Sunday, June 3, 2012

Tears in my ears

Today was a bit of a weepy day. In my world, weepy often has nothing to do with sad. I cry when I'm excited, lost, overwhelmed, stressed out, confused, laughing, tired, really hungry, watching a commercial about neglected animals . . . you get the idea. Awesome actress Kristen Bell explains it pretty well in this amazing video clip from the Ellen show (in which she also reveals her intense love of sloths). Some days the weepiness is pretty contained, but other days it's right under the surface all the time (Made-up but pretty accurate example: "Hi Sasquatch, how was your day? I missed you today, yes, I did!" And then there are tears.) Today was that kind of day.

I was planning on going to the afternoon Jazzercise class near downtown, but decided at the last minute that I would go to the yoga class offered at the other Jazzercise location instead. I'm not sure exactly what possessed me to choose yoga over Jazz; I haven't done yoga in years and I always struggled with the meditation/deep breathing/holding poses for a long time parts of it (which, it turns out, make up 94% of yoga). Also, I believe it's no secret that I love Jazzercise. In contrast to the way that I am poorly suited for meditation and deep breathing and holding poses for a long time, doing cheesy, high-energy dance routines to Top 40 hits is right in my wheelhouse.

But today, I decided to try yoga. Maybe it was the weepies making me feel less-than-enthusiastic about Top 40 hits. Maybe it was muscle soreness from all that Jazzercise (and also the ridiculously short run/walks Sassy and I have been going on lately). But I went to yoga, and here are some notes on my experience, as well as some lessons learned:
  • First off, I arrived about 5 minutes early, and right as I was walking down the hall toward the studio the instructor peeked her head into the hall as she turned off the studio lights. I, unaccustomed as I am to the idea of taking class in near darkness, loudly blurted out, "are you still having yoga?" The instructor smiled and quietly replied, "Of course- there are lots of women here" as she backed into the room, which I could then see was full of women quietly preparing to relax on their yoga mats. The lights were off, but there were actual candles and even white Christmas lights, and of course everyone was looking at me. Yoga Lesson #1: Enter quietly.
  • Everyone watched and waited patiently as I quickly took off my shoes, checked in, and unrolled my mat, at which point the class promptly began. Yoga Lesson #2: Arrive early.
  • Today the deep breathing part came pretty easily (thank you short run/walks for improving my cardiovascular fitness, and thank you yoga instructor for not expecting everyone to take super long/slow breaths!). The poses were all pretty simple and most weren't held long (thank you again yoga instructor for teaching what I will now refer to as "yoga I can do!"). And, most importantly, there wasn't a ton of talk about meditating on anything (thank you for the third time, yoga instructor, for telling us not to think about our to-do lists back home, but then leaving it at that). Yoga Lesson #3: All yoga classes are not created equal (also see: Don't pre-judge the yoga instructor because she might turn out to be awesome).
  • I normally love stretching because flexibility is a skill I worked long and hard for (I could not touch my toes when I started dancing at 14), and also because it feels really good. But in yoga, all the stretches are a bit wonky, and while it's true that I can dominate the stretch portion of any Jazzercise class, I still cannot touch the floor in a yoga class. True Fact. Yoga Lesson #4: Dance flexibility does not equal yoga flexibility.
  • With almost 15 minutes to go, the instructor told us it was time for our deep relaxation, and that anyone who wanted to could move to the wall. I didn't really know what that meant, so I waited until a few women had moved and were lying on their backs with their legs straight up on the wall. Then I decided that that looked really comfortable, so I grabbed my mat to move while the instructor ran through instructions for anyone who had forgotten how to get their legs up on the wall. I noticed pretty quickly, though, that all the wall space was pretty much occupied by relaxing women or purses or shoes, so I went to start scooting some shoes. But then of course the instructor noticed me (she sees all, that woman), and called out for me to move to a wall space that she was clearing out for me. I darted over to that side of the room and was about to get myself situated on the wall when the instructor started going over the "getting your feet up there" instructions again, in full volume, even though everyone else was already in deep relaxation and I was clearly the only one the instructions were intended for. I'll admit that I did like resting with my legs straight up like that, but a few minutes in my toes started to tingle, and after 10 minutes my legs were completely asleep. Yoga Lesson #5: Leave "feet up on the wall" to the pros.
  • While my legs were falling asleep, I started thinking about this project I did in the one grad school class I have ever taken (Fun Fact: I am 1/32 of the way to a Master's Degree!). And then that project made me think of something else, and something else, and soon I was in full-on weepy mode again, right in the middle of "deep relaxation." I am a very silent crier, and the tears usually come just one at a time, which is a blessing, but I did learn Yoga Lesson #6: If you cry while lying on your back with your feet on the wall, and you are supposed to be so relaxed that you are not moving a muscle, tears will end up in your ears. 
All in all, I believe it was a positive experience, and a good alternative to shaking my groove thing on a day like today. I will definitely be going back, and next time I will bring Q-tips for my ears, just in case.
There are some things I have no desire to ever do. This is one of them.

Name Change

Yesterday Sasquatch and I spent some time at the Dog Park at Highbridge Park, and then joined Travis and a few of his friends at the disc golf course (did you know that disc golf is its own thing, independent of frisbee golf? Before meeting Travis, I did not). The group in front of us included a small beagle and also a small boy who was maybe three years old and carrying a replica Captain America shield. One thing you might be able to guess about disc golf is that it is pretty male-dominated, as evidenced by the fact that the little boy noticed our group at one point and yelled, "Girl! Hey, girl!" Normally I would probably not engage with someone who started a conversation with me in that way, but I make exceptions for three-year-olds carrying shields. Here is the conversation that followed:

Little Boy: Girl! Hey, girl
Me: Hello
Boy: Hi!
Me: Is that a Captain America shield?
Boy: Yeah, I'm Captain America. That's an avenger. And Bruce Banner is the Hulk.
Me: Who's your favorite Avenger?
Boy: Captain America.
Me: He's my favorite too!
Boy: What's your name?
Me: Jeannie. What's yours?
Boy: Captain America. I already told you that.
Me: Oh. Can I take that back and say my name's Thor, then?
Boy: Yeah!

So there you have it.
Signing out,
Thor

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Do you see the dancers?

A strange thing about me is that I see dancers when they are not there. I'm not certain this is abnormal, but I am certain that I didn't always see them, and that Travis has no idea what I'm talking about when we are listening to music and I start telling him what the dancers are doing. Here are some things I have realized:

  • I see the dancers from behind, like I am on stage with them
  • They are almost always on stage, and are kind of small
  • There is usually a pretty specific number of dancers, in a specific age group
  • Most beautiful/interesting music will prompt dancers. Sometimes there is no music. But if I am listening to music that is lame, that is a total dancer-block.
  • I never notice what the dancers are wearing, but I'm pretty sure they aren't naked. That would really weird me out.
  • It's best if I don't listen to music while driving because the dancers can be very distracting.
Sometimes people ask me if I have been doing anything with dance lately, and I know that I am supposed to say no, because I haven't been teaching or choreographing or taking class (other than Jazzercise). But I don't feel like I ever stopped dancing. I feel like dance is happening around me all the time. 

