December 31, 2004

Happy New Year!

Well I was just picking on Kevin for not updating his blog...

This week has flown by. I've been busy re-reading Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass). Can I just tell you how much I love these books? I highly recommend them to anyone who loves a good story. It's got everything you could ever want--alternate worlds, talking armored polar bears, love, war, angels, and a great main character. Read them!

Tonight we have not one but two parties to go to. First we're heading to David and Chelsea's house. David is Kevin's friend from high school and is a musician. Chelsea is an actress and they are both lots of fun. Then later in the evening, we're going to my parent's house for a casual dessert and (of course) wine tasting. Then it's back home to sleep in our own beds. Have I mentioned how much I love living in Southern California?

And now, it's time for the annual New Year's Resolutions. I don't like to make resolutions as I just don't ever attain them and then I feel like a failure and my self confidence drops and I spend the rest of the year in therapy trying to come to terms with my potty training. So instead, I make New Year's Goals. Here are mine for the coming year:

1. Finish my novel. My goal is to finish my novel and submit it to agents by the end of 2005.
2. Establish better writing habits. Related to goal #1, I've been writing very haphazardly and I want to establish better writing habits so that I can finish and submit my novel.
3. Loseweightexercisemore. Because I should. We all should.
4. Write lots of letters. This is a carry-over goal from previous years and one that I'm going to try to attain again this year. I think there's nothing like a hand-written letter, and I've got lots of great stationery and pens, so I want to keep in touch with my friends this way.
5. Maintain a positive attitude. This is another carry-over goal from previous years. When I lived in Missouri I was a very negative person and it just serves to make life more miserable for yourself. So I've gone through an attitude adjustment and I want to continue my positive attitude throughout the year.
6. Spend more time with family. This was difficult in previous years as I've always lived far from home. Ever since I left home 13(!) years ago for college, I haven't been closer than a 5 hour drive. Now that I live in the area, I want to spend more time with my family, particularly the kids in my life--Zach (13), Corie (9), and Seana (2).

I don't want to make this list too long so I'll leave it at that. What are your New Year's Resolutions/Goals?

Have a Happy New Year everyone!

Posted by Shelby at 02:11 PM | Comments (4)

December 26, 2004

Merry Christmas Everyone!

We had a wonderful Christmas and hope that you did too. More to come later. I think I'm going to have to wrestle Kevin for the electronic Boggle game he got me and then appropriated for himself.

Posted by Shelby at 11:42 PM | Comments (2)

December 23, 2004

NORAD Tracks Santa

NORAD's Santa Tracking website

NORAD, the North American Air Defense Command, a joint venture between the United States and Canada that tracks incoming missles and other airborne threats is celebrating their 50th anniversary of tracking Santa.

Santa is tracked by satellite, which detects the heat coming from Rudolph's nose, Canadian and American jet fighters who accompany Santa across North America, and various SantaCams who catch glimpses of Santa and his reindeer. They then post live updates throughout the night of Santa's whereabouts.

Be sure to track Santa's journey at the site above!

Posted by Shelby at 11:45 PM

Christmas Rules for the Dog

(found elsewhere on the internet)

1. Be especially patient with your humans during this time. They may appear to be more stressed-out than usual and they will appreciate long comforting dog leans.

2. They may come home with large bags of things they call gifts. Do not assume that all the gifts are yours.

3. Be tolerant if your humans put decorations on you. They seem to get some special kind of pleasure out of seeing how you look with fake antlers.

4. They may bring a large tree into the house and set it up in a prominent place and cover it with lights and decorations. Bizarre as this may seem to you, it is an important ritual for your humans, so there are some things you need to know:
- Don't pee on the tree
- Don't drink water in the container that holds the tree
- Mind your tail when you are near the tree
- If there are packages under the tree, even ones that smell ineresting or that have your name on them, don't rip them open
- Don't chew on the cord that runs from the funny-looking hole in the wall to the tree

5. Your humans may occasionally invite lots of strangers to come visit during this season. These parties can be lots of fun, but they also call for some discretion on your part:
- Not all strangers appreciate kisses and leans
- Don't eat off the buffet table
- Beg for goodies subtly
- Be pleasant, even if unknowing strangers sit on your sofa
- Don't drink out of glasses that are left within your reach

6. Likewise, your humans may take you visiting. Here your manners will also be important:
- Observe all the rules in #4 for trees that may be in other people's houses. (4a is particularly important)
- Respect the territory of other animals that may live in the house
- Tolerate children
- Turn on your charm big time

7. A big man with a white beard and a very loud laugh may emerge from your fireplace in the middle of the night.

DON'T BITE HIM!!

Posted by Shelby at 05:21 PM

Other Than That, I Had a Good Day

Aside from my little accident below I had a good day. This morning I went to see Brad's new business, OC Precision, a machine shop where they make metal things. That just about sums up my understanding of it, but it all looked very cool. There I picked up Corie (my 9 year old niece) and drove her out to my mom's house in Torrance.

We arrived home to find...nobody there. I left a message for my mom at work (turns out she thought we were coming later than we did) and Corie and I sat down to finish our annual Christmas puzzle. We then read The Polar Express and then went to Mc. D's for lunch.

