Friday, July 24, 2009

The Fire Story

I'm too lazy to rewrite this in blog format now that I've already written it all out in an e-mail to Ben. So excuse the mild mushiness and any inaccuracies that have already filtered into my account after just a day of retelling it. Anybody who wants to add their side of what happened or who has a question, please feel free to comment!

And without further ado, the fire story:

Good morning, sweetheart,

I'm so tired. I think I got about 3 hours of sleep last night. I was so wound up that it took me a while to WANT to get ready for bed after I was settled in a room -- I picked up a book and read to settle my mind until about 2 AM -- and then I realized that while I'd packed up my toothbrush and face wash and contact stuff, I'd also left the bag they were in at the house. I was over at Bettie Lorino's for the night, because my mom wanted us all out of the house while the smoke cleared out and also in case lightning struck twice or some faulty wiring in the house struck the fire up again. And I didn't want to wake up Bettie by sneaking out of her house in the middle of the night to get my stuff and then coming back, so I just stayed up for a little while more, cleaned off my teeth with a damp rag, and tried to sleep with my contacts in. It did not work particularly well. ;) (Plus, she has a cat, and I'm allergic, and I forgot to bring my asthma medication. It was a veritable comedy of errors.)

But I bet you're full of curiosity to know what happened, so I figured I'd write a letter before I tried to get some more sleep (or not -- I'm up, I might just stay up. We'll see.)

So, yesterday was a pretty full day of errands and getting stuff done. I decided I like the hotel we looked at better than the Westin, so I went ahead and booked it for us. The area is easier to get to than the Ballston area with less of a headache for parking, and the rooms are comparable to Westin except that it's a suite with a little living & kitchen area in addition to the bedroom, which is nice. The one thing is they don't have room service, but in the morning they do have a full breakfast buffet with an omelet bar where you can get a fresh omelet cooked to order, so I figured that was good enough. Rose-Ellen and I also had fun hunting around for jewelry for the wedding and picking up honeymoon stuff.

We picked up Chinese food for dinner (I'd been telling her about your mom's cooking, so she wanted some) and then had a fairly relaxing evening of socializing and watching TV. The internet was down, but just the wireless, and so Tyler was trying to fix that while we talked. My dad decided to come back from the office early-ish (by which I mean seven) because he wanted to work in the yard. We'd just gotten a little bit of rain in the afternoon, which he was excited about -- apparently it has been a really dry month.

Well, the show we were watching wrapped up at 10, and we all started to filter slowly towards bed. There was a thunder/rainstorm going on, but nothing too drastic yet. I reminded my mom that the next day we'd need to work on the dress, so it'd be ready for pictures on Sunday, if that was still happening, and then went to try and check my e-mail. The internet was still down, so I decided I'd just play a game of solitaire to unwind my brain and then I'd get to sleep.

Well, while I was playing, I heard this enormous crack behind me and a simultaneous flash of lightning. I'm not normally freaked out by lightning storms -- we get them fairly frequently here, but this was really scary. I literally JUMPED away from my computer and ran downstairs to find my mom, like I was six years old again. Everybody gathered in the main hallway to talk about how loud and frightening that was. Dad was watching the storm from the porch and said that he saw the bolt go down right behind the neighbor's house across the street (or possibly on it.) While we were talking, several more loud, close strikes flashed and the thunder resounded through the house. It was genuinely frightening -- we all started getting skittish. We decided we definitely needed to hurry and unplug all the computers and so on and then probably gather in the basement.

So I went upstairs to unplug the computer (which I'd just jumped away from) and close that up. I then headed downstairs with the intention of helping to hunt down the flashlights. While I was on the stairs, however, I spotted a curl of smoke coming from behind one of the wall sconces -- our lighting fixtures there in the family room. I called somebody's attention to it (I think maybe Roland). Initially, I just thought that there'd been a surge of electricity that popped the light and it was just the smoke of a burned-out lightbulb, but then the smoke started getting a bit thicker and creeping in between the ceiling boards and from the corner of the skylight. Roland and Tyler hit the lights and then checked around outside -- there was an orange, flickering glow inside the gutter, and they could tell that the roof was on fire. The word spread fairly quickly through the house. Figuring that it was in the electrical system, somebody (I think mom) sent Rose-Ellen downstairs to throw the breakers and cut off electricity in the house, so everything went dark. In the chaos and mild panic of the moment and of the roof being on fire, we didn't hunt down the flashlights before doing that, so the only lighting we had was from Roland's iPod and my cell.

