"…A Brand New Car!"

[insert “Price is Right” theme here]

[spoken in Rod Roddy announcer voice:]
That’s right, folks! Diana Cook and Aaron Schnuth are now the proud owners of a brand new 2003 Kia Spectra! Diana can now drive to work in style in this pepper-red four-door sedan! Complete with AM/FM/CD Stereo, Air Conditioning, and an Automatic Transmission, this gem is sure to make the happy couple into the talk of the town… [end Rod Roddy voice]

No shit. We are joint-owners of a car loan for the next five years. Along with it comes a damn spiffy new vehicle, though. 🙂 If our new car were to be fabricated inside The Matrix construct, it would look like this:

Anyway, this saves us enormous car-related stress when going on road trips (i.e. ‘will the car make it back alive’), it saves me cab fare (sort of… I think the car payment might be higher…), and it makes both of us mobile. We’re both insured on both cars, so whichever car is at the end of the driveway is the lucky winner of the moment.

Come visit on New Year’s, and you can see the new car… nudge, nudge…

Certifiable Tolkien Geek

I just spent two hours researching how to write my name in Elvish.

My latest idea for a tattoo is to get my name tattooed in Elvish on my shoulder/arm. So, I went off looking for Elvish runes. Eventually, after searching through the entire LOTR trilogy and all half-dozen supplemental texts Aaron and I have, I went online. Duh.

First, I could only find images of the letters, and descriptions of their respective phonetics (what sounds they make). So, I sliced up the images and made my name:

This wasn’t nearly as cool as I had hoped, being a bitmap image and all. Turns out it was technically incorrect, as well. I researched for a while more and found multiple Tengwar (Elvish) fonts, as well as multiple rules for writing English text using Tengwar characters. I downloaded my favorite font, along with the character mapping, and compared feverishly with my chosen online Tengwar/English guide to make this more correct version in Photoshop:


[D – i – an – uh]

The plan is to locate or fabricate some scrolly line-artsy things to create a band on either side of the script, and have it tattooed around my right shoulder.

If you’re a geek, too, and would like something written in Tengwar characters (read: English pronunciation using Elvish alphabet), I’m willing to entertain requests… for now. Considering that only about four of you regularly check my site, I think I’m safe from the galloping hordes of Tolkien freaks.

What Religion Are You? The Belief-O-Matic Knows!

Oh, yeah — Merry Christmas. 🙂 As an initial side-note, I visited my Memaw in the crazy two-day Cleveland Christmas Extravaganza (more on that later). She was doing much better than on Thanskgiving, and insisted that she will dance at my wedding. — Now, how do I break it to her that there won’t be dancing…?

So, Beliefnet.com informed me in my daily Hindu Wisdom e-mail that the Belief-O-Matic knows what religion I truly am. Since I’ve recently been curious about this, I answered the 20 questions and awaited the results:

Other notable placers include Nontheism at 60%, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the religion I was raised in and have denounced) at 47%, Hinduism at 46%, Jehovah’s Witness at 35%, and Roman Catholic at a whopping 16%.

First off, I know the percentages are bullshit, because I checked out Match #1, and the Unitarian Universalists do not agree with all the answers I gave. Secondly, the religion I’ve been studying on my own, Pantheism, appears not to be represented at Beliefnet. On the positive side: though they sound particularly harsh to me now, the Mormon beliefs are laid out truthfully and correctly, which gives me hope that the other religions are represented properly, as well.

I’m still not convinced that there’s a religion out there that fits me to a tee. At this point, I’m content with picking and choosing bits and pieces from various religions that sound about right to me.

Local flavor experience

Got off work early for once. It was still light out. I was geeked. After chillin’ for a while behind the computer, I walked to Ben Franklin to find a Christmas present for Kris (actually, I just had to purchase the finishing touches). So, while I was downtown, I decided to stop into Grounds for Thought for some coffee goodness on the way home. Got my Milky Way (a mocha with a healthy dose of caramel and a couple dollops of whipped cream), silently approved of the R.E.M. playing in the background (must have been some album before Green, because I didn’t recognize it — sorry, Aaron), and planned to slip out the back.

The first thing I noticed was that the Children’s section had been moved. It’s usually there on the back wall of the cafe proper as you walk back into the happily cramped shelves of used books. Hmm… more books on the side wall. Neat. I turned to exit out the side door — to find it was no longer there.

