Sunday, August 24, 2008

Let The Bandwagon Pass Me By

I've been thinking about how I avoid bandwagons. Not all of them, just selected ones. The first time I remember doing this was when I was eight and my whole family got really into playing Tetris. Something about the fact that everyone liked it turned me off, so I avoided playing it.

Everyone's been talking about these vampire books, which sound weird to me, but people whose opinions I trust are saying they're really good.

The problem is, they're saying they're really REALLY good, I CAN'T stop reading them, I can't WAIT for the movie!! I started a club! We ALL read them within 24 hours!!! YOU should read them, YOU'LL LOVE IT AHHH gagaga I'M IN LOVE WITH EDWARD!!!!

Creepy stuff like that, that's so enthusiastic it's off-putting.

So that's one bandwagon I'm avoiding. This isn't the first time I've avoided something because it got SO popular it went past the point of drawing me in and instead deterred me.

A short list:

I've never read any of the "Harry Potter" books
I've never seen the "Star Wars" movies, old or new
I've never played Solitaire
I've never seen "Lost"
I've never worn gaucho pants
I've never read the Book of Mormon (JUST kidding)
I've never seen "American Idol"
I've never tried (?) Sudoku

That's all I can think of for now. Obsessive, no?

Maybe being carried away by vampires to a high school fantasy land could improve my life. I guess I'm missing out on some of life's pleasures simply because of my own stubbornness in wanting to rebel against what's insanely popular. It's not at all that I think I'm better for it. I just feel freaked out by some things that are very popular and want to avoid them, if possible.

There is hope that I may come around to a fad once it dies down a bit, just to see what all the fuss was about:

In high school, a friend finally convinced me to watch "Top Gun." In college, my friends got me to finally see "Dirty Dancing."

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

'Freedom Isn't Free!'

Yesterday was a beautiful, sunny day. I dropped Neil off in D.C. to take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery before I went to work. He has been talking about joining the Air National Guard for months, and I guess he's serious about it; the ASVAB is the first step to joining. I hope he did well on the test, because he wants to do well, but I am worried. I don't like the idea of him being in the armed services. Especially right now, when "National" Guard means you'll be sent to Iraq or Afghanistan, not Illinois or Alabama.

I am completely selfish, closed-minded, one-sided, ignorant, etc. etc. on this one. Neil seems to be a total idealist on this -- when we talk about it, he gets all patriotic, spouting partisan philosophy. He likes to say "Freedom isn't free!" Well maybe it's not, but it doesn't have to be bought with my husband's life.

Yes, I'm deeply sorry for the thousands of people who have died and more so for the families who are affected every day by casualties of war. But those who died chose to go out there -- they weren't forced. Unfortunately, that's not the case for their family members. I can love my husband, but I don't have to love everything he does. Why does he feel this compelling need to serve his country in this way? I think it's great to feel patriotic and want to "do" something to show that. But there are a lot of other ways than by deliberately putting yourself in harm's way. There are plenty of other government jobs that support U.S. policy, where one can show just as much patriotism, that do not involve combat.

I know my argument sounds completely shallow. "Who SHOULD be on the front lines then?!" you may be asking. I don't know. I don't have the answers. I am being completely selfish here and saying I don't know, I don't care, but I don't want it to be Neil.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Des Moines, Omaha, Represent

I've had two friends blow in from the Midwest in the past few weeks.

First, Cavan came out here for a meeting at Gannett headquarters. He is in charge of the Mom's Blog at The Des Moines Register and was here for a Mom's Blog conference. He was worried he would be the only man at the conference, but luckily this wasn't so.

Cavan and I have been friends ever since we met in the dorms way back in 1999! We have had tons of hilarious times; he is probably the funniest person I know. I was a groomsmaid in his wedding two years ago and he and Scott came out here for my wedding in Feb. I'm going to miss working at Gannett, because I won't see Cavan nearly as often.

Cavan, our friend Omar and I are the THE ORIGINAL HALF-BREED OUTLAWS. We were taking a Technical Communication course at Iowa State University and working at the Iowa State Daily campus newspaper, and we realized that between the three of us, we were 1 1/2 white people, 1/2 a black person, 1/2 a Taiwanese person and 1/2 a Palestinian. We were leaving class in Ross Hall one day, and we saw a flier posted on one of the doors, announcing a show for a band or something called the Half-Breed Outlaws. We said, "That's us!" I guess that wouldn't make us THE ORIGINAL HBOs, but you know what I mean.

