Thursday, July 30, 2009

Impressions of Ithaca

I've had a lot of time to think about what Ithaca would be like. We've known that we would be moving here for almost six months, which is a long time to wonder how beautiful this place could possibly be, the way everyone talks about it.

Well, even with all the hype, I can say without reservation that Ithaca is, in fact, gorgeous (or "gorges," as the tourism industry here would have us say). I alternate between feeling like I've landed in the opening scenes of The Last of the Mohicans with all those misty green mountains (I know it was Tennessee or somewhere but the aura is the same) or some alternate version of the Twilight books where Forks is a somewhat larger town with an Ivy League university. Here it is the middle of summer and it is rainy and cool. There are forested hills and large grassy meadows everywhere and it's all green, green, green. It's as if Ithaca was made using a completely different pallette of colors, most of them being shades of green. The shock isn't as great as it would have been coming directly from Tucson. At least we had a stopping-over period in Provo to ease us into a verdant, life-affirming landscape. Still, I can't keep myself from staring at the grass and trees and soaking it all in.

Our apartment is kind of in the middle of a forest, which is great for outdoor play but not so good for cell phone reception. Fortunately, our contracts are up in a week or two so we'll figure out a way to not have to make phone calls standing outside down the street. We're still sour on a traditional family cell phone plan so we're hoping to rig up a combination of Google Voice, pre-paid cell phones, and possibly a land line that will work for us. Any input?

In a more social sense, Jeremy and I feel a little bit like we've gone from being medium-sized fish in a medium-sized pond, to being small fish in a very big pond. For example, among the people who helped us move in (thank you, Mormon connection) were a handful of PhDs or near-PhDs and a post-doc. Where else does that even happen?

I am almost giddy with nerdy linguistic excitement to discover that they have an accent here. You don't hear it everywhere since so many people are implants, or here temporarily from elsewhere with Cornell or Ithaca College, but I can hardly pay attention to the actual substance of what people say when they are speaking in that wonky Upstate New York brogue. Plus, they pronounce "Binghamton" as "BINGhamton," with the "hamton" part almost swallowed instead of spoken. I can't get enough of it.

One thing that concerns me is the injudiciousness of having to say "New York State" or "Upstate New York" when referring to the place where we now live. I've always thought it was unfair that people from Washington had to tack on "...state" to the end when really, it's the people from DC who should have to add on the "DC." Right? Maybe it's just because I grew up in the Northwest where Washington (State) was more immediate and local. On our trip out here, if we told people we were moving to New York, they assumed we meant the city. I'll have to sort out just how indignant I am about this later.

But there's not a lot of time for indignance when we have a city and a campus to explore. It seems like when people move to new places, they're always able to describe them in terms of where they've already been. In that case, Ithaca reminds me of Middlebury on steroids. It has the winding country roads and old houses with sprawling grass lawns ending at the forest, but it has a much larger downtown area and more of a bustle about it. I can't wait to discover more.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Road Trip UT to NY: Day 4 (Kirtland to Ithaca)

Day 4: Kirtland, Ohio to Ithaca, NY. We finished off Ohio, then drove through Pennsylvania, finally arriving in upstate New York.
Pace: Steady. A cool 4.5 hours of driving.
Rations: Best described as "so bored of every single snack we have in the car." It was like we had to force ourselves to eat. Near the end we were all just eating M&Ms because there was nothing else.

I'm writing this about 24 hours after arriving, but we'll see what I can remember about those final hours of driving.

The temple at Kirtland, or as the RLDS would put it, "Kirtland Temple." I don't know why the girls are fleeing.

We stopped at the historical sites in Kirtland for exactly 27 minutes before hitting the road. It was all Jeremy would allow. We saw the temple from the outside and the Visitor Center on the inside. Both were awesome. We promised the RLDS (Community of Christ) tour guides that we'd be back for a more thorough visit sometime now that we're living back East and I think they'll hold us to our word.

Upstate New York's rest areas kick all other rest areas' butts. Here is an example:

During childhood road trips, mostly from Oregon to California, we siblings always kept an eye out for the "exotic" license plates. You know, cars from far-away places like Florida or New Jersey. As we pulled up alongside them in the van on the freeway, we'd always take a peek at the car's passengers just to see what those exotic people were like. Well, folks, I have become one of those exotic people. Practically everyone from Iowa on east made sure to get a good look at us as they passed our Arizona license plates.

I was getting pretty tired driving those last few hours but I kept myself awake by noticing how gorgeous this place is. For a little while I was nervous that I had fallen asleep and was dreaming about what heaven might look like, but no, I was still awake and driving.

Thoughts on Ithaca itself and the joys of moving in to come soon. In the meantime, here is a belated picture of those zany sideways Nebraska traffic lights:

and the smiley-face water tower in Iowa:


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Road Trip UT to NY: Day 3 (Lincoln to Kirtland)

Day 3: Lincoln, NE to Kirtland, OH (if you're keeping track, that means we drove across Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana today).
Pace: Grueling (14 hours in the car).
Rations: Meager.

Here are the highlights and observations for today.

-We left Nebraska, where "all the toilet seats in public restrooms are black!" at least according to Miriam's observations.

-Iowa is my new best friend. Not only is the place startingly beautiful, but their water towers have smiley faces on them and their rest areas are clean AND come with wireless internet. I could have done without the automatic flushing toilets at the rest areas, though. Miriam is terrified of those and so I had to stand by the potty with my hand over the sensor the whole time Miriam took care of her business. It's one of those parenting tasks that no one ever warns you about.

-My dear friend from childhood Britney lives in Des Moines. Do you know anyone who lives in Des Moines? I do. Sadly, our schedules did not align during the 15 minutes we were driving through town. She was able to give me a good Costco tip-off, though, so that was nice.

-I was a little nervous driving through Illinois since we're Mormon and all. Until 1976, killing Mormons in Illinois was smiled upon, so I was happy to cross the border to Indiana.

-I shed a tear as I drove through South Bend because I missed meeting up with another dear friend (this one from college), Liz. Cursed twice in one day! So sad. The only friends we ended up successfully visiting were Chris and Anna yesterday in Lincoln.

-We stopped at a McDonald's in...somewhere, Indiana, to pick up some nugs to bump our rations up from bare bones to meager. As soon as I drove up, the employee gave some spiel through the drive-thru speaker and in a moment of tired honesty, I replied, "I didn't understand a word you just said. Can I just get a 9-piece chicken nuggets?" Silence. "Is there such a thing?" Silence. I think she was still reeling from me telling her I found her incomprehensible. Finally, she told me there was a 10-piece chicken nuggets, and I could have that, if I paid her THREE DOLLARS AND SEVENTY-FIVE CENTS. Fast food is expensive. The kicker is that after we drove away, Jeremy counted the nugs and there were only nine of them. Ha ha. Nice one, McDonald's employee in Indiana.