After Rose-Ellen threw the breakers, she pulled Natalie from her bed and brought her upstairs. Rose-Ellen and Mom started calling for someone to call 911, but neither Tyler nor Roland had theirs on them, and then landline was down, and it took me a minute before I remembered I had mine on me (even though I'd been using it for light). For some reason, even though your house being on fire is like one of the top reasons to dial 911, I felt somehow reticent to do it. I mean, how often had we had it drilled into our heads that it has to be a REALLY REAL emergency before you call 911? Nevertheless, as the smoke continued to thicken, it did seem like it qualified as time to get the fire department there, and 911's the way to get them, so I dialed and handed the phone to mom, because I knew I wouldn't know what to say. She told them that the house had been hit by lightning and the roof was on fire, that there was smoke (it was getting quite hazy and cloudy now in the family room) and that we'd seen flames.

Rose-Ellen was getting quite anxious -- and understandably so, with a baby in her arms and another in her belly and the house all smoky behind her! Normally, in a storm, we'd all go down to the room at the bottom of the stairs, which is enclosed and quite safe from wind storms and lightning strikes and is where all our 72 hour kits are. But where's a safe place in a storm when the house is on fire? The lightning was still coming very frequently, and now our nerves quite compounded the effect -- and the rain was coming down hard. It seemed frightening just to venture onto the porch, much less actually out into the storm itself, even to just get into the cars and go across the street. And so she just didn't know where she could go with Natalie to keep her safe. She started to cry a little.

Dad, Roland and Tyler were all back in the living room, trying to find the source of the flames. (Which, of course, didn't help make any of us any less nervous.) I thought briefly about all the stuff in my room -- all my clothes, all the stuff I'd bought for the wedding -- and thought just very briefly about going to try to rescue a few things, but figured that we'd caught the fire very soon and it was very localized, so it would probably (hopefully) be okay. Mom and I decided the best place for us to go right away would be just out to the car -- cars are safe from lightning, and we would be out of the rain but not in the house. Mom kept my phone in case she needed to call somebody again, and Rose-Ellen and I ran outside to her car, with Natalie in her arms. This is about when you called and I didn't answer. I noticed the time and I worried vaguely that it was about time for your evening call, but there really wasn't anything I could do about it, anyway. (Though not having my cell on me still made me quite antsy.)

We got into the car, with the rain still pouring down around us. Rose-Ellen wanted to move the car to somewhere safer -- somewhere with less trees to potentially fall on us or farther away from lightning strikes -- but without a cell phone on us and with everybody else still in the house, we couldn't go far. She came up with the very good idea to just pull across the street and back into the neighbor's driveway so that we could shine our headlights on the yard and into the house to provide some little light for the people inside, and so they'd be able to easily see where we were. She handed Natalie (who'd been silent and wide-eyed up to this point -- I'd just assumed she didn't know what was going on) over to me to hold while she moved the car. As soon as I held her, I realized why Rose-Ellen had started crying there on the porch when we were trying to figure out what to do -- just because Natalie was quiet, I'd assumed she was doing okay. But the poor baby was TERRIFIED. She was trembling and shaking in my arms, which just about broke MY heart. I can only imagine what it did to her poor mom. We said a prayer that we would be calmed and that things would be all right and everybody would be safe, and while I think it calmed me down more than anything else just to SAY it and remember that we weren't alone in the storm, I'd swear that immediately after we prayed, Natalie's shaking calmed down really significantly. And I felt a lot of comfort, myself, even though I continued to ride that adrenaline rush for much of the rest of the night.

