Monday, June 30, 2008

Dani California's New Home

To my faithful readers, dear friends and loyal fan base (thanks, mom and dad,) -

After attempting to fulfill the creative need and justify my journalism degree by participating in the blogosphere for almost four years, I've decided to really get serious about this. Well, sort of. But I did buy a domain, and I am going to see where this little blogging adventure takes me. So, please come see me at:

WranglerDani.com

...where I will continue to beguile you with tales of my life and bulleted lists of my favorite things.

Thank you for your faithful readership, your friendship, and for continuing to like me even when I lose the filter and just keep writing past my better judgment.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Happenings

Hello, my friends. It's Friday. That means that I'm in that crazy-tired, can't-wait-to-go-home, but-still-kinda-actually-have-a-lot-to-do-at-work funk that leaves only one option for my over-caffeinated brain. Blogging is the answer. Always.

Val did a "stream-of-consciousness" blog last night, and I daresay that it was not only entertaining, but I'm sure very therapeutic. So here goes:

On Monday night, Adam pushed me through CostCo on one of those giant flat carts, designed for coffee tables and work-out sets, but also perfect for girls with hurt feet. It was actually really fun. "Turn here! I want fruit! And a gallon of soap! Stop!" He got to have some fun too, riding up and down the aisles on a mountain bike and defending me from slightly creepy old men who asked how much I cost.

While at CostCo, I bought two pounds of shampoo and conditioner. That's right. I have TWO 1 lb. bottles, who are now lording it over the little drugstore-sized containers in my shower. "Ha. We're from CostCo. We could smash with our beauty, cheapness and weight, you little pedestrian hair care products. We were only eight dollars a piece. Beat that!" When I bought these snobby big containers, Adam looked at me like I was crazy. "You're really going to use ALL this?!" Honey. They are EIGHT DOLLARS. For roughly six months of clean, great-smelling hair and bonus arm-work-outs every morning in the shower? Yes. I'll take two.

This morning, when I packed my lunch, I realized that I have a crisis on my hands. I'm OUT OF DIET COKE. Yes. This is a very serious plight, and I don't think I can go on with my weekend plans until it's resolved.

Also this morning, I went to pour delicious, hot coffee into my travel mug, but no coffee came out. I had forgotten to actually put COFFEE in the coffee-maker, (kind of an important step,) so I got a mug of hot water and cream. Ew. I lasted about 10 minutes at my desk before I had to go to Starbucks.

I was informed on Wednesday that I'm moving my desk. I keep expecting an army of IT guys to pop around the corner any minute and move me, but they never do... old desks and monitors and cables and fans and office furniture just keep piling around me. I figure pretty soon they'll forget about me and I can use all this discarded furniture to build a fort. I can even use a rope ladder to get in and out and defend it from the rest of the office with Nerf guns. That's way better than a usable desk, any day.

The other night we went to dinner with Adam's cousins, (Brent, Kim and Jill,) Mom (Karen) and Ashley, and it was a blast. We got gelato afterwards and heard hilarious stories about the Nichols/Zakaryan childhood experience. We also realized that several things are weird about Texas, including, but not limited to: Bridal portraits, wedding/engagement announcements in the paper, Mums, Texas highschool Homecoming in general, and property owners in Lone Oak.

Tomorrow is Adam's and my first-ever Engagement Party.* I'm so excited to get to officially celebrate... BECAUSE WE'RE GETTING MARRIED. I know! Isn't it great? I can't believe it either.

*Thanks again to Brent and Kim for hosting. I'm so excited to get to be part of such a cool family.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Forgetting to Worry

Adam: "It'll be OK. Why are you upset?"
Me: "Hi. I'm your fiancee, who is given to desperate sorrow and vehement proclamations that all is lost."
Adam: "All is not lost, Dani! Hang on!"
To which I laugh, and do hang on, and all is not lost, in fact, it's so very far from lost that I recognize my own propensity for such doom and gloom as completely ridiculous.

I know I'm a worrier. I know it's lame. I know I need to buck up, cheer up, move on and stop being dumb. But sometimes, the best medicine for a stupid illness is just a little distraction. So here, my friends. Enjoy:

Teen Girl Squad - 14


Scantron Armor..... ASSEMBLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Curbs with Trees

So, Saturday night I broke my foot. Well, I didn't break it per se, but it gets me more sympathy if I say that. I was walking out of CostCo, so dejected that it had closed moments before so I couldn't buy a box of granola bars the size of a large microwave, that I didn't look where I was going, and totally ate it.

You know those curbs in parking lots, with the tree in the middle? Yeah. I hate those now. I think I stepped in it or over it or something, but whatever it was, it was not successful. The best part is, I fell against an expensive-looking SUV, who immediately started alarming in protest, fell back against Rocky, who just shared some his dirt with my shoulder, and hit the ground, feeling sexy and oh-so-awesome. Then I noticed that my foot hurt. I figured I'd just made it unhappy with all this falling around, and my upbringing has taught me nothing if not the mantra "walk it off".

So walk it off I did. Trouble was, it didn't really "walk off". I was mid-Target, staring stupidly at a display of half-price throws, wondering why on earth I was there and why my right foot was still attached. I finally left with random assortment of pain-induced cravings and nothing that I had originally planned to go there for. For instance, nothing would do but to buy a Towel for Two and some breakfast sausage. I don't know.

Anyway, I made it home on Cruise Control, (stupid me, didn't even think about the Advil in my console, but suffered drug-less,) and as soon as I got up the stairs, fell on the couch and cried.
I called my mom and dad, part of which made me feel better, ("you'll be OK, use ice, take Advil,") but part of which made me feel more alone, and sorry for myself for being alone. Then I called Adam and promptly cried into his voicemail and felt more alone. He called back later and I cried again. It sucked.

The next day it was so much worse that I decided a field trip to an x-ray machine was in order. Thank God for Brent and Kim, who kept me laughing and waited three hours in the ER waiting room without complaint. They even stopped at Starbucks on our way... people after my own heart.

(Oh, side story about the ER. It's inherently dramatic. Seriously. When we got there, an older man with a large bloody bandage around his neck was screaming into the windows that seperate the lobby from the nurses - "There's injured people out here! Come out and see us!" To which an eerily empty back room did not respond. Apparently they were short-staffed and didn't her the buzzer... rather normal - but if it had been a midnight Thursday instead of a sunny Sunday morning, it would have been decidely horror-movie-esque. Anyways.)

I finally got x-rayed by a short Philipino man with a thick accent and a sense of humor. When he asked me for my last name (which is, for those who don't know, great fun to confuse telemarketers with, but on the flip side, tough for the rest of the world, too,) he nodded at my ring. "Bet you'll be glad to trade that name in," he said, smiling at me.

Finally, I heard that it was not broken. (Hallelujah!) but maybe hairline fractured, or maybe just sprained in a way that only a klutz of mythical propensity could accomplish. They sent me off with advice to take painkiller (duh) and ice it.

Kim tried to talk me into a "fashion cane" at CVS, but none of her royal-blue-checkered whiles would fool me. Brent also thought that icing my eyes might be just the ticket, but once again I held firm in my resolve to be normal. (ha.)

When Adam got home, he took good care of me, bringing me anything I needed, worrying as only the famous eyebrows can, and ordering in Pizza and Heineken, which completely hit the spot and healed it by leaps and bounds on first bite.

The moral of this story is:
Look out for curbs with trees in them. Very dangerous.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Lonely

Just the word itself makes me cringe. Lonely speaks of a silent telephone, entering a crowded room and remaining anonymous, of small joys and unshared hopes. It's one thing to have a dream, it's another to share it with a trusted confidant, and feel the edges of it draw nearer by the encouragement and anticipation of a joint hope.

I don't mind being alone - I am an introvert by nature - but I hate loneliness. Everybody has seasons of solitude, times when they see the world differently because they are actually taking time to see, rather than rush through. I believe that we know ourselves better alone than in the light and sparkle of a crowd, so loneliness has its place.

When we move to a new place, enter a new job, end a relationship... loneliness always follows. It's natural, but made no less difficult by that uncomfortable fact, and some of my darkest times have been the lonely ones.

You might be wondering why I'm writing about loneliness. I've written many times about my wonderful friends, near and far, and I recently got engaged to the love of my life. Those who are in a season of real, daily loneliness are rolling their eyes and mentally calling me names for even bringing it up. I get that. And I'm sorry for being a wuss.

I'm writing this becuase loneliness has been on my mind - more becuase I'm trying to figure out why it bothers me so much than anything. This weekend, most of my OC friends and my fiance (still love that word) are going out of town for a retreat, and I can't go. I won't bore you with the details, but basically they've all been on a ministry team for a while that I wasn't chosen to join, and that team is leaving for a weekend away.

Now, it's not the end of the world, it's one weekend. I promise I'm not completely incapable of taking care of myself for 2 1/2 days. But, despite all that, this forced solitude bothers me. I know there will be inside jokes and memories made that I will know nothing about. And I hate the thought of Old Dani, who gained weight becuase there was nothing better to do, and was too insecure to say hello but didn't want to leave after church becuase she needed a friend but was scared to ask. I know I won't become an emotional wreck in a weekend, but I don't even want to see that side of me. I know that I've grown enough to have left the majority of that thought-life behind, but even the remnants are distasteful.