And such was the inspiration for the name of this blog.

I wish I would've taken photos while Cavan was here -- a long way (for me, at least) from the Daily, BUT, I do have a video of Cavan being funny:

My second Midwestern visitor, Amanda, came out from Omaha for a trade show last week. Amanda and I have been friends ever since I moved to Nora Springs, Iowa, in high school. We have also had many a funny time together, and it was a lot of fun to see her and catch up. I was a bridesmaid in her wedding, also two years ago. I actually introduced Amanda and her husband, Brigham. Amanda and I were roommates in college, and in the dorms, we lived on the floor above the floor Cavan and Brigham lived on. I met Brigham in the elevator the first week. When he said his name was Brigham, I asked if he was LDS, and he said no, everyone always asks him that. He explained that his dad is a professor and saw the name on a textbook and liked it. I eventually introduced Amanda and Brigham when his floor threw a party for our floor, and the rest is history.

Last week, Amanda and I met for breakfast in Old Town Alexandria and a couple days later she, Neil and I went to dinner at one of my favorite restaurants in Old Town: Las Tapas. During Christmas breaks in college my friends and I used to go there to dance to their Gipsy Kings cover band. They didn't disappoint this time, either. They had a flamenco guitarist and he was accompanied by a flamenco singer and a dancer. The music was completely enchanting and the dancer was beautiful and so talented. Afterward we got ice cream and walked around the waterfront. It's so charming there. Of course, no photos. I am totally slacking. But I do have a pic of Amanda and me right before we said goodbye:

Thursday, August 14, 2008

BR -- Back With A Vengeance

I guess it took a 30-year anniversary for Banana Republic to finally kick it into gear, but its fall line has outdone itself; winning my heart and threatening to hold my pocketbook hostage until I give in to its demands.

(The Web site is a poor shadow of the in-store experience: The fragrance of new clothes; the crisp, cool interior; the moody, beat-driven music and peacock-like flutter and fan of well-displayed apparel push this line.)

After several seasons (notably and unexpectedly Summer '08) of uninspiring, unflattering (please, no more maternity -- er, empire-waist -- tops) and dull designs, it's great to see that something -- the change of season? Three decades to get it right? The sputtering economy? -- has prompted BR to bring its focus back to feminine designs in irresistible colors to please women who have grown bored of its half-hearted overtures.

It's not just the colors that are doing it well. Though the first wave of fall fashions is a layer of neutrals -- standard ivory, obsidian, charcoal and mushroom -- studded with jewels of deep teal, maroon, indigo, grape, emerald and garnet -- what really catches the eye and tactile sense are the luxurious materials: Languid silks, fuzzy wools, creamy cashmeres and playful felts. The sheer -- literally, in some cases -- genius in the designs ice the cake. None of this boxy, frumpy, figure-concealing stuff we've been seeing of late. Well-constructed pieces with thoughtful and surprising details -- pintucks here, buttons there -- mark the collection. Sensual draping and ruffling (even a nod to this daring couture style) juxtapose with shaped, precise lines and pleats.

Whether BR realized women like to look pretty (shocker!) in clothes that accentuate their best physical features, or it dawned on them that in these times of financial stress, women want an escape and aren't going to keep buying whatever lackluster apparel is thrown together and put on the show floor, something finally got BR's designers to draw on its 30 years (remember Spring '04?!) and once again put out a line that makes one wander through the store, touching everything, loading an arm with possibilities and wishing that pesky salary would at least double.

Keep your eye on what this long-lost cornucopia will bring forth. BR has got it back, and as we go from fall into winter, I don't think they're going to let it go.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Best Six Months

The past six months have been the best of my entire life. I love and admire a man who is perfect for me and who loves and admires me in return. We have so much fun and we're never bored when we're together. I feel unbelievably lucky and incredibly blessed.

I don't have a lot to work with here, so forgive the ol' cameraphone pics.

Neil's cousin Julie took this one after a night out when we were dating last spring.

Neil's former roommate, Clayton, took this one at a bullfight in Mexico City last summer. This sits on my desk at work -- well, this is a (crappy quality) picture of the picture.