I have an actual choreography project coming up (a very large one), so we'll see if I'm delusional, or if the dancing in my head (and in my living room every evening, and around the office) will translate to something real. Let's do this, dancers.

p.s. If you want to check if you, too, see the dancers, I recommend this song. The dancers cannot sit still when they hear it.

p.p.s. I'm pretty sure the dancers arrived right around the time my parents started sacrificing huge amounts of money and time for me to take 2-4 hours of class a day, even though I was way too old to start dancing. Thanks mom and dad! Once again I am reminded of how lucky I am to be your daughter.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Surprises

Pleasant Surprise: Last weekend I traveled to Western Washington for work. It was a great trip- I got to see my parents and grandma, two of my siblings and my sister-in-law, and all 7 of our nieces and nephews. (They are the COOLEST kids. All of them are on track to be much smarter and taller than me). Both of the fairs I attended for work were great, too- it was my first time at the Latino Youth Summit and the College Bound Conference, and I met a lot of amazing students at each event. Plus I got to hang out with some awesome alumni at the Latino Youth Summit. I had to work straight over the weekend, but overall it was a win! I ordinarily travel out-of-state and fly when I travel for work, so driving and getting a mileage reimbursement were new. I was pleasantly surprised to find that, after the mileage reimbursement, there were some extra funds left over in our budget this month.

Unpleasant Surprise: This morning we had to take Sasquatch to the vet because she was limping so badly she could barely walk. We think she sprained her foot last night playing with our friend's dog in our apartment, though she never yelped or did anything but limp around and twitch her little paw. It was much worse this morning, though, so we took her in. It took up the whole morning, and the visit (including x-rays) cost several hundred dollars. The good news is that she doesn't have any broken bones, so she just needs to be bandaged up for a few days and won't need a cast. But, in the words of Travis, it was a lot of money to pay for peace of mind.

It's exhausting hopping around on three legs!
And then I realized something. If Sassy had been hurt first, and then I would have gone to Tacoma and found out I was earning some extra money this month, I would have immediately realized that God was providing us with exactly what we needed. Because it happened the other way around, though, we had already become attached to that small amount of extra money and decided it was ours. But in reality, it's still God's money. I received a gift and assumed it was just a "random blessing," but it actually had a purpose. Our God is not a random God.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Catching up

  • Last night was the Whitworth luau. I did the faculty/staff dance for the 2nd year in a row, and it was a blast. I love working for a school where professors and administrators and staff will get together for practices and learn a dance because they care about the things their students care about. The student dancers were awesome and the food was delicious (though I steered clear of the poi. Food should not be light purple). The Hawaiian club gave us each a beautiful lei shipped in from Hawaii. When I got home Travis and his friends each took a turn wearing it (Travis didn't realize it was made of real flowers and freaked out a bit, which was hilarious). We didn't want Sasquatch to feel left out!

Aloha, Sassy!
  • Also, a few months ago Travis decided to get Sasquatch one of those running leashes that attaches to her harness on one end and wraps around your waist on the other end. I resolved never to use this leash, because all I could picture was being dragged through the gravel (probably down a steep hill) by my monster truck of a puppy and having no way to stop it. Yesterday, however, Travis finally convinced me to try it, and guess what? I am actually stronger than Sasquatch. It's true! For the last 2 and a half years that girl has been pulling me around 2-4 times a day, stressing me out, making my arms sore, and on one occasion making me fall into the mud while wearing a yellow wool jacket. But that is just because my arms are weak. Strap her to my waist, and I am capable of standing my ground, even downhill, and even with other dogs around! She did make me fall over today while I was crouching to pick up her poo and two big dogs walked by (it's a good thing I'm not easily embarrassed, because the owner was a woman about my size who was easily restraining both large dogs with her arms, no running leash needed). But otherwise, it was the most relaxing walk we've ever taken together. Well aside from all the walks we take in Indianola with no leash at all. That place is like dog Disneyland.
    No harness, even! Sasquatch is terrified of her harness, so she LOVES walks in Indianola
  • I've been having some tests done to help explain some recent fainting (unfortunately, fainting is not as glamorous or romantic as I assumed it would be) and we've discovered that I am awesome at having my blood drawn. The lab technicians always get so excited about my veins! If we were in a vampire movie, I think this means that I'd be the first victim.
  • This morning I finished reading The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak. I have read several student essays this year recommending this book, but held off for a while because I often avoid books about heavy topics. And The Book Thief is set in Germany during World War II. After reading about 3 pages of this book, I could tell that it was going to make me very weepy (which it did), but also that it was full of whimsy and joy and inventive language and that it was going to be funny in a very dark, honest way.
Okay, time to eat something (my doctor said I should eat every 2-3 hours. Isn't that awesome? I have been all over that).

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Gaining it back

A few weeks ago I was skimming through old blog posts (looking for early photos of my puppy), and I found a post entitled Losing It. That seemed like a pretty melodramatic title for a blog post, so I read it, and then I read a few other headache-related posts from the past few years, and I realized that I have something here in this blog. On my phone and on paper I have kept headache journals, but they are mostly just dates and times and numbers and short lists of possible triggers. What I have here is a complement to those notes, a sporadic (and also pretty optimistic, if I do say so myself) journal of they way my headaches have made me feel. In August 2009 I was tough and tired and experiencing so much pain at work that I proposed moving to Oklahoma and eating only soybeans if it would help my head. In August 2010 I was nervous about moving across the country and starting a new job (with no plans to keep dancing), but I knew I couldn't keep teaching or working two jobs anymore. In September 2010 my headaches were coming back with a vengeance after a few relatively mild months, but God was giving me exactly what I needed.
Reading over these little notes really helps put things in perspective. Going gluten free has been hard and has put a strain on my food budget, but three years ago I was sincerely willing to eat only soybeans if it would decrease the frequency of my headaches. Now I'm down to about one headache a week. The new job I started almost two years ago turned out to be a perfect fit for me, and allows more flexibility when I am in pain than I ever imagined. And I haven't experienced anything like the pain of that "worst headache" I wrote about in September 2010 in over a year (I haven't recorded a pain score higher than 8 in my headache journal since Thanksgiving!). A few years ago, I was losing it (my ability to get up and go to work, my confidence in ever finding relief, and probably my sanity), but now I am gaining it back. I don't know how long it will last, but I am grateful for the reminder of where I have been and where God has carried me.
Peace is this beach on a partly-cloudy day.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Personal Growth

