July 2009

A catch-up by points:

* Mr. W’s birthday present last Thursday was tickets to the Pageant of the Masters at Laguna Beach. He’d never gone, had wanted to for years, and was very excited. We had dinner first at 230 Forest Avenue Restaurant & Martini Bar, I had great Chilean seabass and he had a giant cioppino, and then we walked through the art exhibits before entering for the 8:30pm show. No photography was allowed as with most art shows and exhibits, but Mr. W insisted on bringing his camera, sneaking it into the theatre, and embarrassing me by taking photos while ignoring all my protests. I kept picturing his flash accidentally going off and our having to be escorted out and having his memory card confiscated. I tried reasoning with him saying that his photos in the dark aren’t going to be better than whatever he will find online at the Pageant’s website; I tried coaxing him to stop taking photos; finally I got mad and demanded he put his camera away. He finally grouchily obliged. I’m gonna have to remember that he likes to break the rules, and take precautions next time, such as hiding his camera.

* Mr. W’s son was at our house when we returned from the Pageant on Thursday. The next morning, which I was able to get off work, the three of us went to pick up Mr. W’s daughter, and the four of us drove to Vegas for Mr. W’s family reunion. The four of us also stayed in a large hotel room, Son taking a pull-out sofabed while Daughter chose to take the sleeping bag over the floor cushions. I had a great time bonding with the kids.
* We had a few family gatherings throughout the weekend; Friday evening the four of us went with my parents-in-law to Rocker Bro’s house, where Chicago Bro and his wife, two kids, and Rocker Bro’s daughter visiting Vegas for the summer were in or around the pool. I finally met Mr. W’s Chicago-based family for the first time. First impressions when I saw them: Chicago bro looks remarkably like Mr. W especially in profile; Chicago wife is prettier than I’d expected — something about her features reminds me of Amanda Peet; they have two attractive boys, the older (13?) looks like and has Neil Patrick Harris expressions which kept throwing me, and the younger (11?) is less rambunctious than the older and has a charming shy smile.
* The next day, Saturday, was family paintball day. I was impressed that all the kids, even Daughter, “suited up” to play. I never lost a game except for the first one, which Son and I agreed was an unfair win for the other side, as Mr. W broke the rules and charged onto our side to shoot Daughter point-blank. It was unsettling to know we had a safe-zone on our side, and then to hear Daughter saying, “Dad! What’re YOU doing here?!” *POP!* While I ran up to argue with the ref that Mr. W was off-zone, I was shot out by Chicago Brother. Daughter refused to play another game after that. Mr. W now agrees in retrospect that he should’ve let her shoot him, instead of destroying her shaky paintball confidence like that.
* After paintball we all had an early dinner at Aurelio’s, the Chicago pizza joint that Mr. W HAS to eat at every time he’s in Vegas, then the whole family regathered at Rocker Bro’s adult daughter Jessica’s new house and played in the pool. It was like Parade of the Paintball Welts. Gamer Bro looked like a red-spotted leopard.
* The day after that, Sunday, was family photos day. Mr. W and his Gamer Bro came up with the idea of going to a playground with monkey bars and jungle gyms for endless photo posing opportunities. It was a brilliant call. You guys know me and how much I love goofy photos. I didn’t get as goofy as I would’ve wanted, but others got sillier than they’re used to being, so it came out a wash. Mr. W’s parents, for example, climbed up a spiral pole thing and posed half-hanging from it. I wanted the four brothers to climb on some netting and equipment reminiscent of when they were kids together, and they did that, Mr. W hanging UPSIDE-DOWN from his knees. Kids were on monkey bars, slides, rocker horses. This made the smiles very natural and announced to the viewer, “We’re a FUN family!” Plus it kept complaints of “I’m bored, how long is this gonna take?” down.

* Monday, we had our usual departing breakfast at Silverton Casino Lodge, Rocker Bro and his younger visiting daughter joined us, and the four of us left to return to California, musing about how cooperative the Vegas weather had been. Despite expectations of 110+ temperatures during paintball and photos, the skies were always overcast when we needed it to be, which made for cooler running around outdoors and no sun-cast shadows on faces during photos.
* We’d convinced Chicago Bro’s family to drive to California to visit us since they were on the Westside, so Mr. W’s parents drove Chicago Family plus Rocker Bro’s younger visiting daughter down to us on Wednesday. I called a favor and got half-price Knott’s Berry Farm tickets for them and they played at Knott’s all day Wednesday. They came by the house Wednesday night and since Mr. W is still off-work, he brought them all to the Lake yesterday to kayak, boat, swim, play on the beach. After I got home, we all went to an Italian place off the Lake for dinner, then after getting back to our house last nite, I stayed up and had an hours-long bonding session with my newly-met sister-in-law, a continuing-school teacher of high school students. Today, they leave for Vegas and will likely be gone by the time I get home from work, and soon the Chicago Family will be returning to the Windy City.