WTF?

Yes, apparently Grounds purchased the store next door and tore out the wall, because the happily cramped stacks are now spacious and comfy. I made a dork of myself by wandering around, gaping at all the room. I believe I even marveled aloud. I must bring Amy to see this.

For once, a good thing is made even better.

Unrelated discoveries: one fun, one not-so-fun

We begin with the fun: wilwheaton.net.

actual photo from wilwheaton.netHe’s 30, he’s married, and he has blue hair. It’s freaky on some level, yet comforting on another. As much as it might disturb Wil to hear it, he’s kind of like a long-distance high-school or college buddy. That’s how he comes across on his page. Totally honest, frank, and certainly more than a touch dorky. (Hell, who isn’t?) His web-design skills are pretty middle-of-the-road, his writing style is familiar and fresh, and he has interests that “normal” people have. And he likes The Pixies. Plus, after watching his character Wesley grow up on Star Trek: The Next Generation (now who’s the dork?), it’s neat to see what he’s like in real life, and to know that he’s just as cool as you’d hope an actor (and aspiring writer) your age would be.

I know, I know… I’m not 30 yet. In the grand scheme of things, though, those four years don’t really matter much.

Now, to the not-so-fun discovery. Actually, it’s downright depressing.

On Thanksgiving, I went to visit my grandmother at her new nursing home. Beforehand, my step-Gary felt the need to call me and warn me of her mental condition. Seems she would be OK for a while, then start talking about feeding pet mice and stepping on cockroaches and all sorts of random things that may or may not have root in reality. So, I felt I was armed with the knowledge that my Memaw was going off her rocker, and things would be cool.

As one might expect, the visit was unusual at best. At least when I used to visit her before, she was recognizable. This wispy-haired, bent wraith of a woman bore very little resemblance to the Memaw that I knew and loved. True to form, she wasn’t wearing her hearing aid or her teeth, and she did indeed go off on random tangents. I smiled and nodded along, answering loudly when appropriate. Just to prove how erratic her behavior had been, when she stood up to show me how much weight she had lost, I discovered that the staff had her bed monitored; when she stood, a beeping alarm sounded. At first I thought her oxygen had been disconnected, but no. It was so she wouldn’t try to wander off and break a window to escape again.

Seriously.

I dealt well with the visit at the time. I even saw the humor in it. Memaw was going off the deep end. Funny stuff. I joked with Aaron about it on the way to Parma to visit my folks.

Later, though, the truth of the matter set in. I really don’t have a Memaw anymore.

Yes, I know she’s still alive, and I should be thankful for that. But my Memaw, the one that fabricated my imaginary friend when I was two, the one who made up lullabies that stood the test of time, the one who could cook almost anything I asked for, the one with the slightly warped sense of humor (one aspect of her I didn’t fully realize until I was a little older), that Memaw… she’s gone.

Maybe it’s easier to lose her this way, slowly, so I can come to terms with it. Maybe it’s better than just getting a phone call out of the blue, telling me I’ll have to cash in my Bereavement Days at work.

But she’s still my Memaw. And God, I miss her already.

Bizarre Dreams and High-School Crushes

I once had a crush on this guy. (Don’t ask why. Certainly not for his stunning good looks.) Actually, I was hopelessly hung up on him for about four years, and probably not as secretly as I thought at the time. He was a bass in choir, lead trumpet in band, and enrolled in all the same advanced classes I was in. His name is Matt, and this is his Senior picture, scanned right from the 1994 Buckeye High School yearbook.

I dreamed about him last night.

Allow me to digress for a moment. I believe (and some people think I’m way off-base) that in dreams, some people or places can and do represent aspects of the dreamer’s life. Some mistakes and triumphs, relived in different ways, can draw parallels between today and yesteryear. For instance, when I was about to graduate college (and had been for some time), and my grades were beyond slipping and my attitude was beyond sucking, I kept dreaming about aging out of drumcorps. I relived the final performance in a dozen different ways: forgetting the drill and having to step off the field, missing uniform parts, losing my mellophone, not knowing the music, all the typical terrors. Except in these dreams, I came away with the distinct knowledge that I had lost something I had worked hard toward for so long. I drew a waking parallel between the dream-disasters and my current sitation of almost not graduating. I’m not sure it actually helped my real-life situation any, but at least I knew what my brain was throwing out at me.

