My Best Friend, Mr. Knightley

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Sunday morning, I was feeling kind of crummy, and I didn’t have the energy to do much else besides lie on the couch and watch the Premier League.  My sweet little Knightley jumped up right next to me, settled his head on the pillow I was using and his body on top of my right arm, and we took a nap together.  It was twenty minutes of peace and bliss, because I love how that dog is even more cuddly lately.  I have needed it.

I keep thinking, how did I get so lucky to have this dog in my life?  Earlier this month, we celebrated Knightley’s sixth birthday, and I thought how those six years would have been different, and less manageable without him. Some people need people to make it through things; I needed a loyal dog. That is the introvert in me that fails to be able to articulate my feelings in a way that is understandable to other people, but somehow my dog just instinctively knows. Seriously, I don’t know that I would have made it through these past three years in particular without him.  He has been loyal and sympathetic, and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think, what can I do today to give Knightley some of the happiness that he has given me? Sadly, dogs lives are too short and I want every day that we have together to be a good one.

I know that things change when babies come, but I promised Knightley that my heart just has to get bigger, because I cannot imagine giving up any of the space that he occupies and passing it to someone else.  I owe him every bit the loyalty that he has shown me.  I owe him the same belly rubs, the same treats, the same cuddles, because after all, our choice to have kids isn’t anything Knightley had any control over.  It shouldn’t affect him negatively in any way.  In fact, I really hope that it affects him in the same way that it hopefully will affect me, it will just make his life more full and happy with a bigger pack of humans who love him.

We took this class in the hospital about how to manage pets with kids, and the whole time I was just thinking, I know Knightley gets it. I know he does.  I go on instinct with that, the same way he instinctively understands me too.

And yes, this is probably one of the cheesiest posts that I have ever written.

A Final Child-Free Weekend in the Pines

This is it. No more trips until after the babies are here.  I was glad to get one more short trip in before our lives change, though. Last weekend, we drove an hour and a half down to Pinehurst for one last relaxation weekend.  What it meant for me was time at the spa, which has a fabulous indoor lap pool.  Basically, if I could go swimming every single day I would. I love swimming laps while pregnant. It is about the only physical exercise that doesn’t make me wince with discomfort.  Also, that massage helped too.  The spa in Phoenix was fine, but Pinehurst’s is really fantastic.  Also, they gave my babies gifts.  Even though I got this huge maternity package in Phoenix, they didn’t give the babies a gift.  That is the difference between the South and everywhere else.

The weather was perfect and unbeknownst to us, we were in town on the weekend of their arts festival.  That meant lots of retired white people walking around the village of Pinehurst purchasing baskets made from pine needles and visiting the local Tea Party tent.  (I had to work had to suppress my rage at the Thom Tillis signs, but I did. The weather was too nice to be filled with rage; only mild annoyance and sarcasm).

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We ate lunch on Saturday at a new pub that had opened up in the village. Mostly I was thinking, “OOO! A Pub! I bet they will be showing the Chelsea game!” I was wrong. Pubs in Pinehurst show golf and college football only. At least I had remembered to DVR the game back at home.

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Because it is Pinehurst, of course some golf tournament was also taking place that weekend. Since we made our plans last minute, all of the rooms at the Carolina were sold out, so we stayed at the Holly Inn instead. I liked it a lot. It is actually older than the Carolina, smaller, and they gave us an adorable little suite.

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So we enjoyed nice walks, lots of relaxation time at the pool, some good meals, and just time reading and watching college football. I wanted to play some tennis since the weather was so perfect, but David rightfully assumed that my balance is pretty poor these days and that probably wouldn’t be the best idea.

Anyway, here I am before dinner on Saturday night, at exactly 29 weeks pregnant. I am pretty big. So big, in fact, that my uterus was measuring 41 weeks as of my Tuesday doctor’s appointment. I have no idea how much larger I am going to get, but considering the babies are already measuring the equivalent of one full-term seven pound infant and they have some time to grow, I think I am going to be huge. Seriously, I won’t complain, so long as these babies stay inside until we are ready to come and get them.