I’ve figured out that I wait to blog until I have photos ready to illustrate my stories, which may or may not ever happen. So here’s the blog first and photos may be to come. Unfortunately we have no paintball photos because Mr. W made us leave all our stuff in the car, so that means no cameraphone, and Daughter’s camera was left behind. We do have family photos from the playground, tho.

Frankly, I’m a bit sad that there’s a visible movement away from blogging and reading blogs to keep in touch with faraway or time-challenged friendships. I know that everyone’s more in touch than ever what with text messaging, instant messaging, twittering and social network sites. But that’s just a one-liner here and there, with maybe a few photos. It’s engaging, quick and convenient, but it doesn’t really allow one to lay out one’s mind, revealing thoughts and concepts like the old cliche of laying cards out on the table. I like the records I keep by blogging about things in my life or musing about thoughts I’ve had.

The other night, Mr. W and I watched “The Butterfly Effect” at home. Ashton Kutcher’s character finds that he has an unusual power to go back into certain points of his childhood, still maintain the current consciousness of his adulthood, and change the way he’d acted back then and hence change the future. It’s the old concept of “If I only knew then what I know now, how I would’ve lived differently.” He soon finds, however, that his changes didn’t necessarily make for a better future, and he’d re-do the past over and over again, trying to find the “right” solution so that his loved ones don’t end up dying, dead, a heroin-addicted prostitute, with the wrong people. Coincidentally, my beloved non-blood sister Jordan was on her social networking page wishing to find the Re-Do Store, so she could relive specific times of her recent past and change some decisions that have now brought her to unhappiness. Of course I was not a stranger to the same thoughts. “I want a re-do of this time period and completely eliminate this person from having had a place in my life.” Who hasn’t thought that, in some form or other? “I wish I’d never met you.” “I wish that on that ill-fated day in January, I had not accepted your stranger’s invitation to share the table with you at the crowded Starbucks, and had gone home instead, never to have seen you again, nor to have even learned your name.” Sometimes I’ve wished for re-dos so fervently, with every fiber of my existence, that it seemed impossible that I DIDN’T go back in time.

But how do I know that I didn’t? Maybe the fact that I’m alive right now and that my loved ones are alive, healthy (for the most part) and generally content, IS the best proof that I AM on my desired path. Maybe in some alternate reality, life is a whole lot worse, and this path I’m on right now is the “corrected” path. The problem with magically going back and correcting something by eliminating a pain is that without having experienced the pain, you’re unaware that you’re NOT in pain. I wish I hadn’t turned on Jeronimo Street that annoying morning when I got my first speeding ticket months ago, but if I could go back and fix that, I wouldn’t KNOW that I avoided a ticket, so I couldn’t even appreciate it. I’d probably be bitching about something else I wish I could go back in time to avoid. That being the case, how do I know that daily decisions I’ve made HAVEN’T effectively prevented disastrous results? I made it to work alive, with no damage to my car, no ticket. That’s a pretty successful morning, and maybe if I’d only left 5 minutes earlier or later, I would’ve been involved in a collision and right now I’d be wishing I could go back and leave when I actually DID leave. So really, who’s to say that there’s anything WRONG with current life, or that we DIDN’T get our wishes of preventing trauma?

All you can do is live now with the future in mind, i.e. In 10 years, how do you want to look back to today and see your life? These are thoughts I’d had for decades, and never really knew how to express them conceptually. I’d probably come back and read this in the future and think, “What?! What the hell was I rambling about?!” See, you can’t express this stuff properly on a status message. You also can’t go back and search through or re-read old status messages from years ago and laugh at yourself.

