Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Hello, 2009!

I can’t help but get a little sentimental about a passing year. This past year, by almost all accounts, was a great one. In fact, I’d call 2008, the year of dreams coming true. Husband and I moved to a new place, we purchased our first home together, I finished my Master’s degree, I trained for a marathon, and I went on the trip of a lifetime with my mom. My resolutions for 2008 were two pretty big goals: Marathon and Master’s (M&Ms?). I’d call both of them a success, even though the marathon training didn’t turn out how I hoped. I learned a lot through both, most notably that I can accomplish more than I ever thought. (I also learned that knees are vital to the anatomy, but that’s another story.) I’ve been struggling in trying to decide what I want my resolutions to be for 2009. I’d like to pick another big challenge (or two) to focus on, but there’s nothing that I’m really shooting for at the moment. And I guess that’s ok. I’d like to write more, worry less, and enjoy each day. But mostly, I want to be open to what the new year brings. And I start this year feeling both content and hopeful. (Although, if you want to get technical, I’ll probably start the year asleep on the couch next to Husband because I don’t think I'll stay awake long enough to see midnight. Tell me I’m not the only one…)

Monday, December 29, 2008

A Sweet Christmas

Our Christmas was low-key, relaxing, and enjoyable. It only takes having a few friends deployed to realize how lucky we are to be able to spend the holiday together. And we were equally blessed that some family could visit us. Christmas week seemed to go by so quickly. When I look back, it’s a blur of laughter and (lots and lots of) food. In other words, it was glorious. I’m also impressed that we figured out a way to incorporate sweets as a part of every meal: cinnamon muffins, chocolate chip scones, sugar cookies, gingerbread cookies, fudge, chocolate-dipped marshmallows, caramel-covered marshmallows, apricot bread, fried sweet dough, and chocolate cake. That’s not to mention various types of candy, but I’m not sure if this blog post can hold much more sugar. Husband and I have big plans this week of a whole lot of nothing. It will be the perfect time to reflect on all of our blessings of the past year…in between eating the leftover sweets.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Santa is Held Captive!

Last night our commander’s wife hosted a Christmas social for all of the spouses. She made a full sit-down dinner for all of us. I was totally amazed because: a) there were a LOT of us, and she managed to feed us all, with plenty leftover, b) the food was all homemade and absolutely delicious, right down to the melt-in-your-mouth dinner rolls, c) she somehow was able to make this dinner while also taking care of her five children, and d) she appeared totally calm, and not once did I see her crying in the corner (which is how I probably would have handled the stress of such an event). Part of the festivities included an ornament exchange. I gave my friend a ride home last night, and this morning I noticed she left her Santa ornament in my car. I could have simply called her to tell her that she forgot it. (But what fun is that?) Instead, I had “Santa” send an e-mail to her, in which he pleads for her to take him home: Subject: It’s Me, Santa. Please Save Me! I was so excited you chose me last night. My wish was coming true after so long... I finally would fulfill my duties as a Christmas Ornament (C.O.), and I would be displayed on a real Christmas tree! I had been waiting for this moment my whole life! My excitement soon turned to disappointment and terror when you left me in a cold, dark car last night. I was scared and alone, and my little heart was broken. Would I ever escape? Would I ever see my Christmas tree home? And most importantly, would there be a Christmas without me, Santa?? I managed to flee the vehicle, and I found this computer, where I'm writing this message. I'm attaching a picture of myself for proof. Please save me…if not for my sake, for the sake of Christmas and children all around the world. (No pressure.) love, Santa P.S. HO HO HO I know that Santa will make his way home. It might be through the magic of Christmas…or because I’m a big softie, and I make the worst hostage-taker.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Welcome Home: Plans vs Reality

Husband came back this weekend after being gone for six weeks for some military training. Not surprisingly, I had a perfect plan in place to clean the house and welcome him home. Also, not surprisingly, things didn’t go as I planned. Notice the stark contrast between my plans and the reality… The plans: Husband called and said he would be home “around 3:30” on Saturday afternoon. I planned to run a few errands in the morning, and then I’d have a solid three hours to make it seem like I hadn’t totally neglected cleaning the house for over a month and a half. I’d clean the floors, then tackle the bathroom, and then vacuum the rest of the house. Then I’d finish baking some cookies for church on Sunday, change into a cute outfit, and be ready for him to arrive. When he walked in the door, I’d give him a big hug and tell him how glad I was that he was home. The reality: I did manage to clean the floors, and I put some cookies in the oven. While they were baking, I scrubbed our grimy bathroom sink, while wearing some equally grimy clothes. It was around 1:30PM, when I heard the timer ringing, signaling that the cookies were done. I ran into the kitchen, noticing that the cookies were almost to the point of being burnt. I removed them from the oven, and just then, I saw a person standing a few feet away from me. I jumped and screamed. My heart was racing, and it took me at least 2 seconds to realize that it was Husband. It took my mouth another 2 seconds for it to stop screaming. I held my hand over my heart and breathed deeply, like I was having a heart attack. “You scared me!” I scolded him. I took a few more deep breaths, recovering from the scare. Then, I realized that this moment, although certainly not what I planned, was what I was waiting for. I finally ran up to him and gave him a belated hug, telling him “welcome home.” I asked him why he told me that he wasn’t coming home until 3:30, when he knew he’d be home so much earlier. He smiled and said, “Because I wanted to surprise you.” Mission accomplished.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Lost: Master's Degree

A few months ago, my University rep asked for my mailing address, so she could send me my diploma. I’d been waiting for this moment for a long time. I was excited (almost giddy) to finally see the proof that I actually finished my Master’s degree, confirming that it wasn’t just a hazy memory of papers, quizzes, and tests. The day before Husband and I were going out of town, I got a slip to pick up a “large, oversized envelope” at the post office. I called the post office and told them that we were going out of town, and I asked them to hold this “large envelope” with our other mail. When we got back, I went to the post office and picked up our mail. All of our mail was there, except for the “large envelope.” They gave me the name and phone number of the woman at the post office that handles the packages, and they told me to call her later that afternoon. I got in touch with her, and I explained the story. She said, “Oh wait, was it a large, oversized envelope?” Yes, I replied. “And it was from a university? It looked like a diploma, maybe?” Yes! That’s the one! “Well, I’m sorry, ma’am, but because no one picked it up, I sent it back yesterday.” Noooooo! I contacted my University rep, explained the situation, and apologized profusely. I asked her if she wouldn’t mind sending it back, once it was returned to her. I offered to pay the additional postage. She said not to worry, and she’d send it back. After six or seven weeks (I’ve lost count), she still hasn’t gotten it! I can only wonder if someone intercepted my diploma and sold it on the black market. (And, if such a market for advanced degrees exists, how much would it take for me to pick up a PhD?? I’d be willing to pay top dollar. Kidding, of course.) Anyway, she is going to re-order my diploma and send it to me. Remind me not to go out of town when it’s supposed to arrive.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Holiday Home Tour

Last weekend I went on a tour of holiday-decorated homes with some friends. It really should be called “Snoop Legally in Other People’s Homes!” or “Poke Around Someone’s House Without Getting Arrested!”
I figured the tour would be interesting, and best of all, the proceeds went for local scholarships.
By the way, I learned that it must be more appealing for women to tour through homes because Husband was confused by the concept.
“You mean you just walk around their houses?”
Yes, I replied.
“Why?”
Because it’s fun for nosy, I mean, curious people like me.
The homes were beautiful, and the decorations were exquisite. Almost every room looked like it was lifted from the pages of a magazine. The Christmas trees were styled perfectly with a theme and color-coordinated ornaments. Some homes had fresh greens and gorgeous wreaths. And, of course, each home was immaculately clean.
Towards the end of the tour, I thought of our own home and how our decorations look nothing like those in the homes I saw. Most of our Christmas decorations are hand-me-downs from family members or things that we bought at a discount store.
I almost laughed to myself when I imagined what people might say if they toured around our house (besides, “Why is this house on the tour? I want my money back!”).
“Wow! Look at those dollar-store ornaments! They’re simply divine!”
“My word, is that a genuine plastic wreath? How lovely!”
After the tour, I returned to our house, and I expected that I would feel that our decorations were lacking in comparison.
Instead, when I looked around, I realized how lucky we are.
I saw the snowman that my dad made for us. It’s a one-of-a-kind treasure (that only an avid golfer could create) that you can’t buy from a store.
I saw the stockings that Husband’s mom gave us one year for Christmas.

I saw the Nativity scene that I bought recently with my mom.

Each decoration carries its own special meaning and memories. None of them will qualify us to be in a holiday home tour. But who would want to do all that cleaning anyway?

