Our Wedding! (Part 2: The Actual Day)

. . . The next day was our wedding day. We had until 1:30 p.m. to prepare for our wedding. I think we actually stuck pretty strictly to our planned schedule! I'm not sure who helped keep us on schedule. The photographer probably helped some. Probably also our hosts and our parents.

I immediately put on my full wedding regalia. Everyone else waited until closer to the time of the ceremony for at least some of it, and my mother advised me that I also ought to wait to put my cape on later, so as not to get it dirty before the ceremony. I said no - I was only going to get to wear this outfit once in my entire life, and I intended to wear it for all I was worth for the whole entire day. So that's what I did. And it was just fine, and I was glad of having worn it all day long.

On the morning of our wedding, Barry made some incredibly delicious scrambled eggs with a large bar of Velveeta melted into the middle of them and served them to everyone present who wanted some. The people present at that time were our hosts, their family, my parents, me, our officiant, the best man, and the best man's girlfriend. I enjoyed the eggs very much and felt privileged to be marrying the maker of such delicious scrambled eggs.

2019-04-13 Shiloh morning.jpg

Our hosts put the wedding tracklist we'd compiled on the house's sound system, and I pointed it out to my parents and identified the song "Sanctuary" by Madonna. My two matrons of honor (who are married to each other) and their daughters arrived and helped us finish setting up. I handed out some wedding-related pins to our immediate family and the members of our wedding party. The wedding party got the butterfly pins shown below.


We finished setting the tables together, and then the best man and officiant asked me what else they could help with, and I asked them to wipe the excess dirt off the centerpiece pots I had planted and hand them to me one at a time after they were clean so I could set them out on the tables. The tables were soon perfectly set.


Barry's family arrived around this time, and my mother took this photograph of Barry chatting with his niece while his father looked at our wedding favor/program bags.

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The best man and officiant also helped set up our two signs to tell people where to park. Our friends' house where we got married has a huge driveway with space for about twelve cars, but we were expecting more than twelve cars, so Barry had lasercut a sign saying "Wedding Overflow Parking" with an arrow and then another sign saying "Wedding Parking" to direct people to park on a grassy area of our friends' property where they had advised us that guests could park. Barry had attached these signs to wooden posts with pointy ends, but actually getting pointy ends into the ground and getting the signs to remain upright was a separate issue that still remained. Our wedding party helped get the signs properly embedded in the ground. Also, I had bought and brought with us some shiny white tulle just in case it might come in handy, and they tied some of this tulle around one of the signposts to help get people's attention. It seemed to work. (I only have a picture of one of the signs, and it isn't the one with the tulle.)


We set up the rented chairs where we wanted people to sit for the wedding ceremony. I put enough chairs in the front row for all our immediate family members plus our half nieces from out of state, but the shape of the courtyard was such that putting an aisle down the center of the chairs for easier access divided the chairs into uneven numbers on each side, which confused some people, and among the confusion, our half nieces ended up sitting in the second row. (The aisle down the center wasn't for us to walk down; we walked around one side instead, because the side of the courtyard was where the main front door opened onto, where we were making our entrance from.)

We held a mini-rehearsal, with the officiant still in his sleeping clothes. The officiant recited as much of his speech as he had memorized and consulted the transcript when necessary. Barry and I had to make sure we recognized our cues for when to kiss each other – there were two of them, and they were both indirect, because I didn't want anyone outright telling us when we could or ought to kiss each other (we get to decide that for ourselves!) and I wanted one of the kisses to be before we were pronounced married yet, because hello, people should definitely not wait until after they're married to kiss each other for the first time. So we practiced the lines preceding each kiss, and practiced kissing each other on each cue, several times. Later, when my mother sent me photos she took of this rehearsal, I realized our parents had gathered behind the glass doors to watch us practice kissing, where we couldn't see them. This is a picture my mother took of the rehearsal.

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And this is a picture my mother took of my father watching the rehearsal.

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At around noon, Barry's parents went to get the wedding food from the barbecue place we'd ordered it from, while Barry's brother Jeremy and Jeremy's girlfriend Stephanie went to get the wedding cakes. The wedding cakes were three separate cakes in three different flavors, from a place called the Mad Batter Cakery, and we had purchased a three-tiered cake stand to display them on. Buying three separate cakes was cheaper than having the cakes stacked directly on top of each other, and once we found the perfect tiered cake display stand, it felt just as fancy to us as a traditional tiered cake. The cakes were all decorated just in the standard way that the cakery normally decorated them for other customers; they offered to customize the decoration for us using flowers from our wedding, but our wedding didn't actually have flowers (other than the ones I cut from our own gardens and stuck into two vases in lieu of handheld bouquets), and we felt that there was too much potential for miscommunication and mishaps in any effort to customize the cake decoration, so we just figured the standard cake appearances were fine. Our emphasis in cake selection was more on flavor than on appearance; traditional wedding cakes tend to taste rather bland, but ours tasted amazing beyond words.

The rest of the meal was from a place called Red Bee BBQ, where Barry and I had eaten a couple of times before the wedding (on our early planning and setup trips to the wedding venue) to verify that we liked their food. We had a bunch of hot plates set up in the dining room to keep the food warm until the reception started, and in a little built-in nook adjacent to the dining room, the wedding cakes were set up on their tiers next to a sign describing the flavors.



Somewhere in here, our hosts took the matrons of honor and their daughters, along with my parents, to meet our hosts' hairless cat, who was something of a celebrity at this event but was shut in a bedroom to keep him from eating the wedding food or otherwise causing trouble.


At 1:30 p.m., the photographer arrived. We had half an hour to do pre-wedding couple portraits.








It was during this time, toward the end of it, that I first noticed that our guests had begun to arrive. The first guests I saw were my Uncle Ron and his wife Linda, whom I had last seen nearly two decades earlier. They wandered out onto the back patio, and while walking below then, I looked up and exclaimed at the sight of them, and we greeted each other briefly before finishing the photography session.

This is the driveway of the wedding venue, where guests were arriving.


And this is a view from the wedding venue of the surrounding countryside that all our guests drove through just before they arrived.


From 2:00 to 2:30, our schedule allowed us time to greet arriving guests at the front door. So we did some of that, and also mingled a little with guests who had already arrived. Our hosts began giving our guests tours of their property, and in some cases also introductions to their hairless cat. I remember a conversation with my two maternal uncles and their families, something about my wedding dress having pockets. I said that I only ever buy dresses with pockets these days, so it only made sense that of course my wedding dress would also have pockets, and that didn't even seem unusual or special to me anymore. Then I said that what did seem unusual or special to me just then was, "Right now I have a wedding ring in my pocket!" I remember that they seemed to find this delightful.

Everyone also seemed to have a lot of fun opening their wedding favor/program bags. We were hardly able to notice all the details at the time, but we enjoyed seeing photographs afterward of everyone excitedly looking through the contents of their bags.




After half an hour, everyone seemed to have arrived. So, right on schedule, from 2:30 to 3:00, we had formal group portraits. We brought everyone out in the backyard and had the group pose next to the covered swimming pool. This involved me screaming instructions at everyone at the top of my lungs – possibly not entirely the most "bridal" impression to make, but nobody else was doing it and I knew what needed to be done, so I did it. We took a group portrait of everyone present, and then various subsets of that group – us with our immediate families, us with each separate part of our families, us with everyone we weren't related to, us with our wedding party ad hosts, and so on. At one point I did my screaming right next to my soon-to-be-father-in-law's ear, and he mildly protested that perhaps I should be an inch or two farther away when doing that. But all in all, it went pretty smoothly. Here is the photo of the entire group.


The ceremony started at 3:00 p.m. We could have done a better job of explaining to our immediate families where they were supposed to sit. When it was clear that no one knew where to sit and no one else could or would explain it to them, I went out there myself, alone, while everyone was standing around looking vaguely confused, and shouted at the top of my lungs again: "Our immediate families including Paige and Parker should sit in the front row! The front row is for our immediate families, including Paige and Parker! Everyone else, sit wherever else you like!" Then, without waiting to see whether anyone understood, I ran back inside and out of sight. It turned out that "immediate families including Paige and Parker" was a very confusing turn of phrase, since Paige and Parker are our half nieces and thus not actually included in the definition of "immediate family." So Paige and Parker sat in the second row, and one of the front-row chairs went to my former housemate (now the wife of our best man), and the other front-row chair was left empty. So our plans didn't entirely hold up, but at least we came close.

The next thing I knew, the ceremony was starting. The music we walked down the aisle to was an instrumental song Barry chose called "A Corner of Memories," taken from the opening of the video game Persona 4 Golden. There is a short repeating piano bit at the start, and Barry told the best man when to start walking down the aisle. At the next repeat, he told our matrons of honor to start walking. At the third repeat, he and I started walking, and at this point my eyes filled up with happy tears so that I couldn't see a thing as we were walking down the aisle. After we got to the front, I struggled to regain my composure enough to see again, and I mostly managed to hold myself together after that. But I entered totally blind and relying on Barry to lead me to the correct spot.


Our officiant, Jason, said a bunch of stuff, and Barry and I answered "We do" in unison a bunch of times:

"Though you will always be two separate people, marriage joins your two lives into one shared life. Everything that affects one of your lives will affect you both. Do you pledge always to keep each other informed about the developments in your shared life?"

