Monday, July 7, 2014

Parenting Lessons My Dogs Have Taught Me

I read somewhere that relatively intelligent dogs have the mental capacity of three year olds. So living in our house is like living with a couple of two year olds. While I do realize kids are different than pets, I feel I've learned a few valuable parenting lessons from raising our dogs. 

The toddlers I live with.
1) Sibling rivalry is real and it cannot be prevented no matter how fair you are to your kids. For example, Dinger loves ice cubes. You give him a "low calorie treat" (as Travis calls them) and he will race around like a crazy dog, he runs so fast his skull moves faster than his face skin and he gets these crazy dog eyes and all his teeth show as his lips flop around. You give Roxi an ice cube and she takes it gingerly before making her "Gag me, this is nasty," face and spitting it out. Now, if we hand Dinger and ice cube, Roxi will sit and glare with a face that clearly says we are awful people and so unfair to her. And no matter if both have identical bones, they want the one the other has and will stoop to stealing and trying to hoard both bones.

2) You develop a booming, intimidating, "I mean business," voice and an accompanying "I'm not messing around" face in addition to your normal demeanor. And you use it on special but far too often occasions. Like when the kids rip down the breakfast nook table from the kitchen wall. I yelled so loudly they both behaved for the rest of the day. Or when your sixty pound child decides to leap over your head while you are peacefully sitting on the couch with a glass of wine. And also when one of them sneaks out of the house and rolls in poop. This last one happened just the other day. We left for about fifteen minutes. Upon pulling up to the house, I see Roxi's face pop out from the side of the house. I instantly start swearing and Travis jumps out of the car to chase her down. I have never seen a more disgusting dog. This picture just doesn't do her justice. The weird greenish brown portions show the worst of the carnage but what it doesn't show is that everywhere her fur is black, is also covered in poo. 

This is my dog, her name is Shitball. 
3) Speaking of; bodily fluids are a lot more commonplace. And you do a lot of things you never thought you would. Like change your clothing by the highway when someone pees or vomits on you. (I'm at a count of at least two such incidents).

4) You loosen up a lot with the second one. Embarrassing fact, I cried the first time I put Roxi in a kennel and she whined for me. The last time someone whined outside my bedroom door at night, I locked them  in the kennel then put the kennel in the bathroom across the house. I used to not allow dogs to have bones on the couch. Now they do it all the time and if they're not fighting, I don't care. Full disclosure, this could also be because I hate the couch and it's on it's last leg anyway. Metaphorical last leg though, the couch legs disappeared ages ago. 

5) There's no reason for nice things. Travis's last pair of cowboy boots bit the dust when Dinger ate the toe off of one of them. 

6) Bribery is seriously underrated. The dogs don't watch TV, but if we want a few moments of peace, we hand them their bones and they are occupied for hours chewing and stealing from each other. 

7) These two, are escape artists. The other night after the usual routine of locking Dinger in his kennel before bed, I awoke in the middle of the night to a big dark shape standing next to my bed, breathing into my ear and I almost had a heart attack until I realized what monster was in my room. 

8) Kids are expensive, smelly, and generally a load of trouble but also wonderful and totally worth it. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

"Is This Frostbite Or Sunburn?"

A hitch or two ago I started to feel like I was on a tropical vacation. The rig was moving which meant no mud to check and hardly any work to do. It was starting to warm up around here and though that meant nice toasty weather in the 30's and 40's, it also meant all the ice and snow was melting and making lots of lakes and potholes. At one point I heard there was a bear around our rig. I panicked for a moment until I heard it was "Just a grizzly bear," and then I felt immensely (but not entirely) relieved. I take this as a warning sign that I've been in the cold too long and should return to somewhere tropical, like Puerto Rico, where Travis and I spent our first married days.

We flew the day after the wedding, through Miami and Atlanta, all the way to San Juan, Puerto Rico. In San Juan, Travis was pulled aside after he showed his license. This made me a little nervous but turns out the TSA agent just wanted to show his buddies so everyone could have a good laugh at us poor Alaskan's living somewhere so cold. (We haven't switched our licenses to Washington state yet.)

Our flight to the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, a well kept secret Caribbean paradise located in the US, was an experience to say the least. It was in a tiny little plane that only sat about 10 people. They stashed our luggage everywhere. I mean, they actually popped open a compartment on the wing to put my purse in. I got to ride in the cockpit in the copilots seat. It was an amazing view the entire ride, crystal clear blue water and tropical green forest.
Travis had to sit in the back of the plane
But here I am in the co pilot seat!
The plane we flew in.
That little dark blue area on the wing has a hatch where they put my purse and other luggage. 
This was literally right in front of me. 
My view out the side window.
My view out the front of the plane.
The Vieques airport
The island of Vieques is roughly only about 20 miles long by 4 miles wide. There are only two lane roads and the speed limit was never over 35 mph. We saw a couple iguanas run across the road and tons of little mongooses (mongeese??) running across the road. It only rained for about an hour the entire time we were there and the weather was pretty much always sunny and warm with a nice breeze. "Wild" horses roam everywhere. More accurately they are more like feral horses. Kinda of cool but much less glamorous than you might expect. It's also quite close to the Bermuda Triangle, however we did not get a chance to visit.

Horses, right outside our casita.
We stayed at a casita close enough to walk to the all inclusive resort and use any of their amenities, but far enough away that we had our own private beach. Our host was very hand's off and we basically had the run of the entire place, including the use of the saltwater pool and outdoor bar and kitchen. We rented this fun bright red Jeep wrangler. This immediately marked us as tourists, bright red rented jeeps are EVERYWHERE. It was lots of fun to drive though, I liked it so much we came home and bought our new Jeep. That Jeep is a white Patriot, so slightly more tame but still fun.

Our shiny red Jeep.

The view from our casita.
Our free time was spent exploring wonderful restaurants with lovely views and exceptionally tasty food, sampling all the tropical drinks, exploring the shops, taking in the views, and wading/swimming in the ocean. We went on a sunset horseback ride on the beach, cliche but a honeymoon must do.
Ocean view. 
More ocean views.
We also went on a sailing trip out to a reef for snorkeling. I was impressed with myself because I managed the trip without getting seasick. The problems began after we strapped on our flippers, facemasks and snorkels.  Travis jumped right it. As I'd snorkeled a bit once before, I thought I'd have no problems. But here's a bit of background information to explain a few things about me and water. First, I grew up in Colorado. That means lakes are small enough to see the opposite shore and pond are small enough to fit in the backyard. I just haven't been around water as much as someone who grew up swimming in the Great Lakes has. Secondly, I have an irrational fear of sharks. The kind of fear that sometime scares me enough to get out of a pool. Clearly irrational, but unavoidable. Thirdly, I can swim enough to keep my head above water, but I'm not the slightest bit graceful in the water. I can doggie paddle a little bit better than Roxi which isn't saying much. All this is to justify the fact that instead of diving gracefully off the boat into the water like Travis did, I half jumped before changing my mind.  And instead I hung there clinging desperately to the rails of the boat dangling my flippers in the water, fogging up my goggles while very heavily mouth breathing around my snorkel. Eventually, I was forced to let go simply because I couldn't climb back up into the boat with the flippers attached to my feet. Travis could tell I was a little nervous but he had no idea how panic stricken I was. I understand with snorkeling that all you need to do is lift your head up if something goes wrong but the internal struggle I went through and willpower it took me every time I had to lower my face into the water far exceeded the time I went skydiving. I was a mess. While I floundered around looking like a drowned cat, Travis did graceful flawless merman dives down for a close up look at the coral and fish. Eventually, I calmed down enough to breathe steadily like a normal human and to very much enjoy the view. On our next trip out to the ocean, we brought along a floaty. Embarrassing, but I'm learning to accept it and Travis thinks I'm hilarious.