I know there's a good, healthy part to all this. I know that if I choose to embrace rather than wallow, I can write and design and revel in a few free days to let loose the Muse and treasure the solitude. I know that my friends and fiance will love me regardless of whether or not I'm included on everything, and that my worth is not measured by my popularity or my weekend excitement level.

That's the truth.

So come here, Lonely. Put your feet up, stay a while. I know this isn't the last time we'll hang out, so I better learn to enjoy your company and see what good can come of it.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Chillaxin' (in list form, of course!)

My roommate Julie(tte) came into town last week. We had a blast together, going to LA and eating out and laughing and trying on dresses and reminiscing and kayaking and reading Bridal magazines on the beach. She also took some awesome engagement pictures of my hot fiance and I, which I promise I will post soon, along with all our other sweet shots.

However, since I love the Blog List so dearly and I'd rather write about my roommate-vacay than do anything else, here's the abbreviated breakdown, by the numbers:

75 - miles round-trip to Hollywood and back
60 - dollars of fun money, thanks to our very-much-missed Valerie
4 - new shirts for me, thanks to Julie's impeccable fashion sense
2 - trips to In-N-Out
3 - days laying on the beach
300-something - great engagement pictures
1 - fantastic new lipstick, aptly named: "I do! I do! I do!"
11ty-jillion - times we missed our other roommates
5 - delicious forays to JC Beans
2 - fish tacos each from Pedro's
1 - great Italian meal at Sonny's
7 - bridesmaid dresses tried on
3 - favorite bridal gowns
4 - gerber daisies for the Bower
2 - hours kayaking in the sunshine
6 - days with my Roommate

Best line of the weekend: "You're gonna be Adam's wife and somebody's mom (someday), but it doesn't matter - you'll always be Roommate." ~Jules

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Story

I'm sure that most of you have heard The Proposal Story, and if you haven't, you don't want to because you're either disenchanted with the whole "love" thing, totally happy single and thus unimpressed, or just getting along and doing your best to avoid bitter diatribes at "freaking save the date cards".

(No offense, Annie, I've felt the same way in the past and thought it was too classic not to share. :)

Anyways. The point I'm trying to make is this - I realize that this post is probably completely unnecessary, but I'm going to write it anyway, if nothing else, so I won't forget the little things that make it special.

So. The Friday of Memorial Day weekend, I was supposed to be working a half-day from home. It started out stormy, and the workday was matching the weather with all the gloomy-ness it could muster. It was going horribly and because of the storm, my internet kept cutting out. I'm getting more and more upset as I realize that, not only am I running late, I am running late for a CAMPING TRIP IN THE RAIN. I love camping and all that, but I am not a hard-core mountaineer. I am also very prone to being cold, and once I'm cold, I'm very prone to being miserable. So. Adam came over at the appropriate time, only to find me still hunched over my laptop, getting more miserable by the minute. Being the good sport that he is, he assured me it would be fine, let me finish my work and even bought me a latte on our way out of town - a sure bet to make me smile again.

So, we got up to Sequoia, and it was cold. But it was OK, we had a great dinner with the other early birds, hung out by the fire, and I was feeling pretty cheerful about the whole thing. The next day, I kept bugging Adam to go for a hike. He didn't really seem like he wanted to, which was weird, but luckily for him, he was leading the camp-out, so that gave him an out. Later in the day, he mentioned that he wanted to go for a hike "just the two of us" on Sunday. I thought it was weird that he was planning something that he hadn't wanted to do all of an hour earlier, but I just thought he was being weird.

Saturday night, our friends Phil and Kirsten and Nate and Lindsay showed up. Phil and Adam went off on a random hike and were gone FOREVER. Kirsten and I wondered what the deal was, but we didn't think about it too much.

It started snowing that night. Lindsay, Kirst and I all snuggled in my itty-bitty backpacking tent and had girl-talk. They both are engaged, and hearing them talk about their plans with such assuredness made me wonder if Adam and I would have that someday.

(Also, Before we went to bed, Adam asked if I wanted to just wake up on my own or set an alarm. I thought that was weird, too, normally he's so relaxed about that kind of thing.)

The next day (still snowing/raining) we hung out by the fire and had some coffee, than Adam came over to me sort of sneakily and asked if I was ready to go. As we left, I asked if we shouldn't tell somebody where we were going. "I told Phil and Rocky last night," Adam assured me. Again, weird. Also, why on earth was he carrying such a big backpack for a little hike? Where were we going, anyway?

He said it was just some breakfast stuff, and I believed him. Looking back, I just swallowed a lot of things that were definitely fishy.

We hiked for a while on this beautiful trail through the woods. I did turn around a time or two to see if Phil was following. I figured if Adam was proposing, Phil would be in on it with a camera... but he wasn't, and Adam seemed nonchalant about looking around the forest, so I put it the proposal idea out of my head. The whole time it was sort of misting/snowing/raining, but we were working hard and didn't mind. We got to some pretty deep snow and decided that our boots weren't quite up to that (I've worn mine since high school) and we turned around and found a big stump in a pretty area to sit on.

Adam said he brought me out there to tell me all the reasons why he loved me. He pulled out a piece of notebook paper and started telling me all these things and read a scripture. It was very special, and I thought he was just being sweet for our one year anniversary. After he'd finished, we sat there for a minute, but I, being the practical girl that I am, suggested that we break open his backpack o' breakfast.

"I have one question I have to ask you first," he said, at which point it started hailing and I started hyperventilating, saying yes over and over, as he got down on one knee (in the snow!) and pulled out the ring. I teared up and said yes again.

He had packed a whopper of a celebratory breakfast, complete with prosciutto, cheese, fruit, yogurts, hummus, pita chips, crackers, bread, brie and champagne and OJ for mimosas. We made mimosas in our Nalgene, (in his hurry, Adam had forgotten the flutes, which we decided was sort of appropriate anyway) and had an AMAZING breakfast together, despite the cold.

We took some pictures and walked back to camp, where Phil happened to be waiting in the parking lot for us. He got Kirsten, Nate and Lindsay, and us girls did an awesome screaming engaged jumping dance.

All day was euphoric, and even though the weather got so bad that we had to pack up and head home that night, we still had the best engaged day ever, and tried our best to slip the word "fiance" into every possible sentence. Actually, I'm pretty sure we still do that. Or at least I do.

I love Adam because he's my best friend as well as my love. He knew exactly what would make me happy in a proposal, and he did so fantastic at it.

Here's us on our stump, just after he asked:

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

But the weird part is....

Before I begin a slightly off-kilter post, let me say something clarifying. *DISCLAIMER* If you have called to wish me well or squeal with me on the phone, I love you dearly and am so glad you did. If you have not yet called, I probably love you anyway, and we'll talk eventually, which honestly is fine by me, since I've never talked on the phone so much in my life as I have the last week or so, and I think my right ear is turning black. I am completely in love and totally stoked about it, and the coolest part is that he loves me back, which still gives me goose bumps when I think about it, because he's just so awesome and I can hardly believe that I'm somehow cool enough to marry him. Also, the full engagement-down-on-one-knee-so-romantic-you'll-just-fall-out-of-
your-chair story is coming. PROMISE. And you probably won't think it's as great as I do, but that's OK, because he's taken.

OK. Now that all the mushy stuff has been said....

Being Engaged is a little weird. For instance:

For most girl-types, being engaged is something akin to celebrity, and they want to be as close as possible and get regular hugs and stand very near just in case your fiance happens to be very bad at ring-purchasing and a diamond falls off or something, in which case they can snatch it up, run out and find an available man and be totally prepared for engagement at first sight. Crazy scenarios aside, this sudden closeness is weird to me. We've hardly talked before, yet you see a ring on my finger and give me a bear-hug, which I respond to with awkward back-patting and frantic running through the annals of my brain to figure out what your name is and if we've ever hung out. Maybe Love makes the whole world kin or rumors have been circulating about the likelihood of chocolate strawberries at the reception or you just really get fired up about engagements in general, but still. Weird.

On the other side of the spectrum from the huggy girl phenomenon, there's the grumps. Case in point:
Me: "I'm getting married."
Coworker the Grouch: "Well, it's your first one, so you've got a 50/50 chance."
Nothing like heartfelt congratulations and unwavering belief in true love. Weird.

Everywhere I look I see a wedding/reception site. EVERYWHERE. I mean, I was walking through Crate and Barrel the other day thinking about how much I liked the color schemes and wondering what it would look like with my bridesmaids lined up, when I remembered some fragment of my past life that reminded me that people don't normally get married in malls. Weird.

Lighting is so much better now! Sunlight, mood light, candlelight... even fluorescent light has been somewhat redeemed by the beautiful ring on my finger. I heard about every 25th word in church on Sunday because the stage lighting in Mariners was almost more than my little heart could take. Good, but a little weird.