"Do you pledge always to listen to each other and endeavor to understand each other’s thoughts and feelings?"

"Do you pledge always to weigh one another’s well-being along with your own in your decision-making, striving both to be a source of strength for each other and also to accept each other’s strength in return?"

"Do you pledge to take one another as spouses, to love, honor, comfort, and cherish from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to remain faithfully at one another’s side until death parts you?"

We do, we do, we do, we do. We do!




Then Jason said, "Please place your rings on each other's fingers," and that was our cue not only to follow his instructions but also to kiss each other, perhaps seemingly spontaneously and maybe even against the rules. (We got to make our own rules.)



Jason asked Barry and me to sign our marriage certificate. Next, he called both our brothers to the front to act as witnesses in signing our marriage certificate. I had incorrectly instructed my brother to sign it a few hours before the wedding, so he just made the motion of pretending to sign it again. Barry's brother actually signed it during the ceremony.



Then Jason signed his own name on our marriage certificate and said, "With my own signature, by the authority vested in me by the State of California, I pronounce you married." That was the cue for Barry and me to kiss each other again.


Jason then presented us as a married couple with our new, merged last name, and people applauded.



Meanwhile, the best man and the matron of honor set up two sawhorses between us and placed a small log on them. Dramatically, Jason announced, "Barry and Cynthia have only been married for a moment, and already they find an obstacle in their path!" He explained the German wedding tradition of log sawing, and the best man presented us with a double-handled saw. Jason instructed us, "This two-person saw will not function if one of you tries to do all the work or none of the work."



Sawing the log in half was somewhat more difficult and time-consuming than we had expected, perhaps primarily because we were nervous about having an audience and kept trying to rush things. Someone shouted at us, "You should have practiced!" and I shouted back, "We did practice!" But people also seemed very amused and entertained by the ordeal. Barry stopped sawing a bit early and, with my permission, tried to break the log in half with his hands by himself - which, in retrospect, would have been symbolically sort of inappropriate. In any case, it didn't work. Close, but not quite.


So we sawed a bit farther together, and then Barry took one half of the log in his hands while I took the other half of the log, and we each twisted in a different direction until it broke and we were each left with one half of the log in our hands. Everyone applauded wildly. It was really gratifying to see everyone around us having so much fun along with us! Wedding ceremonies aren't generally known for being highly entertaining to their guests, but we definitely felt that everyone really enjoyed ours.


Then we put the two halves of the log in the outdoor fireplace we'd been standing in front of, and our matrons of honor and best man presented us with matches, and we lit the logs on fire. (They had been doused with lighter fluid in advance, but even so, this still took a slightly stressful amount of time. We each had a long match and each tried to place it under the log, but the flame on my match went out, and I said so, and relit mine from Barry's match before we both finally got our matches to catch the log on fire. It was not immediately an especially impressive-looking fire, but it continued to burn throughout the reception, and someone pointed out to us later that it had eventually become quite impressive-looking later on.




And we were all done! Officially married! Ceremony over!


Then it was time for the reception! The reception was from 4:00 to 7:30. We started by having everyone bring their chairs in from the courtyard, where the ceremony had been held, to the adjacent great room, where the tables were set up, which looked out upon the courtyard through a wall of glass doors. I think just about everyone already knew by that point which table they were going to be sitting at and with whom, because they'd had some time before the ceremony to pick up their favor bags (which told them their table numbers) and find their lasercut nameplates marking where they should sit. They brought their plates to the dining room to help themselves to the buffet of barbecue food we had set out on the hot plates. (There were vegan options because Barry's parents, among other guests, are vegetarians and sometimes at least theoretically vegans. There were also gluten-free options because at least two of our friends who were there have celiac disease. And all three layers of our wedding cake were gluten-free for that reason.) I think they may have been called to the dining room by table, but this was one case in which I was not the one doing the shouting and organizing people, so I don't remember exactly how it was organized. I just know that it got done and seemed to work out fine for everyone. I think Barry and I were among the last to get our food, though I don't remember what we were doing before then. Barry was probably more involved in getting the food served than I was, because he had done pretty much all of the food-related wedding planning.


Once we got our food, Barry and I were seated at a small table for two at the front of the room, in front of the indoor fireplace, with two vases of flowers from our yards, one on each side of us. The flowers were a couple of days old because we had left our houses a couple of days earlier, so I had removed some of the wilting ones and supplemented what remained with rosemary from our hosts' gardens. The flower arrangements were imperfect but personalized and satisfying to me. Except for the rosemary, I had grown all the flowers myself (and I also do grow rosemary - I just didn't grow these specific rosemary plants).


During dinner, we had toasts. The best man toasted us and praised me for how generously I had "opened my house to" his girlfriend, and I shouted out and interrupted him – "Maybe clarify, renting the room to her!" because most guests didn't know I had rented a room to her and were likely to be confused by his vague reference to it.


One of the matrons of honor toasted us and talked about the frustration of having had to wait so many years to get married herself, because of homophobia, and having met me while we were fighting together for the right to get married - and I was relieved that she talked about this, because it felt important to me to have somebody acknowledge at our wedding how hard I'd had to fight to be allowed to get married, not to Barry but before Barry, because of homophobia.


Barry's mom toasted us and quoted something I'd said in an email to her, about how "B and C marriages" are the best because my parents and Barry's parents and Barry and I are all in marriages between people with the initials B and C.


My father toasted us and said that Barry and I are both good human beings with good ethics and will be good to and for each other.


These are some pictures of us glowing while listening to various toasts.



Then Barry made a toast and said that I'm like the aliens in an original Star Trek episode who appear on an alien planet to one crew member at a time and tell them each, "I am for you, [Name]," except for the part about how, when those aliens touch the crew members, the crew members die. This got a laugh from our audience. I was briefly confused, wondering whether Barry had forgotten the part about the crew members dying, until I understood that he hadn't forgotten and was just doing a good job of making his toast entertaining.


Here I am watching Barry make his toast.


Then it was my turn to make a toast, and I was taken aback because Barry had just told me I should thank everyone for everything, and he had not given me any warning that his toast was going to be eloquent and say such nice things about me, so I felt inadequately prepared. I said that on this date five years earlier I had been very miserable because I had been supposed to get married that day and the wedding was called off when that relationship fell apart disastrously, but now five years later the date of misery was finally a happy day, and therefore even when life was very difficult everyone should keep in mind how amazingly better things could get only a few years later, because Barry is wonderful and I was so glad to be getting married to him, and thank you so much to everyone who helped make it happen. I thanked various people by name, but aside from that, the toast was probably not very much more eloquent than my description of it here is, because it was so off the cuff and I was so unprepared for it after having been busy focusing on absolutely everything else. It was a short toast that mostly just conveyed the fact that I was incredibly happy and hadn't always been before meeting Barry. But those seemed to be the important things to convey.

(I think I look slightly drunk in this photo, which pretty well suits how I was actually feeling, although I do not actually drink and have never actually been drunk and had not drunk a single drop of anything that evening but apple cider. I was making my toast with Martinelli's.)


As we all finished eating, Barry and I moved from table to table, talking to various groups of family and friends. Here we're talking to Barry's out-of-state family who had flown in from Texas and Arizona.


We also sat and talked for a while with my extended maternal-family relatives, some of whom had flown in from Oregon and Washington State. Since my mom and her siblings were raised Catholic but are no longer Catholic, and Barry was raised an atheist but attended a Catholic school and belonged to the (religiously oriented) Boy Scouts, we talked a little about that so they could get more of a sense of who Barry is.


And here we are with my extended paternal-family relatives, who all live in the Sacramento area. My unofficial aunt Linda (she's not married to my uncle, but they've been together since I was a fairly small child) and I talked about going shopping for plants and getting our men to hold the plants for us while we pick out more of them.


People also began to disperse across the property to take advantage of the many forms of entertainment that were available at our wedding. Some went outside to play bocce ball.



Others went to the garage to play pinball and arcade games.



Including some particularly antiquated arcade games.


My cousin's daughter, the youngest of our wedding guests, apparently threw an adorable mini-tantrum that I didn't find out about until I saw the professional photographer's pictures later.



My brand-new half niece demonstrated her remarkable juggling talents. (She also juggles knives and torches but confined herself to safer items at our wedding.)


People gathered and chatted in various locations. Here I am by the swimming pool with my mother's side of the family.


And here we are on the patio with Barry's side of the family and a couple of Barry's oldest friends.


One of the engaged couples at our wedding took some of this time for kissing! (Our hosts' daughter and her fiancée, who live here and were enjoying their own front yard.)


From 6:00 to 6:30, while the reception was still continuing, Barry and I stepped aside with the photographer to take "golden hour" portraits.







At 6:30, we came back inside for the cake cutting. Our wedding cakes were incredibly delicious! The top tier was an eight-inch, one-layer chocolate caramel coconut tarte, described as being "like a deluxe Almond Joy bar, featuring a coconut cream ganache filled with roasted almonds and vegan caramel, inside a coconut crust and topped with coconut flakes." The middle tier was a ten-inch, two-layer peanut butter chocolate porter cake, made with beer, espresso, peanut butter buttercream, whiskey chocolate glaze topping, and peanut brittle bits. The bottom tier was a twelve-inch, three-layer German chocolate cake featuring coconut, pecans, and caramel, finished off with chocolate drizzle along the sides.