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My Mississippi

I think it was in my freshman year at BYU that I fully learned to embrace my Mississippi. It is the state where I was born, and from where half of my DNA existed for generations, and I learned to love it for all of its complexity and contradictions, mostly because I attended a school with students so largely uninformed about the South, and the pinnacle of the South which is Mississippi. I was hyper-defensive and protective of it, and I relished my childhood exploits with family in Mississippi as something that made me different and unique in a sea of BYU freshmen conformity.

When I was choosing law schools, I more than briefly considered returning back to attend Ole Miss on a full-ride scholarship that would have also paid my living expenses, but I didn’t because I wasn’t sure that I wanted to make Mississippi the rest of my life. Sure, I appreciated it, but I wanted big adventures in big cities and to travel the world, and I wasn’t sure Mississippi could offer me that.

In law school, after spending a summer working at Southeast Mississippi Legal Services, I started to wonder if my notions of life had been a mistake and maybe all I really needed was a rolling pasture with a good sunset view, a pack of dogs, and a job that left me feeling like I was actually doing something to help others.  Still, I wasn’t ready, and so I looked back to the North for a place to make my post law school career.

Now, unless I can live in London or Cape Town, I truthfully cannot fathom wanting to live in a city again. Every time I go to my parents house in Mississippi, I love the familiar feeling of home, even if it isn’t where I actually grew up. I was born in Mississippi when my dad was attending Mississippi State, and I can’t help but to be swept up in this feeling of Mississippi pride that has come as a result of how well State and Ole Miss are doing in football this year. That’s silly, I know, but it means a lot to see my Dad so happy in following his alma mater.

The first big sporting event I ever went to as a kid was a Mississippi State football game. I was too young to ring any cowbells, but I distinctly remember the field and the way it looked. When I was at BYU, the football team played State. I didn’t watch the game, as I had Utah Symphony tickets instead that evening, but I remember emerging from the symphony, turning the radio to the game coverage and pounding the dashboard very hard when I heard that State was losing. I also remember feeling slightly consoled when Luke Staley broke his leg late in the game. I know that makes me a terrible person, to admit that I achieved some degree of satisfaction seeing a student athlete injured, but Luke Staley represented to me everything wrong with BYU and its football culture at the time, and as I said in an earlier entry, I had a cruel streak at BYU that I adapted based on principles of self-preservation in the face of rejection, and so there it is, I admit it. I was terrible.

Anyway, going back to Mississippi, this essay and accompanying video posted on ESPN today by Wright Thompson completely made me cry today. It just explains so well how it all feels in a way that is more than just about football. It gets at what makes Mississippi its unique and contradictory place – a place I love and sometimes hate all at the same moment. Mississippi would be nothing without its great legacy of writing, a legacy a chump like myself could never live up to, but then again you couldn’t expect to have such great writers from a place less complicated and guilt-ridden than Mississippi.

“There is no happiness without something to forget.”

And Finally Some Progress

A few weeks ago, everything seemed chaotic and a mess. We didn’t have a functioning kitchen or downstairs, and the installation of the hardwood floors took twice as long as we had planned, meaning we were crashing at my sister’s house and living out of suitcases for two weeks (with a trip to Arizona in the middle of that time).  Thankfully, the floors are now done, the movers have moved the furniture back in (although we still have stacks of books that have to be moved downstairs), and we have a functioning kitchen again with the delivery of the new dishwasher and refrigerator.  It feels good. Aside from one easy cosmetic update still to perform on the kitchen (we are getting new hardware pulls for the kitchen cabinets), I think everything is coming together quite nicely. It makes me actually care about keeping the kitchen clean, which I had little interest in before.WP_000482

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Our floors are a few shades darker now and I think they look so much better. I also now feel a desire to keep them clean, knowing that I can actually treat them as properly finished floors now.

Today, the installation of the new HVACs for both upstairs and downstairs start, and finally, I got the call that the nursery furniture that we have ordered has come in and we can set up delivery for that.

