Category Archives: Girl Meets North

I also like to leave my left blinker on for the duration of my drive.

I guess it’s downhill from here. Since turning 27, I’ve noticed that things have been changing up in here.

Last night I didn’t seem to care if it was rude to be sitting at a coffee shop during open mic night with our backs to the performers. Clayton and I just really needed to communicate to these emo adolescents that we will not be contributing to that highly conspicuous tip jar. Don’t get me wrong, the Noa’s are nothing if not supportive of the struggling artist; in fact, one of us is one. But we’re not supporting a 15-year old singing dangerously off-key to his front row sitting, awkwardly crying girlfriend. Stay in school, buddy.

I think Aroma’s must mass produce these crooners behind the espresso machines. On our way to our car, at least four other acoustic guitar-toting, long bang-flipping, insanely skinny jean-wearing musicians were practicing their depressing wailings along the sidewalk.

nat aromas2

If I had a nickel for every voice that cracked in the middle of an emotional bridge, I could possibly afford that hurricane survival kit the news keeps suggesting. Suckers. We’re from Florida. We ride out Cat 4’s in our sleep, beyotches.

Also troubling to my notions of being in the prime of my youth was this discovery upon my return from Florida:


Um, really? Not only are those three family-sized boxes of raisin bran, those are the only boxes of cereal we own at this time. My husband checked the pantry, saw we had just one measly box of RB left, went to the store and decided what this family really needed was a trio of the same fiber-rich cereal. Apparently, we are 27 going on 89. If you know me at all, you know my diet consists of coffee, trail mix, more coffee and cereal. This is a shopping failure of catastrophic proportions because I refuse to dodge paranoid Virginians in a desperate search for AAA batteries and bottled water just to right this wrong with some Peanut Butter Cap’n Crunch. Just saying the Cap’n’s name makes me weepy. I really, really miss him, guys.

I wanted to feel like my sprightly, chipper self again, so Bryson and I took a trip to the park. And then we caught The Black Lung trying to walk through the smoke blowing through town, compliments of the Dismal Swamp Fire. Basically, it’s a lovely time to be in Virginia.

We stayed long enough to break a few rules.


And to make a few suggestions to the higher-ups.


And to be all manner of adorable.


Call me crotchety, but that’s the only ambitious, hormonal teenager I’m willing to support financially at the moment.

Three’s Company

It was sayonara to the southernmost non-Southern state yesterday, and I returned to Virginia last night.

How else would we commemorate something?

Sunday night, we celebrated/mourned addict-style and introduced my curious mother and father to the world of pay-by-weight frozen yogurt shops. I was slightly disappointed with my $5.89 performance and realized I really thrive on the competition element involved when Clayton accompanies me. If my bucket of yogurt does not cost at least 40% more than his, I’ve utterly failed. Without the comparison, the motivation for topping delirium just wasn’t there.

But I still gave it a pretty good whirl. And, after a little pep talk, the folks got the hang of it. I wondered aloud what the heck my mom was waiting for with the Land O’ Chocolate laid out before her and she looked at me sheepishly and responded, “I’m trying to be healthy.” Ha, I say to that. And then I remember something like physically placing my mom’s hand on the spoon stuck in the Snickers bowl. I genuinely believe opting for fro-yo over ice cream builds up a credit of 1500 healthy points to begin with. Then it’s a virtual free-for-all just to break even. You seem confused. Maybe I’ll explain it all in a pamphlet or something.

The drive. Oh, the drive.

Sucks. That’s what that drive does. Thankfully, when I have clear skies I can stay on the “happy-to-be-scootin’ along” side of the spectrum, which is far, far away from the “OMG-I’m-just-going-to-pull-over-at-this-truck-stop-and-see-if-they’ll-give-me-a-room-for-the-night-and-how-much-they-charge-for-dogs” end of the spectrum. Trust me, those showers are not for the faint of heart.

The only notable incident involved a chicken sandwich and honey mustard situation. Good thing I decided to sit alone in Zaxby’s and eat lunch safely stationary and within arm’s reach of an endless supply of napkins. Or, I was driving with my pinky nail at 70 mph trying to dislodge dripping honey mustard from in between my wedding band and engagement ring. Yeah, it was definitely one of those two scenarios. Still, it didn’t impress the passengers very much.

bryson car sleep

“We’re back. In Newport News. Again.”