First the photographer had us pose for a completely fake cake-cutting photo, looking as if we were going to slice into a different cake than we actually sliced into first. It was later pointed out that we both have a devious expression in our eyes in this photo; I think it was because we were being asked to be deceptive.


After the fake, posed photo was taken, we cut our actual first slice, which was from the middle cake since that was the one we both were most interested in tasting. (I do not drink alcohol ad also do not drink coffee, so a cake made with beer, espresso, and whiskey might sound like a strange choice for me, but I do actually eat solid foods made with all these things on the rare occasions when I come across them. All of them taste terrible to me plain, but all of them can taste quite good when mixed with sufficient quantities of sugar. So the peanut butter chocolate porter cake was what appealed most to both of us, and so it was what we ate first.)

This one is the real photo of the real cake cutting.


One of the things Barry had felt strongly about during wedding planning was that we should not smear cake on each other's faces. I agreed with this entirely. So we used forks to very considerately feed each other a first slice of cake. It was delicious! And very filling, too. I didn't taste the German chocolate cake until we got around to eating leftovers of it on our honeymoon, and I never got any of the chocolate caramel tart at all (it was already gone by the time we left the wedding), so we may order some more of our wedding cake flavors someday so as to taste them all and reminisce.

Here are all the people watching us cut the cake.


There was much serving and eating of cake.


After cake was eaten, my cousin who has two small children and was expecting dancing to follow the cake came over to me to tell me she was planning to take her children home. When I let her know that I was about to present bouquets and then we would play a board game, she convinced her kids that a board game would be fun.


In lieu of the traditionally annoying bouquet toss, which assumes that all single women should seek to be next to get married, I first explained that I had not wanted to carry a bouquet around with me since I did not feel like playing the role of a vase, and then presented my two vases of flowers to the two engaged couples attending our wedding.



Then at 7:30 p.m., we all played Tiny Towns. Barry acted as caller (remember, it was a Bingo-style game with one caller for the whole room). He taught the rules of the game to the room. Then, throughout the game, he drew cards one at a time and announced to the whole room what piece we should all add to our individual towns next. He also played, adding a piece to his own town each time. I think everyone played along except my father, who declines board games in general. At our table of two, I defeated Barry! It is rare for me or anyone to defeat Barry at any board game, so it felt important. Our copy of Tiny Towns is technically mine now, since it was supposed to belong to the winner at each table.

We had hired our photographer for six hours, starting at 1:30 and ending at 7:30, so our photographer went home a few minutes after we started the game. That was fine; it wasn't supposed to be an especially photogenic scene, and anyway, some of our friends took photos of it and sent them to me.




After the game, it was time for most people to go home! About half a dozen people helped divide all the Tiny Towns pieces to get the correct original number of pieces back into each box again so that the winners at each table could take the game home with them. This task went fairly astonishingly quickly; it seemed to be all done within less than five minutes. Barry and I started moving our remaining honeymoon luggage into my car, while also pausing to say goodbye to various people. We collected our wedding cards and wedding presents. Most of the presents had been sent through the mail, so it was mostly a box from Barry's parents (wrapped in paper printed with blue butterflies that matched my wedding dress) and some cards. There was also a candle from our hosts' daughter and fiancée, but I failed to pick up the candle along with the card, so they gave it to us again later. There was a picture frame that all our guests signed the mat of with good wishes for us; I think we left that behind intentionally for Barry's parents to bring it to us later.


The same people who had spent the night before at the venue also stayed the night after, except for Barry and me. My brother Paul had been scheduled to stay the night after, but he decided on the spur of the moment to drive back home instead, and sneaked out without notifying our hosts, so they were somewhat confused as to where he had gone and whether he was okay, but everything worked out fine. Barry and I got in my car, waved goodbye to both our sets of parents, and headed out to begin our married life! Little did we know how traumatic our honeymoon would be for that car of mine. But we were both completely overwhelmed with happiness at how fantastic our wedding had been, and our honeymoon would also be plenty fantastic in all manner of other ways. And I hope to get around to writing about that in another entry soon!

Our Wedding! (Part 1: Preparations and Rehearsal Dinner)

Although I've put it off for an entire year, I really do want to get around to writing about getting married last year. And also about our honeymoon, but that will have to wait still longer, for a separate entry. Here's hoping I can get through it all fairly soon, finally, after a year of delay. It is a little strange looking back at this biggest and fanciest event of our lives now that large events like this are no longer allowed, and now that our incomes are in extreme jeopardy from the economic crash, and so on. A year ago was a happier, easier, more innocent time. But I'm very glad we had it, very glad we got married at a time when all of this was still possible. A bit sad that we didn't also manage to sell my house back when house-selling was still easy and brought in more money - but hey, you can only do so much at a time, and getting married was what we managed to do. Selling my house, not so much. But we'll figure something out. For now, it's time to reminisce about getting married!

Barry and I were married on Saturday, April 13, 2019, near Santa Rosa, California, at the house of some friends of ours. These friends were originally Barry's friends, whom he got to know just months before his first wife dumped him, and thus about a year before I met him. They friends are rather wealthy and own three houses; the one we were married at is the one they bought most recently, in 2017, and is not their primary residence; they use it primarily for entertaining large groups, although their daughter and her fiancée live full time in an in-law apartment on the property. It has many bedrooms that just stand empty until there are guests staying the night; it's a little like a hotel, and they've seemed to really enjoy opening it up for any big party we wanted to organize there, even before we got married there. So they were among the very first people we told about our engagement. They immediately asked where we were getting married, and we responded by asking if we could get married at their house. They got so excited over the prospect and started asking so eagerly about what else they could do to help that I felt obliged to assure them that providing a venue was plenty of help already and that they should not feel a need to overexert themselves by offering even more than that. In the event, however, they also provided (and fully funded!) our rehearsal dinner, taking our immediate families and some of our wedding party out to dinner at the exclusive country club near their house. It was hugely expensive, I'm sure; I'm rather glad I never have to know exactly how hugely expensive.

We sent invitations to 57 people; 39 of them accepted, so when adding the two of us and the photographer, we planned for 42 people. One of the guests was unexpectedly delayed and then canceled entirely after our wedding was already underway, so we ended up with 41 people and one empty place setting.

Barry and I both poured a huge amount of planning into our wedding, and it was all extremely collaborative and extremely personalized to represent the identities of both of us. We designed and created the invitations ourselves; Barry created a design based on my ideas (a paper gatefold, with a lupine blue butterfly on a lupine flower in front of the gate, and a wooden insert inside the gate with the text of our invitation engraved on one side and a lupine flower engraved on the other side) and lasercut the paper and the wood for both the invitations and the envelopes we sent them in, while I composed the text printed on the invitations and hand-addressed the envelopes in calligraphy, using a postage stamp we found that had a closely related blue butterfly on it. The invitations contained a link to our wedding website, which told our story as a couple, which we wrote very collaboratively, trading edits back and forth for weeks. After the invitations went out, we also co-wrote the entire ceremony, not just our vows; we traded edits to this back and forth for weeks as well, and after we finally agreed on a draft, our officiant (an old friend of Barry's, who is a "reverend" in the Universal Life Church and also an atheist) added still more suggestions, comments, and questions, so we traded additional edits back and forth with him for a few more weeks after that. And then we also collaboratively co-wrote the program and other paper items handed out in gift bags.

And of course, we also collaboratively planned all the details of our clothes, the food, the drinks, the cake, the tables and chairs, the tablecloths and other décor, the dishes and silverware, the schedule, the entertainment, the song selection, and even our choice of last name. Barry lasercut wooden place markers with people's names on them to go on the tables at the reception, as well as wooden table numbers, wooden food labels for the buffet table, name stickers for our favor/program bags, engraved wooden dice box wedding favors, and wooden plant labels for my table centerpieces. I planted nine different white ceramic pots with native plants to be our table centerpieces, created custom native seed packets for each guest's specific neighborhood, and printed out the details of each seed packet's contents and some botanical trivia about each guest's neighborhood.



I made a three-piece posterboard display listing things we had done together: 1 plane trip, 1 garden tour hosted, 3 camping trips, 4 inns and AirBnBs, 5 parades attended or participated in, 5 books read together, 6 theatrical performances attended, 6 swimming trips, 11 movies watched, 11 computer games played together, 16 plant-shopping trips, 23 hiking trips, 23 counties traveled to, 24 cats fostered, 26 television shows watched, and 56 tabletop games played together. And I listed them all, in each case.



Oh, and we also collaboratively compiled a list of love songs to be played during our wedding! I compiled a first draft, Barry added a few more songs, we listened to it on various drives to and from the wedding venue while planning and setting up the wedding, we deleted a few songs we didn't like as much as the others, and then we were done! And now we have not just one song that is "our song" but a whole bunch of them.

All in all, our wedding was a massive joint project that was in every way very evenly shared between us, and it performed exactly the function that I had always thought wedding planning should ideally aspire to do: it demonstrated beyond all doubt our ability to collaborate with each other fairly and equitably while forging and expressing to our social circles a joint sense of identity that is satisfying to both of us.