-I personally drove about 12 hours today. I got a little loopy around hour 11. Three lanes is good. I can do three lanes well, for a long time. It's the two lanes that gets to me, what with the semi trucks clogging up traffic and all.

-Even though I drove a lot, I think Jeremy had the tougher job taking care of kids in the back. In the final hours of the drive, we just handed Nigel the GPS over to Miriam and let her have at it. Then we got to listen to a commentary of all the roads we were crossing, and all the bodies of water we were driving near. It was wonderful.

I think that's about it. Tomorrow we're going to turbo-visit Kirtland and then push on to Ithaca. The end is almost in sight!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Road Trip UT to NY: Day 2 (Scottsbluff to Lincoln)

Day 2: Scottsbluff, Nebraska to Lincoln, Nebraska.
Pace: Steady (only about 7 hours of driving).
Rations: Filling, thanks in part to dinner with friends in Lincoln.

So, Chimney Rock. We visited it first thing this morning and I have mixed feelings about it. On the positive side, it was Chimney Rock of Oregon Trail fame. The Visitor Center was informative and kid-friendly. On the negative side, they wouldn't let us anywhere near it, I assume for preservation reasons. It seems to me that it wouldn't hurt to at least let us close enough to see the names carved there. Oh well.

We drove by Courthouse Rock and Jailhouse Rock, too.

I had been looking forward to attending a random Mormon church service. It's kind of fun to do, to dive in to your religion in a different part of the country and see how it's the same, how it's different. Unfortunately, it didn't work out. We forgot to factor in the time difference and besides, it seemed cruel to release the girls from the car only to have them sit still during a church service. Another time, I suppose.

Otherwise, what can I say? We drove to Lincoln, stopped at Chris and Anna's house for dinner, and then got talked into staying the night (it wasn't very hard to do). We'll have to pay off the debt of missed driving hours tomorrow.

Until then.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Road Trip UT to NY: Day 1 (Provo to Scottsbluff)

I feel like I'm in 4th grade again, driving (albeit in reverse) along the Oregon Trail. I don't know about people who didn't grow up in Oregon, but we Oregonian kids studied the Oregon Trail in depth for a whole year of school, culminating in a week-long re-enactment, complete with an Indian attack carried out by the 6th graders.

The pioneer fun carried on in the form of the Oregon Trail computer game, which is pretty much all I remember doing, ever, during elementary school computer lab time. This one time, I started out as a farmer, didn't have anybody die of dysentery, cholera, a broken leg, or starvation, chose to raft the Columbia River, and didn't crash, but then computer lab time was up and I had to walk away just moments from finishing what was basically a perfect game. Sigh. I can still feel the thwarted anticipation of earning a triple score for being a farmer.

So you can imagine my giddiness when on our trip today we started passing such notable sights as Fort Bridger. Fort Bridger! It was all I could do to restrain myself from going into town to trade some goods.

We set ourselves at a steady pace with meager rations. We only drove 9 hours but we limited our food to what we had in the car plus one $5 sub from Subway to split among us all. It worked out pretty well. We're staying the night in Scottsbluff, Nebraska and are looking forward to visiting Chimney Rock tomorrow. Chimney Rock!

Nebraska is very exotic to me. The stoplights are sideways and the only past tense that exists is third-person singular, at least if the front desk clerk at our hotel is any indication. There are rolling fields and country highways whose speed limit is 65 mph and everything seems very wholesome and corn-fed.

Next up, on Day 2: the rest of Nebraska, and hopefully a goodly portion of Iowa.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Farewell, Provo

Our Provo Summer has been wonderful, but it's time to move on. If all goes according to plan, we're hitting the road today. Road Trip 2009: UT to NY (via AZ and CA) has begun. I made a mix CD and everything.

(The CA part - I don't think I ever mentioned it on this blog but the girls and I were in Southern California last week, which means that essentially we will have literally driven all the way across the country when all is said and done.)

This is your last chance to volunteer any I-80 highlights we may want to make a point of visiting.

I will be implementing many of the tips you readers provided me with way back when. I've fine-tuned a few of them, including:

-taking snacks out of noisy packaging ahead of time so that it doesn't wake up sleeping children.
-utilizing Costco as a rest stop because you can get gas, food, a bathroom, and a run-around break all at once.
-not kidding ourselves that whichever adult isn't driving will get to sit in the front passenger seat, ever. Backseat childcare wins, every time.

Here goes!

And here's a random list of things I'll miss about Provo:

-those zany "Do not walk here alone after dark..." signs painted in dripping-blood font near the JSB Ramp/Rape Hill on the BYU campus.
-the odd thrill of descending into Provo from Orem via University Parkway, complete with gorgeous view.
-Macey's. I love that place beyond all reason.
-fun, free, family-friendly, outdoor events on campus.
-our landlord's dog, Goldie.
-seeing EFY groups and snickering at them, and also thanking my lucky stars that I am not 15 anymore. Yeesh.
-the expanded beverage and frozen treats section at Costco.
-the Provo library.
-having family so close by.

The good thing is, I'm sure we'll be back for a visit someday. A place like Provo just stays in your blood. You can never sever ties completely, somehow. And I'm glad it's that way.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Flashback Friday: Attack of the bees

Now that you've all heard the lovely story about how Jeremy and I met, I'll move on to something that happened while we were dating. It involves us, a ping-pong table, and bees. Lots and lots of bees.

It was in the fall of 2000. I had spent the summer in Japan but was back in Provo, ready to pick things up with Jeremy more or less where we left off. He had spent the Bridgetless summer in Provo working at the MTC and living at an apartment complex southeast of campus called Sparks II (yes, "II"). His roommate was a Palestinian who learned English in large part from watching The Simpsons. The apartment kind of sucked, but what else is new? There was a girl there who was interested in him, who gave him movie ticket vouchers, perhaps hoping he'd use them with her, but he didn't. He used them with me, and we went to see Vertical Limit. It was a terrible movie and I'm glad we didn't have to spend money on it. Thanks, random girl!

Anyway, although Jeremy had since moved away from Sparks II (to an informal Arabic House south of campus), we still went back there sometimes to play ping-pong together in the common room. Technically, I guess it was intended for residents' use only, but we figured that as a former resident, he came close enough.

Every once in a while, we'd have the place almost to ourselves, but usually there were other people milling around and we'd take turns at the ping-pong table.

One very special night, however, we showed up at the Sparks II common room and nobody was there. Not a soul. We had the run of the place. We couldn't believe our luck! No sharing the ping-pong table. No scrounging for paddles. It was all ours. Sweet!

