Sunday, August 24, 2008

A break at the lake

"I said in my heart, "I am sick of four walls and a ceiling. I have a need of the sky. I have business with the grass."
-Richard Hovey

I returned this afternoon from a weekend at the lake with about 18 of my favorite people. Several months ago my friend AR, who is basically a human sounding board and keeps track of everything going on in the lives of our friends, sent out an email to a group of my college friends to see if anyone would be available this summer to do a non-wedding-related reunion weekend.

There was a collective cry of affirmation across the email chain, and thus Best Friends Forever for Life Weekend 2008 was conceived. I know what you’re thinking: that doesn't make sense, what’s with the superfluous “4/for”? According to AR, it was more aesthetically pleasing on the pocket-tees she was ordering to commemorate the weekend.

And commemorate we did. Being products of Chi Omega, we would be a shame to our chapter and to sorority girls everywhere if there WEREN’T t-shirts made.

We arrived in rapid succession on Friday; the first few girls getting there to open up the lake houses (next door to each other) do the grocery shopping and test out the lake water. Friends flew in from Denver, Phoenix and New York and drove from all over Texas to be together.

I picked up my friend AR II (my other friend with the same initials) from the airport Friday after work in Dallas, and we made our way to there with the help of Yahoo Maps, my friend HR’s “girl directions” as I call them (no NESW, just a lot of landmarks and random R&L turns, that’s how women give directions) and of course the voice/map on my trusty nav system.

Listening to both “hers” (AR II and the nav lady) was a little chaotic, but not nearly as much so as pulling up to the house, being greeted in the driveway by barefoot friends screaming and clapping and rushing up to the car, then walking into the house and into a pandemonium of Nike shorts, Jelly Belly’s and SO MUCH YELLING because HA BURNED HER ARM ON THE COOKIE SHEET, which had just come out of the oven carrying the garlic bread. It was pretty much all I could have dreamed of and more, sans-burn.

The mix of personalities present this weekend was far and wide, which made it even more enjoyable. One thing all of my friends have in common is the ability to snap into Hostess Mode at the drop of a Cath Kidston apron. There was no shortage of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, lemon bars, chocolate peanut butter bars or birthday cake; nor was there ever a problem finding willing hands to chop, stir, heat or slice anything when it came time for meals. Dishes were always coming in or out of the washer, counters were getting cleaned and chairs were always getting put back where they were found.

Blackberries were left indoors and cell phones were abandoned while we spent hours on the dock laying out, hoping on and off jet skis and boats and lounging/napping on hammocks. We got to catch up and discuss the kind of things that aren’t the same over the phone or email; the working world, Rick Warren’s interviews with McCain and Obama, dating/relationships/marriage, laser hair removal, good book recommendations, our collective love for Shawn Johnson and a multitude of other things.

The parents of our friend HR, whose lake houses we were invading, even drove down Saturday from Dallas for the day just to make sure we were having a good time and drive everyone around in the boat. I chatted with H’s mom while she was in the middle of gardening, and she was just beaming watching all of us run around and saying how she and her sorority friends from college still come out there altogether whenever they get the opportunity. 15 months out of school may seem a little soon to be considered a reunion, but we have all heard that if you don’t do it the first year out of school, it will never happen...

... and any good Texas A&M Former Student knows the value of a good tradition.

"Always leave enough room in your life to do something that makes you happy, satisfied, or even joyous."
-Paul Hawken

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Robbing the cradle

Is it just my Olympics hangover talking, or is anyone else starting to think that Shawn Johnson and David Archuleta might make the perfect tween couple? They actually have a lot in common, when you think about it, all of his touring and her meets, their pint-sizedness, their innocent little chipmunk smiles. They would bump Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens off the OMG message boards faster than you can say "bet on it".

I think I lost a few of you at "tween couple".

Speaking of the opposite of tweens- which is a word I don't even like and have now used three times- age has once again surfaced as an amusing topic of conversation amongst my friends because of recent encounters with the 30+ male population in Dallas. 30 in and of itself seems like a great age. I plan on finding out in 6 1/2 years, and until then I'll take your word for it. It also kind of screams "get your life together- this is for real now!"

I think that, judging by my friends and our extensive email chains relating to dating men (“30” qualifies one to earn the title higher than just “guy”), that most of us probably aren’t there yet… and possibly won’t ever get there.

Think about a man who is 35-years-old hitting on you, as a 23-year-old. I may not be a math enthusiast, but I can tell you that I’m probably not okay with an age gap the size of a 6th grader (that’s right-12 years- and we all know that middle school is no laughing matter) separating me and the guy, excuse me, “man”, I’m sitting across from at dinner.

Someone who is 35 is a mere three years away from their 20-year high school reunion.
35 is roughly the halfway point between my parents’ ages and mine.
35 warrants an explanation of why you’ve never been married and if you have any random toddlers stashed around the country.
I was in the 3rd grade when my parents were 35.

And last but most, 35 is perilously close to 40.

No wonder they want to date girls in their early twenties- I think most people would rather look over their shoulder than think about going over the hill.

"GATHER ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old time is still a-flying:
And this same flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow will be dying.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he's a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he's to setting.

That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.

Then be not coy, but use your time,
And while ye may go marry:
For having lost but once your prime
You may for ever tarry."
-Robert Herrick, "To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time"

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Just beachy

Sometimes I sense my life slipping into wash-rinse-repeat mode.

