Friday, August 28, 2009

Oregon Zoo

As you know Ange & I are crazy animal lovers, so naturally we couldn't visit Portland without going to the Oregon Zoo! The majority of our trip was unplanned because we wanted to really go on vacation and not be tied to anything, so when we found ourselves with nothing to do on Sunday afternoon we thought the zoo would be a perfect excursion! We mapped out our train route and hit the rails!

The zoo was really easy to get to as there is a TriMet stop at the zoo entrance. Like I mentioned previously, we actually forgot our passes in the room, but the TriMet is different from any other mass transit system I've been on in that you don't really ever show your pass to anyone. You don't have to scan it to get through any turnstiles, you just jump on! So that is how we managed to not have our pass. You get a discount (small, but hey, anything helps!) and luckily the zoo man was nice and let us in with the discount anyway.

We walked through the entirety of the zoo stopping and taking some pics here and there. Ange took lots of animal pics which you can see on her blog, but I mostly like to take funny pictures so here are some of my gems.

This is Ange posing next to a sign talking about Small Fry...because she is a small fry.

Next we decided to ride some ponies in the petting zoo barn. Ange had a hard time with her steed, but I think she finally was able to get it under control.

Next we visited the Primate Center. Monkeys & apes are always so hilarious to me. The orangutans were so cute. They had a sheet with a whole cut in it. When we first got there, one was sitting underneath it and hiding. Sadly there were way too many people oohing and ahhing so I couldn't get a pic. It finally ditched the sheet and immediately the other one came over put it over his head and was walking around like a little ghost. We were cracking up. Here is the ghost climbing the tree.

When we were leaving the Primate Center we noticed some people looking over the railing to this one corner. We peeked around and saw this goofy chimp all laid out on the concrete enjoying the sun. It looked like he had fallen off the wall and was all sprawled out but we watched him long enough to know he was just sunbathing. Totally no care in the world.

Next we stopped at the Bat House which is pretty much the most disgusting place I've ever been. There were hundreds of bats just hanging upside down and bat poop all over the bottom of their exhibit. I just wanted to barf all over the place. Caught this gem of a photo showing a giant pair of testicles on one of the disgusting creatures. Serious kahones.

Finally, what would the zoo be without a little love? Luckily there were lots of nice people around willing to take pics of people so we got a cute snap in.

The zoo overall was pretty fantastic! It didn't have anything really that I haven't seen before, and it isn't huge by any means (about the same size as the Indy Zoo), but the layout and synchronicity with nature was really nice. They have made great pains to integrate it with the surrounding woods and landscape so that was cool to see. It was also very eco-friendly, which is no surprise since all of Portland seems very eco-friendly. A+!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Voodoo Doughnuts

I mentioned in the mega-blog about Portland that Ange had heard about this nifty little doughnut shop called Voodoo Doughnuts. She can't remember if she heard it on the Travel Channel or on the Food Network, but just knew that they served some really tasty doughnuts and wanted to try them out!

Sidenote: sadly, I don't have any pictures of VD. We bought a new camera for Ange right before we went because her old camera suffered a tragic death during a lame-o driveway party in Noblesville. She was very sad and mopey about it so we decided to get a new one before we left so she could be snapping away. The other advantage is that my camera, while awesome, is rather bulky. We got her a kicky little CoolPix in a sweet purple color. She actually wanted a blue one, but they were out and we didn't have time to wait for a special order. We got a good deal on it at Best Buy and I found a cool little hip carrying case for easy access. So on many of our excursions we just used her camera rather than worrying about mine. Ange did a really nice blog about Portland including a huge excerpt about VD with lots of pictures, you can check it out on her blog.

So VD is known for having crazy doughnut combos like Captain My Captain (doughnut with Captain Crunch on the top), Butter Fingering (Devils food, vanilla, and crushed Butterfinger), Dirty Snowball (chocolate cake doughnut covered with pink marshmallow glaze and surprise filling), etc. However, they are most famous for their Maple Bacon bar, which is exactly as it sounds. A maple glazed doughnut with two slices of bacon on top. I know, as my sister Leslie said "SICK!" but Ange swears it's like a little slice of heaven. Being a vego I cannot vouch for her. But I can say that I tried a plain maple doughnut and it was delicious. And so was the old fashion chocolate, the old fashion blueberry, the Butterfingering, and the No Name. We went to VD twice and took home extras for snacks. What can I say? They were GOOD!

In addition to yummy doughnuts, they also have a cool vibe going on. It is a very alternative/hipster place. Lots of tattooed people and funky clothes. Definitely up our alley anyway.