Dates are suddenly super important to me. So are pictures. Everything has become a big deal, and I am fighting the urge to be crazy-wacko-bride and take pictures of everything and cry when I realize that a summer wedding likely won't happen. Um, I mean, I don't cry over stuff like that. *ahem* Weird.

I am so much more confident now... and say things that I find myself wanting to censor, but then don't, because I realize that I'M GETTING MARRIED, and the whole world can know how I feel about this man, dang it. "I'm in love! I'm in love and I don't care who knows it!" Very good. Not weird.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Love

It's true. I'm in love with the my best friend, and he loves me. The full story is coming, but I just couldn't hold it in any longer.


Love, Soon-to-be Mrs. Nichols

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Sgniht sdrawkcab and Oddities

Right now, I'm eating hot buttered popcorn and drinking Diet Coke. It's 10 in the morning. Also, most nights I get pancake cravings, that I don't usually fulfill. This leads me to believe that someday, if I ever get pregnant, I will want breakfast food in the morning and dinner at night, and my husband will be utterly shocked.

I've never been the kind of girl who dreams of my someday wedding or buys bridal magazines. However, helping my friends pick out dresses and make centerpieces and giggle about their fellas is one of the most fun things I've ever done. I did not expect this from myself.

I'm always cold, but I love fresh air. So, most of the time I have my windows open at night, only to wake up freezing and cursing whoever left the window open, only to remember that it was, in fact, me. Why I have not yet learned to close the windows BEFORE I fall asleep is beyond me.

I love driving, but if there is a man coming along, I usually insist that he drive. The only exception is if he is between the ages of 16-20, in which case I value my life too much.

Rainy days are my favorite. FAVORITE. However, laying out and getting a tan is also my favorite, and so is the beach.

I love good photography and taking pictures, but never remember to bring or use my camera.

I love clever commercials and ad campaigns, but HATE advertising-speak, which brutalizes the English language.

I check email obsessively during the week, and completely ignore it on weekends.

Pink pedicures are awesome, but if I paint my fingernails anything other than natural, I feel sorta like a Ho.

I love horses, but typically stay quiet in conversations about them unless I know you very well. I do not, will not, compete about how much I know and love the things that I know and love.

I always pay bills and rent on time - except for my student loan. For some reason, that one slips through the cracks every few months.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Remembering Today

Today I went to lunch with a friend. We were honest about our friends' weddings and our own relationships and the weirdness of growing up. We sat outside and ate Mexican food and drank Diet Coke and gloried in the perfect day.

Yesterday I rode in a car filled with some of my favorite people. I went to a Bridal Shower and saw unmentionables thrown about in a cavalier way that would embarrass all of us, were it any other occasion. I went to do a good deed and got crabby about it, which made it not-so-good after all. I went to church and worshiped my heart out and saw my imperfections and was ashamed of myself but grateful to God for putting up with me.

The day before I laid on a beach and ate salad and chillaxed with awesome people. I passed out programs and teared up for a dear friend's wedding. I danced the night away with friends and the man I love. I smelled roses and wine and laughter in the air.

I need to record these things more often. I need to remember why life is so good and I am so blessed.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

In Which Dani Gets Swallowed By Cubicles and Forgets That Sunshine Exists

Work has been stressful lately. That's really all I need to say, because recounting the stress simply serves to remind me of the stress, which simply serves to make the stress worse. Yes, close friends, family, boyfriend, and frightened acquaintances at the grocery store to whom I vomit my daily outpouring of recounting pointless stress, I realize that I am a walking, talking contradiction. But that's what makes me fun. Right? Right.

Anyway, when I get stressed, rather than do something healthy like go outside and recall that flowers still grow, or pet a cat or feed a baby or knit a sweater for a cold person or something else lovably wholesome, I wallow in the dullness of my life in a horribly sad and sniffle-inducing way.

I sit here, pointlessly wringing my hands and making to-do lists, looking around the gray walls of my cubicle, which are just sad, being only spruced up by shiny industry posters and the occasional horrible email.

It's lame. I know it is. Even when I force myself out of the office for lunch, though the faint hint of a summer breeze ruffles my hair and I am slightly wooed by the sunshine on my cheeks, I march myself staunchly into the cold dark of the parking garage and sit in Rocky, bemoaning my fate and listening to Dr. Laura tell people how dumb they are.

I just realized today after one such pointless lunch hour how really absurdly stupid this is, and how it doesn't help anything, and how if I keep on in this stressed-out state I might just have a coronary by the time I'm 30. So today, as soon as the bell rings, I am living up to my NEW to-do list, which has NOTHING to do with anything essential, at least in the traditional way.

I will:
  1. Laugh
  2. Work out
  3. Eat something healthy and good
  4. Enjoy the hint of summer swirling around
  5. Go see my friends
  6. Laugh more
  7. Give good hugs
  8. Steal a kiss

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

In Which Dani Travels to an Unknown and Intimidating Land of Mirriors, Plastic, and White, Fluffy Fabric

Confession #1: I've never been inside a David's Bridal before.
Confession #2: I've never bought a Bridal magazine.

These two truths might be the reasons why trying on bridesmaid dresses in a large, girl-centric store (as opposed to a small, boyish bridal store - I don't know what I'm talking about these days,) is such a challenge for me. Or maybe it's because the walls are LINED with mirrors, and there are little pedestals on which you're supposed to stand and knock everyone senseless with your beauty, but I just get up there and feel weird. WHY is everybody looking at me?! Go about your business, please. Dress shopping is not for the faint of heart or the shy.

Anyways. So we walk into this strange land of large poofy dresses encased in plastic, softspoken ladies, monochromatic bridesmaid dresses in every possible color... and mirrors. Did I mention the mirrors already? Because it's OUT OF CONTROL. The doors are mirrored, the walls are mirrored, I'm pretty sure there are mirrors attached to the price tags, should you desire an itsy-bitsy glance at yourself. If you're at all insecure about anything on your body, you should just leave now, because it's will be shown off in glaring detail from several angles.

Be that as it may, I tried on a couple of cute flowy numbers with little straps that went with my comfort zone. "OK," I thought. "This works. These are short, they have straps. I can do this."

Then the Bride says, "I'm not crazy about straps..." at which point my face falls and I look around in terror at the many mirrors and my sweet bikini-strap tan lines from too many hours on the kayak and by the pool.

So we try on the long, a-line strapless dresses, and even though my bikini lines need some work, one look at the Bride's face tells me that this is THE dress. And you know what? I'm OK with that. This is her vision of the wedding she's always dreamed of, and I'm so excited to get to be a part of it - even if that includes braving the world of plastic and straps and tulle and and scary bras and all kinds of fabric-y terms that I don't understand.

Monday, May 12, 2008

This Love

In a darkened bar, a line of young people wait eagerly around an inflatable kiddie pool. Ranging from probably 16 years old to late 20s, they are all races and backgrounds, both sexes. Some guys have the tight button-down Volcom shirt and shaved head of a dressed-up surfer, some sport the shaggy locks and tight jeans of wanna-be rock stars. The girls are huddled together with towels around their shoulders and grins on their faces, wearing cute tanktops and headbands to hold back their soon-to-be-soaked hair.

The disco balls hanging from the ceiling reflect dim light onto the water and the crowd shifts as we stand and stretch up from our bar stools and couches for a better view. The band starts with an acoustic strum and an invitation from the stage into “new life” – and we watch as smiling people kneel in a tiny pool and are asked a serious, life-changing question: do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God and your savior?

We see the steadfastness in their eyes. These are the discounted, a group of MySpacers, college kids and wait staff, members of a lost generation who’ve been romanced by a love that their peers find laughable. They are standing up, so to speak, courageously announcing their change of heart in a dim bar on a Sunday night, going into a few feet of water as a nervous new believer and coming up to the cheers, music and applause of their new-found family.

We can’t wipe the grins off our faces as they come up and are wrapped in warm towels and big hugs. We are singing, clapping, dancing – celebrating a life rescued and a Love found. This is RockHarbor at the Shark Club – where God is found in the unconventional and Church is not a place but a relationship.

Despite the fact that we don’t know their names, we have a community in this rag-tag bunch of believers. It’s not fake or imposed – I don’t have delusions of best-friend-ship with the couple sitting beside us with whom we shared pleasantries – but I got an authentic glimpse at a Love that transcends age and culture and music tastes. A Love that supports even those we don’t know because of the divine romance we find ourselves in.

This Love changes lives. I hear a lot about how scared we should be, how bad everything is, and how the world is going to hell. Maybe so, but I have a feeling that we’re not done here yet. This Love is strong enough even for this generation, and I got to see it first-hand.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Tyrone Wells - Live at the Coach House

I went on one of the most awesome dates of my life last night. Tyrone Wells played at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano, and Adam and I went to get wowed once again.

He did not disappoint. The man is an amazing singer/songwriter, hilarious storyteller, and great entertainer. I'd never seen him with his whole band before, (last time we saw him, it was in his "home turf" - Plush Cafe in Fullerton - which tops the charts for weirdly bright decor and only holds about 50 people - a totally different vibe from the full band and bar at CH).