For all practical purposes, a routine in life is nice and creates order. Exceptions to this would be when you find yourself stuck in a rut; not updating your hairstyle, wardrobe or eating habits can lead to disaster. This is why you still see feathered and outrageously teased bangs on women also wearing acid-washed jeans. Their routine in 1987 worked for them 20 years ago and they decided to neglect Vogue ever since.

I like having a sense of balance and a planned schedule that I can see on my monthly At-A-Glance. To “change things up” I usually download new music, pick up a new novel or try a new recipe, depending on my mood.

Then, other times, my cousin KH calls and says “hey, short-notice but we decided to take the plane to the Bahamas this weekend, you want to come?”

Do I want to come?

Would YOU want to spend three days in paradise? That's like asking me if a want a strawberry milkshake from Sonic.

Of course I do.

We spent the weekend running around to water slides, lounging poolside and watching the late-afternoon storms roll in on the beach. I even went on a tube ride that ended by floating through a clear glass tube in a shark tank. It was a big step forward for me and my skeptical relationship with the ocean.

There was also a casino, a club, shopping, palm trees everywhere and lots of colorful beverages.

I'm ready to go back.

“We’ll get there fast, and then we’ll take it slow…”
- The Beach Boys, “Kokomo”

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Winner takes all

I remember one night long ago (in 1996), in a home far, far away, watching the T.V. mesmerized by Kerri Strug and her Olympic gymnast fortitude.

Seeing her on the vault, doing her first pass, hurting her ankle and hobbling off the mat I thought “all of that for nothing- all of that hard work and she’s done.” If it would have been me, I feel like there would have been howling, dramatic gestures and some sort of standing-ovation exit.

Instead, the whole world, including me in my play room, watched as she cried, grimaced and then returned to her spot on the runway mat (or the technical Olympic gymnast term used), assumed her place, stuck her landing with her INJURED ankle and brought glory and honor to her country and her team.

That moment has always defined for me the kind of sacrifice it takes to be an Olympic athlete.

There are few times a girl will question whether or not she missed her calling in life- but watching Olympic gymnastics as well as Broadway shows we tend to ask ourselves “what if?”

What if my parents had sent me away to learn to flip and turn and spray my hair to my head with glitter products when I was three years old, like they keep mentioning China does with their little girls? There’s always a point when you watch a gymnast do the little dismount hands-in-the air move at the end of a difficult tumbling pass, or when you’re sitting in the mezzanine as a singer makes the tiny hairs on your stand straight up when she hits an impossibly high note– and you just have to think that maybe it could have been you.

Then you remember your childhood of jumping on trampolines and singing karaoke; not having to worry about the glitter hairspray, 4 AM wake-up calls and vocal lessons and realize you might not have had it that bad after all...

... and those girls probably would not have been able to go on a spontaneous trip to the Bahamas last weekend, like I did.

"Fortitude is the marshal of thought, the armor of the will, and the fort of reason."
-Francis Bacon

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Anything for the kids

I spent this past weekend on my aunt and uncle’s ranch, hanging out with family. Other than being the HOTTEST WEEKEND OF ALL TIME, it was a lot of fun, mainly because these two were buzzing around:

The town is near College Station, so I got to revisit the old familiar two-lane highways of my college career. You almost forget that you expect everything to look the same until it doesn’t; a new Shell station in Bremond was so out of place to me that I almost cruised right through their speed traps without even letting off the gas.

Back to the little ones, who were my real reason for making the trip. They belong to my mom’s cousin, who brought them down from San Francisco for a long weekend to play in Texas. I had never met them (KB, the girl, is almost five and LB, the boy just turned three), but was determined to win their favor. I was never really into baby-sitting as a teenager, I preferred the more lucrative and less-risky business of lemonade stands with my friend RW, but these kids were just adorable.

For one thing, they weren’t only visiting Texas, but a ranch in Texas, meaning they got to meet horses, cows, goats, kittens, dogs and mosquitoes up close and personal. They were really into riding around in the golf cart, learning how to rope and playing an altered version of bowling that involved a squishy green soccer ball and a hardback novel.

Being from San Francisco, they also brought their own skills to the table. KB, for instance, was demonstrating some of the yoga poses she’s learned from pre-school. Their father is French, and so they threw that into the mix as well. Probably the most charming thing about them was that they both love to sing. Their mom spent several years studying and singing opera, and both of the kids can sing anything from musical numbers to “You Are My Sunshine”. Searching in their backpacks for a Go Fish game that involved minute magnetic fish and poles (which had about 47 pieces), I came across a Chocolate Brownie flavored Clif Z-Bar, exactly like the one I had eaten for breakfast the day before. So I eat the same snacks as pre-schoolers, what of it?

The three-year-old, LB, remembered everyone’s name that he met and was so articulate that I never had to ask him twice what he was saying. Except for Saturday morning at breakfast, before I was awake, when he asked my aunt “where the other J was”, “J” being my mother, and “other” meaning me.

My cousin KH and I got reacquainted with Barbie & Friends as well, and seeing as we spent a good portion of our childhood amongst Rubbermaid containers full of them, we had a lot of catching-up to do. Barbie has way cuter clothes now, her hair is hay-like, and her waist is smaller, if that’s even possible.

I don’t know what has changed, probably my hormones, but I had so much fun playing with the little ones all weekend, whereas a few years ago I probably would have been more interested in hanging out with cousins my own age, calling my friends and straightening my hair.

I should admit that I was exhausted when the weekend was over after running around with K&L. Where did all that energy go, is what I want to know. Whoever said moms have it easy never was one, I’m convinced.

"There are only two things a child will share willingly; communicable diseases and its mother's age."
-Benjamin Spock