Our other main water adventure was a nighttime kayaking trip to the bio bay. It is a bio luminescent bay filled with plankton who light up like fire flies when you disturb the water with oars, boats, or hands and feet. It was darker than normal this year but still very neat. It was exactly like seeing hundreds of tiny fire flies in the water. The tour group we went with was...unique. We were with a family with two teenage daughters who were loud and very disrespectful of their mother. Their mother appeared to be overly medicated and completely checked out. The father was aloof and irritable. It was one of those times you are embarrassed for someone else because their behavior is so appalling. They spent the entire trip bickering and didn't seem to realize they were such a mess. The ride back and forth in the tour van was a bit bumpy as well, we watched the two girls sitting in front of us bounce so hard they smacked their heads together and let out identical shrieks. Luckily they laughed about it too because it was too funny to contain our laughter.

While we were in Puerto Rico, we also had to mail out our marriage certificate, turns out we took the wrong copy. While I don't think it's actually my dad's fault we took the wrong copy, it does vaguely remind me of the time my dad sent me off to sell my car with the wrong car title. I handed off my blue Subaru along with the title, the car guy looked at, looked back at me with raised eyebrows and said, "This is actually the title to a red Chevy that the car you're trying to sell?" Luckily I still managed to sell the right car and also legally marry Travis.

Besides all the adventuring we had a night of cooking and swimming at our outdoor bar and pool. It should be mentioned that there were all sorts of little geckos running around the casita. As well as a feral cat named Shadow. Shadow appeared to be in the process of becoming a tame cat. She was fed by the casita owner but you were not allowed to pet her without a claws out swat. If she liked you (aka we bribed her with sausage pieces leftover from dinner) she would run over to you and meow and possibly rub against your leg. On this particular night we left the door to our casita to let a breeze in while we ate at the table. As we were getting up to put away dinner, we noticed Shadow wandering over with what appeared to be a gecko in her mouth. Suddenly, Shadow dropped her prey and it became immediately apparent that the little gecko was still very much alive. Before I could move the gecko was at my bare feet and then scrabbling at my leg. I let out a pretty uncharacteristically girly shriek. Now I actually like reptiles quite a lot but I was wearing a skirt and I did not want a gecko running up my leg or a feral cat following said gecko up my skirt. The gecko immediately took off and disappeared once it realized I wasn't a good hiding option. Shadow, on the other hand, bolted through our open bedroom door upon hearing my shrill little scream. We went from romantic evening to "There's a gecko on my leg and a feral cat under our bed," in a fairly short time. Oddly, this is not the first time I've let a stray cat into my bedroom. Part of the reason Travis fights so hard to not get a cat for a pet I think. But I digress. In the end we lured Shadow out of our room by laying a trail of sausage bits from the bed to the door. And the gecko came back the next day, this time only narrowly avoiding being squished in the tiny space between my toes and my sandal.

This little guy is trouble.
One thing that puzzled us for a while on the honeymoon was a single spot on my ear that blistered. First, we thought it was sunburn. But it was weird it was only in one spot. Then I began to wonder if it was frostbite from the slope that I had somehow missed. For most of the honeymoon neither one of us could figure it out. And I was torn between amusement and frustration that it was actually equally likely to be either one. Finally, we figured out my ear must have been burned slightly when my hair was done for the wedding and then irritated by the cold and sun both. So that's how I made it through the wedding and honeymoon with neither frostbite or (much) sunburn.

Me climbing trees. 
Looking majestic by this cool wreck.
We went two tracking and the road ended here, at the ocean.
Black sand beach, we rode horses here. 
And we found these cool fossils covering a rock at the beach.  
A 375 year old ceiba tree; a tree of life. 
This tree is HUGE.
This is me by part of the tree trunk for scale. 
Travis standing by another portion of root, this tree went on forever!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

"It's Howard, right?"

While the week leading up to the wedding was definitely amazing, the day of the wedding was the best. I could get used to being a bride, everyone caters to your every whim and doesn't dare to cross you. I even once used the phrase, "Fan me, minions," (mostly in jest, but maybe also in a little bit of a power hungry way) and both my mother and my maid of honor jumped up to fan me. Also, the day before the wedding I had talked to the Perry hotel and they opened up our honeymoon room specially for me to hang my dress. They even let me climb on the couch to hang my dress from the ceiling so the train could hang down. Its those kind of perks that make life great.
Me all pampered with morning champagne.
Travis and I played mostly traditional bride and groom and he didn't see me in my dress until the ceremony. We diverged from tradition while getting ready because I forgot all sorts of things the day of the wedding and he had to run around and get me my veils and engagement ring, oops. Travis spent most of the day (when he wasn't dealing with his crazy bride) wandering about with his best man, Alex, having beers.
A beautiful bromance.

While Travis' best man was keeping him calm, my maid of honor was providing comic relief. After changing into her long ruffled dress, she made the mistake of trying to back up. I have this beautiful slow motion video of her in my head, tipping backwards with a squeek, cowboy boots flying into the air. It was one of the funnier things I've witnessed her do. Later in the quiet fifteen minutes that we had before the ceremony I noticed her get out a book and start writing things down. I asked what she was doing and she replied, "I may have procrastinated, I'm writing my toast."
Too bad I didn't get a picture of her falling over.
The ceremony went perfectly. There were lots of good tears. My father managed both a meaningful and funny ceremony, he definitely got a little choked up but he also pulled out a flask halfway through (An empty flask, much to his new son-in-laws disappointment). And Travis and I got in both traditional vows and personal additions. He forgot to mention he'll obey me for life but I know he meant it and that's what counts. But for the sake of never losing these vows no matter what technology crashes or what papers fall prey to my crazed "organizing" sprees, and because these are very special to both Travis and myself, here's our vows, one more time.

These are the promises Travis makes to me.

I promise to roll my eyes liberally during conversations.
I promise to always make the kitchen look like a war zone when I cook.
I promise to forever snore out of sync with every dog we have.
I promise to always make it my mission to see you smile, and make you laugh, be it with me or at me.
I promise to stand by you, in our warmest days, and coldest nights.
I promise to forever remind you of how beautiful you are, how smart you are, and how inspiring you are.
I promise to never deny to anyone how much you mean to me, never to myself, or to you, or to even my mother.
And I promise that you will forever be my best friend, my confidant, my partner, my top priority.
There is no one else that I would rather spend the rest of my life with.

