Thursday, October 30, 2008

Race and War

I'm never going to get around to editing these photos that have been waiting patiently for weeks, so I'm going to forget about waiting to post till I've prettied up my pics.

A couple weeks ago, Neil and I went to the International Gold Cup steeplechase races and the next day we went to a Civil War re-enactment. You know how I love horsies, so it was a dream come true.

The race was sponsored by Porsche. I'm all for discretion, but I wanted a glamorous picture posing among the cars on display and Neil would have none of it. Come on! I guess it would've been a bit tacky. It was also fun to see all the people on display.

The winner of the $50,000 prize in the main race (there were seven or so races total) was a horse named Bubble Economy, sort of in the middle in the next two pictures below, ridden by the jockey in white and light gray. This was right after they passed the finish line.

The last race of the day.
Neil and I went to a Civil War re-enactment of the Battle of Cedar Creek, 144 years to the day after the actual battle took place. Neil has wanted to go to a re-enactment all summer, so he finally got to live his dream.

Being a native Virginian, I was a little leery about what the whole re-enactment thing was going to be about, but now I would highly recommend attending. The Cedar Creek re-enactment was really awesome -- full uniforms, cavalry, rifles, casualties, etc. It didn't hurt that the battle was a huge Union victory and a major turning point in the war.

As soon as we got there, we heard and felt the reverberations of real cannons going off -- they are incredibly loud, and from 1/2 mile away, you could still feel them shaking your bones. I'm not sure how many people were out on the field, but there could easily have been 1,000. I was really impressed. See for yourself:

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Long Weekend

I can definitely get used to federal holidays.

I've mostly worked jobs where most gov't holidays are either not observed, or I have to work some of them. So this three-day weekend was welcome.

We went to Assateague Island (Maryland), known for its freely roaming wild ponies, to camp on Saturday. We brought a friend with us and met up with a group of friends. We came back Sunday and had dinner with new friends, which was a lot of fun.

We went down to Lake Anna yesterday for a b-day par-tay. We hung out at the lake and cooked out with family for dinner.

I ate copious amounts of my favorite food, S'MORES!!!!

It was a glorious weekend; the weather went above and beyond cooperating.

Here are some pictures from Assateague:

The sunset on Saturday was completely awesome. The change in colors from one minute to the next was incredible.

Looking toward the beach, the moon was coming up.

I think Erin's portrait turned out so great! I never fully grasped (and still don't) the idea of "natural light photography," but the examples I've seen are beautiful. The light from the setting sun was changing every minute, and it created the coolest, most rapidly changing environment.

V .5
V 1.0


Breakfast time

"Sure, we always kick around a soccer ball with ponies in the stands" (look closely).

Close-up of those ponies. The mama had such cool coloring!

Ponies just strolled through the campsite at their leisure. Also pictured is our new tent! I didn't think I would like camping that much, but now I hope there will be opportunities to drive out and camp in Argentina.

Straight out from our campsite. The sound of waves crashing totally reminded me of my days in the Quiet House. So soothing!

The beach, looking left.

The beach, looking right.

Some of our fellow campers enjoying the surf.
I enjoyed it from here, thank you very much.

A good beach read. Actually, I'd told our camping guest about this book I'd read as a child about Assateague Island, and he bought it for me as a gift!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Power of Two

I'm not officially taking Spanish yet, but I learned TWO new words which I'm going to teach you:

Embajada. Em-ba-ja-da.
Embajada means "embassy."

Embajador. Em-ba-ja-dor.
Embajador means "ambassador."

Good to know.

In other news, today marks TWO years that I've known Neil. Yes, two years since they very day I met my sweetheart. They have, without question, been the best two years of my life.

I was super cheesy when I laid my clothes out last night -- I chose the same sweater and scarf to wear that I was wearing the night we met. I was so excited getting ready this morning.

I even bought a Ronald Reagan magnet as a small token of my affection -- a true gift, as I am indifferent toward the man, the myth, the legend. All I know is Neil calls him "The Greatest President Who Ever Lived." (And yes, he calls it "The Greatest President Who Ever Lived" National Airport.)