We then met up with Mom and the three of us went to the Banning Residence Museum in Wilmington. It's a large Greek Revival house built in the mid 1800's and restored and decorated in Victorian era furnishings and decorations. We arrived about 2 minutes too late for one tour so we killed about an hour in the gift shop until the next one. The house was very beautiful and interesting. Corie was very well-behaved despite the world's slowest speaking tour guide (boooooooring). We also had this woman in our group who asked in every single room, "What's that door for? Is that a bathroom? What's that door for? Is that a bathroom?" Arg!

I then went to the chiropractor and took a quick nap while Corie and Mom assembled a gingerbread house. They were about 3/4 of the way done when I woke up and were struggling with the icing they'd made, supposedly following the directions. Mom couldn't figure out why it was so runny. I said, "did you beat the egg whites first?" Uh, no, they didn't read that part of the directions. My mom said, "how did you know that?" Gee, doesn't everyone know that you have to beat the egg whites to make a frosting--otherwise it's just icing? I thought that was common knowledge.

We had dinner and then headed out to see the Christmas lights in the neighborhood. The neighborhood bordering my parent's do a really good job with lights every year--having a contest and everything. There are always tons of cars driving through, and people walking. Really industrious homeowners even sell hot chocolate, coffee, and popcorn (years ago people used to give it away for free, but alas, those days are no more). So as we're going down the first street I said, "Look! It's Santa!" Corie says, "That's fake!" Sure enough it was a life-sized animated Santa. But it was very life-like! We all cracked up and Corie didn't let me forget it the entire night. Then we passed another display that showed an incongruous combination of images (a lighted train that looked like it was about to run over a lighted baby Jesus). I made an off-color joke and that was it--we were shot for the rest of the evening. All three of us were laughing so hard we were crying, and then Corie and I got a serious case of the giggles and couldn't stop laughing. We'd settle down, then one of us would start laughing again and we both couldn't stop. It was so funny, and Corie and I have an inside joke that I'm sure we'll still be laughing at years from now.

Overall it was a totally fun day. I'm so glad that I live in Southern California now and can just take time to hang out with Corie and my mom and not have to worry about traveling back at the end of the weekend or long drives or anything.

Posted by Shelby at 12:14 AM | Comments (1)

December 22, 2004

Wham!

And I'm not talking about the 80s pop band either--I got rear-ended tonight. I'm fine--my neck is a bit sore so I'm going to take a hot bath tonight. Luckily the guy wasn't going very fast. I was within an arm's length of home too. I'd just gotten off the freeway and was sitting at a red light at the bottom of the off-ramp waiting for traffic to clear when WHAM! You know that dull thud sound it makes when two large pieces of metal hit each other? Yeah, that sound.

My first thought was "This guy better have insurance!" Okay actually my first thought was a swear word, but my second thought was about the insurance. I flicked on my hazards (oh, and I was in Kevin's car too, not mine, so it took me a little while to FIND the hazards), then went back to survey the damage. I was hit by a Chevy pickup truck that had not even a single scratch. The Contour wasn't so lucky. Of course the truck was high so his bumper actually hit the trunk. The damage isn't really that bad. Kevin was even able to open the trunk later, but still, there's a nice dent there that wasn't there before.

"You hit my car," I said to the driver. "Do you have insurance?" Yes, yes, he said he had insurance. We pulled up a few feet into a parking lot to complete the transaction. The guy spoke zero English but he did produce an insurance paper so I took down all of the information and gave him mine. Funny enough, Kevin looked up his insurance company online and they specialize in "hard to insure drivers!" On the guy's insurance sheet it listed two traffic infractions he'd had--both related to failing to stop at the proper time (like when the car in front of you is stopped?). Looks like Mr. Hard To Insure is going to become Mr. Even Harder To Insure now. I'm just so glad he had insurance. Let's hope it all checks out.

Well I just filed a claim with his insurance so that seems to be okay. Boy, was I stupid--I didn't even think about asking to see his driver's license. I didn't get anything beyond his name and insurance information. Hopefully everything will be on the up and up and it won't matter. I was just so pissed off I wasn't thinking that clearly. Oh well. I did get his license plate number.

Posted by Shelby at 11:36 PM | Comments (1)

December 21, 2004

Doctors, Doctors

Well I have this cold that I just can't seem to get rid of. I've had it since before we moved in here (which is over a month now!) and the runny nose, sore throat, and headaches have been plaguing me. After I started to lose the hearing in my ears again I figured it was time to go in.

How the hell do you find a good doctor?! That's one thing I hate about moving to a new area is trying to hook up with a good doctor. I've had totally incompetent ones (like the guy who sent me home with "bronchitis" when I was actually suffering from severe congestive heart failure--that guy could have killed me), and I've had some of the most amazing doctors ever to cross the earth (like my Stanford cardiologist who brought me back from the transplant list and gave my life back to me). I have noticed a pattern--the specialists I've found on my own (which is to say that going to Stanford for cardiology was a total no-brainer. I also had a fantastic psychiatrist there too) have been really good, but I haven't had much luck with primary care physicians.

