Thursday, November 8, 2012


Ideas for a skater birthday cake
I stopped waiting for Cary to throw me a surprise birthday party.

He knows all my favorite people. Just get them in a room, and have them yell surprise, and feed me cake fit for a six-year-old. That's all I ask to celebrate 30 years of Aly on planet Earth. The thing is, I told myself it was time to grow up.

It was hard to not celebrate all month. And given the decade milestone, it was hard not to celebrate all year. But as I Googled "ways to celebrate your 30th", I realized I'd either done it or couldn't afford it (although, I'm still planning on sampling all 31 favors at Baskin-Robbins).

And then it dawned on me: Maybe I should just chill. Treat the big day like a proper 30-year-old and bashfully dip my head like, darn it, you found out it was my 3-0, saying no, no, no party, no presents, please.

Ha! Who am I kidding... I'm a childless female who married at 23 and still can't seem to let go of Friday evenings alone with my husband or hours spent burying my nose against the screen of a Kindle. I can discuss 30 Rock jokes any day of the week, and I still try to pull off the "skater" look. (Wow.)

So how did I think I could possibly pass up the chance to have an immature fete? ... Well, I sulked until November hit, then decided to go hunt down some cake to shove in Cary's face.

At work we were on deadline the week of October 22. This means everyone was nose to the grindstone to get a glorified PennySaver to the printer on time. Then they finish and throw a party while I get passed the baton and have to push all those Groupon-wannabe offers online. Then pretend I'm excited about them while posting deals to Facebook and tweeting them to our 55 followers.

Love ya, MBA. OXO. But this is what happens when you relocate every couple years. And I'll take it.

Here's why:
  • Having a job in this economy is like getting one of the last tickets before a movie sells out. Whew.
  • We can squirrel away the extra cash and enjoy a social security-free retirement in Tampa - unless we have 15-year-olds living with us at that point.
  • A space away from home, and a purpose away from your spouse, is like the endorphins from exercise; there's pain, but it's an oh-so-sweet experience overall, and your heart will thank you for it.
  • Insta-friends who always seem to turn out to be the salt of the earth.
  • Whether I'm copywriting a coupon or a story that will eventually be turned down, writing's writing. (Thanks, Vin Diesel in The Fast and the Furious.)
  • Rich Kids of Instagram
  • The goal of where I work is to save people money. That's something you can believe in.

Cary's Uncle Greg drew us a diagram one time that illustrated how we all just wanna move up. Up in life. Up in income. Up in glory. But the key to going up is going down. Because in this drawing, there's a ceiling - just like there's a limit to almost every get rich quick scheme. So if you don't buckle down and swim down in this case, you won't find the path out - the one that's likely not the least resistant.

If you do this, you will surface on the other side of life's barriers, very likely contentedly bobbing around and sunning yourself, telling the rest of the world who so badly wanted change yet were afraid to change it themselves:

"let them eat cake."

*Terraplane was a car brand and model build by the Hudson Motor Car Company in Detroit between 1932 and 1938.  They were inexpensive yet powerful vehicles. Car enthusiast and 1934 Ford Falcon owner Uncle Greg did more than give me a cool blog post title, he gave me a metaphor for life.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


San Diego has its own force. Built-in protection. But it seems like most don't think much about this. That seven military bases and approximately 175,000 active duty homes exist among the rolling, coastal suburbs sheeted in marine mist (smog sometimes), among the pretentious, minimalist lofts, among the glowing seaside cottages also lit from within. Out there, there are more people like us than we realize. Yet strangely, we undulate back and forth about whether we're true San Diegans, or stepchildren passing through the whale's vagina.

We're here because someone in our family serves in earnest, prepped to show force at home or over the seas. We moved here six months ago, uprooted again but sickly glad for it like pastors who don't fully settle in, facing the same congregation each week, the same sanctuary peering back at them. While many civilians get homesick, (if they're not already living in their hometown), and dial their spouse each day of a three-day business trip, most military dependents are concerned with finding a new, worthy job and mentally cross-dressing for different kid responsibilities - moms take happily scruffy sons to Padres games, dads explain maxi-pads to their wide-eyed, trusting daughters. There are likely no grandparents across town, no siblings a commiserating phone call away due to a time change, and not enough money to get a baby-sitter or maid as often as desired.

It's nothing new to claim armed forces bad-ass-ness for spouses and service members alike. On the flipside, I'm always surprised to find there are plenty of dependents who are anything but independent. What's unnerving of late, (a deja vous from high school), concerns the entire realm of wives; it's likely my baby-producing age. But women seem to creep dangerously close to that ledge, at the bottom of which they don't exist anymore, too far below to make out a personality, interests, let alone a job they can put even a tiny piece of their heart into. Forget feminism and breaking the glass ceiling, save yourselves!, I want to scream, shaking them by their shoulders damp with tiny, fat human vomit.

If one day I cannot tear myself away from my one-year-old to watch the latest Miyazaki film, I told my best friend to just hit me over the head with a shovel, because I've become one of them. Unless this type of zombie serum has been developed, then just give me that and we'll begin our campaign, shooting up our friends we thought we'd lost forever.

Balance. Who else is sick of hearing this is the meaning of life? But eff it might be. We all belong here - San Diegans, Roswellians, Earthlings - to do what we like but also contribute to society. Be thoughtful, healthy people who may become parents and be there when the next generation gets home from school. Be bright with goodness, humor and for-lack-of-a-better-word passion. But earn enough that your paycheck doesn't go directly to daycare. Right, easy as whack-bat.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

I ♥ Mexicans

I barely tasted July. With a new gig, and a shoebox that doesn't discourage visitors. The maraschino (meaning bad) cherry on top was chopping off my hair. My head has never been so deliciously light and cool (as Jo/June Allyson from Little Woman would say), my shower drain so relieved, my toss and turn nights that much easier. But I did have to figure out how to make myself not look like a porcupine every morning. Then I embraced it and decided porcupines are okay.