We began playing as usual, still rejoicing at whatever mysterious circumstances had led to us having the common room all to ourselves. We played for a few minutes, and then I noticed something strange, namely that there were dead bees all over the ping-pong table. I don't know how we didn't see them immediately; chalk it up to our elation at being the only people there that night.

We thought it was a little weird that there were dead bees on the ping-pong table, but whatever. We kept playing. Then we looked around a little more. Not only were there dead bees on the table, there were dead bees everywhere. On the couches. On the floor. On the windowsills.

Some of the bees were even still alive, swarming lazily out of the AC vents. That did it. We high-tailed it out of there as fast as we could to escape from the bees.

Looking back, I can't quite figure it out. Why was there no sign on the door warning us to stay away from the bee-infested common room? Why were the doors even open?

I don't think we ever went back to play ping-pong at Sparks II. We stuck to King Henry's common room after that and never encountered bees, dead or alive. Go figure.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Nastygram to the rescue

I guess American Express does care about its customers, as long as you make a big fuss.

Yesterday, I wrote about the problem we had with American Express when they told us they'd have no problem waiving a late fee, but then refused to make good on their word. After I posted, I wrote a separate nastygram directly to American Express:

Last week, on the date our bill came due, I called AmEx to let them know that I would be a day or two late on the bill because of waiting for a transfer to come through from our high-yield savings account. At first, I asked the AmEx employee if the due date could be pushed back to accommodate us since we had never once been late. She said that although she could not alter the due date, she would post a note to our account that we were planning to pay. While we would still be charged a late fee, she explained, we could call in when we made the payment and have the fee reversed.

I asked her if it would be a problem to have it reversed. She told us that it would absolutely not be a problem, given our impeccable history of paying on time.

We did as we were instructed. Imagine our surprise, however, when we called to get the late fee reversed and were told that it would be impossible. This was in direct contradiction to what we were told by an AmEx employee at the time we gave notice that we might be late on this specific payment.

Despite both my and my husband's best efforts, we have been unable to get anyone at AmEx to apologize meaningfully for this discourteous treatment and make the appropriate reparations. We were told in no uncertain terms that we would be able to have the late fee reversed with no problems. What happened is exactly the opposite. This, despite our loyal, problem-free history with American Express over the last three years.

If this is how American Express treats their loyal customers who take the effort to notify them of a one-time late payment, I'd hate to know how they treat the rank and file. I have written about this negative, disappointing experience on my blog [link] and will take the opportunity to spread the word at any chance I get. I really am quite upset and saddened that I was essentially lied to by an AmEx employee, especially one who was so helpful and kind as I explained our extenuating circumstances.

I would hope that AmEx would be willing to make good on this employee's word, as it seemed to be given genuinely, despite any general company policies that might prohibit it. I've been happy to be a Costco AmEx customer in the past and I am sad to have to re-evaluate that relationship at this time as a result of this incident.
You can see I took a slightly softer approach than I did on the phone and in my previous blog post. I decided to focus on the fact that a really nice, helpful AmEx employee told me they could waive the fee, and would it be that big of a deal for them to not make a liar out of her?

Today, I received this response:

Dear Bridget Palmer,

Thank you for your email.

Please accept my sincere apology for the service that you recently received. I understand that in this matter, we did not provide a level of service that was acceptable to you and can understand the disappointment and frustration this matter brings.

Our records do indicate that you have always maintained an impeccable and impressive account history with American Express.

Please be assured that as a gesture of respect to your relationship with American Express and our commitment for impeccable customer service, I have credited your account for late fee in the amount of $XX.XX. This credit will be reflected on an upcoming statement.

I would request you to kindly reconsider your decision of re-evaluating the relationship with American Express and give us an opportunity to be of service to you for many more years to come.

We truly appreciate your association with us since 2006 and would like to serve you for many more years to come.

If there is any other way I may be of assistance, please feel free to contact again.

In the future, perhaps I'll skip the phone route entirely and stick to email. Obviously, it got the job done, and more relieved, I could not be. Three cheers for nastygrams!

Also, for further reading, I recommend this article (pointed out to me by Susanne). It reveals that people like me who pay the credit card balance in full every month, on time, are called "deadbeats." Nice.

American Express doesn't care about its loyal customers

Here's a nastygram for you. I hashed this one out on the phone just now and I am still so upset about it that I hope this makes sense.

Jeremy and I have had the Costco American Express for several years now. We've never had any complaint. We used it, we got our rebates, we were happy. We always paid our bill on time, without exception, even if it meant going to an internet cafe in Amman, Jordan late at night to make the deadline. Our whole theory of using a credit card was to never pay a cent of interest or late fees, and we succeeded at that without error.

Fast forward to last month, when we used our Costco American Express to pay for our moving service with ABF. It put a couple thousand dollars on the card, but we weren't worried because Cornell would be reimbursing us.

Then last week, when the Costco American Express bill came due, I took a look at the statement and realized that the moving expenses had just barely squeaked in to that month's billing cycle, and the reimbursement funds from Cornell had yet to come through. So we were stuck paying the extra thousands of dollars sitting on the credit card with the money in our checking account. Except we didn't have extra thousands of dollars in our checking account.

I immediately called American Express and spoke with a nice employee. I told her we'd never had a late payment, ever, but that this month, I needed an extra day to transfer some funds from our high-yield savings into our checking account and could she push the bill due date back as a courtesy, just this once?

She responded that while she couldn't extend the due date, she could post a note on our account that we were planning to pay on a specific date. Then, when we made the payment, we could request to have any late fees reversed.

I asked her if she thought that would be a problem. She said absolutely not, given our impeccable history of paying our bills on time and the fact that I called ahead to warn them that we were going to be late.

I'm sure you can guess what happened. We did exactly as this nice employee said, and then they slapped us with a late fee anyway and refused to reverse it.

The most maddening part about it all is that every employee I spoke with on the phone didn't care. They didn't care that we'd been loyal American Express customers since 2006. They didn't care that we always paid our bills on time, and that we took extra effort to notify them that we'd be slightly late this one time. They didn't care that their own employee told us that it absolutely would not be a problem to get any late fee reversed. They didn't care when I said I felt cheated and lied to by American Express. All the supervisor kept repeating was, "At this time, as a company, we are not issuing courtesy reversals of late fees."

I told him I didn't care what their policy was as a company - if he took a look at the facts in this situation, he would see that it clearly warranted an exception. I started out arguing that we deserved the courtesy reversal because we had never been late on a payment before, but when it came down to it, I stuck to the point that an American Express employee had told us the fee would be waived. What the supervisor was basically telling me was that she had lied to me.