I'll admit that I am a creature of habit. I remember hearing a few years ago that people do most of their growing and changing between the ages of 18 and 25, and thinking that huge things had happened in that time, but that my habits were mostly the same as they had been in high school. But you know what? Maybe I am just a late changer (goodness knows I was definitely a late bloomer). Because lately there are some things that have seriously grown on me:
  • Puppies! Three years ago, I did not particularly like animals. I KNOW. This blog is one big testament to the fact that this is no longer the case. Moving on.
  • Chili. Where has chili been all my life? I had chili for the first time a year and a half ago. Now I could eat chili for every meal, especially the steakhouse kind they sell super cheap on the soup counter at Safeway.
  • Watching basketball. Specifically, Whitworth basketball. I know obscure things about the players. I look up recaps of games I just got home from. If we can't go to a game, I watch it stream on the computer. I've even gone to a bunch of games without Travis. I am certain I've been to more basketball games in the last year and a half than in the previous 25 years. Does this make me a sports fan? I shudder to think that it just might.
  • Using recipes. I have never much liked using recipes, partly because they usually require small amounts of lots of expensive ingredients (I am cheap), partly because I like to stick with what I know (poor Travis- I'd be happy with the same 3 meals over and over), and partly because I am just not that disciplined. But after going gluten free a few months ago, I realized that my repertoire was seriously limited, and we'd be eating the same one thing over and over if I didn't branch out. So I started using recipes, and discovered some beautiful things. Did you know you can wrap things in bacon and cook them on skewers, and it tastes like heaven? Did you know maple syrup makes chicken and potatoes sweet and juicy and tender? Did you know you can make an amazing cookie with only peanut butter, brown sugar, and eggs? Well let me tell you, recipes know those things. And now I do too.
  • Wearing makeup. I held out for YEARS, and I'm glad I did, but now that I wear a little bit of makeup every day, I will concede that it makes me look older. Lately, people have been asking if I'm a college freshman and not a freshman in high school. Improvement!
    Exhibit #1 that people can change: I take hundreds of photos of my dog, and edit them just for fun.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

COOKIES.

So far I've had success with cookies only twice since going gluten-free, and both winners were flourless recipes. I think there's something to that: if the recipe contains any alternative flours (almond, tapioca, rice, etc.), even in combination, something will always taste and feel just a little bit off (though I have just received a recipe that looks promising from my Aunt that contains a little bit of gluten-free flour mix).
I'd like to share last night's cookie recipe because it is so easy and delicious that you might decide to try it, even if you have a good relationship with wheat.
Note #1: Credit goes to my mom, who sent me the Favorite Brand Name Gluten Free 3 Books in 1 Cookbook, and who deserves a huge hug for practically forcing me to go gluten-free even when I was bratty about it and made a hundred excuses, and who hasn't brought that up even once when I've told her how much it's been helping my head.
Note #2: You would be crazy not to double this recipe. I doubled it and ended up with about 40 small cookies. Half of those were gone in a few hours.
Note #3: There were no nutrition facts with this recipe, I think we can make a good guess that these cookies are all fat and sugar, which your body needs a bit of in order to survive.

Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Chippers
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup creamy or chunky peanut butter, not the natural kind
1 egg
1/2 cup-ish of chocolate chips (I didn't use that many)
A little bit of granulated sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 
2. Beat brown sugar, peanut butter, and egg in medium bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until well-blended,
3. Shape dough into 1.5 inch balls; roll balls in a plate of granulated sugar and place 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Use the tines of a fork to flatten each ball to 1/2 inch thickness, crisscrossing with fork. Press 3 to 4 chocolate chips on top of each cookie.
4. Bake 12 minutes or until just set (12 minutes exactly was perfect in my oven). Cool on cookie sheets 2 minutes. Remove to wire racks; cool completely (that part must be a joke- you should definitely eat some cookies while they are warm).
Makes 1.5 dozen cookies

There was no photo in the cookbook so I did a photo shoot in the living room. Sasquatch was prowling around waiting for me to lift my guard for one second, but I am very careful about my cookies.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Progress Report

Alternate titles for this blog post include "How I became the person with the most annoying list of off-limit foods in the Inland Northwest," "You know things are really bad when you type 'blog toast' instead of 'blog post,'" and my personal favorite, "Will Jesus mind if I eat ALL the communion wafers?"

So, I have been gluten free (mostly) for two months now. I say mostly because I'm a little bit mellow about it. If a product does not have anything gluten-y in its list of ingredients, but comes with a disclaimer that it was packaged in a facility that also processes wheat, I will eat it. If I am making gravy with flour for Travis and I need to tell if it tastes good, I will sample a tiny bit (it was REALLY good). I've been known to use a little bit of soy sauce here and there. And I definitely partake in the regular old communion wafers at church. So I think I am 99.42% gluten free, approximately.

The following is my progress report of the experience so far, compete with letter grades and teacher comments.
  • Side effects: C-. There are far worse side effects out there (also, did you know that if you take prescription Lastisse to grow your eyelashes your eyes might turn brown and stay that way? Not bad, per se, but definitely strange), but all-the-time nausea is bad enough to pull a solid C-. I've been feeling a lot better for the last few weeks, but for almost six weeks I felt pretty nauseated every day, especially between waking up and 2 p.m. (No baby on the way, sorry), and I still feel nauseated some mornings. People on the internet call this gluten withdrawal, though by "people" I mean bloggers and the types that frequent food-allergy message boards, and not actual health professionals. Throughout this entire process, actually, I have been keeping it classy by following the suggestions of people on the internet rather than my doctor. But did you know that 0% of the dozen or so doctors I have been to have suggested I go gluten free? I have become one of those people who say things like "I know my own body best" and ignore their doctors' advice.
  • Substitute foods: B-. I have been pleasantly surprised with the quality of the substitute foods available, especially since I tried some of my friend Amy's gluten free pasta about 5 years ago and I am fairly certain it tasted like soggy cardboard. But at the time I had something to compare it to, and now the gluten-free version is my only choice, so I think it's pretty good! A few of my favorites are Bob's Red Mill pizza dough mix (Travis says I shouldn't call it pizza when it's wheatless and cheeseless, but it's really delicious!), Lundberg Brown Rice penne, and Udi's hamburger buns. These foods are really pricey, though, which brought the grade down to a B, and I have had no success with cookies, so the grade dropped to a B-. My saving grace in this category has surprisingly been WinCo Foods (if you are not familiar with WinCo, it's like a combination of the WalMart food section, Cash&Carry, and Grocery Outlet, but less fancy and with a lower-income clientele). WinCo has a lot of gluten-free products, and they are much cheaper than they are anywhere else. The only downside is that they are spread out throughout the store so you have to know where to look, but it's been a fun treasure-hunting experience.
  • Cravings: C. I am finding myself more addicted to wheat than I thought possible, but I am also discovering that I have pretty well-developed self control after years of migraine diets and working with headaches. That said, this has been hard. Travis brought home some Krispy Kreme donuts in December and I called him a jerk (and meant it) for the first time in our marriage. In retrospect, he was not being a jerk, but he was over-estimating my ability to handle having Krispy Kreme donuts in the house and not eat them (he's actually been a really good sport through this whole thing). After two months I still feel hungry almost all the time, no matter how much I eat, and have cried actual tears more than once when I was really hungry and couldn't find something to just throw together. Pre-gluten-free, my average snack was 4-6 pieces of toast (don't judge). There was nothing cheaper and more delicious! I still think about bread several times a day, and wonder how it's doing, and if it misses me.
  • Results: A. The ONLY reason I have kept this up so long is that it has been so ridiculously effective. It could be a fluke, but I have had 8 real headaches in just over two months. That's less than 1 headache a week. (I define a real headache as something pretty painful that sticks around, since I still get the occasional 30-second cluster headache or very dull background headache, but these barely register in comparison with the "big bads"). For the last 2.5 years, I'd say my average was 4-5 bad headache days a week, with months on end of 6-7 headache days a week. Nothing else I have tried (there's a list here) has ever come close to making such a huge change, especially in such a short amount of time. I have been keeping a pretty detailed health log in case my brain is just playing tricks on me, and sometimes I go back and count my 8 headaches to make sure it's really just 8. It is! There are some things I wasn't sure I'd ever be able to do as a person with bad headaches 5/7 of the time, but those things feel very possible for someone with bad headaches only 1/7 of the time! I might just take up water skiing.
Me and my gluten-free hamburger bun on a date at Five Guys. Travis chaperoned.
Cumulative GPA: 2.6 (B- average). My gluten-free diet would probably not make it into Whitworth, but it would do just fine at a larger state school. I bet there are even schools out there with water skiing classes.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Maps!