I decided to start with UCI (University of CA at Irvine) because I've had good experiences with university doctors in the past (read: Stanford--sensing a theme here?). I called and was told that of course I need to have a complete physical and new-patient appointment and blah blah blah, our earliest opening is February 23rd. Uh, yeah. Have anything open tomorrow? Okay, I can drop in tomorrow for a brief appointment but still have to have the new patient thing. Whatever.

Going to the doctor is such a pain for me because my medical past is so extensive and complex. The cardiology problem is huge. Add in electrophysiology (my ICD/pacemaker), bipolar disorder, sleep apnea, allergies, mild asthma, dislocating kneecaps, GERD, and probably several other problems that aren't coming to mind, and I can spend easily 1/2 an hour just talking about my medical history. I dread the question "what medications are you taking?" and as I rattle off my list and have to ask "is that 8?" ("no, it's only 7." crap, run through the list again, and oh yeah, aspirin--is that 8 now?). Then the doctor comes in, looks at my list, and says "Wow, tell me about [fill in the blank]." They're always interested in how I came about my heart condition (answer: nobody knows--probably a virus). I had one doctor tell me I was the only person he'd met with bipolar disorder who didn't smoke (I can totally see why).

Keep reading below:

So there's all this hoo-ha when all I really want is someone to look into my ears and tell me if I need antibiotics.

The UCI clinic turned out to be a total ghetto. I'd forgotten that as a university, they also treat the poor, indigent, and uninsured. Needless to say I won't be going back there. Anyway, after the whole history and stuff I finally get to see the doctor. She was actually very nice and she thought that my symptoms were more indicative of allergies than a cold. What a pain. My ears are full of fluid but luckily are not infected yet. She prescribed Allegra (which I've taken before with good results) so that brings the medicine list up to 9. She did say that if I'm not seeing results from the Allegra in 10 days or so to come back and we'd try someone else. It's always nice to have a doctor who really wants to help you feel better rather than one who just wants you to leave their office.

So going to the doctor today reminded me that I really have to do something I've been putting off--which is setting myself up with a phalanx of doctors here. I started with Cardiology. I'd heard good things about Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach, and they do both cardiology and electrophysiology so I thought I would start with them. It turns out their setup is very different from Stanford's. At Stanford they have a clinic in the hospital where all 4 cardiologists practice. In the same clinic are the electrophysiologist and even the transplant team. They share the same office staff and the records are the same so everyone can work together. I thought Hoag would be the same way, but apparently it isn't.

I called the "Heart Failure Program" at Hoag to try to make an appointment, and spoke with one of the nicest people in medicine I've ever come across--a nurse practitioner named Kathleen, who runs the heart failure program. Apparently the HFP is just an educational and support program, not a group of doctors. They run classes and information sessions and other things like that. Well I think I pretty much know all there is to know about heart failure, but it sounded interesting and Kathleen was so darned NICE. She invited me to a class they're having on Jan. 4th ("is that soon enough?" Are you kidding me? I can't even get a primary care appointment until the end of February!) and suggested I come about 1/2 an hour early to chat with her one-on-one about what they offer and how she can help. It was clear that she's extremely passionate about her work, which is just so cool.

And she was able to give me some referrals. She recommended a particular female cardiologist in Newport Beach who specializes in congestive heart failure and in women's cardiology issues. Perfect! I called that doctor and of course wasn't able to get an appointment until Valentine's day, but that's fine since I'm not currently having any problems and really just need to establish a doctor in the area.

I didn't have nearly as much luck finding a psychiatrist. My psych at Stanford had recommended the mood disorders clinic at UCLA. Unfortunately they aren't participating in the research study I was in at Stanford, but they are doing a lot of cutting edge research in the field. I've found that facilities that participate in research are really the most up-to-date doctors, and the last thing I want to do is see a dinosaur, particularly since my current medication is something that I was a part of a clinical trial on and has only recently been approved by the FDA for bipolar disorder (it's a miracle drug, I tell you, and I'm very lucky to have gotten in on the ground floor with it). Well the clinic at UCLA has proven very difficult to get ahold of. After being hung up on once and being on hold for over 10 minutes twice, I gave up and decided to try tomorrow. Hopefully that will work out well. I am not having any immediate problems in that arena too, and anticipate that I'll probably end up with a February appointment as well, which is fine.

So that's the update on my health situation. If anyone knows of a good primary care doctor in Anaheim/North OC I'd love a referral. Let's hope it doesn't take too long to find a smart one.

Posted by Shelby at 05:14 PM | Comments (1)

December 19, 2004

Bag, Borrow, or Steal

I've never been one for shoes and handbags. I really don't get it. Why would people spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on these things (and let's face it, by "people" I mean "women")? It's not that I'm a cheapskate. Okay, I am kind of a cheapskate for certain things. I'm willing to pay decent money for a bag or shoes that are going to last me for some time and look cute. I just don't get buying these things in volume. I buy a pair of shoes and wear them until they get a hole or something. I own two handbags--one for everyday, and an $8.00 black velvet one for dressing up (way dressing up)--both from Target.