(What other mammals can I channel to make covering up zits, tweezing, flossing, shaving and self-imposed mani-pedis obsolete...)

Besides, who cares what I look like in HD when I still stare at a computer all day and survive heady workloads with a diet of deliciously greasy and crack-infused SoCal burritos...Maybe grooming needs to take it down a notch.

So I've always wanted to be at the epicenter of a news story. Not for pulling a Felicity (although it is pretty liberating), but for something like surviving a tsunami atop the Coronado Bridge, even being the one to catch KStew with someone who's not RPatz.

But of course come 4th of July, both Cary and I were out of town when the San Diego bay fireworks were accidentally set off all at once. I pretend I was there, perched on a lawn chair several blocks from home. I pretend it was some kind of crazed Brick Tamland character scurrying around barges via row boats, lighting all the fuses and giggling hysterically. But in reality, it was just a computer error, a glitch.

Check out this startling, colorful, smokey end to the world, seconds of something rare to behold that we totally missed.

Laos actually, but you get the point
If only it had happened in Tijuana, where fireworks like this are legal. ----->

But then karma stops being a bitch on the bay. Cary, Code Dude and I bike, boat and walk to the convention center, where Comicon is taking place. We have tix for the next day but can't resist patrolling the Gaslamp for nerds and stars alike. And whaddya know, we disembark the ferry, guiding our bikes along the dock, and a big chunk of the cast of True Blood strolls off a yacht and falls into line with us poor people meandering up the ramp to the Embarcadero.

At the site of Eric Northman, a woman in a maxi dress becomes scattered and abandons her baby, saying to a friend in rushed seriousness: "Watch the baby." The friend chuckles and stares in amazement as her friend takes off. I smile then wonder why I'm not doing the same thing to my bike, letting it hit the ground in exchange for some photo opp I'll Instagram to make myself look better next to one of those that makes us wonder if the Greeks had it right. Is it pride that stops me? Yep.

But that dissolves when we're pedaling down the boardwalk, and I see two characters from Teen Wolf. "Hey!" I exclaim. (Cary rolls his eyes while I watch this show sometimes, so I think maybe he might be interested - he does laugh at one character's jokes. Oh Stiles.) "Care, they're from Teen Wolf!" I realize I've said this too loudly, and the Teen Wolf hottie and ginger are probably now rolling their eyes at me. Oh the irony.

Comicon 2012
We watch nerds fight in the park. LARPing. Live action role-playing. Cody has to tell me twice. We watch a charismatic, olive-skinned Pikacho get people to jump-rope over his fake penis. There are more Finns than anything, and I vow to watch Adventuretime soon. We watch nerdy guys in masks have fun with abandon. We watch nerdy girls in capes be more confident than they are anywhere else in the world.

Before we leave, as we wait for the ferry, Code runs down the walkway to quickly see who's playing at the tented concert south of the convention center. And it's Kevin Bacon and his brother in the Bacon Brothers rock band! For a moment, he was one degree from Kevin Bacon.

Though I'm struck by stars, I'm more often melted by the people I love, work with, meet, and read about. One of the best things about doing freelance part-time now and hitting the workforce downtown, is I get coworkers back.

I'm particularly fond of Ernesto, a Mexican who commutes, wait for it...across the border. He's always friendly, always offering me a carrot stick or jalapeño chip, a coffee from across the street or something from the 7-Eleven up the block. He laughs easily. We walk over together to get coffee sometimes. He works hard, commutes far, and supports his wife and two little girls. Our conversations are hilarious and halted by Spanglish.

"Do you want to become a citizen?" I ask one day. (I'm hoping he does, since he's the kind of citizen a country would want.)

"Uhhh, no. We're okay," he says cheerfully in his thick, lilting accent. His wife and father-in-law run a store on the American side of the border, selling popular items from Mexico for Mexican-Americans who miss them, or perhaps Americans that fall in love with them. He carpools with his oldest girl, dropping her off at her U.S. school before finishing his commute to Little Italy on his work visa, his FastTrak-like border pass in tow.

As we wish each other well weekends on Friday and to drive safe, he mentions he has to get his water tank repaired on the way home.

"That thing," he says, "where the water comes out..." He makes an on/off motion. "'s not working."

"Oh, you get those?" I ask, inquiring about his drinking water tank. "So you need a new stand or something? Doesn't just getting a new jug fix that problem?"

"Um. Huh?"

"Oh, I thought you were talking about one of those purified, drinking water tanks."

"Oh!" He laughs. "No. The uh...toilet tank." Oh! I raise my eyebrows, nod and smile. "But I've seen those sometimes," he continues. "We don't have them in Mexico really. You have them?"

"Yeahhh... Really? You don't have those? People seem to love their purified water. I think it's in their heads though; I think it's just the cold temperature that does it."

"Well I've seen one." Huh? "It used to be used for the town." Uh oh. "But it's not running anymore." Does he mean a water tower? I let it go, and we wrap up on what I think is the same page. But I don't mind this daily confusion for some reason. It only makes me more in awe of anyone who can communicate at all using a second language.

Rob, if you're still reading and not too swamped in jet fuel, this is for you.

While I've been slaving (okay, okay, it's only been a couple weeks of craziness for Aly and a couple years of craziness for Cary), my husband has been watching Olympiads rise to fame and fall from grace in ways we can't tear our eyes from or avoid tearing up over. Because now he's 'NATOPS* qualified in model.' This is the military's way of saying he's practically memorized his Seahawk instruction manual - which is the size of a witch's spellbook - and that he's out of the woods for this last sprint of training before joining the fleet late this winter.