We missed out on a good bit of the action -- I need to get the people who were in the house to fill in what happened while we were in the car. Apparently dad took an axe to the roof to try and see if he could get at the flames before they spread, but the axe was very dull and not much help. So he went upstairs to try to get to the attic to either access the roof from there or just get our fire extinguisher, but the smoke was getting thick enough that Roland worried that he'd pass out or something upstairs -- it got to the point where they had to crouch down to get a breath of air while they were working. So Roland (with his EMT certification still fresh in his mind) ordered dad back downstairs.

I have to say that the men in the house were quite, well, MANLY. They really stepped up to the plate in making decisions and taking care of things -- I guess there's nothing like a fire in the house to bring out a guy's instincts to try to fix things and protect people and save the day. I mean, my dad! Taking an axe to the roof! I need to get Roland to write down the whole story of what happened, because he told it quite well. I was very impressed.

The fire trucks showed up really soon -- and LOTS of them. Apparently another house up the street caught on fire as well, only theirs REALLY caught. The firemen later said that two rooms were totally burnt out. But I guess we called first or something, because the story goes that they tried to waive down the fire truck and it went right on past them to us, where there weren't any visible flames from the front. (But we were indeed on fire!) But firetrucks got to them very quickly thereafter, anyway. I was really impressed with the quick response -- it was probably no more than five to eight minutes from when we called. First there was one firetruck, then there were two, then an emergency response team or ambulance of some kind, just in case -- I think we ended up counting something like eight vehicles.

When the first one came, Roland ran out of the house and knocked on our neighbors across the street (the one whose driveway we were parked in), but they didn't answer. Either they were really oblivious or simply not home, because I don't think they roused the whole night. In any case, Roland spotted us and then climbed into the car and told us some of what happened (dad going at the roof with an axe, et cetera). He just reeked of smoke -- we could smell it right away when he opened car door. Next, mom came running across the street, and absolutely drenched. Apparently she'd already run my wedding dress over to a neighbor's (it was the one thing she thought to save right away -- though the tablecloths she's worked so hard on crossed her mind) and the neighbors insisted that we come over there. We have a very nice neighborhood. I got my cell off of her so I could call you and tell you our house was on fire, which STILL strikes me as pretty funny, though not quite as hilarious as it seemed at the time. As you know, my reaction to panic and stress is apparently hysterical laughter. (Seriously, though. The HOUSE was struck by LIGHTNING and caught on FIRE! It's just like when my car was stolen, and I thought that was the funniest thing in the world to happen, too.)

The neighbors were quite nice -- the mother of the house kept wanting to know if there was anything she could get for us, repeatedly wondering if we wanted any food, or to go lie down in one of their extra beds, or anything. She eventually got us to accept water. (There was a funny moment where she offered us coffee, and my mom was kind of like, "We HAVE told you that we're Mormon, right?" like kind of just to make sure that we weren't slacking in letting people know that they were, but the neighbor got suddenly worried that she'd somehow accidentally given offense by trying to plie us with caffeine. We had a good little laugh over that.) They had a little dog just like Tyler & Rose-Ellen's dog Lacey, who they left in Washington with Tyler's family for the summer, and so Natalie was instantly enchanted by the doggie. She was also enamored of a little stuffed bunny rabbit that was the dog's toy, and walked around the room with that in her arms, wrapped up like a baby in a towel. (This didn't please the dog so well.) She also tried to play the game with us where she points at various body parts -- eyes, ears, nose, et cetera -- and generally just totally charmed the neighbors.

In any case, what we really wanted to do was to sit up and talk about everything and see what was happening, which we did. Dad stayed in the house to help direct the firemen and Roland and Tyler went back and forth between some, while we visited with the neighbors and shared our various parts of the story and all expressed gratitude that we had decided NOT to have the wedding at the house, and wondering about whether all the wedding stuff would be ruined by firehoses or by the smoke, et cetera. I'm sure I'll think to add more to this later. I was still pretty high on adrenaline, and laughing and laughing about things. ("Mom, it's okay that the tablecloths will smell like smoke. We're having a barbecue! It'll be more authentic this way!") I think I was kind of stressing people out by being so giddy about things -- but that's just how I react to stress!

