Monday, June 30, 2008

A miracle in our own home office

Husband worked his magic and turned the furniture pieces into a real functioning desk.

Here it is in all its glory.

What’s even more amazing is that he was able to finish the assembly in about 15 minutes.

I didn’t know whether to be envious that he could complete the assembly in such a short time (it would have easily translated into 2 hours of Tootie time) or just be content that the project is done.

I picked neither of those options and decided instead to be completely overjoyed that we have a real, live desk in our office. Our computer and printer finally have a home instead of being nomads shuttled from place to place.

There’s only one slight problem. The chair is a little too short for the desk. In Husband’s very diplomatic way, he told me that when I sat at it I looked “like a kindergartener at an oversized desk.”

I would gladly keep the kindergartener look, if I knew it would guarantee me snack time, followed immediately by nap time.

But, since it won’t, we’ll be shopping for a new chair soon.

Thankfully, I’ve learned a lesson from the frustration known as desk assembly, and I’m happy to put Husband in charge of any assembly (and/or humiliation) that will be required for the chair.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Marathon Training! Week 5

Today I ran 9 miles! It’s my longest run ever. (I guess every long run from now on, including the marathon itself, will be my longest run ever. It sounds very dramatic, yet it’s true.) I was so jazzed that I ran the 9 miles (especially after a few small doubts last night) that I e-mailed my mom about it this morning. It went something like this… “I ran 9 MILES! That’s OVER AN HOUR AND A HALF of running!” I’m sure she would agree that accomplishing a 9-mile run calls for the use of all caps. After all, we both still remember when I decided to join the military how the thought of the 2-mile run brought me to tears. My running experiences at that point consisted of: 1) tripping and nearly falling off a treadmill in a crowded base gym, 2) throwing up after a run at the track in front of a group of people I had just met, and 3) throwing up before a timed run out of sheer nerves. I try to remember these experiences sometimes. Not because I enjoy recalling my most embarrassing moments, but because it reminds me that I’ve come a long way. And it reminds me that anything is possible. Even training for a marathon. For a once-hopeless non-runner like me. So I’m taking this hope and running - literally.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Some assembly (and humiliation) required

There comes a time in almost every person’s life when they sadly realize that they are not smarter than the assembly instructions on their newly purchased piece of furniture.

That time, my friends, came for me yesterday.

Husband and I purchased a much-needed desk last week, and yesterday it arrived. Up until then, our poor substitute of a coffee table had been the home for our laptop and my mound of books.

The desk came in a large box, with pieces requiring assembly.

[Note: The box says “quick and easy assembling” as the #1 reason to buy the product; the #4 reason is “clear instructions.” These words will be important later in the story.]

Husband dragged the box to the office, and he left for work. Though I can’t remember our exact conversation before he left, I think it went something like this.

Delusional Desk Assembler (me): Hey, maybe I can put this together while you’re at work.
Too-Hopeful Husband: Sure. I bet you could put it together with no problems.
Delusional Desk Assembler: Ok, I’ll go for it.

I started without any trouble. I breezed through the first few steps, which gave me a false surge in desk-assembling confidence.

In fact, I talked to my parents in the early stages of assembly, and I scoffed when they suggested that maybe Husband could help me later. Why would I need his help? If I can handle marathon training and Master’s classes, I can certainly handle the assembly of a cheap, simple desk.

But, then it started getting ugly. The pieces weren’t labeled correctly, and the poor excuse for a drawing did not help. The instructions taunted me, “It’s easy! Just use screw #111.” Except that none of the screws nor their packages are labeled, so all their numbers (“S2!” or “111!”) are completely meaningless.

The rest of the afternoon was a blur, mostly involving: sweating, cursing and yelling at the desk, picking up the instructions and then promptly throwing them on the floor in a fit of frustration.

After three painful hours, the electric drill finally stopped, and I couldn’t find the charger for it. (I won’t even go into how any project that requires the use of an electric drill might not be the project for me.) I decided to end my masquerade as a furniture assembler right then and there.