Two years ago today, my friend Melissa and I were at a surprise birthday party in Leesburg. It had a fall theme, and we carved pumpkins, had cider and caramel apples. It was a fun night. As we were leaving, Melissa invited me to another party in Arlington (50 min. away). I wasn't particularly interested. I was in a post-breakup phase where I was NOT interested in guys, and I just wanted to hide out in Leesburg on a farm with an elderly lady. I mean, I WAS hiding out in Leesburg on a farm with an elderly lady.

Melissa was like, "Oh, COME ON, you need to get out! You'll never meet anyone out here! You can't just stay out here in hiding, moping, forever!" So I was like, "fine, OK, I'll come with you." It was already late, but I realized I needed to live a little -- what happened to that crazy girl who used to stay up till all hours?

Melissa told me that our mutual friend Chas' cousin, Neil, had invited her. She had told me about Neil before, mostly that he was a very skinny, very white, very cool guy. Even from this limited description, I thought he sounded interesting. Who hasn't thrown a skinny guy in the mix of crushes? Though Melissa had hung out with Neil a bit, I'd of course never met him. She called him once we were in Arlington for directions to the housewarming party.

I could hear Neil through the phone as Melissa told him she brought a friend.

"Neil, I brought a girl with me!"
"Oh, really?"
"Yes, she's a beautiful black woman!"
"Nuh uh."
"Yes, her name's Megan, and she's gorgeous!"
"Nuh uh. You're bringing a black girl??"

I was a little distressed at this point, thinking this Neil guy was a racist.

Right about then, we pulled up to The Reserve at Potomac Yard apts. on Jeff Davis, for you locals. Ahhh, the sign at the entrance will always be a romantic spot for me. That is where, as we pulled into the complex, by the lights shining on the sign, I spotted Neil for the first time. A very skinny, very white guy with a white t-shirt (I don't remember what pants, but he was wearing pants (if you know him, you wouldn't put it past him to NOT be wearing pants, especially so close to Halloween)) and a huge mop of blondish brown, white-man afro. So cute!

He hopped in the back of the car to direct us where to park. I was a bit self conscious, thinking how this man hates black people. We did the introductions, I played it cool. I said I think I met him in Hawaii. He said, "No, I don't think you did." I really remembered meeting him, so I said "No, I'm pretty sure I met you -- Chas introduced us and you were with an Asian lady and a baby." He said, "No, that was my identical twin brother and his wife and kid." Weeeird (especially since it was true). Many moons later, he told me that when I asked him, he KNEW he hadn't met me because he would definitely have remembered. Aw.

When Neil told me he was from Arizona, I knew it was all over. My last foray into coupledom had been with a 'zonie, and I suspected I had a thing for AZ natives. There's something just cool about AZ Mormons in a non-Utah, non-SoCal way. We went to the party, and he was rather standoffish, as -- I'll admit -- other guys were chatting and flirting me up. I think they were all wondering Where had I come from?! How come I lived so far away?!

It was quite refreshing to get out, but although it was nice to meet new friends, I wasn't into the pushy types. I was wondering why that totally cute, nice cousin of Chas' was the only dude not all up in my grill? Was there caramel apple stuck in it?

As we left, one of Neil's friends, also shorter than me, was talking about girls not dating shorter guys. The friend asked, "Would you date a short guy?" What the?? Who asks that?! I mean, most girls just don't think about ending up with a guy who is shorter than them. I had never contemplated it. I was completely sincere when I said it would depend on the guy! I was totally stuck, because I wasn't interested in him, but I hoped Neil heard me and would read between the lines!!

We all exchanged numbers, and thus began txt invites from Neil, summoning me from the lonely farm in Leesburg to hang out in the land of nonstop fun, Arlington. He is just the inviting type of guy, so I didn't take it too seriously, though I was flattered. When I couldn't come out, I think he started calling sometimes. I wondered why he wanted to talk to me?

... Somehow this is turning more into our entire courtship story rather than the two-years-ago-today story. Maybe it's good to record it anyway? ...

So the times I could make it out to Arlington, I always had a blast. Neil was the most fun person I'd ever been around! Cool things were always going on that he invited us to. I started to think maybe Neil was super cocky. I was a little turned off by his brazen humor and bold language.

Later, I realized an important lesson: Many men can have clean humor and language, and be total deadbeats when it comes to Priesthood responsibilities. And other men can be a little more J. Golden-esque, and at the same time make you wonder if they might indeed be an angel themselves. Neil fell into the latter category.