I've never been a celebrity follower, (it took me until J.Lo actually had a child to figure out that the GFY rumors were just messing with me,) and while most of my girlfriends will beguile time at the beach or pool with a gossip rag, I'm much more likely to be seen with a fat novel, recent news or a writing magazine. I have to be honest, though, and admit that I am a sold-out Tyrone groupie.

I've learned also, that I should listen to (and become groupies of?) the people who he shares the spotlight with... Amber Rubarth and Jason Reeves were fantastic as well.

ps - Thanks to Adam for being a great date and equally enthusiastic live music lover... at least somebody else feels the need to move to the beat and not sit woodenly like these boring Californians...

ps #2 - We didn't have a camera... but the Blackberry did pretty good at catching the moment:


What a great night.

Monday, May 5, 2008

"Eating is so exciting!"*

In honor of my dear Julie, who will be coming out to the Sunshine State in T-minus One Month, and who gets rightfully excited about all the great things that there are to eat in the world, I've compiled a by-no-means comprehensive list of the incredible eats that abound here in the OC. (She told me to make a list. I can't help myself.)

Also, this is a way to bribe all of you who have not yet purchased tickets to come see me, to do so ASAP. I have fish tacos. And the best bagel sandwiches ever. AND A BEACH, complete with kayak. Come, come.

Fantastic Eating Place #1: Chronic Tacos.
This is probably my f
avorite place. Here's what I wrote for my "Hungry? Thirsty?" review: "This is Saturday afternoon OC at its finest. Even when popping with people, the atmosphere is relaxed and beachy, and servers and clients alike are friendly and unhurried. It definitely has a local vibe, as most people walk right in and order without a glance at the menu, but not before saying 'Hi' to several other regulars and neighbors. Business people stand comfortably next to beach bums, and everybody walks out with full tummies." My personal favorite thing is the Pollo Asada Burrito with black beans and rice, cheese, guacamole, onions, cilantro, cabbage and green sauce. By the time you've powered through all that, it's time to move up a size and go take a siesta on the beach.

Fantastic Eating Place #2: Golden Spoon
This is definitely a girl place. The yogurt is so cool and delicious and has only 68 calories per 8 oz. of creamy goodness. And they have sprinkles. 'Nuff said.

Fantastic Eating Place #3: Pedro's Tacos
I kinda like Mexican Food. Pedro's is a total dive, but also the BEST baja fish tacos I have EVER had. Two corn tortillas, a giant piece of fried fish, creamy baja sauce and fresh cabbage. Adam and I have made a tradition of getting them after kayaking, and it is the best combo on the planet. Combined with a healthy, kayak-induced hunger, a soft coastal breeze, a Diet Coke and some extra hot sauce... heck yes.

Fantastic Eating Place #4: The Bagel Shack
I love bagels. It's a starchy indulgence that I will never give up. I have loved many bagel-ries in my long and illustrious bagel-eating career, but so far, the Shack tops them all. Styled after a classic Tiki Hut, the Shack is a wonderland of fresh-baked bagels, tan, hungry, sandy-footed beach bums and open-air, Saturday morning chillaxing. Every bagel sandwich is named after a famous local surf spot, and their OJ is seriously the freshest-tasting, most incredible stuff ever. My fave? A Cheddar bagel with "Trestles": ham, pepper jack cheese, onion, pepper, and guacamole.

Fantastic Eating Place #5: JC Beans
Best coffee in South County. Hands down. Unlike Starbucks, you don't need a quad-shot in a 16 oz., their espresso is so good that three does the job easily. The baristas are friendly, the outside is hand-muraled, and the inside looks like C.S. Lewis' study would if he lived at the beach. And it's a block from my house and cheaper than the 'Bucks. Delicious.

Fantastic Eating Place #5: Sonny's Pizzeria and Pasta
I like to say that this is where Adam and I had our first date. At least it's the first time that I remember knowing for pretty dang sure that he wasn't just a friend. I ordered a beer and he told me later he was very relieved that I was a "cool girl". (As if he didn't know that already! ;) Anyway, it's a very cute hole-in-the-wall pizza joint, the kind with busty waitresses, probably not-so-distant mob connections, twinkle lights and great food. Also, it's known to attract pretty people, (I mean, obviously, Adam goes there, Bah-dum-ching!) as the last time we ate there we saw this guy, in the flesh.

Fantastic Eating Place #6: El Mariachi
I warned you I liked Mexican food. El Mariachi doesn't have a website, but that's just because their food is so freaking fantastic they don't need one. And they have a "Grotto De Amor" and great margaritas, so it's pretty much my favorite restaurant.

Fantastic Eating Place #7: Mosun's
We started going to Mosun's because they have 50% off on Wednesdays and Fridays, and Adam eats a lot. It is a seriously swanky sushi bar (try saying that five times fast,) that opens into a dance club at night. It's also located in downtown Laguna Beach, which is touristy and fun to wander around in... especially when you save room for a stroll to the gelato shop down the way and a walk on Main Beach. Tip: try the Firecracker Roll. It's fantastic.

Fantastic Eating Place #8: The Chart House, Dana Point
High-class steak house with a multi-million dollar view of the Harbor and some killer mixed drinks. Take your girlfriend there for her birthday and it will melt her heart. Just sayin'.

Fantastic Eating Place #9: The Yard House
Now, I know there are Yard Houses everywhere, and I did my best to keep chains out of this list. However, this is a great place. I love the Snakebite (half Carlsberg, half cider) and many a memorable talk has been had sitting outside, at night, on heavy teak furniture over a pint or two. One of my favorite times was in Shoreline Village in Long Beach, after a long day working the Motorcycle Show, kicking back, watching the lights on the water and having a beer with one of the best sports I know.

Fantastic Eating Place #10: Waffle Lady
As of last week, this place now shares facilities with a BBQ joint, but I'm sure it's still amazing. The last time I went I got the Cinn-A-Wonderful Waffles, which were just that. Wonderful. Light, melt-in-your-mouth waffles loaded with cinnamon and walnuts with cream and syrup on the side for a drench-your-own experience. Like a cinnamon roll, only better (and more waffle-y). If that's not adventurous enough,
Waffles with everything from chocolate chips to cheddar cheese and jalapeno also smell great, although I haven't tried them all.

*A direct quote from Julie, circa junior year or so.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Because the Big D did it...

If my brother (Denver, aka the Big D, aka Mountaineer Extraordinaire, aka Chelsea's Husband,) does anything on these here internetz, you know it's a momentous occasion. If he responds to what is the equivalent of family-created Spam, you should look up, because the moon is probably crossing with a star and a universe is colliding and crazy things are happening in the cosmos.

So, I had to fill this out as well, just to keep the family trend going. Mine won't be as entertaining as my bro's, but you can read that here.

Two Names You Go By:
1. Dani Lin
2. DC (Dani California)
Two Things You are Wearing Right Now:
1. My favorite khakis
2. Cute blue Hurley shoes - yeah Hurley outlet sale!
Two things you expect in a relationship
1. I'm going to assume this means romantic, so I'll say that he should treat me like I'm special... open my door, want to spend time with me, every now and then I'm up for a little spoiling... :) However, girlfriends, you don't have to get my door. WE can just hang out and talk. Preferably at Pei Wei over free refills. Some of my best girl-talks have happened there...
2. Great character
Two of Your Favorite Things to do
1. Ocean kayaking
2. Reading a good book while outside under the sun shade, or laying on the beach, or curled up on the couch with a cup of coffee, or while trying to tell myself that my legs really don't hurt that bad and I can go another 20 minutes at the gym.
Two Things You Want Very Badly at the Moment:
1. to go outside
2. a 16 oz triple-shot Almond/Vanilla latte from JC Beans.
Two pets you had/have:
1. Well, I've kind of adopted George. He's my neighbor's cat, but he likes my porch better than his own, and I don't mind. He likes to play with my feet as I come in and out of the Bower, and he likes his tummy scratched. Oh, and his name's not really George. It's Rusty. But I think we all can agree that George has way more character than that.
2. I have kitties and a dog in Oregon that are pretty dang cute too.
Two people you know will fill this out
1. I'm cheating. Jocelyn, because she sent it to Denver...
2. and Denver.
Two Things You Did Last Night
1. Went to Pei Wei with Donna and had girl talk.
2. Talked to Adam and had not-girl-talk.
Two Things You Ate Last Night:
1. Chicken Teriyaki Bowl from Pei Wei
2. Hot Chocolate because when I got home I had left my windows open and it was FREEZING.
Two People you Talked With Last Night
1. I already answered this, yo.
2. I did talk to George, too, though.
Two Things You're Doing Tomorrow:
1. Working from home (yay!)
2. Going to Fuel
Two Longest Car Rides:
1. Oregon to Abilene, Texas.
2. OC to Fort Worth, Texas.
Two Favorite Holidays:
1. Christmas
2. Memorial Day. :)
Favorite Beverages:
1. I always say coffee and Diet Coke, so I'm gonna get creative. Heineken.
2. OJ from the Bagel Shack

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Hey Mr. Grumpy Gills...

