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Hair on Fire | Birthday Memories

Last year for my birthday, I asked my friends to send me stories related to our friendship. I spent my birthday taking a trip down memory lane, reading through all of them. This year, I asked some of my friends if I could share their memories with you.

12 Molar Hydrochloric Acid by maticulous from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

12 Molar Hydrochloric Acid by maticulous from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

This final memory comes from Tavys Ashcroft, one of my classmates from St. Vincent High School. I remember this day from Mr. D’s Honors Chemistry class our junior year. (NEAT STUFF!) It was an experiment that required an acid that was so strong that thick white fumes rose from the bottle when you opened it. Mr. D. selected me to be the one who administered the acid, advising me to hold my breath.

Here’s how Tavys remembers that day:

I think it was 10, maybe 12 molar hydrochloric acid (mid-to-high thirties percent concentration). The kind of acid that could ruin your whole day. There was a story about highly diluted test-tube splatter dissolving pants.  

Only one was to be chosen to dispense this liquid danger. Who among them had the implicit trust of the man at the front of the room?

This was a serious production. Lab coats. Check. Goggles. Check. (Put down your strikers!) Notify all nonessential personnel to vacate the area. Do not reenter the laboratory until the “all clear” is sounded. 

Out came the bottle, a surprisingly large plastic jug. Aitch Cee Ell. The cap only just removed and already a fine mist began to appear. And the clock was ticking.

Bench to bench, beaker to beaker, she carefully administered each allotment.  

Slowly enveloped in a faint fog, the room faded away. Out in the hallway, the wafting swimming pool aroma gave way to burning eyes and tightening throats.

She emerged, lab assistant triumphant. The incongruous wisps from her brow a steaming halo of pride and sublimation.

Was it sugar hydrolysis? Did carbon snakes leap from glassware? I don’t quite recall the purpose of the lab (me neither), but I clearly remember the poison cloud and the smoking hair.

During the experiment, Mr. D. asked if I could smell the chlorine. When I said, “Yes,” he said, “You’re burning your lungs.” I probably damaged all the cilia along my respiratory tract that day. Ah, the sacrifices we make for science.

Fun with Stefi | Birthday Memories

Last year for my birthday, I asked my friends to send me stories related to our friendship. I spent my birthday taking a trip down memory lane, reading through all of them. This year, I asked some of my friends if I could share their memories with you.

Ruth & Stefi - January 2012

Ruth & Stefi – January 2012

Today’s memory is from Stefi Green, one of my classmates from ASU Law School. She was a year behind me – a brilliant, young pixie of law student who made me laugh. I love her childlike wonder and enthusiasm.

Here’s what Stefi had to share:

The saga of Ruth and Stefi has many chapters, from the flash mob during finals to the No Regrets Thanksgiving Day Hike, not to mention the infamous couch incident. (The law school learned the hard way that Stefi will throw a fit if the school moves the “Cool Kids’ Couch” and solicit me to help her move it back to its rightful place outsider Room 116.) But among the memories, including inflatable gladiator dueling (she won), gymnastics meets, trampoline rooms, and countless rejected marriage proposals (from her), one stands out as a favorite. I’ll never forget how much fun I had with you when we put on dresses and made snooty people squirm. (Hee hee hee.)

Ruth, one of the things I admired about you from the start was the way you rose above the pomp and nonsense that hung around the law school like a noxious cloud. One particular example engendered shock and awe in this 21-year-old 1L . . . while sowing the seeds for future (and quite gleeful) subversion. I’m referring of course to your disregard for the then-Dean of the law school. I loved the fact that you could see through his puffery and was practically giddy every time you called him out on it.

No Guilt Hike - 2010

No Guilt Hike – 2010

You had many brilliant moments in your ongoing feud with the Dean Who Must Not Be Named. But my all-time favorite was at Justice For All Night (law school fundraiser) your 3L year. First and foremost, every time I got to hear you sing was a treat in and of itself. The fact that you were singing words that I had written was, well, an honor. (Stefi dealt with the stress of law school by re-writing the lyrics to Disney songs to make them about law and law school. She’s really good at it!) I was so proud that you got to showcase your talent as the main entertainment. And we looked DAMN good that night.

The icing on the cake, though, was the fact that we got to stick it to the Dean. It was obvious that the school knew what we were doing – why else did they seat us at a table with Assistant Dean Tom Williams and other faculty members? (Yeah, we had chaperones.) The fact that they couldn’t do anything about it was nothing short of hilarious. And of course, the piece de resistance was when the Dean, visibly squirming, had to say nice things about you . . . and then spend the rest of the evening hearing about how fantastic you were! (Stefi was so proud of herself for that. She had the cheesiest grin on her face all night.)