It's a big feat. Now on to tactics. Landing on ships, performing vert-rep (vertical replenishment), jettisoning listening devices, shooting missels and torpedos into the San Diego skyline. You know. It's now a downward slope to Tokyo. Or not. [Insert hysterical laughter here.]

But congrats to you, Lieutenant JG Lawson. Where's a firework malfunction when you need one.

*Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures Standardization

Friday, June 22, 2012

Sitting Ducks

I like hearing how people have earned their money. Usually a lot of it. If you're more middle-class, sometimes on the verge of low - like me, wearing your husband's clothes because at least they're different and living off sandwiches eaten over a grubby white keyboard - not so much. But if you have a house on the blue, clear lake of Tahoe, in the flats of Paris, or planted on the isle of Coronado, spill it.

Just Being Frank
While writing from home and applying to local gigs and watching Netflix episodes is maddening when your neighbor is drilling up every inch of their concrete surroundings, we otherwise wouldn't have found out that avocado farming (go figure) can be a lucrative business, including selling the more mature regular trees that dot Walmart parking lots. Our neighbor was out and about and too kind to be mad at for the incessant, house-rumbling construction. So we found out their household apparently did a proverbial "fall" into the nutritious, green egg business. Meaning they paired a good idea with a good brain filled with business skills and not B.S.

I wish I knew other neighbors' careers or history, especially when they have one of the blue and gold Coronado Historical Association signs perched in front of their home, reading "Home of a Naval Aviator." Why are there so many of these? What the hell kind of career did they lead? I jog by mansion after cottage, beach house after craftsman after villa, and I want a tour, to chat, to sit in the glowing gardens with an iced tea, or patrol the spooky halls of the brick mansions shuttered tight above expansive lawns for so small an island. I might have to settle for open houses and a tour at The Del unless I can figure out how to use being a freelance reporter to my real story-craving advantage.

White Collar: It Takes a Thief
By Ghostey at DeviantArt
As I submit yet another application to Kashi and The Active Network, and play the 23rd episode of White Collar, I realize maybe thievery is the way to go. White Collar is in the vein of true story Catch Me If You Can: Successful thief (except for that one time you get caught) turned FBI consultant. I could stop...retire at one billion or whatever. No guns. No partners. If I were clever enough. And that's a big 'if.' Plus, it's tough to be a theif when your husband believes in things like justice and hard work.

(But this islet's bound to be home to mounds of wealth behind those trusting unlocked doors!)

While I may not have the brain waves or skills to be a master of purloining, I also find I wouldn't be that useful in an apocalypse. Even though Cary and I have a great zombie plan - get to an island (check), blow the bridge, and kill all the zombies in residence, (his idea though). I can't shoot let alone stand the idea of using a knife or my weak, bare hands; I can't provide healthcare; I can't lead a group of idiots with my wisdom and charm. I can, however, compose the perfect corporate Facebook post. WTF?

Somehow, I got the idea in my head in school that writing for a meager living and having the time to read and watch everything I desired, was more for me than learning more about the remarkable reproductive system and ushering life into this world at 2 a.m. on Christmas Eve. While I don't regret the choice except in random conversations and on random shopping trips, I do wonder what role I'll play in the inevitable dire situation.

Until then, I guess someone does need to teach the leaders of the free world how to tweet.

Thursday, May 31, 2012


A sloth
Man On The Lam
Everything I want to do is either against the law, breaking a rule, or frowned upon.

Getting somewhere quickly, swimming somewhere cool, staying in bed until 11 and the shower 'til noon. And these really only lightly trod the battlefield in my war against speeding tickets, natural highs and sloth.

Sometime in our history, light speeding became akin to theft. I want to see a squad car or police officer and think, Whew, not getting raped here! and, Wow, I'm glad they're around, because who knows when I or someone else will need them. But instead, me, Cary, and everyone else seems to flinch at them, stomachs clenching, as if we've been abused by them our whole lives. Ixnay on whatever you're doing RIGHT THEN.

A couple weeks after moving to "the crowned one" (the presumptuous Spanish word 'Coronado' in English apparently, usually shortened to the nickname Crown City), we were riding our bikes at night, joining the trickle of locals around the isle who mount comfy beach cruisers and the like to get from point A to B. Bellies full of the best pizza I've had in a while and a pint each, we were enjoying ourselves, with friends, coasting slowly along the Orange Avenue sidewalk since one of us (not me, since I teeter in flats) was wearing high heels. Well, this isn't allowed; not the heels.

Suburban Assault
A police officer stuffed in an SUV stops us in a crosswalk, telling us through the rolled-down window that we need to walk our bikes if we don't have lights. Some of us optimistically thought he meant we have to walk our dark bikes when we're on the street. Nope. The cop moves along, we cross, and back on we hop.

Apparently, the poe-poe was redundantly intersecting Orange because at the next block, the guy crosses our path again, going the other way. This is hilarious, but now he's pissed. So a naval aviator and a SEAL (and their 'cough' supermodel girlfriends) get lectured for 20 minutes by an overweight black uniform moments from retirement from patrolling the safest city on planet Earth, and another who flanks the group and looks like the evil terminator in Terminator 2.

But like the legally whipped couple we are, we get lights the next day.

Bike riding is a natural high that's nearly ruined by excessive rules. How is riding on a busy street with a light safer than puttering down a wide sidewalk, even if it is in a city's more crowded Business District? If you ask me (and no one ever does), the world is safer when I'm not clipped into a zippy road bike and trying to do hand signals while balancing on wheels the thickness of Fruit-by-the-Foot, regardless of how bright my jacket is.

And while I'm on the weak fence about herbal enjoyments, dipping into a natural hot springs is another gift that could be stripped from its ability to keep on giving.