Last night Travis and I started mapping out our route for a drive from Texas to Washington coming up in a few days.  Travis mentioned that he's pretty tired of the same old paths (specifically, he would be happy never to drive across Wyoming again), and would like to try something new.  We have pretty much exhausted any path that goes through Colorado or Utah, and have visited Arches National Park, Garden of the Gods, Yellowstone, and the Grand Tetons.  Right now the "north to Mt. Rushmore, then west through Montana" route is a front-runner, though it has one enormous flaw: dogs have to stay in the car at Mt. Rushmore.  Apparently the good people who maintain Mt. Rushmore are not big fans of dogs.  As a meticulous poo-picker-uper I resent having to leave Sasquatch in the car at National Parks, but we are still considering this path because a) We are all about exploring new parts of America's heartland, b) This route conveniently avoids all but a corner of Wyoming, c) It only adds a few hours to the trip, and d) I would be able to check four new states off of my "states visited" map. 
Currently, I have visited 14 states (I count a visit as any time you go somewhere and actually leave the airport).  I am working with a prospective student whose parents have scheduled a family trip to Antarctica so that she will have visited all seven continents by the time she leaves for college.  You can see how I might feel a little poorly-traveled.  (I'm pretty sure I just made up "poorly-traveled," but I think it works nicely, don't you?)
If we take the Mt. Rushmore route, I will be able to add Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota.  America's heartland is waiting with the promise of adventure (and lots and lots of fields)!
Here is the "states visited" map of someone who has seen a lot of wheatfields:

This application is created by interactive maps.
You can also have your visited states map on your site.

If you see this message, you need to upgrade your flash player.

Make your visited states mapJavaScript charts

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Letters about things I don't understand

There are A LOT of things I don't understand.  Big things, like God's grace and the government scandal in Pakistan, but also little things like the Kia hamsters (what demographic are you meant to appeal to???).  I have also been trying out the idea of writing letters to companies like a crotchety old man or Ted L. Nancy.  Today I have decided to combine the two and write letters about things I don't understand.  This has been a really fun exercise for me, and I highly recommend it!

Dear Wii Sports,
There is no such thing as a Double-Pro in the real world.  Also, you cannot be successful at tennis by simply waving your raquet at the right time.  You have to run toward the ball and put the raquet in the right place.  This is actually, I believe, the hardest part of tennis. 
Sincerely,
Person who has only played the Wii once, and failed

Dear facebook friends,
I don't understand it when you start a status update with "That awkward moment when . . ."  I mean, I get the convention, but I don't know WHY you do it.  And 9 times out of 10, the thing you are describing isn't really awkward, it's something else, like ironic or embarrasing or funny or even awesome.  Example: "That awkward moment when you start dancing in the grocery store and everyone stares" is a really strange thing to write or say.  I would much rather write something like, "Today Travis and I had a dance party in the grocery store.  Travis mostly danced by standing completely still and looking horrified, but I knew he was having a Gene Kelly moment on the inside."
Sincerely,
Someone who comes up with new ways to tell stories just for fun

Dear people who won't drop out of the presidential election, even though it is clear you are not going to win,
I've never unsuccessfully run for president, but I'm pretty sure it's expensive (for the people who support you) and a big time waster (especially if you already have a job that you should be doing, like getting us out of this economic crisis), and that the longer you stay in the race before you drop out the longer people get to make fun of your presidential run on the internet.  Are you trying to win some kind of bet?  Make yourself so visible that you will have a shot at the Vice Presidential nod or a Fox News commentator gig?  Because, like I said before, you pretty much all have day jobs, and it might be worth returning to them.
Sincerely,
Person who really doesn't like to see people put themselves in bad situations

Dear Sasquatch,
I don't get it.  How can you be so awesome all the time?  You are the best dog.
Sincerely,
Someone who tries not to write 100% of her blog posts about her dog, but ends up around 97%

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Reading Log (sort of)

I really wish the library kept track of the books I've read this year.  Maybe they do?  I'm going to ask next time I go in.  In the meantime, here are some great books I have read recently!  I am just picking out the very best ones for you, though I'm not going to suggest that you have the same taste in books as me (unless you really like sweet stories about likeable people written for 14-year-olds).

Note: ECRT (Esther Could Read This) means I think this book is appropriate for my 12-year-old niece Esther.   The rest might be considered PG13, so don't read them yet, okay, E?

Book that made me laugh so hard I cried:
  • Bossypants by Tina Fey (I listened to the audiobook, which is read by Tina herself, and includes clips from SNL)
  • Runner-up: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling
Book I would recommend to any boy (and most girls) between the ages of 13 and 31:
  •  Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Book that made me want pump my fist and yell, "girl power!":
  • The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart (ECRT)
Book that successfully parodied Beauty Pageants, Sarah Palin, LOST, and Kim Jong-il, and still tugged at my heartstrings:
  • Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
Book with a fascinating (and likeable) protagonist:
  • Marcelo and the Real World by Francisco Stork
Book that transported me to a distant land, young adult fiction category:
  • Toads and Diamonds by Heather Tomlinson (ECRT)
  • Runner-up: Carpe Diem by Autumn Cornwell (ECRT)
 Book that transported me to a distant land, nonfiction:
  • Lost on Planet China by J. Maarten Troost
Book that I would have loved at any age:
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart (ECRT)
Book that made me feel like an awkward teenager again:
  • How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Correlation

I have been gluten-free for 9 days now.  Days 2-5 I had some sort of stomach bug, which transitioned into a bad cold (persisting even still) on Day 6. 
I have two things to say about this:
1) I really don't mind being sick.  Or, at least, I don't mind being sick right now, with little illnesses that are sure to pass.  I have a job that I can do when I'm coughing or feeling nauseated, and I can take a sick day when I need to.  Sick days are glorious, and you have my permission to remind me of this if I ever complain about taking them.  Someone is paying you to stay home and rest.  There are so many people who have no option of taking sick days.  I know this because I spent several months doing four shows a day with mono. 
2) My body is clearly defenseless against the outside world without wheat.  It is very very rare for me to get any kind of bug that is going around, and there isn't even something going around!  (Travis has a bad cold, too, but he probably got it from me.  Sorry Travis!)  The only logical explanation is that, all this time, the huge amounts of toast I ate every day were forming some sort of barrier against getting sick.  It makes perfect sense (to a person that knows little to nothing about infection). 
Correlation equals causation, right?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Here we go!

