Monday, December 17, 2012

The hard things.

This blog has gotten pretty quiet, and this isn't an apology or really an explanation (and it will definitely not be accompanied by an ultrasound picture to explain my absence or anything), but more of a musing on why I'm not as keen to write.

When I saw Meg speak in January, I asked her about blogging and having a private life.  She said that she doesn't write about things that are a) not up for discussion or b) not something that belongs on the internet.  Other bloggers have shared their strategies, that for example, they do not share about fights they have with their partner until the issue is resolved, and some people don't share their fights at all and I feel both inspired by and inadequate because of their perfect relationships.  I've had people ask me to share particular things on the internet, which is extremely flattering, but the flattery isn't worth jeopardizing my relationship with people I'm friends with or related to in real life, so I don't.  Because those things aren't up for discussion.

I also have a job that requires a lot more discretion than some.  I would never ever want my clients to think that I use them for blog fodder, that I would write about them in a way that demeans them, or really, at all, and I would be absolutely humiliated if opposing counsel found my blog and thought, "she writes about weddings?" or found my blog and thought it meant that I wanted their comments or input on my marriage.  Or really, found my blog and thought anything about me at all.  I also don't want to tip my hand about how I feel about any upcoming cases or any issues of law that I might then go into court and zealously argue against.  In short, I think writing about work here would be thoroughly unprofessional.

But sometimes I have hard days. Sometimes I have cases that make me really sad, or really angry, and my husband asks me about my day but he doesn't really want an hour long rant about my job.  When I talk about it when we are out with friends he nudges me because I'm going on and on and because it's boring and depressing.  I don't really share an office space with anyone I can share with emotionally, and so I get very in my head about work.  I don't have a very good outlet for that, for processing through everything, and for making connections and learning from my cases.  I'm afraid that if I write anything, I will write everything, and that would be bad.

So simply put, that's the heart of why I don't write much anymore.  My personal life has become intensely personal, my professional life has become intensely professional, and I do not want to incur the wrath of anyone for sharing my life on the internet but being unwilling to share all of my life on the internet.  I will continue to post when I'm able to string thoughts together, and when it's appropriate to share, but I cannot make promises as to content or frequency.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Book Review: Why Have Kids

I've heard a lot about Why Have Kids lately, so when I needed a book to read on the way back from Orlando, I picked it up.  I was really pleased to see it was actually available for loan from Amazon, and it was on my Kindle in a minute.  I thought I would offer a review here, in case you have also sort-of heard about the book but not actually heard anything about it.

What I expected: a book about why you should or shouldn't have kids, a la Caitlin Moran's chapter on the subject in How to be a Woman.  I was hoping that somebody would lay out for me, in black and white, all of the reasons to have children.  I actually had two people say over the weekend that they are "really selfish" and that is why they don't want children, whereas I actually fall into the camp that believes that having children is a somewhat selfish thing to do, what with limited resources and the population and all that.  Really, I think you can come down on either side, so I was hoping Valenti would give me a good reason why to have or not have kids.

I don't know why this book is called Why Have Kids, to be honest.    More accurate titles would have included, "Motherhood: You're not doing it wrong just because you don't think it's the greatest thing ever" and "Seriously, the Census counts involved fathers as babysitters" and/or "Everyone will judge you."

That being said, it's a good book and you should definitely check it out if you have Amazon Prime or it's at your local library. It's a very quick read, much more like a long magazine article, and it explores all of the recent hooplas - basically every round of books or long articles that has come out and inspired a lot of reaction in the internet world - as well as some of the parenting trends, like "natural parenting" and "attachment parenting" and "total motherhood".

It's not a very egg-head-y book, and it doesn't offer a lot of real solutions.  It reads very much like Valenti read every article on the internet and several internet chat rooms, and that is all her "research" is.  I was remarkably okay with that, because like I said, she doesn't come to many real conclusions.  Valenti posits that we need a paradigm shift in the way we think about parenting - and motherhood specifically - because right now, moms tend to still put a lot of pressure on themselves, and fathers still aren't pulling their share of the childcare/housework - and that motherhood is isolating, lonely, and difficult to discuss because women are expected to be so happy and so fulfilled by their children.

My favorite section is probably the one where Valenti talks about the value, or over-valuation, of motherhood.  This idea that being a mother is the most important thing you'll ever do.  One thing she points out is, "We also need a fundamental shift in the way we over-value mothering in women.  Because if women continue to belive that the most important thing they can do is raise children - and that their children need to be the center of their universe - then the longer that American women will go unrecognized and undermined in public life, and the more frantic and perfectionist we'll become in our private and parental lives."  She also points out that recognizing motherhood as the hardest job ever is a way to placate mothers without giving them the social and political support or recognition that they actually need, and that if mothering really was the most important job in the world, more men would want to do it.

She also talks about the language that mothers use to shame other mothers into being better mothers.  Phrases like, "Do your time." with the comment that, "When motherhood keeps getting likened to a prison sentence, you know something is very wrong."

While I don't recommend buying the book, because there is not a lot of there there, I would strongly urge you to read it, especially if you haven't read all of the books and articles about opting in/out/the decline of the American family, choice feminism, etc.  It's a nice summary.

I thought the book was very interesting, although it did not help make my mind up one way or the other about having children, when to have children (well, there was a really scary chapter on all of your eggs drying up by the time you're 30), or how the heck I manage to get a 50-50 split of childcare in my house (the only thing to do on that one is follow my parent's lead, I think).  Have you read it?  What did you think?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Keeping the List

I went to a conference recently, and a female judge was talking about her egalitarian marriage and her feminist husband, and then she said, "but somehow, I always kept the list."

And there it was.  There was a three word term for the issues I've been having lately.  I've been feeling really frustrated - I'm finally working, my husband is finally not working so much, things are good, and yet, something feels unbalanced.  Not like I'm doing more than my fare share, but like I'm the cruise director around here.  So there it is, with a name. I keep the list.

Around the room, other women nodded.  So I'm not the only partner out there who is somehow responsible for meal planning and grocery planning and perhaps grocery shopping and knowing what we are eating for dinner on what night.  I'm not the only one who is getting tired of being asked, "so do we have plans this weekend?"  I'm not the only one who keeps track of the plans, who is making a list of what needs to be done and who needs to do it.  I'm not the only one who is driving the relationship bus and is experiencing some serious road fatigue.

Once you name it, you can talk about it.  Because as soon as I said to my husband, "I keep the list", he nodded.  "You do, and I'm sorry," he said.  Once we named it, we started working to fix it. That weekend, we sat down and wrote the meal plan together, and then he went grocery shopping.  He chopped peppers and I chopped onions for the week.  The next weekend, he made chili and I made banana bread and roasted beets.  Last weekend he grocery shopped and chopped onions so that it would be easier to put meals together.

Sometimes changing who keeps the list is as simple as admitting that you can't do it all.  In the spring when he was working all the time and I was working full time for the first time, I came home and admitted that we couldn't lead the organic, totally healthy, not from a box, meal planned and prepared lifestyle we wanted to - that I didn't have the energy, and I couldn't do it alone.  So we started to loosen our grip on the lifestyle we wanted - we bought more convenience foods, and I forgave myself for throwing together a quick dinner.  Every once in awhile, I have a crappy day, and he's still at work, and I call him and tell him I'm not cooking, and we go out or we get takeout.  Those days are still pretty far apart, but the possibility of neither of us having to cook is there.

One of the other big things that has been helpful for us is to use technology - we use an app called "our groceries" so that whoever is able to go grocery shopping has the list, and we use gmail and google docs to recipe plan - each week, we (try to) email back and forth a list with the menu plan and all of the recipes that we are using.  That way, we are on the same page with dinner and a meal plan.  I'm still making the meal plan and I'm still doing most of the cooking.  He's doing the laundry and more of the housework.  It's getting better though, and I'm getting better about asking for help or admitting when I'm feeling cranky and too "list-keepy".

Do you keep the list? Does your partner?  If you actually split responsibilities, how do you do it and how do you make it work?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Dear Maryland

I spent yesterday standing outside a polling place in the cold, handing out lit to the people who took it out of pity or because somehow they were still undecided. 