We went to Mammoth Mountain/Lakes/
Whatever, California, for Memorial Day weekend, and rules nearly ruined another natural high for us: immersing ourselves in some warm-ass hot springs with bursts of cool that compare to the rush of heavy skiing with a stick of Juicy Fruit. Smelling egg salad mixed with fresh air and gurgling water and desert scenery patched with green, we trekked down a short hill to what looks like what a Native American would've called "Jackpot!!! Ching! Ching! Ching!" ...

Hot Creek.

A girl coming up the trail whispered, smiling, "Ignore the signs." Okay. We straddled the low fence consisting of a few wires. (Our friends just stepped over them since they're not stunted in the leg department.) We don't really even stop to read the warning signs. Cary's been here before. He flies helicopters for goodness sake. And just made Lieutenant JG (junior grade - hm, maybe that does sound a wee bit iffy). The water is hot, and eerily bubbly, in places, freezing in others. But there are pockets of ideal warmth, and hot sand to dig yourself into when a frigid wave billows the good water away. The boiling pools several hundred yards away are tantalizing blue and steamy. We pass over slippery rocks, mysterious other objects, and play with globs of mud in the safe, dark water. Of course. We aren't idiots. But there will always be those who are and then mix that with excessive spirit.

We learn from a couple locals that the springs are going through a "soft closing," which sounds like the local law enforcement or rangers are just seeing how angry everyone's going to get over the fact that they don't want to risk being sued by those stupid or faded, litigious people. Again, no one's asking, but there should be some law that protects the state, city, national park, or other 'attempting to do good entity,' from the picnic baskets short of a few apples.

And maybe a bat signal sign at night reminding us:
Stay away from the freeways on your beach cruiser, the scalding hot geysers, the hard drugs, and know that maybe if the Mammoth volcano does erupt, you died happy. But no one boiled to death like in Dante's Peak. No one patrols the area. And adventure-seekers will hopefully continue to visit.

The stigma of holiday weekends is you never want them to end. So the sloth-like behavior, even if you're running around like an exercise enthusiast with its head cut off (which calls for another recovery period), that reinvigorating, bliss-oriented behavior is impossible to quit cold turkey. So it's not until Thursday at 3 p.m. that you feel like getting anything done again. But by then it's too late; you've already committed days and days of sloth.

Photo by Kel Casey for the
Coronado Eagle & Journal
On Tuesday (still in sloth mode), I helped with a local fashion shoot for local boutiques for a local magazine with local models, photographers and complete with editor and publisher. I was paid a peanut for being in charge of writing the captions; however, it was an easy day with free popcorn at the sweet shoot setting, the Village Theater.

(It's a vintage movie theater redone in art deco and feels a bit like a submerged mini-Disneyland.)

My eyes were opened to what it's like for beauty magazine interns. I have a smidgen of respect now for the groomed drama queens of reality TV who maybe do have a tad of a tough time recording every detail of numerous outfits. Hair clips, belts, rings, bangles, invisible tank and socks, shoes, bags, strangely spelled brands, odd prices, any unique aspects, model and store names (also usually strangely named) ... all while keeping the contact person's attention for more than five seconds.

When more stores are interested in the shoot than there are models, the female photographer and I get sucked into donning complete looks picked by someone else. I regret my wild hair and lack of makeup, my hairy legs even though that's a pointless concern. I traipse from boutique to theater in three-inch wedges, carrying a second outfit and pair of shoes, scarf trailing, and looking like I robbed Studio 1220 instead of being on my way to give them publicity. I stare longingly at my notebook, nostalgic for the responsibility of captions, as I try to pose as naturally as the 109-pound 19-year-old with auburn hair.

Ixnay on the judgement.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

They Can't Afford a Whole Reporter

There's too much unpaid writing going on. Those of you with real jobs might feel the same way sometimes, or most of the time. So get away before you slit your beautiful wrists. Beach over blog. TV over studying. A sickie. A babysitter. (Seriously, it will all be okay.)


Okay, here are some Roger Sterling one-liners.

Here are some more:

Well, I gotta go learn a bunch of people's names before I fire them.

We know there's a black spot on the X-ray - you don't have to keep tapping your finger on it.

She died the way she lived: surrounded by the people she answered phones for.

Damn it, I don't want to die in this office. I almost have twice ... If it looks like I'm going, open a window. I'd rather flatten the top of a cab.

You don't know how to drink. Your whole generation, you drink for the wrong reasons. My generation we drink because it's good. Because it feels better than unbuttoning your collar. Because we deserve it. We drink because it's what men do.

A wooden leg ... They're so cheap they can't even afford a whole reporter.

Look, I want to tell you something because you're very dear to me. And I hope you understand that it comes from the bottom of my damaged, damaged heart. You are the finest piece of ass I ever had and I don't care who knows it. I am so glad I got to roam those hillsides.

You know what my father used to say? Being with a client is like being in a marriage. Sometimes you get into it for the wrong reasons, and eventually, they hit you in the face.

Lane: England won the world cup.
Roger: Cup of what?

I bet there were people walking around in the Bible complaining about kids today.

My mother always said, "Be careful what you wish for because you'll get it. And then people get jealous and try and take it away from you."

And here's a pretty song.

And a pretty picture.

Piccadilly Line

Feel any better? Now let's go get us some enjoyment.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

For Lack of a Better Word

On TV, when someone is threatened to leave town, it sounds good to me.

Something is wrong with me. Don't really want to hang out. Don't want to do that black diamond that's narrower than a sidewalk. Can't reach low-hanging fruit. Can't do basic math in my head. Can't run fast. Can't cook well. Can't take a compliment. Can't say no and stick to it.

So these are the things I do at the bare minimum so I can call myself a decent lady, an average succes, and make mom halfway proud before heading out the door to friends, a dinner date, another shower, a wedding.