The only thing you need to be prepared for is long lines at times. We went on Sunday mid-morning and we ran into the brunch crowd and waited about 45 minutes for doughnuts. I know not everyone has the patience we do so if you don't, you may want to try and hit some off times. We drove by on Monday morning on our way to exploring around 9 am and there wasn't any line at all. We went on Tuesday evening around 8:30 pm and we waited maybe 15 minutes. So definitely scope it out if you aren't in it to win it ;)

Bottom Line: I would definitely hit Voodoo Doughnuts if you are in the Portland Area!

Found this blog post about VooDoo Doughnuts...written by a guy who has a blog just about doughnuts. It gives you all the info you might want to know about the doughnuts, so if you are serious about your eatin', check it out.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Acamale...or hi I was a dumb kid!

So I might be a big brain now, but when I was a child I was less than the smartest. I had lots of dumb words that I made up and often had songs and dances that went with them. Here's just a little glimpse into that world of madness.

When I was little one of the things that I didn't pronounce correctly was "tamale." Instead I called it "acamale." And like I said, sometimes I liked to sing "acamale, acamale, acamale." You'll hear in the video below. The dance was something we just made up. Clearly I haven't grown up that much.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Portland: The Overview

Of course I have a ton of stuff to say about our trip, so I’m going to try and break it up into more manageable pieces. Just as a FYI, this overview will talk about the beginning of the trip in detail and then go through the highlights of our days. I’ll then talk about different activities in detail in subsequent blogs and then give a travel do’s and don’ts at the end.

We stayed up really late on Friday night. We had some laundry to do as well as some last minute packing, and since it was Ange’s first flight in about 3 years she was bouncing off the walls with excitement. I was excited too of course, because I love vacations and this was our first “big” vacation together, but words cannot really do justice to the level of excitement Ange was feeling. Sally Sensitive is not only about crying at Hallmark commercials, but sensitive to anything that could be a major emotion. It’s actually very cute, and kind of makes it more exciting for me. I’ve done so much traveling over the past few years that it’s hard to remember when travel was a big deal. So it’s almost like a renewed zest for travel.

We collapsed into bed probably around 2 am. We were getting up at 6:30 am. Yikes. This is pretty normal for me though. I seem to always stay up way too late before a big flight, but in the end it works out because I usually sleep the entire flight. Usually. We’ll get back to that one.

We rolled out of bed very sleepy but very excited. We got our showers and I gave my dear little sister a call to make sure she was awake. Hilary is not a morning person and she’s been known to shut the alarm clock off and fall back asleep. I had planned to call her at 7:20 and then at 7:25 to make sure she was still awake! But to my surprise when Ange called her (I was drying my hair) she was getting ready to walk out the door! Way to go Hil! She must be practicing for her new life as a vet student at
MSU :).

We finished throwing all of our last minute stuff in our bags and Hilary arrived to help us throw it in her car. We kissed the dogs goodbye and were off to the airport! We arrived at the Delta counter to realize that my Silver Elite status had expired and we had to pay $15 for each of our bags. The indignity! We quickly breezed through check in and security and were on our way to the terminal. I could tell Ange was nervous and excited, and she had already warned me that she may cry, so when I looked over at her to say something about a Starbucks stop I wasn’t too surprised to see her choking back some tears. I wasn’t sure what I should do, but she couldn’t talk at the moment so I just steered us to Starbucks so she could have her moment. She recovered quickly, we got our coffees and then we sat down and waited to board.

We boarded the plane and got ready for take-off. I thought Ange may just pass out from excitement, but she made it. Our flight to Minneapolis was uneventful and we arrived on time. Sadly, I did NOT get to nap on the plane because someone was too excited and talked my ear off the entire way. But, again, it was cute so I wasn't too upset. We got a quick bite to eat and waited for our flight to Portland. Again, the flight was uneventful, but we did get to see some awesome views as we flew into the city. Living in Indiana you can forget how beautiful mountains and lots of trees can be. Not to say that our lovely farmland isn’t pretty, but when you see it all the time it’s not that spectacular.

We were so excited to land and start exploring! We got off the plane, grabbed our luggage and made our way to the TriMet. When we were thinking about places to go, public transportation was high on our list. In addition to trying to live as green as possible, we also wanted to travel as economically as possible, so public transport was a big deal for us. My family thought that it was funny that we were randomly going to Portland, OR and that one of our main reasons for doing so was that they had a really great public transportation system, but in addition to the above reasons, it turned out to be just plain handy. More about that later.

We grabbed out 1-week unlimited fare cards and headed out to the light rail tracks to take the 40 minute ride to downtown Portland. The ride was great; very comfortable, efficient and gave us a good riding tour of part of the city. We made sure to grab a fare map so we could see the routes that we may want to take during our trip.