One time we were driving; Melissa, me, Neil and our other short-guy friend. This friend seemed to like to ask us questions in his efforts to try to understand girls. This time he said "What is your 'type' " We said it depends on personality. He thought that was a load of crap. We insisted it's true! (It is, isn't it, ladies?) He said he and Neil both have "types" that are independent of personality. He pressed Neil to reveal his "type." Neil eventually said, "Everyone knows I like black chicks." I was staring out the passenger window, glowering into the night, thinking to myself, What? Seriously -- awkward!! I'm the only "black chick" in this CAR! Whatever. I really started thinking this Neil is totally full of himself, trying to scam on me by throwing out these lame lines that his "type" just so happens to be one of two girls in the car!

But inside, I was grinning. I started to like Neil. As the days went by, I didn't want to crush too much, but I really, really liked him.

We were the most awkward in our pursuit at first. Everyone kept trying to DTR for us. We were just slow-moving. Actually, neither of us was brave enough to make a move. He finally asked me on a date, which is another story.

Fast-forward one year from the day we met -- a year ago from today. The photos are here. Neil invited me for a day-long surprise date. Before sunrise, we drove to Harrisonburg for dawn fly-fishing lessons, because I LOVE fishing. It was a lot of fun, and I even caught a fish. Then we went to a ranch where a guide led us on a 4-hr. horseback ride through the mountains where we had a picnic lunch, because I looooove horses. After that, we went to hike Kennedy Peak. It was a pretty cool hike, ending in a gorgeous view of the valley. THERE, Neil asked me to marry him.

We are into keeping dates to remember simple: We met Oct. 7, 2006. We became bf and gf Feb. 12, 2007 (gave in to that last-minute, pre-V-day panic where you aren't sure how to celebrate if you're not "official"). We got engaged Oct. 7, 2007. We were married Feb. 12, 2008. Life is awesome.

Anyway, there is, of course, so much more to this story, and more yet to be written, but I'll call it a night.

Happy two years of knowing you, Neil! I'm glad you finally told me what had somehow never been broken to me before: You'd always wanted a black chick. Luckily the stars aligned and she found you!

Gotta love The Power of Two. (This is someone's funky homemade video, but it's pretty cute!)

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Buenas Noticias

It's official! We're moving to Buenos Aires, Argentina for the next two years! We are very excited to begin this adventure. But first, I have to improve my Spanish. I tested at a level 1 on a scale of 0-5 (5 being native fluency -- and yes, you can actually attain a level 0). For my position, I am supposed to attain level 2 proficiency, so we won't be leaving just yet. My instructor said that in about 3 mos., which is what we have to work with, he thinks I could have level 3 fluency, which is exciting.

This past week was eventful. Tues. my class had a ceremony where each of us was given our post assignment. It was a bit of a surprise, because although we were able to cite our preferences, I wasn't sure where I'd ultimately be sent. Luckily, Neil and I got our top pick.

At the last minute, we had put a different country at the top, and I had been regretting it, so I am SO happy we were posted to Buenos Aires. I think it will be a great place for us to start out in my new career. A lot of people we know have ties there and want to visit. I am looking forward to perfecting my Spanish. I am also looking forward to learning the tango! From what I've heard, there is a lot to do there and it looks like a beautiful city. It's called "the Paris of South America" for a reason!

Thursday was the RATATAT show! It was AMAZING!! I love their sound. I wonder if any other fan has played exclusively their music at their wedding reception?

We saw Ratatat at the Black Cat in D.C. with a bunch of friends, including my brother (it was his birthday!). It was SO awesome to hear them live. Here is a short clip I found from Thurs. night. It's funny because the guy on the right has a pretty reserved stage presence and the guy on the left is a total showman. The keyboardist rocks out, too.

My favorite song of theirs is "Montanita." They performed it during the encore. It was so incredible. Here is a recording of it from last year.

Friday I had my formal swearing-in ceremony. It was pretty cool; my family came out for it and we had a nice lunch afterward. The room where the swearing-in was held was beautiful and all the rooms in that part of the building were decorated in antiques. Here is a pic of Neil and me before the ceremony.

The painting behind us is famous for the fact that it is unfinished. Here's the Wiki:

" 'Treaty of Paris' (unfinished painting). Left to right: John Jay, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Henry Laurens, and William Temple Franklin. The British commissioners refused to pose, and the picture was never finished."

Hope you're enjoying General Conference!