Flashback: Halloween 1983

1983, Hopewell, VA: I was five, and I was hip. My Polly Flinders dresses were immaculate, my curls prettier than Shirley Temple, my Lee jeans and corduroys were matched with perfectly coordinating plaid button downs. I had a sweet Dr. Seuss book club membership that kept me intellectually stimulated. My mom had joined the BMG Music Club and also let me listen to Q94, and pop music ruled my world.

While Michael Jackson and Prince were in heavy rotation on our stereo, it was Madonna that I truly loved. Even though I was very active in the Awanna Cubbies and our Southern Baptist church taught me not to have idols before God, I bucked the system and called Madonna my idol for a good five years. Maybe longer than that. I can remember watching her videos on MTV every chance I got, singing along to the songs, going to Cloverleaf Mall because I just *had to have* Madonna gloves.

The Madonna gloves turned into Madonna rubber bracelets, etc. etc. etc., until it was inevitable that there was only one Halloween costume that would be remotely acceptable. And so it happened that for three Halloweens, I dressed up as the Queen of Pop. It was totally awesome, dude. ;-)

And then, this past Saturday, I went shopping at H&M, and all of the sudden, I was having a flashback to Halloween 1983. I have recognized for a couple of years that the 80's have been creeping into fashion, but I kind of always thought there'd just be this 80's influence and then we'd move on to... well, I don't know, some other decade.

But no. My 5 year old self would have been able to make the PERFECT Madonna costume in modern-day H&M. Seriously, I walked around looking at that stuff and thought about how much I wish I had had those things to choose from back in the day. I didn't think, "ooh, must have this today!" Because that would be weird, to wear something I would have worn as a Halloween costume 25 years ago. Wouldn't it?
I mean, look at this stuff. It is totally 80's-tastic:

I can remember my stepmom, Brenda, telling me back in the mid-90's that everything that was in style was what she had worn in the 70's, and I remember her having this sort of appalled/amazed attitude about it. At the time, I didn't know what the big deal was.

But now I do. Because here it is almost a week later and I am STILL thinking about how freaking old it makes me feel. :)


On Friendships.

I've always considered myself extremely fortunate when it comes to friends. When I was younger one of the ways I convinced myself it was alright not to be part of the larger, popular cliques was to remind myself that, because of my small chin and not looking like everyone else, I actually had friends who liked me because of who I was, not because I looked pretty or everyone else liked me or whatever. Not that I think that's the only reason the popular kids were friends with each other, but when you have the crappy self esteem I had, you have to find some way to feel better about yourself.

So I never really had huge groups of friends, but I have always had very close friendships, quite a few of which have lasted over the years. I suck at communicating with people, but by some miracle I have a handful of people who know this about me and forgive me for it, and when I finally do get around to calling, time seems not to have passed at all. I don't know what I'd do without these people. Like, when I think about how life-saving some of these people have been, it makes me tremble inside. I'm not even sure most of them know that... I should probably tell them someday.

But the thing about me is that all those years of trying to figure out how to like myself when I felt like so many people *didn't* like me has left me with some wacky defense mechanisms that have negatively impacted a few of my friendships. Because I think *every single one* of my best friends is AMAZING, I sometimes say things candidly that I don't realize are going to hurt someone. For me, it's a straight up question, or it's something I really want to know how they feel about. For that person, it's a judgment or a criticism. With some people, I can tell I've hurt their feelings and I try hard to never do it again.

What hurts the most is that I have lost a few friendships in my life because I said or did something that I had no idea was hurtful until the person stored up years of being annoyed with me until the dam burst open and I was "dumped." Thankfully this has only happened a couple of times, but even a couple of times is enough to really make you question your worth as a friend. You start to wonder if one or two people feel this way about you, does that mean everyone else does too but the dam's just not full-to-bursting yet?

I don't think it does mean that... I think for the most part the people I would put on my list of friends are honest with me and love me for who I am. I also know that in some cases of my friendships ending it hasn't been because of my crazy personality, and I am self-aware enough to not blame myself entirely, but still.... The past week has been weird for me, because I find myself analyzing every relationship I have and wondering if the other person involved feels the same as I do. I want to know what people really think of me, but then when I'm told something that I didn't really want to hear, I don't want to ask anymore...

