July 2008

I had an action-packed day!

I had planned to meet up with some coworkers in their jury room at 10:30 a.m. to decorate their jury room for a surprise wedding shower for another coworker. It was tricky and ingenious how we’d planned it; the guest of honor actually works in the courtroom whose jury room we were decorating, so it was nearly impossible to sneak the planning by her and yet somehow get her to go to the jury room at the right time, so we told her everyone was planning a surprise wedding shower for ME. And we told her to keep it hush-hush, and that she was to show up at 12:15p after leaving early at 10:30p to get her wedding license. Meanwhile, while she was at the County Registrar-Recorder’s Office in line to get her wedding license, a bunch of us collected in her jury room and decorated like mad, laid out the food, cake, presents, etc. to transform the dull space into a festive Hawaiian wedding (their wedding theme) party central. I’d bought all the decorations Tuesday after work and had white crepe wedding bells, metallic palm trees, a coconut monkey, silver Congrats banner, coconut shell bowls, butter mints individually wrapped in hibiscus print wrappers, wedding bell confetti, even an inflatable monkey and palm tree. The court reporter brought leis, food and cake, the clerk arranging this brought more food and went with the wedding couple to get the license so that she could keep an eye on their timing and sneakily be our double agent contact. They were shocked to say the least. The party was a raging success. There are photos forthcoming taken by other coworkers.

And here’s where it got complicated for me. Although I was supposed to be down there at 10:30a to decorate which from all signs seemed perfectly reasonable since we hadn’t been busy all week, right at 10:45a, as I was about to go down, a 16-count criminal molestation trial walked in our door. I couldn’t believe it. Now I was stuck and was going to have to pick a jury. Luckily, the defense attorney needed a little more time to talk to her client in lock-up, so my judge, also to free me up, excused the case until after lunch.

And THEN, as I was making my second attempt to leave, I got a call from my real estate agent. Some background: the bank financing our new home loan had been playing games with us and giving us an extremely hard time. It basically felt like it was stalling and trying to find a reason to reject us. We understood we’d have to submit the loan application fully documented in this economy. That’s fine. We gave copies of our paystubs, copies of verification of funds. A couple of weeks go by and we’re in Escrow at this point, but now the bank says they need more documentation. Two months of paystubs, three months’ worth of bank account statements for every bank account we have, verification of the current values of our cars (even though both our cars are paid off), current account statements of all our retirement plans. We keep clean records, so we provided all this stuff, shaking our heads at how intrusive these requests are. Apparently the bank’s digging around for collateral, looking for a reason to say we’re not good enough. And then last week, the bank’s final request: give them signed rental lease agreements showing that people are lined up to rent our current properties for our asking price, AND a photocopy of these renters’ deposit checks, AND proof that these checks were deposited into our bank accounts. WTF! We let our management company take care of these requests and he faxed the appropriate materials. How violating of our privacy! It seemed like we were going to miss our Escrow closing deadline before our loans would fund. We were in a 35-day Escrow, the last day of which is August 1.

Well, when my realtor called this morning, he said all the documents were received, written up, pushed through in record time and that we HAVE to be at the Escrow office that afternoon to sign the closing documents in order for the loan to fund by tomorrow to meet our Escrow closing deadline. “But I JUST got a huge trial and I can’t leave!” I wailed. It never fails; I hadn’t had much to do all week and now THIS today of all times. I said I’d see what I can do and call him back. And rushed down to decorate for the wedding shower after 3 failed attempts to get a hold of each of my 3 supervisors on the phone.

While I was down there in panic mode, late for the decorating and busting my butt to get it all done before the return of the guests of honor, freaking about needing to leave that afternoon but not being able to find a supervisor for permission, a coworker stepped up and volunteered to handle my trial mid-afternoon after her own hearing so that I could leave early. And then later, another coworker agreed to take over my courtroom immediately after lunch before the first coworker is available, so that I could leave even earlier than that. I was so touched!! As soon as the party was over at the close of lunch, I rushed off, but not before learning that my trial is going away; the defendant had decided to take a plea bargain! What are the odds on THIS kind of trial?!

