Thursday, July 19, 2012

Wifely Duties; CHECK

Alrighty! So. My husband is now 23 years old and all the more wiser for it. (I guess.) (Which, now that I think of it, is unfortunate for me considering he's already so far ahead of me in wiseness...poop.)
But here's the story of how his birthday day went. Because basically it was really one of the best days ever. And in hindsight it's not gonna sound like amazingness in a conveniently sized bottle for you to haul around but just take my word for it. We had the time of our lives. (Also I planned all of it so I'm pretty proud.)

Mark had the day off from work and we slept in as long as we wanted. Yeah except just kidding. That's every other day because he doesn't start work until 1 pm. We woke up at 6:50. I haven't been awake before 8 all summer long. Holy anticipation much. We were awake and I wished him happy birthday and...activities commenced but then we just kinda rested and in-and-out slept until 9. We showered and then finally I couldn't wait any longer (ironic? yes) and pronounced it "present tiiiiiime!!"

I had woken up around 1:30 am and needed to pee. While I was up and Mark was deep in slumber, I went stumbling through our dark apartment and gathered together all the gifts I had wrapped and hidden in my art room closet and brought them in the bedroom as you see above. It was a very stressful time in my life, considering I'm clumsy and noisy enough in broad daylight with my awake brain on. But I was successful. In fact, I moved a candle off the shelves by Mark's side where he keeps his phone for the night because I needed to flip his phone over since it was blinking and wouldn't let me sleep but there wasn't room on the shelf. In the morning Mark thought he had moved it in his sleep and was quite confused. 

Yeah. His eyes are closed.
He's still the cutest, no?
And that ribbon was a great idea on my part,

Because seriously.
Who doesn't love those little parasols?

Yaaaay pants that won't fit.

Mark is annoying in that he's very particular about his pants and the size thereof but he WILL NOT go with me to the store to TRY THEM ON so we KNOW THEY'LL FIT. Gr. 
But it's ok because I kept the receipts.
So we went out to Denny's for breakfast. Woot free grand slams! I got the caramel banana french toast skillet and OM NOM NOM it was delicious. Ooh! When we first walked in and were waiting to be seated, a guy and his wife were paying for their meal (erm, she was paying and he was wandering about). He happened to glimpse Mark's ribbon and he totally scoffed at it! Audibly! Rolled his eyes and strolled over to the crane machine like he's too classy for "birthday boy" ribbons and such frivolity. Whatever Mr. Scroogeface.
With our tummies full, we headed back home to put our take-home food in the fridge and then grab the two pairs of pants and one pair of shorts that I'd improperly sized to return/exchange them at Khols. We found some better size and fit jeans and he picked out a style of shorts he liked better and we took them back to customer service. I was extremely nervous because I'd never returned OR exchanged merchandise in my life. But holy cow it was the easiest thing ever. Took literally less than a minute and the lady was quite polite, too. Wonderful job, khols. Now just lower your prices a tad, please, so I can enjoy you more fully.
We came back home and had a little time to spare before the next planned activity so I told him to play a couple games of LoL (League of Legends). 
Luckily, Mark enjoys driving so directing him all over town wasn't so bad for either of us. Next we headed over to Paletas Betty, an authentic Mexican ice cream place, for a nifty birthday deal there as well.

I had the watermelon mint (I had tried to get a pecan, nutty-creamy one but they were out) and Mark had their key-lime pie flavor. There's actual graham cracker crust on the other side of it. He's making that face because it's cold and pretty tart. I'm making that face because that's what my face does.

The aftermath.