We arrived at Pioneer Square North and jumped off the train. We knew we needed to walk 0.10 miles North but we weren’t quite sure where we needed to point ourselves. Luckily Portland has police and safety officers all over. It’s part of their “Keep Portland Clean & Safe” campaign so there was a safety man standing right near the train that was able to point us in the right direction. We walked 3 or 4 short blocks and arrived at the Marriott. I thought we were staying at a Courtyard but this was the address we had. We went in to try and check in. Turns out we really were staying at the Courtyard which was a few more blocks away and the less than friendly receptionist was quick to let us know that “Unfortunately, you’ve arrived at the wrong property.” So we took our low class selves out the door and headed to our lesser property…which turned out to be way better than the Marriott we went to anyway! Our unfortunate property (which is what we called it the whole rest of the trip) was very contemporary and a lot lower key than the stuffy one we first arrived at. We were thrilled. We quickly checked in and made our way up to our room. The room was small but nice, way to go Priceline! We dumped our stuff, jumped on the bed, and then headed back out to explore.

Portland has a huge outdoor market that they call “The Saturday Market” even though it goes on both Saturday and Sunday. We rode the train to the market and spent a few hours exploring the booths, the food and catching the general atmosphere. It was large and semi-overwhelming so we thought we’d head back to the hotel for a little rest and then we’d figure out where we’d go that evening for dinner and anything else we wanted to do.

After sinking in to our comfy King size bed we thought a quick little nap was in order. We hadn’t gotten much sleep on the plane so we were a little tired. Plus there was a 3 hour time difference so that just added to our exhaustion. We ended up passing out cold for about 4 hours and woke up around 10pm. We decided it was too late to go out so we called the front desk and got a good recommendation for a local pizza place and ordered in. Hammy’s pizza arrived about an hour later and it was delicious! We stayed up for about another hour mapping out the next day’s activities and watching CNN. We crashed again around 12:30. The night was interrupted about 4:30 am when Hammy's decided that we had ordered another pizza. The guy really, really wanted to deliver it to us, even though I clearly had stumbled out of bed bleary-eyed and swore that I was not Nick someone or other. Then we went back to sleep until around 8:30am.

We were eager to make up for the little bit of lost time we had the previous night so we quickly showered and were off to the races! We walked to the TriMet and headed to Chinatown. We wandered around and realized that Portland was a late starting city and nothing was really open in Chinatown and decided to come back later. We headed to Voodoo Donuts to try out their insane donut combos. Ange had heard about VD originally on FoodNetwork or the Travel Channel and was determined to try a Maple Bacon Bar. We got there and there was already a long line. 45 minutes later we walked away with a large sampling of delicious donuts. We paused to eat 2 each and saved the others for later.

As we walked away from VD we realized our hotel was really close to Chinatown, and that the TriMet was completely unnecessary. We basically took a long loop around to walk about 3 blocks. Oops. So we headed back and stopped at the Indian Festival in Pioneer Square. We hung out there for a bit, watched some dancing, sampled some food and then headed back to hotel to re-group.

We looked at our options and decided to go to the zoo! We took the TriMet over to the zoo and realized that we actually forgot our tickets. Oops. No one checks for them anyway. We were sad that we couldn't get a discount for showing our TriMet tickets, but the man was really nice and gave us the discount anyway. We spent several hours at the zoo and saw all the exhibits. Our combo ticket gave us a ride on the train to Washington Park. We saw the Rose Garden & looked at the enterance to the Japanese Garden, but realized that we had only an hour until the last train and the zoo closing and didn't think it was justified to pay $8 for less than an hour so we skipped out on that.

We returned to hotel to relax, scheduled a rental car for Monday, watched a little AFV, and got ready for dinner. We thought we'd be able to find something to eat rather easily, but sadly we wandered aimlessly for 45 minutes and then finally ended up at a Greek restaurant that we'd seen earlier in the day. As we ate in the open air tables some weirdo came up and gave us a private "Indian dance" and when we didn't pay attention to us he called us "Fucking Greeks!" Momentary amusement. We went back to the hotel and did a photo shoot since we got all dressed up and really didn't go anywhere. This is why we're perfect for each other.

We had an adventurous day planned for Monday and had planned to get up at 7:30, but apparently I was excited so I woke up an hour earlier and tried to bother Ange until she finally decided to get up at 7:30. We got up, packed stuff, waited forever for towels and then finally got ready after they arrived. We conveniently walked the 3 blocks to the rental place for Hertz. We were given a smart little Toyota Corrola with GPS and we were on our way!