When we first started this journey this year, I watched in thrilled disbelief as marriage equality passed out of the House of Delegates.  I watched with joy as it passed out of the senate and was signed by the governor.  I waited for the referendum and I gave money, I made phone calls, I attended events.  I often felt as if I was not doing enough to ensure a win, and I worried. 

I worried that this state that I love, that I never intend to leave, that is full of people who are good people who believe in fairness and equality and civil rights, that this state would let me down.  That we would stay true to our history - that we would attempt to be a "neutral" state again, on the battleground of marriage equality. 

Thank you for proving me wrong.  Thank you for coming up big.  Thank you for being filled with people who are willing to listen to reason, who are willing to work together for change, for wanting a better tomorrow. 

I look forward to being able to practice law here in a state where my clients are treated equally.  To assume that this is an issue only for same-sex couples is wrong, because there are thousands of us in professions whose lives are now easier because we know where our clients stand and how we can serve them.  Countless more Marylanders will have access to justice, the benefits of marriage and the protections of divorce.  I practice every day in the family courts and I can hardly express how important that is. 

Thank you, Maryland, for protecting my marriage and making it stronger. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


I got asked to be a bridesmaid recently and I could not be more excited.  The wedding is in Boston next August, so we're going to try to build in a vacation in New England and possibly a road trip as well.  Plus, there are four bridesmaids and three of them are friends of mine from college, and they are super-easy-going, and the MOH seems really nice too.

So I'm trying to follow the rules of bridesmaiding that I have come up with, through several years of reading blogs, acting as the emergency person, being a bridesmaid, and getting married myself and having an awesome crew:

1.) Be involved and be available.  If possible, make time to go dress shopping and squeal over magazines, or at least share a pinterest board.  It helps the bride not feel like a bridezilla that is the only one that cares about looking at fluffy dresses.

2.) Reign the bride in.  Sometimes it is your job to say, bluntly, "do not cook all of the food for your wedding yourself", sometimes it is your job to say, "you are taking on too many DIY projects" and sometimes it is your job to say, "I'm not wearing four inch heels, that is insane."

3.) Don't make her wedding about you.  It's fine for you to obsess over your hair and makeup, and you should discuss it with the bride a bit so that she knows that you're excited, but don't spend the day of the wedding acting like your hair is a priority, or pouting because you hate it.  It will make the bride feel upset that she asked you to get your hair done.

4.) Don't wait too long to order your dress or your shoes (if the bride is particular about shoes).  Don't order your dress three sizes too small just because you are planning on losing weight.  (If you are heavily dieting, consider trying to order dresses from a retail store that lets you do returns, but you might have to suck it up and pay for alterations.)

5.) Don't gripe about looking fat.  It will upset the bride, because she thinks you are beautiful and she doesn't want you to feel upset or out of place.  If you want to lose weight, lose weight, but don't make a huge deal about it or make the bride feel like you did it because she wanted you to.  (Note: it is acceptable to politely mention that certain lines of bridesmaids dresses do not carry sizes large enough for you.  This is not something that many people who have skinny privilege think about.  It is also acceptable to politely request to shop at a place that carries dresses in multiple sizes, so that you are not squeezing a size 16 person into a size 8 dress.)

6.) Don't give her much input about the bachelorette party.  She is allowed to request a particular weekend or a particular activity.  Bachelorette parties are a big thing that leaves the bride feeling sad and upset - often turnout is low, people bail at the last minute, or nothing turns out exactly as planned.  Better to not know what is planned.

7.) Do NOT complain about the dresses.  Especially not after they come in.  Complain to somebody that doesn't know the bride or isn't going to go to the wedding, and then put on a big smile and tell the bride that you love it.  (I loved my bridesmaids' dresses.  My bridesmaids' did not.  They all totally faked their enthusiasm when I squealed about them, and for that I am forever grateful.)

8.) Put your makeup on as quickly as possible on the day of the wedding, so you aren't still getting ready when everybody else is ready to go.  Do it in an area away from the bride, so you aren't crowding her and you are all at the same sink.  Bring a mirror for you and/or the other bridesmaids.  Test run your makeup beforehand and don't ask everybody annoying questions about whether they think a particular lipstick looks good.

9.) Get your dress altered.  One wedding I emergency crewed for, two of the bridesmaids were standing in front of the mirror complaining about how their dresses didn't look right.  One had lost a lot of weight, but not gotten the dress altered.  It looked terrible.  I shortened her straps for her and ten minutes later, the whole thing looked a lot better.  This is not me tooting my own horn - it took ten minutes, it would not have cost much at an alterations place, and she should have gotten it taken care of.  The other one was fixed up with some artful safety pinning, but she would have been much better off if she had gotten it altered.

10.) Have fun and be nice!  Have a good time.  Even if you're not a dancer, get out there on the floor and have fun.  Even if you hate stupid games at showers, play them and get into them.  Make friends with her family members and act open and inviting towards everyone - don't act jealous or weird of the other bridesmaids or of her family or close friends that aren't in the bridal party.  For example, in Bridesmaids, while I think the Helen character was kind of out-of-line in the way she acted, Kristen Wigg got super-possessive of her friend, which was a total turnoff and I wound up hoping that the bride would make new friends soon.

Those are my rules (more like guidelines, really) - what are yours?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Hawaii: Manta Ray Night Dive

I went on the Manta Ray Night Dive when I was 22.  My parents took my sister and I to Hawaii as a last hurrah before we started grad school, and it was awesome.  One of the things we did was the Manta Ray Night Dive, and I came back and talked about it for four years.  Whenever anybody says they are going to The Big Island, I respond with, "go on the manta dive".  When we were originally planning to go to Hawaii, we were planning to go to Oahu.  There were a couple reasons why we decided on the Big Island, but I would be lying if I said it didn't have a LOT to do with wanting to experience this dive again (and I knew it was something my husband would love.)

It is one of the top ten dive experiences, consistently rated, and it is definitely the top snorkeling experience.  It's also just one of the coolest things you will ever do.  You totally think that I'm overselling this and nothing could ever be worth $70 to lie on top of the water or sit around a campfire, but I'm not.  I was a little concerned before we got in the water that I had oversold it and that my husband would be disappointed in the dive.

Guys, it just isn't possible.  (Unless they don't show up.  But there is an 80% chance.)

(Photos by me. Tip - don't bother bringing a camera. Most of the pictures are terrible 
and it messes with your buoyancy.)

You sit in a circle and you hold your dive light above your head and the mantas swim over you and they do backflips and they smack you in the head with your fins and it's just the coolest thing.  It's absolutely magical, and one of the coolest things is that it's totally silent.  It's not like one of those tourist experiences when you're at the Grand Canyon and all the parents are warning the kids to be careful, or when you're on the boat out over the Arizona memorial and all these bitchy high school kids are complaining about how bored they are, or when you go to the zoo and everyone crowds around the tiger cage to catch a glimpse.  I'm a total wuss about night dives (and I'm terrified of the dark) usually I spend night dives clutching my buddy's hand and freaking out about the tarpon following us, but this is the easiest night dive in the world. It's 35 feet of water, it's lit up like a football field, and you sit on the bottom.  (Sit down, don't try to kneel.  You will be much more stable.  And Frank the Eel might come hang out by your fin.)

If you are a snorkeler, you are equipped with a light and a raft and you hang on to the raft and the mantas come up and they do back flips underneath you and they come (seriously) belly to belly with you.  As we were heading back to the boat, a couple mantas followed us and I can thoroughly say that the experience is as cool as a snorkeler as it is as a diver.

I highly highly recommend doing the two-tank dive if you are a diver.  Why?
If you go to the same site during the day, you see mantas during the day.  It's seriously seriously cool.  And it's only $10 more, so even if you don't see mantas, you get an awesome dive with other cool stuff. 
(Why am I not in Hawaii right now? For serious.)
I also highly recommend Big Island Divers.  They provide you with water, juice, snacks, a sandwich, hot cocoa, dry towels after each dive (bring a sweatshirt - it gets REALLY cold after the dive), and they set up and break down your gear for you.  They provided one guide for four divers, which is a perfect ratio, and they have a counter on their website to show how many mantas came to last night's dive.  If the number is high, your chance of seeing mantas is pretty good - they apparently hang around for awhile.  

