Friday, December 28, 2007

Merry Christmas All Around?

Here's a picture of our Christmas tree early one morning, before the sun rose. There's one thing missing, though, since I took this picture while Gomez was MIA. Otherwise, there would be a kitten lurking underneath the tree.

I hope everyone had Merry Christmas-es, if you celebrate the holiday. If not, then hopefully you enjoyed the empty roads, restaurants, and movie theatres.

We had a good holiday, spread out over several days. We exchanged gifts with my family on Saturday, Sunday morning was our Christmas at home, and then we celebrated Christmas Eve and Day with Keith's family. Overall, it was a relaxing holiday, even with the driving.

I was very happy with our decision to exchange fewer presents between Keith and me, and save money for one big gift for us. The original plan was to get a gas fireplace. After talking to a contractor, we're not sure if that's still a possibility in our particular (rule-laden) city, and with our particular fireplace. That is pretty disappointing, but I'm sure we'll also have plenty of other places to spend money.

Keith's parents also gave us a Home Depot card, specifically because we said our next DIY project would be to build custom bookshelves to flank the fireplace. It's one of the things we've been wanting to do since we moved in, so we're excited to get started on those. Don't worry—I'm sure you'll be treated to many pictures!

New Year's Eve will also be a low-key event for us. Although the holidays have been great, I'm looking forward to returning to life as normal. And as soon as I figure out what that is, I'll let you know about that, too.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Gomez-shaped Hole in my Heart

I know I've talked about the dog, Beckett, a lot here. I don't think I've talked about the cat, Gomez, as much. Probably because she's better behaved, so the stories aren't as wild and crazy as those of Beckett.

Mostly Gomez stories go like this, "I was sitting on the couch and she came and sat on my lap and purred and told me that she loved me. It was great." She's not an angel, of course—she has escaped outside the house several times and none of the yarn in my knitting basket is safe from her attention. But she's a wonderful cat and I love her.

Over the past few weeks, however, there's been a Gomez-shaped hole in my heart. When I went to my parents' house after my mom's surgery, I took Gomez with me. That was December 10. On December 14, Keith and I left for the wedding and Gomez stayed at my parents'. Then, coming back from the wedding, the blizzard conditions prevented up from stopping by to pick up Gomez. So she stayed all last week, too.

We saw her for a few hours on Saturday, when we went over for my family's Christmas festivities. But we once again left without the cat, as Keith and I were heading out the next day to actually spend Christmas with his family. Gomez spent Christmas with my parents and many other pets.

I had no doubts that she was being well-cared-for and enjoying her time with my parents. I got regular updates about Gomez frolicking with the other cats, and adopting the cat tree as her own personal playground. She was having a great time. But the house felt empty without her. My only fear was that she wouldn't be all that bothered to come home once the time finally came.

Yesterday we drove back from Keith's parents, and we made the pet circuit. We stopped by my sister's to pick up the dog, and then headed to my parents' for the cat. By this time, she'd been there for more than 2 full weeks. She greeted us at the door, but then ran away on important cat business. After a bit of catching up with my parents, I went in search of the cat and squeezed her into the cat carrier. She was NOT happy about it.

She complained during the entire ride home, which is typical. But once she got home, much to my relief, she seemed glad to be back. I think a big positive on our side is the fact that she has a litterbox and food all to herself. She spent much of the evening running all over the house, re-acquainting herself with all her favorite haunts.

Even better, when we gave up on the unpacking and settled in the basement to watch a movie, she joined us. Usually she's pretty independent. She likes to be in the same room as people ... but she doesn't actually want to be touching you. If we're on the futon in the basement, she curls up on the recliner. If we're on the couch in the living room, she settles onto the back of the loveseat.

But I suspect that she may actually have missed us during our long separation. Because last night Beckett curled right up with us (he's not shy about cuddling), and a bit later Gomez padded over, and laid on Keith's chest for most of the movie. When he moved too much she punished him by leaving and settling on the recliner ... but then returned a few minutes later to curl up on the futon in front of him.

When Beckett changed positions and moved to Keith's end of the couch, she again left. But after sniffing around the basement, she came back and laid on me for the rest of the movie. And last night she snuck into bed after the rest of us were asleep, and curled up in the crook of my arm for most of the night. She didn't get up until I'd hit snooze for the third time this morning and reluctantly started stretching.

It was so wonderful to have the whole family together and home again. I know when my pets are staying with my parents or my sister and her husband, they're happy and well cared-for. But who is caring for me? Keith is a fabulous husband, but he insists on "working" and "running" and doing other human activities. And although he offers to let me pet his well-coiffed head, it's just not the same as a pet's soft, comforting fur. I'm very happy to have both pets back!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas Cards

Finally! Amy's been asking for these pictures for weeks now. I swear, we really did make the cards on December 1! I'm just slow getting the pictures up.

Our card-making process usually involves two get-togethers. The first time we gather to consider ideas and try them out, and pick one design to actually use. Unfortunately, we can never agree on one design so we always end up making more work for ourselves by making two or even three completely separate cards.

This year, we made two. But I only took pictures of one, because the rest of the cards were already in their envelopes. For our second get-together, we try to prepare some of the parts ahead of time (have everything stamped out and paper cut) so it's really just an assembly line. This year, that didn't happen. But we always have the best intentions!

To make this card, we cut scrapbooking paper to a size slightly smaller than the front of the card. Then we took the scraps of that decorative paper and used a punch to make a few matching snowflakes for the inside of the card.

After that, we stamped the trees for the front of the card and the "joy" stamp for the inside, trimmed them up, and then cut colored paper to go behind the "joy" stamp.

Finally, it was the assembly line, actually attaching all of the various elements. Additionally, when we put the decorative paper on the front of the card, we attached a ribbon toward the bottom for a little more visual interest.

In one long marathon session and another hour or so the next morning, my Mom, two sisters, and I made 75 cards total. (We also had some much-needed help from my friend Halle—who doesn't even celebrate Christmas!— and yet she still suffered through the process with us.) Amy didn't take any cards with her, so Mom, Erin and I got 25 cards each.

I never have enough handmade cards to go to all of my Christmas list, but I try to spread the love around and mix up who gets handmade cards and who gets store-bought ones. But if someone sends me handmade cards, I try to return the favor. And if someone helps make the cards, they're assured to receive one of the best results—even if they don't celebrate Christmas!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Rock Star in My Dreams

The wedding was fabulous. Despite the several inches of snow that fell on the ground that morning, or that continued to fall into the next day. And the afterglow couldn't even be ruined by the fact that we drove back home in blizzard conditions—snow galore and driving winds. It was just that great of an event, that the uncooperative weather didn't matter, and I'm sure it's something we'll all laugh about in years to come. Even the fact that the zipper broke on my winter jacket the day we arrived in Dayton, and I couldn't zip up my coat the rest of the weekend. Or now, in fact. Doesn't matter! It was a beautiful ceremony and a rockin' reception.

Driving back to Cleveland, the closer we got, the worse the weather became. It became clear we had some choices to make: the dog was at my sister's house (far West side of town), the cat was at my parents' house (nearer West side) and the eventual destination was our own home (near East side). Which direction should we aim the car?

We chose my sister's house, because we could take major highways almost all the way, and only brave local roads for the final two miles. Luckily, she and her husband are gracious hosts and let us crash at their house for hours while we waited for the storm to abate. They fed us, they entertained us, I even got in my third quarter nap, snuggled on their couch with the dog!

Other than napping, a main source of entertainment was playing their Play Station 3 game Rock Band. It's similar to Guitar Hero, except instead of one person playing the "guitar" you can have a whole band playing guitar, drums, and singing.

I took the easy way out and just sang. Erin played the guitar for a while and Keith played the guitar, and then Josh rocked the drums and Keith switched to guitar. It was fun to play, although certain elements were harder than I expected.

Particularly, I learned that I don't actually know the words to any song. Not really. Songs like "Black Hole Sun" and "Should I Stay or Should I Go Now," which I've "sung along" to for years, were a complete revelation. That's what he's saying?!? I had no idea!