We first drove to Columbia River Gorge, of course making lots of Gorges jokes. "You're so Gorges!" "No, you are the most Gorges!" Ah, good times. We arrived first at Wahkeena Falls, and decided to hike all around them. Then we headed up the road to Multnomah Falls and hiked around a bit. Got some coffee and a snack and headed back on the road to Washington State, which surprisingly, is not far from Portland. It took us about 30 mintues to get to the Falls and then another 45 or so to get to Washington, half of which was back-tracking.

We finally reached the Mount St. Helens "area" after about an hour and 15 minutes of driving. We then realized the Mountain was a lot farther than we thought. We had only made it to the visitor's center at that point. Decided it would be dumb to leave without seeing the Mountain so we took the extra 70-some minutes to drive to the Mountain, making lots of scenic stops along the way. Stopped at one overlook and got a nice little overview from a volunteer guide who was super nice. She lent us her binoculors to see some Elk, but sadly I didn't see any Elk because secretly I'm not good at using them and can't really ever find anything through them. Ange saw them though. Saw lots of "Happy Trees" on the drive. Finally got to the actual Mountain viewing area and decided that we didn't want to pay $8 each to see a slightly better view of what we'd been seeing for the past hour and a half. So we sneaked in free to platform, but I got scared because I didn't want to get caught by the scary rangers, and after a few minutes we ran away.

We drove back down the mountain area, fighting our way through slow heads who aren't good mountain drivers like me. Stopped to eat before we both died. Decided to drive to Seaside which is on the coast. Made a quickie stop in Astoria, which is where Kindergarten Cop was filmed & based. Tried to crack some jokes but Ange was too obsessed with the water so I texted them to my sister instead. Got back on the road and finally arrived in Seaside. We spent a couple hours on the beach in Seaside, watched some Stoners get high and try to swim in the freezing water, saw lots of dogs, watched the sunset, found a boomerang, took it as an omen that we were meant to return, went to crappy ass dinner at Dooger's and were very disappointed. Drove back to Portland, forgot to check the gas gauge and almost ran out of gas, but likely we got to the station just in time. Finally got back to Portland, returned the rental car and went back to hotel to wash sand out of all our cracks, and collapsed into bed.

Tuesday morning we woke up and puttered around the hotel for a bit and then decided to do some more walking around. We walked over to Chinatown again, still were not too impressed, walked to the Pearl District, not much to see, but pretty. Finally decided to grab an early lunch and found a little Mexican place called Santeria, or "Abierto" as Ange first thought. Had some yummy burritos. Decided to go next door to buy some lottery tickets and see if we could end the vacation with a bang (we didn't win, boo). Walked over to the Waterfront Park to enjoy a nice view. Hung out for a bit and then decided to go find the street car and take a little ride. Sadly, the street car wasn't like a trolley and was just a light rail train. Skipped the ride and poked around in Finnegan's Toy Store. Went to get some coffee and decide what we wanted to do next. Decided to go see a movie, but first we went back to take a nap at the hotel. Watched some funny falling down and animal videos on YouTube first. Took a short nap, got up, went and saw Adam. Went for a yummy dinner at Pastini. Walked back to the hotel. Decided we couldn't leave Portland without visiting Voodoo Donuts one last time. Got a snack for the night and donuts for breakfast. Walked back to the hotel and went to bed.

Wednesday we got up early, packed our stuff, checked out of the hotel and walked to the TriMet. Got to the airport, checked in where the lady said "Uhhh, Linda and Angel?" and of course we called each other that for the rest of the day, went through security, ate our Voodoo Donuts, boarded the plane, flew to Salt Lake City, realized SLC airport blows, hung out a bit, ate some gross food, boarded our plane for home, flew through major turbulence, arrived home safely, called Hilary to pick us up, went home and loved on dogs. The end.

Ok, not totally the end, but for now. More later.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Spiritual Journey

I know I haven't blogged a lot lately, but life has been crazy. Mercy & I have been working non-stop on our fundraising event coming up, Ange and I are leaving for Portland on Saturday, and I've had some other meetings and school stuff to attend to. I have some very serious blogs coming up (including this one) so I didn't want to just dash them out without giving them the thought and time I thought they deserved.

So this is a semi-strange blog for me. I very intensely believe that religion and all things religious should be kept to yourself. I think religion, like many other controversial subjects, are best kept private and discussed with very few people. However, since this is my blog and I'm never sure who reads it besides myself we'll just pretend it's a dialogue with myself and a conversation for posterity's sake.