And my promises to Travis.

I promise to always take you out for a beer after every haunted house or Bigfoot informational session at Barnes and Nobles that I drag you too.
I promise to let you occasionally believe that you wear the metaphorical pants in this relationship.
I promise to always appreciate you for being the most resourceful, strong, loyal, and caring person that I know.
I promise to follow you wherever you go, no matter if that is near, far, or anywhere in between.
I promise to never cease surprising you, and to always keep you on your toes but also to keep the fire questions and polar bear encounters to a minimum.
I promise to constantly seek to keep our friendship strong, our love deep, and our lives adventurous.
I promise you will always be my best friend, my favorite partner in crime, my companion, and my family.
You are my happily ever after.

I normally stay away from disgustingly adorable but a wedding post was a good time for an exception. Now moving on before I cry...

After the ceremony, yours truly was rather set on beautiful snowy photographs. I would not be deterred by negative temperatures or record setting snow fall. It may be the year the Howard clan blames Miriam for the 15 plus feet of snow but I got my winter wedding. And I'll be showing off those pictures long after everyone has forgotten how cold they were.
Photoshop takes the frostbite away.
Drastic subject change time. And be warned, the following is not for the faint of heart. The one thing that is always brushed under the rug when discussing weddings is the whole predicament about peeing whilst in a gigantic dress. I have a slight phobia about bathroom privacy so this topic came into my mind the day after I got engaged. Picking a bathroom assistant was as important as the maid of honor. I decided my mother would be best to help me seeing as I think she's changed a diaper or two of mine. My maid of honor, Jeri, was also pressed into service as my dress was a bit of a handful. I strategically developed my plan of attack with much help from Google and a whole world of bridal bloggers. Strategies ranged from unhelpful advice like, "Just hold it in all night," to complicated tutorials to make a sort of dress condom out of a trash bag. As I didn't want my bladder to explode during a congratulatory hug and I still can't quite work out the mechanics of the dress trash bag thing, I settled for the easy face the back of the toilet while you get too close for comfort with your friends approach. This approach was helpful because it at least allowed me to bury my head in my arms in shame over the back of the tank while I yelled at my mom and Jeri, everything from "Stop judging me!" to "Someone turn on the water and sing me a song." I wished in vain for more alcohol so I'd have less dignity to lose. Jeri laughed so hard she had to leave the stall and my mother was again reduced to wheezy purple faced laughter. The pinnacle of my bathroom adventures involves a fourth party, one of my favorite Texans, my old first college roomie, Becca.

Now a little backstory on my friendship with Becca is necessary here. I was the only one with a car in our freshman suite and so I was the go to for rides. Once before a winter ride, I handed Becca an ice scraper so she could help clean off the snow. She looked at me and innocently and seriously asked, "What is this?" Another memorable time I was leaving my parents house after a weekend visit. I opened the front door and was confronted by Becca, ribboned wafflemaker in hand, apparently attempting an anonymous present drop. She simply screamed, threw the wafflemaker at me, and then ran off before I could really question her. The final moment that really sheds light on our friendship was the parking lot scissors incident. At the time of this incident I just recently had accidentally locked my keys in my car for the first and only time. So I was newly cautious and before I exited my car on this particular day, I placed my keys in my purse and securely zipped it shut. I swung my purse onto my shoulder, stepped out of my car, locked the door, slammed the door shut, turned to walk away, and promptly fell to the ground. I'd managed to close the door onto three inches of purse containing the zipper handle. No amount of tugging and pulling would dislodge my bag or allow access to the zipper and my car keys were securely tucked away inside my purse. I called Becca and said I was in the parking lot and needed scissors or a knife, pronto. It's the mark of a true friend when no questions are asked after that sort of request. Within minutes, Becca was helping me chop up my favorite purse to retrieve my keys.

It shouldn't be surprising to me then, that as I'm standing in front of the bathroom door (fatal positioning mistake) with my dress hiked up to my waist so that Jeri can adjust my garter and socks (I couldn't reach past the dress ruffles) that who should walk in but Becca. I break the ice with a polite, "Oh hi, nice to see you, its been a while." Becca just stares with a deer in the headlights look and replies, "Oh my God, I think I'm scarred for life," and runs to the bathroom stall before bursting into hysterical laughter. Jeri fall to the ground in tears, she's laughing that hard. My mom is in the other bathroom stall asking what the hell she's missing out on. And I'm desperately trying to find someone who can hold it together long enough to fix my socks.

Despite all this, Travis and I managed to get legally married. My dad forgot a few lines on the marriage certificate and possibly sent us with the wrong copy. I don't know if this mishap is my dad's fault but it is oddly reminiscent of the time he brought me the wrong car title for my old blue subaru that I was selling. I handed it off to the towing man who politely replied, "This doesn't look like a red chevy truck." Indeed.
I promise that glass is apple juice.
And most notably, I managed to sign the right name on the marriage certificate. Most states have you sign with your maiden name. Michigan has you sign with your married name. When it came time for this, I momentarily panicked and forgot which name to use and asked Travis, "It's Howard, right?" Ever the witty one, he smirked and said, "Really??? Yes, it is Howard. H-O-W-A-R-D."

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Alpacas, Fake Boobs, & Sasquatch: A Wedding Story

I am writing this post as I sit next to our private outdoor kitchen and bar, next to our private saltwater pool, in sight of the private beach. I am drinking a pisco sour, prepared lovingly (meaning much more generously made with the alcohol than a bartender might be) by my new husband.  It also happens to be about 80 degrees, sunny, and there is moisture in the air. But the honeymoon post is supposed to be later. This story is about how my father missed his first flight to the wedding and ended up in Baltimore with a pair of prosthetic breasts, how Roxi got her ass beat by a herd of alpacas, and why Bigfoot showed up to my bridal shower.

The week of wedding preparation was set to begin after I flew home from the slope the Friday before the wedding.  However, I knew the wedding chaos was beginning when I talked to Travis the Monday before I was supposed to fly out. As soon as he answered the phone I suspected something was amiss. He sounded weird and snuffly. When Travis sounds weird and snuffly, he is either sick, or angry. After an intense interrogation by yours truly, Travis confessed he had been sick all weekend but hadn't wanted to worry me or stress me out with the wedding so close but eventually decided it was better to tell me than allow me to think he was mad.  I at least felt appeased that I would be healthy for the wedding since we were an entire country apart (Thanks, Canada) and that Travis would be healthy by the time we got to the wedding.  Naturally, this was not the case. I managed to come down with the slope cold right before I left. This left me a sore throat, coughing, and snotty, just in time for travel and wedding festivities. Perfect. My flights from the slope to Anchorage, Anchorage to Portland, and Portland to Spokane went without  a single thing going wrong for once. My company man even bought my dinner because it was my "bachelor party." So I arrived in Washington and Travis picked me up for our overnight stay in a Spokane hotel before flying to Michigan for the wedding. We had to pack my insanely ruffly and poofy wedding gown in a space bag, which was horrifying. Travis had  brought along the dust buster for this purpose and I had just mentioned we shouldn't use it on the bed when it split open and spilled the contents of the back of the car and also our first Christmas tree all over my side of the bed. Travis' comment was,"Well hey, at least it isn't on my side of the bed and we have a dust buster to clean this up." Always look on the bright side.