Something to keep in mind is that it can get chilly - definitely rent a full wetsuit for this one, even if you wear a shorty.  Even Mark was cold, and he doesn't usually have a problem.  Another thing is that the boat doesn't have a bathroom, which is a concern for some.  They encourage using the ocean once you have taken your wetsuit off, so it's a little weird because people get on the boat, take off their rental wetsuits, and then jump back in, so it's just awkward, I think.  Kona Honu has a bathroom on their boat, if that is important to you, and I think we went with them last time - everyone on our boat totally respected them, so I would guess they are a good operation. Big Island also has a big boat which they use for people only doing a one-tank dive, so if you are snorkeling, try to get on that.  

Anyone else ever do this dive/snorkel? What did you think? Am I overselling it?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Hawaii Guide: Shore Diving

Diving in Hawaii is expensive, so when we planned the trip, we planned for shore diving. had several sites listed, and the reviews sounded pretty good, so we made a reservation with Big Island Divers and picked up tanks and weights our first day.  Our first dive was at a site called 4 Mile Marker, which is right next to the 4 mile marker on Alii Drive.  The entry itself wasn't bad, but our navigational skills were pretty poor and there are supposedly awesome caves and swim throughs at this site, but we didn't find any of them.  The entry wasn't bad, but the current underwater picked up and started pushing us towards the shore. 
Just a little rocky.

After that, we tried to do the Old Airport, which was listed in every guidebook as a good shore dive.  When we mentioned it to the woman at the shop, she looked outside and said, "check the entry first, then decide if you can do it" because the entry gets really rough when the wind picks up.  We checked the entry and it looked okay, but by the time we got our gear on, the swell had picked up and I lost my footing and stepped on an urchin on the way in (I just got the last bit of the spine out last week).  Not wanting to repeat that experience, we decided to go to the harbor, which was supposedly protected.  Not only is the harbor protected, it involves a rocky lava pile to get to it.  Walking with all your gear over the loose lava rocks is challenging at best, but the entry was totally worth it - it was a very easy beach entry, no rocks.  However, we got lost in the harbor and wound up surfacing on the wrong side of the boat channel, which meant we then had to go back down and swim across.  We called our first day of shore diving a disappointment, but decided to try again. 

A lot rocky. This was taken from one of those giant boulders.

The next morning, we decided to try 4 Mile Marker again.  We had a dive plan, a depth plan, and followed the instructions to go to the left.  It was a nicer dive, but we wound up swimming back in about 12 feet of water and getting pushed very hard against the reef by the current.  Swimming out further to do a deeper dive didn't seem like an option, so I'm not sure what we should have done to make it better.

Once we got out of the water, swearing about the current and our general failures, I suggested we go to Two Step for the second dive.  Two Step was where I had done most of my dives when I was here with my family, and I knew the entry was easy and the dive was beautiful.  It was a long drive (30-40 minutes) down there and once we got there, I made a wrong turn (or rather, a failure to turn) and we wound up driving down a one lane road for four miles.  (I remembered the entrance not being part of the park, but you have to turn where the sign for the park is, and then make a right.)  After the dive, we went for a hike that our guidebook recommended where there are lava arches that look down on the water.  We planned to go to the park, but were pretty exhausted and wound up just driving home. 

The next day, we decided to go to the Airport again, but the entry still looked rough (and I was so freaked out by stepping on an urchin that I was chicken about it) and we wound up doing the harbor again.  That night we had the two tank manta ray dive with Big Island Divers and we got to see what we were missing by not doing boat dives.  The dive shop set up our gear for us, and then rinsed it at the end of the night.  They provided sandwiches, juice, and snacks, and helped us in and out of the water.  The dive guide found us all kinds of neat stuff underwater, which was just awesome, and overall, we both wound up deciding that in the future, we will boat dive.  The next day, we did a single tank dive at Two Step, and then we decided we didn't need to do a final day of diving.

What are the take-aways?
1. Boat dive.  It is worth the money to do fewer boat dives than more shore dives.  We probably could have gotten as much out of as few as 2 two tank morning charters and the manta ray night dive. 
2. Rent gear.  I was really shocked when I realized that Big Island Divers rents the same WSD BCD that I use (SeaQuest Diva) and that if you were on the boat, they rented you a dive computer free of charge.  We spent a lot of time stressing over the weight of our single checked bag, which had all of my gear in it, and I spent a lot of time cold because my wetsuit fit poorly due to recent weight loss.  I honestly think I would have been the same/better off if I had rented gear, and I would have been able to bring home a giant suitcase of Caramacs and Volcano wine.
3. If you do shore dive, don't go through a single shop - find tanks closer to where you are going to be diving, so you can swap them out between dives if you don't take two at once.  If you shore dive and you are not a regular rugged-terrain shore diver (that is, you have shore dived but only in Bonaire or places with a beach/pier entry and little to no surf, you do not have enough experience), this is my suggested schedule for shore dives:
Day 1: Rent 2 tanks, drive to Two-Step. Do the southern route first (early, so you can see dolphins), then the northern route.
Day 2: Dive the harbor, then hang at the beach for lunch and then catch a boat for the Manta Ray Night Dive.  Do the two-tank, it is worth more than the extra $10 it costs.  I'm going to write a whole separate post on the importance and value of the Manta Ray Night Dive.
Day 3: Dive 4 Mile Marker, but try to get a map first.  If you have a map, you might be able to figure out where the lava tubes and everything else are.  Then maybe check out one of the other sites reviewed on like Kailua or Ke-ei (I think we did not do that one because it looked like the entry would not be good in our Crown Victoria.)
If you try to get in more than 3 days of shore diving, you are really gambling on the winds and the swell.  Puako and Mahukona are supposedly great, but they are pretty far north, so if you are going to do them, I would recommend staying up near Puako for a night and hitting them super-early.
You should also rent something with a hatchback.  We "sprang" for a midsize car and got upgraded to a Crown Vic, which had a trunk so deep we could dive in that.  This is impossible for shore diving.  Get a 4WD or at least a Nissan Versa, which seemed to be the most commonly rented hatchback at our rental car place.

The relative cost of shore diving is significantly cheaper than boat diving, but it isn't worth it. What you realize pretty quickly is that mostly locals shore dive - people who are just looking to get in a couple dives on a weekend.  There aren't maps of the dive sites readily available (although Big Island Divers had some, which were extremely helpful), and it's kind of dangerous to be on your own if you don't know the area.  The total cost for shore diving for two of us for five days was around $260.  The total cost of boat diving would have been something like $130 per person per day.  But since I think if we had done boat diving, we would have been satisfied with 3 two-tank charters, the relative expense would have been worth it to really enjoy our vacation - the first two days of shore diving were really stressful and also so exhausting that we just went home and ate cold pasta salad instead of walking around Kona and enjoying ourselves and vacationing. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Hawaii: Activities

So what do people do on the big island?  There are some beach resorts, but it doesn't feel like as much of a paradise island lie on the beach type of vacation destination.  But we didn't fly halfway around the world to lie on the beach, that is what the Caribbean is for.  So what is so great about Hawaii?
-Diving (see tomorrow's post) and Snorkeling!  If you don't dive, you have to go snorkeling.  Firstly, you have to do the manta night snorkel (we'll discuss this later), but also you should go snorkeling at either City of Refuge/Two Step or at Captain Cook (Kaileakea Bay).
(Reef squid!)
-Captain Cook - this bay is just kind of cool.  Apparently at some point in history, a big chunk of the island just kind of fell off, and then the bay was there.  So you show up, you rent a kayak (it was $50 for us, the guy in the mustang that pulled up right after had to pay $60...), you paddle yourself over to the monument, you eat a picnic (see "eating" post), and then you snorkel.  The bay is really calm, the visibility is excellent, the fish life is incredibly diverse here, and it's probably one of the best spots to snorkel that we went to.  Then you kayak back and drive home past the fruit farm / honey stand / coffee tasting place that gave us free samples of everything and had macadamia nut ice cream.
- Volcano Park - excellent hiking. Bring lots of water.  I highly recommend the Kailuea Iki crater trail.  They say if you only have a day, you should drive the crater rim, but I was pretty happy with just hitting the overlooks and then hiking the Iki trail, the Thurston lava tube, the sulfer trail, the museum, and the final trail that I'll just call the Land Before Time trail and not really recommend it.  (I think it was the "hairy hill" trail, or part of it.)  Your mileage may vary, but we were pretty happy to just spend a day in Volcano park.