So where am I going with this? Bag, Borrow, or Steal. It's a website that allows you to borrow handbags--essentially a Netflix for purses. You pay a monthly fee and are allowed to borrow one handbag (although if you upgrade, you can get 2!) for as long as you want. Send it back and get another. There are three levels, or "closets": Trendsetter ($19.95 per month), Princess ($49.95 per month) and Diva ($99.95 per month). Yes, you read that correctly. One hundred dollars per month to rent a handbag. And on top of that, you have to pay an additional $9.95 for shipping and handling each time you get a bag.

Okay, I can hear you fashionistas saying, 20 bucks a month to tote around a Prada? Sounds reasonable. After all, a Prada costs at least $100.00. Oh no, no, no. At the "Trendsetter" level--I mean "closet"--you only get to rent "innovative and emerging designers." In other words, people you've never heard of. You have to upgrade to the Princess or Diva levels to get a Prada.

And what happens if this very expensive handbag you're paying $100.00 a month for happens to get scuffed or dirty, or god forbid, the handle falls off? Well they're extremely vague about that. Sure, they expect "everyday wear" but expect to get saddled with the entire cost of the handbag if something drastic happens (I wonder if they deduct your $100.00 a month from the overall cost?).

Oh, and did I mention the initial trial period of a minimum of 3 month's membership?

I don't get it. I really, really don't. I think Kevin would lay a golden Twinkie if I declared I wanted to join a $100.00 Purse-of-the-Month club. Hell, I'd lay a golden Twinkie if I wanted to do that. I can't help but wonder if it wouldn't be more cost-effective to just buy the bag at your local discount e-tailer, use it for a month, then sell it as nearly new on Ebay. (I should ask my sister in law--she's a total Ebay expert)

For the record, I've gotten several complements on my current purse, which was purchased for under $20 at Target. This was the purse I took to Europe and therefore had several demanding requirements. It had to be a durable fabric (this one is a black canvas backpack-type material). It had to be relatively small, and it had to have a flap that completely covered the opening that I could wear next to my side so that someone couldn't just reach in and grab my wallet. Done, done, and done. And it's already totally paid off! Imagine that.

Posted by Shelby at 07:49 PM | Comments (2)

December 18, 2004

Three Things Meme

Three names you go by: Shelby, Shelb, Girl (only from Kevin)

Three screen names you have: Shelbyscout, Beaglescout2, Shelby

Three things you like about yourself: I'm funny, I'm a good friend, I'm happy

Three things you hate/dislike about yourself: Hate is rather strong. Let's say I wish I was free from self-doubt, I dislike my current sleeping schedule, and I wish I didn't get so worked up over politics.

Three parts of your heritage: I'm Polish on both sides so..Kolaczki, Oplatek, and Lamby Butter

Three things that scare you: sharks, alligators, pretty much anything that could eat me alive.

Three of your every day essentials: the Internet, petting Scout, getting plenty of sleep

Three things you are wearing right now: A watch, glasses, a Medic Alert bracelet

Three of your favorite bands/artists (at the moment): Deb Talan, Dar Williams, Peter Mulvey

Three of your favorite songs at present: Oh Holy Night, Unraveling by Deb Talan, Lady by Lenny Kravitz

Three things you want in a relationship: trust, humor, a sense of security

Three things you want to try in the next 12 months: finish my novel, spend some time in the snow with Scout, get all of our boxes unpacked (I figure a year oughta do it--ha ha ha)

Two truths and a lie: I loved the book The Time Traveler's Wife (Audrey Niffenegger), I loved the book Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller, I loved the book The Kite Runner by Kahled Hosseini*

Three physical things about the opposite (or same) sex that appeals to you: Humor, intelligence, cute smile

Three things you just canít do: Run (bad knees), draw, read a map without turning it around so that I'm always driving up.

Three of your favorite hobbies: Reading, blogging, drinking wine

Three things you want to do really badly right now: eat, that's all I can think of.

Three careers you are considering: Professional Dog Petter, author, motherhood

Three places you want to go on vacation: Australia, China, Finland

Three kids names: Rumer, Scout, Tallulah (it didn't say names you liked. These are Bruce Willis and Demi Moore's kids, and while I think the name Scout is positively inspired, I'm not fond of the other two--and I would never name a person Scout)

Three things you want to do before you die: ride in a hot air balloon, win some kind of major literary award, make a souffle

Three people you would like to take this quiz now: whoever.

*I hated Bridges of Madison County with the burning passion of a thousand fires from Hell. So basically I'm really sorry I read it.

Posted by Shelby at 08:00 PM | Comments (1)

Christmas Shopping

I think I've done pretty good this year, but there are a few things I have yet to pick up. Today I went to JC Penney's to pick up some items for Kevin, but it was a zoo there and everything was so picked over I was like forget it. Monday I'm going outlet shopping with my friend Sherri so hopefully I'll find something there.