I don't pretend to understand all the intricacies of the credit card business, but I have to wonder if they would have been more willing to deal kindly with us if they'd ever actually made any extra money off of us. Perhaps a person who pays their bill on time each month, every month, is not their idea of a good customer. After all, we only ever paid exactly what we owed, without any extra added-on interest or fees (until now, of course). Maybe that's why my "loyal customer" argument fell on deaf ears.

My question is, what do I do now? I'll write an official nastygram and send it, of course, but what then? Do I cancel the card? I've never had a supervisor put up such a brick wall of "no means no" before, and I'm not sure how to get around it.

Let's all cross our fingers for high Google rankings of "American Express customer service," "American express doesn't care about their loyal customers," "American Express refuses to reverse a late fee even when they said they would, which makes them liars," and "American Express sucks and I hate them."

Update: American Express did eventually make good on their promise to reverse the late fee. Read about it here.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A trip outside my comfort zone

There are some things in life that you just need to dive right in and do without thinking about it too much ahead of time. Taking off a Band-Aid, for example, or perhaps breaking up with someone (one motion, RIGHT OFF!!!).

For me, one of these things was going in to visit my old workplace here in Provo. It was my last real job, as far as 40 hours/week + benefits goes. I loved working there, and the people I got to know there were good friends who I missed very much when I left in June 2004 to move to Syria. Provo may be a fairly homogenous (white, Mormon) city, but since this place was a translation company, the staff were from all over the place, spoke all kinds of languages, and had varied and interesting backgrounds. I have a lot of good memories from working there.

But I was still nervous about dropping in for a visit. A lot has happened in the last five years. I've had two kids, they've moved to a bigger office across the street from the old one, etc. The biggest change for me was that since I'm now a SAHM, I don't get a lot of casual exposure to the "real world" on my own terms as a grown-up. To go back to my old work - where I once had my own (small) office, and two flat-screen computer monitors, and responsibilities that did not involve poop or vomit, and relationships with other adults based on something besides children - was, I admit, way outside of my comfort zone.

That's why I tried not to think about it too much ahead of time. If I did, I just knew I'd lose my courage. I took the girls to Macey's for a behind-the-scenes tour of the grocery store (so awesome, possibly deserving its own post, we'll see) and told myself that when it was done, maybe we'd stop by my old job. Then, when the time came, I just drove there without thinking about it and went inside with the girls before I could change my mind.

Part of my apprehension was because I was afraid nobody would remember me. I imagine this is a feeling some returned missionaries get when they go back to visit the mission field. When Jeremy and I went back to Siberia to visit his mission, I remember he was a little nervous about it. But of course people remembered him, and I was relieved that people at my old work remembered me, too. Or at least they did a great job of pretending to.

It was great to see everyone and show them my kids, and talk about what's been going on in the last five years since I worked there. I even got to see my "descendents," as one former co-worker put it - the people who have carried on the work that I used to do.

So I'm glad I went, even if it was a major step outside my comfort zone. It really did help that I didn't think about it too much ahead of time, though. Just like jumping into a cold pool, I knew it might be awkward or uncomfortable for a few moments but ultimately enjoyable.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Blu Moss in concert

While we were in Malad for the 4th of July weekend, we had a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see Blu Moss in concert.

It was a revival tour in honor of their 40th anniversary, and the only performance they gave was at the Malad High School Class of 1969 reunion.

The venue was the Malad Junior High School's gymnasium.

The attendees were reunion guests and their families.

And the lead singer was Stanley Palmer, AKA Jeremy's dad:

It was great fun. Malad is a small town ("Where Idaho Begins") so the atmosphere of the reunion was warm and welcoming. Kids and grandkids came to enjoy the music and dancing. For us, it was a neat opportunity to see Grandpa Palmer in a different setting.

Before the band started playing, they gave us a little history of how they all found each other and formed a band. The first two members of the band "discovered" Grandpa Palmer when they heard him sing a song at a Christmas program. Before they could continue on with the story, I heard people all over the gymnasium calling out, "Oh yes, we remember, he sang O Holy Night." I was amazed that 40 years later, people still remembered what a certain person sang at one Christmas party so long ago. Then again, I've heard Grandpa Palmer sing that song, and I don't think it's something you could easily forget.

The best part of the night was when Blu Moss performed Summer of '69 for the Class of 1969's reunion. Enjoy!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Flashback Friday: When Bridget met Jeremy (Part 4)

Read on for the thrilling conclusion to our Flashback Friday: When Bridget met Jeremy series.

As I ended last week's installment, I was heading up the stairs in the JKHB to the language lab to see if Jeremy had taken me up on my offer to meet him there. We were treading in dangerous waters since he'd written me a nasty email after I inadvertently turned him down for a date. If he showed up, I'd know he was willing to give me another chance. If he wasn't there, it meant he was walking away from our newly formed friendship thinking the worst of me.

I was so, so very nervous. I'd really put myself on the line by responding to his scathing email. Most of me hoped he would be there, but there was part of me that just wanted to turn around and go home, just avoid the situation, let go of the nervousness, and go back to how things were before a stranger approached me on the stairs asking about a movie he'd seen me in. Judging from what he had written to me, I had a lot of prejudice to overcome and it would have been easier to just write it off as the aborted relationship it appeared to be, by all accounts.

But for some reason, I didn't. I walked into the language lab and there he was, studying nonchalantly at the common table.

I tried to act calm and collected, of course, but I'm sure he could tell how nervous I was. I think he was a little nervous, too. But he played it cool by showing off his knowledge of Arabic.

Arabic? This was the first I'd heard of him studying that strange, completely uninteresting (to me) language. To be honest, when he told me that day that he was studying Arabic, I absolutely, positively did not believe him. I didn't know him that well, but I knew enough to realize that Jeremy enjoyed kidding around. He showed me his Arabic textbook. I didn't believe him. He pointed to people around the table who were also studying Arabic and said they were his classmates. I still didn't believe him. Then he wrote "My father works in an oil refinery" in Arabic on a piece of paper and although it looked more or less like random squiggles to me, I realized that perhaps he was telling the truth. I remember being vaguely disconcerted by this fact - why study Arabic when there are so many other awesome languages out there? What is there to be interested in about the Middle East, anyway? (Little did I know, right?)

We found other things to talk about that day besides his puzzling interest in Arabia, and left on good terms with each other.

It was a couple more weeks before we got around to talking about going out. In the meantime, through some devious cunning of my own, I figured out how to see him more often.

Three days a week, I had an afternoon class in the JSB on the south side of campus. After class, I walked north, at the same time that Jeremy was walking south to his (Arabic, as it turned out) class. There were two paths I could take to where I needed to go, one of which happened to intersect with Jeremy's, which I discovered accidentally one day. Like I said - I'd never seen Jeremy before, and then all of a sudden we ran into each other all the time.