We scurried on over to the Pollack Tempe Cinemas to catch the 2:15 showing of The Hunger Games. 
Yes, this was finally our first chance to see the movie and we both enjoyed it quite fully. I'd read the book and wanted to see how they did with it. Mark just wanted to get in on the phenomenon. I want us both to read the whole series. We'll see when we ever get around to that.
(We take turns choosing a series to read together. It's his turn next and he wants to do a Shannara series. I want to read more Brandon Sanderson after that. So we'll see when Suzanne Collins makes it up higher on the priority scale).
So the show started at 2:15, it's listed as 2 hours and 20 minutes and that puts it ending at 4:35 right? Well, we had dinner reservations at  5:00 and thus, basically for the last half of the movie I was freaking the beep OUT. I kept the entire day a secret from Mark so I couldn't just spill to him my worries and let him assume his usual job of calming me down with logic and words. When the movie ended I hustled him out real quick. 
We got to the restaurant despite construction work and confused phone GPS plenty early for our reservation. But turns out they close their doors from 2:30 to 5:00...o_O Whatevs.
So we waited outside on the benches as more and more people gathered, including a gaggle of elderly folk who were quite hilarious. Funny and friendly. 
I'd only been to Benihana's once before in my life, when I was a young teen staying with my sister and her family in California. Mark had never been but he's quite the japanese enthusiast and loves all things oriental. So a traditional japanese hibachi steakhouse seemed like the proper place to celebrate his birthday. Plus they have a $30 birthday certificate available. Which is super nice for our wallets.
But here's where it gets interesting.
They sat us at a table along with an older couple (probably upper 40's) and two young mom's with the one lady's two kids (4 and 2 years old) (a great idea when there's a hot grill the size of their entire bodies not even a foot away from their reach). The couple sitting opposite from us were very friendly and the wife noticed Mark's ribbon. They talked to us quite a bit and joked around. They admired our "young love" aura, praising the fact that we are "married and everything". When our server came around (speaking barely half engrish), she asked if there were any special occasions and I excitedly pointed out that it was my husband's birthday. She inquired if we had the $30 certificate so I pulled out my phone to show her the email. But apparently the restaurant requires it to be printed out. Which I was not aware of. The communication between the server and I was so terrible that I panicked and didn't make a big deal out of it and just accepted her decline.
But I could see the faces of the couple sitting across the table from us and knew something was up on their end. I tried not to make eye contact and just murmered with Mark about how we could splurge, I guess. The husband left the table and I was getting quite nervous. The server took our drink orders and we were left to ourselves. Out of the corner of my eye I could see the wife gazing at us with compassion on her face and I couldn't help but feel a little nervous and embarrassed but curious as to what they were up to. 
Turns out the husband went to speak with a manager and they came back to our table, the manager offering to have me email the certificate to him and he would print it out so we could still use it. 
Faith in humanity; RESTORED.
It was honestly one of the kindest and sweetest things a stranger has ever done for me/us and it truly made our night. 
Ironically enough, our chef was a guy I knew quite well in high school and I tried to say hi to him but he definitely did not recognize me. Whoops. 
We had great fun watching the food be prepared, and watching the younger kids watch the food being prepared. The 2 year old girl stood up in chair and giggled every time the chef mixed anything on the grill but even as she laughed there was an absolutely terrified look on her face. Like she was afraid for her life but if she laughed she'd be ok with it. So sometimes her laughter sounded like sobbing. The mix was terribly amusing.
The entree's we picked came with ice cream so after we were all done eating I ordered the strawberry Haagen-Dazs and he got the rainbow sherbet. Suddenly, from behind our backs we heard a few employees singing their version of the "happy birthday" song and Mark groaned,
"oh no..."
I laughed.
They brought out our ice cream (as well as the other kids') and Mark's had whipped cream on top, one of those chocolate cracker stick things and a blue candle. They lit it and our group sang "Happy Bursday". He was a good sport and laughed, blew out his candle and they took a picture of us. 
It was a good end to the day's plan.

And I'm just super glad the plan actually went well! I was nervous and freaking out but nothing failed or completely crashed and burned. We went home and I "gave" him his last present, we did some great work on our puzzle and we watched HIMYM until it was time to go to sleep.

I love birthday's :)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Long Story Is Not Short

Gack! I've been trying all weekend to find the right time to sit down and finally blog annnnd now I'm all fuzzy on the details of what I wanted to relate.
But here goes.