"You know what you gotta do when life starts getting you down? Just keep swimming..."

I will openly admit that I'm grumpy today. I don't want to keep swimming, I don't want you to tell me it'll be OK, I don't want you tell me it won't be OK, I want to be alone, I want to be with people, I want chocolate, I feel fat. All of you Internet ladies, (and non-Internet ladies, too, but I can't really talk to you, no offense,) know EXACTLY what I'm talking about. Unfortunately, the Internet gentlemen don't, because guys are the most even-keel creatures on the planet, a fact that is currently very infuriating to someone who feels so very out-of-joint.

My day got off to an ugly start. I fell asleep to the soothing sounds of the Pilot episode of Lois and Clark - remember the one where the space station is going to cure sick kids but Lex Luthor wants to kill them instead and somehow make money on this nefarious plan while Lois tries to stop him by bossing Clark and his swishy man-hair around and pretending like she isn't bewitched by his adorable smile and big super-muscles? That one?

Anyways, I woke up this morning... Lois and Clark were long since vanished, my laptop having breathed its desperate last breath, begging for electricity, sometime in the night. The sunshine streaming in my window seemed awfully bright for 5:30, and I was just wondering why my light was still on when it hit me. IT'S 6:30. As in, a half hour after I was supposed to leave, and I yelled a grown-up word on my way to the bathroom. I got to work about a half-hour late, did not get to take Rocky to the shop before and so had to do so on my lunch break, and have felt crummy ever since.

But here's the good news:
Rocky will soon have fresh oil, rotated tires and a clean countenance, for which I'm sure he will thank me.
Work is just work, and staying a half-hour later tonight won't kill me.
I'm going to eat chocolate. Fat or no fat.

"Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming..."

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Next Stop, Wedded Bliss

Over the last few weeks or so, I've been surrounded by "getting-ready-to-be-married-and-be-blissfully-happy-forever-and-in-the-
meantime-try-on-dresses-and-buy-flowers-which-is-also-fun." people.

I've been helping ne of my good friends (whose getting married in May in Malibu,) with her invites and decorations, one of my closest friends from college just got engaged a couple of weeks ago, and another dear friend just got engaged this past weekend.

I've been asked to be bridesmaid in Megan's (September in Dallas) and Kirsten's (November in California). It's Bunny Season. No other explanation needed.

Maybe some other time I'll post Phil and Kirsten's (lovingly called Phirsten) proposal story, because it's really very sweet and I love these kinda things and I really don't even know myself anymore because I cry all the time and am somehow old enough to have married friends. Plus, Adam took some sneaky video of the moment itself and it is PRICELESS.

But today, I'd just like to say what an incredible experience it is to be asked to be a bridesmaid for a good friend. When both Megan and Kirsten asked, I openly squealed and got emotional - I couldn't help it. Asking "will you be my bridesmaid?" is the question that sums up all the years of friendship and sisterhood, the moments of laughter and tears, the shared fears and "boy talks" that seem so silly now that you actually have a ring on your finger and a man that's all your own.

Being a bridesmaid is more than holding a bouquet, shopping for dresses or standing on a stage. It's a send-off, a gift of support and encouragement for a new life and love.

The most incredible gift imaginable for a woman is when a strong man promises to devote his life and strength to her, asking only that she partner with him in return. Us girls get teary (or maybe that's just me, like I said, this new Crying Dani plays by different rules,) at our friends' engagements because it speaks to our deepest places - those dreams, once awakened, strike chords in us we didn't even know were there.

I'm honored to stand by you girls and send you off. I'm honored that you would count me as a friend worthy of supporting you on the biggest day of your life. You are intoxicating, beautiful, alluring, Godly women whose moment has come and I'm so proud to be your friend.

Just for good measure, here's a picture to ease your curiosity. See what lengths I go to for you? Enjoy:

Kirsten and I in New Orleans, March 2008

Megan and I, playing with flashlights, Thanksgiving 2006. (We spent a few days together this Thanksgiving too, but neither one of us are good at taking pictures. Shopping and talking was really more of a priority. Sorry that the picture's a little outdated - new, fresh photos soon to come.)

Friday, April 18, 2008

"Somebody Hates These Cans!"

  • The other night Adam and I watched The Jerk, which is one of his all-time favorite movies. Now when he tells me that the "first day was like a week," or yells about the phone book, I get it. It's the little things...
  • Today, I bought a latte from JC Beans, my favorite coffee place. I got distracted at work this morning and let about half of it get cold, so I went to the kitchen to nuke it. I pushed "beverage" on the microwave and ran to the restroom while it heated. When I came back, my glorious 16-oz quad shot 1 % half-vanilla, half almond latte had EXPLODED all over the office microwave. Needless to say, I've been inconsolable.
  • Today we went out for a "team lunch" at work. I feel so young at those things. And not in like a "you're young and creative and fresh!" way, but in a "you're young and dumb and need a manicure" way. Work is weird.
  • Last night I did announcements at Fuel. I was so nervous and scared and miserable about it that I tried to get out of it and might have even cried a little. I did okay, though. I didn't fall on anyone or burp into the mic or say anything too horribly embarrassing about myself. So that's good.
  • I have a box of Girl Scout shortbread cookies in my desk. This is DEADLY, people. Don't do it. Your body will hate you.
  • Speaking of bodies, I have really weird man-related experiences every time I go to the gym. For instance, last night, I'm on an EMPTY ROW of ellipticals, when the Unabomber comes up to take a turn RIGHT NEXT to me. I'm not kidding - black hoodie sweatshirt with hood on, dark sunglasses, the whole bit. I guess doing shady things at night requires great legs. So that was weird, but if you're working out in a hoodie, your judgment on which machine to pick might be a little clouded as well. But then, Shady Guy leaves, and who comes in but Sweatband Guy - complete with nylon running shorts from 1986, a tanktop, and very hairy, sweaty underarms, which he feels the need to stretch in my direction. HONESTLY?! You can have a whole row to yourself, people. Explore the space! Also, can we maybe try to get away from extremes and just work out in something normal... like a t-shirt? Maybe that's too much to ask...
  • I got the second pedicure of my life last weekend. It was great. I'm a girl, and I like having pink toes in the summertime. There, I've said it.
  • It's Friday. :) :) :) :) :)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Power of "Hi"

Today one of my co-workers saw me eating pita chips at my desk and wondered how fattening they were. I declared that I can eat the whole bag while sitting inertly at my desk, and not gain a pound. He doubts me. However, I am determined to prove him wrong, so I will eat an entire bag of pita chips in a selfless quest for truth.

Speaking of talking, I don't really. Seriously. Up until the last month or so, I really didn't talk to anyone at work outside of the occasional "hi" in the kitchen or report in the weekly staff meeting. I'm coming out of my shell now, and it's kind of nice to have more to my day than just getting things done.

Talking in the office is always weird though. I think we all feel as though it's just a giant elevator, so nothing can get too specific or meaningful - but that's not really the point. The point is that it's nice to be noticed, even if it's just a "hi".

When we were in New Orleans, our team said hi to EVERYBODY. Even introverts like yours truly were breaking out of our shells and chattin' it up to the best of our limited small-talk knowledge. Granted, people in the South are easier to talk to. I was much more likely to ask the sweet-faced check-out girl in Abilene about her day than I am to strike up a conversation with the high-maintenance, skimpily-clad diva in front of me in line, buying something non-fat and playing languidly with her cell phone. BUT, stereotypes aside, I do believe that people often live up to our expectations. This week, I did brave the "OC girl" fear by saying something friendly while in line, and was surprised to be greeted with a smile and some chatty conversation in return.

I'm the worst offender, but it bothers me that we so often walk right by our fellow travelers as though they were a tree or a bush or... nothing at all. When did it become OK to just not see people - to the point where if, on a rare occasion, someone holds the door or an elevator or makes eye contact I suddenly feel so valued?

This is my new resolve: to brave the SoCal masks and try to see people. It's a silly thing, but it might make someone feel better - I know it does for me. "Hi" is a powerful little word.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

How I Find Purpose, Fulfillment and a Reason to Get Up in the Morning

This email totally made my day. Right now, it's taped to my cabinets at work and highlighted in key hilarious places - an ever-shining testament to the IQs of our readership.

I like how he feels legitimately upset that his truck is not a boat, and his best insult is "stupid comes to my mind them".

