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


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.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

If we're not at home, check the movie theater

Husband and I have taken up movie-watching since we’ve moved here. Our small town doesn’t have a ton of activities to offer, but it does have cheap movie tickets. (Perfect for cheapskates like us!) In the last couple weeks, we’ve seen Wall-E and Get Smart. I recommend them both. (And I might give away that I am more kid than adult by saying that I secretly liked Wall-E better, even though Get Smart was witty and entertaining.) Plus, Wall-E has memorable quotables like “Eeee-va” and “Waaall-ee” that are fun to say in your best robot voice. Husband was supposed to go out of town on a military trip (TDY in military speak) this coming weekend, but it turns out he doesn’t have to go after all. I have no idea what our plans for the weekend will include, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it involved another trip to the movies. And maybe some more robot voices.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Marathon Training! Week 6

Happy belated 4th of July. And a very happy Cinco de Julio while we’re at it. (I guess it doesn’t have the same ring as Cinco de Mayo...) Anyway, I think it’s safe to say that this week in my training focused a lot on safety after the dog incident. I did some very unscientific research about safety during running, and here are some of the suggestions I heard/read: - Husband, only half-joking, suggested I carry a shotgun. Or a knife. But then he proposed the more realistic option of carrying mace. - My mom told me about a lady that she knows that walks with a golf club. (I can only imagine how funny that conversation might sound for me at a golf store. Clerk: “Oh, so you’re taking up golfing? Me: “Nope, running.”) - I read about a man that carries a small baton to shoo away any dogs that approach him. - On a few runner’s forums, some suggested carrying mace or pepper spray. Others echoed the recommendation of being assertive and telling the dog in a loud voice to “go home” or “get away.” I’m going to look into the mace option, assuming there’s a type that’s small and that can clip to my Camelback. But, it makes me laugh because I never thought that I would end up with so much running gear! I wear sunscreen. I wear sunglasses. I (sometimes) wear a hat. I wear an athletic watch. I wear special running socks to protect my feet. My parents gave me a Camelback as a gift (so I wouldn’t get dehydrated), and I wear that for long runs. I also carry a cell phone (on the inside pocket of the Camelback) in case I get injured or run into problems. I also put that cell phone in a plastic bag to protect it from getting wet. I carry a house key tied to my shoelace. And now I’m thinking of carrying mace? I joked with Husband that if I get any more gear, I won’t be able to carry it all and the only solution would be to bring it in a car. And then I won’t be running, I’ll be driving.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

My Olympic Moment

I’ve always been crazy about the Olympics. There is something about the games that have always captivated me, even at a young age. When I was a kid, I used to make my parents watch me dive into the pool (over and over), and then I’d make them give me a score, just like in the Olympics (“9.6!” “9.2!”). It wasn’t until I was older that I realized the scores were very arbitrary, since all of my dives probably looked exactly the same – a little clumsy. Then as a teenager I was determined that my best friend (also a teenager) and I would be going to the summer games - solo. Little did I know that my mom wouldn’t let me drive out of our small town, let alone take a long jaunt to see the Olympic games. But that didn’t stop me from saving a few dollars in a white envelope that I cleverly labeled as “Olympic Money.” Later, when I was in college, I happened to be walking through the student center one night, when I saw a sign advertising a talk given by an Olympic-medal winner. I glanced at my watch, and I happened to be there just in time for it to start. I took my seat among a crowd of other students, and I listened to this Olympic swimmer talk about his experiences in the Olympics and in life. He talked a lot about his faith and how it motivated him to do all that he accomplished. I was already feeling inspired. Then, he did something so unexpected and amazing that I thought I might self-destruct from excitement. He passed around his medals for each person to see and touch! First came the gold. I treasured my few seconds in holding it. It was heavier than I thought, and I know I must have broken out in a ridiculously large grin. Next came the silver medal. By this time, I had seen other people putting the medals on, and I figured I’d do the same. So, for a few brief seconds in my life, a real Olympic silver medal hung around my neck. I hadn’t earned the right to wear it, but I still felt incredibly grateful for the chance. I know many Olympians keep their medals in glass cases to preserve them. But I thought it said a lot about this athlete that he wanted to share them with the rest of us, and it made for a moment that I’ll never forget. My love affair with the Olympics continues. Just this weekend Husband and I watched some of the Olympic trials, and we saw three Americans break world records. (I might have had to wipe away a few small tears at those moments.) I told Husband that one day we’d go see Olympic games in person. I’m going to pretend that I didn’t hear what he said at first (“Don’t you think you’d see them better on TV?”) and remember what he said the second time (“Ok, we’ll go sometime.”) Thankfully, he’s not as strict as my mom was, and we probably won’t keep a white envelope for saving the money. But the same excitement about the Olympics is still there.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

How a run almost turned me into dog food

I thought I looked like a runner on my morning run today, but maybe I looked more like a bag of Alpo in running shoes. I was about 10 minutes into my run, when I suddenly realized that 3 very large dogs were running right towards me with no owner in sight. These dogs were pretty scary, and my first instinct was to pull my arms into my chest. But, I immediately thought of Cesar Millan and his advice about being an assertive pack leader. So, instead of cowering, I continued running and confidently put my arm out, while saying in a firm voice, “Get back! Get back!” It worked. The dogs stopped chasing me. I felt relieved. (And also vindicated that all my hours of watching the Dog Whisperer finally paid off!) I continued on my run, and I didn’t think much of the incident until on the way back. I passed a lady (also in running gear) and a man talking to a police car. They motioned to me to come over. “You might not want to run up that way,” the lady said, pointing to the area where I passed earlier in my run. “There’s a pack of stray pit bulls, and they look dangerous. The police are looking into it.” I gulped. They were pit bulls?? Thank goodness I wasn’t smart enough to realize that when I saw them. I would have been anything but “calm and assertive,” and I would have braced myself for the bites. (Because let’s face it, marathon training or not, I’m not going to outrun a pack of pit bulls.) Once we found out the street was clear, the lady and I walked back together, and it turns out that she’s a neighbor on our street. I enjoyed our conversation, and it was nice to make a new friend. I’m grateful that everything turned out ok. But, I’m not taking any chances next time. I’m going to start running with tranquilizer - not for the dogs, but for me.