Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Weekend in Haiku

I find myself writing posts that are more Larry King USA Today columns (completely random) than anything about my actual life, so I thought I'd just run through what I did this weekend to make you all extremely jealous.

In haiku, to make it more interesting (and much shorter)

Friday Night

A real date night out
Sushi fills tummy and soul
Spray tan? Are you sure?

Saturday Morning

5AM Photos
Chin up, stomach in, that's good
Jess hot, me not. Ugh.

Saturday Afternoon

Mow, weed, edge, spray, sweat
One eye watching my yard work
The other? The draft

Saturday Evening

Church meeting with Jess!
Why go mess with a good thing?
Sushi one more time


Morning church? Us?! YES!
Best fiance ever? JESS!
Games! Dessert? Eat LESS!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Birds in My BBQ

So... I like to think that I take good care of my parents' house. I mean, Jessica thinks I do yard work all the time and I'm somewhat anal about following the maintenance schedule so lovingly magneted to the fridge before my parents left in June 2006. But I guess I forgot one thing... covering the BBQ over the winter.

Actually, I didn't forget. I tried to put the cover on, but it kept blowing around and smacking the house so that I thought there were hooded/masked men on the back deck poised to attack and steal the $23 in my wallet (actually, the masked men on our back deck happened when I was like 10, but that's another story that I think my family thinks I dreamed but I swear was real. I digress...), so I took off the cover and figured that a hunk of metal could survive a winter without a thin layer of tarp to protect it.

In my spring cleaning efforts (this was not on the maintenance schedule but certainly was implied), I pulled the BBQ away from the side of the house, where I put it so it doesn't blow all over the deck and make the kids next door think my deck is possessed. I had noticed during the first few months of the year, mind you, that there were lots of twigs and that there were a few birds spending a lot of time on my deck. But, knowing nothing better, I figured that just LOOOOVED my deck. I mean, who wouldn't? It's a nice deck, has a great view, and the birds could even catch some fine TV programming through the window at the right angle. Upon closer inspection, I saw some twigs sticking out from under the lid of the BBQ. So I opened it.
As you can see from the pictures, there was a male starling and his baby momma who had put together quite the nest inside my BBQ. How they got in and how they chose this spot, I defer to ornithologists (bird people, people) -- but they had a nest in there, with three little starling eggs. Truth be told, they actually look a lot like those hard candy Easter eggs you buy at the store. Go figure.
I called my lovely bride-to-be Jessica (who I ironically actually call "Lovely"), who wanted me to promise not to move the birds, disturb the nest or even talk in the general direction of the nest/BBQ for fear of scaring away the mom (also pictured, or is it the dad? No idea). I had no intentions of messing with their lives, so for the next several weeks if not longer I don't have a BBQ and I've added a few animal souls to my house (beyond Pixie).
This whole story reminds me of perhaps my greatest college achievement -- finding a loophole in the General Ed requirements to bypass Chemistry by taking an Appreciation of Nature class. This was a fascinating class that also happened to enjoy one of the finest male/female ratios in all of BYUdom -- as I recall, there were about 6 men and about 210 women in the class. One of the biggest projects in the class was to identify 100 bird species, and I dutifully carried my field guide around campus and took note of different sparrows, finches, etc. My progress on the project really took off when I headed to the SLC Zoo and identified exotic species like an osprey and a New Zealand kookaburra. At any rate, I aced the class and avoided Chemistry. Oh, the memories...
Anyway, welcome to the birds. I love that there are three of them, and my sister is having triplets in September. Good things come in threes... unless you ask Dwight Schrute.
By the way, I have decided the baby birds' names will be Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego, since they were in the fire (OK, BBQ) and were not consumed. That was one of my favorite Bible stories growing up, along with Moses floating the Nile in a basket.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

How I Won Miss USA

How, you may ask, does a husky, masculine and (dare I say) devastatingly handsome man such as I win Miss USA? You probably asked yourself that when you read the title of this entry, and you should pat yourself on the back for asking such a good question -- it's because of those smarts that you're my friend or family member (or other blog-stalker, you KNOW who you are). I'll answer.

A few years back, a benign break from a board game at my friends Gilbert and Nicole’s house turned into a full-fledged contest. The venue? Miss USA. The object? Guess the judges’ choices for Top 15, Top 10, Top 5 and Miss USA. We thought we'd just amuse ourselves by watching the introduction of each state winner, but we were enjoying ourselves so much that soon after all the introductions, we abandoned the board game and pieced together a rudimentary scoring system for the pageant. Yes, I’m sure at some point we thought to ourselves, “what in the world are we doing? C’mon, are we SERIOUSLY enjoying this?” But we were. Gilbert in particular had some choice lines that I won’t repeat here, but sufficeth to say he spoke his mind on the contestants and who should be moving on to the next round. A guilty pleasure? Most certainly, but if being pleasurably guilty is wrong then I don’t wanna be right. Since that first contest we’ve done a few others, including Miss Universe last year. Classic.

This year there was a real effort to make the scoring equitable – you see, in years past (OK, maybe just last time) I did an incredible job of selecting the Top 15 and the Top 10, only to lose the overall contest on points since I didn’t select the exact order of the winners correctly. I, being the patriot I am, called out for reform and freedom, for the audacity of hope that some day my proper evaluation of hotness would be… well, properly evaluated (my engagement to my lovely fiance Jessica has since confirmed to one and all that my hotness evaluation is top-notch, but that's too sappy and besides the point). So we had fancy scorecards and a printed-out scoring system.