So I decided to just walk the way that would meet up with Jeremy. Then I'd turn around and walk him to his class. And then turn around and walk where I really needed to go. It was brilliant.

On one of these days - it was bright and sunny and warm - we were sitting on a bench outside the Clyde Building just before his class started. I think it was a few minutes before 3 o'clock on a Monday afternoon. We had been tentative to take things up a notch because of our (my? his?) earlier misstep(s), but today was the day. I said I'd love to go out sometime and could I give him my phone number? This, despite the fact that he could look it up himself on Stalker Net. I guess it was mostly a symbolic gesture.

Of course he said sure, but he didn't have a piece of paper handy. So I took his hand in mine and wrote my phone number on it in pen.

Years later, Jeremy told me that he didn't want to wash that hand for weeks afterward.

Our first informal outing was to his brother Scott's co-ed inner tube water polo game at the pool in the Richards Building that Wednesday.

Our first formal outing was to the BYU student film festival, Final Cut, with some old roommates of his (not including Fritz) that Friday.

Our first date was to a bagpipe concert at the Marriott Center that Saturday.

After that semester, I left to go to Japan for the summer. A few semesters later, he left to go to Syria for four months. But those are different stories.

Two Christmases later, just a few weeks after getting married, Jeremy gave me one of my all-time favorite gifts: the actual video cassette containing the movie that brought us together. He'd had to send away to Germany to get it (Fritz had taken it to Germany with him and left it at his mom's house), and it was filled with cookie crumbs from the package it had been in, but it was in our possession again. I still have it. And when we get to Ithaca and unpack it, perhaps I'll figure out a way to upload it here so you can see the German skit that started it all.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

HP6 Review

As promised, we saw Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince yesterday.

It was awesome. I loved it. I loved it at least as much as I loved HP5, if not a little more.

It was also very funny. I laughed more during that movie than I have during some comedies.

That said, the finale was intense, masterfully handled, and very touching.

My favorite moments: Lavender breathing on the glass, everything involving Professor Slughorn, and the portrayal of the relationship between Dumbledore and Harry Potter.

There was one thing about the movie I didn't agree with, and that was its rating. I really think it should have been PG-13. A soft PG-13, but still. There was one moment in particular that should have given it an immediate, automatic PG-13 rating. I guess movie ratings are just more watered-down these days, beginning with Prince Caspian, which definitely should have been PG-13.

If you've seen HP6, what did you think?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


You had better believe I'm going to see Harry Potter 6 today. These movies seem to define milestones in my life. How could I miss one?

First, there was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Jeremy and I saw this one on our honeymoon in Seaside, Oregon.

I'm sure we saw Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets legitimately sometime, but mostly I remember it because we bought a pirated Arabic copy (is there another kind?) of it in Damascus for five bucks.

We saw Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in American Fork. We rode our bikes to the theater. We're nerds like that.

We took tiny baby Miriam with us to see Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I think one or the other of us was standing up with her in the aisle the whole time, trying to rock her to sleep.

Ah yes, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I saw this one in Amman, Jordan. Twice. On the same day. On opening day. Good times.

Next up: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. We're going to see it in the same theater we saw HP3 in.

But we're not riding our bikes this time.

Are you going to see it?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

That's what I'm talking about

This showed up on my iGoogle weather feed yesterday and I just had to take a screenshot:
OH YEAH. Looks like we'll be taking it down a few more notches in Ithaca.

Other weather-related observations:

-Until we moved to Provo last month, I had forgotten what weather forecasts were used for. In Tucson, if I ever checked the weather forecast, it was to see if it was going to be 105 degrees or 110 degrees. In Provo, sometimes the temperature from day to day varies as much as 15 degrees! Other variables include clouds, rain, and cool breezes.

-Sometimes, during the summer in Provo, kids have to wear pants. As in, it actually cools down at night here. Fascinating.

-As far as Ithaca goes, every single person to whom we've mentioned the fact that we're moving there tells us two things. First, it is beautiful there. Second, it is extremely cold. Without exception, everyone tells us these things. I'm not going back on my Reverse SAD argument or anything, but I do find it slightly unsettling. I'm glad to have ample warning, though, because the last thing I want to be is that clueless Arizona mom who sends her preschooler out so improperly dressed on a cold day that Miriam has to stay inside for recess time.

I also take comfort in the fact that they mention the beauty first. In other words, it's a beautiful place that also happens to be cold. Not a cold place where you can find consolation in the beauty.

In the meantime, I'm enjoying my 85 degrees. How hot is it where you are?

Monday, July 13, 2009

The mysteries of a sublet

We're subletting this house from a girl who is gone on a summer internship in New York City. It worked out really well for us since all the utilities, internet, cable, etc. are all set up and we don't have to change anything to our names, or pay any startup fees. Yes, there were some disappointments when we first moved in, but the place has really grown on us and it's not so bad after all. Sure, it's not my favorite thing to have all four of us sleeping in what is essentially one big room (two rooms with an open doorway between them) for AC reasons, but hey - at least we have AC, right? We've even learned how to walk on the stairs (placing our feet sideways as close to the wedge of the stair as possible) and which stairs to skip (the first one and the second-to-last one) so as to avoid having them squeak so loud at night.

Another fun thing is figuring out all the mysteries of subleasing a house. I've never met the girl who lives here - we arranged the sublease entirely via email. She was gone before we got here. And yet I find there are many things you can discover about a person just from living in their house for a few months.

For example, I'm pretty sure the girl who lives here is some kind of an art student. She has prints like this hanging all over the house (though not all of them feature beer), and a shelf full of art concept books upstairs.

Not to generalize about art students or anything, but her passion for form has perhaps eclipsed her need for function. The shelves in this house are filled with cute little vases, overly styled food containers, and other esssentially useless knickknacks. Meanwhile, all the things that you actually need to access on a daily basis are relegated to out-of-the-way cabinets or stashed on high, obscure shelves. I'm not saying it's the wrong way to do something. I'm just saying it's not my style.

Case in point: this calendar is stuck on June 2008. Since this post is all about the educated guesses I'm making about the house's usual resident, I'm conjecturing that she keeps the calendar on this page because the picture is beautiful.

Combined with this clock, however, I am really tempted to draw a more sinister conclusion. This clock is forever stuck at 11:38 pm on Wednesday the 11th. It ticks, but never advances closer to midnight. The weird thing is that there was a Wednesday the 11th in June 2008. I just noticed that today. Did she stop the clock at that time? If so, why? What happened at 11:38 pm on June 11, 2008???

Let's see, what else...

She has an aversion to smoke alarms since they were all detatched from their bases and stashed in the pantry when we arrived.

