I love presents with stories.  I especially love giving them.  Anyone can buy something from a store, but something that takes some effort, or an explanation, or both, is usually my favorite.

Let’s back up to October, in Bonaire.  Every dive site is marked with these yellow painted rocks and it’s a big thing there.  We loved the rocks and mused to ourselves that our house needed to be an honorary dive site.


Then, life got all busy and we never did anything about it, but I always kept it in the back of my head that it was something I wanted to do for Christmas.  Once I finalized the plan to take eleventy million days off in December, I figured it would be no PROBLEM to get it done.

Then, you start really thinking about the logistics.  I mean, Amazon doesn’t deliver a giant rock.  That’s usually my go-to.  But there are rocks all over, right?  How could you not find a rock?  My conscience also dictated it needed to be an unintentional rock.  It couldn’t be a piece of a path or in someone’s garden.  Something piled and left somewhere on public-ish property was the only fair game.

Armed with the address of a landscaping company in case of ultimate failure, and some tips from the internet on where to find free rocks, I set off last Friday to figure this out.

Step one was a trip to Lowes.  I walked up with my paint samples and told the nice gentleman at the counter that I was painting a rock.  After getting a strange look, he advised me that I should wash the rock, use primer (which I had at home), and he set me up with the paint most likely to stay on the longest.  Solid.  As long as I could actually find the rocks, I was in business.

Then, I went on a run with a purpose.  I started at my gym, which has a jogging loop around the lake which used to be a QUARRY (internet tip #1 for finding free rocks).  I figured I’d find what I needed in 2 seconds.  I even parked in the back and had a large backpack to haul it away.  One 1k loop around and everything was either a) intentionally making a path b) too jaggy or c) too small.  Curses.

I set off thinking that the cut through between the hospital parking lot and the neighborhood I usually run in at lunch was full of rocks.  Nope.  Nary a pebble.  Still great for trail runner stops but I guess I was peeing on twigs, not rocks.  Ah well.

I spent the entire run rubbernecking all around looking for freaking rocks, oogling peoples gardens and park paths.  I headed a mile down the street to look for rocks by the train tracks I always cross over.  Just right before that, I found this random large pile of rocks on the corner.  I found a few that would possibly work, but headed across the tracks to scout further.

No dice on the railroad tracks, but I headed up the street and encountered internet tip #2 – construction.  I found this rock that was incredibly jaggy on one side, but perfectly flat on the other.  Ok, I can’t pass that up.  I heft the boulder on my shoulder (I’m guessing it was ~30 lbs?) and carry it halfway down the street and deposit it near the road by a tree.

I’m actually about a quarter mile from my office and I want to stay the HECK out of there, so I turn around to go scope out the other rock pile again.  I find a good specimen, hoist and haul that one to the road for pickup (not far, like 50 feet) and then jog the couple miles back to the gym as quickly as I can, I’ve worked hard to locate these rock and don’t want anyone to… take them?

Luckily no one else wanted perfectly plucked rocks, and I went back and picked them up, put them in the back of my car, and trasported them home.  I carefully washed both sides of my rocks, and I didn’t have much time to do anything else, so I covered them up in the side yard.

Monday, once Zliten went to work, I dug out all our paint stuff and found brushes, a stir stick, the primer, but no paint key.  Eh, screwdriver works well enough, I get the primer open and stir it.  And stir it.  And stir it.  It’s super clumpy still.  I take one stroke and try it on the rock and… it’s a rock.  With tons of bumps and crevices.  So it’s fine.  Whew!

I figure I might be able to knock this thing out in one day since the primer says it dries in one hour.  After coating this rock with white primer, I went inside and magnanimously gave it TWO hours, and DRAT!  It was still wet.  Two more hours later, it was dry enough, but Zliten was on his way home.  So, I flipped it over, splashed the primer on the second side the best I could, and just as I was going inside, the garage door started to open, and here I am in paint clothes with a brush.

I yelped, ran and hid the brush, and excused myself to the bathroom (to scrub scrub scrub and quickly change) and he was none the wiser.  The only thing I forgot to do was put back a brewing bottle and a bottle of grain alcohol we hide in the garage some some dumbass doesn’t saddle up to our bar and pour a drink with it.  Zliten noticed, and I joked that I got really drunk and sobered up really quick.  He let that one go.

One day down, two more to go.  I officially told him the side yard was off limits for a few days, which piqued his interest, but I threw him off talking about tools and things I might randomly build.  This was not in my nature, but I’ve taken on weirder hobbies, so again, it was let go.  Whew.

Tuesday morning, the fucking rocks were still not dry.  They were in the shade and not getting any breeze under the covering.  So, I changed into paint clothes, and hauled them into the main yard to sit in the sun.  Finally, after baking in the sun all morning into the afternoon, they were ready for their coat of yellow paint on side 1.  I moved them BACK to the covered area in the side yard, painted them, and checked them right before sunset – they were still very wet.  Curses.

I’m now hoping that one thick coat will do it, because I’m out of time to keep flipping these things over and over.

Yesterday morning, I went to the rocks and OF COURSE the yellow is still soggy.  So, again, I change into paint clothes and drag the rocks out into the main yard again, into a spot that got the most sun.  I went out for a run, came back, and yaaaaaaaay, they had dried.  Amazing what some sun can do.  I flip them over and paint them and cross my fingers the sun bakes them quickly so I can finish and give them to Zliten tonight and don’t have to haul the fuckers back to the side yard for one more night.

The 80 degree Austin temps might suck for running, and be a little unseasonable for Christmas, but you know what they’re great for?  Drying yellow paint on rocks.  Around 4:30, I checked, and they were totally dry enough, so I got the black paint to do the numbering and lettering.  I got a bit of a scare when I couldn’t find a small brush, but after digging for it, I found one that was small enough.


That dried quickly enough, and since we planned to be outside and grill dinner last night, I knew that I had to give it to him right away.  I threw a dropcloth over it as he was coming home and as soon as I had an opening in the “how was your day” chatter, I was like “present”?  I dragged him out to the backyard as it was getting dark and told him to “unwrap” his present.

He was totally surprised and love it.  Probably the most effort I’ve ever gone through to give a present, but I’m not pissed at it at all because it was an adventure the whole way, made a great story, and was mostly EFFORT intensive, not going around to a bunch of stores looking for something to buy.

And with that, you’ve come to the conclusion of my tale of two rocks.  Merry Christmas, Happy Holiday, and all that jazz to you and yours.

Question of the day: what is the most unique present you’ve ever received or given?