And it was more exciting than stressful! But there was definitely stress involved at various moments along the way too. The stress was mostly a matter of the impending and rather short deadlines we had set for ourselves (we were engaged for only five and a half months!), but there were a few moments of mild friction between us when deciding how to handle some of the details. Barry initially wanted a titanium or other modern-material wedding ring, and I was bothered by that because I didn't have confidence that the materials would last (titanium is incredibly scratch-resistant but also far more brittle than gold and thus more prone to snapping in half). Barry gave in and chose a 14K yellow-and-rose-gold wedding ring, which he seems very happy with now, and I'm so happy with it that some part of my mind is occasionally weirdly jealous and wishes it were my ring, even though my own 18K rose gold wedding ring with a rose design and a diamond in the middle is really more my style.


Then there was also some stress about the program and accompanying papers; I wanted to give the guests a bunch of pages of text for entertainment and discussion value, with trivia questions about us and such, and Barry wanted just the actual one-page program. Also there were some details of the program's layout that he objected to, though I've forgotten what exactly. He ended up tweaking the program's design until we were both happy with it, and I think I reduced my extra papers slightly but not much, and Barry ended up saying after the wedding was over that he had decided it was for the best that people had more to read if they happened to want something to do.

Oh, and there was stress about my hairstyle! I didn't want professional hair or makeup, because it was important to me to look like myself. But I was slightly surprised to realize that I did want to look a little fancier than usual, so I started researching crown braids and tried to get Barry help me braid my hair into a crown braid. This did not go well, and Barry wanted me to hire a professional hairstylist for our wedding day. I refused this, but I did agree to consult a professional hairstylist for advice a month ahead of our wedding day. This hairstylist was a black woman and had a lot of advice for me about curly hair. She slightly despaired of my refusal to use hair products, but she settled for advising me to put a lot of conditioner in my hair and not wash it out, so as to make my hair hold its curls and not deteriorate into frizz. She supported her point by showing my photographs of her toddler-aged son with and without leave-in conditioner, with curls versus frizz. I was convinced. She also convinced me to show off my curls by doing only a partial crown braid, with some hair left down loose. She showed me several ways of braiding a partial crown braid that were much easier for me to do by myself than my original idea had been. I practiced various ideas for the remaining month before the wedding until I settled on a final plan. I chose to create a twist (two pieces of hair wound around one another, rather than three pieces interwoven as in a standard braid) starting at each of my temples. On the advice of the hairstylist, I omitted a chunk of hair from the middle of my head from these braids so as to avoid having a parted-down the middle look. I tied the end of each twist with a small clear rubber band, then twisted the two twists around one another where they met at the back of my head. I did them as twists rather than braids because I liked the symbolism: marriage is about a union of two, not of three, and each of us also originated from a union of two, so we are two twists being twisted together. I held the whole thing in place with a whole bunch of bobby pins (color-matched to my hair and arranged in opposing pairs, one facing upward for each one facing downward). Then I added a fancy metal flower-and-leaf ornament I'd bought for our wedding and held that in place with even more bobby pins. I did the actual hairstyling myself, but on our actual wedding day, I asked my former housemate/lodger to help put in the bobby pins so she could make them as invisible as possible, since I couldn't see the back of my own head to make sure of how invisible they were. She did a good job.


I also, technically speaking, wore makeup at the wedding. But not such that anybody would notice. Only a little bit of translucent foundation, called Nudestix, to even out my complexion slightly. No other makeup – no lipstick or eyeshadow or nail polish or anything like that.

I wore flats instead of high heels. Shiny silver flats with shiny silver stocking socks. A white tulle cape instead of a veil, pinned at the neck with a blue butterfly pin that matched the blue butterflies on my dress. No traditional jewelry types like necklaces or bracelets, just the pin and my wedding ring and the hair ornament.


All of these things felt important to achieving the perfect balance between feeling that I was dressed fancier than usual and yet feeling that I was still myself. And my dress: it was long enough to touch the ground but not long enough to trip on or get dirty, which seemed to me the perfect balance between formality and practicality. It was custom-ordered from eShakti, like every dress I've bought in the last several years, but it was a little more customized than any other dress I've ever ordered from them, because I made a special request for them to use a neckline from one dress pattern while using the rest of a different dress pattern. They accommodated my request, and I was delighted with how it came out. And of course it had pockets. And of course it was primarily white, yet not entirely white - another way it felt important to me to break with tradition while also using it as a starting point to work against and respond to.

I dyed my hair for the first time in my entire life! Well, sort of, slightly. I used henna instead of a traditional permanent hair dye. Actually, I used henna mixed with Cassia obovata, which is another plant similar to henna but much lighter in color. Both henna and cassia are translucent temporary dyes, so they only produce visible results on hair that is lighter in color to begin with than they are. Henna is pretty close in color to my natural original color, but Cassia is more of a platinum blond color, so a mix of the two creates a temporary dye that is distinctly lighter than my natural non-gray hairs, and thus (because it's translucent) totally invisible on my natural non-gray hairs. All it did was darken my gray hairs (or really my white hairs; my hair doesn't seem to have any actual gray stage but just goes directly to white) to a paler version of my natural color. I liked that it preserved plenty of variation in the colors of my hair, including leaving it clear that I do have some white in my hair; this looked so much more natural than uniform one-color hair dyes ever do. I also liked that it was temporary, so it didn't give me obvious roots when it grew out. It just faded away unobtrusively. Also it was far safer than traditional hair dyes, which tend to be remarkably toxic.

But mostly, I didn't want to try to look 21 again. I wanted to have some white hairs here and there. I just didn't want so much white hair that it would be obvious in all our wedding photographs. I wanted to be able to look back at our wedding photographs in future years and have the common, traditional experience of thinking how young I looked back then, instead of thinking how old I already looked by then. I had never really intended to remain single until I was 42, and I wanted my wedding pictures not to remind me too much of how old 42 was.

Barry also has some white hair and did not feel a need to dye his, even with temporary hair dye. But he was my hot young 37-year-old husband, and I was glad for him to look 37. He mostly dressed to coordinate his outfit with mine, which is actually very much the same way he usually dresses on far more ordinary days. We coordinae the colors of our outfits a lot. For our wedding, he wore blue to coordinate with the blue butterflies on my dress, and I gave him blue butterfly cuff links to coordinate with my blue butterfly pin. I didn't realize that cuff links required special unusual shirts, and it turned out that Barry had been planning to wear a shirt that was not compatible with cuff links. He decided to have the shirt tailored to make it compatible.


Barry was a big fan of my wedding cape and has kept saying ever since then that I should wear more capes. He also sometimes says I should wear more hats or scarves. I think his fashion ideal for me might be for me to join the Red Hat Society. This is good, because that's pretty much my fashion ideal also.

But back to our wedding preparations! We arrived at our friends' house (the wedding venue) a few days early to get things set up. I think I drove from my house to Barry's house on Tuesday evening after work, and then we drove together to the wedding venue on Wednesday evening after work. We claimed the "maid's room" (there is no actual maid, but this room is positioned behind the kitchen in a way that is clearly designed for a live-in maid) for ourselves, but we had also planned in advance how to allocate the other guest bedrooms to our other guests who were coming from out of town and could be spared from needing hotel reservations. My parents, arriving the day before the wedding, got the "presidential suite." My brother was allocated an air mattress in the wine cellar, although he didn't end up staying overnight at all. The best man and his then-girlfriend (now wife) were allocated a room across the hall from the "presidential suite," and our officiant was allocated another room next to them. But Barry and I were the only ones to arrive several nights before the wedding.

I had only the day before the wedding off from work, because I was going to be using up a full week of vacation time for our honeymoon the following week. So I did wedding setup on Wednesday evening and Thursday evening, but I telecommuted during the day Thursday. I had bought a bunch of new dresses from eShakti over the course of the preceding year that I'd been saving up to wear for the first time during our honeymoon, and I ended up also allocating certain dresses to be worn for the first time in the days just before the wedding. On the Thursday before our wedding, I wore a red and purple crepe dress printed with the pattern of giant butterfly wings (butterflies were a big theme of our wedding). On the Friday before our wedding, for our rehearsal dinner, I wore a sky-blue silk dress with a border of hummingbirds and white flowers.

But let's go back to the day of the butterfly-wing-print dress. Thursday, I suppose. We had a lot of setup tasks to take care of. With permission, during the preceding months I had replaced all the plants in all the pots and some of the in-ground flowerbeds in our friends' front courtyard with California native plants for the occasion. So I checked on my plantings, pulling a few weeds and disposing of them.


I unpacked and watered the six little white ceramic pots I had planted for use as table centerpieces. Also, we had packed our wedding favor/program bags flat to bring them to the venue, with Barry's lasercut name tags on each bag. At the wedding venue, I put the programs and my personalized seed packets into the bags, put dice into the wooden dice boxes Barry had lasercut, put the dice boxes into the bags, and set up the bags alphabetically so that people could easily find and claim their bags.


The lupine flower engraved on the lid of each dice box matched the lupine flower engraved on the back of each wooden wedding invitation we had sent out.