I don’t know if I will ever get the hang of this pregnancy business while I am actually present. I am a nervous wreck most hours of the day, so any sense of order returning to my life is very helpful.

The only part of pregnancy that I feel like I have a decent handle on is the pregnancy dressing part. I don’t think that I am at all a cute little pregnant lady (hence, that is why the pictures of myself are few and far between), but I do feel lucky that I figured out early on what to wear for work and what to wear for my off-duty hours. My sister got me started with a few of her pregnancy wares, but I had no idea where to go after that. Thankfully, as with my non-pregnancy dressing, I once again was saved by the Brits. Seriously, I don’t know what I would wear without them, because American pregnancy clothes have been a total strike-out for me. So basically, everything that I have purchased since then has been from three companies – Seraphine (the most comfortable maternity jeans, great shirts that can double as nursing shirts as well, and a great variety of dresses, although some tend to run a little short), Isabella Oliver (the best maternity dresses, but pricey, so I watch like a hawk for any sales), and the ubiquitous ASOS that has a huge maternity department, lots of great dresses, and frequent sales. Seriously, I don’t mind at all getting dressed for work in the morning, and some days, I feel even better about the way I look than I did when I wasn’t pregnant.

The clothes provide some small consolation when I know that I am going to spend the rest of my day obsessing about whether or not I am going into preterm labor and whether or not what I am eating is going to be enough for my growing babies and also keep my blood sugar under control.

BYU FOREVER

When people ask me about my time at the Brigham Young University, my first inclination is to quote Charles Dickens in the tritest of ways, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” It was the place where, in seven years, I learned to be comfortable being myself by being alone quite a lot because I was okay not fitting in with the vast majority of students. It was also the place where I met people who changed my life in profound ways and who made me want to be the best version of myself.  These are people that I still call my friends and I am grateful every day that I met them and that they were part of my BYU experience.

When we flew to Arizona, we had a layover in Salt Lake City.  Even though it has been over ten years since my last flight to Utah as a BYU student, every time I get on a plane destined for Salt Lake City, I can’t help but feel like I am just flying back to school again.  Since David’s family lives in Utah, it still is a bizarre experience for me to fly to Utah and when leaving the airport, not head south on I-215, but rather head north.  I haven’t been to Utah for quite some time, over two years, in fact.  I had almost forgotten what it feels like.  This trip, it was just an hour layover spent consuming Café Rio in the airport, so it wasn’t particularly deep or meaningful, but it did bring back some things that I thought I had long since gotten over.

On the four hour plane ride from RDU to SLC, I listened to my “BYU Forever” mix.  In the two weeks since that time, I have been having a few thoughts, though, that lingering from my time at BYU, I still have some unresolved issues that pop up every now and then. Based on a specific recent experience that I won’t go into details about, I thought back to the times at BYU when I felt incredibly marginalized or like I was treated poorly on account of my sex. It is true that I did not really fit BYU Mormon norms of womanhood.  I was incredibly opinionated, outspoken, singularly obsessed with justice and fairness, while at times could overstep into being incredibly judgmental, manipulative, and shamefully cruel.  When I saw wrongs perpetuated, particularly against those I cared about, I didn’t have much self-control in speaking out and not caring about other people’s feelings in the process.  I think because I didn’t have a “gentle” “soft” way of doing things (which absolutely was expected of even the smart girls at BYU), I probably faced more backlash than others when it came to my own brand of activism.  I just didn’t know how to be something else, though. I didn’t know how to tone it down when so many things made me so angry.

BYU was also the place that I came to terms with feeling like that it was okay that I was never going to live up to the ideal Mormon woman that I heard lauded from the pulpit. I was very dogmatic in my views about pretty much everything. I cannot think of a single thing that I didn’t have a strong opinion about, and probably in retrospect, a lot of that was self-preservational on my part.  I felt like I had to have incredibly well-thought out and thorough justifications for who I was, because I did feel a sense of rejection from most others.