The most difficult song we did, at least for me, was "Wanted: Dead or Alive" by Bon Jovi. Those vocals go all over the place. And I guess it's stuck with me because, for the past three days, I've woken up in the morning with that song stuck in my head. I'm assuming that, over night, I had dreams of rock star glory, singing that song. When I wake up, I remember nothing of the dream, but just hear the song's refrain in my mind.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Going Off-Duty

My time as my Mom's personal aide is nearly over. My younger sister is here to take over. Keith and I have to pack up and get ready to head down to Dayton for for his best friend's wedding.

It should be a beautiful wedding. Keith and Michael have been best friends since they were 3 years old. We love Michael's fiance and he has a wonderful family, so it will be a great time.

I'm a little sad to leave my Mom, though. It's been a wonderful opportunity to spend some time with her, just chatting and reading and being together. It's also been great to take care of her and return just a tiny amount of the love and affection that she's given me over the past several decades.

And it's been nice in the evening when my Dad gets home, and we can all hang out together in the living room. Animals and all. But it's good to see that my Mom is on the mend and continues to improve daily. And I look forward to seeing her again on Sunday!

The Sound of a Sleeping Household

My Mom is an animal lover. My Dad tolerates them. Currently, my parents have two cats and one dog in their house.

When I came to help my Mom recuperate, I brought my cat with me. Keith came to join us midweek, and brought the dog. So currently, there's four people, three cats, and two dogs living here.

Sometimes its a little overwhelming, especially when you have a turkey sandwich in hand and the swarm descends.

But sometimes it's comforting, like now. It's mid-morning, and the animals are all reclined in various states of repose. My cat is in her new favorite place, curled up on the top of the cat tree. My parents' dog is snoring away on the loveseat. Mom's one cat is hidden behind the Christmas tree, and the other one is laying on her lap. Our dog is curled into a tight little ball, under the blanket between Keith and me on the couch.

Now I remember why it's always so hard to get moving when I'm here: the inactivity of the animals is a powerful force, suggesting that you sit and sip tea a little longer, maybe take a mid-morning nap. Not good for my productivity, but I think it will be a beneficial force in Mom's recovery process.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

All Kinds of Geeky Hotness

Do you know what's really hot? When Keith knows stuff.

Last weekend, we went to a hardware store because I'd completely destroyed my garage door opener. This isn't the first time—for some reason, I occasionally feel as if the surface is coated in oil, and I drop the opener and it breaks into many pieces.

The first time it happened, Keith put it back together again right away. The next time, he had already left for work and I couldn't get it working again on my own, so the car was trapped in the garage. It was like a logic puzzle: if you can't open your garage door, how do you get it out? Keep in mind:
--We have no entry into the garage other than the two main garage doors. No side entrance for people.
--Both garage doors are operated electronically. I've never tried to open mine manually, but I don't know of a manual override so I assume bad things would happen.
--Keith and I each have one garage door opener, which opens our side. So I can't open Keith's side when he's not home, and vice versa.

I was puzzling over this dilemma when I saw my neighbor heading out to his car, and I hijacked him and made him take me to work.

After that fiasco, Keith once again got the garage door opener working. But I swore that we would go and get back-up openers this time. REALLY. Because we all knew it was only a matter of time until it happened again .....

Fast forward a mere few weeks to the first snow of the season, slippery back steps, and a garage door opener that is broken for a third time as I slid down the steps. I was fine, but this time the garage door opener could not be revived. Luckily, I had opened the garage door before I'd left the house, so I could still pull my car out and press the button inside the garage to close the door.

But it also meant that, for the rest of the week, our morning routine went like this.
1) Keith opens his garage door and leaves the opener in the kitchen. He leaves for work.
2) I take Keith's opener with me. I walk in his garage, press the button to open my door, pull the car out, and press the buttons to close both garage doors.
Then in the afternoon, I use the garage door opener to open Keith's side, hop out of the car to press the interior button to open my door, and then pull in.

So REALLY this time, we went to the hardware store to get new garage door remotes. (Never thought I'd get back to the main point of the story, did you?)

While we were at the store, Keith had a few questions for the salespeople. This hardware store was somewhat out of the way for us, so we wanted to be sure we had the right equipment the first time. After finding what we thought we needed, we spent twice as long trying to find a salesperson.

Our first target was an elderly gentleman. Keith started asking about dip switches and different model openers. Salesguy immediately professed to know nothing about garage door openers and found another colleague who claimed to be an expert.

And yet, when Keith repeated his somewhat technical but comprehensible question about programming these universal remotes for different brands, salesguy #2's face blanked over. He assured us the ones we'd chosen would work fine, but we were less than convinced by his expertise.

Keith was mildly peeved when we left, because he couldn't get answers to his questions. But I was thinking how adorable he looked when he was peeved, and when he was stumping the expert with his "dip switches" and "circuit boards." He's a keeper.

Oh, and the new garage door openers work fabulously!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Surgery Stories

My mom's hip surgery reminds me of a few years ago, when I had an ACL reconstruction. The ACL reconstruction surgery is much less invasive, and easier to recuperate from. But it was still scary for me, and a big adjustment.

Although my husband and I were living together at the time, our current relationship status was "significant others." So because I wasn't a relative, he wasn't allowed to use medical time off work to take care of me. Instead, my parents each drove—separately—4 hours to come and take care of me that first week. If I remember correctly, my mom had the beginning of the week and my dad had the second half.

My mom had to deal with projectile vomit while I was taking the hardcore pain meds. (And Keith, too. Even though he couldn't get time off work, he still got to take care of me once he was home.) By the time Dad arrived, I was feeling a little bit more human. Instead, he got to take me for my first follow-up doctor's appointment.

We took my car; I think because it was easier for me to get into than his truck. It was wonderful to be out of the apartment and on the open road. My surgeon's office was only about 10 minutes' drive from my apartment, but even so I felt the sweet taste of freedom.

About halfway there, my dad asked how much gas was in the car. "It's starting to feel a little sluggish," he said.

I thought about it. "That's right, it is low on gas!" I confirmed. "I took it in for an oil change but didn't get gas because I knew I wouldn't be driving for a while, and figured I'd deal with it later."

I should probably also mention that I'd bought the car used, and the low gas indicator light had never worked. So you can tell by the gauge when you're running low, but don't get any indication of when you're REALLY low.

Apparently, Dad had just enough gas at this point to turn onto a side street and coast to a stop. He turned off the car and looked at me.

"Well, I guess one of us needs to run to a gas station," he said.

I smiled weakly. "Sorry," I said.

And off he went, in the midday summer heat, to buy a few gallons of gas and run back to the car carrying it, so we could get to my knee surgeon appointment. I sat in the car and watched birds making a nest in a chain link fence. It was a very idyllic, relaxing scene.

Mostly I thought about how lucky I was to have such wonderful parents to come and take care of me post-surgery, their grown daughter who lived hours away. Their daughter who ran her car out of gas, and my dad didn't even complain when he paid the price for my lack of foresight.

Every time I passed that side street from that point on, I smiled. And now I'm glad to be able to return a bit of the favor, and help my Mom while she's recovering from hip surgery. I'd rather not just a mile or two carrying a few gallons of gas, but if I have to I would do that, too. Because I know my parents would!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Tending to the Sick and Recuperating

Sorry I flaked on my blog last week. I've been distracted because my Mom had hip replacement surgery last Thursday. And although I know she's healthy and they do this surgery all the time now, I was pretty nervous for her.

But the good news is that the surgery went very well, and she's now home recuperating. Even better for you all: I've taken off work this week to help her out at home, so I *should* be able to blog every day! (I'm admitting this now to keep me honest.)

I'm not a very accomplished nursemaid, but I know she's just glad to be out of the hospital and back in her own chair, next to her Christmas tree, drinking her favorite tea and taking naps with the cats. So far I've brought her tea, a glass of water, and a blanket. I think I can handle this!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Christmas Tree Shopping

We went out and got our Christmas tree last night. I love having the Christmas tree and putting up the decorations. Or I should say, I love when it's all done and can be admired while sitting on the couch. I'm kinda lazy when it comes to the "getting it done" part.

