18 December 2014

Hotel Wish Lists

I'm on my second work trip of the year.
I have developed a list of hotel THINGS, both required, and nice to have. I'm writing it down for the next time I need to book something.

Room service. The hotel I stayed at in October didn't have it and it was devastating.
Swimming pool/hot tub. I don't always use it, but I always want the option.
Fitness center. Same as above.
Full service bar that's not weird. On my last trip the bar was an extension of the hotel front desk, at my current hotel the bar is beer and wine only.
Mini-fridge. If you're gone for a week, sometimes you want to have a place for a cold beverage or leftovers.
Free WiFi. Why are hotels that charge for WiFi even still a thing? That's not how 2014 works.
Ice machine on every floor. I guess this is more of a strong preference than a requirement, but seriously? Why is this even an option.
Showers that aren't flawed. I feel like so many hotel showers either don't have good water pressure or don't drain properly or whatever.
Decent bathroom lighting.
A cable/tv system where you can hit a guide button and see all the channels and shows that are upcoming instead of just going channel up/channel down and trying to memorize the ones that you like and figuring out what might be on where and when. This was especially annoying when I was traveling during the world series and couldn't find my Giants. Did I click through the channel and it was on a commercial? WHO KNOWS IT IS A MYSTERY.

My last hotel had gym/pool/WiFi/kitchenette area but had a weird bar and no room service and ice machines on every other floor and I was not on one of the ice floors.
At this moment, I'm staying at a hotel that does have a gym and a pool and free WiFi and room service and an ice machine on my floor, but does not have a mini-fridge or a full-service bar.
Both hotels have had flawed shower situations.

The next work trip I have to take, I will try yet a third hotel chain, in hopes of finding the golden land at a price that my company will pay for.
So I'm crowdsourcing.
What is your favorite reasonably priced hotel? There's no luxury hotels in my future, at least not ones paid for by my job.

11 December 2014

Decision Tree

Last Saturday night, a lost person knocked on our door.
He was young and hipsterish, and clearly terrified.
I was also terrified, because it is extraordinarily difficult to wind up at my house on accident, and I was not expecting visitors.

So, let's talk about how you get to my house. Let's talk about how you get to my house ON ACCIDENT.
I live at the top of a mountain, at the end of miles of windy road, on 200 acres, surrounded by other families living on hundreds of acres. In order to get to my house specifically, you need to get to the top of this road, and then choose our family driveway, which is one of four driveway choices, all long and windy and one-laned in nature. While the gate is kept open, our driveway is obviously gated. This driveway is 1/2 mile long, only wide enough for one car. At the top of that driveway, it forks. The drive to the right is where my aunt and uncle's houses are, to the left is my parents' house, and, beyond that, mine. So you get to the top of this driveway and you turn left, and then you drive through another gate, and past my parents' house, and then through ANOTHER gate, and then, in order to keep driving to my house, you drive onto a DIRT PATH. I literally live out a dirt PATH. It is wide enough for a car, so you can drive on it, and I sometimes call it a road, but you are also jostling over redwood roots, and there are no lights.
This is literally what my road looks like. Now picture it muddy.

So this young man knocks on our door because he's driven to our house. He only stopped at our house because Quentin's car was parked out front. Otherwise, I gather, he would have continued onward, into the field below...?

He explained that he was trying to get somewhere, and he was following google maps, and was he going the right direction?
I knew exactly where he wanted to go, and it is physically close, maybe a mile, from where I live, but probably a 40 minute drive. You have to drive down our mountain road and up a separate mountain road.
Apparently google thinks you can drive through, but, no. I think if you take another driveway, there may be an old logging road that you can walk through on? I digress.
In order to leave, once he determined he was, indeed, lost, he had to back up our road, as that is the only exit. In the dark (and it was raining) he got instantly stuck in his little sedan. Stuck, on our road, right there.
I called my dad, and my uncle, to see if any of them had ideas about how to get this dude off our property. They terrified him by being grisly country men and calling him an idiot.
Young man called a tow company, but they did not have a 4-wheel-drive vehicle available to pull him out.
Quentin drove him to town, to return in the morning.
Well, Quentin drove him to the bus stop.
And then had to explain to this person how to take the bus. Like, how city buses work.
He came back in the morning, and it hadn't rained any more, and by the light of day he was able to back out and drive away, sheepishly.