Saturday was a whirlwind of awesome. The hubby and I got up early (ahem, like 8:30) and headed over to Half-Off Saturday at Goodwill. Niftily enough, they just opened a new one seriously no more than a minute drive away from our house. It's maybe 20 yards on University and then BAM. You're there. Sweeeeet.
We walk in and suddenly Mark looks at me with a blank look in his eyes and asks,
"Wait....what are we even here for? What do we need to buy?"
Simply, I wanted Christmas things. I was stupid and didn't go around after the jolly season when I was engaged and knew we'd be needing things the next year in our newlywed poverty. Buuuut I was lazy. I guess. Or something.
So we dug through the grand total of about 8 shelves that had red and green tinted items on them and as I about knocked over a stocking-weight Santa figurine I noticed a hanging sign that said,
"Seasonal item do not count toward Sales or Discounts."

Well, boo on you, Goodwill. Frowny face stamp on your forehead, then. So we put back some of the sillier items that we could live without because in my mind, there's still no cheaper place I'm going to be getting Christmas decorations and novelty items from. We ended up with a very charming potted fake plant arrangement thing....oh, bah. Here's a picture.

2, 3-piece sets of tea candles in little red and gold-tinted glasses.
One snowman cookie platter and another super fancy platter that I don't know what I'll use it for but it'll be super fancy.
Some red disco-ish ornament balls.
A snowflakey tree topper.
Looots of cookie cutters (yaaaay!)
And, my favorite, a mega-cute reindeer flour jar but I'll just use it for packs of hot cocoa powder.

Ironically enough, only the reindeer was actually marked as seasonal so all the other things we got were still half-off. No complaints here! If you have any name suggestions for our little fellah, I'm all ears :)
We wandered around through the furniture section and laughed at the tiny, toddler size motor-bike. I don't think it actually had a motor, but it just looked like one. Mark wanted to look for any DVD's that could be salvaged but unfortunately for him those are also located with the books and I got stuck scrupulously digging through every shelf to see what treasures were in store. It takes forever, considering that Goodwill's organizational process isn't exactly library standard. But we ended up with 12 more books on top of what I got at Half-Price Books from my last post and YES, I'm gonna let you all in one what our personal library has gained...
Some classics such as The Inferno by Dante Alighieri and The Jungle Books by Rudyard Kipling ("complete and unabridged" apparently, so woohoo to that!) as well as an "Anthology of American Stories". Including but not limited to, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe (really excited about those), Mark Twain, Jack London, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and J.D. Salinger. Quite a few Mary Higgens Clark considering I've loved her mystery novels since I began scarfing them down in junior high to ease and abate my social ineptitude; We'll Meet Again, Remember Me, Two Little Girls in Blue, and Silent Night. Mark's obsession with all things Oriental won over and he put in his addition to the growing literary pile; The Oriental World, covering India, China, Korea and Japan from earliest manifestations of art more than 3-thousand years ago up to the 20th century. It's a big book and has lots of pictures (228, to be exact). And Finally, after I scoured the same shelves Mark had just been over I found a cluster of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events books and snatched them up real quick. I've been keeping a desperate eye out for them and am glad to now own numbers 6, 7, 11 and 12. 
PS, I just really love books.

Our entire purchase was around $30. 
We then took a couple coupons on down to Arby's and ate fast food again for the first time in about a month and a half. But we were in a hurry because I had another funeral to drag my harp to and unbeknownst to me at the time (a little after 11) the church was out on Arizona Ave and Ray and it would take almost half and hour to drive there. 
So we took the food home and I gulped it down, stripping off my clothes to get into the shower faster. Once I was clean (heck yeah 5 minute shower) and Mark had cleared out the back of the truck to make room for the harp, we went in to begin packing up said harp and lo and behold two strings were popped clean off. 
Which is no bueno, btw.
We stared at it for a minute and then I shrugged,
"Well, I guess I'd better call and let them know I'll be playing piano instead."
I would have felt really bad if I was actually getting paid for the event.
It's not that broken strings on a harp is so much of a travesty that I could not play it, there just wasn't time to fix it. When you understand the mechanics of a harp, it's a wonder that the soundboards can even withstand as much tension as 40 wound and tight strings puts on it. And when one, let alone two, pop it's very stressful on the wood as well as the other strings around it because that tension has now been lost. So the tuning goes very awry when you have strings break.
Stupid monsoon season. Not to mention our swamp cooler and the humidity that creates can't be too great for it either. Whoops.
So that eased up my time crunch quite a bit and I had plenty of time to semi blow-dry my hair and straighten my unruly bangs into place and actually put on make-up! Unheard of.

