Friday, February 20, 2015

How I Proposed to My Now-Fiance Greg

By now most of my friends and family should know that on Valentine's Day of this year, I proposed to my live-in partner-in-adventure Greg. We've been together for about 4 years now (depending on when you figure the start date of "being together"). That is a long time! (Prior to this, my longest relationship didn't last 2 years. About the same for Greg.) 

My story starts last year. Some awesome coworkers and I were building a dream catcher for a local art show called Dream Seeding. Greg and some other people popped in to help, too. For reasons, my cohorts and I picked up, among other things, 2 big bags of conversation hearts to snack on as we built the dream catcher. I took one bag home for me and Greg to share when the dream catcher was all done.

One night, as we were sitting on the couch watching TV, I was munching candy hearts and found one that said "marry me," so I gave it to Greg and told him to read it. He laughed and ate it. I found another one and gave that to him, as well. Again he laughed and ate it. This may have gone on for some time. I don't recall exactly.

So this year, I decided to buy more candy hearts and make a goody bag filled with only hearts that said "marry me" for Greg's Valentine's Day present. I thought this would cute, fun, and easy. It was cute and fun at first, but it was not easy. I had to pick up new wiper blades for my car and a few grocery items, so I figured I would add candy hearts to the list and stop by Meijer. Meijer did not have the right hearts. They had gummy hearts and marshmallow hearts, but I couldn't determine if any of them said "marry me."

Next, I dropped into Walgreens. Even with the help of a manager, I could not find the right hearts. The manager suggested that maybe the orders had changed and the bags of hearts weren't available anymore. He said they places a standard order of the same stuff everyone gets, so if neither Meijer nor Walgreens had these hearts, no one would. Nooooo!

I was starting to feel desperate. Not desperate enough to try Walmart, though I figured if my next attempt ended in failure, I'd have no choice. I next headed to the Dollar Tree on the other side of Walmart from Walgreens. AND LO! I found a bin of conversation hearts. Not the brand I am used to, but who cares. I FOUND THEM! There was also a bin with bags of heart-shaped candy rings. I only needed one, not six, but meh. They were $1. I agonized over what kind of container to get for the heart and candy ring. Nothing looked right. I eventually settled on plastic goody bags for a kid's Valentine's party because I decided an owl was the least gag-me thing in the store.

Returning home with my bounty, I had two hours before Greg got home from work to assemble the present. (And then hide the evidence as this was the day before V-Day.) I pulled out a flexible cutting board and settled in front of the TV with my three bags of candy. (I think I put on Empire, which is a totally awesome show that everyone should watch. <3 Jussie Smollett <3)

I dumped the first bag of hearts onto the cutting board and dug, and dug, and dug. Barely a toddler-sized handful of "marry me" hearts. Ok, fine. So I weeded out the hearts that said "say yes." That was still the right sentiment, right? This still was not much. I set upon the second bag and ended with the same results. Barely a handful between these two sentiments. I considered returning to the Dollar Tree for more bags, but that would leave me with even more leftover candy hearts that I had no intention of eating (I'm cutting back on sugar). These would have to do.

I filled up my first owl bag with all the "marry me," "say yes," and mustache hearts (there were four - I had to include them) these two bags yielded, then topped them with a candy ring and tied the bag closed with pink ribbon that I found in my drawer of random stuff. I would have preferred another color, but there is a decidedly pink theme with Valentine's Day.

Since I still had all that leftover candy, I divvied up the remaining hearts into three other goody bags and gave them to my coworkers the next day for Valentine's Day. I told a few people the reason for all the candy and they were very excited for me, wishing me luck. The candy rings I saved for another purpose, though what that would be, I did not yet know.

On Valentine's Day, after failing to get dinner at two local restaurants (the first was full and the second had run out of food) and finally succeeding on the third (are we sensing a theme?), Greg and I returned home. My phone had gone off a few times with texts like "well??" and "!?!?!?!?" It was time. Greg had already given me my present, the board game Invasion From Outer Space, earlier in the evening. We sat on the couch and I gave him his goody bag. I explained that he had to open it and read what was inside. He took out a candy heart.

Greg: "This one says 'say yes.'"

Me: "Pick another one."

G: "And this one says 'say yes.'"

M: "Try again."

G: "And this one says 'say yes.'"

M: "Another." Damn you, hearts!!