- Volcanically heated swimming pools.  We went to Ahalanui Park, which wasn't terribly crowded (but go early or you will not be able to park) and it was pretty cool.  The water is ocean water, but it's heated by lava so it's kind of like taking a salty bath where fish try to bite your legs.  I'm not selling it well but it was neat.
- Ziplining - We went with UmaUma Experience and it was definitely a splurge, but it was pretty cool.  You zipline over waterfalls, the guides are all really fantastic and have a lot of fun, and it felt extremely safe.
(That's me.  Right before this, I was flying upside down. It's awesome.)

- Beaches.  I don't mean to undersell the beaches on The Big Island, because the beaches are gorgeous and awesome and you should go to them, but clearly there is other cool stuff too.  There are several great beach parks along Alii drive where they offer surf and SUP lessons - the weather was bad for SUP on the one day we decided to go, so we passed on that.  We also spent several hours at the Old Airport beach park, which has good diving if you don't step on an urchin.  There is also a nice beach close to Mile Marker 4, which is a dive site, and a lovely little protected beach at the harbor dive site, which is really nice as long as you don't mind hiking over lava.
- Black sand beach.  When you drive around to volcano, check it out, it's pretty cool and there are turtles.
- Running.  Running along Alii Drive south out of Kona is awesome.  I wish we could have run all the way down to "the end of the world" where people jump off cliffs, but we just ran two miles from our hotel and two miles back.  There are beach parks with water fountains, there are amazing views of the waves crashing, you can see locals out for their morning surf, and it's fabulous.
- Driving.  I highly highly recommend you drive the island.  We went south to north because we were staying in Volcano.  Guidebooks recommend you rent a four wheel drive, and maybe if you get free upgrades or something, it's worth it.  We cheaped out, saved $200, and rented a Crown Vic (don't let them give you a crown vic), and there wasn't that much that we couldn't do because we didn't have a four wheel drive.
- Hiking waterfalls.  We didn't make it to Rainbow Falls or any of the other awesome waterfalls, but that area of the island is all just beautiful jungle and I really wish we had managed to put in some time there.
-Wine Tasting.  Volcano winery is located near the park and it was a fun diversion.  For $5, we got a decent amount of delicious wine and had a lovely conversation with the salesgirl about tropical plants and winemaking.

Anyone else have activity recommendations?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Hawaii Guide: Food

Kayce warned me before we left that we should be prepared for sticker shock, and we were.  We were also prepared to cook for ourselves for most of the trip.  But vacation food is tricky, so I wanted to share some of what we bought and why it was useful for us with the particular trip we planned.  For both diving and hiking, it was preferable to have sandwiches with us on the road, and our place came with a cooler.

We brought two packages of pasta salad with us, because pasta salad is delicious, packs light, and is good to have on hand.  Other things we could have brought if we had room were milk, peanut butter, crackers, microwave popcorn, and olive oil.

We went to Costco our first day and bought:
-gourmet pitas (10)
-sliced cheese (we ate almost all of this but probably should have bought 2 normal sized packages at Target)
-GoPicnic meals (4 came in a package - two hummus and crackers, two turkey and crunch - we bought one package)
-freezer meals (one package of four Indian microwaveable dinners)
-trail mix (that giant blue bag - finished it in five days - diving is hungry work)
-babybel cheeses (these were a mistake, because we bought the full-fat ones that are not as good as the light ones)
-a pizza ($10 for a large and was surprisingly good)
-bananas (I get foot cramps and needed to eat them before diving)
-a pineapple ($3 - not the best pineapple I've ever had, but cheap and local)
We also hit Target and picked up:
-Deli meat
-Potato chips (these were insanely expensive, hence the recommendation to bring popcorn in the future)

Later in the week, we went to a grocery store to buy local fish and produce to grill out.  We ate the following for dinner:
-Pizza (1 night and several breakfasts)
-Indian microwaveable meals (2 nights)
-Grilled cheese and tomato soup (bread and soup bought in volcano at a steep markup)
-Grilled fish & veggies and a side of pasta salad

(Kona Canoe Club)
We went out for the following meals:
-Happy hour at the Kona Canoe Club (highly recommend - cheap happy hour, delicious nachos)
-Happy hour at one of the touristy places on the water front
-Thai food
-Lunch at the Kona Brewing Company (highly recommend, but pricy)
-Brunch at the Kilauea Lodge
-Lunch at Tex's Drive In (go here and get Malasadas. Seriously. Also other food.)

If we had had an extra night, I think we would have grilled out again.  Sitting on the deck, watching the sun set, and enjoying a bottle of wine, fresh fish, and grilled zucchini and eggplant was spectacular.  I also would have maybe bought a couple more dinner in a box meals instead of the microwaveable ones.  I also would have made a point to seek out the local Volcano wine and bought a bottle of that when we got there, because it was delicious.  I think they sell it at Hilo Hatties, the ABC stores, and supposedly at Costco though I didn't see it there.

Kona didn't feel like a huge food town, and the amount of research we would need to do to guarantee we had a good meal for a good price was huge, so we decided to stick to happy hour and cooking on our own, which worked out well for us with our style. When we go to Bonaire, we bring a whole suitcase of food for the week and eat out maybe one night, so this was a step up from that.  If that feels like sheltered eating and not experiencing local culture, then you should absolutely eat out and enjoy yourself on vacation. Kailua-Kona felt like such a big tourist town with so many potential tourist trap restaurants with high prices and mediocre food that we decided that cooking was a better bet.

If you have restaurant recommendations, please share them!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Hawaii Guide: Lodging

Lodging is actually the big cost saver in Hawaii, especially during the low season.  Our condo was $65 a night, plus a 13% accommodations tax and some fees.  Our second venue, which was a lovely guesthouse in Volcano, was a similar price range.  Both of these facilities have kitchens, which is both a big cost saver and a necessity if you are going to be diving and/or hiking.

Food is expensive in Hawaii.  Dining out even moreso.  So we bought sandwich materials at the beginning of the week and ate sandwiches every day until we ran out of bread.  We also brought some pasta salad mixes with us, which is a good thing to toss in the fridge and pick at after a day of diving.  Our condo had a grill, and one night we bought some local fish and some produce and grilled out and watched the sunset.  It was a beautiful meal with an unbeatable view and it only cost $20.  Some people don't like to cook on vacation, and I totally get that, because some nights we decided it was vacation and we wanted to go out. (More on that later.)

If you want to rent a condo, and you go to VRBO, you get pretty overwhelmed by the options.  The places aren't listed on a map and you don't know where they are really and it's hard to know where to stay. It mostly comes down to what do you want to do, which I can't answer for you, but try to find somebody who likes what you like and then stay where they stayed.

In our case, we like to be able to walk places, we wanted to be able to easily go to the dive shop and to dive sites, we wanted to be close to the beach, and we didn't want to have to drive home late at night down a dark road.  So staying in downtown Kailua-Kona seemed like our best option.

We stayed in Kailua on Alii Drive at Alii Villas. It was lovely and right close to town so we could easily walk the mile into town or the half mile to the local beach.  Keauhou is another good option, and is really close to a grocery store.  I would say that Keauhou is about as far as I would have wanted to be from town, giving how much driving we did to the dive shop. 
Everyone gathers at the end of the condos to watch the sunset. It's pretty cool.

Your options that are further out of town are places like Captain Cook, which is a 20 minute drive from Kailua-Kona but a fun-looking small town, Honaunau is further still - close to City of Refuge, which is a 30 minute drive from Kona - but you get some great looking places (and this one comes with dive weights and kayaks), or Kealakekua Bay which is near really fantastic snorkeling and fabulous ocean views, and pretty close to City of Refuge if you are planning on diving there.  These are also near places like coffee farms, which don't interest us at all, but might interest you.  The biggest disadvantage of staying in a place like Captain Cook or Honaunau is that the drive home after the manta night dive would have been really, really tough.  There are also places that are north of Kailua, like Puako and the big long resort stretch.  I didn't research them at all, although it looked really nice when we drove through that area. 

