Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Last night our electricity was restored, after being knocked out in a massive, windy thunderstorm Sunday night. It's funny how attached we are to our electricity, and how many times I forgot and flipped a switch, opened the fridge, or even tried to make coffee these past few days.

It was the same way two years ago, when we were without power for three days after a tornado flattened the next street over and did some moderate damage to our house (see that story on Kyle's blog here). This time, though, it was a little less depressing, since the damage to our house was minimal by comparison, and the weather in the days after the storm wasn't dreary and rainy.

Because of our experience with the tornado, we are not a family that takes bad weather lightly. Sunday night our weather radio was only talking about a thunderstorm warning, but when the rain started blowing in around the cracks in our (closed) windows and doors, we decided to wake the kids and go downstairs anyway. Only after we'd settled into our basement bathroom did the weather radio begin instructing people to take shelter. By that point, we could hear glass breaking somewhere upstairs in our house.

Let me just say what a terrible feeling that is, to think that something is going very wrong and that you are required to just sit there and let it happen, because there is nothing you can do to stop it.

The funny thing is, even though my nerves felt like they were on fire, in the back of my mind I really feel like somehow we cannot be hit by another storm, as if our past experience must have inoculated us against all further inconvenience and homeowners insurance claims. Like we are invincible somehow, since we already had our turn. As we sat there, listening to the storm blow and blow our house and imagining all our belongings getting soaked, all I could think was, "Seriously? Again? No way."

Just as we did after our last basement party, we sent Kyle upstairs to survey the damage. He returned with the happy news that everything was dry, and that it was only a couple of storm windows that had broken. This did NOT help me overcome my denial, as I hardly felt surprised.

In the past few days, I've been thinking that I need to get past this feeling. I know that sometimes more than one bad thing happens to a person or a family or a neighborhood. I need to remember that there are people in the world who endure one hardship after another after another, and many of them don't even get a nice house like mine to be concerned about. How spoiled am I that I complain about having to drive up the street to McDonald's to use the internet? Really, it could hardly be said that I've experienced my share of hardship in this life.

I am grateful that, this time, we are back to normal barely 48 hours after the storm. No chainsaws or insurance adjusters or contractors were required. All the meat from our deep freeze got a trip across town to our friends Madeline and John's house (seriously, they should start charging us for our bi-annual invasion of their freezer space). The kids were overjoyed that we broke our fast food ban in order to use the internet Monday morning (really, with all the downed power lines in the roads, the internet was the best way we could think of to check whether our classes were canceled). We really don't deserve much sympathy for this storm.

It is nice, though, to recognize how much power we take for granted in our everyday life.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

10 Years

So today is Kyle's and my tenth wedding anniversary (it's traditionally the Tin Anniversary; try to make a good gift out of THAT). In some ways it's hard to believe it's been that long (I guess time really does fly when you're having fun). In other ways, though, I think we've come a long way since early in our marriage (It feels like I should put something in parentheses here).

To celebrate, this past weekend we dropped the kids off with my parents and spent the weekend in St. Louis. We did things that childless people do, like shop and sit in bookstores, stroll leisurely through the art museum, and eat dinner after 8:30pm.

We went back to the hotel where we stayed on our wedding night, the Millenium Hotel near the Arch. While I don't feel that the hotel itself is anything super-special, the Sunday brunch in the revolving restaurant at the top of the building is really fantastic, and we've always cherished fond memories of gorging ourselves there our first morning as man and wife.

When we attempted to check in this weekend, however, we learned that the cleaning staff wasn't keeping up with the number of guests checking in and out. So, being one of the few couples not wanting to get to the Cardinals game on time, we agreed to wait for a bit. Turns out that "a bit" was actually two and a half hours. During that time we had some drinks and free appetizers in the lobby, and entertained ourselves by talking about how we think each other has changed or stayed the same in the past ten years. Really, though, I think the most telling example of how we've changed is made by comparing this anniversary evening to one we had nine years ago, celebrating the end of our first year of marriage.

