Popping the Question

Down on one knee, breath baited, time crawled as Meredith snapped photos of the surrounding valley.  My left knee was tired of playing support to the rest of my body.  I thought back to all of the small steps and big leaps that had lead up to this moment…

Back in January, Meredith and I are sitting down to some butternut squash enchiladas.  The conversation turns to birthstones, and at the mention of rubies, Meredith says, “My mom’s birthstone was the ruby.  She had them set in her wedding ring.  It was such a pretty ring, with a well cut diamond, and channel set rubies…I’d like to have that ring someday…to remember my mom,” she trailed off with a sigh.  I made a mental note, and life went on.

In June, I heard that Meredith’s father, Chuck, was leaving for Canada to finish construction on a house he is building.  Seeing the window of opportunity swiftly closing on my plans, I began calling every chance I could.  This was challenging: Chuck didn’t seem to be in every time Meredith was distracted (i.e. in the shower) long enough for a decent phone call.  On the Sunday of his departure I finally got ahold of him.

“Hi Chuck, it’s Mike, how’s it going?”

“Oh hi Mike!  It’s going well.  How are things in San Diego?”

“They’re good.”

“The phone’s been ringing off the hook, what’s up?”

“Well Chuck, I’d like to marry your daughter, and I’m calling to ask for your blessing.”

“Well that’d be great!  Of course you have my blessing!”  And we chatted a bit more about marriage and how he thought I was a pretty good guy for his special little girl.

This was great – I’d been doing something right for the past few years, but now I had to really put my money where my mouth was: I had to ask for the ring.

“Thanks Chuck!  So, Meredith had mentioned a while back that she might like to have Kathy’s old ring…may I buy it from you?”

“Aww no Mike, I couldn’t let you pay for that!  It’s quite the special ring, and I’d be happy to give it to you.”

“Wow, thanks Chuck!  Let me pay for shipping though.”

“Nah, don’t worry about that Mike.  I’ll send it to your office.”

My father-in-law-to-be just jumped to the top of my awesome list.  When I got into the office on Monday, I went straight to the receptionist and said,

“Elena, when a package comes from Chuck Rawls for me, interrupt whatever I’m doing and get me to make sure I get it.”

On Tuesday I got that call, and the ring had arrived!  Now all I needed was the venue.

I called the Leonesse Winery in Temecula to reserve a tasting, and asked where a good spot to pop the question was.  They recommended a short walk to a hawk box on a hillock in their vineyard.

The day arrives, and I check my gear: iPhone, wallet, keys, ring box, ring.  I am set in my good luck red shirt (I’ve worn it every time I’ve been offered a job), and ready to go.  We drive to Temecula, comment on how everyone else is watching the World Cup, and enjoy each other’s company.  We arrive at the winery on a perfect clear and breezy day.  Once we’ve checked in for our tasting, we sip a complimentary sample and enjoy the views of rolling hills covered in greenery, birds singing and people laughing.  We are treated to a wine and cheese pairing.  The other couples are fun, and everyone has a great time.

Afterwards, Meredith says “Want to take a walk in the vineyard?”

“Sure,” I say with all the nonchalance I can muster.

We wander in the sun-kissed fields along a nice trail until I spy a hawk box.

“Hey, you want to go on adventure?” I ask.

“Sure!”

“Let’s head into the vineyard!”

I’ve had dumber ideas, but this is certainly up there.  The path is covered with the sharpest hay I’ve ever encountered in flip flops.  Meredith started to (rightly) complain of burrs and pokes.  But we trudged on up to the top of the hillock by the hawk box.

I must have the wrong hawk box, because the scenic view described to me over the phone was actually a wall of green vines.

“What are we doing here?” Meredith inquires.

“Heading out to the road!” I respond.

So we walk the rest of the way to the road and I see a small, unobscured hill.  I start towards it.