We also had a board game to play at our wedding. This was important because board games are an important part of Barry's life! The game hadn't officially been released quite yet, but Barry had met the game designers at a convention and they had arranged for him to get eight advance copies of the game, one for each table at our wedding and one extra. (The winner at each table got to take home their copy of the game.) We weren't playing separately at each table, though; it was a Bingo-style game with one caller for the entire room and all the people at individual tables playing along. That was the reason Barry chose this particular game, because we could all play it together. The game was called Tiny Towns. A few days before the wedding, Barry pulled all the small pieces out of all seven boxes and redistributed them into little plastic cups for each table. The distribution calculations were not simple, because we had different numbers of people at different tables (just Barry and me at one table, five or six people at each of three medium-size tables, and eight people at each of three longer tables). It was important to make sure everyone had enough pieces within easy reach to be able to play the game. I saw Barry dividing up the pieces and wanted to help, so I asked him to instruct me in what to do. But this stressed him out, and he asked me to just go away and let him do it by himself. This, in turn, stressed me out and made me feel like he didn't think I was capable of understanding what to do and helping him do it. So I insisted on helping, because I wanted to prove that I could understand and be helpful. Meanwhile, Barry felt further stressed out and offended because I wasn't willing to leave him alone when he had politely asked me to go away and let him do it himself. We didn't sort out the causes of the argument or reach any particular understanding of what it was about until June, but in the meantime, we did muddle our way through it well enough to get the pieces properly sorted and the immediate, essential task accomplished.


We had delegated to Barry's family and friends the tasks of bringing rented chairs and tables and borrowed dishes. We had purchased the silverware and the tablecloths. Barry and his parents and our hosts and the best man all owned square Corelle dinner plate sets that were identical except for the patterns on them, so we had all the owners of those matching plate sets bring their plates and loan them to us for the duration of the wedding. Most of the tables were also ones we owned or borrowed from friends who owned matching ones, but we had to rent a couple of longer tables, and we rented all 42 chairs so they would match each other well. Barry's brother Jeremy, and Jeremy's girlfriend Stephanie, flew in from Austin, Texas, picked up the rental furniture the day before the wedding, and brought it to us at the wedding venue, along with Barry's parents.

And then it was time for our "rehearsal" dinner. In quotes because we had no actual rehearsal that day. (We did have a slight, abbreviated rehearsal on the morning of our actual wedding day, after the matrons of honor arrived at the venue.) But on the night before our wedding, our immediate families were there (except for my brother, Paul), and our hosts took us all out to dinner at the local private country club – us, nine of our closest family members, three members of our wedding party, and the five members of our hosts' family. There were several tables; Barry and I sat at the center of a long rectangular table or set of tables pushed together. To the left of us were my parents, and across from my parents were Barry's brother Jeremy and Jeremy's girlfriend Stephanie. To the right of us were our hosts, and across from our hosts were Barry's parents. At a separate, round-shaped table were Barry's half-sister Kim and her two daughters, along with our hosts' daughter, son, and daughter's fiancée.

My brother, Paul, was also invited to the "rehearsal" dinner, but when informed of the dress code for the country club, he decided not to go. He arrived the next day instead, a few hours before our wedding. Barry's half brother Shawn opted not to attend our wedding at all (which seemed quite reasonable to me, since Shawn had been the only one of Barry's half and full siblings who had attended Barry's previous wedding).

My main memory of the night is of my father trying to make conversation with Jeremy and Stephanie, who live in Austin, by launching into his standard tales of being drafted into the army during the Vietnam War and serving the entire war in El Paso. Having heard these tales a hundred times before, I was somewhat inclined to pity Jeremy and Stephanie for having to hear them, but of course Jeremy and Stephanie had never heard them before. My parents and Barry's parents had met on several previous occasions, but this was the first and likely only occasion for my parents to meet Jeremy and Stephanie, so my father was gamely attempting to make conversation about this tenuous commonality between them, that they had both spent some amount of time living somewhere in Texas. And Jeremy and Stephanie were at least polite enough to act vaguely interested, so it was a good show of civility on both sides, if perhaps largely for Barry's and my benefit. I don't remember any noteworthy tidbits of the conversation on the other side of us, but I remember that Barry and I didn't and couldn't participate all that much in conversation with anyone other than each other, because it was too hard for us to hear the bits of conversation from either end of the table, and everyone except us was closer to one end of the table or the other. So the way I remember it, we mostly just talked to each other the whole night, and listened in periodically to whatever scraps of conversation we could pick out from either end of our table. And that was fine; we were both about to get married, and everything felt important to take note of, so I think we were both just trying to take in the entire experience quietly, with each other.

Both of us had a very hard time trying to remember now, a year later, whether our officiant, the best man, and the best man's girlfriend (now wife) were at our "rehearsal" dinner or not. We have text-message records indicating we planned to have 17 people there, but we're unsure whether that number included my brother (who canceled plans to attend) and/or our hosts' entire family (who were there more as their guests than as ours). But Barry and I both remember being seated next to each other at the center of that long table, and that would seem to imply that someone was sitting across from us. And we both remember our officiant and the best man and his girlfriend all being in their pajamas the next morning, which implies that they spent the night at the venue, which implies that they were probably there the previous evening around dinnertime. So it would have been awfully weirdly rude if our hosts, who already had well-established friendships with all three of these people, had invited everyone else present out to dinner but told these three of their and our friends to just stay at the house and fend for themselves. So they must have been there. The best man and his girlfriend (my former housemate/lodger, who is now our best man's wife) must have been sitting across from us at the dinner, and our officiant would have been seated at the round table, because I have a dim impression of him being on that end of the room. Barry and I both remember our host wandering between the tables at various points during the meal, joining in the conversation at both tables in the way that a good host and an extrovert does. Barry and I, being introverts, did not wander or join in conversations much at all. My impression is that we mostly listened, or tried to listen to whatever we could pick out from the jumble of words around us, and talked to each other.

And that was the end of my day in the sky-blue dress with the hummingbirds.

And I guess I have to break this post here, because LiveJournal tells me it's too long to be all one post!
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Annual New Year's Survey!

I'm a little later than usual with this survey, but I've been working on it, and I guess I'd better hurry up and get it posted before we get any deeper into 2020.

1) What did you do in 2019 that you'd never done before?
Got married! Changed my legal name! Went on a honeymoon! Got in a high-speed car crash! (Went spinning the wrong way across a freeway!) Seriously contemplated having a mastectomy! Some of these things were vastly more fun than others of these things.

2) Was 2019 a good year for you?
The first half was significantly better than the second half. But overall, yes.

3) What would you like to have in 2020 that you lacked in 2019?
A cancer-free year and the election of Elizabeth Warren as our next president. (Sadly, that last one is looking less and less likely by the day, so I guess I should also specify that I'll settle for Anybody but Trump. My second choice is Bernie Sanders, and my third choice is Anybody but Biden and Trump.) I might also like to buy a brand-new house, but I'm willing to hold off on that if the right one doesn't present itself. Selling my current house is pretty important though; even if we don't get around to buying a new one, I'd at least like to finish moving into Barry's current house while we shop for a better one to move into together.

I'd like to note that I did get in 2019 the most important things I was actively wishing for a year ago, including a marriage certificate and impeachment. I was also wishing for a different president, but no such luck yet on that front. (Grrrrrrr to the United States Senate.)

4) What was your favorite moment of 2019?
Holding Barry's hand while stepping out the front door of our friends' house at the moment our wedding ceremony began, when I couldn't see our family and friends properly because my eyes suddenly filled up with happy tears.

5) What was your least favorite moment of 2019?
Being informed that I had breast cancer all over again.

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Arizona! Day 4: Grand Canyon

It's time for me to hurry up and finish writing about our Arizona vacation two months ago, so I can move on to writing about other things! So here we go on Day 4, the final day.

On Tuesday morning, December 18, Barry and I woke up in the AirBnB we had spent the night at, just outside of Flagstaff. It was called the Mod Lodge. The blurb about it on the AirBnB site reads, in part, as follows:
The big red house at the base of the San Francisco Peaks contains within its walls Mudshark Recording Studios, the oldest running recording studio in Flagstaff in action since the mid 1970s. This historic Northern Arizona landmark was started by Phil Gall and has been recording local and regional artists for over 30 years! There are many tales in local folklore of visits to the studio by members of the Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead to Steve Miller and Linda Ronstadt.

It's a family's house but also doubles as a recording studio and has apparently been used by fairly prominent musicians for many decades. The original owner died recently, but the new owners are carrying on the business. The man of the house told us that he has worked for years with Tony Visconti, David Bowie's producer. Upon hearing that I'm a huge David Bowie fan, he told us some stories about Tony Visconti and some stories that Tony Visconti had told him about David Bowie. Mainly he told one story about how, in 1974, Tony Visconti and David Bowie and John Lennon were together in a room (John Lennon was a guest songwriter/backing vocalist on David Bowie's song "Fame" at the time) and David Bowie warned Tony Visconti not to mention Paul McCartney because it would set off John Lennon ranting about how angry he was at Paul McCartney. But Tony Visconti had recently produced Paul McCartney's album with Wings and was really angry because Paul McCartney hadn't credited him properly on the liner notes but had just printed "Thanks, Tony," with no last name and no indication of what Tony's role had been. So Tony Visconti complained to John Lennon about Paul McCartney doing that. And then John Lennon jumped up and said he'd been working on a song that had been reminding him of when he and Paul were kids and he'd been thinking of inviting Paul to work on it with him, but now that Tony Visconti had reminded him of what a jerk Paul was, he'd decided again not to invite Paul to work on anything with him ever again. And so David Bowie told Tony Visconti, "You just prevented the Beatles from getting back together!" and continued to blame Tony Visconti forever afterward for having prevented the Beatles from getting back together.