So eventually, I got in the truck (because after my previous flustered state there was no way my nerves could handle driving stick. See any of the "sticks and shifts" series). I headed out with GPS leading the way and made decent time. I was worried about getting in enough prelude music and hoping that the family of the deceased would not harbor any ill-will against my not getting there early enough.
I got to where my phone led me and there were about 5 different buildings scattered about a very large lot and they all looked the same and there weren't signs or people to help me decide where to try. So I wandered. And luckily, the second building I tried was the correct one. I got in and......they were playing Fleetwood Mac and The Beatles as prelude music. Turns out I wasn't actually needed for that. Huh.
The funeral was lovely and the urn was one of the least creepy I've seen. Although there was a small window looking thing that bewildered me but I never got close enough to really inspect it.
In the end, the only musical responsibility I had was to accompany the duet singers. I left wondering what they had ever had in mind for me to play on the harp and feeling quite glad that the strings had snapped, giving me the exact excuse I needed to not have to bring it. 

I got home a little after 2 and all Mark and I had left to do was wait till 5 when it would be our ward's monthly Temple Night. I was super stoked about this because I've gone to a couple myself but this was the first that would allow for Mark to attend with me as well. It would have been the first time we'd been back together since we got sealed. Would have been...
We watched a couple HIMYM episodes and then turned once again with begrudging moans to the book we're trying desperately to finish. I'll have to dedicate a whole 'nother post to that. I was reading aloud, trying to not smirk and giggle at the cheesily written drab drivel when from the backyard we could hear many pelting "ting!"s and splattering drops of rain. I paused and said to Mark,
"I guess it's finally storming."
And we jumped out of bed like Christmas had come early and sprang to the curtained sliding door.
We looked out and were shocked to see hailstones the size of gobstoppers pummeling down on all the junk that litters our backyard. With that kind of hail though, there were things that needed to be put away and suddenly our house was a warzone; mankind vs. mother nature. 
Mark went dashing outside to pull the vehicles into the carport and when he came back, a total of maybe 8 seconds spent under the actual rain it looked as if he'd been washed over by a tidal wave. He came in the door cursing the painful hailstones and teasing me,
"Honey! Come give me a huuug!" dripping arms outstretched.
But I was busy blocking the hole in the southern wall of our house. The AC unit was broke so we removed it to get it fixed but nobody ever got around to it so we blocked it with cardboard. That didn't stand up so well to the sleeting rain and gusts of wind. I was also still in my sunday clothing from the funeral so straddling the couch armchair and holding up a now soggy, heavy towel was getting very difficult and I yelled for his help. There weren't too many other options so Mark just grabbed the empty garbage can from under his desk and handed it to me to make a more sturdy support for the crumbling cardboard. Using grocery bags I stuffed the remaining open slits around the box and can and it worked well enough. 
I then changed out of my skirt into b-ball shorts and went out back to help Mark. As I came outside, over the pounding, roaring storm I could hear Mark's utterly bewildered cries of,
"What the beep?!, what the heck??!"
Worried something was wrong I skipped as quickly as I could through the river of mud flowing through our back yard, in and around the cars and appliances that littered the small area. I came around the back corner of our apartment and stopped midstride at the sight of a large metal ladder stretching from the wall surrounding our yard to the wall of our house.....about 10 feet up in the air. We still have NO clue where that ladder started from or how it managed to get there. Already I was soaked through to the skin and we needed to get back to the driveway again to check on things up there. I suggested we just change into swimming suits.
It was a good idea.
We went up front where Mark's brother, Robert, was fixing things up and tying stuff down and making sure fences were fortified. We stood around and marveled at the river that was the road out in front of the triplex and scoffed at the little cars that tried so hard to wade through the mucky, stick-ridden waters. Without warning an intense gust of wind raged through and blew away recycling cans out into the road. Never had I witnessed the rumored "horizontal rain" but the sight was indeed something else. It looked more like swirling mist in fast forward than rain. 
Mark took off at a jog heading once again for the backyard to make sure nothing was going to fly around and break our windows. I had a small relapse from when I was a child and absolutely, terrifyingly phobic of wind. I leaned against the wall, preparing myself to dart around the corner into the onslaught of rain and felt my heart wish to beat a panicked rhythm but shoved it down because I'd been long over that fear and forced myself to revel in the excitement rather than the frightening concept of weather's complete power.
Walking against the storm was really difficult! The wind pushed against you and the rain struck your face in tiny pinpricks, running down into your eyes until it was more like walking along the bottom of a pool rather than along your own sidewalk. Luckily the hail was gone, though. 
Once there were no more possible flying objects of mass destruction and all the electronics were powered down we stood out in the rain and decided we should get in the truck and go on an adventure.
It was quite wonderful.
The retention basins were more like a series of ponds and we honestly swam through them, water up to Mark's chest at times. That's like, 3-4 feet. 