This night was where I had my first bridzilla esque moment. In my defense, Travis and I were both sick at this point and we had Roxi who is a mess while travelling because she knows suitcases and boxes mean she is getting left behind, put on a plane, or some combination of both. Anyway, I've discovered that I can usually manage the switch from night shift if I stay up all day and go to sleep early. But if I am awoken at any point in the night, I am instantly completely and irreversibly awake. And generally rather annoyed and grouchy, to put it delicately.  We happened to have a room down the hall from the pool and it was rather loud. I was exhausted enough to sleep through all the noise for a couple hours and Travis didn't want to move and wake me up to go yell at anyone. Just before eleven at night I awoke to the sounds of children running up and down the halls and I was livid. I went from blissfully asleep to a raging, sick, about to get married mess in two seconds flat. I swear I think I breathed fire and my voice turned into one of those double tone demonically possessed voices. So I shoved my snow boots on over my pajama pants, threw on Travis's jacket and went stomping up to the front desk muttering obscenities under my breath in between coughing fits. Not an exaggeration. I didn't even bother to put my crazy hair into a ponytail or grab my glasses, it was really bad. When I started yelling at the front desk staff, I didn't even get out my entire rant about how I was about to get married, sick, and coming off the night shift, before someone was quite literally sprinting off down the hall to tell everyone to be quite. Normally Travis doesn't really seem frightened of me but as I climbed back in bed Travis said meekly, "I promise, I would have told them to be quiet but I was afraid I'd wake you up." Needless to say, we were able to get a couple hours sleep after that.

Even the flights to Michigan were relatively calm and went well the next day. We got moved up in the boarding line because I  calmly explained to everyone that, "My wedding dress is in this bag, I'm getting married in a week and I NEED to have it with me." The only minor hiccup was the last plane from Detroit that got delayed by gate changes since the plane needed repairs. Or as the woman doing the boarding and announcing explained, "This plane is BROKE! So we got a new one."

Other than those minor annoyances, the real excitement didn't start until Tuesday when my family was due to arrive. I spoke with my brother in the morning and he said their plane had been delayed for two hours so they weren't leaving for the airport yet. My parent's were travelling with my younger brother, Martin, and my uncle Chris. Uncle Chris has Down's syndrome and had never traveled on a plane. Not knowing how he was going to react, they decided it might be best not to stress him out with extra hours waiting at the airport.

Travis and I decided to spend the time waiting for them by introducing Roxi to the alpacas. Travis's parents have a lot of alpacas and llamas. A few fun facts; alpacas and even llamas, are a lot smaller than you might think, maybe five feet tall. They also have soft hooves, not like deer or horses have. However, they are still much much larger than a 25 pound dog. Roxi lost her cool a bit when confronted with these unnatural creatures. She settled a bit after a few minutes but she kept letting out involuntary barks and chasing any alpacas who ran. Even when we fed these strange beings treats and were never in any danger, Roxi was convinced there was something dangerous about them.  She made the mistake of chasing the herd one too many times.  I will never forget watching Roxi smack into a pile of hay as she tore off after a herd of alpacas without watching where she was going. And the image of poor little Roxi being kicked and pummeled into the ground  by six or seven alpacas before Travis was able to run over and shoo them off and pick her up. After that she seemed to realize that it might be unwise to pick on herds of creatures five times her size and didn't want to stand anywhere but directly under us. A valuable lesson now that we are getting a mastiff.

So we took her inside for some cuddling on the couch recovery time. Not sixty seconds later, she starts to make noises that indicate vomit is about to happen. Wasting no time, I picked her up and went running for the front door. As I manage to swing it open while simultaneously lodging a massive splinter under one of my nails, Roxi lets out a graceful arc of vomit all over the floor and all over my feet. I toss her outside where she continues to vomit and tell Travis I need tweezers immediately. He runs off for tweezers and paper towels and I notice Roxi has already started feeling better and is now intent on chasing the barn cat that is trying to feast on Roxi vomit. Needless to say, tweezers are no where to be found so we go racing across the street to Travis's grandparents house where a new search for tweezers begins. Rejecting the kind offer by Travis's grandpa of a pair of pliers, I hold out until a tweezers is finally located and the giant log is extracted  from under my fingernail. And that's the story of how Roxi was gang banged by the alpacas.

At this point I decided to distract myself from the throbbing pains in my finger by calling my family for an update as my brother hadn't gotten back to me yet as he said he would. I am expecting they are probably just arriving at the airport, its around the time their plane was originally leaving but still two hours before the delayed departure time. My brother answers the phone, sounding out of breath and panicked he says, "I'm just walking onto the plane, Mom and Chris are on already, I need to call Dad and find out where he is, I don't think he's going to make it, it's a long story, I'll try and let you know if he gets on the plane or not." We hang up and less than two minutes later, I get a text, "The plane is leaving, Dad's not on here." Excellent. Travis kindly reassures me that if he somehow doesn't manage to make it even though we still have 4 days until the wedding, he's insured as he's immediate family member and wedding officiant.Travis is nothing if not practical.

This is how I felt at this point, "I don't have an officiant, I'm sick, my dog probably has internal alpaca induced injuries, and I still have to make place cards?"
Since I can do nothing but wait anxiously, Travis takes me to the salon for my scheduled pedicure appointment. As I take off my boots, I apologize for my lack of socks, "My dog got beat up by a bunch of alpacas and she puked on my feet. I forgot to put socks back on because I got a giant sliver under my nail and my dad just missed his plane from Colorado, he's officiating the wedding. I washed my feet though...." The salon girl looked horrified for me, "Oh no! Can I get you anything? Coffee," Wine please, definitely wine. She was very understanding about Roxi, turns out she has a dog. The day we went back for manicures she had to take a call from the vet because her dog had eaten several feet of duct tape.

My aunt Kay is supposed to be meeting my family at the airport in Michigan to drive to the hotel with them and as soon as she lands, she must have gotten my messages and she immediately calls me. Now my aunt Kay and I are very alike apparently. You could tell we were both a little worked up over this whole mess because we both started talking a million miles an hour. We jammed about a half hour of conversation into five minutes. It is an art, we both talked over each other and to each other simultaneously. The conversation ended abruptly with an "Oksoundsgoodcallyouback,bye." Click. My poor mother must have been shocked when she gave birth to a semi clone of her sister.