We had already discussed possibly getting the tree last night. Which sounded like a great idea. Until it was last night and snow was in the air and the windchill took the temperature down into the icicle fingers/frozen snot region. Then I wasn't sure it was such a good idea.

But Keith's enthusiasm prevailed, and we braved the elements to pick out a lovely Frasier Fir. It looked a little funny last night, as the one side was still completely flattened from lying on the ground. I believe it is currently being climbed by the cat and/or peed on by the dog.

Tonight, however, hopefully Keith can motivate me to get off the couch and put up the decorations so I can start enjoying the tree and the holiday season in earnest. If it's possibly to enjoy something earnestly. Then I plan to do it.

Friday, November 30, 2007

In the Name of Science

The world is truly an amazing, unfathomable place. Every day, scientists are learning more about the natural wonders it contains, and its complex and multi-faceted workings.

Similarly, I continue to be amazed every day at the stupidity* of the human race. Even though the "Creation Museum draws thousands" through its gilded doors, to hear "two angelic characters who declare, 'God loves science!'", I'm having a hard time coming up with a truly monstrous personal story about the sad state of humanity. I'm sure I've seen plenty, but apparently I'm blocking them all out.

So instead, I give you The Darwin Awards. Truly superhuman feats, worthy of banishment from the gene pool. Below, just one of the many Darwin Award arguments for why humans should NOT be considered a highly developed species:

(26 August 2006, Leicester, England) Darren's death was a mystery. The 33-year-old was found slumped in the hallway of his house, bleeding from stab wounds to his chest. Police initially assumed that an assailant had attacked him, but they could find no supporting evidence. A year later, the inquest revealed why Darren can stake his claim to a place among the winners of the Darwin Award.

Darren had called a friend, but minutes after he hung up, rang back to ask for an ambulance. The front door was ajar, and Darren was found lying near a bloodstained lock-knife he had purchased whilst on holiday in Spain. Forensics investigators saw no indication of a struggle, and the coroner reported that the stab wounds seemed to be self-inflicted. However, Darren had shown no suicidal tendencies.

His wife, who was on holiday at the time of the incident, cleared up the mystery, and revealed why our subject will go down in history as a Darwin Award winner. As she was leaving for the holiday, she remembered Darren wondering whether his new jacket was 'stab-proof'.

That's right. Darren had decided to find out if his jacket could withstand a knife attack. Did he choose to test his jacket while it was draped over the back of a chair? No, our man decided that the best approach would be to wear the garment and stab himself. Sadly, his choice of armor proved less resistant to a sharp blade than he had hoped.

The coroner reached a verdict of accidental death by 'misadventure'.

*BlogFriday Word: Stupidity

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Frugal and Personal Gift-giving: Couple-gift Style

I've already complained at length about Christmas commercials, so I won't go into the whole rant again. I do just have to say, though, that the number of car commercials this year is frightening.

This year, I think that Keith and I are going to try something different. We've talked about getting fewer presents for each other (maybe only three or so, and keep it under a certain dollar amount), and then getting one larger present for "us" instead. In this case, it would mean getting a gas fireplace installed in our living room. As we discovered last year, our fireplace is too small for roaring wooden fires, so we've only been able to burn those fake logs. And that's not the same thing at all.

So if we can't have wood fires, I'd rather go ahead and get a ventless gas fireplace installed that could actually help heat the house a bit. Other benefits include turning it on with a click of a button, and a complete lack of clean-up afterwards. This has been on our house to-do list for probably a year, but of course since it doesn't actually cost us money to NOT do it, we ignore it.

The other week, I was talking to a co-worker about presents and she mentioned that she and her husband (who have been married probably 30 years +) typically get a "house" gift that is pricier, but that they both would enjoy. I was drawn to this idea, but also had some reservations. Sometimes it can be hard to think of several really great gifts that Keith will truly appreciate, and I feel like I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel at the end. On the other hand, I would hate to completely stop buying gifts that are strictly from me to Keith, and are things that he and he alone would enjoy. Things that hopefully convey the sentiment that I think he's a wonderful, intelligent person with many hobbies and interests that should be encouraged.

I'm hoping that the hybrid of a few personal gift and one larger couple gift will be a good mix of both worlds. Personal and thoughtful, yet frugal and simultaneously extravagant. Is it possible for one holiday to contain so many sentiments? We'll find out.

Or I'll call the gas fireplace installation guy, find out the entire process would be 5 times more expensive that we're expecting, and we call the whole thing off. And then I get all of Keith's last-minute gifts at Walgreens around the corner. Which is totally frugal and personal.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Alright for a Monday

Mostly, I work with nice people. The one co-worker I'm going to pick on now is one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet. And I mean that.

BUT, whenever people ask him how he's doing, he responds, "Alright for a Monday!" and laughs. Because it's funny, see, when you say that on any other day of the week. Right?

He's been using this response consistently for the past few MONTHS. How he doesn't comprehend that it loses its appeal (which was dubious to begin with) after a few short, select uses, I don't know. Normally he has an okay sense of humor. But this ... this verbal twitch isn't even slightly related to humor. It's so far away from actually humorous, it's like if humor were to exist in a parallel universe where Tim Burton is considered normal. It's like humor on Opposite Day. It's something David Brent or Michael Scott might say, to give you a better idea of just how terribly unfunny it has become.

(That's what she said.)

I've been thinking lately of how to take my blog entries and turn these ideas into longer essays, suitable for actual (aka paying and with some basic quality standards) publication. It's turning out to be much harder than I imagined. But I think I might be able to get 2,500+ words of a sort of "day in the life" combining all of the annoying habits of my various co-workers into one day.

And then I'll promptly break out a bottle of wine and drink myself into oblivion, to try and forget how much I hate people. Even nice people with irritating habits.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Man vs. Potato

I don't understand why it's so hard for me to make a decent baked potato. In the past few weeks, as the weather has turned colder, we've been eating more baked potatoes and sweet potatoes. Sometimes as a side dish, or sometimes smothered in chili and cheese. I love baked potatoes! When you want a meal that warms you to your toes, but you're looking for something more substantial than soup: a baked potato hits home.

Except, of course, that I CANNOT properly bake a potato in our new house. I don't understand it. We've tried the microwave and the oven. On multiple occasions. Every time, we end up doubling the cooking time or even more, and even so the potatoes are still hard as rock and uncooked in the middle. What's going on? Is it really that hard to bake a potato? Other dishes cook just fine, so I don't think our oven or microwave is at fault .... Is it possible that the potatoes sold in Northeastern Ohio are of a particularly dense breed, impervious to the typical cooking techniques?

Of course, now it's become a THING. I refuse to be defeated by a mere carb-loaded vegetable. I WILL figure out how to cook a baked potato in a decent amount of time (that is, less than 2 hours. That's not too much to ask, is it?). If there's one thing I learned growing up about cooking, it's that if a dish is meant to be cooked at X temperature for 20 minutes, then just turn up the heat and you can be done in 10 minutes! Oftentimes this "tweaking" of the recipe results in blackened, unrecognizable messes and a quick call to the local pizza delivery place. (Which may have been my intent all along?) But I think that, in the case of the stubbornly uncooked potatoes, it might be an ideal situation to put this theory to work. We'll see how it goes!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Car Thievery On My Mind

Those of you who have been reading my blog for some time probably remember the stolen car incident that happened right about this time last year. It's safe to say that November 15, 2006, was one of the worst days in my entire life. More than just losing property, it was the feeling of having the veneer of safety and security in your daily life cruelly ripped away.

But the car was miraculously recovered, and I gradually moved past the incident. At some point, I even started expecting to see my car in the parking lot after work, instead of holding my breath and anticipating an eerily empty parking spot where I'd left my vehicle that morning. I thought I had moved on.