Unfortunately, the rainstorm also meant no Temple Night for us. It was quite a let down to realize that, but I got over it pretty quick playing in the mud.
When we got home we washed off the dirt and leaves and sticks and bugs that had been coursing through the water we played in. It felt very nice to be clean again.
I then made chowder and biscuits for dinner and we watched some more HIMYM. We prepared to read some more and I started making hot cocoa and Mark was acting suspicious. He wouldn't let me go in the bedroom and actually shut the door on me.
When I came in with the cocoa in hand, matching Disney mugs from when I worked in the parks (when I say matching, they're not the same mug but they're both Disney and they were a Christmas present from me to him last year) I was met with candles set up all over the room and the sweet smell of fresh rainfall through the door. It was really a very sweet gesture for him to try and surprise me like that and so we read by candlelight with our hot cocoa and listening to the rain.

It was a saturday full of surprises and moments that couldn't be planned and a simple happiness that makes me so very grateful for the life I have and the best friend I get to share it all with.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Oh Dear...

Many, many, many years ago (probably about 5), one of my dearest bestest friends (that I never talk to anymore and it's quite a travesty but if she'd just exile herself from thatcher then we could probably be friends again...maybe *cough*chelsea*hack*) introduced me to a store with the name of "Half Price Books".
At the time I was still in high school and never having been employed in my life, even clearance books at $2-3 a piece was too much for my nonexistent wallet.
But today, today I went to Bed, Bath and Beyond because gift cards needed to be used and super cool awesome birthday presents were bought (more on that once the birthday boy sees said presents) (can never be too careful with what I reveal on here). Then down to Ross to find more birthday items. I tried to spend a lot of time at the store, because there's AC in there. We use a swamp cooler at our place, turning on the AC only when it's necessary but we also adhere to the 3-6pm rule where AC never gets turned on. So being home during that part of the day is pretty close to miserable.
So yes, I tried to shop for a long time. I lasted about 40 minutes till I was done with Ross and the snippy dressing room lady. RUDE.
So I took my.../ahem, purchases to the truck and looked around in the parking lot for somewhere else I could kill some time.
And there it was.
Half Price Books.
I went in fully intending to just find a random novel, plop in an empty seat and read but unfortunately there was a bright and colorful and eye-catching display right as you walk in through the front doors and I discovered I could own the rest of the Harry Potter series (I only previously had the 3rd, 5th and 6th books) for a mere $14! Uh, yeah. Hardback copies in just spiffy condition. Pretty sure on amazon most of the individual books would go for that much by themselves. Sweeeet!!
And of course it's Harry Potter books so getting four of them means needing a shopping cart and from there I was doomed.
Doomed to be awesome, that is.

Set of Bronte sisters' novels: $9.99
(also part of a "Literary Classics" collection to which I already own the Jane Austen set and the Douglas Adams set)

  • Jane Eyre
  • Shirley
  • Wuthering Heights
  • Villette
  • The Professor
Harry Potter
  • Sorcerer's Stone $3.00
  • Chamber of Secrets $3.00
  • Goblet of Fire $4.00
  • Deathly Hallows $4.00
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer $2.00
(Part of a "banned books" collection of 25 novels so now I have a marvelous list of what to read x])

Three Dan Brown novels
  • The Da Vinci Code $2.00
  • The Lost Symbol $3.00
  • Angels and Demons $2.00 (the one paperback out of all this)
Rakkety Tam $3.00
(Ever enlarging my Brian Jacques collection)

The Host $4.00
(The only salvageable Stephanie Meyers book. It really isn't terribly awful at all.)