Posted by Shelby at 06:00 PM

December 14, 2004

I'm a Little Butterfly

Well I'm a social butterfly so far this week. Yesterday I met up with my friend Sherri and she finally got to see my new house. We grabbed a bite to eat and did a lot of talking. Today I got together with my friend Jamie, and SHE got to see my house too. That was super-cool because on Sunday, Jamie leaves for 5 months in Inverness, Scotland. Kevin and I had decided to go to Disneyland tonight because I really wanted to see the Christmas parade (Disney does awesome parades). Jamie works there, and was going to meet up with us on Main Street, but then got hung up and left me 3 messages telling me she wasn't going to be able to meet me. Of course I never hear my phone ringing in my purse so I had to kind of leave her hanging.

Anyway, it was another one of those perfect "Let's go to Disneyland" nights. After this week we will be blocked out on our passes until after the new year. I wanted to see the parade and the fireworks (we can see the fireworks from our kitchen, but it's better with the music) and we wanted to ride the Matterhorn, which had been undergoing construction the last time we were there. I think they really smoothed out the Matterhorn track. You still get jerked around a little bit, as with any rollercoaster, but it's a lot smoother than it used to be.

So tomorrow, continuing my social theme, we're going over to have dinner at my parent's house tomorrow. That should be nice too. I'm never one to pass up my mother's cooking.

Posted by Shelby at 11:12 PM

December 12, 2004

Our Housewarming Party

Phew! Like the song says, oh what a night. We had a wonderful Housewarming party last night. After two days of frantic preparation, attempted unpacking (abandoned toward the end in favor of just shoving boxes into closets and the garage), food preparation, and planning, we pulled it off! We had over 30 guests--everyone from high school friends to camp friends to friends of the family of over 35 years to grandparents and cousins. We did have a surprising lack of parents, hitting only 1 out of 4. Both of my parents were in Palm Desert for my mom's office holiday party, and Kevin's dad and brother were on a Boy Scout campout. Great timing, hunh? So Kevin's mom had to be the general representative.

My brother, Katrina, and the girls (Corie--9, and Seana--2) were there. As luck would have it, our toilet had been on the fritz for the last two weeks and yesterday morning totally crapped out (get it--crapped out? Ha ha ha, I'm so funny!). It required a total replacement mechanism. Luckily we'd bought the replacement but hadn't gotten around to putting it in yet. So while Kevin was busily making pies and cookies, I thought I'd be Little Ms. Plumber and fix the toilet. Get it? Me--fix the toilet? Ha ha ha, I'm so funny! Yeah. So I thought we were going to be down one toilet for the party. Then my brother walked in, and I was like "Hey Brad, I gotta job for you." Five minutes later the whole thing was assembled and running--hooray for my brother!

The girls were fantastically behaved. As soon as they opened the door Seana said brightly, "Hi Doggie!" Scout and Seana quickly became fast friends as Sean continually fed her. Scout also has a ton of dog toys scattered around the floor and Seana kept picked them up and cuddling them. I hope she didn't mind dried dog slobber. There was a moment of panic when we thought that Scout might have eaten one of Seana's binkies, but she was quickly exonerated of the crime. Seana loved our deep claw-foot tub. We'll have to have her and her bath toys over for a good old-fashioned soak.

My one big fear was that we would run out of food and people would go hungry, but that didn't seem to be the case. We didn't serve a full-fledged dinner (the party started at 5) but rather a wide assortment of munchies and finger foods. I figured if we ran out of food we'd just let people know there's a Carl's Jr. 3 blocks away and they could stop on their way home. We served the ever-popular Raclette a Swiss variant on Fondue. It's basically a grill and broiler and you take a little tray and load it up with cheese. Then you put it under the heating element to let it melt and grill veggies and sausage on the top. Then combine and eat! It's awesome and we're having the leftovers for dinner. We were introduced to Raclette by our good friends Marc and Wendy (who, much to our dismay, live in Denver now) and have been hooked ever since.

We had a lot of wonderful wines. We started out with a few bottles of our own, knowing that our "wine friends" (members of my parent's wine-tasting group) were planning to bring some more to share. We even got a few bottles to keep--yum! We got several other wonderful housewarming presents, but unfortunately some tags were separated from items so it's going to take us a little while to figure out who the thank-yous go to. If you don't receive a thank-you from us, let us know!

Overall it was a really wonderful party. We're still rather fledgling party throwers, being in the shadow of my mother who throws parties like Martha Stewart. Actually my mother throws better parties than Martha because Martha has all of her minions while Mom does it on her own. I hope to achieve that ideal one day. I guess we'll have to keep practicing! We're already looking for excuses to throw another party (Kevin turns 30 in February, so hmmmm).

Oh, and we were so busy running around trying to talk to everyone and replenish food and drinks that we totally forgot to take pictures! Sorry everyone. You'll just have to come to our next party and experience it for yourself.

Be sure to read Kevin's review of the party!

Posted by Shelby at 08:02 PM | Comments (3)

December 09, 2004

Shut the Hell Up

For those times when you are surrounded by rude people on cell phones talking too loudly, here are some handy cards to print out and give away.

Hat tip to Misty.

Posted by Shelby at 05:57 PM

The Rest of the Adventure

My friend Sherri, of the Paris Adventure, writes:
"you didn't mention how you managed to walk out of Disneyland Paris' wetsern bar with an "extra" beer mug... or the fun we had trying to shove Steve through the Louvre more quickly with the hope of seeing something we hadn't already seen before...or our trip to Versailles...or the berets and baguettes...or the ferris wheel....you left out all the FUN parts!"