“At least we’re out of the car.”

If you can name where I borrowed the major themes of that quote, we should be BFFsies if we’re not already.

You should also know that my husband is more thoughtful than yours and he crafted a welcome home sign for me out of expertly selected printer paper, ink pens and highlighters. There were also flowers, in addition to a feast for dinner and brownies for dessert. So, for serious, your husband probably needs to take a class or something.

P8222135It was extremely helpful in reminding me that we are here. In this moment, we exist in this space, in this city. We can dream and plan and connive and search, but today we live here. I don’t have to call it home, but I must submit to feeling at home with my husband, wherever that might be. The future waits, but I have to see what is in front of me today. And if I’m honest with myself, I’ve got a pretty sweet view.


Save me from myself.

I promise I’ll stop referencing our vacation just as soon as our regular life becomes any form of exciting. Tomboy’s honor.

When Clayton and I ventured out on that mortifying-for-me kayak adventure, it was exactly like everything else we jump into: we were about 30% prepared for it. I’m beginning to think that whole “sun causes skin cancer” storyline could have some merit beyond skyrocketing the Banana Boat stock, so I’ve started using sunscreen for selected activities.

Of course kayaking for four hours in July qualified as a “selected activity.” But, per usual, my well-meaning intentions resulted in horribly unfortunate consequences. No research beforehand and not glancing 13 feet in front of me to see the actual kayaks informed my assumption that my knees would be bent at 90 degrees during the trip. Like in a canoe, a watercraft that makes much more sense to me (hello, space for coolers full of hard pear cider) and with which I have tons more experience.

The pressure of that one guide waiting to drive the jam-packed group of me and my husband to the drop-off point in his personal mini-van really kicked me into high gear. I had to make some tough decisions crouched behind Clayton’s car, including whether or not to change out of my underwear into bathing suit bottoms. One glance and one sniff at the port-a-potty situation made that decision for me. With the kayaks safely secured with a few hundred shoestrings atop the mini-van, it was down to the wire. Rather than slathering on the SPF from head to toe, I opted for a more conservative approach. Conservative for the sunscreen, I mean, not for my chances of catching The Melanoma.

I calculated the angle of the expected knee bend, our anticipated hours in the sun, the placement of the life jacket, the speed of the river during the summer months, rain fall over the past seven days, cloud cover, carry the two, take the square root and easy peasy, I figured out where I needed to apply the sunscreen. Thighs? Check. Ear lobes? Done. Love handles? Double layer. Shins? Eh, pass.

Funnily and painfully obviously enough, YOUR SHINS ARE DIRECTLY IN THE SUN EVERY SECOND YOU SIT IN A KAYAK. I don’t care if it’s midnight, your shins are going to take a UV beating in those too-skinny, ill-fitting boats. Clayton and I had our glistening, pasty white shins propped up without barrier for a good four hours in July during one of the hottest summers in the Northeast.

Those babies were scorched like that one time I tried to make homemade spaghetti sauce and burnt the insanely expensive, wedding-gifted pot beyond repair. Instead of heading to Bed Bath & Beyond the next morning to pick out a new pair of lower legs, we had to walk around with lobster red shins for the next week. Both of us. Super sexy, like always.

To make it even worse, Clayton hadn’t put on any sunscreen . I know, I know. Send me your lectures via email, but I can guarantee you he’s heard those arguments from me already, and I probably used more profanity and a better developed guilt trip. He knows for a fact that our children will look up at me with large, doe eyes and ask, “Mommy, why did Daddy love the sun more than us?” And I will say, “Brysona and Natalie, Jr., I wish I knew. But all he said was that he would rather have his skin sizzle off his body than raise a bunch of girls.”

The immediate impact of this sun-tastrophe was that any irritation on our shins felt like being lit up with a blow torch. Unpleasantness ensued, especially during showers.