When you get a lot of headaches, you hear about a lot of different cures and preventative measures.  It's only natural for people to want to help, and I appreciate any and all advice that comes my way.  (Okay, I appreciate almost any advice; if you tell me to take an Excedrin for my migraines, I might have to chuck 30 different failed prescription pill bottles at you.) 
But trying out all those different cures is time consuming, expensive, and sometimes more exhausting than the headaches themselves.  I have tried:
  • just about every headache medication on the market, plus a bunch not indicated for headaches, both prescription and over-the-counter
  • avoiding medication for months to rule out rebound headaches
  • chiropractic adjustments
  • seeing a nutritionist
  • herbal supplements (lots)
  • acupuncture
  • cupping
  • getting reading glasses
  • more exercise
  • less exercise
  • more water (seriously- I drink enough water)
  • a high-protein, low fat diet
  • more salt
  • a diet that restricts anything dried, fermented, or aged
  • more sleep
  • less sleep
  • regular sleep
  • less reading
  • regular meals
  • vitamins
  • magnesium spray
  • avoiding all scented chemicals
  • keeping track of everything I eat and do
  • blood tests, brain scans, etc.
  • less work
  • moving to a different climate
  • IV infusions of the stongest headache medicines available
I am currently on day 3 of the latest attempt: going gluten-free.  This is something I have been avoiding for years because I am possibly the world's biggest fan of bread, but it's gotten to the point that I can no longer tell someone my head hurts without them asking if I've tried going gluten free.  So I'm trying it for a month.  I am not confident, however, that it will work, since I have a very impressive track record when it comes to testing negative for things and being resistant to any and all cures (my favorite neurologist in Texas called my headaches "intractable," which in layman's terms means "I'm totally stumped").

Here is my experience so far:
  • Day 1: Shopped for super expensive gluten-free food.  Mom and I were sad to find out that the gluten-free store where my parents live is going out of business, but pleasantly surprised that everything was half off!  It was the day after Thanksgiving, so the leftover rolls sitting in front of me on the dinner table were a huge temptation (have I mentioned I'm a little into bread?), but I didn't feel too deprived, especially once mom made gluten-free gravy.  Thanks mom!
  • Day 2: Felt very sick and headachy, but this had nothing to do with the gluten-free diet (though I considered making up an elaborate story about how it was clear my body needed wheat flour to survive).  Went to my brother and sister-in-law's house for dinner, where I could eat just about everything!  Meat and veggies seem to be a theme with my family, which is a very very good thing.  I decided I didn't know when I would be able to eat so much good food again, so I ate until I looked four months pregnant (according to my family).
  • Day 3: On the drive home from the Westside of Washington, we stopped into McDonald's for lunch.  I walked up to the counter and confidently ordered the Chicken Selects.  Then I realized my error, and said, "wait, no, nevermind, I can't have those . . . I don't need anything."  The poor girl at the counter was super confused.  A quick glance at the menu made it clear that McDonald's was out (part of my existing migraine diet forbids salad dressing, and I am NOT paying $4 for a plastic container of dry lettuce at a fast food restaurant, thank you very much).  For dinner I made gluten-free shell pasta, which was so al dente it was nearly crunchy, even though I followed the instructions on the box.  Maybe I under-cooked it?  Over-cooked it?  Maybe people who can't have wheat like to feel like they are working for their pasta?  Who knows. 
And now I can't even focus because there is a loaf of wheat bread in the fridge and it will definitely go bad in the next few days if no one eats it and there is no way Travis is going to eat an entire loaf of wheat bread and isn't wastefulness a sin? 
I think I may have met my match with this whole "no bread" thing.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Complaining

Truth: I love facebook.  I am not great at staying in touch with people, and my friends are scattered all over the country, so it's really helpful.  However, sometimes facebook is reduced to a forum for complaining.  I'm guilty of it.  And it's not normally legitimate complaining either (I do believe that if, say, someone hits your grandmother with a car, you are justified in venting about that person on the internet).  Most of the complaints on facebook are riduculous, because what they really accomplish is revealing just how grateful we should be. 

Case in point: "I am so so so sick and I am stuck in bed all day watching movies and sipping tea."
Why this is a lame complaint: If your lifestyle/financial situation allows you to stay home and rest when you are sick, you should be praising the Lord!  Many people have small children they need to chase around the house when they are sick, or jobs they need to go to no matter how sick they are, or both.  Also, there are people you know, people who are reading your posts on facebook (or whose loved ones might be reading your posts on facebook), with the kind of illnesses that cannot be cured by rest and tea. 

I am very aware of the "complaining about something I am actually very lucky to have" problem every time I am tempted to write anything negative about traveling all the time (which reveals I have a job), missing my husband (which reveals I have a husband), or the roads in Spokane (which reveals that I have a car).  My old litmus test for complaints used to be, "Is this a serious problem?"  Now I am modifying this to include, "Am I hurting or offending or seriously annoying someone by complaining about something for which I should be very grateful?"  Most likely I will never be able to think of anything to write ever again.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Bullet points (travel edition)!

  • Here is something I never considered before working in Higher Education: skipping your mature, intelligent, and motivated elementary-school child forward a grade or two may seem like a great idea.  In a few years, though, that child will be 15 or 16, and they will be applying to colleges, and possibly moving into dorms where they are surrounded by 18-22 year-olds, and the whole thing creates a bit of a dilemma for colleges.  Even if a 16-year-old feels ready to move out on their own and far away from their family, should they?  And even if they are really mature, is it a good idea to throw them into the stressful college environment?  And which 18-year old do you pick to room with the super-young freshman?
  • I believe that hotel restaurants should not have the word "bunion" in their names.  Someone at this Holiday Inn disagrees with me.
  • I have mentioned before that people point out how young I look at every single high school I visit.  That's approximately 2 staff members at approximately 4 high schools a day for approximately 9 weeks of travel.  I am pretty used to this now and have several prepared responses that I rotate through so as not to sound too rehearsed.  In the last few weeks, however, I've gotten a few comments that have thrown me for a bit of a loop.  Keep in mind that these comments have all come from complete strangers within the first 10 seconds or so of meeting me.  They include:
    • "You look like you should be in a fairy tale" (???)
    • "You're adorable!" (This one was paired with her shaking my hand, then squeezing it, then holding on to it for a looong time while she gave me directions to the career center)
    • "One day some nice guy will come along and appreciate how young you look" (Hmm . . . I wonder what Travis will think)
  • I know it shouldn't be a big deal, but I felt really relieved when I pulled up to a gas station today and realized that I was in California, which meant I could pump my own gas!  I can't recollect ever being in the car with an Oregonian while they pulled up to the pump and let the attendant pump their gas, and hence I am constantly worried about doing something wrong.  Plus, as discussed in past blog posts, sometimes you are in a hurry and just want to pump your own gas instead of waiting for the one stressed-out, super busy attendant.
  • Here is a little family of bottled waters I received today:
Clearly I looked less thirsty when I was at Foothill High School than I did at Shasta High and the hotel check-in counter

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Bust a move

The Huskissons have moved.  That marks five times in less than three years, if you count the five weeks we lived with our friends last year (which I do, because it still meant putting everything in one place, then moving it all to another place, even though it was mostly still in boxes the second time around.  Okay, maybe we'll call it a .5?). 