The firemen never did have to use the hoses, but they did need to crawl all over our roof (which they later informed is is quite a steep roof!) and cut into it. Roland says there were scorch marks all up the beams on the inside of it, and that the firemen verified that the house was indeed struck directly by lightning. There was quite a bit of water tracked through the house and it leaked through the roof a bit from the family room, but just rainwater, and not hose water, fortunately. Everything does smell like smoke -- even just a localized fire apparently creates quite a lot of it. The rooms upstairs all smell like a rustic cabin lodge, as I noted on facebook -- just smoky enough to kind of tickle at my throat. I'm sure the tablecloths will smell okay after just a bit of airing out. Apparently an appraiser is coming from the insurance company soon to figure out the true extent of the damage.

The neighbors have been really great for all this -- it really pays to cultivate good relationships with your neighbors! As I mentioned, mom wasn't comfortable with all of us sleeping over at the house, so Rose-Ellen and Tyler and Natalie went over to Linda Wardle's, Roland and I went to Bettie's and Mom and Dad went to Bud's, but it seemed like the whole neighborhood turned out to offer us rooms and food and things to drink. Somebody brought over hot orange rolls this morning for breakfast and we'll probably get dinner brought as well. (Of course, what we really need are for people to help EMPTY our fridges so we can fit wedding stuff in there, not to fill them more! But it's the thought that counts.)

Anyway, everybody is safe, there's not too much damage to the house, and it makes a GREAT story to tell at the reception, I figure -- and a fun story to tell our kids someday! And now we know that we were definitely inspired to have the wedding at the church instead of at home. We're not even doing a bridal shower here, thankfully.

I think I may win the prize for most chaotic Wood wedding ever, though! Roland or Christian would really have to pull out the stops to top THIS. :) I mean, the drama! Lightning! Fire! Pregnant women pulling babies out of cribs! Wedding dresses being dashed across the street through the rain! Tablecloths in danger! We all think the local news should have come and interviewed us (Roland tried to call dibs on being first interviewed, until I pulled the "it's MY wedding" trump card on him), but they missed out. I guess it was just a crazy night.

Anyway, I'm going to get cleaned up and straighten my room a little. I was pretty embarrassed that the firemen had to track through my messy room to open my window to let out the smoke last night! I don't want to feel embarrassed all over again when the appraiser comes. But I love you and can't wait for you to come and share in all this craziness with me!

Yours (with bonus rustic woodsmoke scent!) always,

Sarah

Friday, April 24, 2009

How I Met Ben (with Ben providing addenda in italics)


So, now that news of my engagement has been officially publicized via the family blog, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, and people all over the country are practically perishing from curiosity, I thought that I might write up a little post about how this engagement came to be.

Ben and I met via the Internet (I'm told it's very in vogue to do so right now -- one in 8 couples, the story goes!) on eHarmony. Yes, we're an eHarmony success story. I'll probably edit this up to send to eHarmony as well so that they can use us for advertising because, well, of COURSE they'd want to advertise with us.

Anyway. We both set up profiles right around the same time. They were doing a special around New Years where you could get a weekend free and try it out before signing up. Ben was one of the first 15 or so profiles they sent to me. We started talking and just clicked really well. There's a ton we have in common. We are allergic to all the same things (which is to say, almost everything), had a history of blacking out in grade school (me via fainting, Ben via repeated concussions), a love of reading and learning, kind of goofy senses of humor, crazy smart family members (his dad even works for the same company my grandpa did for a while!), born two months apart, attended BYU the same years, similar romantic experience -- and the list goes on and on. As soon as we took it off eHarmony and started talking via e-mail, we either e-mailed, chatted, called on the phone or Skyped basically every day.

Ben: In case you're not familiar with Skype, it's a web-based program that allows two remote users to chat via web camera, and for Sarah and I it's great because we can see one another's expressions and gestures. It's about as close to in-person as you can reasonably get in a long-distance relationship.