Even more mentally and hygienically painful are the unforeseen consequences, which we are currently battling. In a word: skin. Skin, skin everywhere! My shins are peeling like I got a thousand dollar chemical peel to remove all those pesky shin wrinkles, and Clayton is shedding the old winter skin from every surface of his body that was not covered by his shorts or life jacket. He is sporting a fresh, baby pink complexion just in time for summer.

I would show you pictures, but I’m desperately hoping in the back of your mind you believe I’m embellishing.

Theoretically, we could just scoop up those nasty flakes and toss them in the trash. In real life, our burnt skin is flying off our bodies every other second, scraped by furniture, a blast of cold air, a skin flake from the other spouse, Bryson’s obvious scorn—anything and everything causes an exodus of peeling epidermis.

I’m not going to list the places we’ve found these escaping skin flakes. But it would be long. And incompatible with any sort of simultaneous food consumption.

It’s embarrassing to wear shorts, but it’s also dangerous to my well-being to wear pants in a heat wave, so passers-by just have to deal with wondering what communicable disease I’m flitting around one skin flake at a time. It’s been quite the nuisance trying to vacuum up the piles every day. And maybe on some of those days it was more like shoving them in between couch cushions and under rugs. Don’t worry, I’ll get to them. Eventually.

It seems like such a waste to expend all that effort and then wake up to Clayton’s side of the bed and wonder when a King Cobra slipped in to shed its skin.

Through all of the itching and flaking, I can’t help but think of my favorite skin-licking villain. And yes, the big ones go in the skin box. (Source)

"This is a keeper."


The Staunton Series, Part 4

Well. It’s 7:48 on Friday night and my husband has been asleep for an hour and a half. I don’t think he’s prepping for a wild night. I think this is our Friday night.

Being old and married and having a husband with craz-o all night on-call shifts is doing wonders for my blogging.

Let’s talk some more about Staunton, mmkay?

By Saturday, our last full day, we were spent. We didn’t set any alarms Friday night and figured breakfast hours be damned. We just wanted to sleep off the soreness of hiking, kayaking and squinting at fictitious celebrities.

After we stumbled out of bed around 10:30, we decided to check out a restaurant that had been packed the night before. Byers Street Bistro was delish; I had a wacky, non-traditional, kitchen sink kind of lunch and Clayton had a classic cheeseburger, and we both loved our meals. Plus, waffle fries came in to seal the deal.

When we couldn’t really stand up straight from being impregnated by frying oil, we took to the streets. I’d had my eye on this one adorable store from our very first night. Honestly, it’s the only reason I threw on hiking clothes and tore through rapids in a kayak—I knew Clayton would owe me big time. Dude paid up with two hours in a boutique and some yummy nude pumps. My love for them is as explicit as that description. A staple, no? Especially because they’ll complement my pajama pants and oversized t-shirts during my phone meetings.

Afterwards, when I was fat, well soled and perfectly content, I tried and tried to convince Clayton that he could splurge on any mantastic item he wanted. Even with a cigar shop, a theatre showing at least one movie sure to have poor acting and cars exploding, and a reminder of the brewery that was thirty minutes away, he swore he, too, was happy if I was happy. (A couple of weeks ago someone shared with him the saying “a happy wife means a happy life” and he took it as solemn, prophetic life advice. Mainly because he’s spent more than two seconds with me when I was less than happy.)

So we walked around and snapped pictures.

Ten minutes later, we realized Staunton’s not exactly a booming metropolis and were back to square one. Clayton was breathing in way too much of that mountain air, so when we got into the car, he yanked out the GPS and just started driving. I was mildly terrified of the sudden change in personality but also thought we might end up somewhere that served ice cream. I love road trips!

The tractor on the main road slowed us down a little, but we didn’t mind because the drive was absolutely stunning. Grey-blue mountains rising out of the horizon behind acres of rolling green farmland and bright red barns. We were happy, aimless campers.

I was slightly less impressed with Waynesboro, where we ended up. I humored Clayton by actually getting out of the car at a park, but we both knew it was time to get the hell out of that nowheresville when a grown man with his elementary-aged daughter began screaming at a punk teenage kid. I think the kid may have thrown something at the man when he walked by, but I can’t be sure. All I distinctly remember is being on the verge of tears and begging Clayton to drive away as the man got inches from the kid’s nose saying, “Hit me. I want you to do something.”

