Easing in

I keep going back and forth with whether or not I want to continue writing here, and every time I decide, “I don’t have anything to write about anymore,” the thought of shutting down completely makes me sad (and honestly, seems like a lot of work to archive things). So I’m going to make a conscious effort to write more often, even if I’m writing about nothing. (You: Just like always! BADA-BING/rimshot)

For now, let’s start with what I’ve been doing lately:

  1. Exercising regularly. I know you all love to hear about other people’s exercise habits, but let me tell you, I have been working out regularly for SIX MONTHS and it is the highlight of my day. Like, yeah, the weight loss and visible appearance of things that might be catalogued as muscles are nice, but mainly I feel so much better and less like an 80-year-old woman, so it’s win-win.
  2. They’re finally hiring another writer at work, so my insane workload will be easing. Since they started outsourcing a lot of the work in preparation for the new writer’s arrival, the decrease to my workload means I am now loving my job. I also just won an award for work my team did for the City of Minneapolis, so that was an added bonus. (Plus, I’m going to tell Jason that the phrase, “award-winning writer” now needs to precede my name in my obituary.)
  3. I am trying very hard not to be a Grinch when it comes to the holidays this year. I just need to face the fact that we’ll be doing a lot of traveling, there’s a ton of presents to buy in a very short amount of time (and I REFUSE to set foot in a mall, so help me God), and it’s going to snow constantly, which means SHOVELING. (This is another reason why I love working out; I can come in angry and stressed, and leave 60 minutes later with a blank mind.)
  4. I keep knitting things and then messing them up on the very last, and easiest, step. Last week I finished a tedious infinity scarf made with irritatingly thin, prone-to-splitting yarn, and in the act of binding off the stitches, managed to miss one, which started to unravel the second I held the what-I-thought-was-finished masterpiece up for inspection. It is annoying that I can only knit the most basic of things and that patterns with such advanced techniques as “counting” and “paying attention” are beyond my skill set.
  5. I thought I’d have five things, but I only have four. Oh well, I’m just easing back in, right?

Oakland

Our 2013 baseball trip was originally going to be seeing the Twins play the Rangers in Texas. But then some friends scheduled their wedding that weekend, so we had to come up with an alternate plan.

We decided on Oakland. Flights were cheaper and more convenient for us to fly into San Francisco, but we decided to stay at a hotel in Oakland. Our friends were decidedly vocal about that decision:

“You’re staying in Oakland instead of San Fran?!? Why would you do that?!? Do you want to get murdered?!?”

I mean, yeah, Oakland was a little rough; I won’t lie. Seeing miles of crumbling buildings covered with graffiti from the view of the BART was a little unsettling, but whatever. I live four blocks from a site where two murders happened in two days, yo.

Because of our flight schedule, we got to our first baseball game a little late. As Jason and I wandered the bleak, confining confines of the cemented O.co Coliseum and looked around at the shuttered vendor stations, I thought, “What a dump.” It totally reminded me of the Metrodome, another mixed-use stadium formerly used for baseball and football that felt like a concrete coffin.

Unlike nearly all of our other trips, there were very few Twins fans there. I’ll assume it’s because the Twins were awful this year and no one else wanted to be associated with them.

The Oakland fans were fantastic, though. I attribute it to the fact that the Twins presented them with four wins, hastening their arrival to the playoffs, but for whatever reason, people were more than happy to chat with us (almost everyone we talked to knew someone from Minnesota).

Normally, we try to take a stadium tour, but for some reason, they weren’t offering tours this year. I guess we’ll go on the tour the next time we’re in Oakland, say, around the 15th of Never.

Since we had a day to fill with something other than baseball games, we deviated from our normal Baseball Trip Protocol and did something outside our chosen city: we decided to spend an afternoon in San Francisco. As I rattled off our BART route (Coliseum station to Embarcadero station), Jason said, “How can you navigate areas you’ve never been to before, but you still need your GPS when you go get your hair cut?” (I did make 2 mistakes when it came to the BART, though. One was not realizing that it didn’t open until 8 a.m. on Sundays, necessitating a $100 cab ride to the airport to make our flight home on time, and the other was accidentally going through the turnstiles at our first transfer station instead of just waiting for the next train. Jason: “How come you didn’t know that?” Me: “Oh, you’re right, I should’ve remembered that from the last ZERO TIMES I’ve ridden the BART!” Silly arguments: every trip has one!)