These and a sweet note were waiting for me at work today!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Out West, Back East

My grandpa Olson passed away in Layton on Monday. Neil and I went to Utah on Wednesday and got back last night. You can read a bit about my grandpa's life here.

It was nice to see so much family during our trip, but it was painful that my grandpa wasn't with us. I kept feeling like he might just come around the corner into the room, meeting our astonished faces and questions with "I was just right over there," pointing behind him. Even if it was just part of getting used to grandpa not being around, it was nice to feel like he was close in that way.
I'm not a good writer, so I can't do him justice here -- I wish I could convey the memories and thoughts I have about my grandpa. He was always so sweet and kind. I am looking forward to seeing him again one day, and it is another comfort of my testimony in the gospel to know that I will get to hang out with grandpa again. I am trying to imagine what he's doing right now. I know he is with loved ones and he is comfortable, healthy and happy.
A few memories of my grandpa:
My grandpa was quiet and had a big heart. My grandma is more talkative and while she told a story, he would sprinkle in a detail or clarify a point here or there. When I was little, I'd sit by him and he would rub my feet while everyone visited. Our pets especially liked this about him -- he would sit there and pet them and scratch their heads tirelessly. Up until I was about eight years old, my grandparents lived near us in Burke, Va. It was fun going to visit them and having them visit us. Once, my grandpa and I went to the store and he said I could get any candy I wanted. I came home with a 1/2 lb. bag of M&Ms. One time grandpa took my sister and me on an errand to Hechinger (similar to Home Depot). My Dad used to take us there, too, and as little girls, we weren't very excited about going to a building supply store. Hearing our protests (i.e. whining), Grandpa read the slogan on the front of the store: "Hechinger: The World's Most Unusual Toy Store." YAY!!! The place had been magically transformed! Unfortunately, I couldn't read, and when we went inside there were no toys. Hechinger was actually known as The World's Most Unusual Lumber Yard. About 15 years ago, when my grandparents came to visit us, my grandpa busied himself with completely organizing all the many, many boxes of stuff (treasures? junk?) and food storage in our basement. No small task, especially for a man of his age. But that was just like my grandpa, seeing something that needed doing and doing it.

More recently, grandpa did the most important thing anyone could for me in this lifetime. Six months ago Tuesday, he sealed Neil and I together in marriage for time and all eternity. He and my grandma traveled from Layton, Utah, to Virginia so grandpa could perform our sealing in the Washington, D.C. temple. It was special for so many reasons, one of which was that my grandpa was a sealer in the D.C. temple before he moved to Layton where he worked in the Ogden temple. I am eternally grateful my grandpa wanted to do this for us. I wish we could have visited grandpa again, but I am glad we were able to attend his funeral services and as a family share our loving memories of such a kind, generous man.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Exercising the Demons

I'm pretty happy with myself that I've been working out consistently the past few weeks. I'm an on the wagon/off the wagon type of girl, so I take it day by day, week by week. What has helped is joining the Relief Society running group on Monday mornings. It seems to set the pace, if you will, for the whole week. Getting out of bed and working out first thing Monday seems counterintuitive, but I end up feeling great and wanting to do it again the next day.

I've also worked out with Neil a few times, which is fun, too. It's motivating to hear the alarm go off and know I can't stay in bed because he's going to work out, and I should go, too. Plus it's extra time to hang out with him.

On Friday I went to ballet class, which I haven't been to in awhile. It was great, and such a workout. I missed the class I normally go to, so I went to the more advanced one. I could hang for awhile, and then it was way beyond me, but I still tried to keep up. It's funny when you feel like your body is doing one thing and you have a mirror wall in front of you telling you it's doing something else. After class, I was completely exhausted, and fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. I love it when I've exerted myself to that point. I'm quite sore today, but it's a good hurt.

What I'm saying here is that I've found some fitness things that, for me, right now, work. It seems I am more encouraged if I feel I have "people counting on me" -- the RS running ladies; Neil; the ballet class. I am not as great at self-motivation. But feeling like I am going to let someone down if I'm not there (hey, it's a functional lie I tell myself) gets me out of bed or out the door. Find out what works for you, and ... just do it.

Me and the bandit
Richmond Marathon finish line, Nov. 10, 2007