Last night, I dreamed about Matt. I forget the details, since it was a day ago and all, but I remember the gist. There was a choir/band get-together, or reunion, or something in the Music Room at my high school. Of course, everyone looked just as I remember them from eight years ago. The main thing I recall is that Matt and I shared the easy spontaneity of old friends (something we never experienced in real life — I was always too flustered by him). In the dream, we even traded innuendos: something about me liking sausage…? At any rate, it was clear that he knew that I had "liked" him. Maybe we’d even fooled around. In the dreamworld, it’s hard to be sure.

Without recapping all of my remembered dreams for the past several months, suffice it to say that I’ve dreamed about Matt before. No, it’s not some bizarro redhead fetish come to the surface. But putting these dreams together, and adding in my real-life thoughts, I think that Matt has come to represent a part of my psyche. I think Matt represents my former love of music. Not that I don’t love music anymore, but I’m no longer directly involved in it, and I think it filled a void that I didn’t realize at the time. But Matt helped me get into high school band when I didn’t play an instrument by vouching for my musicianship in choir, and he was one of my personal peer-heroes in high school. I think he represents my longing to return to performing, combined with my nostalgia for an era past. Not necessarily high school itself, but those years when I was immersed in music — choir, band, and drumcorps.

Some people will think this dream quasi-analysis is bullshit. You’re welcome to your opinion. This analysis is like Tarot for me, like meditation. Even if it’s bullshit in itself, it brings forth the things I need to think about. The things that matter to me, the things that need addressing. Music was once how I defined myself. Having that large of a chunk of my being unaccounted for is… disconcerting at best.

So… I wonder what Matt is doing these days?

The Obligatory Thanksgiving Narrative

9:00am: The Schnuth/almost-Schnuth one-car caravan headed to Lakewood (the northwest side of Cleveland, that is). Arrived at Aaron’s grandparents’ place in roughly two hours.

11:15am: First to arrive on-location. Chatted with Poppa and Grammie. Had quality time talking about plants and wedding plans and the Thanksgiving schedule. Also had quality time with the cat, Sid.

12:00pm: Aaron’s dad arrived, sans Aaron’s brother. (sans means without, for all you non-Latin-speaking types.) Seems Matt stayed home, puking and feeling generally ungood. Had more quality time talking about wedding plans and rib restaurants and the Thanksgiving schedule.

1:00pm: The Eschbach minivan arrives, bearing Aunt Elaine, cousin Nathan, and Nathan’s 21-month-old daughter Caitlin. Cute as a proverbial button — she started chasing the cat as soon as she saw it. Had even more quality time talking about Caitie, antiques, jobs, wedding plans, and the Thanksgiving schedule.

1:30pm: The slated time for dinner. Uncle Pete called to let everyone know that he and his clan would be a little late (surprise). The turkey came out of the oven right on time, despite dripping juices and much smoke. The table was set, and 15 chairs were somehow located and brought to the dining room. All that was left was for Pete and the clan to arrive and bring the green bean casserole.

2:15pm: Pete and his new wife Deanna finally arrived, with Pete’s four kids and one of Dee’s two kids. (The other of Dee’s kids was at his dad’s place for the holiday.) About half a dozen people crammed into the kitchen to finish preparing food. Had yet more quality time talking about choir, Lord of the Rings, Caitie, and wedding plans. Studiously avoided mentioning the Thanksgiving schedule.

3:00pm: Food was ready. Aaron and I sat down promptly, while the rest of the clan milled about wondering where to sit.

3:15pm: Dinner started. Finally.

4:00pm: We excused ourselves to go visit my family, as mentioned to his family multiple times while discussing the Thanksgiving schedule. Drove about two miles to the nursing home where my grandmother has recently been admitted.

4:10pm: Located my Memaw in the Aristocrat nursing home in Lakewood. The chemo thinned her hair, and she looked ten or fifteen years older than her actual age of 70, and she went off on bizarre, almost-senile tangents a few times, but she’s still my Memaw, and it was still good to see her. Shocking, but good. Gave her the birthday presents I forgot to send three weeks prior, and showed her a picture of her grandfather that I found online. Lots of hugs. Promised to write more often.

4:30pm: Left Lakewood for Parma. Ended up combining Mom’s set of directions with my step-Gary’s set, and got there just fine.