Another reason I love this memory of us is because it illustrates many reasons our friendship has been so special to me. Your energy, wit, and irreverence (and a million other qualities!) always make you a blast to hang out with. I absolutely LOVED that you would let me be your partner in crime for the harmless stunts we pulled. But most of all, your attitude and approach to law school and life – and your kindness in sharing them with a kid still figuring things out – played a big role in who I am now.

You taught me not to take life too seriously. Even more, you taught me how to rise above the ridiculous airs that people put on and shine on my own terms.

Awh shucks, Stefi!

I love you, you know.

Kissing a Stranger in Vegas | Birthday Memories

Lindsey & Ruth in Vegas - 2002

Lindsey & Ruth in Vegas – 2002

Last year for my birthday, I asked my friends to send me stories related to our friendship. I spent my birthday taking a trip down memory lane, reading through all of them. This year, I asked some of my friends if I could share their memories with you.

Today’s memory is from Lindsey Taeko, one of my gymnastics teammates. I’ve known her since she was six and I was ten. She and our teammate Kyle came to stay with me for the weekend during the thirty seconds I lived in Vegas (that was a dumb idea). They were there to watch our other friend, Aaron, compete in a big meet that weekend. On the night Lindsey and Kyle arrived, we headed out to The Strip. As Lindsey remembers it:

We were wandering the Vegas Strip and you decided, “Hmm, I really want to kiss someone.”  So, naturally, you find a cute guy, stop him on the street and ask to kiss him – and he of course agrees.  I was ABSOLUTELY blown away, such confidence, amazing . . . but it gets better! AFTER you kiss the random guy, you start talking to him and he says he’s in town for a gymnastics competition – OMG. Yes, the same gymnastics competition that were are going to watch the next day . . . but it gets better!

Gymnastics Family at Lindsey's Wedding - 2014

Gymnastics Family at Lindsey’s Wedding – 2014

We arrive at the competition the next day and are sitting in the audience. We spot the random guy from last night and he comes over to say hello.  There’s a quick chat, good luck, have fun, yadda, yadda. Conversation is wrapping up and out of the blue you just PLANT one on him!  I just remember witnessing this entire encounter and nothing phased you – cute guy, kiss him; he says he’ll be in the same place as you tomorrow, ok cool, no weird awkwardness of oh my goodness this was just supposed to be a random spontaneous moment; you see him the next day in public and naturally you kiss the guy again. I was so impressed and wished I had the balls and the fearlessness to do what you just did!

While that was a very silly story – it’s also a perfect example of what makes you Ruthie and why so many people love you and look up to you. You’ve always been an incredibly strong and determined woman. You’re driven and don’t hesitate to go after what you want. And most importantly, you don’t care about what people may think – it’s a cliché, but it’s fitting . . . you dance to the beat of your own drum and you were fortunate to understand the value in this long before most of us did. I feel very blessed that after all these years you are still in my life and I’m so proud to call you a friend.

Awh, shucks Lindsey. I’m so glad you’re in my gymnastics family. You were usually one of the quiet ones, but when you spoke, you had a reason and you were often a voice of sweet sanity for me.

McNary Hall Memories | Birthday Memories

Last year for my birthday, I asked my friends to send me stories related to our friendship. I spent my birthday taking a trip down memory lane, reading through all of them. This year, I asked some of my friends if I could share their memories with you.

My College Senior Portrait - 2001

My College Senior Portrait – 2001

Today’s memories are from Cody Daggett, one of my residents when I was a Resident Assistant at Oregon State University. He was a sophomore when I was a senior. That was probably my easiest year of being an RA – McNary Hall was the official dorm of the University Honors College and my floor had a lot of engineers. They were a fun but responsible bunch.

Here’s what Cody had to share:

It was a dark and stormy night in McNary Hall when the evil RA roamed the halls looks for scared underclasspeople to write up for doing misdeeds. (Don’t believe him. I wrote 1 conduct report that entire year.) She was a sassy one and her name was Ruth Bare Ass Carter. I’m not sure how she got that middle name. (My middle name is Barras – my great-grandmother’s maiden name.)
Everyone was a little afraid of her at first (See – I can be scary) but then Wyatt started with one of his women jokes and got her to crack a smile. Hannah joined in with her lovely British accent and funny American impersonation and the just forced Ruth to like the group more and get rid of her evilness.