What I would like to discuss is the series of decisions that led this guy to our driveway. I get that he was following his GPS, and I don't fault him for that, but at the end of the road, when he had a series of driveways to choose from, how did he choose our driveway, instead of, say, turning around, calling his friend, or choosing a different driveway? Then you get to the top and there is a fork in the road, and you turn....left? Okay. And then you DRIVE THROUGH A GATE AND PAST A HOME, and you do not think, "I am lost. Let me reevaluate."
You keep driving.
I just.
How does this happen?
I just want to talk about this decision tree.
At what point to you let your instincts override your smartphone because, hey, perhaps I do not wish to drive my honda civic into a field.
My house

12 November 2014

Wedding (Ceremony)

I got married last month!
How about that?
We went to city hall in San Francisco, siblings and parents and Gabriel.
We had lunch after, and a cake.
Things nearly went off the rails because Obama was SURPRISE! in town, and traffic was....affected.
But. We still got married.
That was the goal.
We are stupidly happy.
I have no apologies to offer for how sappy I've become.
Daniel and Laura likely both hate this photo, but it was the only sibling pic from the day. And the background action really makes it for me.
We had a party last weekend. That was pretty swell too.

02 July 2014

Gabe the Extraordinary

Gabriel is at his dad's this summer, and it's breaking my heart.

This is the third summer where he's spent the bulk not-at-home. It doesn't get easier. You get used to it, but it doesn't get easier.
This weekend my brother and niece are in town, and it just breaks my heart that Gabriel can't be here to hang out with his baby cousin. They're just crazy for each other.
Gabriel and I have been writing letters to each other to pass the summer. Writing to an 8-year-old is a tricky task. How do you make the letter interesting, but not make him homesick? You have to keep it simple enough that your second-going-on-third grader can read it, but not so simple that they won't want to.
I write significantly more letters than I get back, which is to be expected.
Last week I got this letter though, which filled me up so far water came leaking out my eyes.
Dear mom,
I love you. Do the cats miss me? Tell Kevin hi. I love you so much. I miss you.
(Kevin is one of our cats, by the way).
Gabriel is extraordinary.
Gabriel has grown into a full human person who writes letters and inquires after the cats and still tells me he loves me.
It blows my mind that I managed to have any part in making this special person.
What makes your kid extraordinary isnt' just the epic stuff. It's the little things. Crawling into bed on Saturday mornings. Art projects. Catch in the yard. Handstand contests. The small moments that maybe only you see — and quietly celebrate every day. Your kid, and every kid, is extraordinary.

This post is sponsored by Stanford Children's Health, but my feelings as a mother are entirely my own. Stanford let me make a special video to send Gabriel. I could practically hear him rolling his eyes through the phone, but his dad told me he immediately asked to watch it ten more times.
He's such a goofball and I love it. Your kid is extraordinary. Show them how much you enjoy every moment together by creating a special video of your own!
Seriously, celebrate your extraordinary kid. Share your love, hope and pride for your extraordinary kid by creating a personalized video that captures what makes them one-of-a-kind.
It's fun, and free!
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

17 June 2014

Distracted Driving - Decide to Drive

When the opportunity to write about distracted driving came through my inbox, I signed up because I knew exactly what story I was going to tell.
When I was 16, I was driving with my learner's permit. My mom was in the front seat, and my three brothers were in back. On the driveway, I started fighting with my 14-year-old brother turned my head to yell at him, turned the steering wheel as well, and drove off the driveway, into the woods. We rolled 1.5 times, landing upside down against a tree.
Everyone was bruised but generally and miraculously uninjured, and I didn't get my driver's license until I was 18, because my mom and I were both traumatized, and I don't think either one of us wanted to teach me how to drive.
That's a story about stupid teenagers with poor judgment, and I was one of them.
It was my fault and it was stupid and it was horrible and I could have killed any number of people and I vowed to do better.
I'm very stern about behavior in my car. I can't have kids fighting, I can't have dramatic conversations, I can't be getting sucked into anything.
If the kids are punching each other in the backseat or god knows what else, I will pull over until they chill the eff out.
Then I got selected to actually write about distracted driving, and I realized that I would rather tell this other story.
In 2008, I had picked up my brother James and his friend, both teenagers at the time, in downtown Santa Cruz. Gabriel and I had been at the beach, so he was sandy and naked in his car seat. The drive home was long and full of traffic, because Santa Cruz traffic in the afternoon is horrible. We were stopping and going and stopping and going on the freeway. I was using my phone to play music. I hope you're not picturing an iPhone.
No, I was using my Motorola RIZR with its sweet MicroSD card.
Traffic sped up, I was finding something on my phone, traffic stopped again.
I did not.
I rear-ended the very nice and undeserving woman in front of me.
I totaled my car.
The boys were all miraculously uninjured.
I broke my foot, but worse things have surely happened.
It was my fault and it was stupid and it was horrible and I could have killed any number of people and I vowed to do better.
I still use my phone for GPS when I'm driving, but I always set it before hand. I'm very careful about looking at the road and not at devices inside the car. I don't text and drive. I don't phone and drive. In 2008, it was still not illegal to use your phone when driving, but I had some important first hand evidence of what could happen if you were distracted by what was going on inside your car. I was an early adopter.
Then a month or so passed between being selected to write about distracted driving and the actual posting window for this campaign.
During that month I totaled my car.
I wasn't on the phone.
There weren't other people in the car.
But I was exhausted.
It was 3:30 in the morning. I hadn't been drinking, but I had been out with friends. I had driven everyone home, and all that left was my own bed calling to me.
I could have stayed at a friend's house, but I wanted to go home.
I knew I was tired.
OF COURSE I knew I was tired.
I thought about stopping for coffee but I wanted to be able to fall asleep when I got home!
At the point of my wreck, I was maybe three miles from home. I remember thinking that I should pull over and take a quick nap, but then I thought, "I'm so close to home, I'll be fine."
I wasn't fine.
I fell asleep at the wheel, drove into a field, and totaled my car.
I narrowly missed running my car into a tree, or god forbid someone's house.
Any farther up the road and it could easily have been off a cliff.
My wrecked car, after I fell asleep at the wheel
My wrecked face, which could have been much worse
It was my fault and it was stupid and it was horrible and I could have killed any number of people and I am vowing to do better.
I'm not going to drive while tired anymore.
If I start to feel sleepy, I'll pull over.
Even if I'm almost home.
Even if I want nothing more than to just get there already.