E-mail, angrily entitled: "the public needs to know"

Hi my mane is Dave
I own a 2001 dodge ram 1500. lifted with off road tires, well I decided to go 4x4 ing with it last weed end well we went out had some fun in the mud, played for about 2 hours, well I got stuck in the mud and water imagion that. ?
as I was getting pulled out got muddy and wet had the time of my life playing in the mud.
I started to drive home it was about 2 hours home, my truck started overheating, and trannie oil started to spray all over my exhaust, needs less to say I barly made it home.
I sent the truck in to the shop to have it looked at well they called me back and said the hole system trannie transfercase differentials were full of water?? well to my suprise my truck is not water proof ??????
Who makes a truck that cant drive in a couple feet of water and mud , so I find out after 3100.00 dollars later I realize dodge trucks have vents in the tranny and transfercase to let out warm air, so I suck and what an idot I never though that the new trucks are not made for 4x4 ing?????
what kind of thinking dose the designers who make 4x4 trucks are they People that have no idea what 4x4ing can consist of .... stupid comes to my mind them for putting vents in to a place that can get water and me for not realizing that they dont know @#$% about what they are designing.
I am working on a design to fix that problem with the vent issue,, I am not mr know it all but is there an easier way to fix my truck to stop that water problem?????
by pluging or extending the vents some where , the water will not make it????
thanks for listing
dave

Let this be a lesson to you, kids: They people don't know nothin', and watch out when you're 4x4ing on the weed ends. Oh, and my mane is Dave.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Different Kind of Hunger

When we set off for New Orleans, I was starved for community. Not the kind of gentle, unobtrusive, Sunday-morning community that gives wimpy hand-shakes and makes small-talk, but the kind of gritty, heart-felt community that knows each other on a deep, dangerous level. The kind of community that is entertained by bouncy-balls and air-guns, can make fun of ourselves and each other in love, and is real enough to admit when we've screwed up or when we realize something Big. In Dangerous Community, you have to be honest, because we'll call your bluff. We also know how to encourage you right where you need it most, because we've seen those achey parts of you in a personal way and we know your strengths and weaknesses.

Dangerous Community is terrifying, I think for everybody, but I know for me. My roommates used to tease me about keeping secrets from them, but I swear it's not intentional. I just don't tell people things. It's always been hard for me to share myself with others, but oddly enough, what I fight hardest is what I'm most hungry for.

I was scared, though, I have to admit. I loved everybody going on the New Orleans trip, but what if they found out things about me that made me unlovable? What if I take too long in the shower or say something awkward or fail at a task and they decide I'm not worth it anymore?

By 24 hours into the trip, I was starting to thaw. A week in, and I was choking back tears in front of 16 people who I had finally let in. It wasn't so much that I hadn't cared for them before, or that they hadn't tried to get close, it was more that my hunger for Dangerous Community overcame my fear of it, and I finally stopped trying to achieve love and just let it happen.

This has happened before. I remember "giving in" to my Roommates, Oxford schoolmates and wrangler buddies, some with more grace than others. Maybe someday I'll learn not to fight it, but embrace the thrill of Dangerous Community in all of its scary, satisfying glory.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Munchies

"I had so many things to say, and no one to listen." - Jerry Maguire

However, my dear readers, that is why we have our good friend, Internet. Here I can blab to my heart's content and comfort myself with the thought that perhaps my ramblings entertained someone in their oppressingly gray cubicle or lonely boat at sea (hooked up to Wi-Fi of course, who isn't these days?) or.... something.

I have more to tell you about New Orleans, too, but today I'm too scatter-brained, and it's too close to Quittin' Time to write anything of any real importance, so we're left with whatever pops into my head, which today, as with most days, is food.

I have a few signature foods which I have loved since college (when I started shopping for myself and learned the hard way that Oreos for dinner do not a happy tummy make).

Here are a few, along with whatever memory is associated first.

Cheez-Its and Diet Coke - a classic pairing. This will do for any meal of the day, in-between meal snack, late-night snack.. you name it. I've eaten this so many times that a specific memory is difficult, but I do recall one time at the Opinion Desk at the Optimist with a 20 oz Diet Coke and 16 oz box of said crunchy cracker, and eating myself into a cheese-induced haze. Jaci and Sarah ate some too, and I'm pretty sure their contributions saved my life.

Mother's Frosted Circus Animal Cookies - probably my favorite cookies of all time. They also taste better when they're red, white and blue for Fourth of July in August, because then they're on sale. I had just finished a bag of these a while back, and had not gotten enough pink and white goodness. I decided it was a great idea to pour the remaining sprinkles and frosting dust in the general direction of my face. (Note that I did not say mouth. That didn't happen.) I'm still picking up sprinkles off my floor. Sexy, I know.

Teddy Grahams - This is all the reason you need to love Teddy Grahams. Also, they come in those great Travel Sack things, and I used to stick them in my backpack and eat them... well... every few minutes until they were all gone. One time I tried to get into the bag quietly while in class. Oh, not just class. Comm Law class. The hardest class of a journalism major's dreary college career. I don't know why everybody stopped and looked when I finally got it out and started munching. I think they were just jealous.

Black Pepper and Olive Oil Triscuits and Pepper Jack Cheese* - Probably the best wheat and dairy product combo ever created. It's like the fields and farms of Iowa got married and produced a delicious, spicy taste sensation just for us. Adam and I ate an entire box of these crackers and a whole package of cheese somewhere in the New Mexico desert on our 24-hour haul from California to Texas, and we still devour it as often as possible. Last weekend we also paired it with some quality summer sausage, and our mouths did little dances of joy.

*Word to the wise - this combo, though delicious and totally worth it, will wreck your breath for at least a day and a half. Either get your significant other hooked also, or indulge yourself on nights alone with American Idol.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Bruce (A Portrait from New Orleans)

He's a large man, with thick, muscular arms and legs that seem better suited for a bouncer at a Bourbon Street bar than a humble volunteer cook. As we walk into the BridgeHouse, (an alcohol and drug recovery center) he greets us with a smile and an invitation into the "Cage" where food is kept for distribution.

"This's where ah live," he says with a wink, as he pulls the chain-link gate open. As we walk in, we see boxes of crackers, granola bars, canned goods and countless other food items stacked from floor to almost-ceiling. He explains to us that BridgeHouse receives far more donated food than they can use, so they share with the churches and shelters in the community whatever they can.

"That's what y'all'r here to help me with," He says, leading the way into an enclosed room in the Cage. As soon as we walk in the room, the smell of old milk and the disorganized jumble of food containers assaults our senses.

"Ah've gotten a lil' behind," Bruce says, somewhat shamefacedly, leaning down to pick up a can of tomatoes off the floor.

Like most "Big Easy" natives, he likes to talk, and as he tells stories about BridgeHouse and New Orleans, we set to work on the disarray. He openly shares that he made some bad choices, which is how he ended up in BridgeHouse. He's been here five years off and on, and is proud of his sobriety and management of the kitchen. He talks almost nonchalantly about his old "using" lifestyle, saying, "I'm allergic to Cocaine, I break out in handcuffs."

When one of our team - still overwhelmed by the stories we're hearing - fails to smile, he points a meaty finger her direction with a playful grin. "That was funny!" He says, chuckling at his own joke. His laughter is infectious and we all join in.

He decides that since we're "from the big city in California an' all," we probably like hip-hop rather than the country radio station he had playing. Soon, scratchy hip-hop beats is blasting from his ancient boom-box, and we laugh. He's constantly being called away for questions and advice, and deals with everyone who comes by with grace and dignity. When he comes back to the cage from one such call, he is shocked to find us sweeping up rat droppings, hauling boxes and throwing away bad food, every now and then taking a few-second dancing break when the mood strikes.

"Whoa!" He says, trying to imitate some dance moves and laughing at us good-naturedly. "Too bad they don't got this piped through Naw'lans, or y'all'd 'ave the whole city rebuilt."

Bruce is trying to get his cooking certification through a local culinary arts school, and these dented, donated cans mean much more to him than someone's leftovers. He taps the labels, planning menus out loud for the residents of BridgeHouse and the homeless community they feed every Tuesday and Thursday. "We eat a lot o' that," he says, waving a case of peanut butter back onto the shelf. He comes over with a case of canned peaches. "Take this'n out, ma'am," he says to me. "They need these at that church."

Within a few hours, we've loaded two church vans and a small school bus with food, cleaned the cage and taught Bruce some sweet moves as an added bonus. He gives us (and anyone else who comes by) some cold bottles of Sunny D-type stuff, and we take a break to cool off and talk, sitting around on cases of green beans and lounging against metal shelving.

Like most people from New Orleans, Bruce is a drawling storyteller with a wealth of life experience and colorful characters to liven it. We're drawn into his tales, not just because they're interesting, but because he shows such a depth of faith. His stories casually reveal that he's had some tough times, but we don't hear bitterness or "why me?" - just a desire to keep others from the same mistakes.

Before we know it, it's time to leave the Cage for lunch. It's touching to help the men of the BridgeHouse serve a hot lunch to the homeless men and women - who are daily, flesh-and-blood reminders of where they come from.

Bruce is a gentle giant and seems to be everywhere at once. He's kind and caring to those whom he serves, greeting everyone with hearty handshakes and easy-going generosity, but willing to throw his weight around if necessary. When he feels one of the BridgeHouse guys gets "fresh" with a girl on our team, it's clear that he doesn't take any guff.

Redemption is a running theme with Bruce and those at the BridgeHouse. The homeless who are there for a free lunch, the men who have checked themselves into BridgeHouse to "get clean" the church volunteers who come to pick up food, all have a story of how the old is gone and the new has come. In this place, Christ is not a pie-in-the-sky, unreachable, church-nut God. He is here, making red beans and rice, handing out fake Sunny D, in our "how are you, sir?" and our smiles.