4:45pm: Arrived at my folks’ place. Ate another dinner. Watched the Cowboys play the Redskins. Ate sweet-potato pie. Had quality time with my cat. Talked about how big my step-brother Philip has grown, about wedding plans, about weird commercials on TV, about my long-ass hours at work, and about crap in general.

9:00pm: Gary walked Philip back to his mother’s house down the street. Mom packed us a bag full of Thanksgiving leftovers (especially appreciated since we had to bail from Aaron’s family so fast we didn’t get any there). Once Gary got back, Aaron and I got our stuff together, said our goodbyes, and headed back to Bowling Green.

11:15pm: Home again, home again, jiggity-jig. Off to bed for Diana — I had to be at work by 9:00am the next day. No four-day weekend for me. Overall: a fun day, a good day, but a busy day.

Worker Revolt Imminent at Sky Service Center

Ok, dudes. If I have to work one more 50-hour-plus week, I think I’m going to flip. I worked 14 hours today. Hell, I even took this past Friday off as a paid vacation day, and still racked up 40 hours before I left Thursday evening. Too bad a vacation day can’t count for time-and-a-half.

My co-worker Mary, a woman about a year or two older than my Mom, agrees that this is bullshit. (Not in so many words, of course.) We’re planning to talk to our "real" boss this week. Yes, our "real" boss, as opposed to our co-worker / boss who mainly just has seniority over us and knows more about how the Lockbox department runs.

I haven’t had a 40-hour week for literally three months, at least. As much as I’m liking the overtime, this is just getting ridiculous. I might not have social functions to attend after work like some people, but that doesn’t mean I enjoy my off-work time any less. There’s a new schedule in the works that could either save us all, or save everybody else and fuck me bad. I know what I’m guessing…

I didn’t really want to leave Sky yet, but if my hours don’t get more reasonable by next year (read: give it another month), I’m going to start actively job-hunting again. This is bullshit.

Wedding Dress Purchased!

For only $99 + shipping, I have purchased a wedding dress on eBay. (I’d tell you all about it, but Aaron isn’t allowed to see. So, you can look at it on eBay — that is, if you’re not Aaron.)

The University was supposed to get back to me by today about reserving the Union, but (surprise of surprises) I haven’t heard from them.

So, my invitation stationery is en route via UPS, scheduled for delivery on Wednesday, and my wedding dress is in the UPS tracking system, although it has not necessarily started its actual journey.

Happy Happy Joy Joy, Happy Happy Joy Joy…

Bands Of America vs. Drum Corps International

One activity I look back on with nostalgia and remembered excitement. One activity I look back on with passion, longing, and tears.

I think it’s the difference between a high-school crush and a lifetime soulmate. They’re both desirable. They’re both positive experiences. And, until you experience the latter, the former seems to be the most amazing experience possible.

In High School band, we had a tradition. As we stood at attention, ready to dismiss, our band director would call out the various facets of our posture that we should remember. He would call, “feet!” We would answer, together! “Back!” Straight! “Shoulders!” Up! Back! Down! And the final call was, “Eyes!” Louder than any reply, we would shout, With Pride! It meant the beginning of an era, of a legend: our band hadn’t been worth anything two years before, and now we were winning competitions and making State Finals. We had pride in what we had become, and what future generations of Buckeye Bands would accomplish by building on our meager 30-member foundation.

I recall that being the most powerful experience in “oneness” with an ensemble… up until that point. In the Northern Aurora Drum and Bugle Corps, we had another tradition, one that transcended “Eyes With Pride” for me. At every corps dismissal, be it at camps, circled up after a show, or following rehearsal, the drum major or corps manager would call us up: “Corps — Ten-Hut!” We would snap to attention, horns snapping to shoulder-level, flags snapping straight, drumsticks snapping into position. The drum major would then call into the silence: “Corps! Dismissed!” and we would answer, “One!”

During every winter camp at NA, when potential new members would be attending, the corps manager would explain that this word referred not to a placement or a ranking, but a feeling of unity with our corpsmates. I refused to join in the response until the camp when I was officially signed as a member of Northern Aurora. At the dismissal of that camp, I answered the call as one member of a team, of a family. It was just as powerful then as it was through the two years I marched in NA, all the way through until our last dismissal at Division III Finals in Orlando, Florida in 1996.

My point? I don’t know. I cherish my time spent both in marching band and in drumcorps. But what still brings me passion, what stirs the fire, what makes me long to relive each and every moment, is drumcorps.