interesting. It's a mystery of unfolding family secrets that weaves together the lives of two different women from the early 19th and 20th centuries living out their lives on a quaint river settlement married to a couple of French descendents named DuCharme. It's off to a grabbing start with a big number on a disaster that traps Miss Annie alive in her bed during the devastating New Madrid Earthquake, and abandoned by her family who could not free her from the wreckage, begins to die a slow death until a wandering scavenger comes to her rescue several days later. Although his intentions are unclear, her motivations for survival outweigh anything else and her powerful will to live sets the opening tone for the book. If anyone wants to read it with me let me know and so we can start our own online bookclub! Don figured out a way to do multiple webcam streaming yesterday for gaming with folks up in Washington so I'm sure we can use that same network for a book club. Well, I have to say that post has gotten me a little jazzed up about this book, so I think I'm off to do a little reading. Happy Sunday All!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Conquering the Coffee

I made an espresso all by myself this morning without any help from Don. Even though I had casually observed Don several times make the coffee with his Aeropress coffee contraption, I still couldn't figure it out and ruined two cups before I finally went to the computer and found a step by step demo on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=31KKAWZd1N8. How did we ever survive without the internet? True there are other sources of information, but none that are awake this early on a Sunday morning!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Right Spot

He fell asleep like this.