I think that driving while tired is its own kind of distracted driving. We all do it. After my wreck many of my friends told me that they have almost fallen asleep at the wheel, or fallen asleep only to startle awake just before drifting off the road. Or fallen asleep and had something minor happen.

I would like to use these three very traumatic but ultimately and very fortunately not life ruining car crashes to make us all better drivers.
You don't need to be on the phone to be distracted.
People can be distracting.
Maps can be distracting.
Music can be distracting.
Heated feelings can be distracting.
I recommend against using your phone at all while driving, but if you must, make sure it is through voice operated, hands free technology.
Set your GPS destination prior to starting your trip.
And please, if you are tired, please pull over.
Take a walk, drink some coffee.
Take a nap.
Every time you get behind the wheel, you are making a choice to drive.
Please do so responsibly, and with your whole mind focused on the task at hand.
Distracted driving is no accident. Crashes are caused by intoxicated, speeding, distracted, or careless drivers and, therefore, are not accidents.
I'm joining Team No More Crashes.
 • The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the Auto Alliance want to increase awareness about the risks of distracted driving.
• The Decide to Drive program aims to empower drivers and passengers to speak up about distracted driving, continue the conversation at home, work and play, and reduce distracted behaviors behind the wheel.
• According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), of the nearly 33,000 roadway fatalities in 2012, there were 3,328 fatalities and approximately 421,000 injuries in distracted driving-related crashes.
• Orthopedic surgeons—the specialists who put bones and limbs back together after road crashes and traumas—along with our partners, the automakers, would rather help all drivers "decide to drive" each time they get in the car and to keep bones and limbs intact.
• Remember, the most advanced safety feature of any vehicle is the driver. The AAOS and the Auto Alliance urges all drivers to keep their most sophisticated safety features engaged at all times: eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

09 June 2014

New car, pleasant Sunday, telephone sabotage

I bought a new car!

It's a 2014 Mazda CX-5, manual transmission.

See, for one thing, I actually prefer manual transmissions, because I'm crazy like that.
For another, manual transmissions are harder to sell (outside of like, sports cars or whatever).
And for a third, the 2015 Mazdas came out in May.
So I got this car for below dealer cost.
And then I parked it in a field, for I live in the country.
On Saturday I signed all the paperwork and actually made this vehicle purchase. Saturday was my nephew Elliot's 8th birthday, and my sister was taking the kids to Raging Waters.
Quentin and I watched Susannah, which meant that we had a not-quite-2-year-old car shopping with us.
She was such a champ!