G: "This one says 'marry me.' And this one says 'marry me.' And this one says 'marry me.' And this one says 'say yes.' And this one is a mustache."

M: "Ok, you're done. So what do you say?"

G: "I thought we already agreed we were getting married."

He isn't very good at playing along with my romantic gestures. It turns out I beat Greg to the punch. He was planning on asking me at Disneyland on our vacation next month, but he hadn't found a suitable ring yet. Oh well! I win! We agreed to make our engagement official and spent the next two days calling and texting family to tell them the good news. The general reaction was "about time!"

Of course, now everyone wants to know the date that we picked, the location, and all the other details that can take months to work out. If I had all of those plans set, I would have been engaged months ago! We're looking for places around Ann Arbor because that is where we live (more or less) and it's a decent middle ground for family, 45 minutes from Dearborn and 1.5 hours from Kalamazoo. (I said decent, not perfect.) I am not sure what kind of wedding it will be, only what it will not be: it will not be traditional. I can also assure everyone that shenanigans will be included.

So what of the leftover candy rings? We brought them with us to our weekly game night with friends, and Greg announced, "We brought some things to help us share our news!" And then he tossed everyone a candy ring. (Except for Brian. Sorry, Brian. We ran out.) Our friend Kati caught on right away and her face was priceless. Our friend Josh arrived late since he was doing his comedy show. Greg broke the news like this:

Greg: "Josh, I have a job for you."

Josh: "Oh yeah?"

G: "I need a best man."

J: ".....I think I can handle that."

Later, I asked Greg to pose for a photo with his sucker ring, and he put it on his right hand and held it up.

Me: "No, it goes on the other hand."

Greg: "Huh?"

M: "On your left hand. You don't know where engagement rings go?"

G: "Hell no!"

M: "It's a good thing I proposed. This is totally going on my blog."

And lo, it was so.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Fish Tank Rescue

About this time last year, I posted about setting up our fish tank. Sadly, we have now lost both of the original fishies, Cobra Commander and Tuxedo Kamen (who last almost the entire year). We have also lost other fish, and Monday night we almost lost the whole tank! After arriving home, Greg realized that the tank was losing water fast. Somewhere, there was a leak.

New aquarium.
I was in Ann Arbor at the time, and I didn't make it home until after Greg had run to Meijer (thank goodness they are open 24/7) and bought us a new tank. I really liked the style of tank that I had, and it was the second of its kind that I have owned. It seems they have discontinued the model, which is unfortunate. I prefer the hexagonal shape to the more traditional rectangular (my first tank was the latter). Greg found a new tank that is sort of a combination of the two, wide with six sides and shaped a lot like a diamond. The top is a lot more open, too, with no heavy light sitting on top of it (this light clips on the back), which worried Greg because our cat Memphis likes to watch the fish swimming. I don't think he'd go after them, but I don't know for sure. (So far, so good.)

Old aquarium.
Before getting the new tank, we made an addition of a different kind. When picking out some new fish (we have two cory catfish now, an albino, Spaz, and an emerald, Oz, and one remaining blue guppy named Oberon), we discovered moss balls - marimo in Japanese, also a common name. 

In all my years of having aquariums (small ones, granted), I have never encountered moss balls. All of the tanks at the Petsmart on Michigan Ave we most recently went to had them, and I have often obtained my fish from Petsmarts. Huh. We decided to get one since the women in the fish department were so enthused about them, and they promised they would not only help keep the tank clean from algae, but filter ammonia and help collect food missed by the fish at their feedings so they have something to nibble on between meal times (which all of our fish have been taking full advantage of). I think the moss ball has been a great addition to our tank! 

Since we are down to only one guppy (rest in peace, Tuxedo Kamen and Silkwood, who both swam on days before their tank began to leak), we need to get at least two more. This new aquarium is also a 5 gallon, but the shape seems to afford more room to swim around. Oberon looks so lonely. (He tries to school with the cories, but that can only go so far.) We could probably also use a taller plant. For some reason my tall plant, which has lost some pieces over the past few years, doesn't want to stand as tall in this tank. It's good to change things up a little for the fish, too, so they don't get bored (or so I have been told by many aquarium owners in the past). It' fun for us, too! And with a wider bottom, there is more area to landscape. Just need to find time to make it to the pet store. I guess there is always Meijer.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