Moreover, right after he gave me his e-mail address, I googled around to make sure that Ben was for real (because honestly, some things seemed too good to be true!) and found his YouTube channel. Now, Ben somehow managed to find himself several very unflattering photos in his eHarmony profile, because I'd been just KIND OF interested up to that point. Once I saw his channel and discovered not only how talented and good-looking he was, but also how humble and funny and genuine and self-assured, I was sold, hook, line and sinker. I even showed my parents, because while normally I'd be a bit reluctant to pull them into my dating life, I just HAD to show off some. YEAH, parental units, THIS HOT GUY is interested in ME.

Ben: Were the pictures really THAT unflattering? Haha, maybe that's why people never responded to my ice breakers. I might add here that as soon as I read Sarah's profile answers, my interest was already piqued because of her very fluid, grammatically solid writing style. She focused on important things like family, self-improvement, religion, and she had a very sardonic approach to her dating life (or lack thereof) that I found very refreshing. Also, eHarmony allows you at one point during the Guided Communication phase to send 3 questions, either pre-loaded into the system or custom, and Sarah chose to ask about my music, day job, and family, all of which are top priorities in my mind. Definitely strong start.

So after just a few weeks of e-mailing and talking, we decided that it was expedient that we should actually meet each other. We already knew that we clicked intellectually, conversationally, and to some extent emotionally, but so much depends on being able to handle each other in person.

Ben: To give you a quantifiable idea of exactly how much we had written to each other before we met, from Jan 5 - Feb 14 we had logged 196 typed, single-spaced, 12-pt font pages in Microsoft Word from emails and online chats alone, not to mention hours of phone calls and video chats. Yeah, that much in the space of about 40 days. Thus, we had mutually concluded that what remained in our puzzle was the physical chemistry and the potential in-law dynamics.

Ben actually ended up having a business contact with a woman in my ward -- she's a very good violinist, herself, and so my dad (assuming that all violinists who have ever lived in Utah knew each other) -- asked if they were acquainted, and lo and behold, they were! Sort of. She described herself as a "fan" of him, and told my dad and me how much she was looking forward to working with him on this particular business project. Well, finding that they had an acquaintance in common (me) made it easier for them to get in touch and kind of expedite his visit down to D.C.

I finally met Ben for the first time at the end of February, though by that time I was already calling him my boyfriend. After all, we went through a few weeks there where we did something together for about an hour nearly every night, whether it was playing on yahoo games or just talking, until we realized that it was maybe interfering a little bit with things we really DID need to get done. I already knew more about him than I do about even many of my siblings!

Ben: Since my life tended to be an open book to everyone, I decided to keep my love life more hush-hush so I could focus on Sarah without others telling me what to do or think. It was my way of protecting my best interest as I determined whether Sarah was (finally) the right one or not. At this point in my life, I had become disenchanted with the idea of dating because I had completely failed to find ANY girl who interested me -- I chalk that up to my idiosyncrasies and strange sense of humor :) The black spiky hair may have also been a turn-off for girls, who knows.

It was still a bit nerve-wracking to meet in person, though. The first night, we were both pretty nervous and awkward, but we quickly got used to each other over the course of a date that began on Friday night and didn't really end (though there were interruptions for work and orchestra practice) until Tuesday night. He joined an orchestra here for the weekend and played at the temple visitors center, and I helped show him around D.C. to get some videos for the children's website he works for. Having hit it off thus far, I planned a trip to go visit him at his home five weeks later.

It was one of the longest months of my LIFE, and I have a series of whining/sappy e-mails to prove it, too. We kept up e-mailing every morning and calling for at least 15 minutes every night and skyping every weekend, which helped the time pass, and certainly provided a more thorough record of my life than I've ever had before. As you JUST MIGHT be able to tell from, like, the four blog entries behind this, I'm not very good at journaling. But letter writing in lieu of journaling has been working out great so far! I'm excited to know that when we have kids, they'll have a very thorough record of our courtship.