I was born and raised Catholic. I went to Sunday school, did my first communion and for many, many years our family was an active practicing one. Not just a high holidays kind of Catholic. Like every Sunday, couldn't eat before mass, kind of Catholic. But even when I was really little I remember thinking "Ahh, these are nice stories, but they clearly not real." I felt about Jesus the same way I felt about Cinderella. Nice story, but clearly just a story.

Now there are only 2 Catholic Churches in the Ben Davis area, so most of the kids I went to Sunday school with were also kids I went to school with. When I hit the pre-teen years I began to realize that my parents entrusted me with making some decisions of my own. Of course this went to my head and I started demanding all kinds of freedom and decision-making skills. Sometimes I won, sometimes I didn't. But I did learn to voice my opinions loud and clear. When it came time to be confirmed I declared that I would not be participating. This was a major coup in my life. The funniest part is that my dad, who is not Catholic, was appalled while my mother, who is Catholic, was not. Later I would find out this was because my mom was having her own doubts about the Catholic Church, but at the time I just wondered why the heck my dad cared so much. I think now, in hind-sight, it was just because my dad likes to do things as expected and doesn't like to be a non-conformist that much. So it wasn't that he cared that I didn't want to be confirmed, but more that I wasn't following the path that was chosen for me. It also raised eyebrows at school when I didn't show up for confirmation classes. My Catholic friends were all like "Where were you?" and after I told them I was choosing not to I think they thought I'd lost my mind. But I hadn't. I made a clear choice. For you non-Catholics, being confirmed is basically signaling that you as an adult are making the decision to take your faith in your hands, and now you aren't being forced to church by your parents. Since I was a doubter, I said no.

After that our attendance at church quickly dwindled. We continued to go to Church on Easter and Christmas, but other than that, not so much. My parents got divorced, but for whatever reason (probably the same as above) my dad continued to take us to the Catholic church for these holidays. It continued this way until I came home from college and refused to go to church on Christmas. My dad again was appalled but let me stay behind. I think that was the last time he went to Catholic Church. I can't recall it ever happening again. So sisters, if you are sad about missing church, sorry, blame it on me. Since then, I've been in any church only a handful of times, and until the last time, never really be completely free choice.

Over the past few years I've been hanging out with a number of fairly religious people. I have some friends who are very strong in their faith, my brother-in-law is very passionate about his faith and about religion in the public sphere in general and we've finally, I think, gotten to a point of understanding where we can have a respectful and thought provoking discussion about religion without either of us getting too irritated with the other, as well as all of my African friends who are definitely, definitely more religious than anyone I now. But probably the one person who I've spoken the most with is Mercy. When I finally "came out" to Mercy as a non-believer she nearly died. Seriously. I think it was the shock of her life. And ever since then it's been this running dialogue between us. And frankly, she's probably the only person who I could really have this conversation with. Mercy is Catholic, but she is basically a Free Choice Catholic. She's very open minded about religion, but even more importantly, she believes religion is deeply personal and would never, ever dream of pushing her views on anyone else. She has never once made me feel bad for not believing in what she believes and has never tried to convince me that her religion is right. And I really respect that. I know of very few people who can do that. She lives her faith strongly, but without pushiness or judgment.

Since I've known her I've been thinking about God and spirituality a lot. I don't know that I'm ready to commit and say that I'm 100% this or that, but I've been reading a lot about Buddhism and just thinking about God, spirituality and religion in general. This past trip to Nigeria really changed my perspective in a lot of ways. I can't go through everything that happened and all of the ways that I felt impacted by something on this trip, but I really feel like this trip has changed me in a lot of ways. I have another blog post that is coming up that is the prime example of what I'm talking about.

I know I haven't said a lot about what I am definitely thinking and feeling, but that is intentional. I really still am not sure. I know that my thoughts and feelings are evolving but I'm not ready to commit to anything specific just yet. But I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Awkwardly Long Hugs

I'm not much of a touchy-feely person with just anyone in general. Obviously I'm lovey-dovey with my lovely Ange, but with my close family and friends I don't mind the random hug & kiss on the cheek but nothing crazy.

Sadly I have an aunt who is the Queen of the Awkwardly Long Weird (ALW) Hug. She likes to have "a moment" with you, maybe whisper some strange thing about how she's missed you or some random thing she wants to share during your shared intimate moment. I don't really like this aunt that much anyway, and luckily she doesn't live in Indy but every time I see her I have to brace myself for at least 2 ALW hugs.

I've noticed this for a while but never really mentioned it until last week during our family reunion. Of course, it was a family reunion so there was lots of hugging going on and she was doing it with everyone. So I leaned over to my sister Leslie and told her about it. She was then watching her and was like "DANG, she does hug everyone F O R E V E R." She reported after Ange & I left that she had like the World's Record long hug with one of our other relatives. She said she didn't think it would ever stop.