Even still, she would roam the halls every night looking for open doors and people to entertain or chat with. I also found myself doing the same many nights. Sometimes she would show off with a gymnastics trick or two or tell the story of how she once escaped from Alcatraz. At least that is how I interpreted it the when she told me she was from San Francisco.

There are three things I remember most about Ruth:

#1 The amazing OSU black and orange blanket that she made for me over winter break. I still have it. (Yay!)

#2 Although never being a Trekkie myself finding myself, getting into Star Trek more and more during nightly readings. (I get horrible insomnia. When I couldn’t sleep, Cody would read to me from whatever Star Trek paperback I was reading at the time until I fell asleep.)

#3 The fun and friendship she brought to some of the best times and friends in my life.

That was such a fun year. The sixth floor of McNary Hall was an awesome group of residents, many of which I’m still friends with today.

Take a Letter Maria | Birthday Memories

Last year for my birthday, I asked my friends to send me stories related to our friendship. I spent my birthday taking a trip down memory lane, reading through all of them. This year, I asked some of my friends if I could share their memories with you.

Dancing with Chris - 2001

Dancing with Chris – 2001

Today’s memory is from Chris Linrud, one of my friends from Oregon State. Although we were both Honors College students, we actually met through country dancing.

Here’s what Chris had to share:

I had been taking country dance lessons for a few weeks when I first met Ruth. (OSU has an awesome selection of P.E. classes for credit – including Country Dancing.) She wasn’t in my country dance class. (I took the class when I was a freshman.) One of the requirements to pass the class was to go to a specific number of dances. I think it was the second or third dance where I first met her . . . I approached a posse of women I knew from my class which included Becky, Kirsten, and Sarah and said hello. I looked out onto the dance floor to see this girl line dancing with a great looking ass in tight black wranglers. “Hmm,” I thought to myself, “I need to meet her.” (A few other thoughts may have entered my mind as well, but I’ll keep this PG). Luckily enough, she happened to be the RA of the three girls I already knew, so introductions were quick and easy. (I promise Chris is not a creepy womanizer. He’s a farm boy from North Dakota and a rocket scientist . . . and a guy.)

Snuggling with Chris at the Dance Hall - 2001

Snuggling with Chris at the Dance Hall – 2001

From there on out, Ruth and I became not only great dance partners, but great friends. There were few Saturday nights we didn’t spend together along with the rest of the country dance crowd. As soon as “Take a Letter Maria” would come on or some other fast cha-cha we would lock eyes and hurry up and get in line. Being a gymnast and also knowing how to follow my lead really well we were the only couple who could ever do all the turns including a triple to the really fast songs. (Chris is an awesome lead. The songs were so fast that I had to go from the triple turn right into the next step. If he didn’t grab my hand at the right moment, I would have fallen on my ass. He never dropped me.) We always seemed to be tuned in to what the other was thinking. When we were catching our breath on the sidelines you could often find Ruth sitting on my lap or curled up in my arms . . . even though we weren’t dating there was a comfort and connection between us that I still remember today. (Don’t get any ideas – Chris married an amazing woman named Stacy and they have two beautiful daughters.)

Whenever I hear “Take a Letter Maria,” I can’t help but start cha-cha-ing in my mind . . .and if I’m alone I may even break out some old moves. However – be careful if you try to do this in the shower – I’ve almost fell over on more than one occasion! (Oh that’s the Chris I know and love.)

I have a lot of fond memories of that time of my life. Out of that crowd she was the only one that was able to attend my wedding and my only regret that night is that we never did do a fast country swing in front of everyone and bring back the cheers we used to get dancing every weekend in college. (Dude – did you forget the applause we got when we schottiched?)

I have so many fond memories from country dancing at OSU – still have my boots and buckle too. I picked my outfits for Chris and Sarah’s weddings around my boots because they are my two favorite country dance leads.

Chris accused me of wanting to share this story just because he said I have a nice tush. That wasn’t the only reason. 😉

Over the Rainbow | Birthday Memories

Last year for my birthday, I asked my friends to send me stories related to our friendship. I spent my birthday taking a trip down memory lane, reading through all of them. This year, I asked some of my friends if I could share their memories with you.

Looking up in the ASU Law School rotunda - I think that's Calleros' office door on the right

Looking up in the ASU Law School rotunda – I think that’s Calleros’ office door on the right

Today’s memory comes from Professor Charles Calleros at ASU Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. He was my professor for Contracts 1L year. His memory isn’t from the classroom, but from a late night at the law school.