You know that whole fight or flight thing? My response is on the utmost end of the flight spectrum and typically involves repeated apologies, assuming responsibility for everything negative that’s ever happened in the world, a healthy outpouring of tears and a handful of inappropriate sarcastic comments that make the situation infinitely worse. So yeah, I probably need life coaching.

Clayton’s guilt at the social awkwardness that was Waynesboro manifested itself in the form of an iced caramel macchiato. It was like National Husband Bonus Points Day.

For me, one of the most luxurious feelings in the world is to get ready without a stopwatch. The restaurant we chose for dinner didn’t take reservations, and since my husband had made it clear this was a non-GPS type of day, I had no timer on my get-pretty prep time. Isn’t that fabulous? If you have kids, you’ve probably forgotten that such a thing exists, but I encourage demand you to request this very indulgence for Christmas, your birthday, Mother’s Day, Columbus Day or whatever random holiday is next on the calendar. I hear Sunday is Pioneer Day in Utah, so there you go.

You have the freedom to wait until you look exactly the way you want to look before leaving. Within reason, of course. Ninety minutes of staring into the mirror did not do much for my wackadoo-shaped nose, but you get the idea. Underwear not working with those jeans? Change ‘em! Eye shadow turning goth rather than smoky? Re-do it! All it takes is a free NC-17 television station included in your hotel room to occupy the husband, and you’ve got nothing but time, ladies.

(I’m totally kidding. “Despicable Me” was the distraction of choice. I told you about those bonus points.)

All I need to say about the dinner experience was that when I asked the server (who also happened to be one of the bartenders) if he could make me a mojito, he said, “Sure. I’ve got fresh mint in the back.” Yes, and yes.

After a delicious dinner, Clayton read the chocolate frenzied look in my eyes and took me to get some ice cream/gelato. Staunton has some seriously good eating. We had to burn off all those empty calories, as well as drink some more of them, and we found ourselves sneaking up to a rooftop restaurant that had live music.

The only person on that roof who enjoyed Bryan Elijah Smith and the Wild Hearts more than my husband was the lady sitting directly to our right who’d obviously gotten a 100-yard head start to those liquid calories. She was somewhere in the neighborhood of her early fifties, and she was smashed. All night long she talked way too loud, in the way people do when they think they are making complete sense and hiding their inebriation so well from everyone else. Except everyone knows you’re gone and they’re only talking to you so that you respond in that funny loud voice that you think is totally normal. And then everyone laughs at you.

She yelled. She danced. She screamed at the lead singer to take his shirt off. She repeated to her husband that she had just screamed at the lead singer to take his shirt off. She made her way to the top story of the building and called out the window to her husband. She kept hollering when her husband ignored her. She tried to get strangers to dance with her. She sat on a cowboy’s lap.

I thought of her and her splitting headache often the next morning.

As for me and Clayton, reveling in a few hours that felt deliciously like those dating days was the perfect way to spend our last evening away from things like all night on-call shifts.

The Staunton Series, Part 3

After a busy day of mentally abusing pre-adolescents and scoffing at natural wonders, it was time to get classy. A hidden push for staying in Staunton on this mini-vacay was the American Shakespeare Center in the middle of downtown. They’ve recreated an indoor Elizabethan theatre called the Blackfriars Playhouse and put on plays throughout the year. We were hot-diggity-dog lucky that they were performing “Hamlet” Friday night.

The Painstaking Preparation

I’m not sure why I hadn’t thought this all the way through, but I over-packed for almost every possible occasion that could have arisen on this trip. Three bathing suits (didn’t swim once), nine running outfits (didn’t run once) and twenty-eight pairs of underwear. But in the way of potential Shakespeare-worthy ensembles, it was a complete disaster. The only two options I had that covered more than my upper thigh were skinny jeans and a cotton maxi dress.