She likes IKEA (now that's something I can understand). There are quite a few IKEA pieces in the house.

She is from Mexico and speaks Spanish and is married to someone who also speaks Spanish, and is possibly also from Mexico. Hanging in the kitchen on their bulletin board is what appears to be a list of family goals, all written in Spanish. Every day at lunchtime I look at it and try to use my 7th-grade Spanish to figure out what it says. I think I've deciphered quite a few, and it's a nice little challenge to take my mind off cutting up food for the little ones.

One thing Jeremy and I can't figure out, though is what the heck this is doing in the house:

It was on top of the fridge when we moved in and it is so realistic-looking that Jeremy has taken to placing it in hidden corners around the house to startle me when I run into it unexpectedly. Every time that happens, I forget that it's fake. There must be some story behind it, but I don't know what it is.

I have to believe it's a good one, though.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

I finally saw Charly

Some of you may recall my minor skirmish with over a little movie called Charly. In early 2007, I signed up for a trial on a whim and added that movie to my Queue. It came; it was the wrong movie. Repeat four times over two free trials. In fact, the last time they sent me the wrong DVD, it was also cracked in two. It was like they were adding insult to injury. Then the free trials ended without me having seen the movie. What had once been just a passing interest had become a full-blown determination to see this movie, no matter what.

More than two years later, I finally got my chance. I reserved a copy of Charly at the Provo Library and it came in yesterday. I settled down to watch it last night, excited to finally be seeing this movie that had eluded me so cleverly for so long.

Guess what? I turned it off after a half-hour. And I want those 30 minutes of my life back. I realize that after all the fuss I went through to get my hands on a copy, there was no way it would live up to my expectations. But I didn't expect it to be so boring and yet simultaneously aggravating.

I'm sure it's a harmless, uplifting movie and could be enjoyed at the right time, with the right company, without having been built up so much as it was for me. But personally, I couldn't stand it. My main damage with the movie was that when it came to the heroine, its definition of free-spirited was my definition of annoying. I don't care if you ARE a buttoned-down, straight-laced naive Mormon young man. If a girl drives your dad's Mustang without your permission, steals your money to buy three hours' worth of ferris wheel tickets, or THROWS YOUR PALM PILOT IN A LAKE EVEN AFTER YOU EXPRESSLY ASKED HER NOT TO, causing you to lose all your stored information, that is not whimsical. That is destructive.

So I didn't like the movie so much. Oh well. At least I finally got to see (the first half-hour of) it.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Flashback Friday: When Bridget met Jeremy (Part 3)

Previously, on Flashback Friday: My German 101 teacher showed my group's video project to his roommates, including Jeremy. Jeremy saw me on campus a few months later and stopped me outside the JKHB to say, "I think I saw you in a movie once."

I couldn't believe that a totally cute total stranger had just said that to me. I blushed furiously even though I really had no idea what he was talking about. Then he clarified, "it was a German movie..." and as he briefly explained under what circumstances he had seen this movie, I was more than embarrassed, I was mortified. I knew I had been foolish to let my guard down enough to play a murderess in a German class group project, and even more foolish to commit said performance to videotape. The fact that my teacher, Fritz, had apparently shown the tape to others was like a breach of confidence.

Still, beneath all the humiliation and surprise, I have to admit there was a part of me that was very flattered to have been singled out by a stranger on the basis of something as silly as a German video. Maybe that's why, as he turned to go, I called after him and asked him his name. "I'm Jeremy," he said. I told him my name was Bridget, but I suspect he already knew my name from Fritz.

From then on, it was one of those weird things where even though I had never seen Jeremy before our encounter on the steps, now I saw him everywhere. It helped that the bulk of both of our classes were in the JKHB, and that's where we usually crossed paths, but it was still uncanny how often we happened to be in the same place at the same time.

Most of the time we simply greeted each other in passing. More and more, however, we ended up studying at the same table in a place called the HLRC (Humanities Language Resource Center) in the JKHB. The HLRC was a place where pretty much anyone studying pretty much any foreign language had to spend a lot of time since it was where all the foreign language computer programs and tests were. It wasn't like it was just Jeremy and me there by ourselves - there were always a few dozen others gathered around. I'd be at one end of the table, he'd be at the other, or maybe he'd be working a few computers down from me.

On one of these occasions, we got to talking again and Jeremy basically asked me out. I say "basically" because for whatever reason, it wasn't immediately clear to me that that's what he was doing. There was an awkward pause and for reasons that remain unfathomable to me, I basically said no. I say "basically" here because I didn't mean to say no, but that's the answer that came out of my mouth. I remember saying something about it being awkward since he was still roommates with Fritz, and Fritz had been my teacher, and blah blah blah. Next thing I knew, Jeremy said he had to go. We parted amiably and it wasn't until I didn't see him around for a few days that I realized what I had done.

I felt terrible. I had an idea of how he must feel, and I felt stupid for having ruined everything, especially since we were getting along so well. But I didn't even know his last name, so even StalkerNet (Route Y) couldn't help me.

One night, I checked my BYU email and saw that there was a message from Jeremy (with the bonus information that his last name was Palmer, which I filed away for future StalkerNet use). I was excited to see that he was trying to contact me, but as I read what the email said, my heart sank.

How I wish I still had this email. Jeremy contests that it wasn't that mean, but that's not how I remember it. In essence, he told me that he thought I was a stuck-up snob who wore only Abercrombie & Fitch (um, it was actually J. Crew, thank you very much) and thought she was too good to treat a guy like him courteously and he hoped I had a good life...NOT.

Seriously, I am not joking. Jeremy actually sent me an email saying these things.

I'm sure you can imagine how I felt after reading that. But in addition to the wounded surprise, there was also indignation that someone could actually come away with that impression of me, and also hope that there was a chance for me to correct it.

So I wrote him back. I am sure he didn't expect me to. I bet he thought I would just laugh it off like the cold-hearted ice queen he took me for. But I wrote him back and said I was sorry for the misunderstanding and that if he was interested in giving me another chance, I would be going up to the HLRC to study after my Japanese class a few days later. If he happened to be there, too, I would be happy to see him. Before I could rethink things, I hit "send" and it was done.

That was on a Friday. It wasn't until Tuesday afternoon that I had my Japanese class and I was nervous and shaking almost the whole hour. It was so important to me that Jeremy show up, not only because I wanted to set the record straight, but because I wanted to spend more time with him.

Japanese class ended. I tried to breathe deeply to calm my nerves and act as normal as possible as I gathered up my things and walked up a few flights of stairs to the HLRC.