And then three $0.49 packs of scrapbooking stickers that weren't just an assortment of butterflies or smiley faces to stick on first graders' scribbling math pages.  
After tax? Total of $45.21
I think I found my new favorite place to be...always.
And I forever thank the gods who discovered that a hair dryer is THE easiest way to get stickers off of books (and anything else, for that matter). No sticky residue or mind-boggling frustratingly difficult ripping paper. Saves my sanity by at least 98% or more.

Good day to you, I have books to read x]

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Hell on a Stick

Ok, so I knew the basics and I could manage getting through neighborhoods without obliterating every mailbox and garbage can that happened within 2 yards of my driving radius.
Mark decided it was time to take me to the streets. The streets with actual painted lines on them. And more people. Lots of people.
All I remember of this one was getting out on the road, ka-klomping along and barely making it into first before we were headed down higley to heaven knows where when at a stoplight....I stalled.
In the middle of traffic.
And again, suddenly, just like the first time I forgot what part of the galaxy I was from or whether up was down and light was dark. I began shouting,
"What do I do??!"
And didn't hear a word Mark said because the panic was ringing so loudly in my ears.
I totally abandoned trying to think of how to start the car and just searched for the caution-blinkers button. People began zooming around me and the embarrassment settled in and guess what!
I cried again.
My brain finally began clicking again and I tried to get the car going but failed once, twice then finally rolled in 1st gear up the last 3 yards to get to the now red light.
I don't remember if we switched spots then or later but I do know I was completely and totally against EVER manning a manual car. EVER.

And then I married him.

And gosh darn it that guy makes me pretty happy so I'll do much of anything he says. Which, if you're thinking sounds like a bad thing, quit it. Cuz he's the more sensible of the two of us and pretty much a genius who can really actually think about things whereas I'm like,
"Oh my gosh! A rock! Let's set it on fire, k?"
But he thinks I'm cute so it's whatever.
Thus, when he said,
"If you're gonna be my wife, you've gotta drive stick..."
It was like,

"You have betrayed me. But I love you. So ok."

So we recently found a ska-reaming deal on craigslist for a '96 VW with only 95k on it and only one previous owner and listed for $5,000 (we paid $6,000 because, again, my husband is the greatest human on the planet and felt like he was cheating the guy with only 5k. It's fine. He's just a saint, is all). 
We brought it back down, registered it in my name, passed emissions and wheee! New car for the Douglass'! 

Only problem was his car, the other VW, was broken so he had to use Benji (my car's name) to get to work. But all his spare time was spent slaving in the heat and attempting to fix Marvin (his car's name).
We're going to skip over that process because it was an absolute nightmare. In every sense. It's still not over really.

But finally, at the beginning of this week he stated that the car would be mine and I needed to learn how to drive it. Starting with backing it out of the driveway so he could get Marvin out. 
Except it's been another load of months since I last drove a stick-shift and I don't retain information very well at all (as exposed by my horrid story-telling lacking any sort of concrete detail whatsoever). So I got in and couldn't even get the car to start. Not even a single turnover in the engine. Mark comes back to my door and states,
"You have to put the clutch in to start, remember? This car is different."

Umm, no. I don't remember. I don't' remember anything. Who are you?
So I start the car and he goes sauntering back to his car, giggling at my mishap.
And then no matter what I seemed to do, every time I began letting the clutch out the car would "ka-chunk! ka-klump!" rocking forward and back and then die.
I did that about 7 times until Mark stuck his head out impatiently and shouted (with quite the perturbed look on his face),
"Honey! The parking brake!!"