“Seriously?” Meredith asks.  It’s a steep hill, made primarily of sandy dirt, and we’re still in our flip flops.

“Sure, I want to see the valley!”

Finally we arrive, hug, and Meredith begins taking pictures of the valley.  A light breeze ruffles her hair.  I get down on my knee and pull out the ring.  My breath is baited.  She turns, draws a sharp breath, and I say:

“Meredith, will you marry me?”

“Of COURSE I will!” she exclaims and rushes towards me.  Her camera hits me in the face but we’re too happy to care.  She shoves the ring on, we take some photos, and update our relationship status on Facebook per her request.  We eventually walk back to the winery, enjoying every step.

Meredith asks, “So, where are we going to dinner?”

“Dinner?  Well, I thought we’d just find a place and…”

“On a Saturday night, with no reservations?”

I had to admit, the plan sounded pretty tenuous.  I called around, and sure enough, no one could take us until 8:30 at the earliest, and we’d have to sit in a corner on the patio.

“Wanna go to Owen’s Bistro?” I ask.

“Really?” she says skeptically.

“Yeah – we’re already halfway to LA, and they love us.”

I make the call: they’re full, but will squeeze us in.  This is one of the many reasons why Owen’s Bistro rocks.  The others are, well, better experienced than read about.

I hop in the driver’s seat and Meredith goes into full planning mode.  She starts talking colors, locations, dates, everything.  My dad warned me this may happen, so I take it in stride.

We soon arrive and are seated inside.  I glance at the menu and order the “Camping Trip.”  Even if Owen’s Bistro wasn’t already the best restaurant ever, this dish alone is worth the trip.  A great cut of salmon, potatoes fried in truffle oil all in a salad with bacon sauce arranged around a 500-degree river rock.  Yes, a sizzling river rock that you can use to cook your fish exactly how you want it.  Not only that, they’ve put pine needles under the rock so the whole experience smells like a Washington forest.  The bacon sauce helped too.

At the end of the meal, the restaurant owners came to toast the end of a great meal and the beginning of a grand adventure. I’m sure looking forward to it!

+1 Fiancée for Mike

May’s habit

Simplify.  That is all.

Just kidding.  Simplifying my life has come about at a good time: I’m taking stock with the coming of spring, and seeing what is truly valuable to me.  I’m starting by paring down my possessions to those I use on a regular basis.  And under that broad canopy, selling some of my board games I haven’t played in a while is the first task of the habit.  So, Meredith and I talked it over, and she offered to pitch in by posting some things on Ebay.  So, I’ll be going over the descriptions this week, and we’ll be posting them later this month.  I’ll post again when they’re up.

+1 for Mike

12 habits in 12 months

Yeah, it’s an odd goal to have set in January 2010. I had noticed a trend of my decisions being more reactive than directed, and decided to make 12 life changing habits in 12 months.  Month 1’s goal was to more regularly connect with Mudders and participate in more local social events.  I didn’t want to define a quantified criteria determining my success, I simply wanted to devote more time and energy to those activities than I had been in the past.  This attitude made the habit more of a journey than a time table.  So far, it’s worked pretty well, and I’m very excited about the upcoming Alumni Weekend.

Month 2: February.  This month I decided to walk more regularly at lunch.  Because San Diego is so nice all year round, this habit of increased moderate exercise was easy.  Being outside is awesome.  My office is next to a vacant lot with hawks in it, so being able to see a bit of nature on my strolls around the grounds has been quite enjoyable.  I’ve also become more focused and efficient at work, and more mindful of the present.  The book Born to Run may have had something to do with it.

Month 3, March.  Having gotten habits 1 and 2 going, I came to realize I was becoming “over-opportunized,” which was a job coach’s way of saying I had too much on my plate.  This naturally evolved into habit 3: saying no more often.  There are some people I have a strong incentive to say yes to, and they are now on a short list of people with the privilege of a frequent “yes” from me.  Everything else that comes my way gets more scrutiny now, and I’ve been happy to say a respectful “no” makes every “yes” sweeter.