In the fall of my 3L year, I attended an evening movie-and-discussion event that was facilitated by the LGBT law club at the school. I don’t remember what movie we watched, but we were all emotionally drained by the end. It was probably close to 9pm when we finished and emerged from the classroom where we’d been meeting. The rest of the building was quiet. Any students who were staying late to study were at the law library across the way.

My friend Stefi looked sad and exhausted, so I asked if she wanted me to sing for her, and she nodded. The middle of the law school building is a rotunda – a round two-story room with a glass dome ceiling that opens out to all the classrooms on the first floor. The second floor of the rotunda has a circular balcony overlooking the room below and is surrounded by faculty offices. The acoustics of this space are absolutely amazing and gorgeous.

Thinking that no one else was in the building, I positioned myself in the center of the rotunda, took a deep breath and started to sing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” I had no idea that Professor Calleros was working late that night, until I saw him standing at the balcony railing as I started the second verse. As he remember it:

A few years ago, I was working after hours at ASU College of Law, in my office on the second floor, near the balcony that overlooks the rotunda. I stopped working when I heard a beautiful rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” coming from the first floor rotunda, sort of like Eva Cassidy come back to life. I left my office and walked the few steps to the balcony to take it in. It sounded like yearning, a dream, a heartfelt plea for justice. It was Ruth, and it was beautiful.  

As I finished the song, he silently nodded in thoughtful gratitude and retreated to his office. No words needed to be spoken.

Singing with Richard | Birthday Memories

Last year for my birthday, I asked my friends to send me stories related to our friendship. I spent my birthday taking a trip down memory lane, reading through all of them. This year, I asked some of my friends if I could share their memories with you.

Benton Hall - Music Department at OSU (Photo from wikimedia)

Benton Hall – Music Department at OSU (Photo from wikimedia)

Today’s memory comes from Dr. Richard Weidlich, one of my voice coaches when I studied at Oregon State University. (Fun fact: I was never a music major or minor but between my undergrad and masters degrees, I took twelve quarters of voice lessons at OSU.) I studied with Richard my senior year. Voice lessons at OSU are one-on-one classes – it was just him, me, and an accompanist every week.

Working with Richard was amazing. Not only is he a phenomenal opera and Broadway performer, but when he sings or teaches, he experiences the music with his whole body. It is such a joy to experience any aspect of music with him. And did I mention he’s drop-dead gorgeous? As a student, I was perpetually impressed and intimidated by him.

Here are some of Richard’s thoughts from that year:

Music helps us in so many ways, to communicate with more than just mere words, with a power that goes deeper than that. I loved working with you and seeing your voice grow and mature during that year at OSU! I remember your enthusiasm at your lessons and how excited you would get when you had the song down and were starting to communicate it to me. When you got something right, your excitement was infectious! I am hoping that you continue your love for music by singing and working with a teacher again at some point. We learn so much about ourselves in the process, and we stretch ourselves. My grandmother always talked about life-long learning and I now know what she means. It is the answer to boredom and the solution to a life with no purpose!

There is something so special about working with a coach – on any craft. They help you develop your skills; they mentor you through frustrations and they’re there to celebrate victories. I am truly lucky to have Richard as part of my musical family.

Good Night Everybody! | Birthday Memories

REG DoorLast year for my birthday, I asked my friends to send me stories related to our friendship. I spent my birthday taking a trip down memory lane, reading through all of them. This year, I asked some of my friends if I could share their memories with you.

Today’s memory comes from Erika Brown, one of my teammates from Redwood Empire Gymnastics. I trained here for ten years, eight of which I was on the competitive team. When I asked my friends for their memories, a lot of people in my gymnastics family sent me a version of this story, but I think Erika captured it best:

For sure my most vivid memory of you growing up was of you in the gym, walking out the door every night and stopping to yell, “Good night everybody!!!,” and then all of us stopping to respond, “Good night Ruth!!!” It totally brought us together as a gym . . . like it was tradition and for a brief second we all acknowledged the same thing (you!!) as a family! Like when a kid would get a new skill and the whole gym would stop to watch and acknowledge their hard work…it always felt like that! 

Ruth & Erika in Santa Monica - March 2015

Ruth & Erika in Santa Monica – March 2015

I started this nightly tradition when I was fifteen or sixteen, and I don’t remember how or why it started. But it quickly became part of our nightly communal routine – not just for myself, but for the whole gym. It wasn’t a “me” thing but a “we” thing.

Here’s a bonus memory from Erika:

I also remember when I was younger, usually on vault, Rocky would get down on one knee and tell us what we were going to be doing that day and at the end he’d always ask, “Any questions?” and you would always ask, “What’s the meaning of life, Rocky.” And it always just blew my mind!! You’d think I’d have started to expect it, but no . . . every time you asked, inside I was always like “Whoooooaaaa, what IS the meaning of life right now!?!!?!?” (By the way – Rocky’s typical response was to smile, shake his head, and say “Just vault, Ruth.”)