After an entire afternoon of frantic phone calls and stress, Martin, Mom, Kay, and Chris show up at the Perry hotel. Chris made it through his flight like a champ. He was even entertained by the whole thing. However, he is none too happy about the three hour car ride from the airport with his two sisters that he had to endure. He gives me a long long hug, appearing very near tears, the poor guy. My father is in Baltimore by this point. Instead of a straight through flight, he's had to go through Atlanta and then missed another flight in Baltimore. We had already sent Travis's sister and mother down to pick my dad up so they are spending the night in a hotel since he's been delayed until morning. So my aunt, my mom, Travis,  Martin, and I head down to the hotel bar for a drink to discuss the day and give Chris a chance to recover alone from his ordeal. While we feel awful for my father, we do have a good laugh once my mom mentions that he has her carry on which is not only obviously filled with women's clothing, but also contains her prosthetic breasts. And that's how my dad ended up lost in Baltimore with a suitcase of fake boobs.

Chis recovered from the ride with his sisters, he thought it was hysterical when we made him pose for this picture in the bar. He usually gets angry anytime anyone tells him he could have a beer if he wanted.  
The next day my father managed to finally make it to the hotel in the middle of the afternoon. Now Southwest airlines has been added to the travel blacklist. This list includes United (who I hate with a fiery passion for so many reasons, don't even get me started.) and Priceline. They once tried to charge Travis 20,000 dollars for flights for the both of us to Alaska. This was back when we were in college and that was more than enough to feed us for at least 40 semesters. But I digress.

While we waited from my dad, my mother, Kay, Chris, Martin, and I made ourselves a nuisance in the local craft store. As soon as we entered we immediately dispersed across the store and harassed the staff. My brother stood frozen for a few seconds upon entering and whispered to me, "Miriam! What should I do? Who should I go with?" I commanded, "Follow me!" and he became my shadow for the rest of the trip. I walked up to one of the sales women and asked where I could find some fake wedding rings for the ring bearer. She said, "Someone's mother already asked me that," and pointed vaguely in Mom and Kay's direction. They were both in deep conversation with a second saleswoman over a pile of paper. "Oh yes, those two are my mothers." I blurted out without thinking. (I've noticed this habit lately, I say things that come out very snarky or just don't make any sense at all and then I dig myself into a deeper hole by just pretending that that's totally what I meant.) The saleswoman takes this in stride and explains they have two fake rings so Martin and I wander off. "Martin...I think I just told that lady that Mom and Kay are both my moms..." We have a fit of hysterical laughter in one of the aisles. Meanwhile Mom and Kay unwittingly argue and banter back and forth while Martin and I desperately try to act natural so we can leave the store without looking totally nuts. Finally, we make it out the door and start our walk back. I can no longer contain myself, "I think I accidentally told that woman you were both my mothers! It just slipped out and then I didn't know what to do, I bet she thinks you are lesbians." There's a beat of silence and then my aunt Kay says, "Oh no....we were just telling her how we married the same man...I meant that our husbands are very alike...." My mom chimes in with, "She probably just thinks we are sister wives." We have to stop walking at one point because my mother is laughing so hard. She has a very distinct hysterical laugh that usually only Martin and I can work her up to, she turns bright purple and makes weird wheezing noises instead of laughter because shes laughing so hard she can't get any air.

Just an evil picture of me and my brother.
The remainder of the wedding week went quite well, everyone managed to make their flights without any more stressful delays. My wedding shower was so awesome that even Bigfoot showed up. It was held at one of the fire halls (Travis's family does a lot of firefighting, hence why my family is so glad we ended up together....I tend to start fires often). We got to go play in the firetrucks (I never had gotten to see firetrucks other than when the come to my house but I think they are awesome) and Travis and I wore matching hardhats, mine even had a veil. Now at this point, anyone reading this should know I LOVE monsters. Bigfoot especially. But I was completely shocked during my bridal shower when I hear laughter and clapping and I turned around and Bigfoot was standing behind me. For a second there was a bit of quiet while everyone waited to see how I would react. Then there came an ear piercing shriek from the youngest flower girl, "I WANT TO GO HOME!!!!!" While someone had thought to warn my uncle Chris not to be afraid that Bigfoot would be making a guest appearance, the flower girls had been overlooked and the poor littlest one was a bit terrified. I later heard the back story behind Bigfoot's appearance. A few weeks back, my new father in law (Pat) had received a mysterious call from his own father; "Hey, you haven't bought anything odd off Ebay lately, have you?" Pat told his father no, he had bought nothing odd off of Ebay lately. These kinds of phone conversations are what prove to me that Howards are not all that different from Gonzalezs. Apparently when Travis's grandfather decided to buy a Bigfoot costume from Ebay, he noticed someone nearby had bought the same thing and he just wanted to check that his son hadn't had a similar idea. And that's why Bigfoot was at my bridal shower, because this family is just as crazy as me.

The veiled hard hat and fireman Bigfoot speak volumes about my life. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Newest Howard

The newest Howard I'm talking about is not me. This newest Howard isn't even Travis' new cousin who was born a few days after our wedding. This newest Howard is our new puppy we finally got to pick up. Travis I decided to kick off married life by immediately jumping into the chaos that is owning a puppy because we couldn't stand the calm that is not having a wedding to plan. We just brought home a new 16 week old English Mastiff puppy. He is already about fifty pounds, twice the size of Roxi, nearing on half my size. We have named him Schrodinger (we had to go with a nerdy name) and call him Dinger for short.

See how adorable he is??
Now when we picked him up we had all our suitcases from the wedding, honeymoon, and the last work hitch,a kennel and obviously, Roxi in the car with us. At this point Roxi is well adjusted to travel and was only a little disgruntled about having traveled on a plane again but otherwise she was calm and ready for a quiet drive home (haha, joke's on her). So we pull up to the breeder's house where the big version of Dinger (his father, Bounce) was running around as well as a couple other little dogs and another puppy. We went inside and picked up Dinger (literally, Travis had to crawl under the table and pick Dinger up as he was not convinced he wanted to go with us). Then as Travis was attempting to climb into the drivers side with Dinger, Bounce was attempting to climb in the passengers side with me to visit Roxi. The whole time Bounce was making these high pitched sad dog noises that I didn't expect from such a big guy as he made a desperate attempt to see Roxi. It was hysterical. But we managed to make it in the car without shutting a mastiff head in the door and were accompanied by the correct two dogs. Dinger was clearly a little nervous because he peed on my lap not two minutes into the four hour long drive. We tried to stop right there and I got out of the car with Dinger. Almost immediately I realized that this was a mistake as we both landed in a mud puddle. So back into the car it was. I figured he's peed once and he was done and I'd just change my clothes when we stopped for lunch. How sadly mistaken I was.

We paused a few minutes later for these pictures.