I don't know why some people think that it's a good idea to do this. A. I don't like you that much that I want to be pressed up against your body for that long. B. Let's not pretend like we're sharing a special moment when it's just some dumb fakey thing. C. Your breath is hot on the side of my face.

So another life lesson: Don't be that person. There will be people making fun of you.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Oh yeah...did I mention that I won a dance contest?

So I've been meaning to tell you how I won a dance contest at a party when we were in Nigeria, but I didn't have any pictures to accompany the blog and I knew there would be some sweet ones. Luckily Dymisha and Mercy both handed their cameras over to others in our group and now that we've re-grouped I've gotten copies of them.

So the dance-off is part of a larger story I've been meaning to tell, but just haven't gotten around to writing so I'll tell you the short version of it now. We met a woman and her husband at the Benin Airport, she invited us to her son's birthday party the following weekend which for many reasons was a very huge affair, we went, and I won the dance off in front of about 500 people.

So we got there late because of car issues but when we got there we were able to jump in and participate in the last hour of the party. Mercy and Dymisha had gone out to the middle of the lawn to dance (there was a DJ playing music) and I got an itch to dance as I usually do so I convinced Taryn to go with me. Not 30 seconds after we got out there the DJ announced they'd be having a dance contest. We were already out there so we thought "why not?"

Now I have to say...I'm a pretty fierce when it comes to competition. Even if they don't matter I still like to win. The other thing you have to know is that when you already stick out like a sore thumb you can either try and hide (and usually fail miserably) or just suck it up and make a complete fool out of yourself. I usually choose the latter.

So when we started the dance contest I was dancing to win, no matter how ridiculous I looked or how much MORE attention I may receive.

So in the first round we had to dance with a partner against another couple. Taryn and I paired up and kicked butt quite swiftly.

In the next round they made us switch to a new partner from the winners of round one. Dymisha and I quickly paired up because we knew we'd be unstoppable...which we were.

After that we were narrowed down some more in individual dance offs. Sadly Dymisha threw in the towel and lost. I of course did not and the field narrowed to three.

In the last round it was me and another young woman. I dance like a crazy fool but I have some tact. The other lady was a little shall I say "hoochie." The event was hosted by Evangelical Pastors so that was not appreciated.

In the end I prevailed. Now some have said it was rigged since I was the one of only three white people in the 500+ crowd, but I prefer to believe it was because I was AWESOME, but I guess we'll never know.

All I know is that I was the one who walked away with the grand prize grape lip gloss...SO THERE.

The funniest part is that for the next few days we hung around with the Birthday Family and every time we went somewhere with them they'd introduce us and they'd say "Oh I remember her. She won the dance contest at the party. You dance very lovely." Bwhahaha. I'm such a rock star. Only in Nigeria.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Wait...did I say WHAT?

So a recent report about a new strain of HIV made me remember an incident in grad school that was both hilarious and perplexing. I thought I'd share it here for the masses.

So we had to take this boring class about diseases or something that is semi-relevant to public health, and basically we all had to do a class presentation about some specific disease and then field questions from our classmates. Of course I picked HIV because that's my field of interest and what my life revolves around for the most part. So my presentation day arrived and unfortunately I had the worst migraine ever. I suffer from severe migraines and I can never really predict when they'll occur, although I've gotten better at eliminating my personal triggers and that has done a good job at cutting back on migraines although I still suffer from chronic headaches. So I had a killer migraine that day and the only med that works make me pass out cold and/or act drunk when I'm awake. So I downed some OTC painkillers to try and take the edge off and headed to class.

I warned my classmates that I had a severe migraine and that sometimes the pain is so bad that I am a little loopy because it's hard to concentrate on transforming my thoughts into words. So if I said something that sounded weird please forgive me and if you're really confused ask me to clarify during Q&A.

So I go through my spiel and felt like all went well. Rather than doing a standard HIV 101 report I tried to do some epidemiological history on HIV and brought up some not often heard facts (because I'm extra nerdy like that). My classmates clearly knew about HIV and didn't want to sit through the same old song and dance (possibly performed by me in the past) so I was trying to spice it up. So I talked a lot about the roots of HIV, where it came from and how it got to humans. And I said something to the effect of "The best guess is that HIV originated in primates and somehow passed to hunters in Africa where it became a human virus." Now I cannot recall exactly but I'm pretty sure I stressed that it passed through bloodshed that occurs while hunting monkeys. That is why I stressed HUNTERS. But apparently, for one student, they didn't get that connection.