Oh, I love my gymnastics family – so many wonderful memories from that place.

Day 50/90 – Hitting the Ground Running

Day 50 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? I hit the ground running this week.

This is the view from my desk. I'll be seeing it a lot this week.

This is the view from my desk. I’ll be seeing it a lot this week.

I knew I was going to have a busy week with client work – I mean really busy – even for me. If I didn’t have a spreadsheet of all my cases it would be hard to keep track of them all. By nine o’clock this morning I felt that if you weren’t on my to-do list this week, there’s a good chance you’re not going to get on it ‘til next week.

I’m pleased so many people want my help. This may be one of those weeks where I have to keep my door closed, put my cell phone where I can’t see or hear it, and can only schedule phone calls and let all others go to voicemail. It might be the only way I can give each project the attention it needs and to avoid other distractions.

I saw this awesome tweet today, inspired by the legendary Captain Jean-Luc Picard:

That’s going to be my week – working through my to-do list, one thing at a time.

I’ve also borrowed a tip from Jason Zook – I have a digital file of my daily to-dos that extends for weeks, but each day when I get to the office, I start by writing the list of what I want to accomplish before I leave for the day on a sticky note. (If I can’t fit my list on a sticky note, I’m trying to do too much.) There’s something about writing this list by hand that feels more organic and helps me find my focus to start the day.

Just gotta keep putting one foot in front of other.

In case you missed it: Day 49 of the 90 Days of Awesome – Simple Pleasures.

My Favorite Things 2013

Oprah used to do a “My Favorite Things” show every year so I decided to do the same, but without all the freebies. Sorry.

I reviewed my calendar and Yelp reviews from the past year and here’s my list of my favorite things. Everything on this list is something I use or do and enjoy. I’ve not been compensated in any way for including anyone in this post.

Working Out
2013 half marathon pre raceFavorite Phoenix Area Race: P.F. Chang Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon

Favorite Place to get Running Shoes: Runner’s Den

Favorite Place to Work Out: Arizona Canal

Favorite Device for Sore Muscles: The Stick

Favorite Place to get Fixed when I Break Myself: Endurance Rehab

Favorite Doughnut: Buttermilk bar from BoSa Donuts (open ‘til 10pm)

0702131205Favorite Mexican Food: Jordan’s

Favorite Greek Food: Greektown

Favorite Indian Food: The Dhaba

Favorite Dessert for Lunch: Yogurtland

Favorite Food Truck: Jamburritos

Favorite Dessert Food Truck: Mamma Toledo’s

Favorite Ice Krem (Phoenix): Churn

Favorite Ice Krem (Scottsdale): Sugar Bowl

Favorite Place for Late-Night Eats and Work: Gay Denny’s

0511131339Favorite Dog Park: Margaret T. Hance Dog Park

Favorite Place for Shirts with Custom Verbiage: Brand X Custom T-shirts

Favorite Site for Shirts with Original Artwork: Threadless

Favorite Snuggle Wear: REI Yoga Pants

Favorite Person for Fixing my Sore Body: Thomas Porter

Favorite Shop for Music Geeks: Central Music

Favorite Bookstore: Changing Hands

Favorite TV Show: The Big Bang Theory

Favorite Reality Show: Deadliest Catch

Favorite Place to Go When I Really Need to Escape: Firefly Room at the Phoenix Art Museum

No Pants Ride 2013 - Photo by Joseph Abbruscatto from Flickr (used with permission)

No Pants Ride 2013 – Photo by Joseph Abbruscatto from Flickr (used with permission)

Favorite Webhost: Dreamhost

Favorite Social Media Platform: Twitter

Favorite Podcast: Savage Lovecast

Favorite Online Cartoon: Foamy the Squirrel

Favorite Site for Travel Suggestions: Roadside America

Favorite Site for Everything Else: Reddit

Events and Activities
Favorite Flash Mob: Improv AZ’s No Pants Light Rail Ride

Favorite Community Event: Ignite Phoenix

Favorite Place on a Friday Night: ASU Women’s Gymnastics Meets

Favorite Phoenix Geek Event: Phoenix Ultimate Geek Smackdown (PUGS)

Favorite Place to see Who’s Who in the Local Zoo: Local First Arizona Fall Festival

I hope you’ve enjoyed my list and perhaps it’s inspired you to try some of my favorite things. 😉