In the time since I left BYU, I have mellowed tremendously. I like to think that I completely have shaken off the vestiges of caring about what other people would think about me. I think that even the BYU version of myself might have some judgmental comments to say about me in that regard. I am far more pragmatic, and somewhat less concerned about principle.  Part of that is just growing up and realizing that  the world is never going to present itself as the optimal set of circumstances that I would hope for. For example, ask me how I would have felt about breastfeeding after my International Political Economy of Women class versus ask me about how I feel about breastfeeding today. Gone are the principles, instead you would find pragmatism, because my attitude basically is like, if it works great, but I am not going to beat myself up over it if I have to give my kids some formula instead. My feeling about having a C-section are pretty much the same in being governed by what works the easiest and is the best (I would have been one of those crazy, intense natural birthers in my younger days).

It is unsettling though, how I start to let the opinions of others creep back in and somewhat affect me when it comes to my impending motherhood. For someone who doesn’t really care about what others who think of me in terms of my own life, I don’t know why I suddenly become more affected than I otherwise should be by the opinions of others when it comes to my babies. I realize, I am always going to be doing the wrong thing to some of the conservative types in the LDS church because I plan to keep working full time and cannot conceive of my life without having a career, even if technically David and I could get by on just his income. I also realize to others in the working world, I may seem not as committed to my job now that I am choosing to have kids at the age of 36. I have to just get over this and not worry about it, the same way I have to just let the uninvited opinions and advice of others just roll off my back without getting riled up about things. There are people whose advice and opinions matter to me, but for the mass of humanity, I have to come to the same conclusions that I did with the masses of BYU students who disagreed with me in regard to pretty much everything – that it really doesn’t have anything to do with me.

I leave you with a few selections from my BYU Forever Mix:

Forever Young – Alphaville (If you ever stumbled into a dance/party in the late 1990s at BYU, you better believe you would have heard this song; I have a feeling in the Post-Napoleon Dynamite era, you probably still would hear this song)

In Your Room – Depeche Mode (My senior year, I spent a lot of time between the hours of 1am-3am hanging out with a group of guys that inevitably would pop in their Depeche Mode videos DVD sometime in those early morning hours so they could complain about all the ways that girls were screwing them over.)

Jackass – Beck

Sure Shot – Beastie Boys

Sour Times – Portishead (Sunday afternoon drives in canyons with my most morose of friends)

Summertime – The Sundays (a rare, happy song that still made its’ way into my regular rotation)

In Between Days – The Cure (how many concerts of The Cure did you attend during your university years? I actually don’t think I can count them up).

They Can’t Take that Away from Me – The Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong version specifically.

Seeing other People – Belle and Sebastian

Tommy the Cat – Primus (One of my close friends was a bass player, and I would get so excited whenever his band would cover this song. We once traveled to Denver so we could stand in the front row to watch Les Claypool play his bass up close).

Bolero – Ravel (I know, its Bolero, but I had a moment of self-actualization hearing the Utah Symphony play this one night at Abravanel Hall).

With or Without You – U2 (One common feature of BYU students who attended BYU at some point in the 90s is that nearly everyone had a significant relationship story that involved this song in some way. It defined a generation of BYU students, most of whom only had CDs in their collection that included U2 or Sting).

No Surprises – Radiohead (Easily the band I listened to the most at college and in law school; There wasn’t an occasion where Radiohead was not an appropriate soundtrack.)

Pardons – Jacques Brel

Animations – Le General Defao et Les Big Stars (If only every 15 hour bus ride in East Africa is as happy and upbeat as this song would have you believe, as it is played on repeat over and over again).

Have You Ever Seen the Rain? – CCR

If you hate public health and the environment, have I got a place for you…

It is called The Phoenician.

Look, I have to admit, I had a bias against Phoenix before I ever landed and stepped foot onto its dirt. On the approach into Phoenix’s airport, the flight attendant came up and asked me if I was feeling okay, because I was a large pregnant lady with a pained look on my face. “Oh no, I am not in physical pain”, I said, “It is just my suppressed raged looking at the window and seeing all of those green farms in the middle of a desert.” You see, ever since I learned about the poor, sad fate of the Colorado River in high school, I have had a hatred for farming in the desert Southwest and the cities of the Southwest.  Also, my great grandparents were poor cotton farmers in depression era Mississippi. Ask me how I feel about those large public works dams that subsidized cotton farming in ridiculous places like Arizona while my forebears struggled to make enough selling their unsubsidized cotton to feed their children. Nope. The bitterness runs deep with this one.