He told us that story just before we left. I guess I'm getting a little ahead of myself, though, because I should start with when we woke up. This was the view from the enclosed patio adjacent to our room.

Mod Lodge AirBnB

Mod Lodge AirBnB

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Arizona! Day 3: OdySea Aquarium and Lowell Observatory

On Monday morning, December 17, we were still in our hotel room when Barry got a phone call from OdySea Aquarium in the desert. Barry had bought us tickets to go there on Sunday, but since the open hours listed on Google were not accurate, we did not arrive until after it was closed for the day. Barry had then inquired about whether we could exchange our unused Sunday tickets for Monday tickets. They called him back Monday morning to say yes, we could get in on Monday with our unused Sunday tickets.

So, after helping ourselves to another elaborate and delicious buffet breakfast at our hotel and packing all our stuff into the rental car (because we would not be coming back to this hotel the next night), we drove to Scottsdale to visit the aquarium. OdySea Aquarium in the Desert could equally well be called OdySea Aquarium in a Shopping Mall. It was an anchor store of a large mall. There were kids sitting on Santa's lap and kids playing in a pile of snow that had been manufactured for them with a snow machine or perhaps hauled down from Flagstaff. There was a candy shop that we walked through, though we didn't end up buying any candy. There was also a place called Butterfly Wonderland that I decided we should visit if or when we go back to Arizona again. We looked around its gift shop, but the full Butterfly Wonderland experience was quite expensive, and we didn't have enough free time to spend there to justify the money.

Mostly we just spent our time at the aquarium. We saw fish! We even petted a lot of the fish. Or at least I did. Barry is more fish-averse and only petted a couple of them. But here is Barry petting a fish.

Barry at the OdySea Aquarium in the Desert

And here I am petting a ray.

me at the OdySea Aquarium in the Desert

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Arizona! Day 2: Riparian Preserve and Superstition Mountains

Since our hotel room didn't have a refrigerator, we ended up not being able to eat the food we had brought back there from dinner at the Desert Botanical Garden; we were too stuffed to eat any more of it until the next morning, when it would no longer have been safe to eat.

The hotel did, however, serve quite a good breakfast buffet of its own. A lot of hotels claim to serve breakfast buffets but make only the minimal effort to technically qualify as providing a "breakfast" "buffet." This one did the job properly though, with everything from cereal to waffles to bagels to muffins to a choice of red or green apples, plus a wide variety of spreads (peanut butter, jelly, butter, strawberry cream cheese . . .) and beverages (orange juice, coffee, milk . . .) We were quite satisfied.

Our first stop on Sunday morning, December 16, was the next used bookstore, the Bookmans in Mesa. As at the Bookmans in Phoenix, I read some riveting first pages in the autobiography section but then tore myself away and restricted my actual purchases to the fiction section. This time I picked up three books: Intrusions by Ursula Hegi, The Silver Star by Jeanette Walls, and Miss Grief and Other Stories by Constance Fenimore Woolson. I first discovered Jeanette Walls via her autobiography, which is much in the same genre of the autobiographies I was passing over during this trip. However, I don't remember disliking her by the end of it, and in any case, what I bought by her this time was fiction. I haven't read the latter two books I got from the Mesa Bookmans, but I did read Intrusions and enjoyed it very much. Intrusions is a novel into which the author keeps intruding to tell about her experience of writing the novel, and the characters, in turn, keep intruding into the author's life. It was published in 1981, and it felt to me very much a novel of 1981, with a distinctly 1981 tone to its feminist take on the difficulty of trying to raise children and also have a career. It felt very dated and very second-wave, but it was also brilliantly written, and I greatly admired the writing skill that went into it.

This second Bookmans declined to buy any of the books that Barry hadn't been able to sell to the first Bookmans. But Barry still had store credit left from the first Bookmans and used that to buy my three books for me.

Then we went to look at Barry's childhood home in Gilbert. Barry stopped the car by the curb, and we just sat and looked at it for a minute or two. Then we moved on again. We also stopped to look at the nearby canal. Then we stopped at a CVS pharmacy to buy some bottled water in preparation for a hike.

The hike was at the Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch. This reserve is located very close to Barry's childhood home, but it wasn't there when Barry lived there. Barry's dad said it used to be a water treatment plant back then. But now it's a scenic natural preserve with numerous ponds - though a few of the ponds were drained of water when we were there. There was a long, winding bridge over a corner of one of the ponds that allowed us to get close to the ducks gathered there.

Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch in Gilbert

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Arizona! Day 1: Desert Botanical Garden

So, Barry and I went to Arizona! We came back a month ago already, but it's taken me this long to write up the trip. And even now, I'm only writing up one day at a time from our four-day trip. The rest is coming soon . . . I hope. Wedding planning is keeping us busy! Wedding planning is now my all-purpose excuse for all delays in all things. Possibly including delays in wedding planning itself.

Barry grew up in Gilbert, a suburb of Phoenix that was somewhat out in the middle of nowhere at the time (in the '80s and '90s), but that now blends seamlessly into the Phoenix metropolitan area. He lived there until he went away to attend college at U.C. Irvine. I grew up in the Sacramento area and had never been to Arizona in my life, so we had been vaguely talking for a long time about Barry taking me to see the area where he grew up. The trip needed to happen in winter, because it is 120 °F in the Phoenix area in the summer, and we wanted to be able to walk around outside without dying of heatstroke. We had decided sometime early in 2018 that this winter would be the time for such a trip. On Sunday, November 11, as I was leaving Barry's house after a weekend we spent there together, I mentioned to Barry that I had some vacation time to use up before the end of the calendar year and that it would therefore be convenient for me if we could take that Arizona trip before the end of the calendar year - especially so I could save my 2019 vacation time for honeymooning instead.

I mentioned that in Barry's driveway, just minutes before I left. Only one hour later, when I arrived at my own house, there was an email already awaiting me from Barry in which he had already planned out our entire Arizona trip, including plane tickets, hotels, restaurants, hikes . . . he'd already worked out a detailed schedule for everything we would see and do on each day we were there. I was extremely impressed by how quickly he'd managed to plan such a detailed itinerary. Oh, and then there was the fact that his itinerary called for visiting not one, not two, but three different used bookstores in the course of our four-day trip. "They're not just any used bookstores," he insisted. They were Bookmans Entertainment Exchanges, an apparently quite important phenomenon from Barry's childhood, and it was apparently quite important to him for us to visit not only the Phoenix one but also the Mesa one and also the Flagstaff one. Clearly there are reasons why this guy is the right person for my English-major self to marry.

Barry's itinerary also called for making two separate trips to the same botanical garden on the same day - once in daylight and once after dark. Even being as much a gardener as I am, I thought this seemed a bit much. This fiancé of mine can be rather eccentric! But if Barry wanted to spend that much time with the same set of plants, far be it from me to tell him that plants are boring and we should hurry up and go do something else already. So I just told him he was rather strange and then cheerfully agreed to go along with his strange itinerary.

So, on Saturday, December 15, we got up at 5:30 a.m. to head to the airport. It was the first time I had boarded an airplane since I was thirteen . . . 29 years ago. My first taste of the post-9/11 airport experience. And once we were finally in the air, I could see the ground for more of the flight than I remember being able to do when I was thirteen. My memory of flying to Washington, D.C., when I was thirteen, is of being able to see the ground only for a short period just after takeoff and a short period just before landing; I recall the view being obscured by clouds for virtually all the middle of the country. This time, though, the skies were clear for a larger percentage of the trip. And Barry gave me the window seat so I could see as much as possible!

Here is the view from the plane window while we were still sitting on the ground at the Sacramento International Airport.

Sacramento International Airport (SMF)

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Yosemite, and We're Engaged!

Barry and I went to Yosemite for the second time this year, from October 28 to 31. A certain exciting moment happened there, which I already gave away in the title of this post, but I'm going to try to stick to narrating this in chronological order.

So, I sort of decided in advance of this trip that I really wanted to get engaged during it, and I was probably going to be pretty seriously disappointed if I didn't get engaged during it. This was obviously problematic, because setting up an arbitrary deadline that required Barry's involvement and not even telling Barry about said deadline was clearly unfair to Barry. I tried to prepare some ways I'd be able to stop myself from being disappointed, but I had a feeling I'd probably still end up feeling disappointed anyway. So, taking a different tack, I tried to give Barry some advance warning. In a way, I already had: we'd agreed about two years ago on a time frame that we both felt would be an appropriate point for getting married ("in the third year of our relationship") and we'd arrived at that time frame; we'd subsequently agreed that we both wanted to wait for our most sickly and elderly pets to die first, and they both had died; we'd discussed engagement rings and I'd picked one out and told Barry about it a month or two earlier; we'd made several preliminary house-shopping trips; and I'd asked Barry, on one of the occasions when he was at my house earlier this fall, whether - since there is significant stuff I want to do to my house before we sell it - we could get married first and deal with house buying-and-selling afterward, and he'd said yes. So all signs were that we weren't on wildly different pages. But I still hadn't gotten Barry to specify what he wanted as an engagement ring, nor had he even gotten around to figuring out what size he wears. So it was hard to see how I could prepare a magnificent proposal for him when I couldn't possibly present him with a perfect ring. Also, frankly, it's very confusing to try to subvert the patriarchy by, if you are a woman, getting down on one knee before a man. It's just a weirdly submissive-seeming position to try to claim as a feminist act, you know? So I resorted instead to just dropping an inordinate number of hints, while also feeling bad about only communicating through hints, because in general I'm a great believer in just being bluntly direct about everything so as not to run any risk of misunderstandings.