Ben: What Sarah said :)

In any case, my visit up to see Ben kind of sealed the deal in my mind. His family is full of fun, bright, generally delightful people, and his hometown is just the right size -- not too big and busy, not to small and away from everything. We spent conference weekend together and, even though I came down sick almost as soon as I got there (possibly something on the airplane) had a great time.

Two weeks later (there was no way on this green earth that we were going to go another five weeks again) we met up in New York City so I could see Ben perform at Carnegie Hall with the YouTube Symphony Orchestra! We took some long walks through New York and Central Park, talked about how things we going and our expectations for the future, and generally enjoyed each other's company. A documentary crew quickly noticed that Ben was one of the more engaging characters in the YTSO, so the poor guy had had cameras following him around much of the time. They did an interview the afternoon before the concert with the both of us to talk a little bit about our relationship and our expectations for the concert and so on.

Ben: I posted a few videos on YouTube.com/BenChanViolin detailing my experience that week, and the last one begins with me talking about my anticipation of Sarah's arrival into NYC that day. Sarah's hands are the ones that uncover that ultra greasy grilled cheese sandwich, too.

The concert was AMAZING, but this is already getting really long! So I'll fast forward a bit.

That night after the concert, I had a very vivid dream in which Ben proposed -- but with a hideously ugly ring! There were all these tiny green stones arranged in a square that sloped upward in a way that it was sure to catch on everything, besides being gaudy and bizarre. In the dream, I said yes, but then had a TON of angst about how to tell him that I couldn't stand the ring and that he needed to exchange it for a different one. My mom-in-the-dream thought that I was being really dumb and melodramatic about it, but agreed that the ring was hideous and I required a different one.

I told the story to Ben in the morning as we were walking around New York, and we had a good laugh about it. He did seem mildly concerned that I'd have such a strong reaction to a ring, and quizzed me as to what would constitute a ring I didn't like. I assured him that as long as it was not huge and lime green, I'd be okay with most things.

I'd never been in New York city, so we walked a long ways down Broadway and then cut over and walked back up on 5th Avenue. We must've gone at least 5 miles total in the morning, and all this with Ben carrying his violin over one shoulder and holding my hand on the other side. It probably totally ruined his spine, poor guy. But we enjoyed it, nonetheless. It was a gorgeous day, though quite chilly in the morning. At crosswalks, waiting for the light to turn, we hugged close to keep warm and shield each other from the wind.

As we walked back along 5th so as to be back at the hotel before checkout time, I noticed the Tiffany's store, there. Now, I don't consider myself a HUGELY girly girl, but that store is just iconic! I couldn't walk by it without going inside. I asked Ben if he would mind. I repeatedly assured him that it was no pressure -- no pressure at all -- it didn't mean I expected him to buy a ring that soon and certainly not at Tiffany's in any case. It was just a case of me being a girl and wanting to go look at sparkly things. He hesitated a little but then agreed to go inside just to take a look. We wandered by the display cases (and exclaimed over the prices) and I sought out a saleslady to double-check my ring size. She took the opportunity to unload a little literature on Ben about diamond cuts and qualities and so on, and he just nodded and acted like he was just kind of learning about it for a possible future purchase, but with nothing planned imminently.

The boy had had a ring in his pocket THE WHOLE MORNING. I had no idea.

Ben: For all of you engageds/marrieds out there, I know understand how nerve-wracking it is to carry around a ring in my pocket for an imminent proposal -- particularly walking through TIFFANY'S, of all places, where their rings are way bigger and shinier (and, of course, unrealistically priced). It's dang hard to feign ignorance about diamond cuts and sizes, too.

So after getting back into the hotel, we ran into the documentary people again, who wondered if they could get another interview to follow-up after the show. So I agreed and we chatted a little bit about the music, the whole experience about New York -- and the director started asking some leading questions about how my relationship with Ben had changed and where I thought it would be going in the future. I STILL didn't have a clue until Ben announced, "There's one more thing I need to do here," and pulled out his phone and started calling my home number.