So, I’ll just say it: I am not smarter than the assembly instructions. It’s humiliating, but it’s true.

The “quick and easy assembling” proved neither quick nor easy for me. Just as the “clear instructions” were anything but clear to me. (I imagine the instruction-writers sitting around their already-assembled desks roaring with loud and evil laughter when they wrote those parts.)

The good news is that I put the overworked electric drill and the partially-assembled desk in Husband's capable hands. And I can safely cross “Rosie the Riveter” off my list of potential jobs.

Monday, June 23, 2008

A Speedy 5K

My neighbor and I went to base on Saturday to run a 5K. I was so fast on this one that I got pulled over by the cops. That’s not the punch line to a bad joke. I really did get pulled over by the cops. I drove onto base when, not more than two minutes later, red and blue flashing lights greeted me in my rearview mirror. I thought it was a misunderstanding because the speed limit was 30 mph, and clearly I was going less than that. But apparently, I was a dangerous menace to the entire military installation and to US national security by going “26 mph in a 15 mph zone.” I could have disputed that there was no sign saying that it was a 15 mph zone. Instead, I gave him the requested items (my military ID, driver’s license, registration, and insurance) as well as a pitiful look, and prayed he wouldn’t give me a ticket. He didn’t. (Phew!) We still made it in time to start the 5K. The race itself was fun, and we made a couple new friends afterwards. Sadly, I didn’t go as fast during the race as I did on the drive to the race, or else I would have gotten a t-shirt instead of just a potential ticket and a somewhat entertaining story.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Exam

1) Thank you to every single person who left an encouraging comment about my exam. I read (and re-read!) all the comments, and I immediately felt calmer and uplifted. So, thank you for your kindness and support! 2) I learned something really important through this test-taking experience. (Besides that a peanut butter sandwich makes an excellent pre-test snack...) The night before the test I started to go through another bout of worry and nerves. Then I realized that worry was the product of looking at the situation negatively. Worry meant that I was looking at the situation as a chance to fail. Instead, why not look at it as a chance to succeed? I usually try to look at the positive side of situations in my regular (non-academic) life, so why wouldn’t I treat this situation the same? That switch of mindset definitely helped me. I still got a few nervous jitters before the test, but I felt much better. 3) So, yesterday morning I sat with the test in front of me and I took a deep breath. I collected my thoughts and dove into the essays, scribbling (hopefully legibly) as fast as I could. So far, so good, I thought. And then the lights went out. I sat in a completely dark and windowless room, ready to panic. Will my test be disqualified? Is there a flashlight near me? Am I allowed to scream like a girl in the testing room?? Then the lights came back on. Thankfully, they stayed on the rest of the time, and everything else went ok. But, it’s an experience I’d rather not repeat anytime in the near future. It was 6 hours total (with a lunch break between the morning and afternoon sessions) and 4 essays. I wrote 25 full pages until my hand was sore and cramping. 4) I feel so relieved that the test is finished. I'll find out how I did in a few weeks. I still have 4 more weeks of class work, but I don’t think any of it will compare to the exam. Hopefully, the only hard part will be deciding which restaurant to celebrate at when it’s graduation time.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Marathon Training! Week 4

The title of this post could also be “longer running times than my favorite TV shows,” “spending more time running than cleaning,” or “using running as an excuse to talk about sea turtles and Hawaii.” (You’ll see…) I’m now measuring my long runs in hours, not minutes. It started last week when I passed the hour mark, running my longest run at that point: 6 miles. This week my long run was over an hour. (Actually, 1 hour and 17 minutes, but who’s counting?) It was a tad over 7 miles, and my longest run to date. So, some days I’m putting more miles on my legs than on my car! I’d take myself in for an oil change, but I’m scared to know what that might involve. Regardless, as my mileage is increasing, so is my confidence. I tell myself each week that I have to run only a few more minutes than last week, which is true. And by pushing myself, slowly and steadily, I will somehow finish the race, just like the turtle in the old tale. Speaking of turtles, below is a video of a sea turtle that we saw on the beach in Hawaii. Yes, this might be a shameless excuse to talk about something Hawaii-related, but I’m posting it now because I’m not sure when the subject of turtles will come up on my blog again. (Probably not anytime soon, unless turtles suddenly started eating our landscaping.)