Friday, December 5, 2008

O (Husband) Christmas Tree

This is our first Christmas in our new house. Last Christmas (our first one together), we had room for only a small, Charlie Brown tree. (It did make for a cute tree, though.) Now, for the first time, we can finally put up a full-size tree! I was anxious to go shopping to find the (fake, but full-size!) tree that we would call our own. I went to a few different stores and noted the different options and prices. I finally found one that I thought would work. It was pre-lit, tall, and reasonably priced. I gave Husband all the details on it. He said, “Sounds great. Why don’t you buy it?” I told him, “Well, the only thing is that it’s not as full as some of the other trees. It’s tall and skinny.” Husband said, “What’s wrong with tall and skinny?” We both paused for a second and then laughed in unison when we realized that the description also fits Husband perfectly. I bought the tree. For the first time in my life, I do not have a Charlie Brown tree. Instead, we have a [Husband’s full name] tree. So, tall and skinny it is. If it can work so well for marriage, I think it can work for Christmas.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Deployed Greetings

When I was deployed, I love perusing through the pile of greeting cards that were written to “any service member.”
The Chaplain’s office at my deployed location always displayed the cards, and they encouraged us to look at them and take any that we wanted.
Some were store-bought cards with handwritten greetings, some were simple letters, and others were colorful cards that children made. All were equally touching and uplifting. It reaffirmed to me how good and generous people can be.
One letter, written by a 12-year-old girl, especially touched me. She asked in her letter for a response and included her address. So, for a brief time, we became pen pals. We stopped writing after my deployment, but I saved her letters (among others I received) and I’m still grateful for them.
This year it was my turn. I found the address through the Red Cross where you can send holiday wishes to “any service member.” (They are collecting letters until December 10th, and their website has further info.)
My family thought it was a neat idea, and we all wrote a holiday card after Thanksgiving. (And although I consider myself a pretty good letter-writer, I think Husband’s message actually turned out to be much more heartfelt than mine!)
I hope that those currently deployed experience the same kindness that I did through these letters, and maybe for a few moments they will feel “home.”

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Turkey Cooking 101

My turkey cooking class was a success. And by success, I mean that I didn’t pass out at any time during the instruction, and no family members (the poor, taste-testing guinea pigs) gagged on the turkey dinner that I helped prepare. I’m not entirely confident I could make one quite as tasty without my two cooking instructors (my parents) present, but I am confident that this is an experience that neither my parents nor I will soon forget. As soon as I got up on the morning before Thanksgiving (Thanksgiving Eve?), my dad told me that it was time to prep the turkey. I insisted that I first eat breakfast, by quickly making up a rule of “no touching uncooked poultry before breakfast.” He shrugged and conceded. After breakfast, he brought the turkey over to the sink and instructed me on how to remove the “stuff” inside the turkey. (By the way, I’m being gracious with the word “stuff,” which sounds much more pleasant and sterile than it actually was.) I’ll admit that I felt uncomfortable digging around in the inner cavities of a turkey I just met, but I was just following orders. The experience that followed was much messier and grosser than I imagined, and my subsequent sound effects (“Ewww!” and “Aaagh, disgusting!”) reflected this. I also noted that nowhere in my mom’s previous descriptions of turkey cooking (“You just put it in a bag and throw it in the oven!”) did she mention fumbling around with cold, uncooked turkey organs. Next, my parents told me to take out the neck of the turkey. I fished in the turkey and pulled it out, revealing quite possibly the most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen or felt. I screamed and tossed it to my dad like a hot potato. My parents offered me additional instructions but I couldn’t hear them over the sounds of my own continued screams and shrieks. (By the way, it’s too bad that a casting director wasn’t on site to see it because I would have easily secured the leading role in the next horror film.) Though it was horror to me, it was all comedy to my parents. My dramatic yet authentic screams made them laugh so hard that they couldn’t speak. I started laughing, too, and we all ended up gathered around the sink, roaring with laughter, with tears streaming down our faces. After a few minutes, we collected ourselves and the class continued. And, actually, the rest of the turkey prep was mostly scream-free. I did get grossed out a few more times, especially when I realized that some of the turkey “parts” end up (on purpose!) in part of the stuffing and the gravy. I nearly committed myself to lifelong vegetarianism at that point. But, I had no recollection of any unpleasantness when I saw the perfectly golden turkey emerge from the oven on Thanksgiving Day. It was a beautiful sight. I devoured the turkey dinner (turkey, gravy, stuffing and all), and I enjoyed every morsel. I felt thankful just like I do every thanksgiving, except this time it was for the funny memories of my first turkey cooking experience - and for complete amnesia of it all while eating it.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Meeting the Neighbors

I successfully delivered the brownies to the new neighbors yesterday. The wife was really gracious, and I think she was happy to get them.
(Side note: I found out later that she used to be a newscaster. That would explain why she was also so poised and polished!)
I think it was worth the risk of becoming a near-stalker to meet and welcome them. And I learned that a good way to meet your neighbors is by bringing them baked goods.
Unfortunately, this morning I also learned the way that you definitely don’t want to meet your neighbors: while wearing your pajamas. More specifically, your red pajama pants with polka dots.

Exhibit A.

So, this morning I wanted to go outside (just for a minute!) to water the plants. It seemed like a waste to change clothes, go outside, then shower, and change clothes again.

I took a quick peek outside and didn’t see a single soul. I asked myself, “Really, who am I going to see?” (I should know better than to tempt fate like that.)

I decided it was safe to go outside in my pajamas.

As soon as I got outside and turned on the hose, our street turned into Grand Central Station.

First, the neighbor that lives two houses down from us that I had never seen before walks right by me! It’s a mystery to me why I never saw her on one of the 300 occasions I was outside in normal clothing during the seven months we’ve lived here. How nice that she’ll probably remember me forever as the gal in the red and white-polka-dotted pajamas.

Less than five seconds later, the neighbor across the street came out of her house. Then a truck started to drive by.

Before my plants could get their fill of water, I had my fill of humiliation. I turned off the hose and ran inside.

It seems that pajamas, even more than brownies, are a sure-fire way to guarantee seeing your neighbors.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Honest, I'm just trying to welcome the new neighbors

One of the nicest surprises when we first moved here was a military wife showing up on our doorstep with a plate of freshly-baked cookies welcoming us to the neighborhood. This simple act of kindness left such an impression on me that I decided to try to extend the same hospitality to any new people that move near us. I got my chance this week. A new military family, assigned to Husband’s same unit, recently moved into a house on our street. I decided to bake some brownies to welcome them. (Of course, I had to sample one to make sure they were up to brownie standards. They were. But I had to eat a few to make sure.) The only problem is that I’ve stopped by twice to deliver the brownies in person, only to find that there is no one home. (I would call first, except I don’t know their phone number. Or even their name.) I fear that all of my trips to their house are quickly moving me from “Hi, I want to welcome you to the neighborhood” to “Hi, I’m the neighborhood stalker.” And I can only imagine what our other neighbors think when they see me traipsing back and forth to this house with a plate of brownies. I was hoping to deliver the brownies soon, so they would still be fresh. Because I’m assuming that a plate of nice and stale brownies says a lot of things, except probably not “welcome.” I’m going to stop by just one more time tonight. If I’m not successful, I might as well surrender to my stalker status. Or, I’ll just have to sample a few more brownies to check their freshness.

Friday, November 14, 2008

It's Never Too Early For Christmas

Ok, so the title of this post has become my new motto. It’s what I’m saying to myself to rationalize why it might be ok for me to put up just a few* Christmas decorations around the house….today.
I love everything about Christmas: the music, the decorations, the movies, the goodies, etc.
And here’s a true confession. I was in a store on Halloween (still technically October!), when I saw the workers taking the Halloween candy off the shelves with one hand and putting up the Christmas candy with the other. Just then, I heard the distinct sound of Christmas music playing overhead.
I know I should have been appalled by this, and I should have engaged in the obligatory complaining to a friend (“It’s too early for this! It’s October!”).
But instead, I smiled to myself. Inside, I was cheering, “Hooray! It’s almost Christmas!”
Earlier this week I visited a friend (another military spouse), and I saw her Christmas tree completely decorated and lit in her living room. I complimented her on her tree, and she quickly explained that they would be out of town visiting family for a few weeks and they wanted to enjoy the Christmas tree while they could, since they were going through the trouble of putting it up for their kids.
I wanted to say, “It’s ok. You don’t need to explain. I love Christmas, too.”
Husband is not as crazy about the Christmas hoopla. Sure, he likes the holiday, and he’s definitely no Scrooge, but he thinks that Christmas decor and music should wait until at least after Thanksgiving. Like most (normal) people.
He doesn’t quite understand why I get downright giddy when regular radio stations morph into the “all Christmas, all the time” stations.
And he probably wouldn’t quite get why I feel the need to put up a few Christmas decorations...now.
Thankfully, I’ve checked with the Commander of the House (that’s me) and also the Chief of Home Decor (also me), and we all agree that it’s ok to start putting up Christmas decorations.
Since we won’t be here for Thanksgiving, we can skip any Thanksgiving decorations we might have** and dive right into Christmas. Plus, putting them up now will save time later when we get back after Thanksgiving.
Or, I just love Christmas.
*This might or might not equate to all the Christmas decorations that we currently own. **I don’t think we have any Thanksgiving decorations.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Look! Cheap Gas!