My parents say that all newlyweds do this and it is absolutely to  be expected, though they did no such thing.  As far as I can tell, my parents have moved four times in almost 33 years of marriage.  Or I should say that they have moved themselves four times, since my parents have helped friends and children move dozens of times.  They are moving experts, and without them, Travis and I would not have made this move with our sanity in tact.  Travis is actually really good at packing, lifting, finding places for things, etc., but in my list of skills moving rates somewhere down between "levitating" (totally impossible without a miracle) and "petting rats" (so terrifying tears pour out of my eyes).  Also, there was the issue of timing.  We decided one Friday that we would be moving.  We had to do the actual move the following weekend, then be completely out of our old house and turn it over clean the weekend after that.  During that two week period:
  • I was home for less than four days.  In the time I was home, I needed to spend at least eight hours in the office getting ready for my trips. 
  • The Rangers were in the World Series.  This is no big deal, unless you are born and raised in Texas, live and breathe sports, consider the Rangers your favorite team of all time, and have supported them through over 25 years of generally not being very good.  I really really wanted Travis to be able to watch all of the games.
  • Travis had three huge tests, one in biology, one in chemistry, and one in physics, in a two-day period. 
I saw all of these obstacles, as I am apt to do (apparently my first reaction to hearing any plan or idea is to immediately share at least 5 reasons why it won't work.  Not the best quality in a spouse), and felt like it was impossible.  But God is bigger than our problems, and brought some big-time helpers in my parents and our friend Brad.  There were some minor snafus:
  • torrential downpour just as we were moving all of the nicest furniture across town in the bed of my dad's pickup
  • our lovely puppy bounding about the parking lot with such enthusiasm that she injured the arm of my father in the middle of all the lifting
  • the guy coming to set up our television and telling us that we can't actually use our old service in our new apartment so we would have no television for a few weeks, which was a particular problem since it was the MIDDLE OF THE WORLD SERIES
and some solutions:
  • apparently a hair dryer is all it takes to keep a very wet suede couch from getting ruined (and boy are we lucky we paid extra for the special "stain coat" when we bought that couch)
  • my dad is capable of using what he calls "physics" to lift things with one arm
  • there is a clubhouse with a tv at the apartment complex, and Travis was able to watch at least part of 6 games there
Mostly it just went really well, and the clean-up the next weekend, sans parents, was a dream.  We left that house in beautiful condition after about 7 hours of cleaning and celebrated by curling up in front of the fireplace in our apartment (which works without sending billows of smoke across the living room, a la the fireplace at our old house!) and watching a movie (because we do not currently have television).  The whole experience made me marvel at the way God carries us through the little things that we think are big things (like moving to an apartment 15 minutes away to save money), the medium-sized things (like having terrible headaches all the time or not being able to pay the bills) and the actual big things.  He is always with us.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

My double life

This afternoon I am taking a break from reviewing applications to blog.  I am traveling again this week (just a few more weeks to go!), and I have been thinking a lot about how strange it is to travel around by yourself all the time.  Here a few things that are different about my life on the road:
  • When I travel, I am much more diligent about safety.  I refuse to ride the elevator with men I do not know.  If I do end up in that situation, I get off the elevator and go the wrong way on purpose, or stop to check my phone, or do something else so that said strange man/men will not see where my room is.  If I am walking across a dark parking lot I will take off my laptop bag and carry it in my hand, because I have actually thought about using it for self defense/ditching it and running if necessary.  I also drive very very cautiously, which I try to do all the time, but is much harder to do when you are on your regular paths at home.
  • When I travel I notice that it is very easy to become selfish.  I always tend toward selfisness, but at home there is a dog to be cared for, a husband to feed, and co-workers to get to know and empathize with.  On the road I interact with people, but rarely anyone I actually know.  Even when I do see people, my interactions with them are brief.  Admissions counselors actually spend the large part of their time alone, driving, eating, staying in hotels, and working on computers in coffee shops.  I can do this all on my own time without regard to anyone else's feelings, and that is something you don't experience when you have parents and siblings and roommates and husbands and dogs around you all the time.  (I should point out that the closest I have ever come to living alone was 4 months renting a room in Seattle before I got married . . . I lived with a woman and her son and 2 other renters, but didn't know any of them well, and I was never there.  You have probably lived alone before and think I am a total wimp for feeling like it's strange.  That is valid.)  I provide all of that background in order to say that I often end up acting selfishly and thinking self-centered thoughts when I am traveling.  I say strange things to baristas and high school counselors.  I am cold and detached with grocery store check-out clerks.  This past week I have been remembering to pray more for the people I interact with, and it has really been helping.  I have especially been praying before I go into high schools and talk with staff and students, and I love the way God reminds me to empathize and care and ask questions about their lives.  It's only a few hours a day, but it makes a big difference!
  • When I travel my diet is completely different.  One of the perks of traveling for work is that food is paid for.  I am hugely grateful for this because I usually have no place to prepare meals, and prepared food is way more expensive than raw ingredients.  I am also grateful because I loooove food, and on the road I have a chance to buy and eat things I only dream of the rest of the year: Red Robin teriyaki chicken burgers (I have had 3 this fall), Whole Food soups (my lunch almost every day), all kinds of Chinese/Korean/Thai take-out (Travis is not a big fan, so I don't make much of these foods at home), and wildly delicious Odwalla juices.  As you may expect, this altered diet makes my stomach feel totally strange all the time.  It is also worth it.  I have been able to go almost two months so far without anything that strictly qualifies as fast food (unless you include things like Chipotle burritos, which I do not, since I can't have any of the ingredients that make a burrito unhealthy), but that does not mean my body is happy with my choices. 
  • When I travel, I talk to Travis about 15 minutes a day.  This is a huge change from when I am home, and we spend a lot of evening and weekend time together.  I shared this with a friend who thought it was strange we talked so little, but there is really not much to say after a few weeks.  Most of my days are similar and uneventful (this is a very good thing!), and it only takes a few minutes to tell the occasional funny story about a student at a college fair.  Travis is in school full-time and ridiculously busy with studying.  Our marriage is healthy and happy as ever, and I love our time together on the weekends, but we have both always been comfortable spending time doing our own things.  I love this about us, and I know that it has been God's gift during this season of being apart so much.  I do believe that we were designed by God for each other, and that we were designed as a married couple to handle the unique challenges of my job.
Okay, time to go grab dinner, then back to my hotel to review applications.  I love my job, but I am looking forward to being home soon!

Opinions and theories!