Was Jeremy there, or had he written me off as a heartless snob? Find out next week.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

A date with myself

I went on a date with myself today. Before having kids, I didn't ever anticipate that someday, I would crave time alone with myself before I would crave time alone with Jeremy. I arrived at that point a long time ago but chances to satisfy that craving are few and far between.

Through the volunteer efforts of Jeremy's two sisters, I got two hours of alone time this afternoon. During those two hours, I went to Target, Panda Express, and Costco, and I made sure to note and savor all the little pleasures that come from being by oneself.

I didn't have to unload anyone from a carseat when I got to Target and schlep them into the store with me.

When I walked in, I reached for a cart and then realized that no, I just wanted a basket, and since I didn't have any kids with me, I could actually use one.

I walked down whatever dang aisles I wanted to and took my sweet time making shopping decisions, in blessed silence. It was such a treat to not have to keep one fourth of my brain focused on keeping Magdalena from falling out of the shopping cart, one fourth making sure Miriam doesn't wander away, one fourth answering Miriam's incessant "why?" questions, and oh yeah, one fourth comparing prices and products and sizes and colors and tallying it all with the shopping list and/or coupons. All while keeping the pace snappy so no one gets hungry, sleepy, or has to go to the bathroom during the shopping trip.

Then I went to Panda Express and ordered some spicy food, since I knew I wouldn't have to share it with any sensitive child palates. I read a book while I ate and I didn't have to chop up any food or spoon it into anyone else's mouth besides my own.

At Costco, I got a berry smoothie and drank it all by myself, again while reading a book. Nobody begged me for a sip, or complained that it was too cold, or chewed on the straw so it was yucky by the time I got it back. I just drank it, little by little, in complete leisure.

In the car, I listened to Evita as loud as I wanted to and didn't have to provide a running narrative of what each song was talking about to Miriam. Also, I pointed all the AC vents at myself, instead of directing them up and over my head to keep the girls cool. Talk about luxury!

By the time I went to my sister-in-law's house to pick up the girls, I was feeling happy and refreshed. I have to say, there is hardly anything in the world better than a childless aunt. We're down to two in our extended family now. My sister Teresa had a baby a few months ago and while of course it's still fun for her to visit, some of her nurturing energies have to be directed to her own kid now. And that makes the selfish part of me sad.

But I'm glad to still have two fun aunts for Miriam and Magdalena, at least for a little while longer. And I'm glad to be in a place (at least temporarily) where I can take advantage of them when I just need a date with myself.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Howdy, stranger

I'm not usually one to approach complete strangers in public and strike up a conversation, but since we've been here in Provo I've been tempted a few times to do just that.

One time was while we were participating in outdoor recreation hour with the Arabic students. We happened to be playing right outside the building on campus where I used to teach LSAT prep classes. I got to feeling pretty nostalgic about it - that was a job I really enjoyed, and it paid amazingly well (especially for Provo), and my students were always dedicated and attentive and serious, and I got free donuts every Saturday...

As I was reminiscing, I realized that we were even playing outside the building at the exact day and time I used to teach. It was just a few moments later that I noticed people walking in the building with LSAT prep materials in hand. I don't know who teaches it now, but apparently they still hold the class at the same time at the same place.

All the people walking in looked so pert and smart. I had the sudden urge to pull one of them aside and say, "yeah, I used to teach your class. I may be covered in sidewalk chalk dust and baby snot right now, and wearing the equivalent of a t-shirt and jeans, and I have a MomChop AND it's pulled back into a ponytail, but back in the day, I used to teach your class."

It's probably a good thing I didn't do it, though, right?

However, I'm not so sure I shouldn't have approached this next person. We were at Storytime at the library and one of the little kids looked so familiar to me. It took me a few minutes to figure out that while I'd never met her in real life, I read her aunt's blog on a regular basis. I don't know her aunt, either, but she's blogged about her niece enough times that I recognized her when I saw her. Weird, I know. My dilemma was whether or not I should say something in casual conversation with the girl's mom (who the blogger has also written about before).

What do you think? Would that have been totally weird? I can't decide if it would have freaked the mom out or if she would have taken it as the compliment to her sister the blogger I meant it to be. In my world, if someone recognized me from my blog, that would just about make my year. Tom Zoellner recognized me when I showed up at his book presentation, and although I guess that was technically because of my blog, he knew I was going to be there so I don't know that it counts.

All of this brings up the wider issue of whether/how we should disclose to others - strangers or friends - that we read their blog. I know that a few times in my experience, I've gotten to know someone through their blog better than I do in person (though I usually catch up in real life eventually) (usually). I've heard of other people reading up on the blog of someone they are potentially interested in romantically, and then not telling them that they did so, even feigning surprise and interest when the person later tells them things they already know from blog-stalking.

Reading the blogs of strangers or even friends you just don't see that often also leads to the strange phenomenon of feeling all caught-up when you do finally meet or see each other again in person. I think it's an odd feeling, but a good kind of odd.

What do you think about all this? Should I start talking to strangers more often? And what are the rules of etiquette when blogging intersects with real life?

Monday, July 06, 2009

How Bridget got her milk back

This is one of those posts that I'm writing mostly for the benefit of fellow nursing mothers, and also random Googlers who end up in a similar situation and search the internet for anecdotal advice. Just so you're warned.

A couple of days before we moved away from Tucson, Magdalena started sleeping through the night (she isn't anymore, but that's another story). All of a sudden, we were down to three nursing sessions a day, at roughly breakfast, lunch, and dinnertime. I was happy. Magdalena was happy.

Then I got sick. Very, very, pukey sick. I didn't eat or drink for 28 hours. By the time I was feeling well enough to notice, I realized that my milk was pretty much gone. But we were in the middle of moving and I didn't have time to think about it or deal with it. Magdalena was still nursing as normal, but she wasn't getting very much out of it.

We were so busy packing that I didn't really get a chance to rest and recover from being sick. Then we spent two days in the car driving from Tucson to Provo. During the hours in the car, I could feel my milk kind of trying to come back but since we were on a road trip, I couldn't exactly stop and nurse Magdalena at my convenience. I was alternating between getting engorged and being totally dry.

Eventually, we got moved in and settled in Provo, and it quickly became apparent that my milk had just about dried up. I panicked. How had this happened? Looking back, I realize that there wasn't any one reason. It was a combination of factors, triggered by getting sick and not eating anything but saltines for a few days, but compounded by:

-Magdalena starting to sleep through the night. My body was getting the message to produce less milk.

-Not being able to rest and recover from being sick. In fact, I was helping to pack up for a major move and it was exhausting.

-Immediately setting off on a two-day road trip where nursing times were restricted and off-schedule.

