State #36

Back in 2014 I made a New Year’s resolution to visit as many new states as possible. By the end of that year the number of states I had personally visited rose from 27 to 33, thanks to an East Coast road trip and a Yellowstone National Park vacation. 6 new states in one year wasn’t too bad. Then in 2015 I added another two states to the list (New Jersey and Alaska). But since then my travel has stagnated somewhat. However, I am happy to announce that in 2018 I have finally added state #36 – Oregon! It’s hard to believe I’d never been there before considering how long I’ve been living on the West Coast. Fortunately I had the outstanding excuse of a friend’s wedding reception to get me there in 2018. It was an extremely short trip, but I had a great time.

I arrived in Portland later than I expected the day of the wedding reception due to my connecting flight from Seattle being delayed twice. Yes, I had to fly past Portland to Seattle on one flight only to backtrack to my final destination on my second flight. Very annoying. Knowing that my flight was delayed, I applied my makeup in an extremely crowded Seattle airport bathroom to save myself a little time later. Then, when I collected my checked bag in Portland, I changed into my dress for the reception in a nearby bathroom. I was way behind schedule. I had originally planned to take the train from the airport to my hotel, I had even pre-purchased a $2.50 ticket, but it was going to take too long so I reluctantly took a taxi instead. It took about 30 min and cost $60. Ugh. But I got to the hotel in just enough time to stash my bag in my room and catch an Uber to the wedding reception with some of my friends. Phew!

The reception itself was lovely. We ate mini cupcakes as appetizers (genius), deconstructed tacos for dinner (delicious), and tres leches cake for dessert (the best cake I’ve ever tasted). But the most meaningful part was hanging out with my online friends who I don’t get to see very often. Several of them I was meeting in person for the first time, and the others I vacationed with in Hawaii in 2015. (A couple have been to LA since then so I was able to spend time with them at Disneyland, but that’s the exception.) I am so lucky to have found this group of women. It’s remarkable, really. Over the last 13 years they have been there for me through everything, both good and bad. They have changed my life for the better and I seriously don’t know what I would do without them. Flying all the way to Portland for a little over 24 hours was completely worth it.

That night after the reception I was exhausted and passed out early after taking a much-needed shower. Unfortunately that meant I missed a lot of shenanigans that happened after hours, including a midnight trip to Portland’s famous Voodoo Doughnut. I am so annoyed that I didn’t get to go, but my body apparently needed almost 12 hours of sleep! The next morning we all headed over to the bride and groom’s house for a donut reception. Yes, more donuts! We had a great time gorging ourselves on sugary pastries, laughing, chatting, and being our usual weird selves. And attempting to ingratiate ourselves with the resident cat, Nibbler. At one point I picked him up to prevent him from escaping out the front door, but he didn’t appreciate that. He bit me several times. (Just little warning nips on my arm so nothing serious.) Fortunately he forgave me later and purred when I pet him. My friends and I reveled in spending all this time together. One of the ladies had already hopped a flight back home, and other folks had to take off for the airport throughout the morning and afternoon, so it was a little sad that our brief reunion was coming to an end.

After the donut reception I went back to the hotel, retrieved my bag, hugged everyone goodbye, and started making my way to the airport. This time I was able to take the train and it was fantastic. I only had to walk a few blocks from the hotel to the train stop, the train was clean and not crowded, and the trip to the Portland airport was scenic and relaxing. Totally worth the $2.50 fare (and way more cost-effective than my taxi ride the day before). And I had a direct flight to Orange County this time so my travel home was completely uneventful. I was upset that my trip to Oregon was over so quickly, but I will definitely go back and spend some more time there in the future. It was way too beautiful not to revisit. Plus, I have friends who live there and have a guest bedroom! It’s a shame that my online friends are scattered all over the country because seeing them makes my heart happy. I am going to do my best to organize another get-together next year so that we don’t go three years between reunions again.

It was the right choice

I’m working on another post to share all of the details about my fantastic trip to Portland last month, but I wanted write something about my wedding reception dress choice first. That’s the most important part, right? As the line in A Cinderella Story goes, “In true L.A. fashion, it’s not about who you are, it’s about what you wear!” I wouldn’t be a true Angeleno if I didn’t describe the apparel!