Mr. W and I met at his house, dropped off my car, and we went to his bank to withdraw a cashier’s check for his portion of the down payment, and then went to my bank to do the same for my portion. We got to the Escrow office near our new house at exactly the time requested by the Escrow officer, a mere minute before our real estate agent himself showed up. We did a new incredibly efficient thing of “e-signing” our Escrow documents, signed off on the house stuff, and then Escrow said it needed proof of home insurance as the last thing before we’re done. Wait. I didn’t take out home insurance on the new house yet. I’d brought my insurance bills with me to work today, intending to call to cancel insurance on my current property, but wasn’t able to before all insanity broke loose. I remembered that coincidentally, my insurance company had called for me earlier as I was in front of the teller and I’d told her I couldn’t talk at the moment but would call back. I called back in the Escrow office and turned out they’d received a request from Escrow to send proof of insurance, so my insurance company and I, over the phone, set up the required insurance as Mr. W finished off the e-signing. By the time Escrow signing was done, my insurance was faxing the Escrow office our quote and new policy (at an incredible price, too!) for us to sign, and everything required was fulfilled perfectly and simultaneously. Escrow should close on time tomorrow, our loan fully funded. Even our agent was amazed.


But we still had a final inspection of the house to do. So Mr. W, myself, and the realtor did that after leaving the Escrow office. Everything was fine. I’m taking tomorrow off to pack so we can move over the weekend or at least at the beginning of the week. INSANE!!! And none too soon; our management company called Mr. W as we were doing our home inspection and said happily, “You need to get out! The renters want in ASAP!” Woohoo!

Yesterday evening, Dwaine and I met up at our former German teacher Mr. Englyng‘s house. I think it’d been 8 or 9 years since I’d last seen him, and 14 for Dwaine.

I got there first and when Mr. Englyng opened the door, I pensively hoped we’d still look familiar to each other, and he looked EXACTLY THE SAME. I mean, he may have lost maybe 10, 15 lbs but he had not aged AT ALL. He was as sharp as ever, as opinionated as ever, as tongue-in-cheek as ever. The four of us (with Mr. Englyng’s wife Kirsten) chatted in the living room until Kirsten left for her weekly painting class, then the three of us had hot dogs and fresh fruit in the back yard patio (the house looked nicer than I’d remembered, they definitely upgraded beautifully and he has a veggie garden patch in the back yard), and didn’t really come back. It got dark, Mr. Englyng lit candles, then eventually turned on some rope lighting he had on the inside perimeter of his patio rafters. And eventually his wife returned from her class and joined us and we kept chatting and laughing.

As we prepared to eat, Dwaine in his usual style suggested we toast to something. We couldn’t think of anything, and Mr. Englyng made a suggestion for something that the Germans do. The German language has a “polite version” of addressing someone and a “familiar version”. The English language used to, too. “You” used to be polite, and “thou” was informal. I would say “thou” to my kid, but “you” to my boss. Kinda like how we don’t say “you” or “him” to the judge or to refer to the judge; we say “your honor” and “his honor.” Anyway, Mr. Englyng proposed that we drop the formal polite “you” and go to the informal “thou”, i.e., call him Finn instead of Mr. Englyng. But only if we feel comfortable with it. I thanked him and Dwaine gave it a few seconds of hard thought, and said he couldn’t do it. There’s a certain level of reverence in our minds about our high school German teacher and we’re just not on his level, we’ll always be a step down. People like us never sleep with our teachers or bosses because we always have that separation in our minds.

We had a great time, I admired the couple with their 44 years of marriage and their apparent respect, love and support of each other, new hobbies they’ve grown to enjoy together in his recent retirement (sailing, hiking, road trips). We reminisced, caught up on each others’ lives, shared stories, ranted about the housing crisis (which Dwaine took personal responsibility for), shared current philosophies on different countries, cultures, political systems, even made a few confessions (Dwaine). I got home at 2:30a tired but very fulfilled. Mr. Englyng made us promise not to make it another 14 years in-between visits. Well, how about a month at the wedding?