I was so excited about the falling gas prices that I had to take a picture. This means that our wallets finally get a little break.

But, it also means that I’ve somehow turned into one of Those People that Take Pictures of Gas Prices.

I’m not exactly sure what’s involved with this new identity, but I think that soon I’ll be talking about the “good old days” and I’ll say things like “I can remember when I paid less than [insert ridiculously low price here] for gas!”

By the way, a man saw me taking pictures of the sign, and I think he laughed to himself. I have proved once again that I am willing to embarrass myself for good blog material. You’re welcome. :)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Marathon Training: The End

I always imagined that my marathon experience would end with me triumphantly crossing the finish line. Instead, it ended unceremoniously a few weeks ago when a long run became a very short run because of some knee pain. When I got back from my trip, my knees were feeling quite a bit better. But, I couldn’t, in good conscience, keep going with my long runs and risk permanent damage to my knees. (Because, after having them my whole life, I’ve grown rather fond of them.) So, I quit marathon training before my knees could quit on me. Thankfully, I have a wonderful family that supported me with the crazy idea to train for the marathon in the first place, and they have been equally supportive when I decided to stop. I’m so very lucky. I am a bit bummed about not being able to do the marathon, but I know in my heart that I am making the right decision. And I am still so glad that I did the marathon training, even with knowing how it ended. My goal, in starting it, was to prove to myself that anything is possible, and there’s no way I could deny achieving that! Before I started this, I could barely run 2 miles, yet somehow I made it to 16 miles - twice! Every mile was a victory, and it made me realize that we can do so much more than we think we can. I know that this lesson from marathon training will impact other aspects of my life. Marathon training has proved to me that the challenges or goals in my life that once seemed impossible are actually in reach. I only hope that my experience has inspired someone else along the way to run after their big dream, no matter how difficult or crazy it seems. I can’t wait to dream more big dreams. (My knees just hope that the next ones don’t include them.)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Turkey Cooking School

A few weeks ago, Husband asked me what our plans were going to be for Thanksgiving. I hadn’t really given it much thought before he asked. I knew that we didn’t have any family that was planning to join us, so I told him that we’d probably just have our own little celebration. Maybe we’d even invite another couple or two. We even talked about the potential menu we’d want. It all sounded great, until I realized a very scary thought: I’d have to cook the turkey! And I have no idea how to cook a turkey! My only vague recollections of turkey-cooking have come from watching my parents. And apparently I was more consumed by the, well, consuming of the turkey than the actual cooking of it. I only really remember that it involves getting up early and what sounds like a very complicated mathematical equation involving cooking hours and the turkey weight. I panicked and called my mom. “Help! How am I ever going to cook a turkey? On the most important eating-day of the year??” “Don’t worry,” she said. “It’s easy. Really. Once you make it, you’ll realize how easy it is.” Forgive me, but I was still skeptical. Especially since she kept emphasizing how “easy” it is. (“So easy!” “It’s easy!”) I’m practically an expert on not being able to figure out “easy” things. (Just like my desk-assembling disaster.) And I cringe inside whenever someone gives me directions and they say, “You can’t miss it!” Because, trust me, I’ll miss it. But, Uncle Sam unknowingly intervened. Husband recently found out that he will be TDY (away on military duty) around the time of Thanksgiving. We decided that the most convenient option for Thanksgiving would be to visit family. I’m excited about it. (And not just because it postpones my solo turkey-cooking for another year.) I think my mom is excited, too. In fact, I just got an e-mail from her this morning about Thanksgiving. At the bottom of the e-mail, she wrote: “P.S. Guess you will have turkey cooking school. :)” Sign me up. I’m ready to learn. But only if I’m allowed to boast afterwards about how easy it is.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Sharing Stories...In English

My favorite volunteer experience was teaching English (called ESL or English as a Second Language) to refugees and immigrants in the last state we lived. I taught a night class for adults once a week. Over the course of the year I volunteered, I came to know people from over twenty different countries and four different continents! The experience was rewarding, humbling, inspiring, and sometimes comical (especially when I’d have to resort to using charades to explain something). A few weeks ago, I saw a sign in our local library advertising a new ESL class that was starting. I called the point of contact and asked if they needed any help. She laughed and said, “Of course!” And now I’m happily teaching ESL again, one night a week at a nearby church. Though the people are different, their enthusiasm to learn English is much the same. This week they learned about the past tense. One of the suggested activities in our book was to discuss how they met their spouse, and each student shared her story. The result, surprisingly, was a lot of laughter.

We laughed at one woman’s story, where her poor husband had to ask her father 4 times before finally getting his blessing to marry his daughter. Another woman made us laugh as she explained how she rejected her husband on 2 separate occasions before she even considered dating him.

I’m looking forward to hearing more of their stories and learning more about them. And they might just (hopefully!) learn a little English in the process.

Monday, November 3, 2008

A Pocket Full of Memories

The trip that my mom and I recently took was a family trip in every possible sense. We went with a few other family members (my aunt and two cousins). We visited the place where our family lived a few generations ago. And we even met some long-lost relatives in a tearful, but joyous reunion. The memories of one particular family member became especially close to us, too. On the first day of our trip, my mom’s cousin wore a shirt that he evidently had gotten for Christmas a few years ago from his mother, but had never worn. After breakfast, he reached into his shirt pocket to get his room key, but instead he found a note and a crisp $20 bill. The note said simply, “I love you. Love, Mom.” It all had so much meaning, since his mother passed away a few years ago. We all teared up, and we imagined her watching over her son on the trip. (I also, jokingly, imagine her saying, “What took you so long to wear the shirt??”) This was such a nice reminder that the memories of those we’ve lost are never very far from us. And some lucky times, the memories are right in our front pocket.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Home Sweet Home

I find that no matter how fun a vacation was, it’s still always nice to be home. This time was no exception, especially since Husband was nice enough to greet me at the airport with flowers! Oh, and the house was immaculate! The freshly-vacuumed carpet was enough to make me swoon – and think that maybe I should go away more often. I’m glad to be back in time for Halloween. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss a holiday that’s entirely devoted to eating lots of candy. (As an additional bonus, I went to the dentist yesterday, which means I can devour lots of candy guilt-free without having to explain anything in the dentist’s chair.) Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Marathon Training! Week 20

So here’s my overly-obvious fact of the week: knees are really important for running. My knees have been a little sore on my last few runs. The pain wasn’t that bad, yet I knew that things weren’t quite right. I tried to take it easy on my runs, running slower and less often than I usually do. This morning I woke up early for my long run, but I knew that the 18 miles I was hoping for was probably a long shot. Within the first few minutes of running, I felt the knee pain again. I took it really slow, and I ended up running 4 miles at my slowest pace yet. I made it back home, ready to drink some water and figure out my next move. I wanted to keep going, but I knew it probably wasn’t the best thing for my knees. Thankfully, the voice of reason (disguised as Husband) intervened. I asked for his advice, and he said I should definitely take a break from running. He said something clever about pain being the body’s way of saying “stop!” (Or, in the case of my knees, “stop running, you crazy marathon trainee! You’re making us miserable!”) This was actually the scenario that I worried about yesterday. I worried what would happen if I couldn’t finish the 18 miles. But, I am surprisingly calm about everything today. I’ve accepted that I can’t wave a magic wand to make my knees better. (But, if you do happen to have such a wand, please let me know, so I can borrow it.) All I can do is to relax my knees and hope and pray. I’m realizing now that my trip with my mom is actually happening at a perfect time. That will force me to not run for a couple weeks, which is probably just what I need to heal. I have no idea where this will leave me with the marathon itself. I just keep reminding myself of the goal that I made when I signed up for this: My goal was to complete the marathon (not in any specific time), but only if it wouldn’t do any physical damage to my body. I’m hopeful that things will all work out. And I guess I just have a much better excuse for eating good food and relaxing with my mom on our trip – it’s all for the sake of my knees!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A Miracle in the Kitchen