Run slow.
Eat fast.
Wash hair, body and face.
Tweeze brows. (But half the hairs break off and leave black dots that would heckle me if they could.)
Cover blemishes. (Apparently, I never stopped having 15-year-old chin pores. In the bad way.)
Brush teeth.
Lip stuff and whatever other makeup isn't empty, broken, or too hard to get out of the bag.
Dress and try to add at least one thing that appears on trend.
Grab something warm so I don't complain.
Grab bag despite wishing I was six again and could flee the coup without wallet, cell et cetera.
Pre-loaded in brain: Book, music, TV, and movie fodder. Maybe some Navy or anatomy questions.
Forgot to shave so run back in and don leggings ... Arms are also pale so slap on orange lotion. Oops, nails look like alligator teeth. No time!

Late the night before I find out that the day after whatever event I'm running to, there is another thing, a get-together at our place. So this already busy morning (to do the bare minimum!) starts very early and requires:

Dusting (I don't really need to move and wipe down every item, do I?)
Vacuuming (Too heavy. And canister full of pet hair. Caryyy...)
Making up the spare bed
Folding rest of laundry
Running the dishwasher again because there's food debris atop all the cereal bowls
Making bathroom not embarrassing
Making kitchen not embarrassing (this floor is dark; skip mopping)
Emptying all the trash cans that are too tiny, including the paper shredder that's irritating to have to use
Making that weird couch smell from former cat vomit dissipate again by soaking it in Febreeze
Cleaning cat box
Bathing sad-looking dog
Feeding and watering these two that don't help out at all
Paying credit card bill and addressing things like, Why is there a Best Buy charge in Pensacola a month after we left town?

Leaving town... SIGH

I make a wrong turn at least once when going wherever I'm going. And have to stop at least once to get [food, drink, gift that needs wrapping, card that needs heartfelt message, or hurried gas]. I usually opt for cash gifts. Wrinkled ATM money with torn bits and pen marks. Sorry, mom.

Half a day, half a tank of petrol, and half my energy battery later, I or we will arrive. Small talk and awkward hugs with beautiful tall people ensue. A girl's voice is sweet as syrup and shallow as a kiddie pool though tempting as one, her hair, makeup and outfit flawless. It's hot. As hot as my wedding day. (I'm so sorry, guests. Next round, I promise Vegas or a beach.) My thin layer of make-up melts off in minutes; my hair and clothes stick to me. I listen to the emoting and race to run helpful errands, ashamed for being a bit earnest. I sip on a Five-hour Energy drink to avoid devouring three pieces of red velvet cake and negating every single slow-ass snail run I did last week.

I look at Cary, and he's cool as a skinned cucumber. He's fully charged since he didn't already attend five baby showers this year. And he's fully changed since it's okay for boys to wander around in track pants; they might be lifting something at some point. He's stuffing his face with red velvet cake. I start toward him to steal a bite, but someone poses to me a punctuation question. I respond. They disagree. I bite my tongue.

Wouldn't this all be extra fun for moms with unavoidable water retention and a constant peanut gallery?

Cary wants to stay the night and head out early, so I dread remembering the thank you note I should probably write our last-minute hosts. I find a magazine to read and in it an article from a guy's perspective, detailing how darkly funny it is that women believe thank you notes, bridal gifts, and Facebook posts will get them past the pearly gate-keeper in the clouds. The rotten cherry is officially on top of the day. I roll over to fall asleep, concerned that I didn't make time to write anything beyond a greeting card greeting that day.


But nothing is really wrong with me. Because we all dislike this stuff. No one enjoys not having a maid, nanny, stylist, personal assistant, or endless airline miles for event travel. No one really enjoys absolutely constant responsibility, stimulation, and little time for your passion or the fun stuff. If it's not math, speed, height, cooking, and selfishness, it's spelling, speeches, height, current events, and self-sacrifice.

We should all leave town on our own terms now and then. (Or after a death threat.) But until then, is a thank you note or held tongue so bad? We all know that for lack of a better word, being female sucks. Most of the time. But grace comes with age. Usually. Remember when you first tried 2+2, or spelling Mississippi? It was sure a lot harder than it is now. Maybe one day gentler sex duty will feel less like duty and more like, well, nothing at all.
If a (wo)man does not keep pace with her companions, perhaps it is because she hears a different drummer. Let her step to the music which she hears, however measured or far away ... Shall we with pains erect a heaven of blue glass over ourselves, though when it is done we shall be sure to gaze still at the true ethereal heaven far above, as if the former were not? 
Henry David Thoreau, Walden
It's gotta be amaze-balls when it's natural for us to skip washing our hair for a bike ride, when red velvet cake and black diamonds are a given in equal measure.

Odd Years

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Daisy Chain
It doesn't seem like it would be easy to rise to Beauty and the Beast, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and Purple Violets. But Midnight in Paris did. Rose right to the top. Like froth. And when I wanted to talk to someone about it, the unnervingly perceptive person who recommended it, I couldn't. I can't imagine what a bloodline would do to that feeling of loss, an ugly crack across our lives.

My husband's namesake, responsible for half of of the person I love more than anyone, even quoted Paris director Woody Allen: "As the poet said, 'Only God can make a tree' - probably because it's so hard to figure out how to get the bark on." The thoughtful insight never stopped. Intelligent design. All sides of an issue. Giving. Positivity.


The crown city feels less royal these days. But the neighbors are still nosy, the streets still quiet at eight. It's almost like the Dido song. Daylight still comes. Tasks are still completed. Babies are born and all that jazz. And we still sleep and wake up again. I still have to find more work. Even though the sidewalks and dog beach, and human beach, call.