I dismissed the jeans, assuming The Bard would roll over in his grave if I wore denim to his psychological masterpiece, and had no choice but the summer dress. It was all kinds of wrong, and none of my bras worked with the dress. Clayton was two thumbs up for the torso commando idea, but I was not about to accidentally show boobage to Hamlet, Polonius or any of their counterparts and contaminate the whole production. So I went with the least of all the evils and walked around the entire night terrified my plunging neckline, zero cleavage and ill-fitting strapless bra were creating a PG-13 encore of their own.

Are you still with me? I know for a fact my brother dipped out as soon as he saw the word boobage. I swear this seemed really serious at the time.

Because we refused to pack all that Noa bad luck in our luggage, we were actually attending opening night. On top of that, it was a “Pay What You Will” performance, which meant admission was FREE (do you know the indestructible good mood those four letters provide for my husband?) and you could make donations to the Center on your way out. If you felt so inclined. I had a hunch about 36 hours before that Clayton was not feeling so inclined, so we had the “We WILL be paying those starving actors who have reached the pinnacle of their career in Staunton, Virginia on our way out of the theatre” conversation way ahead of time. I didn’t want it getting all oh no you didn’t just walk out without paying in the vestibule (+1500 points for Southern Baptist word usage).

A Night at the Theatre (which you should always say a little louder than normal with a high-pitched British accent in hopes of being recruited for next season’s productions)

We were advised to get to the theatre a good 45 minutes before the show time to get a seat. “Pay What You Will’s” are pretty popular in artsy fartsy Staunton, especially among the frugal twenty-something tourist set. We pulled up right at 6:45 (don’t get mad family and friends, we’re only on time for dead sonneteers, promise!). I hopped out to scout a fab seat while Clayton found a primo parking spot, only to discover the doors to the theatre didn’t open until 7. Meanwhile, the fine folks of Staunton and beyond were forced to fake casual pleasantries while inconspicuously inching in front of anyone not paying close enough attention to the informal line.

“Hi, are you here for our meet-up group?” a stranger asked my exposed bra while I was standing alone.

Darting, confused eyes and an insincere apology followed. “No, I’m sorry, I have a husband and a real world life. I don’t ‘meet up’ with internet strangers wearing a mostly topless dress.”

Or something to that effect. Clayton should have known better than to leave me alone to fend off these poetry-hungry wolves.

Even though Grandma Sneak Attack tried a last minute ditch and dive as I was being handed a program, she got hers with my long, flexing stride across the doorway. My maxi dress created an impenetrable barrier of fabric that she would have had to lift and crawl under to get ahead of me. I won, and my prizes were two center seats in row J.

I was pretty stressed out from all that perceived confrontation, so my dear husband fetched me some red wine from the traditional Shakespearean drink cart on stage. Meanwhile, the actors serenaded us with traditional Shakespearean Goo Goo Dolls cover songs from the on-set balcony. It was all a bit surreal.

After some other top twenty hits performed on acoustic guitars and flute-ish type thingies, we got to the main event. Clayton and I both loved it. The theatre only holds 300 people, so everyone is right in the action. No set lighting, no elaborate props, no sound amplification. Simple, bare bones Shakespeare.

I was enjoying it so much, I decided to celebrate with more wine at the intermission. That was a bad idea. After drinking through the majority of the play, I almost ate it after hopping to my feet for the standing ovation. I had to quickly re-focus my attention on not ovating and just standing.

Live from Blackfriars Playhouse

I don’t know if it was the red wine or my obsession with pop culture, but OMG Seth Myers was playing Horatio. Dead serious. I couldn’t stop staring at him after the show (he was one of the kind gentlemen holding a bucket so that we could “Pay What We Would” on the way out). Those dimples. Those tights. My bare clavicle. I mean, it was like a fairytale. In real life, it was more like I was seeing three Seth Meyers’, probably drooling down my naked neck and Clayton couldn’t let go of my arm the rest of the night because I was wearing three inch wedges through Staunton’s hilly terrain.

On a side note, we were the most formally dressed patrons at the show. Staunton keeps those American Apparel and TOMS people in business, let me tell you. Really should have gone with the skinny jeans. Or a bathing suit.  That would really have gotten Seth’s attention.

We ended the evening at a pub scarfing down the unhealthiest items on the menu while one of us took down glass after glass of water because her husband was tired of babysitting.