As you can tell by the above photo, I ended up wearing my red lace Mormon church dress to the wedding reception in Portland. And it was perfect. Dressy and flattering, yet also pretty and comfortable. Plus, I wore it with my Converse for the ultimate quirky, yet sensible ensemble. I loved it. (I had to change into the dress at the airport because I was so time-crunched before the reception, but I’ll save that crazy story for my other post! Even though I wasn’t flying that far, it wasn’t the most relaxing travel day by a long shot.) So what made me change my mind about the dress? Well, the weather in Portland turned out to be absolutely lovely the weekend I was there so I didn’t need to worry quite so much about getting hot and sweaty. It felt like fall. The high temperature earlier that week was in the 90s (gross), but by Saturday afternoon it was barely 70 degrees when my flight landed in Oregon. The original dress I had selected (I’ll write another post about that one later) was sleeveless due to the possible heat, but with the more temperate weather I was perfectly comfortable in something with two layers and a tad more coverage. I was actually happy to have the elbow-length lace sleeves on my arms when it got cooler that evening. No cardigan or hoodie required! I’m so glad I listened to my BFF and kept the Mormon church dress even though it was a bit fancier, and a bit more expensive, than what I was looking for. I like it a lot more than I expected to, and now I’ll have something dressy hanging in my closet in case I need it again. In fact, I’ve been filling out my wardrobe with a lot more dresses lately because I realized how useful they are while summer is still lingering here in SoCal. More on that in yet another post!

Did I just buy a Mormon church dress?

I’m leaving for Portland in one week and I need to start packing. I’m only going to be there about 28 hours so I won’t need to bring much with me, but the most important item will be the dress I’m going to wear to the wedding reception. Since I’m flying to Oregon the morning of the reception (thank you, unpredictable work obligations) I thought about wearing my dress on the plane, but instead I think I’ll dress comfortably and then change after I arrive. I’ll travel with a duffel bag rather than a suitcase for such a short trip. (My suitcase has a more important job anyway – it needs to be ready for me to leave on a business trip to DC next Monday morning. Yikes!) I’m optimistically going to bring some workout clothes in case I find a free couple of hours to fit in some exercise. Doubtful, but at least I’ll be prepared. Other than that, I just need a single change of clothes for the flight back home on Sunday. The abbreviated nature of this trip will most definitely make it stressful, but I’m so glad that I have the opportunity to go and see a bunch of my friends who live all over the country. I am certain that we will laugh a lot, eat a lot (my brother has already told me which donut shop is a mist-visit), and take a lot of pictures. It’ll be a blast.

In preparation for the trip, I had dinner at my BFF’s house last weekend and I brought four dresses with me so she and her family could help me figure out what I should wear to the wedding reception. My goddaughter appropriately donned her astronaut jumpsuit and helmet add some much-needed variety to the mini fashion show. Without knowing what was going to fit or look good on me, I ordered a bunch of options from different stores online, like Amazon and Modcloth. Some of the dresses actually have a funny origin story, including the lace one I’m wearing in the above photo. I have a strange habit of keeping tabs on several semi-famous (or maybe infamous?) Christian fundamentalist families, like the irritating and infuriating Duggars, mostly because I’m fascinated by their views which are so diametrically opposed to my own One of those families has a recently married daughter who maintains her own blog, and in the header photo she is wearing a gorgeous red dress than I’ve been envious of for a long time. Based on the fact that she sewed her own wedding gown last year I assumed the red dress was another one of her personal creations. But recently this woman wrote a post all about the dress and where to buy it – surprisingly, Amazon! I immediately ordered the dress in two colors, red and teal, hoping that one of them would fit me and be perfect for the Portland wedding reception. At the same time I explored other dresses from the same company and also purchased the lace one shown in the picture above. (Sorry it’s in black and white, but the lighting was bad and a color version just didn’t look right.) Turns out the company that makes all three of these beautiful is an LDS modest clothing company. I actually bought three Mormon church dresses! How’s that for a laugh? Much to my chagrin, the red dress that I was so excited about was slightly too small (it was way too tight in the shoulders), and its teal equivalent looked more juvenile than I had hoped (more like my 8th grade dance dress than a 39 year-old woman should wear), so both of them will be going back. The red lace, knee-length dress with elbow-length sleeves, however, is lovely. It is comfortable and flattering. It didn’t come out on top of last Saturday’s fashion show, but my BFF advised me to keep it in case I need a special occasion dress in the future. So that’s how I became the unlikely owner of a Mormon church dress. Next weekend I’ll be wearing a navy blue Modcloth dress to the wedding reception, but you’ll have to wait until then for photos. One more week!