So freelancing is not what it sounds like. Not usually. Writing about travel, food, or fashion. Following exciting leads to other countries and taking your own photographs - without thinking about that crazy-ass expensive plane ticket you just bought, or how you abandoned your family somehow. Pitching successfully for decent amounts to reputable papers. Nope. It usually has something to do with a marketing dump. Website content that drones on about products and services. White papers that no one will ever read. PowerPoint presentations with too much of everything. Maybe one ad you're proud to call your own. Nope, wait - management didn't approve that one. They don't know why; something was just "not right."

The cool thing is when you reach that level of fed-up-ness, you can truly escape, maybe prowl for supplemental income elsewhere. Go try the local pubs, er publications. Consider joining the Navy. And there's always pro bono work like blogging and, well, other, sometimes less rewarding endeavors.

Or you can just go take a nap. Maybe read or hit up Facebook if you're feeling slightly above sloth-like.

(During one of these stints, when I ventured outside my bookmarks and started seriously trolling the web, I discovered a place called Honeydew, California. HEY! Far north. On the other side of the coastal mountains, in Humboldt County. Which reminded me of Humbert Humbert in Lolita. Which made me reconsider retiring there to be a stooped, wrinkled hermit with straggly, purple hair who writes something that will only be treasured in death.)

To snap out of these funks, I sometimes run. Then I get tired. And I have to think of someone like a Navy SEAL or Louis Zamperini, or my three-legged dog, to keep going. This morning it was Zamperini, a B-24 bombardier (pronounced bomb-ba-deer - so fun to say). Zamperini was an olympic runner, which you'd think would be "enough" - but then he goes on to be a warrior in one of the worst times and goes through Job-like experiences all in the name of life and friends and family and not being broken. His instinct and faith are more right and strong than anything I could plan or hope for. And Author Laura Hillenbrand is more victorious chronically ill than I could ever be in the best place in my life. Read some of her story. And read his story Unbroken if you want to gasp and laugh and gasp again every other page.

After bringing up Midnight in Paris, I would finish telling him about Unbroken, too - how it ends. How I liked that Woody Allen quote, among other things, and that he was right about running a marathon, writing a blog, and never giving up on things like wings.

Cat Lady

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Runner Up

Courtesy via Nicole Lynn Flickr
It was 32 days since I felt like my life was my own. We were ordered to Coronado, California (the dregs of society, I know), then 14.75 people descended on our long lost home of Pensacola to witness Cary's winging. Then 2, 311 miles stretched out before us.

I spent one whole day and 13 hours tottering along in my pickup with Dot, Cary in the 4Runner with the tripod. And while watching the New Mexico sun and clouds pass me by as I drive in a warm truck cab, listening to some sappy soundtrack, is better than any temperature yoga, there's only a certain amount of time I can spend alone with my Shuffle and with my ass cupped into the car chair position.

Which is why road trips, not just long hauls, exist.

Steeped in sleep in San Antonio
Our friend told us the riverwalk is to die for. It is. And would have been as romantic as hopping a plane to Venice - but we motored 12 hours and felt like sacks of osteoporosis-inflicted bones and aching muscle, stomachs growling, and cold.

This effect was compounded by our already shaky condition from the revolving door of house guests and marathon of winging events, followed by packing, loading, cleaning, and more packing as we filled our autos with nearly 1,000 pounds of belongings we wanted to get paid to move.

His body just fell out of the hinge.
The race was interrupted now and again by our bulimic cat and moments of note. At one point, while cleaning our Florida rental, I was yanking on a twig stuck in an open window (since our vacuum cleaner likes to stir up strange smells). I gave up on the twig and slammed the window shut, then balked at the lizard tail I'd been yanking on.

Starving upon arrival in Texas' 2nd largest city, we wolfed down cheeseburgers, huddled in down jackets, then took Butters for yet another gawking walk by the glowing, sunken river - a walk that lasted as long as our good moods from full stomachs.

We forced ourselves to the Alamo in the morning. Not worth it. Just remember it.

Courtesy via USA Today
Roswell between the 10 and the 40 - my Mecca
Another night's rest in a softer bed, even a jacuzzi, made the alien-head street lamps, spaceship-shaped McDonald's, and UFO museum, (and "research center"), an even better pit stop than expected. Locals somehow frequenting the hotel jacuzzi told us the thing to do growing up in Roswell was explore the nearby, abandoned, missile launch sites, jumping precariously between the metal layers of the chutes dug deep into the desert sand.

(Even now a resident in the eerie Pleasantville that is Coronado, this middle-of-nowhere town seems like one of the most fun places to grow up; I worry about my sanity.)

As we get out of dodge, a dog bounds out from a wind-blown gas station and tries to eat my car. Cary cracks up in his side mirror.

Winslow Eve
Our cheapest night of them all was on the eve of our natural-wonder-seeing day. The four of us travelers took to a bed I wouldn't dare take one of those germ-blacklights to and watched the TV that was deeper than it was wide. We hit the road early - the loading of luggage, cooler, litter box, kernels of pet food, and pets, down to a physical science - and headed to 1 Crater Way.

There weren't enough hours in the day to see the meteor crater crash site in Arizona and the spot we picked along the Grand Canyon. At the privately owned (if you can believe it) crater, we took in the naturally designed, red-brown museum and quirky tour along the rim.

We gushed at the free admittance for military and took more pictures in one day than we have since our wedding, when we also vowed to never smile for the cameras again. Pulling ourselves away from the gaping hole and mint green coconino limestone, we ventured to the charming Flagstaff and beyond.

A lone stop sign off the highway spun in circles as we headed toward the mountains.

Death and steaks in Williams
Before having one of the best steak dinners of my life at Rod's, we froze on the edge of the snowy Grand Canyon. For the second time that day, my eyes grew wide at first glimpse of something I could barely comprehend. Butters kept close to our legs as if she was afraid of the height.