Cooking has not come naturally to me. I know that some people are blessed to be able to whip up a delicious, tasty meal in the kitchen without pots boiling over or other trouble brewing. Clearly, I do not have that ability. As a single girl, I subsisted on nightly meals of omelets (or, more accurately, scrambled eggs with stuff tossed in) or cereal. My grandmother, clearly worried about my (lack of) cooking skills and the fate of her future great-grandchildren, gave me a subscription to “Quick Cooking” magazine for Christmas one year. Now that I’m married (since Husband politely overlooked my culinary challenges and agreed to marry me anyway), I make a predictable rotation of meals, mostly including: spaghetti, grilled cheese, and tacos. Poor Husband eats it all and never complains, even when it’s a streak of Hamburger Helper. The past few weeks I’ve gone on a quest to find new recipes that might broaden our meal options and break our usual routine. I cooked up some new dishes: a few mediocre casseroles, a pasta dish that tasted like cardboard despite a number of expensive ingredients, and a terrible dish called “Chinese Hamburger” (which marked a rare cultinary feat of looking and tasting equally awful) that will haunt my cooking nightmares for years to come. My neighbor, without even knowing it, intervened. She invited me over for dinner the other night when Husband was out of town. She served a delicious, hearty soup that I fell in love with. She said the recipe was easy (hooray!) and she’d give it to me (double hooray!). I made it when Husband got home, and it really was easy to make. Best of all, we both liked it and we happily ate the leftovers. The recipe is called “Chicken Tortilla Soup.” (I call it “The Recipe that Saved Me From Selling Our Stove.”) 1 can (15 oz) black beans 1 can (15 oz) pinto beans 1 can (8.75 oz) corn 1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce 2 cans (14.5 oz each) chicken broth 1 jar (16 oz) chunky salsa 3 cups of cooked chicken (bite-sized pieces) 1 medium zucchini, chopped 2 tablespoons chili powder 1 teaspoon ground cumin garlic, to taste Combine all of the ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil, and then simmer for 30 minutes. I also added some chopped onion, and I’m sure you could add other veggies to the recipe as well. We topped our bowls of soup with shredded cheddar cheese, a bit of sour cream, and crumbled tortilla chips. Husband called it delicious. I call it a miracle.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Marathon Training! Weeks 18 and 19

Now that it's October, I can actually say that the marathon is "next month." I’ve realized that I have only a few more long runs left before the marathon itself! It’s exciting to finally see the light (or the finish line?) at the end of the tunnel. My long runs the past couple weeks have gone much better. For a variety of reasons, I ended up running my long run last week (of 16 miles!) at the gym on base. I figured that no one would notice that I was running for so long, since most (normal, sane) people do not spend nearly 3 hours at the gym. One of the workers noticed, though. After I finished running, he asked, “How long was that run? 5 miles?” I told him that it was 16 miles and that I was training for a marathon. For a few seconds, he just shook his head and kept repeating “wow, 16 miles.” I almost felt the same disbelief, too. This week I hope to run 18 miles for my long run. It will be my last long run for a few weeks because I’m going on a trip with my mom next week. And although I’m committed to running, I’m also committed to having a great time with my mom on a trip we’ve planned for a long time. So my running shoes will have a break of their own, relaxing in my closet while I’m gone. *** Since I’ve been running so much, I hardly ever go for walks anymore. But Husband and I decided, on a whim, to go for an evening stroll together around our neighborhood on Saturday night. The weather was perfect, and it was so pleasant to casually walk and admire the homes. We saw another couple that we knew, as well as a gorgeous sunset. I enjoyed it so much, and it made me miss the walks I used to take before I started marathon training. I do hope to do much more walking, once the marathon is over. I don’t think I’ll give up running altogether. But I probably won’t be running 16 miles…at the gym, or anywhere else.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

New Addition

Husband and I are the proud parents of a new bundle of joy that arrived yesterday.

She weighs approximately 5.5 lbs, and from what we can tell, she’s very healthy. (Not to mention, sleek! And modern!) We anticipate that we will up late at night with her, but only because we are excited to spend time with her. She joined our family because we’ve nearly pushed our previous computer to her limits. She was over six years old, which has to equate to about 90 years in electronic years. She was near-wheezing and sluggish, and we decided that it was time to give her a break before she expired. Enter, our new addition: We expect a very happy life with her…assuming that we can figure out Vista first.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Redneck Party

A friend from Husband’s unit invited us to a redneck-themed party this weekend, and Husband asked me if we should go. I said an enthusiastic “yes!” (Or, make that “shoot yeah!” or “Darn tootin’!”) But first, we shopped at the local discount store for the perfect redneck attire, which was surprisingly fun. (The ease at which we were able to pick out our redneck clothes made me wonder if we’re not as classy as we originally thought…) I got these very sophisticated bud light shorts.

Husband is going for the hunter look.

And, we’re supposed to bring a redneck dish. I’m bringing these redneck sushi rolls. I’ve actually had them before (again, maybe I’m not as classy as I thought!) and they’re actually pretty tasty. The bonus is that they only include three ingredients (ham, cream cheese, and pickles), so even I can make them! Jeff Foxworthy would be so proud.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Finally Home

We got some great news the other day. Husband’s grandma called and told us that Husband’s cousin arrived safely home from Iraq. We both exhaled and rejoiced. He was there for over a year, and we thought of him and prayed for him every day. Ironically, he is the cousin that we are closest to, even though I have never actually met him and Husband hasn’t seen him in years. Soon after we got married, Husband’s grandma sent us a card and happened to include his deployed address. We sent him a care package with a letter, telling him that we were thinking of him. I included our e-mail address in case he had any requests for future care packages. Later, we got an e-mail from him thanking us, and we started e-mailing back and forth. We talked about our families, our future plans, and our military lives. We now consider him a good friend. It’s funny that the way we got close to him was by the military deploying him so far away. Regardless, we’re so glad he’s home, and we can’t wait to tell him that in person one day.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Marathon Training! Weeks 16 and 17

It’s probably a good thing I didn’t write this post on Friday. If I had, it probably would have been a rambling mess, saying that I hated marathon training and I was quitting it altogether. On that day, I had a really bad run. It was supposed to be a long run of 12 miles, but for a variety of reasons, I made it (barely!) to only 7 miles. Afterwards, I told Husband that I hated running and I was going to quit the marathon. He called my bluff. He didn’t overreact. Instead, he gently and patiently asked, “How would you feel if you quit?” I told him that I would feel very disappointed, especially since I’ve worked so hard for almost a year to get to this point! He smiled and said, “Well, I guess it sounds like you’re not quitting.” Darn! He is a clever one, and he tricked me without me even knowing it. But, I’m glad I decided to keep going. I’ve realized that not every run is going to be a good one, but the important thing is that I keep trying. Yesterday I ran a 3-mile run, and it turns out that it was my fastest run ever! I would have never experienced that if I had quit last week. I know I have a lot more challenges (and a few lingering doubts) to conquer in the weeks ahead, but I know I have the determination to keep going. And if there’s ever another time when I’m close to losing hope, I’ll have a clever coach by my side to ask me, “How would you feel if you quit?”

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Uniform and the Memories

I finally decided to give away my military dress uniform. Though I gave away almost all of my military uniform items right after I left the service, I couldn’t help but to hang onto my dress uniform a little longer. Besides being (hands down!) the best-looking uniform, it also held a lot of great memories. I wore it to my unit’s various military ceremonies. I wore it when I went as Husband’s date to his military functions. And I wore it to my uncle’s wedding ceremony. My dad, my uncle, my cousin, and I all wore our military dress uniforms. (It made for a very nice picture – just ask my grandma.) I remember on my uncle’s wedding day, a couple ladies saying “ooh, so that’s what the ladies’ dress uniform looks like,” when I passed by. I felt a lot of pride for being able to represent my branch of the military in uniform, as well as representing women veterans. The uniform also made for a somewhat embarrassing (and amusing) story later that day. My aunt remarked to me in front of a number of family members, “You looked really hot in your uniform today.” I smiled and said an enthusiastic, “Thanks!” “No, I mean, it looked like you were really warm in that uniform; your face was flushed,” she elaborated. Oh. Yes, it was rather warm in the church. I’m so glad she clarified that she intended the “so hot you’re sweating” meaning of “hot” and not the “you’re very attractive” meaning, in the presence of so many family members. Regardless, I decided recently it was time to give it away. It’s a very expensive uniform, and I know it would help out someone new to the military. The additional closet space for me would be a bonus.
I hung up a sign in the women’s bathroom in Husband’s unit, offering the uniform with “FREE!” written in large letters. Who could pass that up? I got a call a few days later from a girl that lives on the opposite side of the country. She was about to go off to military training, and she heard about the sign from a friend. She asked if I wouldn’t mind mailing it to her, and she’d mail me a check. I told her not to worry about the check, and I mailed it to her. I included a note wishing her all the best in her military career. I knew I made the right choice in giving the uniform away, when I got an e-mail in my inbox with “THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!” as the subject.

And yesterday I got a card in the mail with her check that covered much more than the shipping. I almost got a little choked up, when I read her humble words: “Here’s a little something to at least cover the shipping, sorry I can’t send more. I really appreciate you sending everything to me!” I’m so glad that I gave away the uniform, but I’m glad I kept the memories. I hope that the uniform also brings her many happy memories and only the best meaning of the word “hot.”

Monday, September 15, 2008

Some Hurricane with Their Wine

I finally used a Pottery Barn gift card that we received as a wedding gift. I have a few very good excuses for not using the gift card for so long (over a year and a half!): 1) We do not live close to a Pottery Barn. 2) The gift card never expires, so it's kept its full value the whole time. 3) When I did some preliminary research, I found that our gift card (for a very generous amount!) would pay for approximately one leg of a chair or a single exquisite toothpick. (I’m joking – sort of.) Finally, the stars aligned for me last week, and I decided to order some very nice wine glasses for our friends’ upcoming wedding. I was very proud that I finally used the gift card, and I thought the wine glasses would make a nice gift for our friends. Pottery Barn sent me an e-mail with the tracking information, and I saw that my package of wine glasses was in transit, currently at a location in Houston. And it took a second for the remarks (in all caps) to dawn on me: “EMERGENCY CONDITIONS BEYOND OUR CONTROL” I wonder if our friends will think that we’re extra generous when they find we’ve included some complimentary Hurricane Ike with their wine glasses?