The unexpected benefits of online friendships

“Doree and Kate,
After hearing [on your podcast] that you two met on Tumblr I wanted to reiterate that online friendships can be very powerful! Thirteen years ago when I got engaged I started posting in a Craigslist forum about weddings. The group of brides there were all planning their weddings in the same time frame as I was. It didn’t take long for me to bond with all of them over our shared experiences. Fast forward to today and about 100 of us maintain a Facebook group and I consider them some of my closest friends. In fact, I met my BFF through the group and her daughter is now my beloved goddaughter. Fortunately we both live in the LA area so we can see each other regularly. So even if online friendships seem very modern and possibly impersonal, I have experienced the exact opposite. I love all of these women, I will do anything for them, and knowing them has changed my life for the better.”
-5/28/18 email

I wrote this email to the hosts of the Forever35 podcast a while back because I’ll take advantage of any opportunity to extol the virtues of online friendships. In this day and age as we are questioning the effects of extended virtual interactions on our mental health it’s easy to forget that beneficial things can come out of internet relationships as well. I often find myself thinking I should limit my exposure to social media in order to maintain my sanity, especially since I’ve had so many difficulties this year, but I keep finding myself back on Facebook in order to communicate with my wonderful online friends. They lift me up when I feel down, they give me advice when I feel lost, and they remind me that the world isn’t as bad a place as it seems. It is an invaluable connection. We’ve gone through so much together. Love and heartbreak, celebration and devastation, joys and sorrows. We even lost one of our members to cancer last year. Yes, we sometimes argue (politics is so polarizing!), and we disagree on occasion, but we always know that we will stand together no matter what.

Luckily for me these relationships haven’t been exclusively virtual. Most recently, on Saturday I had a girl’s night with two of my online friends who live in LA. We don’t get together nearly often enough so it was a significant achievement that all three of us were able to follow through on the plans we made a few weeks earlier. We ate dinner together (I had my weekly cheat meal that included a mountain of delicious sweet potato fries), they supported me as I tried on dresses at Ann Taylor and Loft (I am still two dress sizes larger than I want to be, which makes me sad), and we acted like crazy teenagers while walking around the clothes section of Target. We even put green bras with a weird combination of lace and netting on over our clothes and took pictures (which I will not be sharing in any public forum!). It was an amazing time. I have often thought that every woman needs a group of steadfastly supportive friends like the one I stumbled upon thirteen years ago on Craigslist, and outings like this one reaffirm my belief. I can’t always share all of the details of everything I’m going through with other people in my life, but these ladies have heard it all. I’ve ranted about my marriage, my divorce, my dating debacles, my work issues, my body insecurities, my illnesses (both mental and physical), and everything in between. And I’ve listened when they need to vent about what their circumstances too. I am extremely fortunate to have the trust of these lovely women and I don’t take that privilege lightly. I honestly don’t know where I’d be without them.

Throwing money at a problem

One of my favorite ways to resolve a problem is to throw money at it. Remember last year when my only available option to fix my malfunctioning iPhone 6 before leaving on vacation was buying an iPhone 7? All I really needed was a new battery, but the Apple Store couldn’t do that in an acceptable amount of time. It was ridiculous. So purchasing a brand new phone was indeed a viable solution to my problem, but certainly not the most economical. To be clear, I feel very fortunate that throwing money at a problem is a choice that is available to me. I don’t think of myself as an extravagant person (in spite of all these retail therapy posts I’ve been writing lately) so purchasing a very expensive smart phone was a big deal, even if I wasn’t worried about having enough money in the bank to pay for it. I realize that not everyone has this luxury.

A few weeks ago one of my running buddies confessed that she was feeling overwhelmed and depressed, and that she really needed to start exercising again to regain her work/life balance. After performing practically zero physical activity in 2018 I realized that she was speaking my language, so I told her we would go back to the gym together. A combination of companionship and guilt would motivate us to get moving again! This is the woman who initially got me started at boot camp classes almost two years ago, which was extremely beneficial, but things have gotten complicated since then. Last summer we got Groupons for a 4-week trial at another gym so that we could try out their classes. To make a long story short, I didn’t continue after the four weeks (I went back to my old gym instead), but my friend did. Fast forward to now and I decided to join her gym so that we can work out together even though it wasn’t my favorite. Hence, throwing money at the problem! Yes, this means that I currently have two gym memberships. But it’s been working really well so you can’t argue with results. The price of fitness (with a side of stress-relief and friendship) is high in 2018, but I’m hoping that the pay off will be worth it.