Also, this not-quite-2-year-old is entirely potty trained, which makes watching her that much less bothersome.
My niece is a genius, I tell you what.
My niece was also deeply confusing to people.
Well, I should say, she was not confusing, people easily figured out how we all related to each other. They just figured it all wrong.
Susannah is my toddler, and despite having a very young child, I have a boyfriend who is clearly NOT her father.
You are NOT the father!
I spent a lot of time clarifying to the room at large that she was my NIECE.
Oh don't mind me, and my casual references to Susannah's MOM (Oh honey, let's call your MOM soon, okay?).
The followup questions that arose from those clarifications confirmed my suspicions about people's assumptions.
Sunday I was supposed to go to my friend Daniel's birthday picnic in San Francisco, but the car purchasing threw a wrench in all of that (with loose ends and roof racks to wrap up on Sunday), so we stayed in town.
Gabriel and I had a very satisfying (and economical) morning.
First, I took him for a haircut, and we were at the free haircut on the punch-card. So. Free haircut (plus tip, but the HAIRCUT part).
Gabriel also desperately needed new shoes, as his shoes literally had holes in the toes, and his backup pair was too small.
Instead of going to Kohl's, as is my preference, I agreed to take him to Bill's Wheels, which is the skate shop where his cool teenaged older cousins and uncles buy their shoes. It is also where the children's shoes cost $50.
I was feeling indulgent.
Except the shoes he liked best were on sale, and then on extra sale, and ended up costing me $15.
Then we went for bagels and walked on the beach, I got my car home, and spent the rest of the day cleaning out closets, doing laundry, and doing general housy things.
My phone, and it does not matter which phone it is (I have gone through SEVERAL recently), is trying to sabotage my friendships.
Sometimes I just...don't get text messages.
And they are important texts!
And then sometimes my replies just...don't go through!
Important replies!
Most recently, a friend's sister is going through some family strife, and she texted me about it...and just nothing.
I received nothing!
So she thought she was reaching out to me about bad things happening to her sister, and that I just could not be bothered.
So that was fun little web to untangle.
New policy: If you send me something that seems like it warrants a reply, and I don't reply, you aren't being naggy or needy if you follow up with a "Hey did you get this?".

05 June 2014

A week of complaints

I have spent the entire week thinking I'm few days farther into it than I really am, and that is just the worst. I woke up Monday morning thinking to myself, "Let's see...today is Wednesday? Or Thursday?"
Oh no, brain. That day was MONDAY.
This morning I woke up convinced (CONVINCED!) that today was was Saturday and I'd somehow accidentally set my alarm on the weekend and O HO HOW SILLY and then no.
This has made the mornings particularly....unkind.
I can't find my work badge. To be fair, I have only looked for it in my purse or on my person, fumbling outside of my office in the morning, for the past three days.
One must presume it is at home, but I haven't FOUND it, so it's hard to know.
I also learned that the front desk person really does not know who I am. Like even at all or a little bit.
Gabriel is sick.
He's been sick since last Friday.
I don't have a car.
I wrecked my car (more on that later, it requires its own post).
I have to go car shopping.
Car shopping is the worst.
I had to cancel my camping trip this weekend BECAUSE I WRECKED MY CAR.
My cat won't stop peeing on my stack of clean sheets.
Work is busy.
Headachingly so.

02 June 2014

New Tattoo

*brisk clap*
I got a new tattoo!
It's not done yet.
It's half done.
I mean, more than half, I guess.
It's outlined and shaded, but I need to get color still.
I'm not doing that until September, because my schedule is complex.
There is really no way to show this to you without showing you my underwear, but whatever, that's my jam.
It's California poppies (state flower), and a quail (state bird), and a dogface butterfly (state butterfly).
This did not start out as an ode to California concept, but that's how it ended, and I like it.
Did you know that the California state butterfly is the dogface butterfly? I did not. If asked, I guess I would have assumed that it was the monarch. I would have assumed incorrectly, as it turns out. Luckily, my tattooist is up on his California state symbolism.
Oh I guess I can show it to you without showing you my draws.
Well how about that.
Anyhow, I went in with a very vague concept and we came up with this and I am pleased.
I believe I said, "I want California poppies. And...more stuff also, to make it not just poppies." The rest was all George. George is my tattooist.
Then I got the sketch a few days ahead of my appointment and the quail looked a little too Disney for my liking. It was an attractive quail, but it looked like it spoke English. It had a chubby cheek and a sparkly eye.
So he fixed that bit for me, and we were in business.
I really, really love it.
Like a lot.
I love it a lot.
This brings my total number of tattoos up to: two.
I have two tattoos.
My mother hates them.

28 May 2014

Subscription Addiction

Subscription boxes are THE THING these days, as I'm sure you've noticed.

I have both a hard time making up my mind and a hard time spending all my money on surprises.