It takes courage for us to bridge the age, cultural and racial gaps that seem so broad at first. There are moments when I don't know what to say or how to feel. When we're done, Bruce gathers us, with bear hugs for the girls and strong handshakes for the men.

"Y'all come back anytime," he says, giving us each a stern look in the eye so we know he means it. "I had so much fun with y'all..."

We take a picture together and he insists that we send him a copy, telling us that he has a few, and they help him remember to pray for people. I don't feel worthy of his praying for me.

As I write this, I want to go back. I feel like I don't do enough in my everyday life, like one trip wasn't enough. I want to see people as valued children of a living God, no matter how they've squandered that gift (in my oh-so-holy opinion). I want to look into people's eyes and really listen to them. I want to look at my pictures and pray for the people I love. I want to use these moments for good. I want to never forget how a burly ex-alcoholic made me feel.

L-R: Adam, Me, Bruce, Kenny, Christina. 2nd Row: Holli, Kara, Becky.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

I'm baaaaaaack! (you know you missed me...)


Hey peeps.

New Orleans was great. Beyond great. Fantastic. I'll tell you more as my thoughts swirl around in my head and finally make it out on paper, but until then, here's a couple of pics to tide you over.


This picture says: "New Orleans is pretty and we're tired!" Which about sums it up.

Honestly, though, it was a life-changing trip and I can't wait to share my still-getting-figured-out thoughts on all of it. I just wanted to post something and let you know that I'm back and my heart didn't stop from too much Creole.

More to come! Stay tuned...

Friday, March 21, 2008

Rarin' to go...

Finally, it's here! We're going to New Orleans! I'll write more over the weekend if I get a chance, but in the meantime, you can check our trip blog at http://fuelorangecounty.blogspot.com/

I'll try to update every day, and you can see a picture of our oh-so-handsome/gorgeous team.

Yahoo!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Like a Comet Pulled From Orbit, as it Passes the Sun...

Girl-friendship is a funny thing.*** I've had some amazing girlfriends in my life, despite my propensity for being closer to guys, being kinda tough to get to know, and not understanding the whole girl-talk thing in general.

When thrust into a vaguely acquainted-with or unknown set of girls, I feel like a lone dandelion bravely sprouting up through the cracked floor of a garden shop - I raise my little head and all I see is the weed-eaters, poisons, and lawnmowers that spell my early demise. Of course, I fail to notice the fertilizers and plant food, but my pessimism is a post for another day. The long and short of it is, I get scared.

However, despite being crazy, girls are amazing.** I have known some of the more fantastic ones in my extensive (ha) 24 years, and I'm blessed to count a few as the sisters I never knew I always wanted. I've been told three times in the last week by three different people that they've seen a change in me for the better. There's no greater compliment than that - and I'm pretty sure I owe most of it to my girls. (And Jesus, of course. Jesus in my girls, probably.)

This whole post was inspired by the news I got this morning that Julie, my very own roommate* of House 9 fame, is coming out to the Golden State to visit this summer. I CANNOT WAIT. I love showing off the things I love, and I love Julie, and having so many things I love in one place might just make my heart explode.

Anyway, I was sitting here, thinking about these great girls I've been close to for a long time and the ones who are just now becoming precious parts of my life. Thank you.
Thanks for coming into my dorm room at 1 am and convincing me that studying was lame, for forcing me to expand my movie horizons, for making me laugh more than anyone.
Thanks for encouraging me to write it down, no matter how foolish.
Thanks for endless hours tanning by the pool, sipping Diet Coke and sharing secrets.
Thanks for being outdoorsy and fun and sisterly.
Thanks for the long nights in the Optimist office, and your patience with my screwy InDesign lines.
Thanks for your fashion sense.
Thanks for baking cookies at midnight.
Thanks for carrying the paper with my anti-library-Starbucks column in it to the library Starbucks, and waving it nonchalantly under the barista's nose.
Thanks for the great pictures and deep understanding.
Thanks for the creative juices.
Thanks for Starbucks dances, holiday meals and Dallas shopping sprees.
Thanks for helping me navigate the deadly waters of relationships.
Thanks for trips to CostCo, being 1/2 of the Hot Ds, and making out with Park Newport.
Thanks for helping me find my Muse, for sharing music, for encouraging me, for seeing the beauty of shows like Smallville and Lois and Clark.
Thanks for defending me, supporting me and pulling me out of my shell.
Thanks for joining me in my OC/Ryan Atwood phase.
Thanks for Golden Spoon dates.
Thanks for "getting it".
Thanks for listening.

*Val, Kish and Julie will always be "roommate", no matter where we go. I think each of us have confused someone with this unconventional approach to nick names...
**I've not always thought so. But they are. Boys, you better be good to these girls!
***One last funny thing about girl-friendship. If I didn't get your specific memory or link on this list, please don't be hurt, offended or think I don't love you. I do. I promise I do. (Unless this is your first time here and I don't know you. That would be weird.) This was an off-the-top-of-my-head shout-out to my leading ladies and those who've recently been granted a slot in Dani's House of Jumbled Recollections. Enter at your own risk; if you're not here, chances are all you've missed out on is my driving your car like a truck, blathering on about some ridiculous problem, or freaking out because someone's nice to me. It's happened.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Therapy, Part Deux

So I've been thinking about what's therapeutic in my life, and have come up with a list of some things that make me sunshiney when I'm a tad blue. (Not really blue, blue like bummed. You probably knew that, but it is Friday, so I thought I'd clear it up, just to be sure.)

  • Writing, of course
  • Playing with Photoshop, drawing, being creative
  • Curling up on the couch with some coffee if it's cold and Diet Coke if it's warm, and a good book
  • Journaling
  • Smallville (I know, I know. It's cheesy and predictable and filled with horrible lines and unrequited high school love. But it has some golden moments, I have some great memories associated with watching the first couple of seasons, and I do love the Man of Steel.)
  • Driving PCH (Preferably without traffic... hint, hint, road construction)
  • A good talk with a good girlfriend, my mom or Adam
  • Ice cream. Always.
  • Flowers. Also always.
  • Cleaning the house. (I think this proves I have a dormant housewife inside somewhere - remember the mom on The Emperor's New Groove? "I need to clean something!")
  • Tanning. Whether it's laying on the beach, at the pool, or even fake baking, acquiring skin cancer and great legs at the same time is AWESOME.
  • Showers. I love showers. I think it kinda comes hand-in-hand with my soap/shampoo/smelly things fetish.
  • So, I'll admit it. Trying new (expensive and smelly) soap/shampoo makes me happy.
  • Hot tubs. I don't get to do this often enough. But when I do....
  • Swimming in ocean/kayaking/being outside is great. I don't know if it should technically be listed as therapy, since I don't exactly finish a hard day at work and think, "I'm gonna go take a dip!" But maybe I should start. Anyway, it's all awesome and should be included in every list.
  • Cooking for someone who appreciates it. (Adam)
  • Shopping. I know! I'm such a girl. I... like to shop. I'm trying to come up with excuses, but I can't. I know it's pathetic and OC-ish of me. I'm sorry. But I do like it.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Therapy

One of my friends has recently started reading my blog - or at least has just let me know that he is...

At any rate, he made the comment to me that he liked reading it to "get inside your head... I can tell it's really good/therapeutic for you to write that stuff." Now, this made me a little squeamish, as I've written about what makes me sneeze or cry, compulsively buying home supplies, blueberry muffin weather, and most recently, making out with an apartment complex, none of which cater to the higher kinds of tastes that I should be aiming to satisfy.

I imagine Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Victor Hugo, C.S. Lewis, George MacDonald and countless other of my personal influencers and heroes sitting down at the old-fashioned blog of their day and spewing out wise sayings, witty, hilarious thoughts and jaw-dropping insights with a flick of their fountain pen. Was writing therapeutic for them?

I hate to admit it, but these silly ramblings are good for me. Blogging or writing something, no matter how dumb, is often the highlight of my day, and I wonder where this compulsion comes from.

I remember writing a "book" as a child about a cat. I think her name was Spotty, after the very creatively-titled white-and-orange-spotted feline who wandered into our lives just long enough to have kittens and wander out again. I don't remember anything about it, other than I was very proud of my illustration abilities and my title, which was... ...wait for it: "Cat Tails". I know. I kill me.

Anyway, my first attempt never got picked up by a publisher, Oprah never needed this child prodigy on her show, and I've sunk into a blissful oblivion, writing away whenever I feel the need and enjoying the relatively calm buzz of seeing your work online.

As much as I dream of being the next Bronte or Austen, these ramblings are OK with me for now. I hope that my heroes forgive me a little public therapy... ...and that you will too. Thanks again for listening.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

There's a Spring in My Step

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to share with you all the glad tidings that Lady Spring has finally arrived. I got such a kick out of my my sister-in-law's Spring-y observation of Portland versus our colder native habitat, that I simply must share: "I'm enjoying getting to "know" Portland. I learned there IS such a thing a Spring!! I always wondered why Easter was marked by a white bunny hopping around in green grass with a basket of yellow flowers, instead of grunge-haired cow stuck mid-belly in brown snowbank. Or... maybe it's just a matter of marketing."