We also stayed in Volcano - Volcano is a surprisingly pricy area, and food is of limited availablity and expensive there.  We stayed at the Volcano Hale in the Lokelani room - if you are looking for a place to stay and relax and stretch out, this isn't it.  The Volcano Hale is basically an upscale hostel - shared kitchen, shared common area, and barely enough room for suitcases and people in your bedroom.  We loved it.  Everyone was friendly, and it was great to have a kitchen in a town with two restaurants.  We were looking for someplace to crash after a lot of hiking, not really a place to luxuriate.  If we were looking to luxuriate, we wouldn't have stayed in a room described as "tiny" and would probably have gone for one of the larger rooms.  The description was accurate, but the room was clean, the bathroom was lovely and well stocked with towels, shampoo, soap, etc., and the kitchen was well supplied, although it didn't have any basics like olive oil and salt (which our condo had), so don't count on anything being there.  The management was also great about the fact that we forgot to check out and had to mail our key back to them from a post office an hour away.

Anyone else have lodging recommendations?

Hawaii Guide

So we got back from our trip to The Big Island of Hawaii two weeks ago and I really wanted to share some stuff with you guys.  This is only the second long trip that we have taken together that didn't involve family or friends, so it's always a learning experience.  I think that navigating how you travel together is deeply personal, and at the same time there is a lot to benefit from others experiences.  Hawaii also has a ton of stuff to do and it's really overwhelming, so I wanted to share what we did and you can decide if it sounds awesome or terrible. (Except the manta night dive. That one is non-negotiable.)

A couple book recommendations are Hawaii Revealed (I also wish we had gotten the app, that would have been really helpful).  The tone is light and funny, but also serious (environmental cautions, reviews of places that are truly mediocre, etc.) and it was a great resource.  It gave great instructions for hiking trails and off-the-beaten-path tide pools, waterfalls, and other awesomeness.  We borrowed it from a friend, so ask around if you know others who have gone there - a lot of people swear by it.  I also recommend Sarah Vowell's Unfamiliar Fishes.  It's a book about the history of missionaries in Hawaii and also the history of Hawaii from the 1830s forward.  I very much like reading books about my destination before I get there, so I was very pleased with this suggestion from my friend C.

So this whole week will feature posts about some of the stuff we did - some of it will be very boring for most of you (there is a very long post on shore diving) but it is information that I wish we had, and wanted to pass on for others.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Hawaii 5-ho

So back in July, we booked a trip to Hawaii.  And suddenly, it's upon us.  We leave next week, and I need your help!  We are going to the Big Island.  Right now we are planning on five days of diving, then two days at Volcanoes Park.  We have several guidebooks, including that blue one that everyone recommends, and a ton of diving guides.  So what could I possibly need?
First up, I need book suggestions!  And iPad games that are good for two players, without internet.  And iPad games that are good for one player, without internet.  And does anyone know if I can rip all my West Wing DVDs and put them on my iPad and how I do that?
Secondly, we need dining suggestions.  The jetlag will probably work in our favor so that we hit happy hour for dinner after a day of diving, so anywhere that has good specials and will serve me a drink in a pineapple would be a good suggestion, or anywhere with good food. 
Thirdly, we need activity suggestions.  Any particular hiking or biking trails that you might recommend?  Any fun beaches or watersports?  I like equal parts really hard activity and vegging out with drinks in pineapples on my vacations, so all suggestions are welcome. 
Fourthly, I need purse recommendations.  I have a DSLR, but I'm not happy with my camera bags.  (I have four. I only paid for one of them...)  I'm looking for something that fits my camera and possibly my ipad, that is lightwight and not bulky, and has a comfortable neck strap, and that I can get my camera out of easily and quickly.  I have an awesome backpack, but getting my camera out of it is a pain.  I'd like something a little more stylish and soft-sided than a typical camera bag, but not so girly that my husband won't carry it.  I'm looking to spend less than $60.  If I want to spend more, I'll just get the SLR Sloop
Fifthly, I need recipe recommendations!  We have a kitchen in each place we stay.  I remember pineapple being redily avaialble, but Mark doesn't eat it.  (Doesn't mean I won't buy and eat an entire pineapple on my own.)  I'm picturing preparation of a lot of seafood - I think ahi tuna was available pretty cheap, and other fish.  So any favorite recipes that are easy for vacations, higher in salt than anyone should eat normally, or feature fresh tropical fruit? 

Friday, August 31, 2012

Name notes

I get asked sometimes about my decision not to change my last name, or from well-meaning family and friends, "wait, what is your last name actually now?" because while I had plans to change it (that did not involve taking my husband's last name), and while I batted around the idea of swapping one of my hyphenated names for his last, I ultimately decided that I would just keep my name.  So I wanted to check in and talk about how it's worked out for us to have three last names for two people.

I feel like lately, it's gotten so much more common to take your husband's name.  And frankly, I find this disappointing, not in a "that's so un-feminist" way, but in a "there's nobody here at the keeping-my-last-name party but me!" kind of way.  Simply put, I feel a little left out.  I feel a little stodgy and old school and second wave feministy about it, like I'm clinging to an antiquated notion that not changing my last name is the only way to keep my sense of self.  

Objectively speaking, I know that isn't why I kept my name.  I kept my name because I never ever thought I would change it.  I think ultimately that is what it came down for me.  I was raised to never change my name, and frankly, I approached name changing like a man (why would you suggest I change my name? That's ludicrous.).  It never occurred to me to change it, and therefore changing it wasn't really an option.  I only thought about changing it when I realized it would make my life easier, and then I battled with it a lot. 

For the most part our family has been pretty good.  Every year, I sort christmas cards into, "like", "annoyed with" and "can no longer be friends with" piles. Anything addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Hisfirst Hislast goes in the "can no longer be friends with" pile. The jury is out on people who call us Mark and Ellie Hislast.  I recently sent a package to my sister in law and forgot she changed her name, so I can certainly understand somebody who didn't grow up in Bethesda forgetting I didn't change mine.  I don't think that they are passive aggressive attempts to remind me that I'm a bad woman for not changing my name, and I make gentle reminders.  I also keep my rants about incorrectly addressed mail to myself, my husband, and my other friends who kept or will keep their names.

I did want to touch on being a professional with a hyphenated last name.  When you are an attorney, your last name is what you practice under. I have to use my full name in court, and I have started to get a sadistic thrill out of being in front of new judges who struggle with it.  Some of them learn it, some of them call me Mrs. Secondlast, and some of them just call me Counselor.  I haven't yet figured out how to correct them about calling me Mrs. Secondlast (Mrs. Secondlast is my grandmother, mind you), politely, in open court.  My business cards say Eleanor Firstlast, because I believe it is easier for my clients, but I will use my full name with them on the phone sometimes if I forget.  Some of the judges clerks and the courthouse staff is a bit confused about my last name because of this decision, and despite the fact that I just got another brand-new box of business cards with just my first last name on them, I think next time I will put the full hyphenated name on them.

Once I started practicing under just one name, I thought it would be so easy.  Turns out I was wrong.  I realized that it's not just having a hyphenated last name that makes my name difficult - using just my first last name is really difficult!  It ends in "f" and no matter what, it sounds like "s".  I cannot enunciate it properly.  I was listening to my husband spell his name over the phone recently and realized that every single letter was easy to hear, and was overcome with jealousy.  My second last name is not much better, thanks to an uncommon spelling featuring a double "n" that sounds like "m" over the phone.  

One thing I realized that was hard was that I really identify as a person with a hyphenated last name.  My last name is arduous, but it is distinctive.  People remember me because of it.  I don't get lost in a shuffle of other people's last names.  People don't always remember my last name, but they remember that it's long.  It's weird because in many ways, I curse my name and the way I was raised.  Why couldn't I just be one of those girls who is so happy to be Mrs. John Smith and eagerly trots off to the DMV with nary a second thought?  Yet here I am, relishing being Ms. Firstname-Lastname as I get older, although I can't fight the need to clarify to people that the whole thing is my maiden name.  

Another issue is that I was concerned that people would think it was weird to have three last names for two people.  That people wouldn't believe us when we said we were married.  I have not had this happen, ever.  I have a friend whose had some issues, but here in Baltimore, last names do not a family make.  Hyphenated last names aren't that weird.  Kids with different last names aren't that weird.  Married couples who don't change their names aren't that weird.  And nobody that works for the city really cares that much anyway.