This is why, on the weekend before our Yosemite trip, when I was saying goodbye to Barry in his driveway, I mentioned to him that according to the Internet being sprayed by the mist of Bridalveil Fall is supposed to improve your chances of getting married, and suggested that maybe I should take him to Bridalveil Fall while we were there. Then I also told him that if he really wanted to get me to stop looking at houses for a while (since we weren't really ready to buy yet), getting me focused on planning a wedding would probably be the one thing that would achieve that.

"So much pressure!" Barry replied, grinning. He must have gotten the hint, because apparently it was the day after that conversation that he placed the order for the engagement ring I'd told him some weeks earlier that I wanted.

And then it was the following Sunday morning, and we were stuffing everything into Barry's truck to go to Yosemite. I had printed out a bunch of directions to all sorts of places in and around Yosemite - more places than I really thought we were likely to have time to see - as backups in case the GPS on Barry's cell phone let us down. Barry had purchased some new rectangular bins to pack our equipment into, and he took a few minutes to work out the quirks of how to stack them and lash them to his truck's ladder rack so as to maintain a clear line of sight for himself. Then we were on the road! We listened to the mix tape I'd made a few trips ago, for our trip to Howard Creek Ranch Inn in 2017, of my favorite songs from various eras of my life; and we alternated it with some podcasts Barry wanted to listen to - primarily one called My Brother, My Brother, and Me, which involves three brothers intentionally dispensing bad advice to people. We stopped in the small town of Mariposa, where I bought Barry some gas, and then we entered Yosemite via the Arch Rock Entrance. We set up camp at the site I'd reserved for us, North Pines Site 103. There was a motorhome adjacent to us on one side, which was kind of nice because the people generally stayed inside it where we didn't see them, and there was a family of four from some European country on the other side of us, with children aged about one and four years old, speaking a language that resembled German but probably wasn't quite German. The one-year-old was a bit loud for a person in general, but probably rather quiet for a one-year-old. Here is our campsite, with Barry's yellow and black bins, my camp stove, and Barry's tent.

North Pines Site 103

Our campsite was directly on the Merced River, near the bridge over the river. You can see the bridge a bit at the left side of the photo above, but you can see it better in the photo below, which shows the view from right next to our tent.

Merced River from North Pines Site 103

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    Fallout 76 videogame music from Barry's Playstation
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Br*tt K*vanaugh

Research has repeatedly shown that ethnically and otherwise diverse teams are better than homogeneous teams at challenging each other's perspectives and thoroughly weighing all the data to arrive at the best possible decisions. (If you're not familiar with the data, run a Google search on "diverse teams research.")

The Republican Party right now is severely lacking in diversity. That is why the Republican senators on the Judiciary Committee have been and still are being incredibly slow to realize they should not confirm Brett Kavanaugh. I'm still not sure whether they will figure it out in time; they may indeed go ahead and confirm him. But because they are such an all-white, all-male club, if they do confirm him, they will do so without properly grasping the full consequences of doing so.

Simply put, it is practically impossible to imagine the Supreme Court continuing to be regarded as a legitimate authority worthy of respect by anything more than 50% of the nation's population. We already have Clarence Thomas, credibly accused of workplace harassment by Anita Hill, and we already have Neil Gorsuch, whose seat should properly have gone to Merrick Garland. That these things have been, to a certain degree, accepted may lead some people to conclude, wrongly, that confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh will also be accepted, even after - what, five now? six? - reported separate incidents of him committing sexually assault. But the difference here is the critical mass to alter the decision-making. With Kavanaugh on the court, the court will be ruling in an extreme far-right way on virtually every case that comes before it. And although that would still upset every left-leaning American even if Kavanaugh were the choir boy he pretended to be on Fox News, being upset by the outcomes of court cases doesn't always lead to considering the court itself illegitimate. What will indeed lead to a good 50% of Americans considering the court illegitimate is the combination of both constant far-right court verdicts and the knowledge that at least two of the justices have been credibly accused of sex crimes plus an additional seat on the court was stolen from Merrick Garland. With all of those factors added together, it will be completely impossible for the court to retain anything resembling its former sheen of legitimacy.

Knowing this doesn't solve the problem, of course. Having 50% of Americans cease to regard the Supreme Court a legitimate doesn't somehow automatically strip the court of its legal power. But it will be a major change that the nation will have to grapple with for quite some time. And the Republican senators who will make the decision about whether to confirm Kavanaugh or not do not even see it coming.
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The Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything

I am now the answer to life, the universe, and everything! That started a week ago. But I've been neglecting LiveJournal for a while now, so I'm going to try to catch up a bit on the backlog before I write about birthday-related activities.

So, spring happened. I wrote about the garden tour already, but I haven't yet gotten around to posting this picture Barry took of me in his back yard in early May.

me in Barry's back yard, May 2018

In addition to all the plant reproduction that tends to happen in spring, there also tends to be quite a bit of feline reproduction in the spring. Accordingly, Barry has lately taken in a long succession of foster kittens. The first one, in June, was a grey/brown tabby who needed to be "socialized" because he was terrified of everyone. I named him Bolt, after the brown tabby in Neko Atsume, and also because, at first, he wanted to bolt away from us at every opportunity. But we successfully socialized him in no time. Here I am with Bolt.

me with Bolt, June 2018

me with Bolt, June 2018

The next one was a gray-and-white kitten whom I named Rascal, after the similarly colored kitten in Neko Atsume. Barry took in Rascal in late June and returned him to the shelter in early July. Rascal was also on the shy side at first, but not quite as shy as Bolt. He didn't initially act like a rascal, but he kind of grew into his name during his two weeks at Barry's house.

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The next two were littermates, two brothers whom Barry fostered together. These two were probably in the most desperate need of "socializing," because whereas Bolt and Rascal had initially just cowered from us, the first time I tried to pick up one of these two, I got my hand sliced up by the claws of a very panicked kitten. One of these two was a long-haired, mostly white kitten with a line of striped brown patches down his back and an eye infection that Barry needed to keep medicating. I named this one Garland, because the line of brown patches down his back reminded me of a garland. We also joked about calling him Merrick, for should-have-been Supreme Court Justice Merrick Garland, but by the end of his stay with us, I had decided instead that his full name was Sir Garland Floofkitten.

Barry named Garland's littermate Kefka, because apparently Garland and Kefka were two villains in the Final Fantasy video game series. Kefka was the more powerful villain, and this seemed appropriate to me, since Kefka was the kitten who had sliced up my hand when we first met. Kefka was mostly a brown tabby, but with white paws and a white front/underside. Kefka's tabby bits had an unusual pattern; he was a ticked tabby rather than the more common mackerel tabby.

They were both adorable, and of all the kittens Barry has fostered, these two were the ones I've been most tempted to adopt. Alas, there are no open slots for more cats in our lives, since Barry already has three cats and I have one who is already upset enough about sharing me with Barry's three.

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Speaking of Barry's cats, here are a couple of pictures of Barry's oldest cat, Jazz, on my lap.

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And just so my own cat doesn't feel neglected . . . here is Stardust.

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We also did various other stuff during the spring. We went to a friend's college graduation party; she acquired a degree in statistics from the University of California at Davis. We went to various board-game parties and to a friend's birthday party that was held in a board-game store. My mom had a birthday too, and Barry and I walked down to a creek in my parents' neighborhood with my family. We celebrated Mothers' Day and Fathers' Day and my brother's birthday. Barry cooked a bunch of meals for my family on those occasions.

And then there was my birthday. For this occasion, Barry not only cooked dinner (a Japanese dish called oyakodon, meaning "chicken-and-egg rice bowl," which went over quite well with my family of generally rather unadventurous eaters) and supplied birthday cake; he also brought a ladder and level to my parents' house and installed lights and a longer pull-chain on one of my parents' ceiling fans, used the level to straighten a tapestry that has been hanging crookedly on my parents' wall for years, and took measurements to laser-cut a decorative windowshade for the hemicircular window in my parents' bedroom, where my mom has for years been trying to block out the light with an ugly and irregularly cut piece of cardboard because she couldn't find anything for sale in the necessary half-circle shape.