I bet Seth would have found my rambling, slurred critique of the performance perfectly charming, thank you very much.

The Staunton Series, Part 2

Believe it or not, drenching all our electronics, extra clothes and snacks on the FIRST rapid we encountered, (which was less than 30 seconds into the trip and a solid Class 0.25) was not the most embarrassing thing that happened to me while kayaking.

After we realized this part of the James River was really slow-moving and not-at-all treacherous, Clayton and I both got a little cocky. Even though the kayak/canoe rental dudetold us to “stay to the left” during most of the harder rapids, we started seeking out the areas that looked the fastest. I mean, hello, by this time we had a good half hour of kayaking experience under our belt. I’m surprised sponsors haven’t contacted us yet. Well, I guess they might have tried, but we’d never know because of our phones’ aforementioned early morning swim in the back of Clayton’s kayak. Oopsies.

Much to my surprise (and probably no one else’s that has actually kayaked for more than 1800 seconds prior), the water moves fastest in the areas where the big, scary rocks sit. See, the water is redirected by all the sharp, pointy edges of the boulders. Would’ve been good to google “beginning kayaking for athletic snobs” before hopping in the water in my Rainbows.

When we got closer to our end point, I felt like I’d really gotten the hang of this sport. What more would I need than 3 hours of practice to call myself a professional? NOTHING, that’s what. So I’m scootin’ along, checking out how the sun hits my triceps in a really flattering way and being almost overwhelmed with my rowing capabilities, and we come across a family on the bank. The adults are sitting in camping chairs and the four kids are swimming and playing on the rocks. “Cute,” I thought, as the little rugrats splashed about. “I bet I look so cool to them, slicing through the water in my awesome rented kayak.”

When I was perfectly parallel to them, one of the women in the chairs waved. They’re so friendly in these parts, and I love a stranger2stranger wave. I get so excited every time I’m on the receiving end. So, in all my goofy appreciation, I flail my arm in the air, with outrageous exaggeration, to wave back. In mid-motion, arm fully extended over my head, there’s a long scraaaaaaaping under my kayak. In a second, my kayak is almost completely up out of the water, sitting motionless on top of a huge rock. Stranded. It was like that epic scene in “The Little Mermaid” when she flings herself up out of the water on that rock, except void of all sex appeal and with me wanting nothing more in this whole lifetime than to be burrowing under da sea as deep as I can.

The dastardly woman on whom I blame this entire scene yells back whatever part of the word “sorry!” she can spit out between bellowing laughter. The children’s mocking laughter still haunts my dreams. One of the little curly-haired monstrosities was obviously impressed with my nautical prowess because he shouted, “way to stop!”

Hey, kid, way to help this situation with your idiotic condescension. How about I stop this paddle dead center in the midldle of your smart-ass mouth!

I didn’t say that to him. But I thought it with a deep fervor. I didn’t have time to talk because the science class drop-outs who created The Kayak made it impossible to move those silly half-boats without looking like you have a severe psychological disturbance. It takes the perfect combination of aggressively wiggling your butt towards the direction you need to go while finagling the too-heavy paddle in between rocks to create some kind of steadying effect for the butt thrusting. It’s very complicated business, and nothing you want to be doing with an audience of seven inbreeds staring directly at you.

I finally freed myself from the shame of my waterlogged failure. And escaped into the comforting embrace of my husband’s unending laughter.

After the kayaking knocked my self esteem down a few pegs, I figured bathing, washing my hair and putting on makeup was not going to be enough to redeem the day. So we changed in a gas station.

Next up, we took to the Natural Bridge, which they claim is one of the seven natural wonders of the world. I couldn’t care less about confirming this fact, so take it or leave it. It was somewhat overpriced considering they just put up a fence around something they had no part in creating and charge you almost $20 to walk through the gate and tilt your head. But whatevs. I may have been in a sour mood from the earlier embarrassment and the severe burning soreness in my legs after our hike the day before.  

We are all about a discount, so we did the package deal and saw the caverns, too. “The deepest caverns on the East Coast,” they will tell you. Again, research ain’t my thing. All I know is that it was a 54-degree escape in the middle of the summer and there were handrails to disguise my geriatric gait. Verdict? Superb.

