Saturday, May 10, 2008

Ultimate 5 : It Begins

I haven't been posting lately. Scratch that; I haven't posted in a long time. But I figure I can manage thinking of five things every week or so to get me going, so I've come up with something I'm calling Ultimate 5. I will pick a topic, be it food, music, event, book or life-related (in short, anything; and I'll take suggestions) to start me off. I will then list my top five, and write a little about each one. I might write chronologically, or I might "rate" entries. Who knows.
So, for my first week: Ultimate 5 Firsts.

(If you're reading this on Facebook and not seeing images, you'll want to go to the original note - there are photos.)

1. Date

My first official date ever is still a highly memorable event in my mind. It could be that I was 14 and had a date with someone two grades ahead of me, when my parents had told me earlier I couldn't date until I was 16. It could be that I thought William was amazing, and that he took me to his junior prom, which happened to be on a tiny cruise ship on the Maas River in Maastricht. Either way, I felt pretty grown up, and it was very special.

Not that it was all a fairy-tale. Will picked me up and drove me to the school (we were living in Germany at the time, and attending high school just over the border in the Netherlands), where a "shuttle" was waiting to take the grads and dates to the floating party. Our shuttle was no carriage, but a really old, clunky army bus with vinyl seats. It was pretty hilarious to be all dressed up on such a momentous occasion, and then to be met with...that. We enjoyed ourselves anyway. People thought we were very cute, there was probably a lot of smiling, and I remember trying not to fall off the bench seats- they were extra slide-y with the material of my dress.

Prom itself was wonderful. Food, dancing, pictures, and friends of Will's that were becoming my friends. I was wearing tiny heels and makeup, and I felt glamorous in my dress, especially alongside William in his tux. The "theme" of the dance was Moonlight and Roses, with Seal's hit "Kiss From A Rose" the song of the evening. Now that I think of it, that's kind of a creepy song for a romantic ballad. But it was on everyone's radio that year - bonus points if you know it won Song of the Year in 1996. I think I got my first CD player that year, too.

That night included a lot of firsts. Not only was it my first date, but I received my first corsage from a boy, stayed out late, went on a cruise ship, and received my first kiss on its tiny, starlit deck.

As first-ever dates go, it was pretty spectacular.

2. Publication

I hoped to be published by 18,and thanks to the burgeoning Internet I managed it., at the time, was small and new and tightly focused on user-submitted poetry, rather than personal ads. I was going to link it, but looking at the site now, it is nothing like when I joined in its inaugural year of 1997. If you want to go look it up, go ahead, unless you are my younger cousins or parents, or you are easily offended by photos. Anyway, Lovestories is headed up by Alanna Webb (yes, that's her real name), who decided to publish some of the site's popular poems in book format.

My poem "Baby's Blessing" was named Poem of the Week sometime in 1998, voted into the top spot by site members browsing the newest additions to the poetry vault. I had written the poem - very Hallmark-like - to celebrate my friend's new arrival, and I guess a lot of people liked it. I read it at her baby's christening, but never expected it would attract so much attention.

Webb sent a promotion package to my local paper, and a reporter and photographer came to my house to interview me. They asked me about the poem, the site, writing in general, my life in general, and how I came to be involved in the book, which was called Bytes of Poetry: A Anthology. In case you're wondering, I was paid with two copies of the book and an extra to bestow on my high school library. But it was not vanity publishing, and it was published the week of my birthday. A lot of the poetry in it is great, and knowing that "real" people wrote them and shared them online is quite impressive. I've always thought it was pretty cool to be included in a collection of 80 poets chosen by other readers.

3. Dance Competition

In 2001, I had been dancing for approximately one year when Erik and I (no romantic stories here) attended Grand Ball as part of the UVic Ballroom Dance Club. We had been practicing really hard, and I'd made a trip to Vancouver to buy shoes and a dress - which, though a bold choice for me, was not anything like what the other competitors were wearing. But I do remember a certain person's dad's jaw dropping when he saw me in it. It was a short, cranberry-coloured velvet halter dress with gold sparkles thrown at it, which matched my gold 3" sandals, and it was still the most conservative outfit on the floor.
There were five couples in the Newcomer Latin division, and Erik and I took home the 3rd place trophy. Following that, we also won 3rd place in West Coast Swing. So we were pretty excited!

The trip itself was pretty eventful. We stayed at someone's house in Richmond which had not been in use for awhile, so the hot water was not hot. And it was November, so it was freaking freezing. We (I think there were 6 couples? and a second car?) went to the rec centre at the end of the street to use the showers. We were very glad that a certain person was able to shower, because he reeked of Tiger Balm, owing to an injury. The ride through Vancouver in the rental van will, in fact, forever have the smell of Tiger Balm associated with it. I also remember Erik bringing more luggage than me, then complaining that his fitted Latin shirt didn't cover his arms enough. Yeah, Erik - look at what I am wearing, and then look at what you are wearing. Right.

Singing with Jane and Christabel and Laura in the van. And screaming our lungs out with a huge UVic sign as "our" couples took the floor. Then there was the nasty woman who tossed our bags out of the women's washroom, screaming at us to use the competitor's "change room" - ie; a tiny curtained-off area you had to cross the floor to get to, and they'd squashed the events together so much there were no breaks to do so. When I got back there, though, I zipped a championship dancer into her gown. And sewed the top button onto Vernon's shirt collar while he was wearing it. Finally, we posed by the van with our mound of collective trophies. That was a sweet moment - anyone have that picture somewhere?
There were a lot of moments from that weekend that are inside jokes, so I won't puzzle the rest of you by posting them here - but it was very memorable. I don't know that I've ever been more excited at a dance comp, and I've been to six and competed in three of those. I miss it, and thinking about how awesome, though crazy, my first comp was, I hope to be back at it soon.