So if those are my feelings about Arizona, one might ask, well, why did you choose to go there?  That is an entirely fair question. Look, I will point out that I am a little bit of a hypocrite. I wanted to go somewhere it was hot and sunny, and I could go swimming every day.  As I mentioned before, the doctor said no to our Dominican Republic trip. I wanted to go somewhere I hadn’t been before, and in the U.S., that is fairly limited. Phoenix is probably the only major metropolitan area that I have never visited, considering my inherent bias has kept me away this long. Also, David’s brother and his family lives in downtown Phoenix, so we also were able to see them.

So there is the background, now let’s talk about the Phoenician, where we stayed.  First off, like I said, I wanted to swim, which makes me feel like a terrible person in the desert; a truly awful, wasteful human being. But the pools themselves were generally nice.

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Fortunately, being on East Coast time, we woke up early every day and made it to the pools before they turned into “bro-town” and examples of what I term “Las Vegas Pool Loitering Culture” which is a phenomenon when a bunch of millennial kids stand around in pools (sometimes floating with the aid of “pool noodles”) holding fruity alcoholic beverages and exchange approximately 20 different vocabulary words (most derivations of common swear words) in different sentences intermixed with heavy usage of the word “like.” I am a type-A old person who wanted to swim laps (which is the most comfortable type of exercise for me right now), and then have a nice quiet atmosphere to read poolside. Yes, “bro-town, Arizona” did not fit with those wishes. So by midday, we had to abandon the pool for other options.

But what other options are there in Phoenix? Well, we walked a lot in the resort’s cactus garden. I can get behind a cactus garden in Arizona, because at least it doesn’t require the irrigation that all of the other landscaping around the property did.

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There was this bird (maybe some kind of wren?) on one of the cactuses which made it all feel even more natural, so it helped me relax a little bit more.

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So for a moment I relaxed and allowed David to take a picture of me looking like a lady far more than 26 weeks pregnant…

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And we decided to take some pictures of us together.

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I will have to say, from a health standpoint, the swimming and walking were great for me. Since I have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, all of the exercise really helped keep my blood sugar numbers in check throughout the trip, even though I was eating out all of the time.

The rest of the grounds of the Phoenician really annoyed me. First off, the excessive water sprinkling: they were watering the lawns during the HEAT OF THE AFTERNOON. They were watering the golf courses at the same terrible times. I couldn’t see it without feeling the rage rising to the surface again.

We were there on Saturday when they had thunderstorms. Now in North Carolina, we have thunderstorms like this weekly, sometimes daily during the summer months. In Phoenix, these were a huge deal. The drivers went into a panic. Traffic lights were out all over the city and people didn’t realize that you treat traffic lights without power as four-way stops. The roads flood, because there is terrible drainage, which also enraged me, because I would think, if water was a precious commodity (as it should be in the desert), you would invest in some pretty good drainage systems that could store the water instead of letting it sit in giant pools on roadways to evaporate.

On the afternoon it rained, we had no choice but to head to the big mall in Phoenix where we were “forced” to spend money on more baby clothes from Janie and Jack and Neiman Marcus, because #consumerism is what Phoenix does best.

Our room at the Phoenician was generally fine, although probably in need of some refurbishment, but that isn’t anything I really make too big of a deal about, particularly since we used Starwood points to stay there. My rage however was once again brought out when it came to the shower (WAY TOO MUCH WATER PRESSURE FOR THE DESERT), the lack of recycling options (at least make a show of caring about the environment), and the fact that the light systems in the bathroom were entirely inefficient. You should have a separate light switch for the water closet, and shower; all the lights do not need to come on with one switch. I guess that hydroelectric power from those dams I hate is just too easy.