I told Jason I wanted to see Alcatraz and Fisherman’s Wharf, and he agreed. (Side note: I am still furious, furious that Fox canceled Alcatraz. If you think I am being silly, then you should know I still haven’t forgiven ABC for canceling FlashForward. When it comes to canceling television shows I love, I never forgive — and never forget.)

Anyway, we planned on visiting Alcatraz and I was giddy. “I’m super jazzed for Alcatraz!” I’d trill often, waving my hands for emphasis. “Oh my God,” Jason would say. “Please stop doing that.”

But I was super jazzed for Alcatraz. And the tour was just as awesome as my expectations.

Just look at it! Mystery! Intrigue! Criminals! Awesome location/plotline for a great TV show to feature a kick-ass heroine who gets stabbed during what would end up being the last episode thanks to stupid TV execs canceling the show, leaving me to wonder in agonizing, unresolved confusion: DID SHE DIE OR NOT, FOX?

It was very windy on the ferry. But refreshing. Any time I attempted to sing-song, “I’m super jazz-” Jason would cut me off, saying, “NO.” (I’d finish the rest under my breath: “-ed for Alcatraz.” heh heh)

Inside, it was kind of spooky. The audio tour was great, narrated by former inmates and guards, pointing out the tiniest details: “And those pock marks on the floors were caused by gunfire during the men’s escape attempt.” The cells were tiny. God forbid if you were a criminal taller than six feet:

Mmm…steamed heat scrambled eggs.

The whole trip was interesting. There were a number of areas off-limits, either due to restoration efforts or because of the nesting bird areas. At one point, a ginormous gray bird waddled past us and Jason said, “That bird has no neck.” And it didn’t; it looked like a feathered snowman, its head just plopped on top of its body.

After the tour, we wandered around Fisherman’s Wharf. I could’ve watched and listened to these crazy-cute things ARR-ARR-ARRing all day:

There were two giant sea lions fighting for the right to sit underneath the Pier 39 sign. They’d wrestle and push and bite at each other, and when one finally succeeded in pushing his opponent off the dock, the whole crowd cheered and applauded.

Our second baseball game was much better than our first. It was on a Friday night, so the crowd was larger and all of the vendors were open. Plus, it was inexplicably Star Wars night:

Boba Fett threw out the first pitch, and there were a LOT of people dressed up in Star Wars costumes. It was surreal.

We sat next to a guy with his adult kids who made it his mission to make us feel welcome. First, he shared his peanut M&Ms with us (Jason: I love this guy!), then his bag of BBQ kettle chips (Me: Now I love this guy!). He chatted with us the whole game and was just so nice and friendly. Long story short, we’re now Facebook friends.

It was also fireworks night, and the Oakland A’s allowed people to sit on the field after the game. (At the sight of hundreds of people laying their blankets on the field, I said, “Oh, God. The Twins groundskeeper would have a heart attack if people did this at Target Field.”) When the lights finally went out, dozens of little kids turned on their light sabers.

Our third game had a rain delay. I forgot to pack our rain ponchos, so we were temporarily forced to wear enemy uniforms:

But once the game started, the sun came out:

The Twins played abominably, but the A’s fans were so nice. After we committed our 4th error during one game, one guy patted me on the shoulder and said sincerely, “Ugh, sorry.”

We had a wonderful time. Such a wonderful time, in fact, that we decided next year’s trip will be to San Francisco. Which is nice, because we didn’t get a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge from land because it was too foggy, but I got an OK one from the plane:

See ya next year, California.

Cacophony

The other day, Jason mentioned that he keeps seeing the same word over and over in the books he’s been reading. I asked him which word, and he replied, “cacophony.” “That’s weird,” I told him. “I know!” he said. “It’s not like it’s an extremely common word.”

At the time, I was reading the latest Odd Thomas novel by Dean Koontz, and not even 24 hours later, I saw the word “cacophony.” Knowing Jason was going to be reading the book after I finished, I didn’t say anything. A week or so later, as he was reading the book in bed, he sat upright and stabbed his finger at the page, exclaiming triumphantly, “Here it is AGAIN! Cacophony! What’s up with this word being in every book?!?”