Hee. Love it. While the beauty of mountain-range wildflowers is made all the sweeter by the memory of last month's "grunge-haired cows" - it is an incredible phenomenon to this country girl to see flowers popping out of perfectly groomed medians and hillsides bursting into bloom, accompanied by 70-degree temperatures and the insatiable desire to cook my skin at the beach. (Unfortunately, the water temperature hasn't quite caught up with the sunshine - it's still a brisk 58 degrees. I say, being the tough girl that I am, that if any part of me is blue, or if I wish I could wear two wet suits, or if after five minutes in the water I start hallucinating about being a survivor of the Titanic, it's too soon to get in. It's too soon.)

This weekend, Hot Donna and I had our traditional Hot D Summertime Activity: Making Out with Park Newport.* It was beyond amazing, although I did realize that the rainy weather diet of Oreos and Cheeseburgers doesn't work as well in a bikini. Spring Resolution now formed!

Also this weekend, Hot Adam** and I went hiking of off Highway 74 in the Ortegas. Whenever I get pictures off the camera, maybe I'll post a couple. It was gorgeous and freeing and exactly where one should be in the Springtime with someone you love.

So that's the moral of this story. Even though Springing Forward leaves an hour of sleep to be desired, Spring is a fantastic season and you should go out and enjoy it.

*Park Newport is the incredibly posh apartment complex where D lives - it's basically like living at the Hilton, with less luggage-hauling through gigantic lobbies. Making out is not really making out - it's laying out and getting tan - but making out is funnier.
**Not normally what I call BF (although it is apt) but like the above explanation, this too is funnier. I'm all about funny today. It's Tuesday and you still haven't given me any new blog ideas. So there.

Friday, March 7, 2008

And Though You Protest Your Disinterest, I Know Clandestinely...

Why do we still long to be popular? Why do we want so badly to be liked?

I was asking myself that I wandered the floor of a trade show today, feeling distinctly out-of-place and far from accepted. I stood in a group of my colleagues, wondering why suddenly my hair felt really big, my shirt (unflattering as it is, thanks, man-clothes,) felt even more boxy, and I wondered if I looked as inept as I felt. I'm here to cover the show - covering being the journalistic term used for fast writing and desperate quote-seeking. As Ike Graham said in Runaway Bride: "Journalism is literature in a hurry," and nowhere is that more true than when covering a trade show for an online publication.

When I step back and look at the situation, I see my insecurity for what it is - a foolish indulgence of my own fears. I know, in my head, that I'm a competent writer and editor, that I can hold my own in this industry and that I don't really care about what people think. I know that I have good friends, a great family, a wonderful boyfriend and a blessed life.

So someone please explain to me why the coldness of my colleagues leaves such a mark on my spirits. Why can't I live in what I know versus how I feel?

We're sharing the Convention Center with a Cheer/Dance competition this weekend, and walking past these societal microcosms reminds me of how I felt as a gangly teenager (or 24-year-old... I mean, what? I'm totally secure.) watching the pretty, confident girls strut their stuff and giggle their way into popularity with a toss of their impeccable hair.

I feel the same ache when my colleagues leave me behind as I did on the playground as a child. Don't we outgrow this stuff? Aren't I mature enough to not compare myself to "perfect" bodies and clusters of friends?

Here's what I know - I am a daughter of the King. I am loved and created uniquely for a divine purpose that I am still discovering. Now I just have to walk out and live in that truth... simple, right?

PS - Sorry that this turned into a giant public therapy session - it probably wasn't the best idea to start writing "out loud", but it's done now. Thanks for "listening".

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Word Answer Girl

One of my friends recently discovered that I like words and stuff, (what? you don't read the AP Stylebook for fun?) and decided to ask me some English language questions, despite the fact that I occasionally say things like: "For reals."

Here is the transcription of our witty email banter - a testament to the joys of desk jobs and the weirdness of English in general. Enjoy:

----------------------

On Mon, Mar 3, 2008 at 7:53 AM, Phil Casalegno wrote:

Dani,
I have a question I have been meaning to ask you for a while and keep forgetting. Why is it that when authors write the past tense of words like leap they use leaped? Isn't 'lept' the proper past tense? Creap should be crept not creaped right, etc....
Random wonderings of Phil

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On Mon, Mar 3, 2008 at 1:07 PM, Dani Linthicum wrote:

Dear Random Wonderings,

You pose an excellent question. To be quite honest, I had not thought a great deal about the leapt/leaped phenomenon until you brought it to my attention... which makes me wonder what exactly you're trying to write. Is it for your Website bio? "Also, I've leapt/leaped great distances with little to no sweat coming from my super-manly pores."
Anyways. I digress.
I think "leapt" is more common in the UK, while "leaped" is the US spelling, cuz we talk good ovah heah. It is pronounced the same though.
(Also, you are right, that "creep" would be "crept", unless you were saying "That guy who doesn't sweat creeped me out!" in which case "crept" wouldn't work. Oh slang. You're so fun.)
That's my best shot.

~Word Answer Girl

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On Mon, Mar 3, 2008 at 2:02 PM, Phil Casalegno wrote:

Word Answer Girl,
What you wrote makes alot of sense, but it isn't what I have seen. The most common example I have seen has been the word sneak. Everytime I see this past tense it is written sneaked. "John sneaked down the hall" I have seen this in both UK and american writers. The creaped example was from a UK writer. Shouldn't sneaked be snuck? I admit that snuck is kind of an ugly-looking word, but we don't say digged unless we are from the south.
Random Wonderings

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On Mon, Mar 3, 2008 at 4:32 PM, Dani Linthicum wrote:

Random Wonderings,

I can see that you are a true student of language. I applaud you. However, I have researched sundry and dusty tomes to find the answer you seek (as well as my personal vault of vast wordy knowledge), and I............ have no idea. However, I completely agree with you that sneaked should be snuck, and I'll thank you not to say mean things about my man even if he is from the South. However, according to the Dictionary, both sneaked and snuck are right, one is just ugly and the other sounds bad. I guess we can't have it all.

~Word Answer Girl

Monday, March 3, 2008

Puke of the Brain

Today is the sun is shining. Today I'm insanely busy. Today... is Puke of the Brain Monday! (See? This is what you get for not offering a creative theme. Now you have to sit and read my random thoughts - just know that this is all your own fault for not helping a sister out. )

Anyways.

It's very windy today, kinda like Santa Ana Winds, but chillier. As I was walking up to work this morning, a gardener was using a leaf-blower on the sidewalk. A LEAF-BLOWER. As I'm fighting my way up the walk and my hair sticks out straight behind me and the dust of a thousand empty lots wiggle into my eyes, this guy was futilely blowing specks of dead plant a few feet before they blew back in the gale-force gusts. I felt like asking him if he has a hard time getting up in the morning.

This weekend, a group of about 75 20-somethings went to Mammoth Mountain and tore it up. We ate lots of Pita Pit pitas, had a gi-normous guys against girls snowball fight, played Snow-lympics, sledded, boarded, skiied, played Mafia, board games, charades, answered silly questions and stayed up way too late. One of the funniest moments was playing Charades (guys against girls, of course,) and hearing the guys yelling out answers: "Huuuuuh! Gruummphhh hubbbabab bubbbba humph" and then the girls, about three octaves higher: "Eeeeeeee! Aiyyyyie yiyiyiyiyiiiiiiiiiiaaaaaa!" (Of course, they were saying real words, not war cries, but that was the only way I could convey the difference in tone. Anyways, 75 people in one itty-bitty Condo living room yelling answers gets intense. And guys and girls talk differently. That's pretty much my point.)

One part that was not so fun was when I took an ice chunk to the throat in our oh-so-intense snowball battle. The Trache doesn't respond well to hard cold objects thrown at blazing fast speed. But it was worth the pain for the love of war. The boys paid dearly for their crimes, and more than one tackling occurred.

Speaking of which, remember when we were little, and boys would pull our hair and throw Four-Square balls at us to get our attention? When you're outside playing in the snow, the old rules of playground flirting apply - and still work, oddly enough. Kirsten and I both got body-slammed by our chosen fellas, and weren't offended in the least. Quite the opposite, actually, although we got some snow down their necks to show our "disapproval".

I do not like gas station coffee. Yuck. However, on a cold night, when Mafia is calling and sleep is not going to be found for several hours and Starbucks is closed, it can be quite good. Although I admit that I averted my eyes from the last watery drizzle coming out of the cappuccino machine - lest I be unable to stomach my $1.19 of gas station goodness.

Well, my faithful readers, more brain-puke is coming, and I know you're dying to hear it. However, it's after 5 pm, I've already stayed over an hour late at work, and there are things to done, fields to plow, stories to prep and freelancers to harangue. Back to work, me hearties.