Except, I'm still working in the same building. Every weekday morning, I still drive down the street where my car had been parked when it was stolen. Sometimes I take a moment to look at the spot where it was stolen from, sometimes I don't even think about it. But either way, it's still right there.

And then yesterday morning, the building was abuzz with talk of multiple cars getting broken into over the weekend. By the afternoon, I'd heard that another car had been stolen. It made me feel helpless and once again convinced that when I left the building, my car would be gone.

Here's the part that really bothers me: If I had my car stolen, and continued to do everything the same as before, then some might argue that I deserve to have it stolen again. "Deserve" may be a little strong, but at the very least, I shouldn't be surprised to see the same outcome.

But I don't do everything the same. I bought a Club (although I'm not convinced of its effectiveness, it makes me feel like I'm being proactive). And most importantly, I now pay a not-insignificant monthly fee for the privilege and security of parking in a fenced, gated lot behind the building.

You would think that makes me feel better. And occasionally it does. But not when the gate has been CONTINUOUSLY OPEN for the past 5 days, as has been the case for the past week. So I think the car thieves and vandals may have realized it's not all that secure. But what else can I do? I like the people I work with. I don't really want to find another job. I also don't want to be constantly worried that my car will, once again, ride off into the sunset without me. Everyone tells me a car has never actually been stolen from the fenced parking lot. But there's a first time for everything, isn't there?

Here's hoping I don't discover that I'm the first when I leave work today ....

Monday, November 19, 2007

This Brain: For Sale

Sunday afternoon, Keith and I met a prospective client at a local restaurant. One of those that isn't quite fast food, but isn't quite sit-down either. You place your order at the counter, wait for your food, and also fill up your own beverage cup at a station that is in the dining room portion of the establishment, so all customers can be responsible for their own drinks and refills.

Why am I telling you all this? I'm not really sure. To set the scene, I guess. So we're talking to this small business owner about what his site needs, and I excuse myself to go over to the other side of the dining room and refill my drink. Once I'm over there, I notice a man on a laptop, typing away. As this establishment boasts free wi-fi, this isn't an unusual sight.

What is unusual, however, is that he's covered the back of his screen with a piece of paper that says, "Blogger at Work ... and available for hire." I was quite intrigued. My immediate reaction was to go up to him and ask what kind of a response he gets to this impromptu advertising. Does he just hear from other bloggers like myself, or have some freelance writing opportunities actually come about due to his unique signage?

I stopped myself from starting up that conversation, though, since I did have to get back to my meeting. But ever since then I've wondered.... what made him decide to do that, whether it's been effective .... and an even bigger question that I've been pondering for a while: Can you make a living as a blogger? Or, more aptly, can I make a living as a blogger? I know some people have done it with a huge amount of success, and other use their blogs to supplement their incomes.

I just want to write for 30 minutes every morning, on any topic that enters my head, and get paid a lavish salary for it. Is that so wrong?

Friday, November 16, 2007

An Annoyance and a Friendly Reminder

I'm a wuss: I'll be the first to admit it. The problem is that I'm a pretty healthy person, for the most part. My diet is okay to somewhat healthy, I work out a lot, I get nearly enough sleep most days. My only vices are an occasional glass of red wine and Halloween Oreos.

You would think this is a good thing. And most of the time it is. My body and I have an understanding. I give it sufficient fuel, etc., and it chugs right along. I don't have any serious, chronic health problems and I don't get sick very often. Mostly I take my health for granted, because it's so reliable.

But of course, the problem arises on the rare occasions when I do get sick. When my body forgets about our agreement, and makes me miserable. I think that because I'm so used to being healthy, even a cold seems like more than a minor annoyance*. I get frustrated very easily when I can't do all the things I normally do. Like breathe. Or look at food and not feel nauseous. You know—the simple pleasures in life.

Can you tell I'm feeling a little under the weather today? I feel persecuted, unfairly made to suffer, and just plain miserable. But I'm sure as soon as this passes, I'll forget all about it and take my good health for granted once again. Because it's pretty hard to be grateful for the same thing every day, right? And truly appreciate it, when it's the norm.

Good thing I get sick every once in a while, so I can remember to appreciate my typical good fortune.

*BlogFriday word: Annoyance

Thursday, November 15, 2007

But when am I supposed to twiddle my thumbs?

Way back in March, I wondered whether it was good idea or not to start a web design/development business. Was there room for yet another one of these on the Internets? I didn't really find a good answer to that, but in all fairness it had been a somewhat rhetorical question. By June I was claiming to be "full speed ahead" and in July we were nearly open for business. We had a name, a website, had become an incorporated Limited Liability Corporation, and had even spoken with an accountant to ensure we got all of the small business tax breaks possible.

But here's the thing: I didn't really expect much business at first. I figured we'd putz around, working on our website, designing forms and dreaming up marketing campaigns. I could do more research on web design and software ... I just thought there'd be lots of time.

Like many, many things in life, it hasn't worked out according to plan. We've actually been much busier than I expected. First we did a few sites for free, to build up a portfolio. Then a woman in my writing group needed her nonprofit's site to be overhauled, and she hired us. (Our first paying client!) Then a student of a co-worker of a friend wanted consulting help with learning how to blog, which I happen to have a bit of experience in;) And then the nonprofit director who liked our work recommended us to others, who called to ask for quotes ....

Not all of these potential clients are going to turn into real business. I know this. But even so, it's moving much faster than I had anticipated. We haven't even managed to finish our site yet, because we've been so busy working on others'! Don't get me wrong: I know this is a good problem to have. I have been very pleasantly surprised and shocked at what a quick reaction we've gotten. I think that answers my original question: can the market sustain one more small web design/development business?

But, being me, I can't ever be purely happy about something. Joy is always a little tinged with sadness, because I am human and constantly yearning for what I don't have. It's wonderful that our side business is actually taking off. I can now say "We're starting our own business," with a straight face, and actually believe it.

I kinda miss reading, though. I like to read. And to knit. And write. And to do other things that don't contribute to the bottom line. Maybe this just means that I'll be satisfied if our business continues to grow ... and secretly pleased if it drops off a bit, and I get more time to myself. So I'm never entirely happy, but I'm never entirely unhappy either.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Mistaken Movie Identity

As misanthropes, my husband and I will usually choose a quiet night in any day over "going out" and risking interaction with other people.

However, as a thrifty couple, we're always trying to find ways to entertain ourselves at home the cheapest way possible. Short of restricting ourselves to empty cardboard boxes and twine, we get a lot of books and movies out of the library. A bonus is when one of the big movie channels has a free preview weekend. Keith checks every once in a while and, if he finds a preview weekend, we record any and all titles that interest us.

Strangely enough, we've found one problem with this technique. Several times, it's resulted in a case of mistaken movie identity, where we see the movie title, record it, and then found out that it was NOT the movie we were picturing at all.

I first remember this happening in early 2005. We often try (with varying rates of success) to see all the Oscar-contenders for best movie before the awards are announced. For 2004, Crash was one of the movies we hadn't managed to see yet, but recorded it off a movie channel. Crash (2004) is about how everyone's lives/choices affect everyone else. The movie we accidentally watched, however, was Crash (1996), which focused on characters to whom car crashes and resulting injury is a sexual fetish. NOT the same movie. NOT AT ALL. Actually, it was quite alarming.

This past weekend, we accidentally watched The Zodiac (2005), not to be confused with Zodiac (2007) sans "The." This time, they were both about the same topic—the Zodiac Killer who killed several people in Northern California in the late 1960s, and has never been caught. Because it dealt with the same topic, we were probably halfway through the movie before we realized it wasn't the one we thought.

"Where's Jake Gyllenhaal?" I finally asked. I mean, not that it was the only reason I was watching the movie. But it was a bonus.

Once we realized he would not be putting in an appearance, I accepted it and enjoyed the rest of the movie. I'm pretty sure it had the same ending.

Friday, November 09, 2007

My Dietary Kryptonite

Everyone has a food weakness, right? A particular dish that is their culinary nemesis, their dietary kryptonite.