Notice Roxi's stunned look and how Dinger is too big to fit in the frame. I had already been peed on by this point.
Roxi gave us this horrified and betrayed look for much of the ride. I feel she was saying something along the lines of, "You guys are joking right? I thought you said we were getting a puppy not a moose. This is worse than the alpacas." (The alpaca story will be addressed in a separate post.)
As we continued our drive, I felt Dinger pee a second time. Luckily this was not the first time I've been peed on. It wasn't even the first time I've been peed on by a puppy in a car. As Travis was looking for a good place to stop, somewhere we could walk the dogs a bit and change my pants, I felt Dinger pee yet again. And then another time...and so on. Eventually, I would just pipe up every so often in the middle of conversations with, "Oh...yep....that's warm...there's a little more." Then we discovered that Dinger can fart. Some people might not know that I have hardly any sense of smell. But I could smell this. Man, could I smell it. Welcome to the world of Mastiff farts. It was roll all the windows down and hold your breath potent. But I felt triumphant for the first time in my life I could smell something and identify it without help. After about forty five minutes we found a sort of park type area where we could stop. Poor Dinger was clearly still in nervous pee mode. As Travis tried to pick him up off me and lift him out, more pee happened. It looked like Travis squeezed the pee right out of him. It was raining but I had no choice but to try and change my pants right there. Luckily we had so much luggage that I had plenty of spare pants. I'm very glad no one drove by or they would have had a laugh. As I was hopping around with my pants half on, trying not to fall in the mud, Travis picked something up off the ground and said, "I'm assuming these are probably your underwear you knocked out of your bag." We decided to rearrange the car so both dogs could sit in the back and I could ride without the threat of urine hanging over me. I did have to sit on a trash bag because of the urine underneath me though. The kicker was that Dinger didn't pee when we stopped at the park and he didn't pee the rest of the ride home.

Stopping at the park. Dinger is clearly already bigger than Roxi, but this picture doesn't do him justice still. You can see his coloring a lot better now though, he is gorgeous. 

They both liked watching the trusses of the bridge we went over.
Eventually little dude passed out like a drunk college kid. 
Even though we've barely had him home, we've already experienced people being amazed at his size and his beauty. And also amazement at his large paws.

Dinger paws
Roxi paws
Travis adores having a big dog to wrestle with finally. I already managed to capture this set of photos, they basically tell the story without needing captions.

Through all this, Roxi is still continuing to give us evil looks as she sits in her high up arm chair out of the puppy's reach, likely plotting our demise or thinking up a way to ditch Dinger. She's clearly jealous but other than that, they are doing fine together. Dinger really wants to play and cuddle with Roxi but currently she is still being a bitter and grumpy old lady. Dinger is basically a big, slow klutz. For a puppy he is very, very calm. He can be a bit slobbery but he loves to sit on you and give kisses. We're working on making sure the cuddles and kisses don't get too enthusiastically out of control. Like I said, he's already a big boy and his love is overwhelming. Sadly I'll have to leave for work very soon, pretty much the second I get settled in and finish all the unpacking, and I'm sure when I get back Dinger will be even larger than I can expect. I'm sure I will have a new entertaining subject to write about for a while now that he's home. He's very curious, I already had to explain to Dinger that we don't lick the salt lamps or chew on the stormtrooper in the living room. I also envision some stories about him getting stuck in places he things he's small enough for, like under the bed and in Roxi sized kennels.

This will only work for so long.
All I can hope now is that Travis learns to pick up his socks before Dinger eats them.

P.S. I promise a wedding post and honeymoon post are in the works soon but they are kind of a big deal so they will take some time to write.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Frostbite and Pineapple: The Forgotten Post

Wow, I feel proud that I write enough I forgot about a blog post. I wrote this about three weeks ago and forgot to publish it. Oops, no wonder it seemed like so long without a post. Anyway, here it is. Apologies for the grumpy tone, I was cold.

I must say, I really lack sympathy for everyone complaining about how cold it is in there respective states.  Let me explain how cold it is here.  I have to take a 45 second walk outside to get to the bathrooms. In order to go there I wear the following layers, normal clothing (2 shirts, sweatshirt, jeans, very warm socks), coveralls and heavily insulated boots with spikes so I don't fall over on my treacherous journey. An enormous parka, gloves, and a hat that goes over my ears and has a pull down flap for a face layer. The only skin exposed is a strip of my cheeks and my nose. If I cover my nose, my glasses immediately fog up and I am blinded. In my 45 second walk, my nose gets so cold that my eyes involuntarily start to tear up. It feels like someone punched me in the face by the time I get inside the bathroom building. It may be cold elsewhere in the country, but when you start to feel sorry for yourself, just remember I risk frostbite every time I have to pee.

Even worse than bathroom trips is having to count inventory of our product stored outside. I wear gloves, but they have to be thin enough for me to write things down so my fingers go entirely, 100% numb in minutes. My method for surviving this involves breaks every few minutes in other peoples offices and the warm up shack that we use to defrost our liquid products. And I get a bit jumpy.  Not only am I concerned about polar bears, but there is a rumor about some giant blue fox creature. I saw it briefly through the foggy window of a bus from far away, but it looked too large to be a fox to me. Travis suggested I would be safe as long as I "marked my territory" around my mud shack. No thanks Travis. I sure do appreciate how awfully helpful he is sometimes though. But the wildlife is why anything that moves in the wind makes me jump and makes my heart race. Even when my glasses aren't fogged, the steam that comes off our rig stays low to the ground in a foggy cloud. Often the wind blows clouds of fog around you while you are walking outside. My worst fear is walking out of a white out cloud and being face to face with a bear. Or a mysterious northern chupacabra or whatever the heck that blurry snow creature might be. Not to mention I'm always making sure I pay close attention to where all the loaders, big trucks, and pick ups are. I don't want to be featured on an episode of Ice Road Truckers because one of them ran me over.

My office stays surprisingly comfortable. The exception being anywhere close to the floor. Especially under the desk. I have taken to sitting with a space heater four inches in front of my legs. This is the only way to keep my feet from feeling like I have been outside playing in the snow all day. On especially cold days, I've had to take off my boots and warm my feet and then my boots in front of one of the heaters. This is when I've just been inside, mind you. It's chilly all the way up here. My office is apparently gaining a reputation for being a warm spot on the rig. Mainly because I blast all three heaters on full heat all the time. I think some people come to visit just for that reason.

I've noticed a few random oddities about the food up here. Everything seems to be pineapple flavored. Pineapple juice is everywhere even when the few other flavors run out. Which just seemed to be an odd choice. There's apple, grape, and orange too, but it much smaller quantities. Pineapple juice is the only one I've never failed to find. The only yogurt I could find was pineapple as well. My theory is the management is attempting to fool us into thinking the weather is tropical, as there appears to be a similar abundance of Hawaiian BBQ chips.