Oh, and though the video doesn’t show it, the turtle eventually made it back to the water. My little camera didn’t have enough memory to film the whole thing. I guess the lesson for all of us is that we, too, can slowly make it towards our goals. The other lesson for me, specifically, is that I should buy a larger memory card before going back to Hawaii.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

If the blog posts stop...

…it’s because I’ve self-destructed from intense nerves. Friday is the day I take the big (6-hour! all essay!) cumulative exam for my Master’s program. I usually get a sizable amount of nerves for regular exams, but this exam has an additional minor detail. You know, the whole “if-I-don’t-pass-it-I-don’t-graduate” thing, which makes me want to 1) run far away, 2) find a bag and hyperventilate, or 3) run far away and then find a bag and hyperventilate. There might be a few things I’m good at (like scouting out bargain souvenirs or boiling water), but handling stress simply isn’t one of them. Husband and my Mom have given me a number of pep talks with very sensible advice. When Husband heard that the pass rate was 80% for first-time test takers, he said, “Are you kidding me? Of course, you’re going to pass. In fact, I bet you could take the test right now and pass.” My Mom said, “If I passed my comp exam, then you can definitely pass. Don’t even worry about it!” I definitely appreciate their encouraging words. But, I find that they’re lacking in more constructive advice, like what to do if I faint while taking the exam or how I discreetly throw up in a quiet testing room without causing a scene. Ok, I’m joking (a bit). I know that things will work out ok. I know that somehow I will get through the exam. And I’m hopeful that I will pass. I’ve just never been so excited to see Saturday.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father (Really) Knows Best

In honor of Father’s Day, I’m writing a few things I’ve learned from my Dad. My Dad, aside from being just a great guy, is probably one of the most interesting people you’d meet. He’s been a pilot most of his life, first in the military and then for the airlines, and he has all sorts of fun and entertaining stories to prove it. Most start with start with “Once when I was in Kinshasa…” or “I landed at [fill in the name of a place you’ve only barely heard of and would have to look it up on a map to precisely locate].” [Side note: Kinshasa is in the Congo. I had to check to make sure. Consider that your geography lesson for the day.] He’s got a great sense of humor, and I hardly ever see him in a bad mood. He’s content to work around the house or in the yard, always humming a song or whistling to himself. At parties, you’d hear his solid laughter accompanying any joke or story he tells or hears. These are the top few things I’ve learned from him... 1) Wave hello at your neighbors. When we first moved to the South, we were driving around our new neighborhood when my Dad offered a friendly wave to another driver. (The wave is distinct with one palm raised and a slight nod of the head.) “Who’s that?” I asked. “I don’t know, I was just being friendly,” he replied. So I’ve started waving at my neighbors, too, even if I don’t know them. Most are very happy to smile and return the wave. 2) Life is more fun on the dance floor than on the sidelines. I’ve never known my Dad to turn down a chance to dance. Some of my favorite memories – and pictures – are of us laughing and dancing away. 3) Laughter is a great part of life. My Dad is always laughing and joking. We seem to laugh at whatever situation we’re in, like if all our hot dogs fall off the boat into the water or if something slightly comical happens at church. (My mom isn’t as pleased when we’d laugh during church, and she’d shoot us the serious “you-better-stop-laughing-because-we’re-in-church” look.) We laugh during Seinfeld, we laugh at the goofy things he tells telemarketers, and we laugh at the funny nicknames he gives our friends and neighbors. 4) Think positively. Even when bad things happened to my Dad, he’d pick himself up and continue on with a positive attitude. He’d work hard, always with optimism, knowing that everything would turn out ok. And he was right. For the record, there are many other things he’s taught me, like “contribute to an IRA” or “use 5W30 for the oil in your car,” but for space limitations, I’m not listing all of those. I know it’s trendy in our society to blame your parents for everything in your current life, so let me to join in: Dad, I blame you for giving me a great sense of humor. I blame you for giving me a positive outlook on life. And, I blame you for teaching me to enjoy every second of it. Thanks! :)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Maybe we just weren't meant to have landscaping

Our landscaping was just starting to make a recovery after the deer feast, when another set of plants found themselves under attack.