It's a weird thing to know, that there are people who see you in a completely different light than you see yourself. It's a hard line to walk, between being honest with people and being true to yourself, but recognizing that other people might not perceive your actions or your words the way you intend to be perceived. I really don't know what to do about it right now, or if there's even anything I *need* to do about it.

When it comes down to it, though, is it ever a bad thing to have a good reason to give yourself a little check up and make sure you are really being the person you intend to be?

I guess I'll just consider this my 31-year tune up. ;)


Passing Cass

Okay, I definitely have the sense of humor of a 6-year-old boy, because on Saturday while we were having lunch with my brother and sister and I said something about "passing Cass," the town that was our destination, and it cracked me up. Actually, it still cracks me up. If you don't get it, just read it out loud. And if you STILL don't get it, switch the "c" out for a "g." HA! Fart jokes!


Because the world would end if we actually stayed home one weekend and didn't go on a motorcycle ride, we decided that we'd head up to see the Cass Scenic Railroad this past weekend. Bryan has a list entitled PLACES WE MUST GO ON THE MOTORCYCLE AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, and this was one of them. Happily, my brother and sister live on the way to Cass, so we stayed in Warm Springs on Friday night and saw them for a bit on Saturday before heading up to the ol' railroad.

While my four years in Bath County were some of the worst of my life for reasons I won't get into out of respect for those involved, I'm finding as I get older that I can look at it a little differently. I haven't forgotten the awfulness, but I now recognize that I learned some very, very important life lessons during that time. Some of them are things like "don't ever marry an asshole," but others are simpler things, like being able to identify vegetables in a garden, or knowing what it's like to float down a creek and just be. And so now I can go there and not want to cry. And that, my friends, is a milestone in my life.

Of course, it helps that we always stay at this lovely place called The Inn at Gristmill Square. Sure, the county is better known for the fancy Homestead, but The Gristmill has a certain country charm that's hard to find elsewhere. In the morning, you call down when you're ready for breakfast and they bring you hot, fresh breads and coffee and juice in a little picnic basket. It's heavenly.

Lunch with the sibs was in Marlinton, WV, the closest "town" to where they live, which is about 25 minutes away. We had some good old fashioned country food and got to catch up on what Victoria and Zechariah are up to these days. Vic is eagerly awaiting her departure for college in August, and Zech has gotten a job on some dairy farm which is, in his words, "basically being a slave." Apparently he spent five hours weed-eating on his first day...

We had booked tickets for the Fiddles & Vittles dinner train at Cass, so once lunch was over we hustled down the road. The weather was a bit dodgy, so instead of having our buffet dinner up the mountain, the train took us up and brought us back to the town to eat in their restaurant. Perhaps not exactly the same atmosphere, but there were some gray haired dudes playing some great bluegrass, so we enjoyed it all the same. :)

Sunday morning we got up early and headed over to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. Lots of research is done here about the universe, and as astronomy geeks, we really enjoyed learning about it and seeing the gargantuan satellite dish, which is taller than the Statue of Liberty and almost as tall as the Washington Monument. Apparently you can "see" a lot more stuff out in space with radio waves than you can see with the naked eye (or a telescope-enhanced eye). They used to look for signs of other intelligent life there, but I guess they've moved that operation out to New Mexico or somewhere--you know, where the aliens already like hanging out. ;-)

The afternoon was spent on another train ride, this one up to Bald Knob. The day was perfect, and it was a nice, relaxing trip. If you go to Cass, though, we would recommend only doing one train ride. We really did the dinner train because there was nothing else to do in Cass, but one or the other would have been enough. Not that we didn't enjoy ourselves, just that, well, the woods you pass through all kind of look the same after a while. :)

Happy Birthday, America!

For the 4th of July, Bryan and I had nothing planned, so on the spur of the moment (that would be Saturday, July 4 at 2pm) we decided to head up to DC to hang out with our friends Leslie, Ann and Anna. Neither of us had ever done the whole Nation's Capital thing on the 4th, so why not?

We enjoyed a fabulous dinner at Rosa Mexicano, complete with delicious margaritas and the house specialty: guacamole made tableside. Then we headed over to the Mall to find a spot to watch the fireworks.

I think some people get to a point in their lives where they don't really care so much about fireworks anymore, unless they have kids and can get excited through them. I am not one of those people. I get totally stoked about fireworks, and if I don't see them on the 4th of July, you do not want to be around me.