Last year I told Julia that I just wanted to pay HER to send me presents every month. It's GLORIOUS.
I get a different assortment by month, it is always a surprise, and she knows me really well, so it's always a PLEASANT surprise.
The May Box was made up of Japanese treats. I love it.
Anyhow. In theory, I can also send Julia a box and it's like a box exchange, but I'm really, really bad at mailing things, so in practice it's usually that I paypal her money ($25/month) and she sends me presents. I think I've done one box for her, and randomly sent her things in the mail a couple of other times. Maybe. Mostly we do the other thing.

Oh here's another box I got. It's the People Magazine VIP Box. I got it via some Klout perk thing where I have 3 months of people magazine and digital access and also I got this box.
It's pretty cool, actually. That weird pink plastic thing is this bizarrely effective detangler. On the description of the things in the box, it is just called 'Professional Detangler'. I tried googling it and there are a couple different ones that look like that, but I'm not sure what the 'official' one is. I have curly hair and this thing WORKS. I would seriously and highly recommend buying it. If I were to lose it? I would buy another.
The nail polish is a pretty good neutral color but I haven't tried it yet.
The cosmetics/toiletries bags (there are three, green chevron pattern) are nice, they are just...cosmetics/toiletries bags.
The bracelet is not my style but I think it would make a nice gift, or gift add-on.
The only thing that I'm never going to use are these Hungry Girl Recipe Cards. From what I can tell, they are like substitute diet recipes. Craving onion rings? Have these zero calorie fake onions instead! Or whatever. That's...not the kind of food I eat. So I'm not into it. Otherwise I thought it was a pretty good box, so I'm thinking if you are a person who subscribes to People, it might well be worth the incremental cost to get the occasional boxes?

21 May 2014

Flick, June, Arizona

Flick came home!
He was waiting on the steps when I got back from Tucson on Sunday.
This brings his Longest Absence Record up to ten days, which gives me a new bar insofar as When To Consider Grieving The Dead Cat. Ten days.
We're glad he's home.

Arizona was quite lovely.
June and Gabriel love each other and watching the two of them was just the best.

Can you even stand it?
I'm prescribing more cousin time!
The city of Tucson, being a desert, maintains a quantity of city pools, as well as splashpads and assorted water features, which we explored.

We also went to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.
Aside from my actual favorite thing, which was visiting my family, this was my favorite part of the trip. We went very early in the morning, before it got too hot, and all the animals were out and about and visible and frolicking. It is, essentially, a desert zoo. I don't know why it was so much more fascinating that a "real" zoo, but it was. Oh wait, I do know. Because the animals, all indigenous to the area, aren't really the animals you see in zoos, so that was interesting, and the backdrop was more or less their natural habitat, so THAT was interesting, and many of them are animals I might see in the wild at home, but I got to get up close and really check them out, so THAT was interesting. A thorough investigation of the mountain lion and the bobcats confirmed my (pleasant) understanding that I have managed not to see the mountain lion(s) that live near my house, as well as my (unpleasant) understanding that we have a VERY large bobcat who lives nearby.
In case you didn't know already, I am the uncontested champion of making babies and children nap. June proved no match for my expertise.
I'm also happy to report that she VERY MUCH LOVES her baby doll, which you can see her napping with, above. Perfect balance between baby-like and not-creepy was achieved! Huzzah.
But can you even stand how cute my nieces are?? (June edition)

15 May 2014

Recently. Ish.

Flick, looking pensive.
Flick has been missing since last Friday. Today is Thursday. This is not an unprecedented amount of time to be missing (his longest missing stretch was 7 days, which is what we're up against with today). It is, however, worrisome. I'm quite FOND of this cat, you know. And fretting about him. Fret, fret, fret. If you have stories about cats that went missing and then turned back up, I would appreciate them.
We've been doing a lot of beaching. And ponding. And foresting.
Gabriel and Camille, my sometimes exercise buddies

Gabriel and Camille, climbing something
Gabriel is still cub scouting. It's not an activity I personally am drawn to, but he seems quite pleased. They had their pine car derby thing. My brother-in-law helped him with his car, which made it to the finals. He was pleased.
Jaden and Gabriel, showing off their pine cars and their crazy faces
An elusive 4/5 of the siblings picture, which doesn't have much to do with anything, except my brothers were in town a couple weeks ago.
Me, James, Duncan, Laura
Gabriel and I are flying to Arizona tonight to see more of my brother Duncan. Well, and my niece June. She's the main attraction.

Susannah remains one of the most ridiculous babies in all the land. She'll be TWO soon, can you even believe it?
Susannah lets me do her hair
She also loves selfies
When Susannah comes over to my house I feed her marshmallows. I'm her aunt so I don't care if I spoil her. Plus I want her to love me best. Plus it's working.
Flick and Kevin, mystified by my bath
I really hope my cat comes home soon though.