Thirty-nine

January 9th
My actual thirty-ninth birthday was a mess. I was supposed to be spending it at Walt Disney World, but obviously that didn’t happen. The best laid plans, and all. First of all, a rain storm woke me up at 6 AM so I decided to go back to sleep rather than getting up and getting drenched going to work that early. It was going to be my first day back at work after the holidays, but I was still tired after battling the flu and its aftermath for over a week. Under the circumstances, the pouring rain was more than I thought I was capable of dealing with. Work was stressful considering that I had to catch up on all of the emails that had been piling up in my inbox since December 21st. Also, there were more than the usual number of meetings which made the day even more frantic. I was pretty worn out when the workday was over, but I decided to go to a boot camp class at 7 PM since I wasn’t keen on spending the rest of my birthday simply sprawled out on my couch. It was my first time at the gym for at least a month so it was very challenging. I was sore for a week afterwards, and it turns out I wasn’t healthy enough to be exercising yet anyway. I felt pretty sick the next day. But at the time I was glad to get out of the house for an hour. On the way home from boot camp I stopped by Panera and picked up a bowl of tomato soup for dinner. Not exactly the birthday dinner I planned, which was a steak dinner at Le Cellier in EPCOT, but at least the soup tasted good.

January 21st
To make up for the disaster that was January 9th, I celebrated my honorary thirty-ninth birthday last Sunday. Unfortunately I had to get up at 4:30 AM to get ready for the Pasadena 5K. It was a cold morning by Southern Californian standards and I carpooled to the Rose Bowl with one of my running buddies who doesn’t have a functional heater in her car. Not the best decision when it’s 39 degrees outside and you didn’t think to dress warmly enough. I should have driven instead. But even without heat we still stayed in the relative warmth of the car until 10 minutes before the race started. The 5K itself was pretty good, and the finish line was on the Rose Bowl field, which I enjoyed. My plan for the afternoon was to meet my good friend Natalie and her family at Disneyland, but I was tired after I got home from the race. Luckily a short nap re-energized me and I made it to Anaheim just in time to join them for lunch at Carthay Circle. A meal of tri-tip and cheesy mashed potatoes definitely made up for eating boring tomato soup for dinner on my actual birthday. It was absolutely delicious. After that we made our way to Guardians of the Galaxy where my 5 year-old goddaughter surprised everyone by agreeing to ride it. What a perfect birthday present. She’s a real trooper. We also went on It’s A Small World Holiday (the last day before they removed the Christmas decor) and Peter Pan’s Flight before we decided it was time to go to our respective homes. I was hoping to check out the new scenes on Star Tours, but the line was long and I knew I needed to rest rather than push myself to stay at Disneyland longer. Luckily it will still be there on my next visit, which I hope is too far in the future. It was a lovely belated birthday celebration, even it if wasn’t the one I originally planned.

Butter management

November ended on a low note with the death of my friend Tiki. Due to my grief, I never got around to writing a couple of webpage posts that I had planned for the beginning of December. In one of those I wanted to share this silly exchange I had with my co-worker Dave on November 28th, shortly before I learned that my friend had died. I’ve stated on many occasions how much I love my colleagues, and this is just the latest in a long line of examples of how much fun we have together. They keep me sane when work gets too busy or stressful. You might think that engineers spend eight very uninteresting hours at their jobs Monday through Friday, which sometimes does happen, but just about every day my co-workers make me laugh with some crazy situation or observation. (Like today when my boss blamed me on the fact that our group has to give up our cubicles and move to another area soon. Apparently when I unpacked my office belongings this time, unlike the last several moves, I inevitably doomed us to another relocation.) It makes the daily grind a little more bearable, and for that I am very thankful.

11/28/17 @ 8:38 AM
L: I tried to type “buffer management.” Instead I wrote “butter management.” I guess it’s time for breakfast?
D: When eating toast, butter management is very important. If we have improper butter management it’s definitely a high priority issue.
L: There’s nothing funny about improperly managed butter.
D: It could get messy really quickly.
L: Or that rock hard butter you get at restaurants sometimes. That poor bread.
D: Mauled senselessly by that frozen butter.
L: We should write a PSA. Everyone should know about the tragedies caused by improperly managed butter.
D: Whimsy level = epic.