And then there were the presents! Barry and I stopped by the Marysville Peach Festival on our way out of town, and Barry bought me a bottle of peach-infused honey and a bag of orange-zest-dipped cashew nuts there. At my parents' house, I received the following:

  • the YA novel Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (from my parents)
  • the novel Noonday by Pat Barker (from Barry)
  • the novel Sweet and Sour Milk by Nuruddin Farah (from my parents)
  • the play The Rez Sisters by Tomson Highway (from my brother)
  • the novel Bel-Ami by Guy de Maupassant (from my parents)
  • the short-story collection How to Breathe Underwater by Julie Orringer (from my parents)
  • the graphic novel My Boyfriend Is a Bear by Pamela Ribon and Cat Faris (from Barry)
  • the essay collection Imperial America: Reflections on the United States of Amnesia by Gore Vidal (from my parents)
  • the memoir Educated by Tara Westover (from my parents)
  • one pair of red and white running socks (from my parents)
  • one pair of yellow and black running socks (from my parents)
  • one purple, grey, and pink water bottle with attached running belt (from my parents)
  • six pairs of blue and green gardening gloves (from my parents)
  • the wide-brimmed blue sun hat you'll see in photographs below (from my parents)
  • eight stretchy silicone airtight lids for pots, pans, and jars (from Barry)
  • a valve handle for my outdoor faucet that has been missing the knob to turn the water on with ever since I bought my house six years ago (from Barry)
  • a Roomba (from Barry)

So far, I've finished reading the YA novel and the graphic novel, started reading the play, drank from the water bottle, wore the hat, started up the Roomba, and eaten some of the cashews and honey. Good progress!

I scheduled a four-day weekend to celebrate my birthday. We spent Friday at the Peach Festival and my parents' house. On Saturday we packed lunches and drove to a swimming hole on Rock Creek, near the town of Storrie. This trip did not go as well as I had hoped. I had learned about the swimming hole in a book I own, which included a rock-climbing icon next to the entry for Rock Creek, but which did not say anything in the text about the swimming hole requiring difficult or dangerous climbing to get to. When we arrived, however, I was immediately intimidated. Usually I find that the easiest way to get to a swimming hole in a creek without any terribly difficult climbing is to get in upstream or downstream and wade through the creek to get to the spot I want. As long as I stay in the water, there's never any great height for me to risk falling from. But in this case, the entire width of the creek was blocked off by huge boulders, with no gaps for me to wedge between them. So the only way to cross was high up in the air. My sense of balance has never been great (I've never even learned to ride a bicycle!), and I did not have great confidence in the traction of the water shoes I was wearing.

There were three routes to choose from. The first one was a slanting rock ledge, maybe thirty feet above the ground, with some cables attached to a portion of it, and a rickety, angled wooden ladder leading down from the cables. We saw that route first. Barry looked it over and said he could probably make it but I wouldn't want to. I didn't even bother looking at that route from up very closely, but from what I saw of it, I'm pretty sure I would have felt a need for cables much sooner than the cables actually started.

A second route consisted of climbing over various boulders. Barry started to lead me along that route, but when we got to a substantial gap between boulders high over the water, he asked if I wanted to turn back, and I said yes. Again, he thought he could make it himself, but he correctly guessed that I would be more intimidated.

 The third route was another slanting, slippery rock precipice, but shorter and lower down, and without any cables. This one was about ten feet above the water, and it seemed be the favored route for six-year-olds, whose parents stood at either end or halfway along, reaching out to help them along. However much help they got, however, Barry and I both thought it was crazy to put small children at this much risk of terrible falls. And unfortunately I, being an adult, would have been much harder to catch than the six-year-olds if I fell.

Barry decided to take the cable route and see how things looked on the other side. In the meantime, I decided to stand around looking intimidated and asking people which route was the easiest. There was general agreement that the cable route was the hardest and that all of the routes were very hard. There was not much consensus about which route was the least hard.

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Feeling that all three routes were too dangerous for me, I opted to try to create a fourth route. I waded across the bit of water you can see above, to skip the slanting, slippery precipice. However, that left me at the bottom of the opposite end of the slanting precipice, with my way forward blocked by boulders. If I could have just gotten up the slant at that one spot I'd have been at the swimming hole. And there were things there for other people to hold onto, so they wouldn't be precariously balanced anymore, so I thought they would be able to help me up. But even when someone did reach down to try to help me up, it was just too steep for me to get up out of the water. So I gave up. I told the man trying to help me that I was giving up, and I asked him to pass on a message to Barry on the other side, asking Barry to come back for me. Barry received the message and became convinced I had suffered broken bones. He returned via the second route, climbing over the boulders, and was relieved to find out that I had merely chickened out and not injured myself.

Then we drove a little way back downstream to a different parking area to find a spot where the water was easier to access. My book about swimming holes mentioned this place too, but it directed us to walk on a path that we ended up deciding not to attempt, for fear of more dangerous routes. Even in the spot where we ended up stopping, we still had to ask some passersby for help at one point, when I couldn't get up a certain rock and Barry's shoes didn't have enough traction on the slippery slope for him to pull me up by himself. And somewhere along the way, I ended up pulling a rib muscle and smashing one of my toenails (my toenail has been blue ever since and will probably fall off eventually; my pulled muscle hasn't healed yet either). Although Barry was more capable of handling the climb than I was, he also regarded the routes as unappealingly dangerous and would prefer to avoid such places in the future. In short, Rock Creek is not worth ever going back to!

Nevertheless, once we finally found a safe spot to hang out, we did have quite a nice little swim. We ate our lunches by the water and then stripped down to our swimsuits. I washed out my skirt and laid it out to dry on a rock, because it had been significantly muddied when I had to slide down a steep rock on my backside. Then I floated on my back, and Barry climbed down a small waterfall and back up again. The water was not as freezing as it had been at the swimming hole on Cherokee Creek where I took him last summer, and I was pleased that he was more willing to get in the water here because of that. He still has a significantly lower tolerance of cold water than me, but this may be related to the fact that he grew up in Phoenix. I advised him that he would adjust to the water temperature if he stayed in the water for sixty seconds, and he tried it and said this was accurate.

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That was on Saturday. On Sunday we were sore. Especially I was sore, because of my pulled muscle in my right rib area and my smashed right second toe. But Barry said he had some mildly sore muscles also. We spent Sunday at my house. Barry looked at my broken outdoor lamp and said he will install a new one for me next time he's here. Then we played the "I Know What I Want" scenario in the board game Fog of Love. We flipped cards to determine each of our genders, but I ended up female, and Barry ended up male. I worked as a florist, until I quit that job halfway through the game and moved to another city to become a pilot. I was a daredevil yet also a worrywart. I was also a workaholic. I named myself Jill. Barry named himself Anton; he was a Russian chef and hated children. He even hated having children eat at his restaurant. We met at a childfree speed-dating service, which I attended because my devotion to my florist shop did not leave me any time for having children. But my aunt became convinced that his name meant he was a follower of Anton LaVey, and she started spreading rumors on Facebook that he was a satanist. I telephoned her and screamed at her, and this upset Anton, because he wanted to have a calm conversation with her about it.

The goal we both chose to strive for was to be equal partners in the relationship, but Barry won the game with this goal, whereas I did not have quite enough relationship satisfaction to win. I could have had enough relationship satisfaction if I had chosen to cheat on Anton, but then our relationship satisfaction would have been too unequal for us to succeed at being equal partners, so then neither of us would have won. Besides, I didn't want to cheat on him. Though it did turn out, at the end of the game, that Anton was being a bit dishonest with me; he had claimed to be older than he really was, because he thought I would like him better if he were older.

Anyway, then came Monday - the final day of my four-day birthday weekend. On Monday we drove to the small town of La Porte, California (population 26), to tour the Gold Rush-era ghost towns in the area. I had already taken this tour once before, in 2013, with Susan, while she was sneaking around behind my back to flirt with someone else. But it was my idea - I found the directions and suggested it - and I wanted to go back, this time with someone emotionally and morally functional. So we went! We took my car. It was nearly 20 miles of driving on rough dirt roads; it might have been worth taking Barry's pickup truck instead. But we managed in my car. The first stop was some old mine tailings.

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Next, we stopped at the bridge over Slate Creek. We stripped down to swimsuits again and waded over to two short waterfalls. This place is amazing! The rocks are amazing swirls of color in amazingly billowy shapes.

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Then we saw some ruins of old ghost towns!

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Our last stop on the dirt roads was at Cedar Creek Ravine. Here we ran into an older couple who turned out to live in my area, in Yuba City. They were camping at one of the nearby campgrounds and had come to Cedar Creek Ravine to pan for gold. They had a pickup truck, and they warned us that the road ahead had been torn up by logging trucks and was too rough for my car. We didn't have much left we were planning to see anyway, so we took their advice and returned the same way we had come. First, though, we went swimming!

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There was only one thing on our Monday trip that didn't go quite perfectly, and that was my car. Just as we were almost out of the dirt roads, my car started having problems. I'd had to keep it in first gear on all the dirt roads, to get traction on unpaved hills. When we were about two miles short of returning to pavement, I found that I was having to absolutely floor the gas pedal to keep the car moving forward. And the "Check Engine Soon" warning light on my dashboard started intermittently lighting up and then shutting off again. The car kept moving, albeit slowly, but eventually the "Check Engine Soon" warning light stayed steadily lit. This worried us enough that we returned to Marysville a little sooner than we otherwise might have, opting not to explore the nearby Little Grass Valley Reservoir. We did stop for a delicious lunch on the way home though, at a cafe called One-Eyed Jack's, in the town of Clipper Mills. Barry stayed the night at my house, and when I dropped my car off for repair on Tuesday morning, he drove me back to my house in his truck. My car was diagnosed with a misfiring #3 sparkplug and repaired for $150, and then all was well again.

Whew! It's been a great birthday adventure. I have the best boyfriend! He makes my time with him amazing.