For me, it's Oreos. And for some odd reason, Halloween Oreos are the worst. I cannot resist their siren call! When I open a pack, I keep eating until the entire pack is gone. Last time, the two of us managed to make the 5,000* calories package last three whole days, and I was immensely brought of our restraint.

So last Sunday, what did I do when I saw the Halloween Oreo display? My mind screamed, "Danger! Danger!"** and yet I found myself reaching toward the display and lovingly placing a package of Oreos in the cart.

"Halloween is over," I reasoned. "This will be my last chance in a whole year to buy these special holiday Oreos." I stroked the package. "And I just ran a half-marathon! I have calories to spare."

But here's the deal: I haven't paid attention to what I've been eating for the past couple months because I've been running so much. But now that the big day is over, I'd been planning all along to eat better, since I won't be expending nearly as many calories. So here I was, on the first day that I was supposedly going to start eating better, buying more Halloween Oreos.

Even worse, we found a display of Christmas holiday Oreos with red and green creme centers next to the milk. And they're only available once a year .... I'm in trouble.

Is there a dietary equivalent to preparing for a half-marathon? To keep me on track and honest for my nutrition? I think it's called the "high school reunion." Too bad I don't have one of those for another 4 years or so.

* That's a completely un-researched estimate.
** BlogFriday word: Danger

Thursday, November 08, 2007

One Step at a Time, My Friends

Well, it's been 4 days since the half-marathon. The post-finish glow has worn off, and the soreness is just about gone. Slacker that I am, I haven't run once since the race! But at least we'll do a 5-mile race on Thanksgiving, so I have one more upcoming race to keep me honest.

In the comments on the half-marathon post, Bren asked how one would get started in running. I'm glad he asked, because I want to say right now: If I can do it, anyone can do it.

I didn't start running until my mid-20s. I had played soccer in school, but to me, running after a ball and playing on a team sport is an entirely different experience from running just to run. It takes a lot more mental perseverance to get out there and run, I think.

So I started running as a way to lose weight and get in better shape before my wedding. I can still remember when 2 miles felt like a really long distance, and I could never make it through without walking. The first time I ever ran 5 miles, I was absolutely amazed that I had gone that far. I would never have imagined it!

The only difference between then and now is that I kept doing it. And (with a lot of help from my more-experienced runner husband) I kept setting running goals and working toward them. Even though it took me 3 years to reach my original goal of finishing a 5k in under 30 minutes, I got there eventually.

So, quite simply, the way to start is just to put one foot in front of the other. Repeat.

On a more technical side, here's some of the online training plans I've used to prepare for different race distances:
Runner's World: Your Ultimate 10k Plan
Runner's World: 5 Weeks to Your First 5k Training for the Half-Marathon

For the half-marathon training, I used the mileage build-up and then the novice plan. With almost any of these plans, if you're not concerned about improving your time you can drop the speedwork—just put in the miles. For early-morning workout inspiration, I would also highly recommend getting a spastic dog who jumps out of bed at 6 am, ready for a brisk run. But that's a personal preference.

I hope you give it a shot, Bren. I will always be glad that I started, and I intend to keep running for many years to come. Good luck!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Half-Marathon Success!

We did it!

My in-laws rolled into town on Friday night, and we spent a leisurely night eating a healthy dinner, talking, and watching TV. On Saturday Keith, my mother-in-law Karen, and I went for a short, easy 2-mile run around the neighborhood. After that we stopped into a sporting goods store for some supplies (sport beans and shot blocks for nutrition during the race, and a watch with splits for Keith). Then we wandered over to the hotel for the packet pick-up and pre-race pasta dinner.

I was surprised to find that I was more excited than nervous about the race. (aka the 2007 Inland Trail Half-Marathon). I knew that I had trained a lot. I knew that I should be able to go the distance. The only question in my mind was whether I would meet/beat my time goal of finishing in under 2 hours and 30 minutes. Granted, this was a big question. But I felt up to the challenge, and ready to meet it head on.

Even the morning of the race, I felt like I didn't have time to get nervous. We got up and dressed and out the door of my sister and brother-in-law's house, who graciously allowed us to crash there the night before the race and even watched Beckett during the race. Keith greatly enjoyed playing Guitar Hero the night before the race, to take his mind off things.

We showed up to the finish line, and were only there for a few minutes before we headed out to the buses to be shuttled to the half-marathon start. For the marathoners, it was an out and back race, so the half-marathoners were starting at the halfway point and running back to the finish.

Once off the buses, Keith and I shoved our pants and sweatshirts into a bag to leave on the bus. The morning air was cold and crisp, and we were chilled in our shorts and long-sleeved shirts. There were more runners than I had anticipated. At this point, I always look around and decide that everyone else is fitter than me, and had trained harder. Young or old, skinny or fat—they all look like formidable opponents to me in the pre-race jitters.

The night before, Keith and I had planned out my strategy of running 10:30min/mile. That should be a sustainable pace for me, but give me plenty of breathing room so that if I slowed down towards the end, I could still meet my time goal. But as usual, the first mile passed way too quickly, in 9:30. After that I slowed down and watched Karen and her friend Joni fade into the distance. It was hard to let them get so far ahead, but I knew I couldn't sustain that pace throughout the race.

From that point forward, it was just putting one foot in front of the other. My dad, mom, and younger sister joined Keith's dad in encouraging us at several points throughout the race, and it was great to have an enthusiastic cheering section. I decided to listen to a book on my MP3 player, to stick as close to my usual running routine as possible. I told myself I was just out for another training run ... except a lot of people happened to be running the trail at the same time. Wearing racing bibs.

I passed a few people; I got passed. I admired the beautiful fall foliage and expansive fields along the trail. I slowed down a little, and then I sped back up. By about mile 9, I knew that I was going to breeze by my original time goal. To finish in under 2:30, I needed to be running about 11:20/mile. Instead I was averaging about 10 minutes per mile, and still felt like it was a sustainable pace. Even better, I had Karen and Joni in my sights. I hoped I had enough time to catch up to them before the finish.

Toward the end, I started to lose track of the miles. As I came up to a mile-marker, I thought it should be mile 12, but then had a moment of doubt. I had passed mile 11, right? What if I thought I only had one mile left, but it was actually 2? At this point in the race, that would be a huge difference.

Luckily, I was right the first time and it was mile 12. A little further on we turned off the trail and onto a road to run the final few minutes to the finish. Turning onto the road, I mentally groaned. It was uphill! If you were driving in a car, you'd never notice this slight, short incline. But at the end of a race, it seemed like a mountain.

I passed Karen on the uphill, but Joni had already turned on the speed, and there was no catching her. In the end, the three of us finished less than a minute apart, all at 2 hours, 13 minutes, and some seconds.

Our cheering section was there to meet us and congratulate us. So was Keith, looking fresh as a daisy since he'd finished ages ago, in 1:49:27. I was tired, but elated.

In my experience, it's not often that a goal lives up to one's expectations. It also feels like, in day-to-day life, you don't have many opportunities to set a goal, train hard to meet it, and then have a definitive moment to prove whether you've succeeded or not. After finishing the half-marathon, I felt exhausted, and sore, and even a little queasy. But the most dominant feeling was of great accomplishment and pride in my efforts. My sister said that I inspired her, and that was a wonderful thing to hear. How often do you get the chance to inspire people?

So here I am, back on the futon, nearly 12 hours after finishing. I've polished off liters of Coke, countless Reese's peanut butter cups, and many gooey slices of pizza as my reward for the race. I mean, feeling of self-love and accomplishment are great and all, but I still wanted fabulous, calorie-laden treats, too. I'd earned them!

The soreness is starting to set in, and I think I'll be hobbling around for a couple of days. But it was definitely worth it. Congratulations to Keith, Karen, Joni ... and me!:)

Friday, November 02, 2007

Taking Unproductivity to the Next Level

I've been a complete and total slacker at work this week. This is a problem*.