The biggest advantage of my name lately has been a certain amount of privacy.  Things like our car and our utility bills are registered in my husband's name.  Even if somebody tried to figure out where I lived through those means, they would have a difficult time.  This is good when you work in an industry where people kill people when things don't go their way.  I'm trying to figure out if I can register for my hockey team using my husband's name or something, to try to better cultivate a public/private persona and hide my name from the internets a bit.  Has anyone had any luck using a married name socially without making a legal change? I would especially like to do this with kids, because I would be worried about my kids safety and privacy (if I keep this job.)

Do you have a hyphenated last name? Did you keep your name? Change it? How has the process been for you?  

Monday, July 30, 2012

Monday Marriage Matters: Friendly Competiton

My husband and I both realized recently that we were not running as much as we would like to.  So I proposed a friendly wager - I know a lot of couples make bets to encourage each other to exercise, and I thought maybe it would work for us.  We track our mileage already using DailyMile, so we set up a challenge.  The only tricky part was what to wager.  We discussed wagering a week of meal planning and cooking, but we both know that I'm going to end up doing a lot of the cooking and meal planning.

So we finally decided to wager the chores that we don't do - the ones that fall to the wayside in our usual "dishes/laundry/move shoes upstairs" cycle of cleaning.  Changing the sheets, vacuuming, scrubbing the bathtub all happen much less frequently than we would like.  So each week is a different hated chore, and if you don't hit 10 miles, you have to do it.  We haven't yet had a loser, since if both of us put in more than 10 miles a week, we both win, but so far we both have split the hated chore, instead of not doing it, so we're in better shape and our house is cleaner.

In the future, we might come up with a tie-breaker, to force a loser, but right now it's fun to feel like both of us are sort of competing, sort of cheering each other on to meet our mileage goal.  I want both of us to be in shape and meeting our own personal fitness goals, and I also want both of us to develop and reinforce healthy habits now.  Our garden plot is also a mile away, so running once or twice a week helps make sure we are watering it.

Do you make bets with your significant other?  Do you compete to force yourselves to get in shape or eat healthier?  What websites or apps do you find useful for that? I know a lot of people use Daily Burn and Fitocracy, but what else is out there?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Wedding Blog Suggestions

My friend Brit asked awhile ago how I found other people who were getting married at the same time to read about on their blogs.  I too found it frustrating that many people got married before me and their blogs became really boring and about married life and babies and housepainting and their dogs.  (Er. Sorry.  In my defense, I don't have babies or dogs.)  So I thought I'd share for all the readers who find their way here and are bummed that this blog has gotten, as my sister said, "really boring."

The best place to go for a rotating blog of people getting married is still Weddingbee.  Sure, sometimes there is total wedding crazyness - like, wtf is with the obsession with hand canceling envelopes?  I just tossed mine in the mailbox at the end of the street and they all made it to their recipients.  The Wedding Related Boards are also a good place to find blogs - I highly recommend going to your month board and asking other brides getting married around then to share their blogs.

Usually I send everybody to APW to get a much-needed dose of sanity as well, although I started reading it before Meg got married and I found it a little more helpful then.  I also found the wedding graduates much more helpful after my wedding, to sort through the feelings I had in the aftermath, than beforehand, so I'm reluctant to recommend it as much these days, but I just gave my newly engaged friend the book - and while I haven't finished the book yet, I'm guessing reading the book is as helpful as reading the blog used to be (or you could just go there and read from the beginning.)  I'm also super excited about 2000 Dollar Wedding's book, and a paw through her archives is also valuable.

One of my favorite new blogs, written by an old married lady who got hitched about a month or so after we did (right?) is Anna and the Ring's Far From the Wedding Crowd, as well as the lovely Any Other Woman, formerly Any Other Wedding, which is still somewhat wedding heavy.  And if you're just looking for a whole lotta pretty to make you feel a bit inadequate?  Well, Style Me Pretty is your friend.  It's hard, because there aren't that many wedding blogs that balance the pretty and the heavy stuff about getting married.

The rest of my blog friends I found from some of the bigger wedding blogs and their blogrolls.  Souris Mariage had an excellent one, although I think many of those ladies are long married.  So perhaps some of my engaged readers can help other engaged readers out?  Where do you go for inspiration, where do you go for sanity, where do you go for DIY and craftyness, where do you go for support?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Tea for Two: Re-entry

Anyone in a long distance relationship can tell you that re-entry is always a little bumpy when the person who has been away for awhile gets home.  I think it's simply a matter of both of you building up in your minds what things will be like when you are together again, and that reality does not meet those expectations.  I expected my husband to get home and help grocery shop and take the car in for servicing and help make dinner and do all of the laundry, and my husband expected to get home and finally be allowed to sleep for eight hours and not have to eat takeout all the time.

One of the biggest issues for us, always, is that I'm the messy one.  So when I mentioned to my friend Kate that my husband was finally coming home, she said, "oh, so are you spending the weekend cleaning?"  Which I was.  The problem is, my clean is never quite clean enough.  And I have a HUGE blind spot for certain messes.  Like, I carefully cleaned the dining room and the kitchen, but left a giant pile of clothes in the middle of the bedroom floor.  No normal person would call that "clean" and yet I expected a medal for my efforts (I would probably clean more if we had a good housekeeping trophy we passed back and forth.)

One of the ways that we dealt with this situation was not necessarily something I would recommend, but worked well - we hosted a fourth of July party the day after my husband came home, and spent his first day back cleaning the house to company cleanliness.  This meant we had several arguments throughout the cleaning, but it also meant that we got that out of the way and we got the place pretty clean, so there was minimal complaining after the fact about it.

There are still tricky things.  My husband will look at something and say, "when did that get here?" or "why is this here?" and I'll shrug and say, "you were gone for a month."  I'm still doing all of the cooking, it seems, but at least there is somebody else to make an emergency grocery run and do the dishes and help remember to take out the trash.

Does anybody else have re-entry issues?  Any advice for how to move past the big issues?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Household: Guest Bathroom Decor

This is our guest bathroom.
It's also the laundry room.
I realized the other day that I hate cleaning it for parties because it never looks nice. I would like to fancy it up a bit and make it bright and inviting. I think the landlord would let me paint it a subtle color - possibly a pale grey - its a heinous beige color right now, but that is a lot of work.
I think a valance over the window here would be nice - there is a curtain rod that runs the length of the room already in place, but I don't know what colors would look good.  I also wonder if putting a matching curtain over the washer/dryer would help or make the room look smaller. 

So I'm soliciting suggestions for decor and possible color schemes that work with ugly beige, as well as ideas for artwork to hang next to the sink to cover up the weird panel that is there.
Another question is whether we should frame the mirror or just replace it with something less industrial. Any thoughts?
The room is also quite short - both of those doors are about 5'10" or so, and the room itself is about 7 feet high - which feels tiny compared to the giant ceilings we have in the rest of the house.  The acrylic shelves are ours, and can be moved around or replaced, we just already owned them, and I think I would like to (sadly) replace the octopus soap dispenser.  Any suggestions for something fun and grownup? 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Monday Marriage Matters: Apart (III)

My husband has a ticket home booked for Tuesday, so here's hoping he actually gets on the plane!  I thought I would write a quick "guide" to how to survive being apart.  This trip was especially hard for us, for two reasons.  The first was that the time difference combined with the crazy hours he was working meant we weren't always able to talk - sometimes the most we had was a 2 minute conversation.  The second was that he was on a one-way ticket and what was "hopefully a two week trip" rapidly turned into three, then four weeks.  So I'm breaking it down week by week, and my advice at the bottom (since I don't think most of you care about what I've been upto.)

For starters, if you have to spend your birthday alone, make plans.  It's okay to have three different dinners with friends to celebrate your birthday.  If your family lives nearby, have dinner with them.  Also, make plans to spend time doing whatever the hell you want for your birthday.  It's nice to have a day that is all about you.  (This is the third birthday I've spent on my own, so I'm an old hat at this.)  In my case, I had four hearings and worked late, so I adopted the following Saturday as my make-up birthday and spent it working on my bike and napping.