Now before I tell the rest of the story I have to introduce the character I will call Mabel. Not her actual name, but close enough in sentiment. Mabel was an African student in our program. Mabel was quiet, but nice when you interacted with her. Very soft spoken and unlikely to cause a scene. The most well known attributes about her were that she nearly always slept in class for the entirety of the class and she often had some very interesting hairstyles that once cause a Diva to leave the room because of some discrete, yet dramatic re-enactments by another Diva. I am very serious when I say she slept through nearly every class. You've seen those funny YouTube videos of baby's heads bopping around while they've struggled to fight off sleep right? Totally Mabel.

So anyway, Mabel happened to be in this class. And in true Mabel style she bobbed her head around for the entirety of my presentation. Of course it really didn't bother me because it was just another boring presentation in the end and I had a migraine and just wanted to get out of there. So I finish my presentation and ask for questions. Much to my (and I think everyone else in the room) surprise Mabel's hand shoots up in the air. Thinking to myself "Interesting that she has a question since she wasn't even awake..." I call on her. Mabel launches into a, no joke, 5 MINUTE rant about how she's tired of people blaming Africans for causing HIV because Africans DO NOT SLEEP WITH MONKEYS and that it is offensive for anyone to suggest this. There was some other weird stuff thrown in, but For about 5 seconds I stood there dumb-founded. I mean, I know I had a migraine and sometimes I say weird things when I'm feeling terrible, but even through seething pain I knew that I had not in any way said that Africans sleep with monkeys.

So I flipped back to my slide and re-iterated what I believe I said in the first place but made it a point to specifically say that in the SLAUGHTER of monkeys that hunters may have contracted HIV. The whole thing was just so weird. Anyway, the Divas were all in that class and I could just tell they were trying to not DIE laughing at the whole thing and it eventually went on to be one of the stories that lives in infamy. Anytime the words Africans and HIV come up we crack up over the incident. Good times.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Dog Dossier: Samuel L. Sampson

Aliases: Sam, Sammie, Sam-bo, Turkey, Lurkey, Blackie, Cat Dog, Little Bear, Chicken Butt, Lurka Durka, Sampson

Back Story: Sammie is Momma A's (Ange's) dog. She got him when he was just the tiniest little boy. Obviously he came into my life when she came in to my life. I was glad that Ange liked dogs because obviously if you are going to be involved with me, you have to like dogs! I don't think I've ever met a person who doesn't like Sam. How could you not? He's very sweet and lovable, incredibly low energy, and just wants to be snuggled or fed.

He and Ange are the ultimate sidekicks. He follows her everywhere and gets very worried if he gets left behind anywhere that isn't his home. The first time she and Sam came down to visit me at my mom's house we went out for dinner and left Sam with my mom and stepdad. When we got back they told us that he laid in front of the door we left through and cried the whole time we were there. When he heard the car door slam he went crazy. Luckily he's calmed down since then...probably because he realized that my stepdad is a big pushover for dogs and if he plays his cards right he'll get lots of treats and love from him while we're gone.

We were really nervous about introducing him to my brood. Sam is pretty good with other dogs...only has a touch of little dog complex on occasion. My dogs, however, are a tough group. Stone and Caramel are pretty much pushovers. They like anyone. Duke and Daisy are the pack leaders and are generally suspicious of anyone trying to bust in on our little family. When we brought Sam over for the first time I put all the dogs out back to start with. First we let in Caramel. She sniffed him over, he looked alarmed, but she was in love so it worked out. Then we let Stone in. After his sniff test confirmed there was nothing to worry about he went and laid down and Sam continued to look alarmed. He had this little pleading look on his face that said "MOM, GET ME OUT OF HERE!" Then we let in Duke. Luckily Sam was so overwhelmed at this point Duke's Alpha dog status did not seem in jeopardy so he just sniffed him a few times and went and laid down far away from the action. Last we brought in Daisy. This was strategic because she's the biggest hater there is. She is kind of a jerk when it comes to other dogs and I didn't want her being mean to Sam. So she came streaking in and immediately got all puffy and growly. Poor Sam was just over it at this point. So I followed Daisy around saying "No, No!" every time she growled and swatting her nose every time I saw her lip curling up in to a snarl. This kept the peace but it also had the weird effect of connecting in her brain that Sam = Mad Momma L. So for the first month or so whenever Sam was around she was half growl, half wince because she knew I would be on her in an instant at the first sign of aggression. Luckily after that first meeting Sam acclimated well and just ignored her for the most part. It took him a while to get used to Caramel's nose punching him though. The first few times she tried to get him all riled up and ready to play he just cried and ran away. See, Sam is not the most playful dog. Probably because he's been raised on his own with no brothers and sisters. He also is the biggest baby in the entire world. He's been known to cry if you pat his head to hard for his liking. So having Caramel nose punch him and chase him was just a little more than he could take. Luckily, he's come around and even will chase her on occasion. Not to say he's suddenly super playful, but at least he doesn't cry anymore.