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Dog Ate It

I never really believed “the dog ate my homework” excuse, until recently. My friend and I both love Nicholas Sparks books. (Yes, the sappy ones that include: A Walk to Remember, Message in a Bottle, and The Notebook.) I let her borrow The Choice. My friend loved it and stopped by to return it. But first she handed me a note and told me to read it. I started laughing so hard because this is what it said: Dear Auntie, Thank you for teaching me to write. [Side note: I once dogsat for them, and I left a note from the dog, pretending that I had taught her how to write.] I decided to read the book you let my mommy borrow. I got a little excited with my new skill of reading and ate the title. I am very sorry. My mommy took my allowance as punishment. I promise to never get that excited reading again. Woof woof, The Dog Then, she handed me the book. At this point I’m laughing so hard that I can’t speak. It’s funny because their dog is possibly the most well-behaved dog I’ve ever met. But, I guess she gets into mischief sometimes while they're at work. Though the book jacket is torn, the book itself still looks perfect. My friend still felt so bad that she gave me a gift card to make up for it. [Notice that it is dog themed!] The gift card certainly wasn’t necessary, although I admit that I’m a bit excited about picking out a new book! (Any suggestions??) Don’t worry. I’ll take a lesson from the dog, and I won’t get so excited that I take a bite of the gift card.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

McMadness

McDonald’s recently started offering a special deal selling 50 (yes, fifty) Chicken McNuggets. I’m undecided as to what is the saddest part of this scenario: 1) McDonald’s decided that serving greasy McNuggets in quantities of 4, 6, or 10 pieces was not quite enough, and they felt they needed to increase their highest offering five-fold. 2) Husband saw the advertisement for this and said, “What a deal!” 3) I somehow allowed Husband to convince me that we needed to buy this monstrous portion of McNuggets. 4) We ate McNuggets for three straight meals in a row (dinner one day, plus lunch and dinner the next). 5) With those portions, I consumed more Chicken McNuggets in that 48-hour time period than I probably have in the last ten years. 6) The container, the remnants of our McNugget feast, sat on our kitchen counter for five days. 7) When Husband tried to throw it away, I told him that I wanted to take a picture of it first for the blog. (He didn’t even flinch, which shows he’s getting accustomed to the bizarre things I do all in the name of a blog.) Notice I don’t even mention anything about the overload of calories and fat from each greasy nugget. Frankly, I don’t want to do the math, and I would prefer to live in blissful denial about the nutritional value (or lack thereof) from our chicken indulgence.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Marathon Training! Weeks 14 and 15

My training is starting to feel like it’s gone on forever! Truthfully, I think I actually started my training a little bit too early, since the marathon isn’t until mid-November. But, I’m taking advantage of the extra time and scaling back my long runs a bit, so I don’t burn myself out before the big race day. Last week wasn’t so bad, but this week was tough. Specifically, my long run yesterday was really hard. My neighbor, a fellow military spouse and runner, is also training for the same marathon. We haven’t run together much - she usually runs in the evenings when her husband is home to watch the kids, and I usually run early in the morning. My friend is really sweet, and she must also be very persuasive, too, because somehow she managed to convince me that it would be fun to run 10 miles on a track! (That’s 40 laps! On a track!) We drove to base yesterday morning, and we started out on our run. The first few miles weren’t bad, and we’d stop every few miles to drink Gatorade and take a few bites of bananas. My friend runs faster than I do, but somehow I managed to stay on pace with her. Then the sun started beating down on us, and those last few miles were torturous. It was so hot that I felt like I was running with a wool blanket wrapped around me! I had a running dialogue (no pun intended) with myself trying to figure out a way to stop running without looking like a quitter in front of my friend. Finally, after running 9.5 miles, with two laps to go and little strength left, I told her I was going to walk. I came home with blisters on my feet and my spirit defeated. I started to question why I wanted to do this marathon in the first place. I cried to Husband that I felt like an imposter and a fool for thinking that I could take my non-athletic self and run a marathon! Thankfully, he made me feel much better. I’ve learned that this training – just like anything else – will have its up and downs. I’ve learned that I shouldn’t compare myself to others. I’ve learned that I shouldn’t lament that I’m not a natural athlete, but I should be proud that I’m trying to run anyway. And finally, I’ve learned that, no matter what, the track is just not my friend! I’ll stick to running through my neighborhood instead.

Friday, August 29, 2008

New Old Friends

I always seem to make friends with older people wherever we go. At the last place we lived, I became good friends with a senior-citizen neighbor. She was retired, but you wouldn’t know it because she was always on the move, rushing off to her various volunteer activities. We would often go to lunch or dinner together. I’m sure we looked like an odd pair - she, impeccably dressed, with a head full of white hair, and me, in jeans, with my long, brown hair. On a number of occasions, the waitresses would ask her, “Is this your granddaughter?” She would always laugh, and introduce me as her neighbor, always mentioning with pride that I served in the military. In that same place, I also volunteered briefly delivering Meals on Wheels. I couldn’t help but make friends with the homebound seniors on my route. They would greet me with a big smile each time, always eager to chat. One was over 90 years old, a frail woman with a quiet voice, who was just too cute for me to leave without giving her a hug. So, here we are in our new place, and I just joined the local Friends of the Library organization. I figured it would be a good way to meet people, and it’s a worthy cause (especially for me, since I’m crazy about books). My first meeting was earlier this week. I looked around the table and realized that I was most definitely the youngest member, maybe even by a few decades. The president of the group noticed it, too, making a point to welcome me and remarking how excited they were to have such a “young” member. During the meeting, one of the ladies was talking about the upcoming book sale they'll have near the movie theater. “Maybe people will stop by our sale, after they see a ‘picture show.’ ” When I heard the “picture show” part, I smiled. I’m happy to find my new circle of (old) friends.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A birthday wish, without the embarrassment

It’s my Mom’s birthday this week. We asked her what kind of gift she wanted this year, and she requested an Olive Garden gift card. I very clearly remember one year when we celebrated her birthday at the Olive Garden. The entire wait staff sang to her and brought out a delicious chocolate cake. It was a perfect celebration – except it wasn’t even close to being her birthday. I was 10 years old at the time, and my Mom had taken me and my friend to the Olive Garden for lunch. Enticed by the prospect of a good prank (and a free cake!), I whispered to the waitress, “It’s my Mom’s birthday, can you bring out a cake?” She nodded and left. I thought my Mom might have heard me whisper that to the waitress, since she was sitting right next to me. But, somehow she didn’t. So, when she heard the wait staff start to sing in unison, she smiled and looked around the room with anticipation at whose birthday it was. When they stopped at our table and set the birthday cake in front of her, she turned as red as the tomato sauce in her entrĂ©e. She laughed a little, only because she probably didn’t know what else to do. Then my friend said jokingly to my Mom, “Mom, you don’t look a day over forty!” A few people at the table next to us heard that remark and whispered to each other, “She’s forty!” My poor Mom. Not only did she suffer the embarrassment of a surprise non-birthday celebration, but she had her potential age announced to everyone in our suburban Olive Garden. The worst part? Those birthday cakes are actually not free, like I thought. Therefore, I did not get us a “free” cake, but rather one that came with a $3 charge. I’ve heard that there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and I’d like to add, that there’s also no such thing as free embarrassment with your lunch either. We gave my Mom an Olive Garden gift card for her birthday this year, just like she wanted. It’s actually a relief to know that my prank didn’t spoil the restaurant for her forever. I’ll completely understand if she decides to forego the cake and singing when she uses it. Happy Birthday, Mom! :)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Marathon Training! Week 13

This past week was a “rest” week. I still ran, but just 3-4 miles at a time. The highlight of the week, by far, was seeing a gorgeous rainbow on one run. It extended completely across the sky, in a perfect arch. (I only wish I had a picture of it, but I know I’m not talented enough to run and carry a camera.) I felt thankful because, in addition to giving me better health and an excuse to eat large amounts of food, marathon training has allowed me to see some of the most gorgeous scenes outside. At this point, I feel very content with my marathon training. Though I had (quite!) a few doubts before I started, I’m so glad that I decided to do this. It has challenged me in so many ways, yet it has brought me joy and surprises. I know that there will be many more challenges on this journey. But hopefully there will also be many more times that I can appreciate the view – and maybe a rainbow – along the way.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Can you hear us now?