Due to the 5.4 magnitude earthquake yesterday before lunchtime, our building was evacuated as the Sheriffs worked through lunch with shotgun rifles in hand to check the floors for leaks and damage. Apparently they didn’t want to take the chance that inmates in the building got worked up over the rumble. Our building’s on wheels, so the quake felt more dramatic than it actually was. We had a lunchtime meeting that was canceled because of the mandatory evacuation, so I went to the gym instead. Then I went home to check on Dodo. A bunch of my things, including all my bingo daubers, had fallen on the floor, but luckily nothing broke. Dodo was fine and normal. He did make strange whimpering sounds in the middle of the night, as if he were stuck in a nightmare. It took my calling him three times to wake him up. I wonder if he sensed the impending earthquake.

So our lunchtime meeting was postponed to today. It’s supposed to start in 2 minutes, so I’m borrowing a coworker’s internet access to post what I’d been doing during my lunchhour while waiting for the meeting to start:

There’s all the guests on little slips of paper, clustered into groups for tables, using the map of the Garden as a seating guide (center).

I had to step back and take a photo with my cameraphone cuz it looks like such a masterpiece. You guys have no idea the dynamics of people I had to take into account. That was fun, like working out one of those math equations like, “Tommy has 4 brothers and 2 sisters. One of his sisters has a female and a male friend. The male friend is 3 years older than Tommy’s youngest sibling, and Tommy has 3 siblings older than his sister’s female friend. Arrange them all in order by age keeping in mind that Tommy’s younger sister can not stand the oldest brother’s cologne and hence can’t stand next to him although the female friend likes the sister AND the cologne…”

(written yesterday, Jul 29, around 10:30p; I’m borrowing a coworker’s internet access to post)

I had a quick run-in with an old DA friend yesterday after work. He asked how the wedding planning’s coming along, and I said it was great, no stress yet. The male friend he was with mentioned how his own wife got a bit frazzled as they’d approached their wedding date, and how he used to tease her with, “What do YOU have to be stressed about? You have a wedding coordinator!” I gave my theory that women stress because they place too much importance on small details, like the color of flowers and the exact combination of the tiny factors that go into making this day, most of which tiny factors wouldn’t be noticed by any of the guests anyway and are likely overpriced.
My DA friend said, “Well you’ve always been kinda immune to stress.”
That was the best compliment I’d received in, like, forever. Of course, he was wrong, but I was VERY happy he saw me that way anyway.

And then this morning while coming to work I ran into that other attorney who obscurely complimented me last month. He said, “Hello, nice to see you again.” I said hi, and asked if he works here. He said, “No, I’m just here a lot.” Even tho I didn’t receive any further lavishing about my appearance, the last compliment hung invisibly in the air, and again contributed to starting my morning on the right foot.

I had just spent over 2 hours working on my wedding seating chart. I updated and printed out my attendee list, got back in touch with my kindergarten roots and cut out the names of people coming. Then I grouped these people according to a seating chart the Garden provided letting me know how many people can be seated at what table number (half the tables seat 4-5, the rest seat 6-8). I tried my best to move my little slips of guests around and put people together who either already know each other, or whom I know would get along. I paid special attention to requests to be seated next to so-and-so, and to requests to NOT be seated near so-and-so. (I know.) The next part is trickier. Following a map of the Garden layout telling me what table number goes where (reception dinner tables are scattered all over the garden around the pond, on the bridges, under trees, etc.), I ingeniously and strategically placed groups of people either close to or far away from each other. Joe Schmoe wants to avoid Jane Doe? Well, I seated them across the Garden from each other, separated by water. Too many people in the “coworkers” group to put together at one table? I put them in tables next to each other. Mandy Pandy desperately wants to avoid the disapproving glares from her mother? I placed Mandy Pandy at the south end and her mother at the north end on the same vertical line, so that the mother couldn’t look across the water and see Mandy Pandy. I was darn proud of myself.

And then came that awful dreaded moment. I ended up with 2 leftover groups of 4 with no seating. What the heck? I studied the seating chart, compared it to the Garden map, and then realized that the two totally don’t match up. There are some tables that the chart says seat 8 but the map says seat 5, and vice versa. And tables 27, 28 and 29 are completely MISSING from the map.