Just the other morning I was letting the dogs out and sitting on the deck as I often do in the morning just letting them go about their business while I try and wake up. I was watching all of the dogs run around the backyard and I realized that Sam had his own little part of the yard that he frequented. He was doing his thing and then was looking around at the other dogs. Caramel was near-by and as they looked at each other it looked like they sent each other some dog brain waves because they both took off running around in circles for a few minutes together. Then they both looked at each other and took off running towards me. I think they were saying "If we both run together maybe Momma L will realize it is time for treats for dogs!" The funniest part was watching Caramel greatly outrace Sam, but watching Sam run as hard and as fast as he could with his little black leggies clomping along in unison looking exactly like a little black bear. The whole scene just made me laugh and realize that Sam was fully integrated into our little dog family.

Likes: Eating, food, treats, sleeping, barking, riding in the car, begging for mommy food

Dislikes: Playing with other dogs in general, listening to his mommies, following any rules

**Note...we did not actually let Sam drink beer. He's just a nosy ned and was trying to figure out if the bottle was something he could eat!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Dog Dossier: Caramel

Aliases: Carmie, Carmie Warmie, Baby Dog, Blonde Dog, Blondie, Snuggle Bug, Little Girl, My Baby, Angel Face, Bat Ears

Back Story: Caramel joined our family at a very crazy point in my life. Sparing most of the details, my ex's niece came to live with us after leaving a very bad home situation. She wanted her own dog (since I had Daisy and Shelly had Duke & Stone) and being the softie I am I believed that it would be therapeutic for her to have something of her own to love. We scoured the Free Pets section of the paper and visited her with her former yuck family (I think they abused her...she had some PTSD when she moved in, which thankfully she has recovered from). Well the niece moved out about 3 months later and Caramel stayed. So much for that experiement. BUT, I'm glad it happened because Caramel is the apple of my eye.

Caramel marked an important shift in our household. Being the 4th dog in the house it made me a couple things. 1. I had now crossed over to being a "Crazy Dog Lady." There were no and, ifs or buts about it. Four dogs = wack-a-doodle. Luckily I embraced it. 2. Now, I know you won't believe me (my family doesn't) but take it from the person who lives day in and day out with the herd...THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HAVING 4 DOGS and HAVING 5, 6, or 7...seriously. When you have so many dogs that you can refer to them as a pack, herd, brood, clan, etc. then really, what's one more body? I have resorted to counting first, details second. All day long I count...ok, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5...they're all here. Or 1, 2, 3, 4....let's see...where is Caramel? Dogs in, dogs out. Like an assembly line.

Like Stone, Caramel is a lovey-dovey head. But unlike Stone, she has size on her side and can therefore crawl into mommy's space much easier...and she does it often. There is nothing this kiddo likes more than crawling into bed, fluffing up the blankets and then poking her head out of the covers in-between Ange and I. She has perfected the sweet face look and rarely gets scolded for anything she does. Mostly we just want to kiss her head til she goes bald. And she'd like to lick our faces until our skin falls off. It's a sickening thing to watch really, but we just can't help ourselves.

In addition to being Captain Lovey-Pants, she's also the most playful pup in the house. She is always nose-punching someone in an effort to get them to chance her and get rough and tumble. She has no problem playing the submissive dog and you can often catch her "bowing" down low in an effort to entice one of the other dogs into pouncing on her. She is part Whippet we believe so she has good genes on her side. She waits for them to pounce and then like a flash of lightening is tearing through the house. You've never seen a faster dog in your life. Luckily she does not take after her sister Daisy and doesn't really have a penchant for being naughty and always trying to escape. If she did, we'd be toast. We'd never catch her. She's just too fast. So I'm glad that she's well-behaved and so in love with my face. On the few rare occasions Daisy has convinced her to escape with her all I have to do is yell "CARMIE!!! Come here little one!" and she comes flinging herself into me. And then we snuggle and kiss and wonder why she ever tried to escape in the first place. Love this little baby.

Likes: To sleep under the covers, snuggling, giving and receiving kisses, treats, to be held like a baby, to snuggle mommies in bed, playing and wrestling, running like a maniac

Dislikes: Baths, being yelled at, being picked up, when mommy dresses her up in little outfits