That year, we were in downtown Chicago. I had just finished the Avon Breast Cancer 3-Day, a 60-mile walk to raise money for cancer research. My feet were blistered and my legs sore, so we decided to eat at the restaurant in the hotel where we were staying. After being seated, we realized the following:
-We were the youngest, least well-dressed people there (and we were wearing our nicest clothes).
-There was not a wine on the wine list that we could afford.
-We couldn't comprehend anything about the menu. At all. I don't even know what language it was in.
Did we leave? No. Did we tell our Fancy Waiter that we were clueless and needed help? No. We were so young and self-conscious, and so in denial that we just tried as hard as we could to look like we belonged there.

We stalled for as long as we could, then each took a stab at ordering something we thought sounded like something we could eat. I'd identified a word that I thought suggested a kind of pasta, so I ordered that. Kyle ordered something that he thought included a word for beef, only to receive a condescending look from Fancy Waiter. "Are you sure, Sir? That is an appetizer." We fumbled a bit, and told the waiter that he would get that to start, and then Kyle pointed to something else on the menu that turned out to be a main course. Fancy Waiter then asked me if I'd like an appetizer, and then barely hid his sneer when I said we'd just share the one. Looking back, I'm pretty sure he was thinking, "This isn't Applebee's, Lady. We don't share here," as there was no stack of little plates on the table. We tried to play the wine off kind of cool, by asking Fancy Waiter to suggest something that paired well with our meals. He asked us what kind of wine we usually drink, like did we like dry or sweet, or something with "a nice oaky flavor?". What I was thinking at the time was, "Earnest & Julio Gallo, Buddy. Five bucks."

In the end I don't remember how we played off the wine question, but I don't think we fooled him into thinking we were connoisseurs. He ended up choosing one that "just happened" to be already opened but mostly full, that he could give to us at a special, lower price. We muddled through that expensive, uncomfortable dinner of tiny, fancy food as quickly as we could and then debated over whether we should attempt to locate a nearby Burger King or hope that we could find some filling desserts on the menu. We stuck it out to the finish and did have some decent desserts, if I remember correctly. What I will never forget, though, is how timid and embarrassed and out-of-place we felt, but we were too young and proud to admit that we'd wandered into a situation that was over our heads.

Fast forward to the present time. At our hotel this weekend we agreed to wait for our room not because we were too timid to refuse, but out of genuine sympathy for the clearly harried staff we'd seen being yelled at by other guests. We asked for a restaurant suggestion from the hotel Concierge, but decided the menu and decor in the brochure wasn't really our style. So we went against her warning and took our chances reservationless on a Saturday night. We walked into and back out of a restaurant that we thought looked too stiff and fancy and empty for us. We ended up going for a nice but VERY long walk from our hotel to get to a place my brother had shown me online called Copia Urban Winery.

And it was perfect. The decor was nice, but comfortable; our waitress was great; our meals fantastic. We looked at the 12-page wine list for a few minutes, but still asked for a suggestion. This time, we were able to say, "We like dry, spicy, reds, nothing over fifty dollars," and then reasonably discuss different varietals until we arrived at something we thought sounded good. I nursed a couple of terrible blisters I'd formed walking to the restaurant in my strappy shoes, and decided to just walk barefoot back to the hotel. The next morning, when we were told that the Sunday brunch was full and that we needed reservations, Kyle talked the host into letting us have a table anyway. Once again, we indulged in the fabulousness of mimosas, made-to-order omelettes, and a full table of dessert options (That's champagne AND cheesecake! For BREAKFAST!).

Reflecting on this weekend, I think the moral of the story is that now, ten years after being married, I finally feel like we're grownups. We are not embarrassed to admit we aren't familiar with any of these wines or too proud to let all of downtown St. Louis know that my feet hurt. We don't care as much what other people think of us. I think that getting married so young has caused us to be adults that really just GO together. We like the same things, and we know what those things are. We are both happy to have ended up with someone who does not get bent out of shape over a little hotel mismanagement (which turns out to be very useful in getting a fancy suite, comped by the apologetic front-desk manager). We're satisfied with an overnight getaway instead of a fancy cruise, with living in a small town, with our dogs and our kids and our house.

It's been a great ten years.

Maybe in another ten years we'll be better at picking hotels, and hopefully by then I'll have learned to wear more sensible shoes.