Imagine humiliation and then put some horse dung on top. That's about how I felt. I sheepishly, and red-faced, put the brake down and half rolled down into the gutter ramp and Mark didn't even wait for me to make it all the way out into the street he just popped into gear, zoomed out around me and away he went.
We had a little discussion on the rudeness of that behavior and that I very much needed him to say a kind word to me before he'd be gone till 11 at night or at the very least, roll down the window to say goodbye.
But before that discussion I was left to get the car back into the driveway. Which I mostly failed at.
I went inside, eyes stinging with tears (again!) but a harder, grimmer determination to absolutely NOT cry this time around.
Later, after I'd stewed awhile. I gathered up my lady-balls and marched back out to that car. I decided I was going to take it to the nearest parking lot and do what I'd always done. Start, and stop. 
Except for I only got to the first 4-way intersection stop sign and died. I put my caution-blinkers on again and rolled down the window to wave people by me. When I'd jerked and rolled myself halfway out into the intersection, a chatty lady stopped next to me to ask if I was alright. When I explained I was learning to drive stick she exclaimed,
"Ah! Oh, I could never do that. Had to stick with automatic for me. Good luck!"
And left me to my misery.
I got myself going again through sheer luck it seemed. I never felt like I knew what I was doing right to get going. I was coming up on a streetlight that was necessary to go through to get to the parking lot where I was headed but after that previous intersection I chickened out and turned onto another side street. 
I got stuck, AGAIN, and for the longest time could not. get. going. I began throwing fits like you see in the movies when the guy wants to show off for the girl but his old klunker of a car won't work and he has a seizure against the steering wheel. The frustration from all these failed attempts was welling up and about to make me scream.
I stopped and turned the car completely off, whipping up the parking brake and sending Mark a rage-text of angst and failure. I sat for another couple minutes just pissed off at the car and my inability to function.
I tried again and I wish I could say I was suddenly a genius but I wasn't. I got stuck over a speed bump which was super fun.
But then miraculously, my feet just kinda got it. I don't know what was right or different about it but it just started working. I was heading home but I was doing so good I decided I could try and go out on public streets. My new goal was to make it to a nearby McDonald's because I deserved a Dr. Pepper gosh dang it! As well as I wanted a straw to use for a pinterest nail painting experiment.

And you know what? I made it! There and back, without killing a single soul. I did kill the engine only a couple times but easily made it back on track. Died in the drive-thru lane actually. That was fun.

That night I had a zumba class to go to. 6 miles away from my house and over freeway too. I spent quite a bit of time agonizing over whether I was ready to do that or not. I gave myself a little bit of acid reflux just from stressing out so much. But I did drive there, stalled once at a light but got myself going again in one try and about 2 seconds flat. Got to the class.
It was cancelled
I was so drained of frustration and anger though that I could only laugh and go home again. Didn't stall a single bit on the way back.

So all in all, Benji makes driving manual bearable. I'm getting more awesome. And my husband is sure a supportive and amazing guy.

And there you have it.

Oh, ps, here's how that nail experiment went...

Nailed it!
Get it?

Sticking to the Shift

So after the mini-cooper fiasco it would be another 5 or so years before I touched a manual joystick again.
I do not recall whether we were dating or just about to be dating or really totally dating but not admitting it at the time, but my now-husband-person, Mark, decided I should learn to drive stick. So we went out in the pirate mobile, to another church parking lot and went around and around and around. I learned a couple tricks and he explained to me in helpful detail what the engine was doing when I put the clutch in and let it out and shifted the gears and all of that. Understanding what was happening made it a teensy bit easier. Teeny tiny bit.
But I refused to drive on the road.
The next time, Mark and I were at a pool party having a grand old time when for one reason or another something needed to be retrieved from his house. One of the reasons I married this kid, he makes me do the things I need to but desperately do not want to do. So he persuaded me to take his VW (stick-shift, of course) and go get the...stuff.
Cursing his name the whole way, I made it well enough back to his house without killing the engine. (Or any of the children gallivanting through the streets seeing as school had just been let out.) I also took all the backstreets rather than facing a streetlight and actual speed limits over 15.
I grabbed the ______ and got back out to the car, still breathing like a yoga master trying to focus my panic but feeling a little more confident from my previous accident free adventure.
But then I had to back the car out of the driveway.
And the joystick no longer had a sticker telling you which gears were where.
But! I knew that in my Dad's car, R had been where a "6th" gear would be. So I tried that.
There was no 6th slot.
I sat there and stared at the joystick. Willing my brain to have a stroke of genius and magically know where reverse was. I couldn't fathom a clue.
Soooo to avoid gashing a dent in my pride, I took out the parking brake, opened my door and used my foot to propel myself and the 2 ton car backwards.
But then I swung into the gutter rut and was helpless.
So luckily I had my cell phone and called Mark.
"HOooooow do you reverse in this stupid thing??!"
"Oh, right. That's kinda tricky..."
"Mm, of course. Thanks for that."
"You push the joystick down and pull all the way to the left and up."