The deep, painted canyon and string of river far below made me want to be sure to return and go down there. Cary decided to do it right then, climbing down several ledges of large rock for a picture. While I waited, I talked with a British tourist about a book she saw in the gift shop called Canyon of Death.

Partly cloudy and a chance of Loma Linda
We stopped in Cary's hometown for a visit that's never long enough these days. I would return a week later for a baby shower and part of a wedding one, eyes sunken and nails jagged from 18-hour days of moving into a matchbox, calling the companies that keep a house a hold, filling out forms on decrepit military websites, and shopping for groceries, gifts, and not enough liquor. All the while surviving on a zero, or inert, internet connection, thus zero paychecks, and scratching at seven mosquito bites turned ping pong balls overnight. (I have no idea how that happened - tsk, tsk, sleepy fingers.)

The Twilight Zone
It might feel good to have money in the pocket from our very necessary garage sale. It might feel great to have an office back, up and running at nearly full steam. It feels strange to be able to walk to the local publications to beg for freelance jobs, stop and get a giant $3 burrito, or fro yo at 10:30 at night - or go a few immaculate blocks further to the beach the moment this sea's air turns warm.

But the best thing right now - even better than having back my beloved TV and couch combo, my Tempur-Pedic, (moving is always a good way to re-fall in love with your belongings), and the ability to sleep later than 7 a.m., fit in a jog (or not), and not have to make a big decision like what walls to live between... The best thing presently is the road trip in my back pocket.

So simply my first cross-country road trip memoir is what's making me happy. Remembering the Alamo, yes, but also being in five states before 9 a.m., moving through Henderson Swamp on a low, gray highway like in the keys, (not that I made it all the way down there, but I did see True Lies), and passing through a foggy Baton Rouge as the rain and wind got really bad - but I survived ... And the especially Route 66  stop we made, making cold Griller sandwiches in a closed restaurant with big windows facing the road and roomy, squeaky, leather booths. We scavenged the adjoining store, cracking each other up over what was for sale, then sobering at the fact that we really did want to buy the awkwardly shaped wallets and weird flavor jelly beans and garish T-shirts and mugs oh my.

And remember Pensacola, I say. She's the girl who took second place to Newbold College in England - where it all started. Will this Twilight Zone of an island compare?

No more. Now it's a bigger guy. That's not orange.

A second later, I was busting up.

We noticed the McDonald's was special, too.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Dear Grams

Our phone conversations weren't like other grandparents and grandchildren. Or so I thought. We didn't waste much air time on chit-chat. But that might be because I was only 15 when you got sick. We dove right in to what color dress I should get for some upcoming event. What boy I liked. What mischief you and my aunt, your elder daughter, had been up to. It's time like these I wish you were still a phone call, or a family event, away, and I could fill you in, and you me, and then I might feel guiltless enough to vent like an air conditioner in Florida in the summertime.

Last week, probably very soon after we knew, I would have called to tell you that you'd be happy to hear: I'm not going overseas. At least any time right soon. I know you would have wanted me to - because I wanted to - just like my mom; but deep down (though not that deep), you would be tickled like she is. Dad, too.

You would have liked, just like my husband (I supercalifragilistically can't wait for you to meet him), the fact that I'm more than willing - desperately wanting these days - to receive an overseas post. And you would maybe be slightly proud that with frantic eyes I continue to watch for the opportunity, as well as continue to prompt the hus to use words like "we" and "Aly and I" instead of "I" and "my." Because outside the helicopter, it's both of us picking our way through this life we chose together.

I might put to you here how you really do need to get a hearing aid. (They're quite streamlined now!) And stop being so stubborn! We're already letting you live in your own home ... Because if we had had another 15 years together, we would be close like this, having formed one of those relationships that's busting with respect yet dotted with frankness and plenty o' hugs with a kiss. But we would quickly get back to me ticking off disquiets about moving to San Diego by the end of the month (for a few years), instead of a far off isle via San Diego.

And just like everyone else, I would reiterate (though maybe a little more patiently with you - maybe, so don't push your luck, WINK), about how it all works.

Cary will be flying the new (well while this one is fairly new, I'm realizing 'new' tends to mean there's just not one slotted to replace it) naval helicopter called the 60 numerically, the Romeo phonetically, and the Seahawk better-ly. (Because who doesn't love rooting for the underdogs of Pritchard male sports lore...)

In his new squadron, he'll be learning to fly this breed of hawk (a pimped out Navy version of the Army Blackhawk for those who like comparisons like myself) during the next 6-9 months at the North Island base, which is on Coronado Island - over that huge suicide bridge from San Diego and up the Silver Strand that connects near The Del.

But you know this.

(And I apologize for all the parenthetical statements and some banging on, but it seems a necessity when it comes to militaryspeak as that dog Orwell might say.)

Then he'll officially joint the fleet and be deployable on his squadron's time. They say to expect about 6 months of deployment every year and a half, give or take for war or peace time; it's strange to have a job revolve around anything but the fiscal year. But then again, it's strange to have one family job in the air and the other very willingly chained to a desk. You would laugh a little at this, because a lot of what I said struck you as funny, as if I had quick wit instead of moments of clarity.

And you wouldn't ask me how the writing was going at this note, because you'd know I never know what to say. But you'd ask me what I was reading and that would sneakily get me talking about literary devices and the elements of style and how a panda eats, shoots and leaves.

But Grams, you'd be distracting me - so back to my list of misgivings I would pose to you on this much-wished-for-phone-call-slash-letter-to-the-North-Pole ... And no, Cary's no help, because all he cares about is riding beach cruisers around an idyllic little island from Oz, ignoring inflated rent and learning the many capabilities of his new maritime strike ride ... Yes, yes, that's why I love him. Okay, ready now? Okay...