Sleep in heavenly peace

“It all started back in early 2006 when Dan and I had just gotten engaged. In the beginning stages of planning our nuptials I discovered a Craigslist forum devoted to weddings. It was full of brides-to-be who were all getting married around the same time I was. A few of us from that group created a smaller forum where we discussed our dresses, rings, flowers, cakes, etc. We helped each other plan our big days. And then after the weddings were over we posted photos to show the group how everything turned out. In short, we bonded over this rite of passage. A few years later this group of ladies reconvened in a private Facebook group where we could share the joys and struggles of our lives after saying ‘I do.’ For one reason or another not all of the brides made it down the aisle with their intended grooms, and others hadn’t stayed in their original marriages (like me). As a group we celebrated the births of children, supported each other through painful divorces, and everything in between. We asked for and gave advice on fashion choices, career paths, medical problems, family conflicts, weight loss, and anything else you could possibly think of. Although most of us had never met in person since we live all over the country (and some abroad) we had still formed a really close relationship through our virtual interactions.”
9/12/15 webpage post

All of a sudden I have something to write about, but I am having a hard time figuring out what to say. More than two years ago I shared the above story of how I met about 100 very special women. We’ve seen each other through everything you could possibly imagine, both good and bad, and I interact with them on Facebook to some extent every day. We share absolutely everything. Last week I asked for advice on a credit card company issue. Before that I posted looking for recommendations for seamless underwear to wear running. Even with just those two recent examples it should be obvious that they have helped me with all sorts of crazy things over the years, and I appreciate them more than I can say. So when I logged on this morning and learned that we lost a cherished member of our sisterhood I was devastated. She was a beautiful, vibrant, and unfailingly kind and giving woman who lost her battle with cancer. To say that her death is unfair is a monstrous understatement. I am so shaken that I don’t even know what to think. Processing a death is always difficult, but in this case I am even more conflicted because I never got a chance to really meet this sweet woman. I have been extremely fortunate to have met about a dozen of my beloved online friends in person over the years, but a majority of them I only know through social media. It doesn’t change how much I love them all, but tragedies like this make me wish I could physically hug each and every one of these amazing ladies. I know that technology has its drawbacks, but today my little group came together online to share our grief and celebrate the angel that we lost. So tonight as we mourn the loss of our darling Tiki hold your loved ones tight and count your blessings, both big and small. We love you, Tiki, and we miss you terribly.

Day 20 – #metoo (not food related)

I love going to Disneyland with my goddaughter and her family. (If you look in the background of the above photo you’ll see her sitting with her mom on bench of the California Adventure carousel, while her dad and I crowded the foreground of the picture.) I met her mom in a Craigslist forum more than a decade ago and we both just happened to live in the greater Los Angeles area. We even got married on the same day (to other people, with varying degrees of success). Then three or four years ago we all met in person (at Disneyland, of course), and we’ve been close ever since. I love my goddaughter so much that my heart could burst. And knowing how being female means the scales are already stacked against her devastates me.

This week many, many women (and men as well) have been using the hashtag #metoo on social media to bring awareness to the widespread nature of sexual harassment and sexual assault. I don’t know a single woman who hasn’t had some negative experience in this arena. Some worse than others, but we are all affected at some point in our lives. I have been equally saddened by the massive outpouring of stories and awed by the bravery of the victim who shared their ordeals. Everyone needs to read these and think about how their daily interactions might affect others in an unintended way. Unfortunately I also read a shocking number of replies to these posts that either directly or indirectly blamed the victim for getting themselves into a compromising situation. Women are offered suggestions for how to avoid giving men the opportunity to harass us. Really? For example, a friend of mine mentioned how she was walking down the street and a man in a car drove past slowly and leered a her. Everyone would agree that this guy was a creep, right? But the feedback she got advised her to walk either with her husband or a dog in order to keep herself safe in her own neighborhood. No one said, “That guy is disgusting. He needs to leave women alone.” So men can behave that way without any consequence, but women need to avoid being alone to keep it from happening. Is that really what we want to teach our girls? As a single woman without a dog there is absolutely no reason that I should have to change either of those things in order to feel safe. Somehow women are the ones forced to shoulder the burden of avoiding situations where we might be in danger rather than stopping them with the perpetrator. You’ll have to excuse me if I don’t buy into that misogynistic notion.

This is not the world I want my goddaughter to grow up in. Of course I’m realistic and I’ll tell her to be careful and think of her own safety first (that’s just practical), but I’m also going to fight to make things better for her in any way I can. I was definitely affected by all of the women and men who shared their #metoo stories this week, and I hope it opened the eyes of others as well.

P.S. This seems silly after such a diatribe, but here are today’s meals:
Breakfast – Scrambled eggs and breakfast hash (sausage, butternut squash, onion, spinach, and apple)
Snack #1 – Banana
Lunch – Salad with shredded garlic chicken, red onion, red bell pepper, shredded carrots, nuts, and balsamic vinaigrette dressing
Snack #2 – Apple with almond butter
Dinner – Grapes (nothing else sounded good after my run)