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.