The perpetrators were much smaller than deer, but they were much greater in number.

Tiny little ants formed a long, black line on our sidewalk, each carrying away a piece of our plant. Had it not been our own plant, we might have found it comical. Actually, we did find it comical, but we still weren’t happy about it.

[Side note: Later we happened to catch a show on the Discovery Channel about this type of ants. Apparently they don’t eat the plant, but they use the pieces to grow some sort of...mold. To eat. Another reason to be glad you’re not an ant.]

Husband, because he’s nice, gave the ants a variety of special “drinks” to go with their plant pieces. We haven’t seen any ants since then.

The plant is still not looking too good. Perhaps the humiliation of being hauled away, bit by bit, was too much for it to take.

By the way, this is my third post
about ants! Maybe this is more humiliation than I can take, too.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Marathon Training! Week 3

Here’s what running has brought me so far, more or less: - I have much more blog material. - I have much more laundry to do with an extra 4 days of workout clothes per week to wash. - Right after I run, I feel like I have much more energy. - However, sometimes later in the afternoon, I feel like I have less energy. In fact, I’m seeing less of the movies we watch. [True story: I fell asleep during the movie “Don’t Mess with the Zohan” last Sunday afternoon, and Husband nudged me to wake up. What I wanted to tell him was that I should go back to sleep because 1) the movie cost only $3, and 2) it wasn’t that great of a movie. But, I ate some Mike and Ikes and managed to stay awake.] - I have much more confidence in myself. (Though I might have slightly less confidence in our movie selections after Sunday’s pick.) ----------- Happy running thought: I have 39 miles and 11 days of running under my belt in my training program. Sad running thought: It took 8 days of running just to add up to one single marathon. Yikes!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Paper, plastic, or hassle?

This week I decided to start bringing my own reusable bag to the store. I’d like to tell you that it’s because I’ve become very environmentally conscious. But really, I’m just tired of those white plastic bags overtaking our pantry. Then the plastic bags block my view of the food in the pantry, so I go shopping and bring home more food…and more bags. (I think you see the dilemma here.) So off I went to the store with my red bag. I was feeling proud because I remembered not only to bring it in the car, but then remembered to bring it into the store, too. Then I stand in line with my ten items. I smiled and said to the cashier, “Hi, I’d like to use this bag for my items, please.” The lady smiled back without saying anything and took the bag. As she started to bag the groceries, she fumbled with the items and began mumbling to herself, “hmm…maybe I should put the cereal box in first. No wait, this should go in first instead.” She was struggling with the bag, and the number of people standing in line behind me was mounting. Finally she sighed and said, “I’m not sure whose idea it was to start bringing in their own bags.” Me, neither. But, I’d like to ask that person how they handle the dialogue with confused cashiers. So what’s a girl to do? Bring home an endless supply of plastic bags? Bring a reusable bag to the store and hope it doesn’t fluster the cashier? Swear off grocery stores altogether and go on a diet of leaves like our neighborhood deer??