And she's absolutely right--I left out the fun parts. That's because the fateful night is my most memorable adventure. But I have to say, that trip to Paris was probably my funnest vacation ever (sorry Kevin). Click below for more details.

So yes, I did happen to sneak out a beer stein from Disneyland's Western-themed restaurant. The restaurant had a "Country-Western" band (think Willie Nelson with a French accent) and, if memory serves correctly, a few people attempting American-style line dancing. We all ordered beer which came in these HUGE steins. And since I didn't get to go into Disneyland, I wanted a damn souvenir. Apparently steins get stolen all the time because the waiter watched us like a hawk and I had a terrible time trying to get it into my backpack. Once he turned away, I finally snatched the thing and ran. I kept the stein for many years but I think I have lost track of it. Perhaps I'll come across it in a random box while we unpack here.

Our whirlwind tour through the Louvre was particularly memorable. Both Sherri and I had been there before, but Steve hadn't and really wanted to see it. We were pressed for time and decided to get the short tour. The self-guided tour pamphlet promised seeing most of the major works in the Louvre in just 4 hours. We figured we could cut that down to two. We literally dragged poor Steve through the museum at top speed, saying things like "What's in here? The Coronation of Napoleon. Okay there it is--the big one. Next?" and "See that large crowd of people over there? That's the Mona Lisa. Can we go now?"

Our constant companions throughout the visit (which was, I believe, 2 days long) were our authentic Parisian berets. We decided we couldn't truly fit in with the French without them, so at the first street vendor we saw, we each bought a beret. To enhance our French experience, we then posed with long fresh baguettes. How much more French can you get than that?

We took the train down to Versailles, but couldn't rush through that one because we could only take human-guided tours. So we join our English speaking tour and off we go. The tour was packed and it was hard to see. There were some obnoxious kids accompanied by idiot parents, and there was this one kid who stood in front of Sherri and kept leaning and bouncing back, bumping into to her, and standing on her feet trying to wedge her way in so she could see. Totally deliberately. And she did it from room to room, too. Sherri kept trying to change her position and this girl would follow her around to bounce into her. What the hell? Finally Sherri gave her a gentle, yet persuasive shove, and all of a sudden there was the mom all over us. She was waving her hands and telling Sherri off and we're just like hey lady, where were you when your brat was bugging everyone around us?

And then there was the ferris wheel. It was giant and set up so that you could see all over Paris from the top. Sherri and I decided immediately to go on it at night. Poor Steve, he was petrified of heights. He was also in love with me and would do pretty much anything to try to impress me, so I shamelessly took advantage of that by getting him on the ferris wheel. We get to the top and Steve's trying hard but he's not looking so good. Sadistically, we had to take a picture. In it, Steve has sweat pouring down his face, both hands are white-knuckled grasping the gondola bars, yet he's gamely trying to smile through his clenched teeth. The resulting expression was somewhere between constipation and Horror Film.

Not to mention the night we went to see the Eiffel Tower. We were wandering around, enjoying Paris at night. We stopped to eat a scoop of ice cream on the Champs Elysee, realizing later that we paid something like $25 a scoop. We made our way to the Tower--up we went--oooooh, ahhhhh. Then we looked at our watches and it was like 11:55 pm. Our hostel locked their doors at midnight and no one was allowed in or out, so if you didn't make it back in time, you were SOL. And we were all the way across the city. We hopped into a cab and quickly determined that we only had a very vague recollection of our hostel's location, and between the three of us we lacked enough French to be able to describe it to the driver. Finally one of us remembered that it was near a particular bridge, so we told the driver to step on it. And boy, did he. A year or so later when Princess Diana died in a Paris tunnel, I immediately understood why. We pulled up to the bridge with seconds to spare. Our driver was quite bewildered as to why we'd want to get out on a bridge, and we were screaming "PULL OVER! HERE! HERE! ICI! ICI!" Sherri took off running to try to hold the hostel doors open for us, while Steve and I threw a bunch of cash at the driver, telling him to keep the change. Based on the look on his face, I think we gave him quite a nice tip. Then we took off running and literally squeaked into the doors just in time.

As you can see, that trip was probably the biggest adventure of my lifetime. It was awesome!

Posted by Shelby at 05:18 PM | Comments (1)

December 07, 2004

More Questions and Answers

Another American ex-pat, Anna, asked the following questions:

1. What was the oddest thing you saw upon moving back to the States?
Hm, that's hard to say. There were a lot of things that I saw with new eyes after returning from Germany--things I had never noticed or took for granted before that seemed strange to me upon my return. I have the say the #1 thing would be the sheer amount of choices at the grocery store. In Germany grocery stores are tiny and you get 2, maybe 3 brands or choices for a given item. Flash forward to the US where you have an entire aisle dedicated to cereal--seems odd after time away.