I guess I’ll be making some phone calls in the morning. Either the Garden is going to send me the correct map and/or chart, or I’ll be calling these guests and asking if they mind taking their dinners with them to their cars in the parking lot. Or MAYBE I’ll float 2 tables for 4 on the koi pond! Hmm…

Our association president called the City, and turns out that the City law is that any man-made dividing wall structure may not go beyond a maximum height of 6 feet. Plants and shrubs are not subject to that rule, so it’s okay to plant a tree or row of shrubs that reach beyond that. However, in order to change the height of a shrub wall, both parties on either side of the wall must reach a written agreement. Obviously this wasn’t done when our older neighbor decided to just have the portion before her front door hacked, violating both Association and the neighbor’s rights and properties. And yet we can’t put up a higher permanent wall like the biker neighbor proposed. The City said that if both parties can’t reach an agreement about a shared wall, then it has be brought to the Courts to decide.

GREAT. I did not want my work to come that close to home. It’s enough to make me turn to WINE.

Today is Mr. W’s birthday. Hippo birdie, Mr. Double-You! If I had double yous, I’d stand in the middle and make a sandwich. Or make both of you make me a sandwich. Yeah, that’s probably more likely.

He didn’t want to have a birthday celebration this year, so I just got him something he asked for, a book with accompanying CD-Rom of Photoshop CS3 tutorials and tricks for editing portraits. He’s going to do our wedding album all by himself! I know Flip Flop Girl is doing her and Wilco‘s on her own, but I wouldn’t attempt it. This is right up Mr. W’s alley, though, the computer and digital photography addict that he is. While I was at the bookstore selecting his tutorial book, I came across a cookbook that’s also an informative introduction to traditional Indian cooking. Mr. W and I had talked about having theme-week cooking when we got married, and we’ve been on an Indian food kick this week, so this was perfect to add as the “surprise” element of his gift.

I don’t really know whether we’d ever go through with food theme-week, but it’s fun to think about. We’d go grocery shopping on the weekend at an ethnic grocery store, and all that week we’d cook that ethnicity’s food. We’d have Chinese food week, Indian food week, Italian, Japanese, and American. We were having Indian food after work today (his chosen birthday meal) and I suddenly thought, “What category of food does pizza fall into?” He said it could be American. So American week is gonna be pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers, fried chicken, soul food, Cajun shrimp. Eclectic. And then another brainstorm. “Ooh,” I said, “We can change our kitchen and eating area decor weekly to match the food theme. And then when people come over, they’ll know immediately what week it is and if they don’t like Mexican, they’ll know not to stay for dinner.”
Mr. W added, “And we can use that strategically, so when someone we don’t want to have dinner with comes over, we can change the decoration to something we know they won’t eat.”
So of course I thought of MOH Vicky and her resolute dislike of Indian food, since no one else I know has a food category they claim they absolutely would not eat. So I guess it’d be like, “Hey, Vicky’s coming! Quick, help me take down this Chinese stuff and put the Indian plates up! Where’s that golden statuette of Durga?” Haha. Guess our friends are gonna have to learn to like whatever we make if they’re just gonna drop by.

I had plans to meet up with MOH Vicky, her boyfriend, and James last nite for dinner. But as I was starving and still had another hour and a half before meet-up time, I put a marinara sauce and some Italian meatballs on stovetop at a low simmer, took out some pasta, and went to get my mail. At the mailbox, I was confronted by a large, very angry biker who looked like he may have been a Hell’s Angel.
He stormed up to me and towering overhead, huffed, “Is there an association here?!”
I told him there is.
He went on a rant about how his bushes were chopped down and who the hell authorized that and left a mess in his yard, blah blah. I was lost for awhile until I asked him enough questions for him to realize I had no idea what he was talking about. Turned out he’s the next-door neighbor of the other units in my Association, and he shares a block wall with them. A dense ivy-like shrub with hard branches grows over this shared wall on both sides, ending 2 feet above the wall like a high hedge. Apparently, one of the older neighbors (a single woman) unilaterally called for some tree trimmers to come yesterday morning and chop off just the portion of hedge in front of her unit. Now, if you look down the walkway, it’s green, then a brown square with no leaves and a huge square gap of overhead shrub, then it continues as it passes her house. The angry neighbor said he’d knocked on her door but she didn’t open it. I told him I couldn’t imagine that our regular gardener had done this as the rest of the shrubs on the wall were neatly trimmed back, and told him I’d talk to our Association president to see if anyone authorized for tree trimming of this portion. He said they’d left branches and debris on his side of the yard, too.