Now that April’s almost gone, I’ve decided use social networks more, and to start blogging again.  I enjoy writing, and I’ve received encouragement to write more.  I relish the challenge of making it a life long habit.

+1 many times for Mike

Superherodom, here I come.

It started with a black widow.  I had gotten up early for an alternative transportation forum at church.  The cats were scratching and screaming for kibbles.  I blearily stumbled out of bed to feed our two ravenous kibble sharks.  I had just poured half a cup of dry food into two brown bowls when my spider sense went off.  It wasn’t Green Goblin or Doc Oct, but I spied the black widow, that little speck of eight legged death, from across the living room.  It lurked at the joint between wall and ceiling, right above my computer. 

Nature programs and documentaries flashed before my mind’s eye.  I remembered two things: 1) deadly, 2) kill on sight.  My last encounter with one of these beasts was sophomore year of college.  It took two frosh physicists and my former roommate to trap that fiend in a Styrofoam cup, douse it with lighter fluid, vaporize it and smash the remains with a cinder block. 

All I had here were my wits, a drinking glass, and a paper party plate.  I dragged a chair to the wall.  The neighbor’s smooth jazz flowed through the open window as I climbed to meet my fate. 

Meredith came around, asking “What do you have there sweetie?”

“Nothing that you want to see,” I replied, stretching myself, preparing my next move against death incarnate. 

“Okay, I’ll stay back here,” she said.

The drinking glass clopped with the force of the blow against the drywall.  Eight legged-death scampered into the well of the glass, and tried to bite my hand through four millimeters of Macy’s finest.   I slid the plate between wall and glass, carried my deadly prize to the sink and considered my next move. 

Meredith  came cautiously to investigate.  “What is it?” she asked, bending over to peer into the glass.

“Black Widow,” I replied with a been-there-squashed-that tone I felt was quite bad-ass.

“Holy crap, it is!  I can see the red hourglass and everything…”

“Yeah, I’m going to drown it,” I said evenly, opening the tap on the sink.

Meredith left the scene as I deftly moved the paper plate off and the glass into the water.  Shelob balled up and fell into the garbage disposal.  I activated said disposal and dumped in dish soap to aid its mixing.  Then for good measure, I did the dishes.  No evil, no matter how fierce, can stand up to a pot full of holy lentil curry scrubbings. 

The beast was slain, and peace once again returned to the land of Sunday Morining.

+1 Epic Hero Victory for Mike

PS I also ended up killing the hot water for Meredith’s shower.  Oops.

Buses

2 posts in 1 day? When it rains, it pours…

Well, actually discussing finding a sweet CAD program would be a fairly lame single post, despite the fact it’s a ton of fun.  I wanted to discuss one of my other recent time sucks: the Bus.

Public transit is a goofy thing: you have to rely on someone else’s schedule, can’t be late, and often get taken approximately where you want to be and have to walk the rest of the way.  Which isn’t a bad thing: compare my two commutes: 30 min by car, 75 min by bus with 1 transfer.  The car is an obvious win, right?  Not exactly.  I’ve noticed that when I take the bus home, I’m super mellow and I still fit everything into my evening.  The car on the other hand provides substantial anti-mellow.  Who knew a 50 minute bus ride, occasionally chatting with random strangers, followed by a 25 minute walk would provide such a boost for the working professional?

Why not take the bus every day then?  It is sooooo nice to get up at 7 rather than 6.  Really, sleep shouldn’t be this addictive, but it’s just too habit forming.

However, I don’t have a choice in the matter until the van is back in action.  Repairs are coming up on 14 days in the shop soon.

Fortunately, I’m super mellow, and just a little sleep deprived.