You push the thing DOWN?? That's a real thing?
It was seriously NASA space ship talk to me.
But it worked, he was right. Although I got myself stuck in the middle of the road.

I got back to the party soundly, but even further buried in my loathing of manuals.

Stick-Shift; a Series

I have recently acquired the very first vehicle of my lifetime that is registered IN MY NAME. My own name. My very own brand spankin' new name, at that. The title says so and everything.
Also a first, it's a manual.

And here is where I have to open my clenched hands and let my little ball of pride slip free and fall out into the dirt. Where you have free range to judge, as you please.
But as I tell you these woeful tales of misery and demise, please think on me in the most compassionate way you can muster. Because I tell you what, I wish I had a different story here.

I wish I could tell you I'm a beast and took to driving stick like an octopus would take to sticking to the ceiling. (Whether that would work or not I don't know, but they both have the word "stick" in them.) Or that I'm the speediest speed demon to ever never get a ticket because I'm like an Indy500 prodigy dynamite woman who obeys laws cuz she's cool like that.
Instead, I'll tell you how it's really been for me to learn stick-shift.

It all started back in 9th grade, when I first got my permit. Maybe it was 10th grade. But then I'd be older and more susceptible to responsibility expectations and the ability to grasp concepts faster so we'll stick with 9th grade. My dad still had his little baby. His toy car. The mini cooper S soft top. A 5-speed manual. He rather looked like Mr. Incredible, in fact...

Except a lot less miserable because he thought that tiny car was the best thing since sliced bread.
So he took me out driving! He drove to the church parking lot and then we switched places. I plopped down in the seat and realized I had suddenly forgotten what planet I was on let alone what sort of contraption I was supposed to be operating. I didn't know how to turn it on. How to open the door. What the first step to going was. I was an empty-minded idiot. But of course Dad was there (laughing at my brain-blip) and coached me [roughly] on the basics of manual driving while also rambling off stories that had no pertinence to anything ever. If there was ever someone to get off topic lightning quick, it's my father. Bless 'is heart.
A couple rounds about the church building and then he says, "Hey, let's go out on the road." Like he's proposing we take a picnic in a flowery field. Nothing to worry about right?
But he's Dad so I wasn't about to argue. So I haltingly pull out onto the road and successfully manage a left turn to go east and head out toward Bush Hwy. The perfect, long, mostly empty scenic highway to practice starting and stopping.
But lo! A wild stop sign appears! 
That awkward moment when you seriously contemplate running straight through a stop sign because you're just too terrified to put the clutch back in.
But I stopped. And tried to start. And tried. And tried. And naturally there was a line of three scumbag, impatient misers behind who were just waiting and hoping for an excuse to lay on their blaring horns. 
And you know what I did?
I cried.
I broke down and burst into tears. Dad doesn't skip a beat and hops right out of the car, comes around and takes over. I got the hint the moment he opened the doors and just scooched over the console to stare pitifully out the window in complete morbid humiliation.
He zoomed on out of there and the people I stole 10 whole seconds of life from were soon gone down other roads and to other places. Dad got us out to the high way and parked the car down off the side of the road in the dirt and was quiet for just a second before chuckling and saying,
"I think that guy thought I was getting out to beat the crap outta him. His face was terrified."
I giggled and remembered the incident and about started crying again.
But he made me try again and mostly let me shift up and up and cruise along in 5th gear.
I'm pretty sure I couldn't look my mom in the eyes when we got home. I actually don't even remember if I was the one that got us there. Traumatized. Blocked it out, I suppose.

I never drove that car again.