So anyway, this time I got to see them bursting over the Washington Monument. And that was awesome. The only thing is, I didn't know the music is only way up close, so I was bummed that I didn't get to hear the national anthem accompanying them. Also, they only lasted 15 minutes... we all kind of thought they would at least be, say, half an hour? I guess the recession has cut into the fireworks budget?

Anyway, it was still awesome. :)


Our back porch at The Gristmill Inn

It's a beautiful day in Warm Springs. Headed across the mountain soon to see Vic & Zech, then on to Cass Scenic Railroad for the night.

Posted by ShoZu


Our Great South African Adventure: Summing It Up.

So, that was our adventure in a lot of words. :) But if you looked at that and didn't want to read it all, or if you still want to see more pictures, I have posted some/quite a few of them to my Picasa Web Album. You can get there by clicking here.

Enjoy--we certainly did! :)


Our Great South African Adventure: Days 13 & 14

DAY 13

  • Our last touring day! And it was a nice easy one, which we spent winetasting in the Cape Winelands. We visited three different wineries, and along the way also stopped at the Afrikaans language memorial, the prison where Nelson Mandela spent his last few years of incarceration, and two adorable towns, Franschoek and Stellenbosch. Truly a lovely way to end the adventure!
  • Once Alex dropped us off and said goodbye, we chilled out for a while and then our group went out for one last dinner together, and then we ventured to Long Street, a nightlife hotspot in Cape Town. Our Irish girls had heard there was a great bar called the Dubliner, so of course we had to check it out! Bryan was fascinated to find a guy there wearing an Eagles baseball cap.

DAY 14

  • And finally, it was time to go home. Our flight didn’t leave until later in the evening, so we did have some time to head back to the V & A Waterfront to do some shopping and have lunch and take a few last pictures. By this point I was feenin’ for some real American fast food, so I had to have the closest thing I could find—KFC! Which is apparently very popular there—I saw far more KFCs than I did McDonalds! And surprisingly, it tasted just like our KFC.
  • We headed to the airport late in the afternoon and eventually settled in for our lovely 19 hour flight back to the US. Holy crap were my ankles swollen at the end of that, but, trust me, it was totally worth it!

Our Great South African Adventure: Day 12

Note: I'm posting the trip in increments of one or two days, so make sure you start from my first post and work your way backwards--just follow the titles!

DAY 12

  • One of the main “attractions” of Cape Town is Table Mountain. I say attractions in quotation marks because it’s a mountain, not man-made, so not sure if that’s the right word for it. Anyway, Table Mountain is known for the amazing views of the area you can get from the top, and we all wanted to check it out. We were incredibly lucky after a week and a half of clouds to have a perfectly clear day! It was gorgeous. You get to the top by cable car. And if you are afraid of heights, I recommend either hiking to the top or wearing an eye mask. Because I am *not* afraid of heights and I was a little freaked out. It was, however, totally worth it when we got to the top—the view really was spectacular.
  • After Table Mountain we headed to Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope, which is the most southwesterly point of the African continent. Apparently this is THE place to take your photo, and for some reason I did not feel it necessary to hold my hair off of my face in spite of the insane winds. So, truly, I promise, I was there!
  • After our photo op we headed up to have lunch at Cape Point, which is in the same general area, it’s just not THE southwesterly tip. And again, with the spectacular views!
  • Next stop: Simons Town and the penguin colony! These dudes were so adorable. I could have watched them for hours.

Our Great South African Adventure: Days 10 & 11

Note: I'm posting the trip in increments of one or two days, so make sure you start from my first post and work your way backwards--just follow the titles!