4. Ski Trip

I know -- it's hard to believe. I'm a Canadian over 25 and had never been skiing until January of this year. But my first time out was pretty fantastic! I went with Jody and Camilla (my sister in law), as well as their Australian cousin and his girlfriend. The powder was nice and soft, it was actually snowing as opposed to artificially blowing, and I had a lesson.
First off, though, I had to get the gear on. I had way too many layers on my legs at first, making it impossible to get the ski boots on. It hurt when Jody tried to jam the boot closures shut, so I had to take off the fleecy pants and put the ski pants over the boots. Much improved, I set out for the bunny hill, where I was told to lose the poles.

Yes, I've seen other people ski, but I didn't really understand the physics behind it. Unfortunately, this meant that when my instructor tried to get me started, I got a little ahead of her - and took off straight down the hill. And I do mean straight. down. I didn't hit anyone, I didn't run over anything, and I didn't fall over -- success! My instructor didn't know what to make of me, so she sent me back up the rope tow and proceeded to show me how to turn and stop. My next to forays down the hill were much more controlled, and soon I was on my way to the ski lift with Jody.
Oh, ski lift, how I hate you. No, seriously, look at my eyes in this pic. The rocking motion was not what I had in mind. Height, I can handle. Wobbly ski lifts, not so much.

Off the ski lift and feeling considerably happier, I let Jody videotape me with his camera as I did the hill in about three short runs. One of them ended in a spectacular tumble in which my skis flew off and buried themselves in a snowbank behind me, but I wasn't hurt- it was actually kind of fun! I began to feel okay going fast, and I was linking turns just fine, even without poles. Nevertheless, one big run was enough for me. I was tired and wanted to end on a good note, so I packed it in and headed for the lodge for hot chocolate.

5. Year of Marriage

I will never have another, and it began with support and good wishes from innumerable friends and family. If what people say is true - that it's the hardest - we got off easy. Not that it was 100% bliss, but there were so many moments that I wouldn't trade, not even for a box of hedgehogs.

My first year of marriage was also my last year of university, which made for an interesting contrast as I tried to understand the direction I was headed in. So many people have helped us get through this year, and I am grateful. To have the freedom to study, to make time for people, to be invited out for meals and movies, to be kept sane by those who were able to take my mind off stressful exams, and to Jody, whose support and encouragement at home were immeasurable. I was worried about combining those two major life events, but it has turned out well. I don't know that I could have managed otherwise.

Living with Chris and Angie was perhaps unusual, but it worked for us. Sometimes they would invite us upstairs to watch Battlestar. I would give Angie "doorway support" as she sewed. The four of us often made dinners together. "The cookbook," i.e., The New Best Recipe, became a sort of Bible as Chris & Jody attacked new ways of cooking. Meanwhile, I baked family recipes and made chili or casseroles, while Angie's salsa has yet to be trumped. (I want her to make me some. Angie, you come here right now!) The kitchen was the site of many giggle fits, discussions, and discoveries. I think the four of us all took something away from living at Belmont House together. Chris and Angie were as much a part of my first year of marriage as Jody was. Especially when Jody was away on business, it was nice to have them in the house.

There was a lot of traveling involved in our first year - our honeymoon to San Fransisco, New Years' at Jody's parents' in the Kootenays, my venture to Evette & Richard's wedding in February, and our up-island weekend to celebrate our first anniversary. Jody went to Romania and Korea, for one to two weeks per trip. We also hosted a horde of nerds in the fall (one of the reasons we didn't want our wedding to take place in September) during the FOSS4G conference. Being able to invite people for dinner or barbeques without worrying about bothering our neighbours was a big plus of the Belmont House. Unfortunately we had to leave it, because it was sold to our landlord's cousins. Boo! So now we are in our new place, an apartment that's nearby many useful places. Still, all but the last two weeks of our first year was spent there, and we had good times.

I can't believe the first year was over so quickly. We filled it with ridiculous amounts of laughter, walks, coffee, dancing in our living room, reading, and talking. Jody worked a lot, and I wrote more papers than I care to think about right now. We supported each other through deadlines and celebrated little victories. I've never been so stressed about school, and I'd never seen Jody fight his way through each stage of a project before either. This year was not what I expected, but that kept it interesting. We were waiting for me to graduate, and now that I have, our next step is one we take together. We still haven't decided where we'll be, but we're excited about the year ahead. With no car, no mortgage, no kids and no ties to the university, we're ready for an adventure! I have to say, though, I'm a little nervous about the prospect of leaving so much of my stuff in Canada if we move Down Under. Hopefully the opportunities will place my uncertainties in shadow.

So I'm looking forward to Year Two!


I have to say, I thought this might be a nice way to blog about some "moments on my beach." But I didn't expect to run on quite so much! If you read everything, wow. Either you're bored or really interested. If you read only the headings that sounded good, that's fine too. But if you're Evette and skimmed through it, shame on you - you told me to blog, and blog I did. Guess I had a lot of pent-up ideas.
Oh, and if you're wondering why I didn't write about my first date with Jody? Read this.

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