Now, you have to understand that Magdalena is 11 months old. She is not a newborn entirely dependent on my milk. Still, I was not really ready to wean her, and by the looks of her frustration while nursing on an empty breast, she was not ready to be weaned. That's the point of my sharing this story with you - if you lost your milk and you're trying to get it back, no matter how old your baby is, maybe you can learn from my experience.

Here's what I did:

-I kept nursing Magdalena, even when it seemed like nothing was coming out.

-I supplemented just a little bit with regular cow's milk (although obviously with a younger baby it would have to be formula) so that Magdalena wasn't too starving and angry when she was trying to nurse.

-I made sure to eat well, especially since getting sick and not eating was what started it all.

-Since we had moved to an unfamiliar place and Magdalena was waking up at night again, I went ahead and nursed her during the night even though it meant giving up the victory of cutting down to three nursing sessions a day. It was worth sending my body the signal to start producing (more) milk.

-FENUGREEK. This was what finally made a big difference. I read about this supplement online (for example, here) but I wasn't sure it would help me since most sources say you have to empty the breast every 2-3 hours for the pills to have an effect. But I was desperate, so I tried it. I could tell a difference within about two days, and a week later, I was sure the pills had helped.

I am still taking fenugreek because I'm not sure we're out of the woods yet, but I think we're well on our way. Maybe it's a little ridiculous to go through all this effort with a baby who is almost a year old, but with all the moving and traveling coming up I just felt like weaning was one change I didn't want to force on Magdalena.

And that's the story of how I got my milk back.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Provo, Utah. July 4, 2009.

Note: These pictures were taken on July 3 but I imagine the scene was much the same on the 4th.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Flashback Friday: When Bridget met Jeremy (Part 2)

Last week's Flashback Friday had me taking German 101, making a fool of myself on video, and having my German teacher show that video to his roommates, one of whom was Jeremy Palmer.

A week or two after our German class party where we watched all the videos, I had my German spoken final exam with my teacher, Fritz. He said I did well on the test and made sure to give me a bad time about being a murderess on tape for our group project. I was embarrassed that everyone hadn't just forgotten about it already.

Time passed. A new semester started. I signed up for German 102 but this time, my teacher was a staid old grammar fiend/professor from the German department, not a hip young fellow student interested in building friendships among class members. There were a few of us from the 101 class in the same 102 section, and we stuck together. I learned a lot of German that semester, but I could tell we wouldn't be producing any awesome murder mystery skits at the end of it all.

Jeremy, in the meantime, was still living in the German House at the FLSR. Fritz (his roommate and my German 101 teacher) had shown him the video of our skit and he was entertained enough to recognize me when he saw me in person, which happened about two months later.

I was leaving a Japanese class in the JKHB and stepped out through the door of the building. Jeremy saw me walk by and told himself something like, "if she stops, then I'll go talk to her." Lucky Jeremy - I stopped just outside the building to wait for a friend (a friend who happened to be male, actually, and who never showed up, if I remember correctly).

So there I was, standing outside the JKHB, in the cold. I remember feeling particularly unattractive becaues I was still wearing warmup pants and a sweatshirt from a self-defense PE class earlier in the day. Of course, of course, on the day I met my future husband I would be wearing the equivalent of a sweatsuit.

Next thing I knew, a guy I'd never met before walked by me, down the stairs, and then turned around to talk to me. That's when he unleashed his full charm in a pickup line for the ages.

"Hey, I think I saw you in a movie once."

Next week: The aftermath of that amazing pickup line. Also, Jeremy writes me an insulting email to tell me he never wants to see me again.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Things are looking up

Things are looking up.

We got the carpets cleaned so I no longer feel like I have to decontaminate everything that touches the floor.

The pet store smell is mostly gone. Either it was defeated by the carpets getting cleaned, or we've replaced it with our own personal aroma.

Our house-neighbor helped Jeremy put in a window AC unit so that we don't slowly bake to death in our upstairs bedroom at night.

The Provo library has the best Storytime I've ever seen, and it's within walking distance of our house through quiet, sidewalked neighborhoods.

Jeremy worked it out with his boss and scored dinner for us every night with the Arabic students, so that's less cooking I have to do in our ghetto kitchen. It's not quite a summer of no cooking, but it's wonderful.

Our landlord said we could use the swingset in the side yard he set up for his grandkids. I think we three girls spend at least an hour a day there, Miriam and I on the seesaw and Magdalena in the baby seat swing. We swing and chat and talk about the great mysteries of life (why is the Y on the mountain so big?) and then swing some more.

We made friends with our punk neighbors, whose front door is located approximately 12 inches from ours, so we see each other a lot. They hang out and skateboard in front of the house some evenings, which the girls (and Jeremy) enjoy watching. They curse a lot while they do it, but I'm hoping Miriam and Magdalena don't pick up on that too much. Last night, Jeremy broke out the laptop and showed these young punk skaters his own skateboarding videos from 1994. They were impressed.

Then we all ate watermelon together.

Things are looking up.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

All Costcos are not created equal

There were two Costcos in Tucson and they were more or less the same. The one closer to Marana was a newer, slightly nicer structure but the eating area (until recently) was outside, which only made sense about three months out of the year. The one on Grant Road had an awkward parking lot that somehow made it impossible to park anywhere near the entrance, but it was a slightly larger warehouse with older, more professional staff.

Still, though, both Costcos sold the same stuff. A good portion of that stuff was alcohol. I'm not kidding - a huge swath of the warehouse was given over entirely to wine. There were other aisles with vodka (including Kirkland Signature brand) and other spirits. Then there was a sizeable beer section over by the chips and crackers. I remember reading somewhere that Costcos tailor their merchandise to specific markets, which tells me that Tucsonians love their alcohol (not that there's anything wrong with that).

So as long as we're determining the preferences of a population based on what's in stock at Costco, I can tell you what Utah Valley shoppers enjoy in lou of alcohol: frozen treats, pop/non-alcoholic beverages, and children's clothing. I know for a fact that the American Fork Costco does not sell alcohol, at all. Jeremy and I went there and noticed that unlike in Tucson, half the warehouse wasn't taken up by wine, so we asked an employee if they sold any. "No, we don't sell alcohol," she told us ("Because we're righteous like that" was implied).

As someone who doesn't drink alcohol, I guess it's kind of nice to not have to wade through the aisles of spirits, and also to have more selection when it comes to popsicles and baby pajamas.

One final note: instead of adults going out to drink in Utah Valley, people take their whole families out to eat. Seriously, there are SO MANY restaurants here it's unbelievable. And they're all packed full of large families with children running around, at all hours of the day and night. On the one hand, it's great to see people engaged in such a wholesome activity. On the other hand, it means that going out to eat is not really a quiet, restful experience. But on the other hand, it also means that I can count on my kids never being the worst behaved. Excellent.


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