I called the Association president and asked him to meet me between our houses, and quietly explained the issue to him. No one on that side of the project typically uses the walkway, their primary ingress and egress being through the garage facing the opposite side of the buildings, so he was as shocked as I and the angry neighbor were when he walked around back and saw the ridiculous gap. He rapped on the older female neighbor’s door and now she was home and answered it.

And very proudly announced that she had indeed spent $220 of her own money to have this chopped down. Our president (with my intermittent attempts to help talk to the female neighbor) spent almost a full hour explaining to her that she shouldn’t have done this, that this was not her property to alter, that it was shared association property, and one that was shared with another neighbor who was not part of the association. She was stuck on that the shrub, 18 years ago, was planted on our side of the wall and hence belonged to us and that gives us the right to chop it or whatever we want, regardless of the fact that now, 18 years later, it half grows out of the other guy’s yard. She also claimed that she’d spoken to our president and requested that the shrubs be trimmed closer to the wall as she’s scared of potential lizards or whatever (altho I know she uses the garage on the other side as her main entry/exit, too), and that he’s done nothing. Our president was like, “You told me this weekend! It’s TUESDAY and this morning you already had the shrub chopped down! You didn’t give me a chance to discuss this with the gardeners!” I told her trimming back against our wall is one thing, taking two feet of height off the center of a wall that half belongs to someone else so that his yard now has a giant gap in the middle, which decision she made unilaterally on shared Association property, was wrong. We’re just hoping that the guy doesn’t want to sue the Association. He was really ticked off.

When I got back in my house, the sauce was dried and burnt and my house stunk. And I was late for meeting up with everyone for dinner. But I still had to quell this fire.

I called the guy back after taking the sauce off the stove and explained to him that we’d spoken to the female neighbor whose house the tree trimming was in front of, and that she did indeed call the tree trimmers but that she’d done it without Association permission or knowledge, and that we apologize for his inconvenience on behalf of the Association (since I’m still Secretary). I asked what remedy he’d like, and said we can pay for additional trimming to be done to even out the hedge or leave it and let it grow. He said he wanted to sit on it and calm down and think.

He called me half an hour ago. He wants to add a length of chain link above the wall to give it the height back, cover the chain link portion with green tarp, and let the hedge grow over it or not, but he wants his privacy back up. He said yesterday, he was able to see the older neighbor’s walkway light which glared from the gap into his living room, and he could see people walking up and down that walkway if they’re tall. Plus, it’s cosmetically displeasing to see that 10-, 12-foot gap in the middle of his shrub. I told him that technically, legally, the height of a block wall between property lines is as high as a dividing wall is permitted to be, and that to add height would likely be against City laws. He said, the shrubs grew 2 feet over that, so what’s the difference? I said the difference was that the shrubs were not permanent additions to the height and no one had a problem with it so no one complained to the City, but to add permanent height to a wall would require City permits. Plus, now we know that this neighbor apparently has a problem with the height of the wall. Not to say the way she addressed her issue was correct. (I can still hear her wailing, “So he likes privacy. But what about ME? *I* don’t want it that high. So it doesn’t matter what *I* want?” Well, it’s not HER wall. And even if she did live there alone and it WERE her property and not an Association’s, she’d still have to deal with that neighbor before changing shared property. The difference is that *I* wouldn’t have to deal with it then.) I was SO NICE to the neighbor during this phone call. I put it out there that I believe the city would prohibit the wall addition, but I surrounded it with sugar and understanding and commiseration so that he’d swallow the pill, and he was pretty nice to me in return, altho he was obviously still upset about the whole thing. I thanked him for his brainstorming idea, promised to bring it to my Association so that we can work on a compromisable solution, and told him I couldn’t tell him yea or nay because 11 other units share that wall and may have opinions on how they’d like it to change or not change. He said he understood and knows I can’t give him an answer, and expects there to be some back-and-forth for awhile. I said he may be right, but it has to start somewhere and his open communication with the Association through me is an important and appreciated action, and promised to keep him in the loop.