Q: How is my writing life made more interesting when I'm stateside?

A: Who had to go to Japan or Guam or Timbuktu to write something good? Pulitzers are always won by someone covering a story in their own backyard.

Q: I was hoping it would gloss over the fact that nothing of significance has happened to me, but I guess I'll have to continue to seek them out. Okay, so how do I justify being a lonely wife, or a poor parent a long, long time from now, when I can throw a palm tree and hit someone I know or am related to, who's likely doing the same thing, likely in an even harder situation?

A: What do you think I was sometimes?

Q: Stop answering my questions with questions ... Well how do I put an ocean between myself and work and responsibility and the like when there's only a channel or a freeway or state lines?

A: Just take lunch. Or hold your tongue. Or just stay away. Nothing wrong with a scoop of ice cream in the middle of the afternoon, or a night watching Little House on the Prairie. Get away; take a trip to Tijuana.

Q: It's not really safe there anymore but okay, just don't tell mom ... But how do I afford trips to places like Tokyo and Kyoto and learn to surf with nobody watching when Tokyo is a fortune away and again the palm tree thing?

A: I know you think some people think all you do is write marketing fluff and silly blog posts and fulfill your wifely role, but you and I both know better. You're not a pilot's wife. He's a writer's husband. {She laughs at her joke.} You'll be supporting and indulging me one day, and I wouldn't put my faith in a lost cause - let alone go anywhere near doubting your ability to one-up us all. Listen to your mother. And stop flirting with the Joneses, as you say.

Q: But how do I---

A: Oh Aly, you'll be fine. Now go do your thing.

I guess that's all I needed to hear. Though I think I'd be happy with a one-down. I wish you could come to the winging this weekend. You'll miss everyone thinking killing is cool and drinking is [fill in the blank]. You'd love our friends here. And you'll miss him in his uniform, and I can just imagine keeping that picture close by. I miss you. A lot. It'll be even more when I'm back Out West and wishing you could make your fried chicken and chocolate cake for me and the girls who make California great.

Hazel Nena Thomas was my mom's mom. One of the best of the best.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Shiver of Sharks

Courtesy of deviantART
We lay awake thinking about where we'll be sleeping this time in say March. Lately, we lay awake coughing. Phlegmy but harsh, or dry and every 90 seconds. But soon the coughs will be gone, and we'll still be wondering.

He's two flights away from finishing flight school. So in February - unfortunately detracting from the time he needs to be spending in preparation for Valentine's Day - he'll receive his naval wings and become the hybrid animal many dream about, a flying fish of sorts.

But for a few more days - weeks - we'll still have a hard time quieting our minds about where we'll end up, no, where we'll arrive. And what kind of fish he'll be flying.

If I do manage to mute the issue, the other issue surfaces: Everyone I know is being impregnated. Not with some body-snatching alien, thank god (even though that would be kinda cool), or in a tricky knock-up situation, but with what will be a perfect mashup of their astounding, adoring parents. But still. Still.

The static between my ears as each announcement comes is unavoidable - the rush of blood to the head that isn't as thrilling as the Coldplay song makes it sound. Childbearing. The stage women love and fear. So in addition to wondering if we'll become East Coasters or San Diegans (AKA residents of "the whale's vagina"), or residents of one of the beautiful and tantalizingly far off naval isles of Guam, Japan, or Hawaii, we're peppered with the following questions, albeit on a lovable basis.

Courtesy of the Schwarze family blog
Are you pregnant? (When did this become okay to ask after every declined drink, roll of sushi - which I will still eat while pregnant since fish aren't caught with broken thermometers for hooks - or stomach bug?)

Are you pregnant? (Did the first jaw-drop not settle this?)

Are you trying? (You really want to know if we're humping like bunnies?)

Are you trying? (Has your cheek met the palm of my hand?)

Are you on birth control? (Is that not the same thing as trying anymore? Oh you mean trying is actually stripping away every shred of spontaneity and carefreeness from doing the humpty dance? 
Because at some point we became adults on the brink of barenness instead of biblically fertile young adults.)

Do you want boys or girls? (Oh is that technology available now?)

What names do you like? (Ishmael and Jose, because everything else will be either tainted, taken, or briefly mentioned and therefore the cause of the cold shoulder by the time we get around to knowing the genders of our unborn children.)

Did you know you don't have to have kids... (Wow.)

One question that gives me fuzzy insides when I answer is, What's it like being an aunt? Corbin James Pritchard is my brother's son, my sister-in-law's boy. He stretches and smiles now and was the most precious curled up potato bug I'd ever seen when I met him for the first time over Christmas. One day he might answer to Stretch or Corbster or bring some new, weird, wild and wonderful thing to our family like a contagious laugh or emo style. One day he'll have a big heart like his dad and be an unconditional ray of sunlight like his mom. And maybe I'll get to read to him and with him, show him a story for the first time, discover new ones together. Maybe he'll come stay with his cousins. The one thing I do know is that, that love is there regardless, more solid than anything; it's more sure than where you'll live or work or when you'll have another.

Since I can't sleep, probably like a lot of the superhero moms out there right now, I look through pictures of the Corbster that family have sent and consider myself well on my way to popcorn lung as the DVR'd Golden Globes play in the background.

Night turns into morning as I watch Felicity episodes and surf the Web, (I find out a group of sharks is called a 'shiver'), instead of writing like a good girl. The inspiration happens when it happens. Offspring, too.

In the meantime, I continue to want to chop off my hair despite the critics and blog about surfing baby waves on a beach in the Mariana Islands (forgetting about shivers in more ways than one). Or hole up and write. Or visit places like Kyoto and Godzilla Park.

And they can come, too. When they get here. There.

Courtesy of this|next