I knew my dad wasn't home -- and neither was Roland, as it was in the middle of a school day -- and right THEN I caught on to what he was doing. I was definitely surprised. After all, it was, technically, the only third visit we've had with each other, but it also has just felt natural and right and easy from the beginning. We fit together. I still look forward every morning to his e-mail and every night to his call -- when something exciting happens in my day, I can hardly wait to tell him; when something bad happens, I look forward to commiserating. I was already planning on moving up there because dating long-distance loses its charm very quickly, which to me was already sort of a quasi-engagement, since I informed him quite seriously that I very much disliked all this moving and traveling, and so if he was going to break up with me ever it had very well better be before I moved.

Ben: I admit I fed Sarah misinformation leading up to the proposal -- I figured it would make for a much bigger shock factor when I proposed :)

So he called my home and left a message asking for my dad for my hand in marriage (my dad was his way to the airport at the time, but his permission was never in doubt. My dad is totally thrilled that I have found a guy as awesome as Ben is) and then got down on one knee and pulled out a classic, beautiful ring (not some gaudy, lime green contraption). I don't think I let him get the question out before answering yes, but it's all kind of a blur from the time he dialed my house until we left the cameras and went over to my hotel to catch my mom and give her the news. Fortunately, it was all caught on video, so I'm sure I'll see exactly how it went some day. (And no, it's not on YouTube. These guys are doing a very legit documentary. So someday you will maybe be able to rent a movie that has my engagement in it, or maybe it'll end up on the cutting room floor. Who knows! In any case, Ben is going to ask them for the footage, for our own records.)

So that's the story of how I met Ben! It's been a week since then, and it's still another week until he flies down here to spend a week here and then drive up with me to New York. It's surreal and fantastic and wonderful and a little bit stressful at times, but I feel incredibly lucky to have found this amazing guy that I click with so well, and am looking forward to the rest of my life with him.

Ben: I might add that Sarah's the best thing that's happened to me and that I'm just as eager to start our life together soon!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I wrote this story up to share with Ben, and he thought I should post it in a journal or a blog if I hadn't yet. Which, uh, I hadn't, because I've been pretty bad about journaling since my mission. But it was already written up, so I've just copied and pasted here. For posterity. Or something.

So back in the days before my Honda Fit, I had a 1993 Honda Accord. It had previously been owned by my sister (while I was on my mission), my brother Jonathan (before he sold it to my sister), and my brother Nathan (who bought it used.) It got great gas mileage, but otherwise -- well, having been through three college students before it got to me had taken its toll. It was dented and abused and broken and repaired and then abused again. It didn't have air conditioning, because to repair the AC would have cost more than the car was really worth. It also didn't have a radio. Well, it had a radio, but it came with an anti-theft mechanism that meant you had to enter a code after it had been to a shop and they'd had to reset the electrical system or something. Unfortunately, one of the buttons stopped required to input the code was broken, so you were unable to enter it, thereby rendering the radio permanently useless.

I'd started wanting to get a Honda Fit right when they came out. They were just so little and adorable and economical! (And zippy!) I was done with school and felt that I could reasonably afford the car payments. However, in my family we're pretty debt-adverse, so I knew the responsible thing to do would be to eke out as much more life as I could out of my Accord while saving up for the Fit. This seemed pretty boring, but I was resigned to it.

Well, in November of 2006, my Grandma died and I drove up to the funeral. I let my dad drive the car around a lot, as there were a whole handful of us juggling a few cars between us. It snowed, and my dad took a corner a little too sharply and tore off my bumper. Again, I struggled. I wanted a new car (with AC and a radio and no rust) so very, very badly, and the repairs for the bumper would almost certainly be expensive. Eventually, I gave in and paid up, had it repaired, and kept slowly saving.

Then in 2007, my windshield cracked and I had to get that and a couple tires replaced in order to pass inspection. And then just the day after paying up and fees for registration, with the blue tape still around the windshield to hold it in place, I went outside to drive my car to work.

I walked to the normal parking spot. I shared at that time an apartment with three girls, but we only had one assigned parking spot. I was PRETTY SURE I'd taken it the night before, but it wasn't there. Maybe I'd parked in a different spot! Our apartment building was pretty large, and it took me quite a while to wander through it and really make sure that I didn't see my little junky Accord anywhere.