But that's all the random bits of forgotten blog post I have for today. Here's to hoping I don't have a frostbitten nose for wedding photos!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

8 Bits In A Byte, 8 Kibbles In A Bit: A Love Story

Once upon a time there was a young college girl, an awkward (but pretty awesome if she does say so herself) and innocent engineering student. Let's call her Miriam. After toiling endlessly at her studies, she made the fateful decision to attend a house party and learn about the wonders of alcohol. After a few Tampico and Tequilas (she was not so much of a classy drinker in these early days), she decided popcorn was in order. Upon opening a pantry, she was shocked to find a boy with curly hair, sitting at the bottom of the pantry eating goldfish in the dark. Instantly the girl liked this boy, after all, Harry Potter came from a cupboard too. He also took a liking to the girl who rescued him from the pantry. Throughout the course of the evening, numbers were exchanged and plans lunch plans were made.  Miriam went home that night feeling rather fuzzy minded with vague memories of meeting lot of Travises (it should be noted there are in fact two in this story, which is very confusing but that can't be helped. The Travi are everywhere. However, the main character in this case will be normal Travis and the other Travis will be Other Travis)

The next morning, Miriam woke up feeling under the weather. With  a solemn vow never to drink Tampico again, she retired to the floor of the bathroom for the remainder of the morning. Young Travis, having had better judgement, had woken up feeling perfectly fine and ready for adventure. Across town he was meeting friends at a steakhouse when he noticed his new friend, Miriam, was mysteriously missing. Suspecting foul play he sent her a text, "Hey! Good morning! :-) :-) Margaritas sound good tonight???"  The narrator would like to say that Miriam sent a dignified reply back along the lines of  "Good morning to you too! I think I'll skip those today, haha."  Alas, Miriam chose to send something more along the lines of "F*CK YOU." Star sign omitted, letter U included. Thus began their love story. 

At first Miriam and Travis were just awkward friends. Awkward because somehow one or the other always said something odd or inappropriate accidentally in each other's presence or found themselves in a strange situation. One meeting at Travis's house illustrates this point best. Upon walking up to the front door there heard a voice calling from the parking lot.
A head wearing a cowboy hat peered out from behind a truck. "Travis! Hey Travis, can you let me in the house, I'm locked out!" came the plea from the friend who shall remain nameless.
"Sure, why are you standing over there?"
This question was soon answered when the questioner moved out from behind the truck, clad only in animal print boxers. "I don't have pants."
"Why not? Are you drunk?" Travis asked curiously.
"No, I just lost a bet. And my pants," was the matter of fact reply. "Want to go get some Taco Bell after I put on some pants?" And this was how the tradition of Taco Bell runs with said unnamed friend began.

Throughout the last couple years of school, Miriam and Travis's relationship evolved. They went from being mere acquaintances to bar hopping buddies, often sharing a beer or two on Wednesday nights because it was much quieter and calmer than Friday nights. Miriam even took on the role of wingman. Or more accurately, attempted and failed miserably. But they had a few great adventures that strengthened their bond. One evening at the Buffalo Rose Bar, a cougar took a liking to Travis. The cougar silently stalked her prey until the moment Miriam left for the bathroom. Miriam couldn't have been gone for more than two minutes. When Miriam returned, Travis's shirt was mostly unbuttoned and he hissed angrily, "Why did you leave me here alone?? She came over and tried to rip my shirt off!" While Miriam found this endlessly entertaining, she still made a better effort to protect Travis. Once very rudely shoving the woman away to stand next to Travis and ward away the offers of Jager bombs, which Travis wanted no part of. 

While Miriam was being Travis's knight in shining armor, he was busy being a villain Once while studying for the engineering exam to end all engineering exams (the fundamentals of engineering test, the FE) Miriam turned to Travis for his expertise in computers. 
"Travis, how many bits are in a byte?"  asked Miriam.
"Well that's easy, there are 8. The more important question is, how many kibbles are in each bit?"  He replied. 
This answer sent Miriam into a mild panic. "I've never heard of kibbles in bits! I must have missed a whole section of information, I'll never pass now! At least tell me how many kibbles are in each bit, so I know a few basics."
"There are 8 kibbles in each bit," said Travis, ever so helpfully. 
Lo and behold, there was no question about kibbles and bits on the FE, if only there was, Miriam would have received extra credit. 

Yet another example of Travis's trickery was Engineering Economics. Now, engineering econ was a class that Miriam had naively decided to take at 7:30 in the morning on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  So sometimes this led to a short attention span and the playing of ZombieFarm on a hidden phone. Luckily Miriam had a companion in her misery, Other Travis. Now once when Miriam was studying with Other Travis, Travis came to visit. Other Travis asked Travis, "Have you done your engineering econ homework yet?" Travis seamlessly picked up on the joke and replied, "No, I don't think I'm going to do it." Miriam was appalled and began pestering Travis to do his homework, and for that matter, attend class more often as she never saw him there. "No, I don't think I'm going to go," was always Travis's reply. This went on for weeks. Neither Travis let slip the joke until much later. Travis never went to engineering econ because he was never in the class. 

Now when Miriam and Travis's friendship began to evolve into something more, they faced the introductions to parents stage of the relationship. Miriam took Travis home first, as her family lived close by. Travis noticed her father always seemed to get headaches when he'd visit. He wasn't sure whether to take this personally as Miriam's father is prone to migraines. Travis claims that as time went on, Miriam's father stopped having headaches every time Travis came to visit, a fact that greatly amuses Travis. Travis feels he probably won some points when he cooked Thanksgiving dinner the second time they all met when Miriam went a little nutty and insisted on cleaning the entire kitchen and forcing her parents into this task with her.

Now while Miriam introduced Travis to her family quickly to make sure he was up to the challenge, he seemed to fear his family might scare her off. Countless times Travis would talk to his mother on the phone and say he was just "watching movies with a friend." Countless times he called his father for car advice as he "helped a friend whose car had broken down." Once even letting something like "Babe, go grab me the manual from the glovebox," slip out while still on the phone. Yet Travis was convinced that his family knew nothing of his love life. He justified this with the explanation that they had never specifically asked if he was dating Miriam. But in the end, no one was fooled except Travis who still thinks his mother has no idea that he like Miriam.  

As the story goes, Miriam and Travis have since run away together to the far north. Legend says they will return south one day and there will be great rejoicing throughout the land. Though Miriam and Travis will never again be just awkward bar hopping buddies, he will always be there to remind her of the time she had to go to class with a bar stamp on her face. Likewise, she will always be there to remind him of the time he melted all their spatulas into their morning eggs. True love can be found in the oddest of places in the oddest of people. And they lived happily ever after.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Reflections on Being a Quarter of a Century Old

It seems like so much has happened in a year.  It flew by very quickly but also seemed extraordinarily long. So it feels like my life was measured in dog years this year. I swear it has been five years all packed into one. For me this past year was really March to March, not January to January as it usually is, but I suppose this is fitting as I am a March baby. A year ago I found out I got this job, received the news that my mom had breast cancer, and was proposed to all within the same week. Now I have been engaged for a year with a wedding in less than three weeks, I've been working at my job long enough to have a white hard hat (not sure I have earned one but I resourcefully obtained one either way), and my mom has proved that a sense of humor is better than a pair of boobs anyway. So here's a little review and reflection of the past year of my life. Be prepared, it is a long post and I put the funny stuff at the end.