My experience indicates that it is entirely possible for students to graduate from many (most?) high schools in the United States without the ability to write well.  Furthermore, it is possible for a student to graduate high school at the top of his/her class, with a 4.0 GPA, even, and write a truly un-readable college application essay.
I'm never sure how much "insider information" I can/should share about the college admissions process now that I am in the know.  It's fairly fascinating (to me . . . you might be bored out of your mind already), but it's also a subject that requires sensitivity.  The college search process, the way schools select students, and the ways students and parents react to rejection from colleges are all deeply personal.  Over the past year I've fallen into a pattern of being candid with family and close friends, but fairly discreet on the internet.  (This, I think, is a good philosophy when it comes to sharing just about anything.)
But I'm guessing you already know that there are all sorts of problems facing high school graduates today, so hopefully I am not crossing a line in corroborating that story with personal experience.
I will say that I have no concrete idea why students struggle to write well, but that I do not blame their teachers. The teachers I know work hard and care about their students deeply, but have huge numbers of students to work with and little to no time for grading and providing feedback.  Teachers are amazing, intelligent people who would give anything to help their students realize that they are also amazing and intelligent. 
I do have a few vague theories why students struggle to write well, though.  They are (in no particular order):
  1. Students in high school, middle school, and even elementary school (and, if The Nanny Diaries is to be believed, Park Avenue pre-schools) are wildly over-committed.  They are expected to be part of clubs and teams and scouts and classes and lessons and youth groups and volunteer organizations, and to do all of this while keeping up their grades.  I posit that you can have a worthwhile youth without being involved in ten different organizations, and I can say from experience that you do not need all of these to be admitted to college.  I tell students that I am looking for a few meaningful extra-curricular activities that they wish to continue in college.  Some students list a dozen clubs and teams in the activities section of their college applications without checking "I plan to continue in college" for a single one.  This leads me to believe that they are not actually happy participating in a dozen extracurricular activities, but that they feel they must.  I'll admit that I'm impressed when a student is class president, captain of the soccer team, an Eagle Scout, on the youth worship team at their church, takes violin lessons, and works at McDonalds (and I see this level of extra-curricular acheivement quite frequently).  But I also wonder when they sleep, and I don't wonder when I see that their writing has suffered.  I feel like giving them a hug, a free pass to quit a few things (if they want), and a talk about how they are worthwhile without all that.  Some students are genuinely interested in all of their extra-curricular activities: Travis played 6 sports growing up, and loved every minute, and I always begged my parents to let me take more dance classes.  But regardless, over-committed students are sleep deprived and have little time for school.  And honestly, even though I was in Student Government and dancing and involved in my church, many of my friends were doing much more.  I am really glad that I had parents that told me that school was my job.  They are the only reason I spent my extra time on homework and sleep, and not on things like National Honor Society (you do NOT need this to get into a good college). 
  2. The internet/texting/instant messaging, etc. have made it okay to write without regard for grammar, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation.  As my middle school band teacher always said (and yes, I quit band when I had too much going on), "Practice makes permanent, not perfect."  If you spend 3 hours a day writing sentences with no punctuation, your punctuation is guaranteed to be a complete mess when it actually counts.  It's like practicing a piece of music in the wrong key for a month, then going into a concert and expecting to play it perfectly in the correct key.
  3. Students are forced to read terrible books in school, hence they don't think they love reading, hence they don't read for pleasure, hence they don't have a lot of examples to draw on when they are writing.  A friend of mine from college is having her high school students read the Hunger Games trilogy for English class.  I will never read those books because I have  no tolerance for violence anymore, but I am absolutely in support of her plan.  Get those students reading books they actually like!  The books I was asked to read in high school, with a few exceptions (Les MiserableHuck Finn!), were depressing and a little (to a lot) dry.  Give 100 high school students The Winter of Our Discontent as an example of the most worthwile books of all time and I guarantee that most of them will come to the conclusion that there must not be anything good out there.  I do believe that my love of reading has made me a fairly intuitive writer.  I know I am not some sort of writing savant (the truly terrible book I wrote in the third grade about Santa Claus is evidence of this), but I don't have to think much about subject-verb agreement and sentence fragments today because I have read hundreds and hundreds of well-written books.  And I know there are lots of good books out there for teens because those are the books I still gravitate toward today (they tend to contain less sexual content and violence, and are fairly easy to read). 
  4. Students think proofreading/editing is boring but necessary.  Proofreading is actually kind of fun!  Years and years of dance have made me value a good critique when it is given respectfully (and when I have actually asked for it).  Most students know the value of critique and polishing when it comes to everything but their schoolwork.  I'm not sure how this mindset can be extended to writing in schools, but maybe it should involve candy?  What I do know is that proofreading is vastly under-utilized on college applications and application essays.  I'm fairly convinced that many students finish up their essays and never want to think about them again, so they don't.   
  5. Maybe it has always been the case that the majority of people are not strong writers (How long have we been a mostly-literate society, anyway?  110 years?  Not that long.), but it is only now that we expect them to be.  We expect everyone to be brilliant at everything, and the reality is that is just not how we are made.  If our ability to succeed in college, the work force, and life was determined by our ability to throw and catch a football, I might be the subject of a blog about how America's youth are failing to measure up.  Maybe it is not students or education that are broken, but our expectations?
Those are my theories.  They are probably all wrong.  I will say this, though: I think that standardized tests (the SAT and ACT) get a bad rep as biased and completely useless.  While I am proud to work for one of the few colleges that allows students to choose whether or not they would like to submit test scores as part of their application, I still believe that SAT and ACT scores correlate fairly well to writing ability.  This may not be the case for subtle differences (a student with average SAT scores may be a stronger writer than a student with slightly above-average scores who has been able to afford a prep class).  But sometimes a student will have a near-perfect GPA and their writing sample will be full of grammatical errors, poorly constructed, and carelessly proofread.  This student might be able to eke out a strong GPA because of grade inflation, the relative strength of other students at their high school, help from parents, etc.  But they will never have a near-perfect SAT score.  Conversely, a hardworking student with a B-average from a competetive high school who writes well will often have strong test scores.  Without test scores and/or writing samples, the first student would have an advantage in the college application process, when the second student may be working part-time and taking tough classes. There are many exceptions to this rule, but I would like to put myself out there as someone who thinks that tests have merit.
Despite my skepticism, I still want to admit every student I come across, even the ones that struggle with writing (English many not be their first language!) and the ones with low test scores (they could have ADHD and it's just not reasonable to expect them to focus that long!).  At the end of the day, the actual person behind each application is much more important than whatever opinions I have about writing in American high schools and standardized tests.  I am grateful to have a job that reminds me of this every day.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

In which I use my iPhone for something other than looking up directions

When it comes to my iPhone, I operate on a very basic level.  I know how to use the 10 apps I use for travel and work, and that's about it.  Recently we needed to connect my phone to a computer to do an update (something I apparently should have been doing frequently, though I'd never heard of the concept), and my computer wasn't around.  Travis was worried that hooking the phone up to his computer would clear the phone's memory, since it wasn't the computer the phone had been hooked up to before.  I guaranteed Travis that I had never once connected my phone to any computer, so the point was moot.  Ten minutes later Travis came into the room to tell me that the updates worked, but that everything was wiped from my phone, just as he had feared.  I took the phone and scrolled through my apps, my contacts, my pictures, expecting to find everything gone.  It turns out, though, that the phone was intact . . . I just had so little on it in the first place that Travis thought it had been returned to factory settings.  (The words "these are ALL the apps you have?!" come to mind).  
Anyway, I recently resolved to take make more use of my iPhone (since I really do need it for work, so down-grading is not an option).  I wanted to avoid games (I have this slightly irrational fear of living my life in a virtual world and missing the beauty of reality), and anything that requires money (I also have a slightly irrational fear of spending money on anything, unless it's food).  
I decided to download Instagram, a free app that lets you do quick little edits to the pictures you've taken on your phone.  Turns out it is awesome.  Many of the mediocre pictures I've taken this year were actually hidden gems, just waiting to be mined with hip filters and a blurred background.  I love picking out a photo and then trying all the filters to see which one will look best. 
Results:
This is how Sassy wakes me up if I try to snooze (there is usually licking involved)

Karaoke at Noree's Bachelorette party a few weeks ago


Our niece Mia at the beach last month.  I'm pretty sure that's Bowser on her shirt.  Way to show the hipsters how it's done, Mia. 