+1 public transit epiphany for Mike

Google Rocks

Why? Because they’ve come out with Google Sketchup which is free-downloadable awesome.  For those of you who use any kind of CAD program, you’ve probably run into high costs and a steep learning curve.  Well, in true Google fashion, Sketchup does most of the simple CAD with intuitive controls and a smooth 3-D interface, and it’s free.  The PRO version is expensive, but not nearly as pricey as most CAD packages I’ve seen.

Stumbling across this has been one of the greatest time savers at work, and is a heck of a lot of fun to play with.

+1 spiffy program for Mike

A Day at the Beach

It started with great karma. I found the last spot in La Jolla Shores within a block of the rental shop.  The Toyota Previa kinda’ fit: I was inches away from the bumper of the car in front of me.  I lathered sunscreen on and pondered if the trunk sticking a little into the red would get me a ticket.  I was just getting to my legs and concluding that I should move when the owner of the car in front of me returned.  She packed up her photography gear, threw the Jetta in drive just as I made it back around to pull forward.  Man alive it was the sweetest parking spot ever.  On a side street, pointed towards the freeway and within walking distance of everything I needed for a Saturday afternoon adventure.

I proceeded on foot to the surf/kayak store.  They were totally swamped, sweaty sandy tourists packed wall to wall.  I had called in my rental, so they moved me right through. A burly surfer named Sean told to grab a life vest and watch an instruction video.

The video said: don’t be stupid.  I agreed and headed to the beach in search of my kayak.

Azure waters crashed on beaches of fine sand as impatient tourists milled about.  The kayak rental people rushed around with the controlled chaos of ants.  A few looked one stupid question away from losing it.

I grabbed a paddle and checked in with Nick.  He was super busy and didn’t have my single sit-on kayak, but it wouldn’t be too long until he got it.  It wasn’t that big of a deal; watching vacationers flip out provided endless minutes of entertainment.  It was a classic problem of an overzealous sales force with limited resources to deliver on many promises.  I glanced at the laminated mini-map the salesman handed me.  The video was right; there was plenty of potential for stupidity.  To the north was a reef and a massive cave system along with swim lanes and diving areas.  Apparently an ecological preserve is one of nature’s multi-purpose facilities.  I looked up to get my bearings just as Nick hauled up a single seater kayak and thanked me for my patience.  He left me with a reminder to keep my camera dry.

I launched just as the wind kicked up and clouds rolled in.  Small droplets of rain mixed with sea spray as I cut through the chop; my inner Seattleite rejoicing.  I paddled with rising exhilaration; each stroke building on the last.  Being on a kayak is an active remembrance for me: a warm memories wash over me every time I climb in.  I glided to a silent stop next to a diving preserve with a view of the sea caves.

Pictures were in order.  I pulled out the camera I had been studiously keeping out of harm’s way, and flipped it on.  Just as I raised the camera in my wet hands, the wind blew a great swell of water towards me; and the camera died of a low battery.  I stuffed the now dead, but still dry, camera away and looked about.

Over cast skies and dull blue water became the backdrop for a flight of cormorants patrolling for a snack.  Now, for those of you who don’t know, the cormorant is a diving bird in need of oiling.  Two reasons: 1) oil really helps keep your feathers stay dry when you dive for fish, and 2) they squeak when they fly.  Seriously, every flap of their wings produces a small squeak and a “shush” sound, kind of like an old metal box that has rice in it.  (Why rice is in a metal box is beyond me, just go with it).

I bobbed along watching birds circle, sea lions fight and tour guides try to get through their cave adventures.  Such is the beauty of nature.

Several paddle boarders came by, and immediately earned my respect.  They piloted surf boards by standing on them and used long paddles to propel themselves.  Gliding with ease and grace through the hoard of picture-snapping kayakers, the paddlers were almost ethereal.  Then my stomach rumbled and I decided to head for shore.

I returned my gear, walked back to my awesome parking spot, and headed for home.  The stomach was later appeased with a giant salad.

Man alive, it was a good day.

+1 adventure for Mike

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