A Blanket of Snow from Winter Storm Linus

Sunday night, 16.7 inches of snow fell on the Detroit airport located just 5 minutes down the highway from me. It's the third highest recorded snowfall for this region. It doesn't sound like much to me - I grew up with Lake Effect where 3 feet of snow falling in one night is not unheard of nor particularly rare - but it is inconvenient. This is the second year in a row that our car got stuck at the foot of our friends' driveway after the Super Bowl (which I didn't watch because paint drying is more exciting to me than football, and I have zero respect for the NFL).
Thankfully, I had Sunday off and didn't have plans to drive anywhere, having been warned ahead of time the day before at work. Greg was very disappointed that his static trapeze class was canceled, but with the way the snow was coming down - and blowing! - this was a smart decision. The plows were clearly having a hard time keeping up and the city of the impending Super Bowl party had already declared a snow emergency and barred people from parking on the streets so as not to impede the plows once they eventually got there. I took a picture of our balcony every hour until we left for the party, then again when we got home (not an easy or fun drive at all) and posted them to Twitter and Facebook.
There are garden pots under there.
I was scheduled to work from 10am to 6pm all by myself the next day, and judging from the struggle it was to get into our parking lot and into a space, I did not feel confident about being able to make it in. Greg had to retrieve our snow shovel (yes, we have a snow shovel while living at an apartment complex and have used it often), plus the county where I work had declared a state of emergency and requested all non-essential drivers to stay off the roads until they could be cleared. The time they gave was noon, two hours after I was supposed to open and three (more probably four given the driving conditions) after I was planning to leave for work.
So I texted the manager of the store asking if I absolutely had to be there at 10 given that the county was warning people to stay off the roads until noon. She got a hold of the owner who agreed we could open at noon instead. Which still meant I was driving on roads I was warned to stay off, but them's the breaks. I did have to grab our snow shovel and not only unbury the driver's side door, but shovel a path to the track the complex's snow plow had created down the middle of the parking lot so I could get out. Rather than run the shovel back upstairs, I tossed it in the back of my car.
The roads were in surprisingly good shape; many thanks to the brightly shining sun that helped to melt off some of the ice. Parking, though, was a whole different story. Ordinarily, I'd just say screw it and pay the $12 to $15 to park in the parking structure all day, but I was losing $18 by opening late already, and my hours are short because so few people shop in January (I don't blame them), so I really couldn't afford the luxury of the structure. This meant digging out my own parking space on the street.
After circling the block once and making a U-turn in a parking lot, I made my claim right next to someone's driveway. Enough snow had been cleared away, possibly by the owner's of the driveway who also had to work that morning and thus cleared the end for both of us before I got there. After a few forwards and reverses, I managed to wedge my car, a blessedly short hatchback, partially into the snow bank. The back passenger side tire was completely engulfed, which meant so was the tail pipe. I decided to shovel around my car in hopes of preventing an avalanche later that might prove unhelpful in leaving and encourage the sun to melt the crap around my tires. (This ended up actually working.)
Ten feet or so behind me was a man with a snow shovel and a Jeep. He was determined to make his parking spot quite cozy for his vehicle by carving into the snow bank up to the level of his shoulders. He warned me that I was parking too far out into the street and might lose my side mirror as he did last year. This explained his obsessive digging. I was not about to attack a snow bank, and I had to work in 15 minutes, so I declined to go that far, satisfied with unburying the tires. Besides, I was flush with the rest of the street parkers (minus this guy's Jeep). To add a little protection, though, I folded in my side mirror so it was sticking out less.
Great size for a snow fort!

I really thought work that day was going to be incredibly quiet and boring, and it partly was, but I did end up with 7 sales and even more people who came in and didn't buy anything. I heard later that since the local schools - including the colleges and universities - had closed (UM really shocked me - they're getting bolder), the local cafes and coffee shops were jammed with students on laptops.
One customer just out of college whom I talked to had moved to Michigan from North Carolina on Saturday and Monday was supposed to be her first day at her new job. Since the office was closed and she was told not to come in, she decided to explore her new city instead. A winter storm is a heck of a welcome! But the sun was shining, the snow sparkling beautifully, and Ann Arbor seems to have learned from last year's plowing debacle. There were many cheerful people that day.
It snowed again last night, and driving home was white-knuckling, but things look pretty decent out there right now, so I am not worried about driving into work today. Parking, though... Maybe my spot from Monday will be open. Or better, the guy with the Jeep's.