“I’m sure it’s not in every book,” I said, giggling.

But you know what? I’ve read five books since then, and the word “cacophony” has been in each one of them.

Shorty – year five

It’s been five years since we adopted you, and it just doesn’t seem that long. Even though we got you when you were already a year old and as “big” as you were going to get, I still think of you as a puppy. I’m so happy that you’ll always remain a teensy, tiny, short little dog.

We hoped your fear/aggression toward adults (men in particular) would eventually go away, but it hasn’t. And that’s on us. This fall, we’re going to hire a dog trainer to hopefully help you get past your fear of letting other people visit our home. Hopefully, this will also mean that men can come up to you in the park. The good news is that you love kids. Whenever we walk in the park, children sprint up to you and ask permission to pet you, and you never bark. You sit patiently as they pet your head or stroke your ears or try to uncurl your tail, and you don’t even blink when they dissolve into shrieking giggles after discovering your name.

You learned a few more tricks this year, but I think after we conquer the “no barking at people” behavior, you’ll be ready to tackle some more complicated tasks. You’re a smart boy, and I love to watch you follow commands, even if that command is for you to “shake” seven times in a row just to see if you’re paying attention.

When we play fetch with you, you take turns returning the ball to us. So if Jason throws it, you’ll bring it to me to throw next and vice versa. It’s like you’re making sure we get the same amount of attention from you, and it’s pretty much the cutest thing ever.

You play with Jason and I differently, though. With him, you wrestle or jump on his back, but with me, you chase after your ball and come racing full-tilt to jump into my lap, usually knocking me backwards. Last month, you decided mid-leap to jump over me instead of into my lap, and your leg collided with my mouth. For a few tense moments, I was afraid you had knocked my teeth out. Instead, I had a cut, puffy lip that needed to be iced for an hour before the swelling came down.

We bought you a purple rubber ball with spikes on it, and you hate this ball. Absolutely hate it. I don’t know if you don’t like the feel of it or you don’t care for the way it crazily bounces instead of rolls, but you get angry at the sight of it. If we try to throw it for you to chase, you’ll briefly run after it before realizing WRONG BALL WRONG BALL HATE THIS BALL NO. Then you’ll come running back to your toy basket, upend it with a paw, root around for a stuffed animal to grab and shake to show us the depth of your displeasure, and then grab a tennis ball to drop into our lap, as if saying, RIGHT BALL USE THIS BALL NO OTHER PURPLE BALL NOT A BALL PURPLE BALL STUPID HATE PURPLE BALL.

You still run downstairs to hide when we turn on the stove or grab a pan, but we’ve been trying to coax you into staying upstairs while we cook. You always seem to know when we’re just microwaving something or making a sandwich though, because you hang out right by the counter hoping to snag a piece of cheese or a swipe of peanut butter.

If we get home late after a Twins game, you’re usually reluctant to go back into your kennel after being outside. You often refuse to come in right away, and as soon as you’re inside, you sprint to our bed, where you’re only allowed to sleep on weekends. Once we shoo you off, you sprint to the futon and hop on that. You only go to your kennel after we’ve cuddled and sang your goodnight song. Every time I sing it, your eyes get droopy and 99% of the time, you yawn halfway through it. That Pavlov guy really knew what he was talking about, and I’m so happy we started singing that song to you at bedtime because it really does calm you down.

You love to sleep with us on the weekends, and usually seem to know when it’s Friday or Saturday. When I bring you inside before bed, I’ll ask, “Where are you sleeping tonight?” and all we can hear is your paws scrabbling to get traction on the hardwood floor because you’re in such a hurry to jump up on our bed.

You are still a nester. So much so that your middle name is now Nestor. We debated getting you a fleece pad to put into your kennel, but you prefer having a blanket to nose into various configurations. You also use this technique on our bed, and what amazes us is how neat you are about it. We can never catch you in the act; we only see the end result.

My favorite parts of the day are cuddling with you upstairs while reading or sitting on the couch at night with you in my lap. Sometimes you’ll twitch while sleeping or start wagging your tail in your sleep and I always wonder what you’re thinking about. I told Jason this week that if I ever get to travel in a time machine, I’d like to go back and find you as a puppy. I bet you were the teensiest, wrinkliest, cutest puppy ever.

We love you, buddy. You are such a good boy.