March went like this.
Got an interview at a daycare center in Fairbanks. Not five minutes later, got a call about an interview at an oil refinery. Then got the job at the daycare center in Fairbanks. Seconds after I hung up the phone, got a call about an interview for the mud engineering job. Decided the universe was sending me a message not to work at the daycare center and so I turned down the first job lead I'd had in three months. That was a difficult thing to do. Luckily, I got the mud engineering job very quickly after the initial contact. Adding to the job search stress, I was convinced my mother was hiding something from me. I had no real evidence or reason to be suspicious but I just knew. Travis and I went on vacation to see the Iditarod (the dog sled race, the last great race on earth if you don't know) the weekend I got the job. As a child I used to build mini dogsleds out of yarn, dollhouse shingles, and popsicle sticks and then have my toy dalmations pull them; so the Iditarod was kind of a big deal for me. The day before we went to see the start of the race, my mom called and told me that the doctors had found a tumor; she had breast cancer. Needless to say, it put a damper on our vacation. Travis told me later that it was at this point he nearly backed out of proposing that weekend. He waited until the next day right before we were leaving to head home after we saw the ceremonial start and watched many of the mushers start their race. But in the end he proposed next to Mitch Seavey's truck and managed to catch the whole thing in a series of pictures. And the engagement story had the perfect finishing touch when Mitch Seavey won the race, ten days later, on my birthday. Wedding planning gave us all something to think about and talk about besides breast cancer. And that's how March passed in a blur of stress, conflicting emotions, breast cancer research, wedding planning, and travel plans.

April went like....
Honestly I don't even remember April. I think April and May all bled together.

May, the month of travel.
There was a lot of travel to Colorado in May. I visited my mom after her mastectomy surgery and also spent time in Colorado and Wyoming for work training.  There were also freak "blizzards" in Colorado that made travel even more of a pain and stressed me out to no end.

June was all about transitions
I got a few brief weeks of "summer" in Alaska finally. Though this was just a brief week or two of mild weather that required only a sweatshirt. And there was still snow on the ground when I left for Houston for mud school where I spent the remainder of the month.

July was Houston
This was the month of hellishly hot Houston weather that shot up to 115 degrees. And it was a month of living in a hotel, away from Travis and my family, the first time I'd really been off on my own. I did have plenty of fun, regressing into a college schedule and staying up too late and having lots of evening drinks with friends but I also did just fine at real life and real jobs. This was the month I went to a rodeo, encountered a cockroach, decided to jump out of a plane, and ate so much sushi that I thought I would die from a stomach explosion.

August was when I ran away to Alaska...again.
I finished up mud school and moved back to Alaska having again accumulated a ton of crap to move in too few suitcases. I got a brief couple of weeks of Alaskan summer again. But I couldn't stay in one state, that would be too easy. I also made a trip to Michigan with Travis and met all the family. This was the month I finally went out to the rigs for the first time and saw a polar bear.

September was another April.
I don't think we went anywhere in September which can't possibly be right.

October was Washington.
This was when we took our home finding visit when I started to panic about how hectic moving would be and how much we still had left to plan for the wedding. I swear I was just constantly panicked in October.

November was hockey.
November was good, we had lots of hockey dates, movie dates, and dinner dates in November. November I recall as being a good month with extra time off. Which reminds me, a post soon to come of the last few Fairbanks adventures I forgot to mention.

December/January was when time sped up.
These two month were when time warped. This could not have possibly been two separate months, it was only one. We moved, celebrated all the holidays and Travis's birthday, spent ages both packing and unpacking, bought loads of furniture, and realized the wedding was almost here and frantically planned and spent money on wedding this and wedding that. My parents also came to visit us and made us feel weird about being adults and hosting parents in our space. But it was wonderful to see my mom and hear her jokes about how she didn't feel like bringing her new fake boobs through airport security.

February was wedding planning, puppies, and getting a new rig.
Weddding, wedding, wedding! Oh and then lets throw in some extra chaos and look for a puppy. Honestly it felt like deciding to adopt a child or have a baby.Where you think it will take much longer than it does and you are unprepared. I was prepared to have to wait until fall or summer before we'd have a puppy and then we had one within a couple weeks. We planned on a giant breed dog and that is indeed what we are getting. Not just a giant breed but the heaviest dog breed around. This puppy will weigh nearly half of what I currently weigh by the time we get to pick him up at 16 weeks old. Just process that for a second. And then on top of that was getting out on my own at at whole new rig.

March is a new beginning that is just beginning. I'll be 25, married, and raising 2 dogs and a husband. I'll be a Howard as well as a Gonzalez. We keep saying things will settle down for us but I'm thinking we will just see how the year plays out.

Well that's the year in review, probably with lots of big events forgotten but whatever, I probably already blogged about them. After a full quarter century of life and the past year's experience, I have learned a few things.

Stereotypes are made to be broken. You can bring a purse to an oil rig. Your nail polish doesn't have to match your coveralls. Conversely, you can swear like a rig hand and still be a lady.

 Everyone is a weirdo but people like you anyway. I really like cryptozoology. Roxi really likes feet (though does anyone else have a dog with an extreme foot fetish or is it just ours?). Yet Travis really likes both of us and our quirks.

Never say never because that's just asking for trouble and tempting fate.

Quality over quantity should be the general rule for furniture, friends, and drinks.

Read Harry Potter, skip Twilight.

Speaking of Harry Potter, the villains are never pure evil and the heroes are never perfect. Dumbledore and Snape are proof of this.

"Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light." Always.

Ok I promise, that was the last Harry Potter reference.

Good books are better than good movies. But it's also ok to put down an awful book and turn on a movie.

Just because you haven't known someone very long doesn't mean they can't be one of your best friends.

The older you get, the younger high school students get. You become officially old when you look at a high school senior and realize there are still a child to you. This is also when you realize that teenagers do stupid crap. I don't even know what I was thinking for those ten years of my life. However, remember that just because someone is a teenager that doesn't mean they don't know anything.

Always tell the people you love that you love them at the end of conversations. Just in case you get that scary phone call.

You might get away with breaking a few laws. Except Murphy's law. Murphy's law is more strict than any of the laws of thermodynamics.

Family isn't always related by blood, or even marriage.

Sometimes the two year old you're babysitting will wipe his nose on someones sweater or your dog will wipe her poop on someone's lap. The people you want to keep in your life are the one's who will just sigh, wipe the bodily fluids off their clothes, then have a good laugh about it.

Drink tequila responsibly. You can sometimes get away with drinking wine or even vodka irresponsibly. But tequila is serious business.

Change is the most constant constant. This means you'll have acquaintances who morph into the best friends that get to make toasts at your wedding. This also means that whatever you are stressing about will eventually sort itself out and then something else stressful will take their place.

Nothing good happens after 2 am.

Your mother was actually right a lot. (But not always!!!)

Accept yourself, and really love yourself. And don't forget about accepting and loving other people too. But yourself first.

How I Met Your Mother has some great life lessons. How I Met Your Mother words of wisdom.

Do something crazy every once in a while.

Marry your best friend.

Last but not least, it's perfectly acceptable to only have 24 life lessons when you are 25.