I got a call from my mom yesterday. It started with her saying (actually, more like yelling): “TOOTIE, CAN YOU HEAR ME? WE JUST GOT A NEW CELL PHONE.” To which I replied (silently), uh-oh. Let me just say first that my parents are very smart people. They are the first people I call when I need help with my taxes, advice on landscaping, or a general pep-talk on a major life decision. However, they are not on my list of people to call if I need help with any item of technology created in this century. They were just starting to finally master their old cell phone. It took at least four years and some gentle coaching each time I came to visit. “See that button there? That’s the menu button. That’s how you get to all the other functions.” Their cell phone struggles did provide endless laughs, though. My Dad was so proud that he figured out how to leave a greeting on their voicemail. A very friendly, “Hi, we can’t reach the phone, please leave us a message.” There was just one problem. They couldn’t figure out how to check the messages that people were leaving. It was causing so much miscommunication (“Didn’t you get the voicemail I left?”) and confusion (they weren’t even sure that voicemail was included in their cell phone plan), that my Mom made my Dad change the message. So, every time I called their cell phone and they didn’t answer, I heard this: “Uhh, yeah…we don’t have voicemail. Call us back. Bye.” No matter how many times I heard it, it always made me laugh. I might have even called it when I knew they wouldn’t answer, if I needed a quick laugh. My Mom could never figure out how to check her “missed calls.” If the phone rang and she couldn’t answer it in time, she had no idea who called. Usually, I found out about it because, out of the blue, I would get a call from her. “Tootie, did you just call me?” “Nope,” I’d reply. And before I could ask “But, how’s everything going,” she’d quickly say, “OK, bye!” and hang up. There were more cell phone blunders – and laughs – along the way. Some had to deal with adding contacts to the address book. Or saving a number. And I decided to give up altogether on text messages. (“You sent a text message? No, we never got it.”) But eventually, the poor phone that they had finally started to understand, started to die. Yesterday a new phone – with all of its new gadgets – entered their life. I asked my Mom if it had a camera and she said, “Yes, that’s what the lady told us, but I’m not sure where it is on the phone.” The old cell phone may be gone, but I have a feeling that the same laughs will still be there.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

More from our zoo home

I think it’s time we call our house what it actually is: a zoo. To recap, we’ve had deer, ants, and spiders. And that’s not to mention the infamous scorpion. Our latest exhibit featured a small, but uninvited lizard, right before we made our trip to see our family. I walked into the laundry room, and I saw it sitting there on the floor near the dryer. We stared at each other, and neither one of us moved. I then left the laundry room, knowing that Husband would be home soon to escort the visitor off the premises. I told my mom about it when she called. “Why don’t you put a bowl over it so it won’t go anywhere?” “Nah, it’s ok,” I told her. I explained that the lizard and I had an understanding that it would not move, so Husband could safely move him. Plus, I could see the lizard from the kitchen, and I was keeping an eye on him. A few minutes later, Husband got home. “Where was that lizard you were talking about?” It was gone. We looked all over the laundry room, but we couldn’t find it anywhere. I was horrified. We were going to be on vacation for over a week, and this stupid lizard now had complete freedom to roam around our home! (And I felt silly for thinking that I had an “understanding” with a lizard. Really, did I think my life was a Disney animated feature?) Husband didn’t seem that upset. “Look at the bright side, it might actually eat some of the bugs. In a way, it’s doing us a favor.” We had no choice but to leave on our trip. (In addition to not finding the lizard, we also could not find the suit. But that story has already been covered.) I told our family about the “lizard on the loose” in our home. My clever cousin remarked, “Hmm…scorpions and lizards? I’m not so sure I want to come stay in your house.” Anyway, a week and a half later, we’re back in the house, and I’ve forgotten all about the lizard. Until Husband calls me into our bathroom. “Is this the lizard that you saw?” He was trapped in our bathtub. Husband sprinkled some water on it, but it didn’t move. The lizard spent his last moments of life in our bathtub. I almost felt sorry for it, until I realized that the lizard has spent more time in our bathtub than I have. Husband gave him a proper burial a few feet away, toilet-style. There have been no other lizards in the house since then. And, in defense of the lizard, it did not try to bite me in the middle of the night, which is more than I can say of the scorpion. I’m not even going to ask, what’s next? Because I fear the answer might come crawling on our doorstep.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

It's (finally!) official

I got some really good news last week. I passed my comprehensive exam, which means I’m officially done with my Master’s degree! I’m sure the testing lady said a silent prayer of gratitude knowing that I would never bug her again, asking if she could check “just one more time” to see if my results were back. I’m relieved because I will never have to take that monstrous exam again. It’s also a relief to know that I haven’t been lying on my resume when I listed my Master’s degree. Since everything’s official, I started selling all of my old textbooks on the internet. I’ve learned that a very strange law of economics applies to my book sales: the more boring the book was, the more money I can get for it. For example, a snooze of a book on international law brought in $40. Likewise, a book that nearly put me to sleep at least 3 different times in the library sold for almost $100. With this venture, I’ve also started to make friends with the clerks at the post office. On the third day in a row I was there to mail books, they started to catch on: “Are you selling books on the internet?” (Guilty as charged.) I’ve also realized that because I no longer can call myself a student, I’m officially unemployed. I’m doing my best to look for jobs in the area. I’ve dusted off my interview suit, and I’ve also (tried to) put on a thick skin. Because I think no matter how much education or experience you have, the whole job search is still very humbling. Still, I’m trying everything I can to find something. I’m searching the classifieds, talking to local businesses, networking with (the few) people I know in the area. Basically, I’ve done everything except query the kid down the street to see if I could work at her lemonade stand. (“I’m passionate about lemonade! I’m a people-person!”) I’m trying to be patient. But, I won’t rule out the lemonade stand just yet.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Marathon Training! Week 12

The Olympics have been such an inspiration this week. Watching these athletes following their dreams – while breaking records and earning medals – definitely raises my spirits. My long run was 16 miles this week. While it was anything but Olympic worthy, I’m proud because: 1) I didn’t trip anytime during the run (although I did drop my poor MP3 player), and 2) it was my longest run ever. Oh, and even though I may never see my picture on a box of Wheaties, I’ll always have this:

It’s actually more fitting anyway because I think a wholesome, sugary cereal is better than say, a wholesome cereal. I had never seen it before this week, and I told Husband about it. He told me that he's bought it before, and he said, “I love that cereal!” He obviously has very good taste.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Why can't dress shopping be this easy?

There’s a happy ending to the whole suit story. Not only did Husband look handsome in the ensemble he pulled together, but he did get a new suit last week. I had never been suit shopping before, but I figured that if it was anything like dress shopping, we had a long night ahead of us. But, the suit shopping experience went so well that, even as I write this, I have to remind myself that it wasn’t a dream. We walked into the department store. Husband spent approximately 2 minutes sizing up all the suit offerings. Then he saw a black pinstripe suit he liked (very classy!) and it was a reasonable price (on sale!). He took another 3 seconds to find his size, and then he whisked it off to the dressing room to try it on. As he’s trying it on, I stand outside the dressing room and I remind him: “If it doesn’t fit exactly right, you could always have it tailored.” Just then he emerged from the dressing room in a suit that fit like a glove. It was perfect. I was speechless. We then paid for the suit and left the store. By my estimate, the whole experience took less than 10 minutes. This experience was obviously nothing like any dress-buying session I’ve had. Noticeably lacking from the ordeal was: 1) spending hours wandering from store to store, 2) sighing as dress after dress doesn’t fit, 3) throwing up your hands in a fit of frustration, 4) gasping at the price tags, 5) trying to imagine what shoes you would need to buy to match the dress, and 6) crying. It was there, in the suit section of the department store, that I had a major epiphany. This is the reason why women have, on average, a longer lifespan than men. We need those extra years to compensate for all the time we've lost dress shopping. Personally, I’d rather have a shorter lifespan and skip the dress-shopping drama altogether. The only thing we didn’t get on that shopping trip for Husband was a tie. But, if tie shopping is anything like suit shopping, that should take approximately 30 seconds this weekend.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Next time we'll be packing earlier