So how did I do? I won. No, not just won. I KILLED. We missed the Top 15 selections thanks to an extra-long Blazers game, but I called 8 of the Top 10 and all five of the Top 5. And when it really counted, I came through with Miss Texas to win it all (she looked like a mix of Rhianna and Beyonce, so I called her "Rhionce"). I don’t know if we counted up the final score, but rest assured I wiped the floor with the others. In fact, below are three scorecards for your perusal. Enjoy:

This is my tremendous work -- notice my "good gaze" comment next to New Jersey, she won me over with that. I actually picked South Carolina to win it all, because she was hot but also because she was on the "Amazing Race" which is one of my favorite shows:

You may noticed that Jessica's is a bit wrinkly -- that's because she was so upset with the inane judges (in her defense, one of them WAS Joey Fatone) that she crumpled her paper and hurled it at me. The emotional pain hurt more than the physical when it struck me... :) Good effort honey! She liked Miss Tennessee a lot, using the term "like a Barbie doll" pretty much every time she mentioned her.

Gilbert did quite well in the Top 10, getting 9 of them right. He promptly collapsed in the Top 5 after talking trash to me -- don't EVER give me a reason to come after you Dewey! You can tell from Gilbert's many cross-offs that he struggled with some of his choices. He's a tough emotional nut to crack, so you rarely see the manifestation of Gilbert's inner turmoil in writing so vividly as you see below:

In the end, a good time was had by all and much hilarity ensued. I'd say we're all winners by having a good time, but then I'd be lying.

The Miss Universe pageant is in August, time to train! Early money is on Miss Venezuela.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Question -- Before & After The Ring

Moments before... she has NO IDEA, just wondering why the tripod is so dang important

How unfair of me, and no way to start up a blog! I tease with a picture of my engagement and then wait 6 weeks to give more information. See below:

The Engagement

I was planning on proposing the Saturday after Valentines Day at the beach -- there's a hidden trail past the rock wall on the Manzanita Overlook that takes you down to an isolated outcropping hanging over the ocean, and I always thought I'd do it there. But we had a birthday party for a friend's son that day, so I opted for a very very good alternative -- The Gorge.

Much went into the picture you see below. First, I spent the night before timing at what "beep" on the camera's timer I needed to kneel, open the box, ask Jessica to marry me and get a reaction when the camera snips its pic. I practiced this about 20 times and determined that the 12th beep was the one I needed to kneel on. This would no doubt have been hilarious to observe, as I knelt time after time practicing. Yes, I am a card-carrying dork.

I had gone to the Shane Company the week before to get the ring (yes, I guess all those nasally radio ads worked somehow) and picked out a nice Princess Cut diamond. It's very nerve-racking to go into a jewelry store for the first time without any experience. I actually went in the first time the Saturday before Valentines' Day, which was perfect since it was so busy I could walk around without any questions and view diamonds to my heart's content (which was about 20 minutes -- they start to look the same at that point).

Finally, the day came. Jess told me the week before she wanted to take some pictures in cool places in Oregon with my camera during our trip, which was my perfect cover. We headed out for the Gorge, with Jessica happily snapping pictures with her new camera, totally unaware of what I was about to do. I attempted to smile and play along, but my heart was POUNDING in my chest. She did notice my sweaty palms when we held hands, but that was it.

Finally we get to the Women's Forum Park up on the old Columbia River Highway, which was my targeted site. Immediately upon arriving I saw two problems:

1. There were TONS of people. It was a beautiful Saturday on a three-day weekend, and normally I wouldn't care but at that moment I hated every one of those people. I wanted them to either drive off at that moment or run like lemmings off the cliff.

2. I tried setting up the tripod, and no matter how I tried the camera WOULD NOT FIT in the tripod. I was getting quite frustrated, which Jessica could see but had no idea WHY I cared so much about getting the tripod set up. Why not ask one of the hundreds of people there to take the picture? Well, that would just about be the worst thing in the world if you ask me so I kept trying to fit the square peg in the round hole until my lovely future wife discovered the right plate in the camera bag. It WORKED! Yes!

So I set up the tripod and waited (and waited, and waited) until the crowd thinned out a bit at our overlook. Suddenly there was only one other photographer, visibly entranced by the location and oblivious to us. In one motion, I set the timer, ran over by Jessica, and kneeled exactly at the 12th "beep." I asked her to marry me, she put her hand by her mouth, and I heard the camera click.

At that point, a part of me already felt victory. I mean, I had somehow pulled off an amazing picture that would be legendary forever in my mind. Now, whether it was a GOOD legendary or TRAIN-WRECK legendary depended upon her answer -- which was "Oh my gosh, Oh my gosh, Oh my gosh..." This was OK, since she had not said "NO" yet, but with each "oh my gosh" I felt like my chances of a "YES" were slowly dwindling... sort of a movement from a shocked "oh my gosh" to a panicked "how do I get out of here, could I perhaps hitch-hike back to Los Angeles immediately oh my gosh."

Finally, Jessica picked her jaw up and gave me a firm YES. We then kissed and walked over to a stone bench by the camera (By the way, as you can see Pixie is ignoring us the entire time probably fixated on a distant squirrel). We hugged and kissed and talked some more, until I realized I hadn't put the ring on. DUH!

It was at that point that people began to realize that we had just gotten engaged and congratulated us. I don't remember what they said, except I think one old man told me in some sequence of words and in some Eastern European dialect that I picked a hot one. I think I thanked him for his kindness as he waddled back to his own wife, who I'm sure appreciated his sentiment about another much younger woman.

Our lives since that romantic Q&A session have been a whirlwind of wedding planning, moving (Jess still lives in another state, but it's Camas and not LA), and realizing every day how happy we are.

More to come on the wedding...