I tell myself often and at length—in between checking my Google reader feed and reading random wikipedia entries—that I should really start, I don't know, actually doing something. And yet, my brain refuses to focus. Why am I so distracted this week? Is it:
  • The race coming up this weekend?
  • Too much going on with the side business?
  • The recent cold snap has frozen my synapses?
I'm having a hard time pinpointing it. If it's either of the first two reasons, I should be better next week because the race will be over and I think we'll be mostly caught up on the side biz (fingers crossed). And that would be a good thing, because there's plenty to be doing at work. Piles of plenty are overflowing my inbox and oozing across all flat surfaces.

If the third item is the source of my unproductivity, then I'm in serious trouble. Early November in Ohio means the cold hasn't even begun to set in yet. Typically it doesn't get really cold until January and February.

Anyway, what was I saying? I had a theme for this post, but I can't be bothered to remember what it is. Maybe I should see what's going on during Layer Tennis.

* This week's blogfriday word: problem

Thursday, November 01, 2007

I'm Famous in Porkopolis!

It was a day just like any other.

After work on Monday, I went for a run—one of my last before the half-marathon this coming weekend. When I returned home, Keith and I were in the kitchen, chatting about our days.

"Guess what came in the mail!" he said. He ran out to the living room and returned with the first mailing about the Flying Pig Marathon for 2008.

We have a lot of good memories associated with the Flying Pig. I've run the 10k and 1/4 of the marathon as a leg of a relay team. Keith has run the half-marathon, and his mom has run everything from a marathon relay leg up to the entire marathon. It's a great race, with lots of support, and part of the course winds through our old neighborhood, just a couple of blocks from our old apartment.

For the next few minutes, we perused the flyer. It's the 10th anniversary race in 2008, so there's even more events and hoopla than usual. There's 4 separate 5k events alone! In 2006 they had over 15,000 participants over the course of the weekend, so I'd imagine they're expecting even more for 2008.

Finally, we open the brochure all the way. It's a large sheet of paper that's been folded several different ways to get it to a smaller mailing size. On the last side, I'm reading more details about some of the events when I'm distracted by a photo from last year.

"Hey, that girl's wearing the same shorts as me!" I think. Then my mind starts to process. "And the same shirt. And her hair is ... wait. She looks an awful lot like me. Am I imagining this, or is that my picture in the brochure?!?"

I toss it to Keith for confirmation. I don't tell him what he's looking for, just to look at the picture. He looks at it a minute and starts laughing.

I know precisely when, during last year's 10k event, that picture was taken. It was within the first mile, and Keith and Karen had come to cheer me on. Unfortunately, they were looking in the exact wrong direction. So, with energy to spare so early in the race, I started jumping up and down and waving my arms to get their attention.

Apparently I got more attention than I bargained for, because the picture is of me looking off to the side, waving my arms like a crazy lady. I never in a million years would have guessed that could land me in the race brochure.

Once I get past the fact that I'm whiter than the purest driven snow and gesticulating like an eejit, I decide it's pretty cool. I'm in the brochure! I guess this means I'm really a runner. Which is good reinforcement, just before my longest race yet. Wish me luck on Sunday morning!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

Some years, I'm totally in the mood for the holiday season (To me, that's Halloween through Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's.) Other years, I just can't be bothered. I'm wondering if it has something to do with my stress level throughout the preceding year. Stressful year=no holiday spirit. Relatively relaxed year=increased holiday cheer. It's just my recent theory—I'll have to think about it some more and try to pay attention in the future to see if this bears out.

If that's the case, then this year must have been positively stress-free, because I can't wait for the holidays! For the past week or so I've been freaking myself out with scary movies, imagining dark, moving shadows when walking the dog in the morning, and checking out a cheesy list of the Most Haunted Places in the U.S.

As most of my family knows, I love the "I Spy" books, and I Spy Spooky Night is my favorite.
Unfortunately, I can't seem to find my copy. But fortunately, my sister Amy sent me some links to give me my "I Spy Fix." Enjoy!

I Spy at Scholastic: Here's a few free online I Spy games (including one from I Spy Spooky Night). If you really like it, you can buy a CD-Rom of I Spy games.

M&M's: 50 Dark Movies Hidden in a Painting
: This is a very cool game, but also very addictive. Keith and I spent several hours (off and on) last night trying to figure out the answers. And we cheated a bit. And still only got halfway through. It's worth looking at tonight just to hear the eerie music that plays while you search. Of course, now I'm craving one of my favorite candies: peanut M&Ms.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Retro Design Inspiration

One thing that I've enjoyed about starting a web design and development business is becoming more attuned to web design in general. I'm more cognizant of the design elements and overall layout of the sites I visit on a regular basis. I also make an effort to see who designed sites that I like, and check out more of their work for inspiration.

Sometimes, this takes me down long, strange paths through the Interweb. The other day, Amy at Having No Blog Is Your Blog posted a link to a zine / humor site. I noticed that, in the lower right-hand corner, they linked to Moxie Design Studios as their designer and PixelDecor as the supplier of some of the background patterns. So I cruised on over to these sites and saw that PixelDecor offers fantastic, retro desktop backgrounds at no cost. The image for this post is what's currently on my desktop.

Both of these sites are very different from what I've been designing so far. The color scheme, graphics, layout, and overall feel is way far out from my typical designs. But I think they're both great sites, and an inspiration to me to think out of the box more often. I'm meeting with a potential client tomorrow, whose site I think would definitely need to be more visually stimulating and theme-oriented than some of our previous sites. So I think this was a good time to get new inspiration.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Wedding #2

Well, I don't have my act together enough to download the pictures of the wedding from our digital camera. (Download? Upload? I think I always use the wrong one.) Luckily, my mother-in-law is on the ball, and already has some pictures up on Picasa.

It was beautiful, summer-like weather and a gorgeous wedding. Getting back on Sunday evening felt like such a letdown—a return to real-life. Laundry to be done, rooms to be cleaned, dinners to be made. Sometimes I forgot how even just a short weekend getaway can take away the pressures of daily life. But wedding #2 is over and wedding #3 (Keith's best friend, Michael) is almost 2 months away. So I guess I'd better get started on the laundry and the cleaning, because real life is here to stay.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Is It Really That Hard? Broken Bones

My friends, it's been a long week. Ever since I broke my finger, everything takes just a little bit longer. Making me just a little bit more irritable. But if you add up all the extra time on tasks, and all the extra irritability .... well, I haven't been very pleasant to be around.

Tuesday afternoon I went back to the doctor for my one-week check-up. Same doctor's office, same x-rays, different doctor. This doctor told me that there'd been a mistake—my finger wasn't broken after all. Fantastic! I could start taking off the splint at night and even stop wearing it after Friday. My hand would still be lovely shades of green and purple for my brother-in-law's wedding this weekend, but at least I could take the splint off for the pictures.

As soon as I got home, I took off the splint and reveled in the feeling of fresh air on my skin. I took a shower, I iced the finger, I tried bending it (without much success, as it was still pretty swollen). I told Keith the good news, and I went to bed happy knowing that I'd be back to 100% much sooner than expected.

And then, Wednesday morning, I started to wonder. What if the second doctor was wrong, and the first one was right? What if it was broken after all? Currently, I had a tie between the two diagnoses. I needed another opinion—something to convince me that it definitely was or wasn't broken.

I tried my regular doctor's office, but they wouldn't look at the x-rays unless I made another appointment, which would mean more time off work and another co-pay. Not that I like to chintz on my healthcare or anything, but I don't particularly enjoy spending $20 every other day because the medical community can't make up its mind about one simple proximal phalanx. Eventually, I ended up calling back the Urgentcare and speaking with my original doctor—the one who said it was broken.

The conversation was reassuring. He said that he had probably made a mistake in his initial diagnosis because he took a quick look. The films had been sent to a radiologist for review, and if the radiologist said it wasn't broken, then that was probably the case. The doctor would review the films when they came back to their office tomorrow and he'd give me a call to confirm.