My worst rage moment came when I realized that the room’s ventilation system was clearly archaic. We awoke at 2 am one morning with a slight hint of cigarette smoke in our room that originated in the bathroom, coming from the vent over the water closet. Shortly, our room was filled with cigarette smoke. It was disgusting. We called the front desk who transferred us to the night manager. I explained that I was pregnant and I couldn’t be in a room filled with cigarette smoke. The night manager told me, “Well, we can send a security guard around to check things out. If someone is out smoking on their patio or balcony, unfortunately, we can’t do anything about it.” I was livid at this wording, “No, this is private property. Your resort can set whatever rules you want to set about smoking, including not allowing smoking on patios or balconies in the interest of public health. You choose not to have that policy, which is your resort’s choice, but don’t tell me that you cannot do anything about it, you choose not to do anything about it. Also, this smoke started in the bathroom and is filling our room, so I don’t think its origins are coming from someone’s balcony.” The security guard came over and confirmed our room was a smoky mess and they finally relented and gave us another room (which actually had been refurbished more recently than the original room we had been given, so at least there was that). It was so much fun to change rooms at 5:30 in the morning, let me tell you…

I know what you are thinking, so much rage, wasn’t this supposed to be a relaxing time? Maybe Leslie, you are an angry person and you need professional help. After all, Phoenix is a lovely place for strip malls, golf vacations, and flip flops. Millions of people keep moving there for a reason so they can’t be wrong, it must be you.

Well, there are a couple of things that I didn’t hate entirely. On Sunday afternoon, I had a nice series of spa treatments – a massage, facial, and pedicure. The massage therapist told me that my children’s auras were “purple” which means they were both boys, but in her words “not entirely masculine.” Also, I learned they would be born with a head of hear as thick as mine, and that they would weigh a little less than seven pounds at their delivery. So according to my massage therapist, I don’t need to worry about preterm labor, so I can just disregard what my doctor told me today about one of the babies having too much amniotic fluid putting me at risk for preterm labor. The massage therapist said that things would be fine! Also, at all costs, I should not have a C-section, because that wouldn’t be right for the babies and their auras.

Also, there was the Café Rio. I don’t fit the stereotype of a BYU grad in so many ways, but in one way I do it is my love of the Provo Café Rio of the late 90s and early 2000s. I ate there four times – twice during our layovers in SLC and twice in Phoenix. The second time I saw this car out front, which was a little piece of my childhood home in a far away place:
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We ate at two other restaurants for dinner that bear some mention. One was called Elements at Sanctuary, which supposedly has great views at sunset, but we got there too late to see that. Instead, the food was pretty mediocre and my eggplant/lentil fritters were burnt and not very appetizing.

The other place we went to dinner that I actually really liked was called Café Monarch. It was situated in an older house in what can be called the “quaint” part of Scottsdale, and I liked both the ambiance and the food. Unfortunately, our reservation there was the evening after the thunderstorms so their charming patio was closed off, but through the window, it still looked lovely.
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I would have to say, that restaurant was probably the bright spot of the entire trip. David and I both liked it a lot.

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Goodbye excessive water features of the desert! I don’t know when we shall meet again.

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Arizona, You are Useless

I just made the mistake of checking the weather forecast for Scottsdale for our weekend getaway. Let me tell you, it sucks. It turns out, Arizona is entirely useless to me. The one time I need an actual desert, the weather forecast there looks like this:

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I am so full of rage, I just cannot even. All I can say is that it better be one heck of a spa day on Sunday to make up for the crap weather, otherwise, the trip will be completely worthless as the last trip that we take together before the babies come. I really should have just taken my chance with hurricanes in South Florida and opted for that. Playing against the odds would have suited me a lot better than this nonsense. Of course, I should have known and factored in the fact that the WESTERN HALF OF THE UNITED STATES HATES LESLIE. That should have been an important part of my consideration.

In the meantime, the maternity swimsuit I just got will completely go to waste as I sit around in my hotel room on Saturday.

Freaking desert. Why can’t you just be a desert?

Also Weather Channel “ugh” is not a strong enough word for how I would describe your weather forecast.