2. What was the thing you had to get used to the most while living in Germany?
Walking around in a fog on incomprehension. I never thought of myself as an eavesdropper before, but it was so weird in Germany hearing people have conversations around me and understanding only like 1 in every 5 words, if that. The signs I could pretty much make out--shopping wasn't too hard, public transportation fairly straightforward, it was the people talking that I really had to get used to. Especially people asking me for directions, which happened all the time. But I did get used to it, and when I returned it was a real shock to realize I could actually listen in on people's conversations and understand every word of what they were saying.

3. Your greatest/most memorable adventure?
I spent the summer of 1996 in England studying Thomas Hardy. One of my best friends, Sherri, spent it in Germany working at a Girl Scout camp there. Through a complex system of postcards and relayed phone messages, we managed to meet up in Paris. A friend of mine from my study program, Steve, joined us as well. One day we set out to go to Disneyland Paris ('cause I'm weird like that) thinking that we would get a room there, play at the park, spend the night, whatever. Sherri had to get on a train back to Germany that night, and contrary to what I thought, Disneyland Paris is not actually IN Paris, but a train ride outside. Upon our arrival at Disneyland, it turned out that there were no rooms in the inn, anywhere. So we spent several hours calling hostels around Paris until we found one that had room for us. By that time our day was pretty much gone, so we went to the entrance of Disneyland, then went to a Disney restaurant outside of the park. Yes, we went all the way there and never actually made it inside.

It got worse. We all rode the train back to Paris where Sherri took off. Steve and I were left trying to get to this hostel which again was not actually IN Paris but in some suburb. It was super late and we caught the last train of the night. Lucky us! We rode the train a while, and then looked out the window to see our stop go whizzing by. Little did we know, the train didn't stop in that particular suburb, and it was of course the last train of the night. We got off at the next stop and pondered what to do. The train station was outside so we couldn't sleep there waiting for the next train in the morning. We decided to walk into the town to find some place to sleep.

Well of course nothing was open at all and we wandered for a while until we found a Chinese restaurant that was open. Oh, did I mention that neither one of us spoke French? So we asked the restaurant people in English if there was a hostel or hotel nearby, and they produced a girl who not only spoke perfect English, but spoke in a California accent. She directed us to a motel that she knew of down a ways a little.

We found the motel, but unlike America, in France there's no such thing as the night-worker. It was locked tight, and we were screwed. It was at least midnight at this time, and we were totally exhausted. So we collapsed in the doorway of the motel like homeless people figuring we'd just sleep outside. Then along comes a guy, a young businessman in a car. We asked him if he could let us into the building so we could sleep in the hallway, but instead he offered to drive us to the hostel we had reservations at. It was a complete miracle. The guy was so nice and totally went out of his way to drive us over to the next town (about 10 miles) and get us settled into our hostel. We collapsed into bed for about 5 hours before running to meet the first train in the morning.

The whole adventure taught me many things--the first of which is that I now never go anywhere without knowing ahead of time where I'm going to sleep for the night. I also learned that despite what people say about the French, they really are very nice, generous people who really helped us out when we needed it. It was a great adventure but not something I'd want to repeat!

Posted by Shelby at 04:07 PM | Comments (4)

December 04, 2004

Rain Man

Kevin is so talented--he made it rain! He decided to put together his new lawnmower and cut the grass and it rained on him. Of course it stopped once he got inside. I'm gonna see if he can whip up a heat wave for his next miracle. It's too cold here.

Posted by Shelby at 05:08 PM

December 02, 2004

Fragen und Antworten

More questions from my German friend Ira:
1. What are your life prinzips (principles)?
In the U.S. we have a saying, "what goes around, comes around" which basically means that whatever you do, it will come back to you. If you're nice to people, people will be nice to you. If you do good things, good things will happen to you. If you are rude, negative, or dishonest, that's how other people will treat you. It's not always easy, especially when I get stressed out, but I really try to treat other people the way I would like to be treated.

2. What kind of Present you like to get on Christmass?
I love everything! The gifts I really like are the ones that show that people have really had me in mind when they got me something. I enjoy a lot of things--books, bath products, anything beagle, Snoopy, or Winnie the Pooh related, fountain pens, and a ton of other things. The best is when someone says "I saw this and just knew it was perfect for you." It always is perfect for me.

3. How Do you feel now for the moment?
I feel sehr gut. A lot of good things have come my way this year--our great time in Germany, our new home, being close to my family so I can have days out with my nieces--it's been very good. Like every year, I'm so thankful for my continuing good health and my wonderful, wonderful husband. I'm in a great mood right now because I just had a lot of fun with Corie. I'm looking forward to our housewarming party on the 11th, and to Christmas in general.

Thanks for your questions, Ira! Keep reading below for more comments.

Ira also suggested:
I recommend you the movie: " Die Fabelhafte Welt der Amelie"
In the U.S. the movie was called "Amelie" and I loved it! This is a fun movie that leaves you feeling good about yourself and makes you want to do nice little anonymous things for other people. Great suggestion!
Book: Will Schutz "Deep simplicity"
I did some searching on Amazon and I think the U.S. title is "Profound Simplicity." I'm definitely going to check it out.
Artist or Albom??? The classikal Musik from Frederik Chopin. I like Chopin very much. It is also gut for meditation.
Ooo, Chopin is wonderful.