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Adventures in babysitting

One day last week I babysat for a friend’s baby girl while she took her son to a doctor’s appointment. She thanked me a number of times for agreeing to babysit. (Although, if she knew the extent of my ignorance about childcare, she might not have been quite as grateful.) I babysat for years as a teenager, but I seem to have much less contact with kids as an adult. So, I was a little intimidated about watching a 4-month old for a few hours. Everything went surprisingly smoothly. The little one slept for the first hour, and when she woke up, she didn’t seem to notice that I wasn’t a baby expert. Or, if she did notice, she didn’t say anything. Except for some indecipherable baby coos. I had a good time with her. And I think I found my calling in life. No, not a babysitter. I want to be a baby! I was seriously jealous of her gear, and here are a few examples. 1) She has a chair that appears to be a be a normal baby chair, but it actually has a massage option! I turned on the vibrations for her, but she didn’t seem to care. The poor thing doesn’t know what she’s missing. Hopefully she will learn how great massages are, perhaps right after she learns her ABCs. 2) Her mom showed me some special medicine I could give her if she got the hiccups. She says it works right away, and the hiccups are gone. Why haven’t I heard about this medicine before? I’ve been following antiquated methods for mine, which mostly include Husband trying to scare me. It’s a lot of fun for Husband, but not fun for me and ineffective against the hiccups. 3) The lucky girl also has a special warmer for her baby wipes. I liken it to the “hot towels” they used to offer on airplanes before they decided to save money by ditching them along with the miniature bag of peanuts. I’d gladly take the hot towels back – or even the tiny bag of peanuts. But, I considered the downsides of being a baby – having your diaper changed, not being able to talk, and drooling on yourself. All that of that seems tolerable, until you realize that you’d be giving up chocolate (and other solid food). In that case, she can have her massage chair, and I’ll gladly keep my Hershey bars.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Marathon Training! Week 2

Forgive the exclamation point in the title. It’s because I’m still suffering from a bit of disbelief (and a lot of excitement) that I’m actually training for a marathon. This second week of training went surprisingly well. In fact, I actually feel a little more hopeful about the coming months. But, there’s one strange thing I’ve noticed this week. Some other girl has taken over my body, and she’s doing things I’ve never done. 1) She sets her alarm for a ridiculously early time, and then she actually gets up at that time…and runs! 2) Somehow she doesn’t complain (yet) about either thing in #1. 3) She’s made a full conversion to running, as if it was a new-found church, proclaiming its virtues to other would-be runners and asking them to join her on Sunday for runs. 4) She gets up early! To run! (Ok, I realize that was covered in #1, but I just had to emphasize that again.) 5) She includes casual remarks like “it was only a 4-mile run” in her everyday conversation. Ok, I’m done talking about myself in the third person. But, I was thinking about this running thing today (not surprisingly, while I was running), and I was struck by how much more I’ve done already than I ever thought I could. So, I thought (in a good way) – who is this girl?? Don’t worry, though. This new girl still eats her fair share of dark chocolate M&Ms and still worries about her Master’s exams. Proof that everything is still right in the world.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

I (still) scream for ice cream

I think I’ve figured out that there’s no age limit on having your heart (or stomach?) leap when you hear the sound of the ice cream truck. I always thought that my excitement for the ice cream truck would fade as I got older, but it never did. (And never mind that I always have a large supply of my own ice cream in the freezer, but somehow it just tastes better from the ice cream truck.) Once when I was in the military, I was working the night shift with my only chance for sleep during the day. I heard the truck’s distinct sound, which instantly woke me up from my daytime slumber. I sat up in bed, thinking: “Run! Catch that truck! Get that ice cream!” Then I sadly realized that I was probably too old to run after the ice cream truck, and more importantly, I needed to get some sleep for work more than I needed to get ice cream. Earlier this week Husband and I were outside assessing our dying lawn (yes, it appears to be dying again), when I heard its unmistakable melody. I had to restrain myself from starting off in a full sprint towards the noise. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find the truck. Fortunately, Husband took me out for ice cream later that night. The moral of the story is that ice cream is always good, although its taste somehow drastically improves after you’d had the thrill of running after an ice cream truck. Or maybe the moral of the story is that some things are too good to let go, no matter how old you are.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Ah, memories

At first I couldn’t get the memories of Hawaii out of my head, but now apparently I can’t get them off of my feet either. I came back from a run, took off my socks and shoes, and slowly stretched my tired legs. But what is that on my feet? It looks like some sort of sand. I retraced my running route in my mind. Did I run near a construction site? Was there dust or sand on the sidewalk? Then I remembered that I ran exactly once on our vacation in Maui. And sure enough, it looks exactly like Maui sand. Too bad that my running shoes aren’t ruby slippers that can transport me back to Hawaii. But, lucky for me, I already believe that there’s no place like home, and I’ve found it here.