Mr. W and I got back from Vegas on Saturday just in time to meet up with Vanessa and Jay at our house and the four of us had a great time sipping beer (the guys) and sangria (the girls plus Mr. W) at the Lake while Johnny Lang conducted his concert there. I have no idea who Johnny Lang is, even now. I was too busy chatting with my friends! Since we weren’t around to reserve center-stage spots this time, we didn’t have a great view of the stage and I didn’t take photos. I probably should have. After the concert, Vanessa and Jay came back to our house and hung out in our backyard on our new round outdoor loungebed, and told us stories of their current house renovation projects. They bought a home for a great price, but the work they’re putting into it made me dizzy. Mr. W and I talked about it a bit afterwards, were impressed with and happy for the couple’s home progress, but we were thankful we didn’t have to go through that with our house a year ago. I’m just not that handy of a person, and Mr. W had other priorities at the time (such as moving us in and getting married). Vanessa took photos of our entertainment backyard for “inspiration” as they start to design theirs.

Now, on to yesterday, my first furlough day. In the current world-wide financial straits and the California budget crisis, the Courts are trying to stave off lay-offs by spreading around the dollar cuts earlier rather than later. In our county, the courts will shut down most of their functions the 3rd Wednesday of every month. The categories of employees who are not exempt from this budget cut (me) have that day off without pay. Of course there was audible dissent among people about this, but I’d personally rather do my part and lose a day of pay a month than have 1/4 of our workforce laid off next year. Plus I looked very forward to my free day. This first one, Mr. W (who still hasn’t returned to work yet after his mid-February heart episode) and I met up with Dwaine and a friend of his, Sophie, at Huntington Beach.

We were all off work for different reasons. Mr. W is on workman’s comp/IOD; I’m on furlough; Sophie played hookie by calling in sick; Dwaine lied and said he was out of the office in meetings all day with clients and pseudo-worked off his Blackberry phone. It was a blast! We met at Sharkeez Bar on Main Street, had a few drinks, Dwaine claimed he could pull off wearing my girlie sunglasses and still look cool and I said the only way he could look cool in those glasses would be if two girls were also in the photo looking interested in him, and I was WRONG. See for yourself.

Hi, here’s me with my sensitive friend, Dwaine. He was at the Pride Parade in San Francisco last month.
After I retrieved my sunglasses from Dwaine, we laid out on the beach for awhile.

See that red bikini behind Dwaine’s right shoulder? That’s the best photo of me you’re gonna see from the entire beach day.

Dwaine decided to come by us and do a fobby pose.

Friends don’t let friends be fobs alone.

I stayed out of the water as ankle-deep in I realized I did NOT want to freeze my goose bumps right off my body, but the three of them frolicked in the waves for a bit. Back on the sand, Dwaine waged war with a bee as Sophie and I prepared to run should the bee dig its way out of the giant sand pile Dwaine pushed on it.

Of course Dwaine kept digging the bee back out just to see where it was, but when it came out he’d freak out, pour more sand over it, and pound it with a fist or a towel. And then he’d dig it out again to see if it survived, and wig out when it did.

I innocently dug around for seashells that Dwaine could take back to his mom.

After a quick and very delicious dinner at Dukes off the pier, we went our separate ways.

It’s too bad not ALL my furlough days could be like this. I already know this, because I went ahead and scheduled two dental appointments on two upcoming furloughs. *sigh* It was fun while it lasted.

It seems like lately, if I didn’t have photos of something I did or somewhere I went to post up, I just don’t have the time or spur to blog about it. I guess that means I’m not in need of writing therapy? There are a lot of things and people that excite me these days. (No, not like that.) Last week, I was “surprised” with a week off that I hadn’t planned for. I’d been on the wait list for the week after July 4, but due to my nonexistent seniority at work, didn’t expect to get it. I went into work on Monday and found a relief clerk sitting at my desk. Since I’d driven the 50 miles to work anyway, I stayed and took Tuesday through Friday off. Wednesday morning, Mr. W and I spontaneously drove to Las Vegas to visit his family. Entire new people have come into existence since we’d last been there, such as…

Lydia. She was born in the beginning of May to Mr. W’s Gamer Bro’s daughter, Jenni. On Friday, Jenni needed her mother Lisa to babysit Lydia, and Lydia showed up like this:

Say it with me! “Awwww!” =) On Friday night, Lisa and our other niece Jessica rescued me from a second night of watching Mr. W and Gamer Bro (Lisa’s hubby) play XBox games. The three of us chicks met up at a local night spot recommended by Dwaine, called The Blue Martini Lounge. I had not prepared going-out-clothes, so Lisa and I went shopping on the fly. I told her I didn’t want to outfit myself for any more than $10. She was a bit incredulous, but I pulled it off.