So, not reassuring in that the initial diagnosis was still wrong. But at this point, I had been given two differing opinions and that fact wasn't going to change. Best-case scenario is that the broken finger diagnosis was the wrong one, and I was in better shape than originally thought. Once again, I took the splint off when I got home from my run, showered, did laundry, etc.

Keith splinted me up again this morning before work—for the last time!—and he left. Ten or 15 minutes later, I grabbed my garage door opener on my way out the door. But my fingers are not nearly as nimble these days, and I dropped it. It fell completely apart, and I couldn't get it to work again.

This meant I had no way to get my car out of the garage. There's no way into the garage other than through the electronically opened doors. No manual override. No extra garage door opener. Just the one that I had broken and was now useless.

A spot of good luck—just then I heard my neighbor leaving for work, so I hitched a ride with him. I was at my desk, wondering what to do about the garage door opener (Do I get it fixed? Where? How long will that take? What am I going to do in the meantime?), when the phone rang. It was the doctor. He'd reviewed my x-rays again and was calling to tell me the radiologist had made a mistake—the finger is definitely broken ... he'll be happy to show me where on the x-ray when I come back in next week.

It feels like I broke my finger all over again (minus the fall and the nausea). All of these things I'd been looking forward to doing without the splint ... I was disappointed all over again. And I have another doctor's appointment=more missed work and another $20 co-pay.

But I'm trying to think positively. I just have to accept that it's broken and move forward. This means that:
  • I'll enjoy seeing how the photographer arranges the family so as to hide my un-fashionable splint.
  • I have a conversation-starter for the appetizers portion of the evening.
  • My pinkie will always be delicately extended when sipping my wine. And I intend to be sipping a lot of wine!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A Little Frivolity: Dancing with the Stars

Okay, enough about the running! I can talk about other things, I swear;)

I'm very excited that "Dancing with the Stars" is back! It's just such a fun show. I know they have a UK version, too. Is there one that airs in New Zealand, Bren? Otherwise, this post won't make a whole lot of sense to you. Sorry!

This season my favorite is Helio, the racecar driver (shown mid-jive with dance partner Julianne). I didn't know anything about him before the show, but he's a great dancer and he always looks like he's having such a fantastic time.

The show always makes me wish we had more time/money to take dance lessons and, well, just get out and dance! At first I hated to go out on weeknights because the dog was locked in his crate for hours at a time. It was hard to justify that to myself just so I could go dancing. But now that he is free to run around while we're gone, we'll have to try and get out a little more often.

Although we know some swing-dancing, I'd love to learn more complicated moves. I'd also like to learn more ballroom like the tango, the mambo, etc. Plus, it will be a great activity for the winter, when I'm not running so much looking for indoor entertainment.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

High Achiever or Dunderhead?

A question that I ask myself on a regular basis, about many things.

Recently it's relevant because I only missed one day of running after I fell last Tuesday morning, breaking my finger and scraping/bruising various other body parts. I didn't run last Wednesday, but I did run on Friday, go for my longest run yet on Sunday (just over 11 miles) and run again yesterday afternoon.

I have been sticking to my promise not to run in the dark until my hands are healed and capable of catching me in the event of another mishap. But I've still been running. And I finally signed up for the half-marathon in November that I've been training for.

And I can't decide if this stubbornness is something to be celebrated or rued. Is it a good thing that I'm continuing to train through adversity? Or is it a sign that I take things too seriously, and I don't know when to quit?

I'm thinking it's probably a little bit of both. I started training for this specific race at the end of June, so I've spent far too much time and effort not to even make it to the starting line. Plus, even before starting this training program, I have 3 years of gradually increasing my running to even get to the point where I would consider running a half-marathon.

I don't think I'm to the point (yet?) where I'm addicted to running. If I'm sick, I take a day off or cut my run short. I always have at least 2 days off every week. And, after November, I'll cut my running way back until after the snow melts in the Spring.

So for now, I'm going to say the balance is on the side of High Achiever. I am stubborn, which is good and bad. But even with the broken finger, I think I have a ways to go, in this situation, until the pendulum swings to dunderhead.

* I'm really mad because I missed the BlogFriday word last week. So I'm getting an early start on this week's word: Achievement.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Five-Fingered Idioms

I think that yesterday was the low-point in my recovery. Or at least I hope so. The day of the injury I got by first on adrenaline, and then spent the rest of the day lying around feeling sorry for myself. Then yesterday I worked a full day. Doing a little typing or answering the phone didn't hurt too much, but after 8 accumulated hours of hand use, I was in pain and ready for a break.

Luckily, I have the best pets in the entire world. I got home and took a nap on the couch. The dog slept behind the crook of my knees, and the cat curled up in front of my stomach. It was heaven.

Today I'm feeling marginally better. Yesterday I wasn't sure if I could make it through a whole day of work, and today it's already past noon and I'm feeling good, so hopefully that means I'm on the mend. I go back for a check-up next Tuesday, so I think there's a good chance I'll have the splint off before my brother-in-law's wedding, which would be a definite plus.

Since hurting my hands, I've spent a lot of idle moments thinking about all of the hand/finger-related sayings we use that now have a unique meaning for me in my appendage-maimed state. Things like:
  • Keep your fingers crossed!
  • Five-finger discount (for me, would that be less than 100% off, since my fingers are at less than full capacity?)
  • I know ___ like the back of my hand
  • I have ___ in the palm of my hand (not a place you'd want to be at the moment)
Feel free to suggest any other relevant and/or irreverent phrases.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Boy, Do I Feel Stupid

So, I'm pretty far into the half-marathon training and I've been starting to worry lately that I'm in over my head. In my runs of late, I've been extra slow, I've had to take a lot of walk breaks, and just in general my legs have felt tired.

This week, I was thinking of cutting back my mileage somewhat to see if that helped. Yesterday I cut my 5-mile run short because of non-running related feelings of crappiness (more to do with pizza and pop overindulgence the night before). So I decided that today I'd attempt my scheduled 7-mile run before work and see how it goes before deciding about tomorrow's 5-mile run.

Over the weekend, Keith and I had bought some extra running gear—water bottles designed to be taken with you on long runs. Keith got a "hydration waist pack" and I got a water bottle that fits to your palm and is held to your hand with a strap. I figured I might as well try it out on my 7-mile run this morning, and get used to it before my scheduled 11-mile run this coming weekend.

I gotta be honest with you: it didn't work out so well. My legs felt great. About halfway in, maybe a little further, I was still going strong. I was feeling a lot better about myself, and the training plan, and ready to tackle my long run this weekend. And then I tripped.

To be fair, it was not yet 6:30am, so it was still pretty dark out. But, to be honest, I have to admit: this isn't the first time I've tripped, and I really wasn't watching where I was going. So I bit it, hard, and couldn't catch myself ... because my fancy new water bottle was strapped tightly to my hand.

Assessing the damage afterwards, I saw that my left palm had a huge gouge out of it, and the fingers on my right hand—my pinky in particular—were already swelling up. They'd been bent back pretty far by the water bottle. Funnily enough, though, my legs felt great! I walked for a while and then started running. Because, well, I had to get home somehow.

Luckily, Keith waits for me to get home from my morning runs before he leaves for work. (And now we know why!) One quick trip to Urgent care and the grocery store later, I was home with:
  • A left-hand swaddled in enough gauze to pass for a mummy
  • A broken right pinky in a splint
  • Coke, Halloween Oreos (my favorite!), and doughnuts
So yes: I managed to trip and fall while running and break my finger. But I maintain that there were extenuating circumstances. Circumstances notwithstanding, Keith has forbidden me from running in the dark until I have the use of my hands back. I think that's pretty fair.

Friday, October 05, 2007


Courtesy of Jonathan, I have a new source of information for blog ideas: blogfriday.

It's a pretty simple idea: Every week there's a new word on blogfriday. You have from 12:00am Saturday to 11:59pm the following Friday to write a blog entry about that word. When you've finished you post the entry title and URL to blogfriday. At the end of the week, the word prompt changes.