Then we had to hurry back to Staunton and get ready to get sloshed to some Shakespeare.

The Staunton Series, Supplement to Part 1

I wasn’t honest with you. And for that, I am sorry. When I mentioned that Clayton and I helped ourselves to copious amounts of our hotel’s complementary coffee, I didn’t say why. But after what happened on our first morning in Staunton, five cups became the Just in Case Standard.

This is what I had already journaled before 11 a.m. on the first morning of our vacay.

I woke up at 3:45 a.m. and couldn’t sleep. I worked from 4:45 until finally dozing off to drool on my laptop around 7:30. Clayton finally forced me up (with an atomic piledriver) at 10:10 to search for the mysterious continental breakfast. (If you read Part 1, you know how that turned out.)

We grabbed free coffee and headed back to the room to change into not-our-sleep-t-shirts since breakfast now required interacting with the general public. Not amused, party of two.

Quick change and we’re back on the elevator. Clayton gets a stern warning eyebrow when he almost spilled my coffee on me. This is foreshadowing.

Before we get to the lobby, Clayton performs one of the awkward, unthinking, quick-jerk dance moves for which he is infamously known, and splishsploosh. The husband’s b’fast outfit #1 is drenched in coffee.

Back up to room.

Lightning fast soak of t-shirt and another (his third) quick change and we’re back on the El-train again.

As we near the lobby, the rickety elevator jerks with one of the scary, ear-popping, law suit inspiring movements it’s infamously known for, and guess where Clayton’s remaining coffee ended up? His crotch, which, until this moment, has been untainted with filth (of the caffeinated kind).

He stares at me in disbelief, legs spread out uncomfortably wide, hips thrust forward to give me a full frontal snapshot of the situation.

I laugh and decide to skip the FOURTH trip to the room, hopefully removing some of the variables from this ridiculous equation.

I have no idea what this says about the rest of our trip, but I do know we need to stock up on gray casual tees stat.

Besides the front desk gal needing Dramamine from our back and forth, thankfully this little incident was not indicative of the rest of our trip. And I made a MUCH bigger fool of myself the next day.

P.S. Re: that hike

It wasn’t Niagara or anything, but we were pretty stoked.  And also, we scared a beaver with our giggly girlish squeals.

The Staunton Series, Part 1

On Monday of last week, while we were still recovering from an unexpected visit from my father-in-law and a subsequent stunted weekend of catching up, I had a conversation with Clayton that began with, “So, what bathroom do you want to clean this weekend?”

Coincidentally, Clayton began a conversation Tuesday night with, “So, you want to go somewhere this weekend?” It was an obvious but foolproof play on my ever-present desire to get my sweet tokus out of Newport News.

When Wednesday rolled around, we were ready to hit the road. With our traditional 15 minutes of prep time, I’d packed 80% of my wardrobe and Clayton had put three t-shirts into our ginormous suitcase. We weren’t sure where to go, but I remembered reading about a tiny town in a Virginia travel book I was given when we moved. Staunton. Done and done. The only definite part of the trip was our hotel. Beyond that, we’d looked up a few nuggets about the area around Staunton, but hadn’t decided on a single thing to do.

After a scenic three-ish hours of driving, we arrived at our hotel. By far, this was the most regrettable decision we made. Staunton is officially lacking in reasonably-priced, friendly-staffed, stain-free carpeted accommodations. But Clayton did mention the “fitness center” had a treadmill from the turn of the century AND a water jug. So, maybe I’m mistaken.

We used Priceline (again), and the Name Your Own Price option does not allow you to select which features you want, like front desk attendants who have graduated high school, elevators that don’t induce sea sickness and, above all else, continental breakfast. Clayton and I basically plan our entire yearly vacation schedule around the promise of continental breakfasts. Love those single-serving cereals and pre-packaged blueberry muffins, for serious. Huge disappointment when we found out on our first morning that the “breakfast served from 6:00-10:30” was not of the continental/free variety. They only offered it at the hotel restaurant. We passed on the eggs benedict, but we helped ourselves to 5 cups each of the complimentary coffee in the lobby every morning.