I’ve passed the neighbor’s requests to my President, who’s going to look into City laws and if it’s as clean as, “No, you can’t alter dividing wall height,” then that’s easy. But we’d still have a ticked off neighbor.

Mr. W thinks the older female Association member should pay for anything we’re gonna have to do now to remedy the problem she caused.

Mr. W and I weren’t going to pick this one, as it looked very Catholic and I’m not Catholic, but the makeup lady really liked it and said my mom would, too, as it’s in a style popular when my mother got married, so we got it. Even Mr. W’s daughter wasn’t too thrilled with this one. I had to post it cuz it reminds me of one that Flat Coke & Flies posted of herself.

This one I did like. I think I just love, LOVE this ballerina dress! And the fresh flowers (plumeria and 2 pink baby rosebuds) in my hair ain’t half bad, either. I just kinda wish they’d kept my original left arm, tho.

WHY am I watching We TV’s “Platinum Weddings”? ONE pair of these brides’ earrings already blows my entire wedding budget out the water. Who needs a 7-foot custom cake shaped like Cinderella’s carriage with $4K worth of gold airbrushed on it for $35K?! These grooms say stuff like, “It’s IMPERATIVE that Carlie gets the wedding that she wants” as they send expensive thousand-dollar gifts to their brides every half-hour on the wedding day leading up the wedding moment.

Well, it was on after “Bridezillas,” which I’d told both Mr. W and dentist pal/childhood friend Andy that all men should watch so that they can appreciate me. Mr. W’s response was, “I already appreciate you. I wouldn’t marry you if I didn’t appreciate what a great person you are.” Andy’s response was, “That’s like saying, ‘I’m a small-time petty-theft crook, but look at all these violent mass murderers so that I look better cuz I’m only a small-time petty-theft crook.’ ” Hey. I wonder why I’m marrying Mr. W. =P

I had a coupon for Masala Bowl, and with this PMS thing going on, just the thought of Indian food brought on cravings you wouldn’t believe. So remembering that MOH Vicky had suggested in a comment a few posts ago that we have dinner with James to catch up, I asked James if he ate Indian food. He loves Indian food. Vicky, not so much. Vicky, myself, Grace, and some other people who were all International Club officers in high school were traumatized with our first exposure to Indian food during “Indian culture day,” when someone’s mom made some incredibly nasty stuff that was like mushy chick peas stirred in cold sugary stomach acid with mint leaves. I don’t think Grace ever got over it as up to the point of leaving this planet she would not eat Indian food, Vicky obviously isn’t over it, and the only reason I am is cuz I got into an experimental food phase a couple of years ago and gave Indian food another try with as open a mind as I could pensively spread it. It helped that we went with bridesmaid Sandy and her then-date, who knew what to order at an Indian food restaurant. (Sandy had not attended that International Club event, or it may have ruined her, too.)

So James and I decided that we would do our Indian food tonight as a duo, and we’d meet up with Vicky for a more mainstream dinner tomorrow. But I was *starving*, the cravings were kicking my butt, and James said he didn’t know when his carpool person would be able to leave work today, so it may be a late dinner. Mr. W and I went to eat our usual Indian food spot, Ambala Dhaba in Little India, Artesia instead. I was happily satiated, except it turned out that James and his carpool partner DID leave work on time and I found myself eating a second meal of Indian food 2 hours later. Thank goodness we thought the restaurant was closer than it actually was and had to walk half a mile there and back. I think we’re both still full right NOW.

It was worth it.

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