DAY 10

  • According to the itinerary we got from the company we booked this package through (a US company, not the one who actually conducted the tour in S. Africa), we were supposed to go on a train ride this morning on, like, the oldest steam train in Africa, or something. We were looking forward to that—not every day you get to ride a steam train, you know? Well, it turns out the info we got was a bit dated—the train has not been running for three years!!! I was bummed, but not as bummed as Bryan, who I had to drag away from the train station…
  • We set out fairly early this morning for Oudtshoorn in the Western Cape region. Our first stop was the Cango Caves, a place that was cool but reminded me a lot of Luray Caverns. Of course, Luray Caverns doesn’t have an AWESOME story about a woman who was told she was too large to go on the “adventure trail,” which is comprised of several small tunnels in addition to more difficult terrain. This woman was offended at the perceived size discrimination, so she insisted on going anyway. Aaaaaaaaaaaaand, she got stuck. For ten hours. With 30+ people stuck behind her. My favorite quote from a woman in our tour group (not one of my traveling companions): “I don’t understand, why didn’t they just put a string around her and pull her out?” Right… because string would be strong enough, and also, I’m sure they didn’t think of that, what dummies!
  • After the Cango Caves, we headed out for a delicious lunch of ostrich steak. Contrary to what you’d think (or what I thought, anyway), ostrich is red meat, not white meat like most birds. And it was probably my favorite new thing I ate while in S. Africa. Once we finished lunch, we went to the ostrich farm to play with these cutie pies. (Yes, eating ostrich BEFORE meeting the birds was intentional.) Did you know you can stand on ostrich eggs and they won’t break? Cool, huh? There was also an opportunity to ride the ostrich, which I would have done were it not raining (I didn’t want wet ostrich juice on my jeans for the rest of the trip). Instead we got to sit on them. By that time they brought out a blanket, so I would have ridden the ostrich with the blanket on, but our guide didn’t bring it up again, so neither did I. Then it was time for the ostrich race, for which we were the finish line! Luckily their jockeys knew when to put on the brakes so we didn’t get trampled by giant birds.
  • We spent the night at the lovely Queen’s Hotel in Oudtshoorn. The afternoon was free for us to wander around, and while the town itself is lovely, everything was closed because it was some sort of national holiday.

DAY 11

  • To recap: driving, driving, driving. I think it was like 6 hours from Oudtshoorn to Cape Town. We saw lots of great scenery, stopped at a cute shop for a break, had some S. African fast food for lunch. We arrived at our hotel in Cape Town late in the afternoon, and it was almost like coming home! We had been changing hotels basically every night (except for Kruger and Knysna, where we stayed 2 nights each), so being able to dump our stuff in our last hotel in Cape Town and not have to repack it as soon as we unpacked was GLORIOUS!
  • That evening we ventured down to the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront for dinner and to check out the area. Our guide had given us a tip to take the public bus, which basically cost us $.50/each, so getting there and home was way easy. We wandered around (and around and around) while Bryan tried to figure out how to get some of our pictures off of the camera and onto a CD, and then we ate at the S. African equivalent of Applebee’s. At this point, fancy dinners were getting kind of old.

Our Great South African Adventure: Day 9

Note: I'm posting the trip in increments of one or two days, so make sure you start from my first post and work your way backwards--just follow the titles!

  • Knysna (pronounced nye-zna) was GORGEOUS! In the morning we took a boat cruise over to the Featherbed Nature Reserve, where we got a ride to the top of the hill and walked down one side of the Knysna Heads, two sandstone cliffs that mark the entrance to the Knysna Lagoon. Talk about some spectacular views! Then we had a most delicious lunch of a bunch of things I couldn’t identify but enjoyed immensely. :) I know one of them was kudu, another antelope thingy. I ate a lot of those. :)
  • The afternoon was reserved for the Knysna Elephant Park! I had been looking forward to this since we booked the trip. It was something I had discovered on my own, it wasn’t part of our planned itinerary, but our companions decided to come with us anyway. This was great, except I had every intention of paying whatever it cost to ride the elephants, and Bryan was on board. Our friends, however, weren’t as crazy about the elephant friends as I am, so they didn’t really want to pay that much, and it was going to be about 4 hours after we got there until Bryan and I would be done with that adventure, so we decided that we didn’t want to make them wait for us AGAIN. Instead we all did the meet & greet & feed with the elephants. We each got a bucket of food and drove out to where the elephants hang out. We fed them, and got to touch them and walk around with them for a while. Really when it was all said and done, I was satisfied with that, but I told Bryan he owes me an elephant ride at some point in our lives. :)
  • We had the evening to ourselves, and we strolled around the waterfront and had a great Italian dinner—we were ready for non-South African grub! Afterwards we had a dip in the hot tub, where we totally overheated, and then had to go back and repack our suitcase, since we had dropped our laundry off to be done that morning.