It did motivate us to roll out of bed before 10 to get out and play, so that was helpful. And play we did. I had envisioned a quiet few days of sun dresses, tropical-sounding drinks and a daily ice cream happy hour. After the first two days, every major muscle group in my body ached from our impromptu adventures.

Post check-in Wednesday night, we ate dinner in downtown Staunton.

We spread out every brochure I’d grabbed at the hotel and basically couldn’t have looked more like tourists if we were wearing fanny packs and Hawaiian shirts. Super cool, I know. But plans needed to be made, people.

Thursday morning we headed to the Skyline Drive (after taking a wrong turn and nearly running out of gas on the Blue Ridge Parkway). We were excited about the BRP prior to discovering we almost drove 40 miles in the wrong direction.

After talking to non-helpful park rangers about a good day hike, we trusted the infallibility of the iphone and drove to the Jones Run Trail starting point. It was a shady, breezy, downhill hike to a hidden 40-foot waterfall, which became a deathly, wheezing, uphill hike back to the car. Our booties hurt real bad.

To make them feel better, we drank beer.

Sidenote because it became somewhat of a theme on our half-planned outings: if you ever need to find an inconspicuous, out-of-the-way place to strip naked in a car, DO NOT ALLOW MY HUSBAND TO CHOOSE THE PARKING SPOT. In the parking lot of the restaurant where we’d like people to believe we are mostly normal? Sure! Facing oncoming traffic? Why not! In a full parking lot between two cars whose drivers will most likely be returning? Even better! After much coaching on the art of vehicular wardrobe management, we ended up behind a closed bank facing a pasture full of cows. Those adorable spotted morons will neither applaud you nor film a cell phone video of you changing to post on YouTube.

Blue Mountain Brewery is set smack dab in the middle of the Shenandoah valley, with a large outdoor deck where we watched the sun settle down behind the mountains. It was the perfect place to relax our tired muscles over samplings from their onsite brewery (we missed the guided tours so we had to settle strictly for generous taste-testing).

I ordered the largest pizza I’ve ever seen in captivity, and we stuck around for about three hours trying to finish it. Though we’d taken down about 9 slices apiece, Clayton still asked for a box for the remaining two slices. My husband will never change, and I’m learning to view it as endearing. After a beer sampler and traditional ale, it’s downright hilarious.


Clayton and I are on the tail end of a spur-of-the-moment getaway to the Shenandoah region. Until we get back, this is all you’re gettin’. But I’ve already got some fun stories about the trip in the works, possibly involving a bear, most likely involving getting drunk at “Hamlet,” and most definitely wanting to beat the crap out of a loud mouthed 11-year old.

In the meantime, you can check out what happened the last time we made a trip to Shenandoah.

Happy weekending!

The Indigestion and Nightmares are Totally Worth It

Sorry for disappearing. There are some changes a-brewin’ in my little corner of the blogosphere, so stay tuned for that.

Plus, Camp Noa was a little busy hosting my brother and his adorable girlfriend for a few days. Some of the best days since we’ve been in Virginia, actually. We made quite a fabulous foursome.

We figured the best way to celebrate the freedoms and independence of these United States of America was to gorge ourselves on frozen yogurt, pear cider (ahem, me), eating out, sightseeing and the Investigation Discovery channel. There wasn’t an unfun moment in the entire four days they stayed with us, with the exception of that thunderstorm following us all the way home from D.C. When the rain and lightning grew to terrifying intensity, my first reaction was the curl up in the fetal position on the floorboard and sing the first hymn I could remember. But then I realized I was driving and should perhaps focus more on the zero visibility in front of my headlights rather than the words to “Holy, Holy, Holy.” I was shaking for about four hours after we got home.

The whole Noa clan is missing having a full house. Bryson spent the better part of Wednesday morning whining and whimpering and pacing at the front door after his short-term roommates left. And pulling myself out of bed to make the long trek to the couch to work has been toooough. (Insert your resentment here.) To commemorate our super fun visit, I have kept with the traditions of overflowing bowls of frozen yogurt and disturbing murder mysteries. But, sadly, it just ain’t the same around here.