The most comical part of our trip to visit family happened before we even left the house. I had packed the afternoon before we left, agonizing over such decisions as to whether I should wear the blue dress or the red dress. (I went with the red.) Husband didn’t get home from work until 7PM, and then he didn’t start packing until closer to 8PM. I was doing a few last-minute tasks around the house, when I heard this question from the other room: “Hey, what do you think I should wear to the anniversary party?” Hmm…good question. I knew that I was wearing a dress, but I wasn’t sure what the men would be wearing. So I called my Dad. “Oh, I’m definitely wearing a nice suit. You know, it’s a big celebration and a family event, so definitely a suit.” Of course. A suit. So I passed my Dad’s advice to Husband, and he looked in the closet for his hang-up bag that held his suit. It wasn’t there. We searched in every closet, confident that it would turn up. But it was nowhere to be found. Come to think of it, neither one of us remembers seeing it since we moved into this new house. By now, it’s 9PM, exactly 9 hours before our plane departs, and Husband has nothing to wear for the big celebration. Husband then started looking in completely irrational spots – under the bed, under the couch – with the frantic desperation that could only come from the anxiety of seeing your relatively new in-laws and wanting to make a good impression. Finally, I told Husband, probably in the same gentle tone a doctor delivers bad news to his patient, “I’m sorry…it’s gone.” How we lost a suit, I’ll never know. I figure it must be somewhere between our last duty station and this duty station. But we still had to figure something out. I told Husband that he had two choices at this point, either wear his military dress uniform or call his buddy and ask to borrow his suit. He groaned at hearing both of those options, but decided to call his friend. He held the phone in his hand and physically grimaced as if he just ate a dozen lemons. Then he sighed and dialed the number. I don’t think I fully grasp the extent of humiliation that must have been involved for him to make that call. (Husband made it clear that men do not “share pants.”) But still, he raced over to his friend’s place and returned home with the suit. He tried it on. Though I really wanted to pretend it looked great, it did not. His friend, though he seems roughly the same size as Husband, is actually a good bit larger. In short, Husband looked like the “after” of a weight loss commercial, wearing his oversized “before” pants and a suit jacket that also looked three sizes too big. He struggled with the belt and tried folding parts of the pants, but it just wasn’t going to work. Unless he wanted to pretend he was Jared from Subway-diet fame. I tried so hard not to laugh, but I burst out laughing. And Husband laughed, too. Finally, we found an ensemble that worked. Husband wore a dark pair of pants (we couldn’t decide if they were “faded black” or navy), a white shirt, and his friend’s tie. We made our plane and arrived at my grandparents’ home. We talked to my mom about the attire for the event. “Why would Dad tell him to wear a suit? Regular slacks and a shirt work just fine.” Regardless, I think there’s a valuable lesson here. We probably shouldn’t pack again at the last minute. Or, maybe the lesson is that my Dad shouldn’t be the first person we talk to when we need fashion advice.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Marathon Training! Weeks 10 and 11

I’m still training for my marathon. But, it probably didn’t look like it two weeks ago (week 10). I spent my time with my family doing everything but running. I actually planned to take that week as a break (although I did do 2 short runs before we left). I don’t regret it one bit. Since our military life doesn’t always let us visit our family as often as we’d like, I wanted to soak up every second spending time with them and not worrying about running. Plus, I think the break gave some much-needed rest to my weary legs. I ran last week (week 11) as a normal week. Husband went on a military trip (“TDY” in military speak) for a training conference, and I got to go with him. I ended up doing my runs on the treadmill in the small hotel fitness center. I figured that was easier than trying to become running buddies with death on the busy highways near our hotel. My longest run last week was 14 miles - on a treadmill! I’m almost prouder that I was able to survive the boredom of the treadmill more than just completing that distance. There was no one else in the fitness center the entire time. There was a TV, but it was angled in a way that would have ensured me falling off if I tried to watch it. And, I was forced to stare at a goofy girl during the whole run. Actually, there was a mirror in front of me, but the goofy girl part is still true. On the positive side, I didn’t have to worry about running routes, sunscreen, carrying water, avoiding stray dogs, or the heat. Though the treadmill definitely was boring, it turned out to be better than I thought. In fact, this whole marathon thing is turning out better than I thought. (I’ll try to remind myself of that when I’m running my 15-mile run (!) this week.)

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Family Reunion

The trip to see our family met all my criteria for a good time: lots of family, food, and laughter. (I now sadly realize that I have just paraphrased one of McDonald’s short-lived slogans: “Food, Folks, and Fun.” But I’m going to ignore that and continue on…) Most of the visit consisted of sitting around and eating, while telling stories that started with “Remember when…?” and ended with everyone laughing in unison. We picked and ate fresh blueberries. And we ate every possible recipe that included blueberries: blueberry muffins, blueberry scones, and blueberry pancakes. (It’s no wonder that we didn’t turn into blueberries ourselves, like Violet Beauregarde in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.) My grandparents looked so happy at the anniversary party. They were surrounded by lots of family and friends, and my Dad gave a touching toast about how much they mean to all of us. One fun surprise at the party was a video that my uncle put together of all their old home (silent!) videos. There was actual footage of my grandparents’ wedding! And, it was in color! (Who knew that my grandparents were on the cutting edge of technology at that time?) It was fun to see the younger versions of them, smiling and waving at the camera. In one particularly funny scene, my grandfather (who is usually very quiet and reserved) dramatically dipped my grandmother and gave her a big kiss, followed by a big smile. Everyone loved Husband. Even though he had met most of my extended family at the wedding, this was his first chance to really talk to everyone and get to know them. My grandfather took a particular liking to Husband, giving him a personal tour of the farm. He even remarked to my mom that Husband was “top shelf.” (I think that means that he’s top notch. Or, maybe it means if Husband were a dust-collecting knick-knack, he’d be placed with honor on the top shelf. Really, it just means that he likes Husband.) It was a great trip. The only complaint could come from my running shoes, who sat in my suitcase completely neglected (except for use during a short walk with my cousins). But, after the long run this week, even they can’t complain.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Sixty Years

Husband and I are going out of town for a celebration that has been sixty years in the making: my grandparents’ 60th wedding anniversary! I’m so glad that my family organized this party for them. Sixty years of marriage is certainly something to celebrate. But more than that, they are such amazing and hard-working people, and the least we can do is take one day to honor them. They lead a simple life, and they hardly ever spend money on themselves. They still have a rotary phone and a clothesline to dry clothes. They do not have air conditioning, cable TV, a computer, a dishwasher, an answering machine, or even a shower (just a bathtub). My grandfather will wear his shoes until they are literally being held together by duct tape, yet they will not hesitate to leave a generous tip for a waitress, the barber, or even the maid at a hotel. They are the most generous people I know. They have spent their life working on their farm. Even at their advanced age, they still work every day and sell hay. They also sell blueberries, raspberries, and other produce. (Although I don’t think they make much money from selling produce because they choose to give most of it away to their friends and neighbors.) They are active in the community, and they even started a scholarship fund in memory of a deceased family member. But they would never tell you about it or take credit for it because they are very humble people. I don’t know their secret to their long marriage, but I do know that our family – and our world – is much better because of their example.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Marathon Training! Week 9

What does the end result of running 13 miles look like?

For me, it looks something like this:



Husband surprised me with flowers as a “congrats for running a half-marathon and finishing your Master’s degree this week.”

It’s a much better gift than I gave myself after the run: blisters. (I’m definitely not posting a picture of that one.)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

School's Out...Forever!

So yesterday I got up, ate a peanut butter sandwich, and then FINISHED MY MASTER’S DEGREE!* I took my last two final exams yesterday. I walked into the library as worried student, and then a few hours later I walked out of the library as a free woman! I wanted to throw my hat up into the air, just like Mary Tyler Moore, except that I didn’t have a hat. I also wanted upbeat music playing in the background, as if I were in my own movie or TV show, but someone forgot to call the sound crew. Regardless, I still managed to let out a loud squeal - sort of like “Yeeeee!” – and it was just as satisfying. Thankfully, I don’t think anyone saw or heard me. I feel completely liberated, in ways that I didn’t expect. Like last night. Husband and I watched TV together, and not once did the guilty thought of “I should be studying” creep into my mind. And, at other times, I feel like twirling around for no good reason except for remembering that I’m finished. I’m going to gather up most of my textbooks and get them ready to sell. I’m going to spend a whole day exploring a nearby town and having fun. I’m going to remember to stop and be thankful for the opportunity I’ve had to get this degree. And then I’m going to start twirling around again. *At least, I really hope I’m finished. I still haven’t gotten my grade back from my comprehensive exam, but I hope I passed! (Also, I hope I haven’t bugged the poor testing lady so much that she’s starting to secretly wish ill will on me and my family.) Likewise, hopefully I passed the two exams I took yesterday!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Marathon Training! Week 8

I figured out a good conversation stopper this week. When someone asks at a lunch about your running, just say “Oh, my long run this week was only 6 miles.” Then prepare for all other conversations to stop and all eyes to stare at you in disbelief. I guess it’s proof that I’m really getting into my marathon training. This was considered a “rest week” in the training schedule to give my body a little break before ramping up again next week. Next week the long run, is, um, 13 miles or so. But truthfully, my immediate focus is more on the marathon test-taking session I have next week. I take the final exams for my last 2 Master’s classes, in a one-day, six-hour ordeal. But then, assuming I’ve passed my classes and exams, I will be done with my Master’s! It still doesn't seem real, but I'll gladly take it.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Barefoot Interview

I had a job interview this morning, and I showed up without shoes. Usually that would be a problem, but since this was a telephone interview, I think I was safe. I also didn’t have to worry about an interview suit, a briefcase, styled hair, or even as much as a breath mint. The interview went ok. I tried to remain confident and relaxed throughout it, and I succeeded right until the point that they asked me to demonstrate my Spanish skills. Um…hola? It’s like the equivalent of someone saying, “Hey, I hear you are really funny. Tell me something clever or funny.” Except they wanted me to be clever en espanol. I gave them a few kindergarten-level sentences about where I was from and where I went to school. It was an embarrassing display that did no justice to my mediocre Spanish skills. Other than that, I think the interview went decently. There’s only one problem that now I can finally admit to myself: I’m not sure I even really want the job. Though I definitely want a job once I finish my Master’s (next week!), I’m just not certain that the job I interviewed for today is the job for me. I’m bummed because I was hoping to find a job that I’d like. But so far, I just haven’t found it yet. I’m trying to hold onto hope that something better is out there for me. So, I’ll try to be patient and continue on the journey of the job search. And I might even put on a pair of shoes.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Scorpion saga