Posted by Shelby at 09:50 PM | Comments (1)

Girl's Day Out

I had a blast today. I picked up my 9 year old niece, Corie, from school and we went to Barnes and Noble to spend the giftcard I got her for her birthday. Corie was very patient with me as I took several wrong turns, made a couple of U-turns, called Kevin for directions (he wasn't home), and finally buried my nose in the map book to figure out where we were. And that was just to get us TO the bookstore. We then went to get Chinese food and as I made a left turn and cruised down the road, Corie said, "Uh, Aunt Shelby? Pick Up Stix is back there." Oops. And of course it was one of those roads where you couldn't make a U-turn for the next three intersections. But we made it to the restaurant and back home without further incident. We beat both parents back home so we had to sit in the car a little while--no biggy, we did some homework. I went over Corie's spelling words and she got every one right, including distinguishing between "aisle" and "isle" and the bonus word, "expeditions." We also did some of her school reading, but before I could find out what happened to poor Tomas, the migrant farm worker (no joke), my brother came home and let us in.

Corie spent her gift card wisely, getting 5 books--a crossword book, a couple Lizzie McGuire books, and some Junie B. Jones books. We also picked out a Dora the Explorer book for Seana and got a copy of the first Harry Potter because she's reading it in her after school program.

We had a great conversation, and I realized how much I truly love her. She was only 4 when we met, and she's grown up so much, I'm just amazed. One of the reasons we moved down here was to be closer to Corie and Seana (age 2) and Kevin's brother Zach (age 13), and I'm so glad we did. I love being a part of my niece's lives, and I hope I can be the "fun" Aunt (you know, the one who gets them all hopped up on candy and junk food and then drops them off at home--ha ha ha). I'm really glad I'm able to spend some quality time with them.

Posted by Shelby at 09:25 PM

December 01, 2004

You've Got Questions, I've Got (Thorough) Answers

Hooray, I've got some questions! I'll continue to update this thread as the questions pour in (hint, hint), but for now, here goes.

Three questions from Annastazia:
1. What made you decide on owning a beagle?
I've always wanted a dog, and always thought I wanted a big dog like a lab. My senior year at Albion College I decided I was going to get a dog come hell or high water. Unfortunately I was living in the dorm, so that had to wait until I got to graduate school. When I got to Missouri I specifically got an apartment (my first one) that allowed dogs. However, they had a weight limit of 20 pounds. I didn't think it was fair to keep a very large dog in a small apartment so I started looking at small dog breeds. I've never really liked most small dogs because of the hyperactivity and the high-pitched barking (two things my in-law's otherwise cute Maltese Harry does in excess whenever I see him--Kevin claims to have seen him sleeping but I don't believe it) so I was looking for that "big dog in a small body" thing. I became interested in beagles because they're so darn cute, and if you get a little one they don't grow much bigger than 20 pounds (or so I thought). I got Scout through an ad in the paper for beagle puppies. There was also an ad for Rat Terriers and I almost got one of them, but beagles are just so cute! So that was how I got Scout. As it turns out, I have been able to keep her weight to just around 20 pounds but have since learned that she's really slight for a beagle and most are larger than that. We're considering getting another dog and I want to get another beagle. So that's the short answer :D.

2. How did you know that Kevin was the one you were going to marry?
That's a good question! I can't really say that there was one particular moment when I knew I was going to marry Kevin, it just sort of grew gradually. If you haven't read How We Met, go do that first. After Kevin returned from Germany in 2000 and moved in with me, I realized how much I'd grown to love him. Once I realized that, I knew that he was the person I wanted to share the rest of my life with. Marriage was an easy decision, really. After a certain point we both became really committed to the relationship and I just knew it was right.

3. What's your guilty pleasure love ballad that you know every word to and secretly love to sing along with?
Well it's embarrassing, and this isn't going to come as any surprise to my old roommate Mary, but it's definitely Bonnie Tyler's Total Eclipse of the Heart. I can't hit all of the notes, but that's never stopped me from belting it out. For me, the song just encapsulates all that was cheesy about 80s love ballads. It's so good because it's so bad!

Posted by Shelby at 10:33 PM | Comments (1)

Blog: Word of the Year!

The word Blog has been selected as Merriam-Webster's word of the year! The official definition is:

"Blog noun [short for Weblog] (1999) : a Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by the writer"

But if you've been reading this blog, you know that already!

Hat tip to Dave.

Posted by Shelby at 09:10 PM | Comments (1)

Ask Me Something

Here's a meme for you all to play along. Leave your answers and questions in the comments and I'll answer anything. My life is an open book! Except for that one night in Sumatra--that's off limits.

(A) First, recommend to me:
1. a movie
2. a book
3. a musical artist, song, or album

(B) I want everyone who reads this to ask me three questions, no more, no less. Ask me anything you want.

(C) Then I want you to go to your blog/journal, copy and paste this allowing your friends to ask you anything & say that you stole it from me.

I stole this from Staz, who promises she'll ask me something.

Posted by Shelby at 09:05 PM | Comments (3)