It's a way to get new readers, and to find new blogs. And it's one entry per week that I don't have to think up entirely on my own. It's worth participating in, just for that perk alone!;)

This week's word, I don't think you'll be surprised to find, is "journey." So hop over to blogfriday and read all about journey-inspired blog entries.

Journey Across the Pond and Beyond

I've blogged once or twice lately, reminiscing about past trips. In particular, I've been rather nostalgic of late because, at this time last year, we were planning our trip to the UK.

My good friends Elaine and David got married in Glasgow last October. Their wedding was the main reason for the trip, but then we also throughout the country, ending up with a days in London. It was an amazing trip, and I wanted to go back to visit as soon as we boarded the flight home.

I figured Elaine had also been thinking that it had been months since we've spoken when she emailed a few weeks ago and asked for my phone number. Finally we actually spoke earlier this week. I settled in for a long chat about married life, her new house, work, etc. But she actually had an ulterior motive for calling: to tell me that she's pregnant and due in December!

I was surprised—but quite pleasantly so. Elaine and David are going to be fabulous parents. Plus her sister is due 9 days before Elaine, so the entire family is baby-crazy.

However, the happy news got me thinking. Last year had been a big year for Keith and me: we moved to Cleveland and bought a house, traveled to Glacier National Park in July, got a dog, got a cat, traveled to the UK in October. There was always a lot going on.

This year: not so much. We're still in Cleveland, in the same house. With the same dog and cat. I still need to print out the pictures from the Glacier trip and the UK one.

I think this lack of big news, after last year's monumental changes, is to be expected. But it can still be a bit depressing, when it seems like everyone I know it getting pregnant or talking about their babies, their friends' babies, etc. Does this mean that the next time we have big news, it must be that we're pregnant?!?

NOT that a lack of small talk is a good reason to get pregnant, mind you. I'm just saying: we're at the age where everyone we know is pregnant/talking about it/already parents. Any other news starts to feel a little less exciting.

Did I mention that we just bought new rugs for the living room? Pretty exciting stuff!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Office: New Season!

Since the new season of The Office (US version) has begun, I'm reviving my cheat posts, consisting entirely of quotes from the latest episode and lovely pictures of Jim Halpert. Sorry this took so long—but it's up just in time to review before the next episode. Enjoy!

Michael: Okay, well, I did not get the job in New York. But I go the real prize—domestic bliss. Jan made me breakfast this morning. (Eating a bowl of cereal.) Well, she bought the milk. It's soy!

Michael: Ladies and gentlemen, I have some bad news. Meredith was hit by a car. It happened this morning in the parking lot. I took her to the hospital. And the doctors tried to save her life. They did the best that they could, and she is going to be okay.

Stanley: What is wrong with you? Why did you have to phrase it like that?

Dwight: Hey, why did you do it?
Michael: It was an accident.
Dwight: Was she talking back? Were you sick of that face? Did she owe you money? Uh oh, is this downsizing? Did she spurn your advances?


Michael: So Ryan got promoted to corporate, where he is a little fish in a big pond. Whereas, back here in Scranton, I am still top dog in a fairly large pond. So who is the real boss? The dog or a fish?


Michael: So I need a little treat for the gang—something to win their affections back.
Ryan: Back? Why is that, Michael?
Michael: (sigh) I ran down Meredith in my car.
Ryan: Did you do this on purpose?
Michael: No, I was being negligent.But she's in the hospital. She's fine. Recovering nicely. Tiny little crack in her pelvis. But she will be up and ...
Ryan: Did this happen on company property?
Michael: Yes. It was on company property with company property. So: double jeopardy. We are fine.
Ryan: I don't think you understand how "jeopardy" works.
Michael: Oh, right. I'm sorry. What is "we're fine"?


Michael: I wouldn't say I'm "superstitious." Maybe just a little "sticious."

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Is It Really That Hard? Concert Etiquette

Is there an etiquette guide to attending concerts? Because if not, there definitely should be.

Keith and I went to the Regina Spektor concert a few nights ago. We got there close to 9 o'clock—after the opening band, and just 5 or 10 minutes before Regina took the stage. It wasn't too crowded; most of the audience was even seated at small tables. We found a standing spot behind one table that wasn't too far back, nor too far to the side. We were pleased.

Until the people in front of us started behaving like idiots. What really struck me is that they didn't seem there to be at the concert. Their actions made it seem like they were hyper-aware of themselves as being people at a concert. If that makes sense. Like when they started singing along (which happened at regular intervals), it wasn't a natural, spontaneous thing. It felt, to me as an observer anyway, like this person had decided singing along at just this point is what one does at a concert. Do you know what I mean?

Anyway, it reminded me of some basic concert etiquette questions that bother me nearly every time we go to a semi-large concert. (And I mean "semi-large" very loosely— we were still at a pretty small venue with just a few hundred people, I would guess.)

  1. Why sing along with the singer at the top of your voice? Do you honestly think you're going to sound better than the act you paid to see? Do you imagine everyone around you standing and clapping for you? Perhaps you'll get offered a record contract on the spot?

    Not going to happen. I can understand mouthing the words, or singing softly to yourself. Because you obviously enjoy the music, and feel connected to the singer. But this is the 2nd concert in recent months (the other being the Decemberists, not that that's relevant) where we were near to concert-goers who tried to outsing the band. Not cool.

  2. Are you really so carried away by the music that you have to wave your hands/arms in the air, mid-song? Blocking the view of everyone behind you? I don't believe it.

  3. If you're going to pretend to be a Superfan, then stick with that persona. You can't cheer and scream excessively at the first few chords of every other song .... and then talk LOUDLY over the rest of the song. Are you telling me that this is your favorite song to converse to? Because that's just stupid.

If you're this type of concert-goer, you're still more then welcome to go to concerts. Just don't sit by me. Or—even better—don't go to my concerts. Stick with popular acts at large venues and we'll all be happier.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Benefits of Budgeting

Lately, I've been trying to convince a close friend of mine of the benefits of keeping a personal budget. So far, she's not entirely convinced. Or rather, I think that her better half remains unswayed. Of course, extolling the virtues of a budget makes me consider why, exactly, I think it's so important.

For me, not budgeting is not an option. Call it a personality trait/quirk/flaw/what-have-you, but I feel a very strong need to be as in-control of my little corner of the universe as possible. The files in my home filing cabinet are color-coded. I have spreadsheets to track my calories, my running, my to-do list, my Christmas card and present lists, and—of course—my spending. The budget is such an easy area to track, for my personality type NOT tracking it is really not an option.

But let's say you're more laid-back. You can more readily go with the flow and see where the wind takes you. (Meanwhile I have checked the weather forecast, saw that it would be a windy day, and dressed/planned accordingly.) Why should you budget?

In my opinion, as a natural-born saver, the main benefit to budgeting is the difference between knowing and not-knowing. This particular person's argument is that, as a couple, they spend very little. Their default mode is saving; therefore, if they budgeted, they wouldn't be saving any more than they currently are.

Let's give them the benefit of the doubt and say this is true. (I know it wouldn't be for me. I may have a tendency towards saving, but we all have our weaknesses. Mine are books and fancy coffee drinks.) The only benefit in this case to budgeting would be that you know how much you're saving. You know that every month, you're putting $x towards your emergency fund, $y goes towards your vacation/Christmas spending, and $z is funneling into retirement. Or however you choose to break out your savings categories.

You know that, if a minor emergency such as a car breakdown happens, you can cover it. You know that you'll need to replace your roof in a few years, and when you get to that point, you'll already have enough money saved to pay for the new roof in cash. You know that, if you continue saving at this rate, you'll be able to live your chosen lifestyle in retirement. You know that, if you want to have kids, one of you can stay home and you'll have enough money to cover your costs.

All of this knowledge is very important to me. This knowledge—and the fact that we do have money put away for a rainy day—helps me sleep at night. Without knowing exactly where we stand, financially, I would be so stressed out that I don't think I could function.

So, completely independent of any benefits gained from budgeting related to increased savings, just this knowledge alone is worth the relatively small amount of time I spend every month on keeping my budget up-to-date. Is it worth it to you?