When it comes to food, living on your own is really difficult.  I adopted a strategy of cooking every 2-3 days.  I would make a lot of food, refrigerate it, and forgive myself if I needed to order takeout or go out to dinner with a friend.  I would cook one night and then do the dishes/clean the kitchen the next.  That way, making dinner and doing the dishes didn't take my entire evening.  I also started doing the Whole30, which requires very little cooking, and was very conducive to making large vats of food and refrigerating the leftovers. I also highly recommend buying fresh fish when you are cooking for yourself - you can purchase it in small portions, and it takes less than 20 minutes to cook in a toaster oven, creating minimal dishes.

I'm lousy at getting up on my own, so I simply decided to forgive myself for not waking up at 6 every day and getting in a workout.  I just went to the gym after work instead, and nights I went to the gym usually weren't nights in which I cooked food.  I also forgave myself for not going to the gym every day.  If it didn't happen, it didn't happen.  I aimed for 3x a week, instead of my usual 6, and it worked out.

It's really important to keep busy and make plans generally.  I started taking Spanish classes, I continued playing hockey, and I made plans with friends I never get to hang out with, since the only person whose schedule I had to accommodate was mine.  Even if you don't have friends to make plans with, schedule other stuff for just yourself - schedule long runs or long bike rides, and don't be afraid to go to the pool by yourself.  Don't say no to anybody who invites you to something - even if it doesn't sound fun, it is more fun than doing nothing at home, alone.  If you can't find anything else to do, see if there are any events going on (inside, where it is air conditioned) that need volunteers.  Don't be afraid of being a third wheel with your couples friends - as long as you know them well enough, it's not weird.  I'm also really lucky that I have enough couple friends that aren't joined at the hip that we could hang out without their SO tagging along (and the separation has me thinking about how much time my husband and I spend together and whether it's healthy).  Yes, there will be housework that doesn't get done if you keep busy - but I found when I was sitting around, I didn't want to do housework and cleaning by myself, so I just did the bare minimum and then felt bored and lonely. 

It's good to have a large stash of DIY projects going on so you can tackle them and feel accomplished.  (I started working on the Jenny Skirt and will have a sewing tutorial for you guys...eventually.  Once I spend way too much time with my seam ripper.  Also tried my hand at painting and some other household projects.)  Rearrange your Netflix cue and rent only chickflicks and movies you want to watch - I finally got to see Bridesmaids.  Have a movie night by yourself if you don't have anything planned - but do it right.  Make popcorn, pour some wine, and put your feet up.

Try really hard not to act irrational, or constantly complain about your spouse being away, either to your spouse or to other people.  If your spouse is out of town for work, any kind of complaint will get you a ton of unsolicited advice about your spouse's career and how, "s/he needs to quit" or "s/he better get a big raise for this."  This trip wasn't above-and-beyond the call of duty for his job.  It wasn't unexpected.  It was harder on me than I thought, but I don't think my husband should quit his job or demand a raise or bonus because his wife had a nervous breakdown while he was away on a legitimate business trip.  He designs roller coasters, and sometimes he needs to be there when they are built.  When people asked me where my husband was, I tried to just breezily answer, "California on a one way ticket. He'll be home eventually."  I was not that breezy about it, and I griped about it more than I would like to admit, but I made an effort, damn it.  My friends all did a really good job of making themselves available to me while Mark was away - which I am super grateful for.

We also planned some trips.  At the beginning of June, I got word that my grant for my position is renewed for another year, so we were finally able to book our New Orleans trip, and we are trying very hard to book a trip to Hawaii for September, which gave me something to do.  It did irritate me when he wasn't around to answer questions about dates or give input about islands, and then would ask me the same questions I had already attempted to answer in an email.  So while planning and fantasizing is good, if you need to move fast on a decision, it's not so good to try to plan things.  I'd advise booking tickets before your spouse leaves, and then you can research fun things to do and go check guidebooks out of the library.

Also, this is gonna sound ridiculous, but if you're a cuddly sleeper, get a stuffed animal.  It'll help a lot.  Also a radio with a timer, so you can listen to it before bed, and do NOT run laundry before you go to bed, because the thumping will totally freak you out.  If you're like me.

Anyone have other tips for surviving a long business trip?  Anyone on the other end of this situation have any tips for travelers?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Travel, ahoy!

Last week we booked our holiday trip.  We are heading to New Orleans!  I'm really excited because I've never been there, but it sounds fun.  Also I saw pictures on the internet of a small child petting a stingray at the Audubon, so I was sold immediately.

Anyway, we figured that you all were so helpful in assisting us with our honeymoon, with all of your recommendations of great places to eat and good places to stay, that we thought you might be able to help us out with this trip as well.  We are staying at the Prytania Park Hotel in the Garden District, but we are, as the British say, "walkers", and game for just about anything.

As far as traveling, our likes and dislikes are as follows:
-Reasonably priced, well done, comfort food and pub food
-Craft beer
-Really good vegetarian food
-Being outside
-Great views

Dislikes (these are actually all my dislikes, Husband is easygoing enough that he dislikes hardly anything):
-Large crowds
-Overpriced crummy food
-Ghost stories and other creepy stuff
-Loud music

So help a sister out!  What are your fun NOLA suggestions?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Monday Marriage Matters: Dancing Away

Being on my own gets a little awkward when my husband is out of town, sometimes.  It can be awkward because when you hang out with people and you're on your own, but you're married.  Even having a harmless conversation with somebody can sometimes feel like flirting.  If you do it while you are dancing at a wedding, it seems even creepier.  At the wedding I went to last weekend, I'm not sure whether it was appropriate of me to grab a couple of the groomsmen (who had dates with them who were refusing to dance) and drag them out on the dance floor for slow or slow-ish songs, but I felt comfortable enough doing it and their girlfriends/fiances were right there, so I thought it was okay.  I spent several years ballroom dancing to slow songs with people that aren't my husband, so I really don't think it's weird.  When you are married, or in a relationship, and you dance with somebody else, there is an appropriate distance between the two dancers - you should be close enough to have a conversation, but it is never okay to whisper in somebody's ear.  I'm pretty strict about this distance, and I've never liked having somebody get up in my space when I'm dancing with them - but apparently some people do not agree.

In certain types of ballroom, certain types of guys will get extremely close to you.  This has a lot to do with form.  But it also has a way of making a lot of women extremely uncomfortable.  Theoretically, you should be able to hold a dinner plate between your chests without it falling.  Not wanting to dance like this with people that aren't my husband is one of the reasons I don't really enjoy going out ballroom dancing anymore. I enjoy dancing with our friends, who are all married and respect the appropriate distance, but not strangers who think it is okay to pull me in extremely close.  

At the wedding last weekend, there was a gentleman there who clearly had some ballroom experience, or thought he did, and kept trying to "teach" me dance steps.  We had not met during any of the other wedding festivities, but I like a good dance party and I was out on the floor, and he was partying pretty hard all night, so we wound up dancing.  I was fine with this when we were two feet apart, but he kept grabbing me and pulling me to him to try to have me "follow" him.  Having taken several years of ballroom classes, either he was the worst leader in the world or he was just trying to dance extremely close.  This is why you need a wingwoman, by the way, because I sent my friend a desperate eyebrow gesture and she immediately came and saved me.  Later, at the bar, I was ranting about his obnoxious behavior and commented that I don't think he realized I was married.  "I mean, shouldn't you at least do a ring check before trying to dance like that with somebody?" I asked my equally baffled friends, who both nodded.  

I can't help wondering whether this would have been different if my husband was in attendance.  If just clearly marking that I was with somebody would have helped, instead of appearing single.  I've definitely gotten stuck in the creepydance situation before, and my husband is not nearly as useful as my wingwoman, but I feel like the situation is less likely to happen if I have somebody else to slow dance with.  

Does anybody else have issues with personal space and dancing? How close is too close? Do you dance with men that aren't your husband, or women who aren't your wife, ever?  Am I a total prude?  Should I just wear a big crinoline so that nobody can get near me?  

Friday, June 22, 2012


On Tuesday, I went to the gym.  I changed and put all my stuff in my locker.  On Wednesday morning, I went to get my rings out of my bag.  Only my wedding band was there.  My beautiful, sentimental, thoughtfully designed engagement ring was nowhere to be found.
Everyone keeps telling me it'll turn up.  I've checked the gym.  I've checked the grocery store.  I've scoured the car and the apartment.  It has yet to turn up.  I'm holding out hope, but I'm also devastated.  