It was BAFFLING. It never even occurred to me that the car was stolen, because really, who would do that? A thought that GENUINELY OCCURRED to my mind before stolen was "abducted by aliens", because my terrible car had been parked right next to a very nice Lexus. (I'm pretty sure I didn't take that thought seriously, but I definitely had it.) I called my roommates to make sure there hadn't been some prank involving stealing my car, still in a state of very amused shock and befuddlement. (Seriously? MY CAR?)

Well, they hadn't moved it, so I looped around the parking lot once again, called into work to let them know I would be delayed, and then called the cops. I have to wonder if the dispatcher thought I was a crank caller, because I still couldn't wrap my mind around it and was kind of out of it. "Hello? I, um, think my car got stolen? Maybe? It's just gone. I don't know where it went, so -- I guess maybe stolen?"

I didn't know whether to hope for a recovery (so as to keep saving money and not have to go through the arduous process of auto loans, et cetera) or for it just to be totaled, so that I could get the shiny new car I secretly really wanted. Well, a couple days later, I got a call from the anti-gang squad. They'd located my car -- it seemed to be in one piece and not taken to a chop shop, like I'd maybe thought -- and taken it to an impound lot.

Heart sinking with disappointment and resignation, I took the bus to the lot and picked up my car. Apparently you can steal older model Honda Accords by jamming a screwdriver into the steering column! Who knew? But other than the scar of the screwdriver, it all seemed to be in order, so I made sure the fluids were topped off and then started driving home.

I had not gone a block before smoke started billowing out of the engine. It was pretty terrifying. I pulled over and hyperventilated for a little and tried to decide what to do. Well, I was just too cheap to call for a tow, and I had some extra coolant in the car, so I topped off the coolant again and drove carefully, slowly home just to get it into my parking lot. And then I called my insurance.

Well, the adjuster came over and looked it over -- whoever had stolen it had only driven about 80 miles, but they must have done some really rough driving or maybe driven the whole way in first gear! Whatever had happened, he took one look at my engine and said, "Oh, yeah. You'd need to get a whole new engine, which, considering the age of the car -- we'll just total this."

So I got a check from my insurance for the blue book value of the car, debated a little while longer about whether to get a used car that I didn't like or to take out a small auto loan and get one that I loved, and then went ahead and got the Fit. I was able (in part to the free rent gravy train I enjoyed last year) to pay it off before I'd had it for a full year, so I think I made the right choice! There was no way I'd have managed the cross country trip in the middle of winter with all my belongings in this world with the old Accord, that's for sure.

Anyway. There is my story, which can basically be summed up as "I think it's really funny that my car got stolen." I might need to work a little bit on brevity. :)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy 2009, all! I've had a good, lazy day so far. And while I should have done this yesterday, I figure that it still counts.

So, even though my New Years resolutions generally don't last out of January, the whole point is that it's a new year, a fresh start, a clean slate. So it's time to dust off and try again. I'm even shooting for achievable so far!

In 2009, it is hereby resolved:

I will exercise more. I was much better off physically and mentally back when I was going to the gym at least 5 days a week. Though I haven't found a gym here that is sufficiently convenient that I'd want to commit to it, I can still find fun ways to exercise. I can put on some music and dance in my living room. I can pick up the pace on the way home from the metro. I can stay standing up on the metro.

I will keep up my pace on reading, and finish at least 52 books this year. However, I also will not spend more than $300 on books. That will mean getting a library card and going to the library sometimes.

I will go to more activities, strike up more conversations, and get to know at least 1 new person a month. That's 12 people over the course of the year, and excessively easy. (I don't have to be FRIENDS with them. But at least learn a name and have a good, solid conversation and be able to recognize them later on.)

I will keep in better touch with the friends I already have. I know I'm hopeless on the phone, so that will largely mean through twitter, e-mail, and blogging more. But still!

I have some other, more personal goals, but these I will be keeping track of here in this space. So! Here's to 2009 being awesome.