It’s funny that one scorpion, a creature that is slightly smaller than a business card, could have such an effect on our lives. Here are a few other amusing developments on the scorpion saga. (Yes, I felt it was important enough to warrant the dramatic name of “saga.”) - Yesterday I set off to complete my top priority of buying scorpion spray. I sadly found that there is no spray exclusively for scorpions. (The roaches and ants clearly have a near-monopoly on the bug spray market.) - Yet, I found a helpful clerk in the hardware store who recommended another all-purpose spray that should prevent scorpions, which I ended up buying. The conversation between us was quite funny. Me: “Hi, I’m looking for scorpion spray.” [Notice that I censored what I really wanted to say, which was “I want some spray that is going to make scorpions die a miserable, painful death!”] Clerk: “Have you seen scorpions in your home?” Me: “Oh yes. In fact, one stung me in the middle of the night.” Clerk: “It stung you? You mean, it was actually in your bed?” Me, with a smile: “Oh yes. It was on my pillow.” The clerk seemed shocked, if not slightly impressed. And I was satisfied that if I had to ordeal such a traumatic experience, at least I could walk away with such a compelling tale. - We have temporarily moved our bed! Our bed, specifically my side of the bed, was directly under the vent, which apparently is scorpion highway. Until we (and by “we,” I mean “Husband”) can put a screen under the vent, the bed will remain in its new, temporary spot. - We have not seen a single scorpion, or anything resembling a scorpion, since the incident. But that did not prevent us from thinking that every noise or movement last night might be a potential scorpion. Before we fell asleep, we actually turned on the lights once to inspect a noise that could have been a scorpion, but was actually just our imagination. Apparently we have very active imaginations. (And, in this case, by “we,” I mean “I.”) - The military information network is clearly alive – and fast! Before Husband came home from work, I already had one telephone inquiry from a concerned military wife. (“Are you ok?? I heard you were stung by a scorpion!”) She must have heard it from a guy my Husband works with, who told his wife, who then told this woman. - I’m grateful that my finger feels completely fine. But, I have to admit that I feel almost a little bit of dismay that there is absolutely no wound or mark from the sting. What good is a war story without even as much as a little scar? It makes the show and tell a little less satisfying. But, I’m not complaining. - I can safely delay any future aspirations I ever had of taking up surfing. Between the pit bulls and the scorpion, I’m just not ready for a “Jaws” moment.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Ouch!

The scene of the crime



After last night, I now have a very good response to the question: How do you not want to be woken up at 1AM?

My answer: By a scorpion sting.

Husband’s answer (I’m guessing): By my wife shrieking after a scorpion sting.

I had been asleep for a few hours, when I suddenly felt something near my pillow. I was somewhere in the middle of being awake and being asleep, when my sleepy self tried to move whatever it was.

Then, I yelped. My poor pinky finger knew what had happened before my brain processed it: I got stung!

Of course, my loud shriek woke up Husband instantly, and he asked in a panic, “What’s wrong? What’s wrong?”

“I need you to turn on the lights,” I said. “There’s something on my pillow.”

Then we saw it. A small (but scary-looking) scorpion sitting there. Was it waiting for some pillow talk?

If so, this is what it got from Husband: “Oh, you’re gonna die, you little [censored].”

He carefully took the pillow and threw it on the floor, and then pulverized the scorpion with a shoe.

In the meantime, I got some ice for my finger. It was slightly swollen, and there was a tiny “if-you-squint-hard-enough-you-might-see-it” pinprick of a mark on it.

But for such a small sting, it sure caused quite a bit of pain. It was slightly worse than a bee sting, but not as bad as a jellyfish sting. (That’s a blog post for another time.)

The irony is that we had carefully considered the scorpion issue after
the first (and only) time we had seen them. It prompted us to do some research on the internet, where we found that scorpions stings in this area are not at all serious. That, thankfully, saved me from screaming dramatically “I’m dying! I’m dying!” after I had been stung. (Thank you, internet.)

Even yesterday Husband persuaded me not to clean the garage like I wanted because he was afraid that I might find a scorpion and get stung. So, who would have thought that merely sleeping would be such a dangerous activity?

Anyway, I rummaged through our medicine cabinet, looking for some Benadryl or Tylenol. That search only made me wonder if I had been transported back in time, or if our medicine supply was really that outdated. Everything was expired – by a few years. I’m not even joking when I say that I found one that expired 06/98. (No, that’s not a typo; it expired in 1998.) It’s sad when you realize that you own medicine that expired years before the twenty-first century.

I finally found some of Husband’s generic aspirin, and it didn’t expire until 2009. (Score!) I carefully read the directions, yet it wasn’t until after I downed the second pill that I noticed the unfortunate word “caffeine” in small print on the front. Because nothing will calm you to sleep after a disturbing scorpion sting like a strong rush of caffeine.

Husband searched the whole house for other potential scorpions, and he found and killed one in the laundry room. But first he told it, “This is war, you [censored]! I’m going to kill you and all your friends!”

I assured Husband that I was ok, and he eventually made his way back to bed. I decided to camp out on the couch – with a new pillow.

For some strange reason, I couldn’t sleep.

Perhaps it was because: 1) my finger was still sore from a recent scorpion sting, 2) I might have been suffering from post-traumatic scorpion sting disorder (PTSSD), 3) with those pills, I took the equivalent caffeine dose of two cups of strong coffee, or 4) I was still paranoid that a scorpion might be crawling near me.

I stayed on the couch, with my eyes as wide as saucers, scanning the darkness for anything lurking. In fact, I nearly screamed once when I felt something on my neck, but it turned out to be just my pony tail. (Phew!)

After a few sleepless hours, I finally fell into scorpion-free sleep.

After all of this, I can confidently add “getting stung by a scorpion in the middle of the night” to the list of experiences that I do not want to repeat.

I can also add “scorpion spray” and “medicine that expires in this century” to my list of things to buy.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Marathon Training! Week 7

I’ve mentioned before that running has brought me so much already, like more confidence and more hope. (In addition to more laundry.) But this week it brought me a healthy dose of gratitude. I usually pass at least one other runner on my runs, and we usually smile and exchange a quick wave. This week I passed one man and exchanged the normal wave, but I couldn’t help but notice that he had only one arm. It reminded me that it takes courage for anyone to run (or walk or exercise), but it probably took even more courage for him. And it made me realize how lucky I am. I am usually quick to be thankful for my family, friends, and overall good health. But how often am I specifically grateful for my arms? The arms that let me hug Husband, that let me type out a blog post, that let me hold a book to read, that let me cook a meal, that let me do the thousands of other things I do. And, in just a few seconds of seeing this man, I felt a wave of gratitude for all that I have – arms and all. *** Marathon training is getting quite a bit harder. I ran 12 miles yesterday, which left me totally exhausted in a way I had never experienced. Afterwards, I hobbled around the house like an old lady, making slow and deliberate movements as to not aggravate my already tired legs. I’ve also sadly realized what “chaffing” is. I’ll spare the details, but I’ll just say that it’s not so fun. On the positive side, I made up for the lost calories indulging in hamburgers and fries. And I’ve eaten enough chocolate cookie dough ice cream in the past couple weeks to call myself a connoisseur. (My favorite is Blue Bell, closely followed by Ben & Jerry’s, and then Dreyer’s.) See? Marathon training isn’t so bad after all.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Love and Indigestion

I knew it was love, right after I knew it was indigestion. Husband and I hadn’t been dating long, maybe just a few months, but it was long enough for him to already know about my stomach troubles. (The great irony of my life is that I have a ferocious appetite and a strong love of food, but also a very weak stomach.) He first learned of my stomach woes earlier in our relationship on the night he made me an elaborate dinner. The meal included steak, shrimp, baked potatoes, and probably a dessert. It was such a delicious dinner, and I was so touched that he went to the trouble to make it. But afterwards, I just felt terrible. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, so I tried (unsuccessfully) to hide my stomach pains. Once he figured it out, he asked what he could do. “Do you have any Tums?” I asked. Husband went on a frantic quest, opening up closets and cabinets, desperate to turn up the medicine that might cure my ills. Despite his best efforts in looking, it turned out that he didn’t have any. I politely excused myself soon after and left his house. (And I probably spent the rest of the evening moaning and clutching my stomach in my own house.) A few weeks later, we had gone out to eat at a nice restaurant. On the car ride home, my stomach started feeling upset. He asked me what was wrong, and I told him. “Oh, no need to worry. I have these for you,” he said. He reached over and opened up his glove compartment, and there was a brand new bottle of Tums. Just for me. He handed me the bottle and smiled. Just then I knew it was love. From the bottom of my heart – and stomach.