Yes, it's insured.  But the center stone that my Aunt gave me when I was 16?  There is no insurance on sentiment, and if it's lost, I can't get that back.

I love my engagement ring.  I love how many people notice it and comment how pretty it is; I love that my husband designed it using elements of celtic symbols, I love the annoying way it traps dirt, I love how I thought we couldn't possibly find a band to match it and then the stock size band fit perfectly.  I had even made my peace with how big it was for me, and had just started wearing it again with the arrival of summer because my fingers were finally swollen enough for it to not fall off.
My biggest fear oddly, isn't that somebody stole it and sold it for drugs or something like that.  My biggest fear is that somebody found it and didn't realize it's my engagement ring, and just kept it because they think it's a neat cocktail ring or something and they have no f*cking clue how precious it is to me.  

When it comes to the issue of whether or not to replace it, I just don't know.  It is insured, so that's not the issue.  I feel like an engagement ring is  a symbol of a promise that my husband and I made to each other before we walked down the aisle, and there is no replacing that.  I mean, what the hell is the point of replacing it?  Every time I looked at my replacement ring, I would be reminded of my carelessness and failure, and I would remember that this ring isn't my real ring.  I always expected to pass the stones along to my children, but I also planned to keep my ring.  Because it's mine and I love it and my husband made it for me.  At the same time, the ring is a symbol of how much my husband loves me - he poured his heart into designing this ring for me, and that meaning doesn't go away just because we got married.

I know I'm not the only one who has done this, so reassuring stories about finding your ring when you thought it was lost forever are appreciated, as are your thoughts on replacement.  Is it silly to replace it?  Is it ridiculous not to replace it?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Monday Marriage Matters: Apart, Continued

So as part of my husband being gone for work for the indefinite future, we knew he would miss my very good friend's wedding (at Cylburn Arboretum...if you are in Baltimore planning a wedding, please get married there - it is AMAZING.)  We were both bummed about this, because, firstly, it's good friends, and the wedding was going to be awesome.  I didn't even realize that the other bumming out part of this was that we had ordered the veggie and fish meals and were planning to share, and that did not happen.

Anyway, the great thing about this wedding was that several of my lady friends had been invited without their boyfriends (since the bride and groom had never met said boyfriends, it made sense), so the three of us had a great time.  Another friend's boyfriend left early, which meant that she and I got to boogie down on the dance floor for the rest of the night.  For us, weddings generally mean that I hang out on the dance floor and my husband hangs out at the table with other people that don't dance, but I think at this one, he would have been out at least half the time, since the music was good and the crowd was hoppin'.

I did notice there are a few things that are difficult about not having a date.  My friend who was in the wedding was staying with me, and her boyfriend and I went over early to set up.  It was fine with two of us, but if my husband had been there, he would have been able to do some of the running around as well, and he's much taller and would have done a better job decorating the arch.  I also forgot my camera in the car for the ceremony, which isn't a big deal, but it would have been great to send him back to the car for it while I put on my friend's veil.

The hardest part was definitely cocktail hour.  I didn't realize how much cocktail hour is a team sport, because I haven't been to a wedding alone since I reached drinking age.  It's so nice to have somebody get you a drink while you get food, etc.  I was also really bummed because they ran out of the lemon pound cake and I misjudged the way the cake was being served so I went to the bathroom and they gave it to our table, and then I had to hunt down the caterers and ask for more cake and they only had the red velvet left, which was good, but no lemon pound cake.  If there were two of us, my husband would have known to score me a piece of the lemon pound cake, and would have shared his until I got mine.

I will say, going to this wedding alone made me much more comfortable with the idea of going to a wedding alone - as long as you know people, I think it's still fun, although weddings are deeply romantic and much more fun with a date that you are hopelessly in love with.  Have you been to a wedding alone lately? Any strategies for cake grabbing and cocktail hour?

Friday, June 15, 2012

All the Weddings We Didn't Have (and a request for help!)

Our group of friends this year who are getting married is really varied.  They are mostly my friends - two from law school, one from my college dorm, one from my hockey team, and one cousin - and so unlike the year that we got married, when 6 of our friends did as well - with fairly similar weddings - these are all the weddings that I talked about wanting and thought about having but didn't actually get to throw.

This year, we seem to have been invited to All the Weddings We Didn't Have (and really, couldn't have).  The carnival wedding (complete with pony rides), the small intimate wedding with only 65 people; the beautiful outdoor wedding at Cylburn Arboretum (not that I don't love our own nature center); the really really fun, but still unbelievably classy, wedding; the camping wedding; and also, the potluck wedding.  

What's fun about this is that we get to go to all of these weddings and really enjoy ourselves, and because I loved our own wedding so much, I'm not thinking about what might have been.
My real question though, that I need your help with, is this - what do I bring to a potluck wedding?  I want to bring something classy, but it also has to be completely non-perishable, because we are camping the night before with no refrigeration.  I'm thinking some kind of upgraded chips and salsa - like those delicious flatbread things with a tapenade, except I don't really like tapenade, and I feel like I usually see it in the refrigerated section.  It cannot require any electricity to assemble (otherwise, I would make white-bean-pesto-dip).  Is there any kind of hummus that I don't need to refrigerate?  We do own a small cooler, but every time I try to bring a cooler of stuff, everything ends up wet and soggy.  Any advice?  Usually we just fill our cooler with ice packs, but I'm thinking a big bag of ice from the store would be better? How long can I keep hummus in a cooler for?  Do you think it's like, 12 hours, or closer to 24?

I could also make a few loaves of homemade bread and serve it with butter - I am afraid that the butter might melt, but if we bring a cooler and keep it cold overnight, since you can keep butter at room temperature, I'm less worried about perishability.  If the butter is soft, I could even mix it with herbs at the last minute and serve it that way.  Perhaps a spice mix with olive oil would make a nice alternative dip to the butter? (I believe there will be vegans present.)

Does anybody have any better ideas?  Must be vegetarian!  Are there any canned or jarred foods or salsas that are classy?  I'm not even looking for anything that classy, but the people throwing the wedding aren't big on super-processed food, so no velveeta or helluvagood dip.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Monday Marriage Matters: Apart

Usually, in the springtime, my husband travels a lot.  Two years ago, he spent basically six weeks in Cincinnati, and last year he went on 10 trips in 8 weeks, and this year, he's gone off to California with an estimated return, "sometime at the end of the month".  And that's the life of a roller coaster wife, and I pride myself on not being a baby about my husband being out of town.  I try really hard not to mope and complain and call him all the time.  I keep busy, but being alone also gives me a lot of time for introspection.

Being apart is good sometimes, because it reminds me of all of the reasons I like to be married.  I really really like being part of a team.  I like sharing the good parts and frustrating parts of my day with somebody.  I like taking care of another person, and having another person take care of me.  I like having somebody to pick up the slack - do the dishes, pick up the thing I just dropped, help carry stuff to the car when we're leaving for a full day.  A second set of eyes to look for an open parking space when the entire neighborhood is full of Phillies fans.  Somebody to show me, again, how to change the tire on my bike when I accidentally rupture it putting air in it.

It's also gotten me thinking about economies of scale.  My family law professor talked about the reasons why people might not want to separate, and one of the things she mentioned once was economies of scale - lower rent, sharing the grocery/BGE bill, etc.  But what if there are economies of scale in achievement, in life goals? Like Meg talks about, ambition squared.  Not just career ambition - but just the number of things I want to get done in a day.  I get twice as much done with my husband around, even if he's not directly helping me.  He also gets more done when I'm around than when I'm not around, I suspect.  It's almost like just having somebody in the house, somebody else who wants to do stuff, somebody who is going to hold you to a schedule and ask you, "what's the plan?" somehow makes me more productive.

And don't even get me started on sleeping alone.  I've always loved this quote by Marlene Dietrich, "Children will tell you how lonely it is sleeping alone. If possible, you should always sleep with someone you love. You both recharge your mutual batteries free of charge."   It is simply better to go to sleep with somebody, thinking, "I am not alone. This person who loves me is here with me and will be here with me when I wake up."  

What are your favorite things about being married or living together?  If you are in a commuter marriage, how do you survive?