The outfit you see above cost me $8.50: $2.50 cami, $6 skirt. I also bought another sleeveless top that Lisa found for $2.50, so total expenditure on clothing that day was $12 with tax. Of course, in typical Cindy fashion, I find out AFTER I’ve fallen in love with the other sleeveless top that the logo written on the front of it, “World Famous Mustang Ranch,” is a well-known Nevada brothel. =P You know I bought the shirt anyway, but I wore the above outfit for going out that night and not the whorehouse shirt. This cami is safe, I thought, since it says “Miller High Life,” but just because it had the word “Miller” in it, I took the above photo with my cameraphone in the dressing room and texted it to Dwaine for approval. If I’m going to be sporting his last name, I reasoned, I needed his permission. He gave it with all his blessings.
Blue Martini was a swanky place, WAY overcrowded, so we walked around and checked out its happening 4 bars and curved right on back out. We decided to grab a few drinks at downstairs Yardhouse instead, and while the three of us milled around the front entrance, we were offered three complimentary tickets to a comedy improv show across the way from the restaurant. “This would’ve never happened to three guys,” Mr. W had grumbled when he found out. Look how close to the stage we sat!

^ Lisa and Jessica, the girls who rescued me.

Why is this post entitled “Vegas Trip #1 This Month?” Thanks for noticing! It’s because after we arrived in Vegas, we found out that Mr. W’s Chicago brother and their family, whom I’ve never met, were about to take a road trip to Vegas for the second half of the month. My parents-in-law want to take this rare opportunity for a family reunion photo, so we’re going BACK to Vegas for the last weekend of the month. Jessica and I planned for fun with a family paintball match on Saturday the 25th. Her friend had opened a paintball field and Jessica came through big time with free admission and free equipment rental for the family; we just have to buy their paintballs. I had been unsuccessful in getting Mr. W to play before, but this is for and with his FAMILY! He agreed to follow through. Imagine THOSE photos!

This is the Independence Day + Cindy’s Birthday celebration which took place on Friday, July 3, 2009.

The fun started at the Lake, where we hung out and had margaritas & beer. Once most people arrived, I shuttled 9 friends on the partyboat for an hour, chatting and enjoying the view. The three guys (Mr. W, Edgar and Eddie) decided to take out a sailboat. The three guys’ girls didn’t think it was the best idea, considering Mr. W had only sailed once before with the help of Mr. Englyng, and the other two had never set foot on a sailboat prior. “How hard could it be?” Eddie insisted in his USC tanktop which I would’ve thought he’d worn only to rub me the wrong way, if I didn’t already know that 90% of Eddie’s wardrobe and office supplies paid allegiance to the Trojans. On our way back in to dock, we saw this:

We pointed and laughed and took photos. This photo is courtesy Coworker Sandy, who was on my electric partyboat. Apparently the guys drifted into the fenced-off swim area so lifeguards had to go rescue them before they ran over little kids. I heard that a lifeguard teased Eddie, “That’s funny…I’ve never had to tow in a BRUIN before!” That’s RIGHT. Cuz we Bruins don’t get stuck. Edgar insisted what we witnessed was not an embarrassment; it was valet-service.

Around this time Vanessa had arrived, so she, along with Mr. W, Eddie (who probably wanted to redeem himself on water) and godson Evan hit the Lake in 4 kayaks. The rest of us stayed on land and chatted.

It was 12-yr-old Evan’s first time kayaking, and I hear he did very well. Now it was off to the house for the Cocktails & BBQ portion of the day.
While I tended bar…

…Mr. W tended to the food.

Don’t say we didn’t have pretty edibles.

Didja get a load of the jello shots? Peach: 25% vodka; lime: 33% vodka; strawberry: 50% vodka.
I had a blast making cocktails! People were very good about ordering experimentally off my prepared menu, which had 40+ cocktails and 10+ shots on it. My guests were VERY generous. I had so many Costco-sized bottles of alcohol that the best way I could pour was carefully tipping it into a shotglass while it sat on the counter.

Here the guys are holding B52 shots.

Vicky was very happy with her liquor intake. Here she’s holding up an Amarita. She already had jello shots, a double purple hooter, and some other stuff.

A few people (Dwaine, James, childhood friend Sandy and her date Michael) stayed into the night and we shared great conversations and laughter, although largely the topic seemed to revolve around Dwaine’s theories about single women. THAT was entertaining.

Most of the above photos are from Vanessa’s and James’ cameras. I think Coworker Sandy’s hubby has photos of the other 80% of the guests. 🙂