My dad with a pig at Greenbluff last weekend!

Part one of the Marco Polo series, a tribute to Noree on her wedding day

This one is wedding-themed!

Flowers from another wedding of two of our good friends.  Travis was in this one!  (And by "one" I mean wedding, not photo).

Travis did a little putting practice last night, so I took a picture of my feet.

Then I realized that the putting green was beautiful, so I took a photo of that too!

I'm pretty sure this was on the side of the road in Indianola.  Is it a poppy?

This is our nephew Ethan from the same day at the beach.


For about a month this summer, the tree in our yard was filled with thousands of these flowers, and they weighed it down so much that the branches touched the ground.

Our niece Angelina at the beach.

Sasquatch on our last big road trip to Colorado.  She is a road trip pro!

The same flowers from the tree in our yard.  This is edited from the same photo as above.

Travis on our way back to Indianola from a Rangers/Mariners game.  We went to two in one weekend in July, and the Rangers won both games (which is probably why Travis is agreeing to have his picture taken).

We went to Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs (before wedding #3 of 5 this summer).  Mom and dad, you would love it!

The view from Red Bud Isle, an amazing off-leash dog park/island oasis in Austin.  We took Sasquatch swimming there on our last Austin trip in March.

Fresh snow on our garage.  Please note Travis shoveling the driveway.  Also, that tree is the very same tree with the pink flowers from the photos above!

This swing hangs from the other tree in our backyard.  The tree has actually grown around the chain, the seat is too small for almost anyone, and it swings crooked.  This is a swing with character.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Library card workout

I may have a little bit of an obsessive personality.  That is to say, when I decide I love something, I really love it.  Examples:
  • I have a favorite restaurant in every city, and one thing I order at each one.  There is no reason to go anywhere else, or try anything new.  
  • I started dancing in April or May of my freshman year of high school.  A year later I was dancing 3 or 4 hours a day after school, auditioning for summer dance intensives, and planning my life as a dancer. 
  • I knew Travis was my husband the day after our first date.  
  • How many times have I blogged about Sasquatch?
I like to think that I'm pretty good at choosing my favorite things.  You might accuse me of being boring, but not unhealthy.  I currently go to Jazzercise five days a week, which might cause me to start singing Shakira in the grocery store, but is probably not on anyone's list of harmful activities.  On that note, my big kick since moving back to Spokane is going to the library.  The public library a few blocks from my work has a very respectable Books on CD section, which initially drew me in.  During travel season, I went through about 2 books a week.  But now I've discovered book books.  I say "discovered," because, though I have always loved to read, I haven't been much of a reader the past few years.  
  • I fell victim to the "required reading" curse in college, and had trouble finding the will to read for pleasure again afterword. 
  • When I did read for fun during or after college, I often tried to read the books friends recommended, so as to learn and grow.  I worked really hard at pushing my way through books like The Count of Monte Cristo and Blue Like Jazz.  These might be your favorite books, and I feel terrible for saying this, but I did not enjoy reading them, even if I was learning and growing.
  • Then there was the headache fog, in which reading became painful, if not impossible.   
But after listening to all those books on CD this fall, I was hooked.  I borrowed a few more from the library after travel season ended before I realized that my car doesn't have a CD player, and it was weird to sit around my house in the evenings listening to books (via headphones) on my computer.  So I went back and swapped the CDs for books.  Turns out, reading is no longer compulsory, and as long as I don't have one of the very worst headaches, a book can be a good distraction.

And it's fun!  I am resolving not to feel guilty for:
  • quitting a book 50 pages in if it has no likeable characters, or 
  • skipping a section if it's boring, or 
  • reading books from the section marked TEEN.  
I am also only reading books recommended to me that actually sound interesting to me (and still sound interesting after I've read the plot synopsis on wikipedia). 

I have read a lot of delightful books this year, most of which are not close to being revered as classics or "modern classics" or "the classics of the future."  Every time I break my resolve and read a book because I feel like I should, or stick with one that "everyone loves," it saps a little bit of reading pleasure (How oh how is it that E.M. Forster thought the joyless Howard's End was his best novel, and not the way-less-annoying A Room With a View?).  That is why it is important to remain firm.  (And by remain firm, I mean read whatever you want).

And that is why I have to make so many darn trips to the library, since I only end up reading about one in five of the many books I bring home.  Good thing there two large library systems at my disposal (city and county), that I am a member of both, and that one has a branch near my work and one has a branch near our home.  Good thing I have a puppy that likes to nuzzle my knees while I sit on our big red couch for hours on end.  And good thing it is Travis, and not me, who has to spend all his free time reading biology textbooks!

Bullet Points!

 Things I did for the first time this week:
  • Travel to a work conference
  • Sing karaoke (Love is a Battlefield, in case you were wondering)
  • Almost faint during a Jazzercise class
Things I learned from these experiences (respectively):
  • LOTS of things about:
    • helping undocumented students attend college
    • iPhone apps that can help me with my work travel
    • ethical practices in higher education admissions
    • awesome things happening at other colleges in the Northwest, and
    • mummies
  • Knowing the words and/or melody to a song are not prerequisites for singing it in front of 50 strangers.  Awesome dance moves, however, are crucial.  Check, check, and check.
  • I am in terrible shape/have low blood pressure/have a subconscious aversion to "On the Floor" by JLo (which my conscious self enjoys quite a bit)/need to go to the doctor
Things I did this week, but not for the first time (along with an approximate number of times I have done each of these things before)
  • Had dinner at Red Robin with my sister Lisa (10-20)
  • Drove across the state of Washington, round trip (40-50)
  • Stopped at three different gas stations in Ellensburg so as to acquire the perfect assortment of travel snacks (at least 5)
  • Spent a meal surrounded by awesome niece and nephews (not enough)
  • Spent a meal with my parents (way more frequently in the past 9 months than in the preceding 2 years!)
  • Made s'mores in the drizzling rain (I grew up in the Northwest, so pretty much every time I have ever made s'mores)
  • Pulled several totally disgusting items out of my dog's mouth (feels infinite)
In other news:
  • I am really enjoying our new church here, and hoping to attend a membership class next month
  • Travis and I can't quite agree on how much to feed our puppy, now that she is really not a puppy anymore and definitely not growing up anymore (though she will most certainly continue to grow out, according to Travis, if we keep feeding her at the current rate)
  • I have had several realizations lately, one of which is that my mom was my age when my parents adopted my oldest brother.  He was 14.  They also had two toddlers.  
  • Today at church a woman asked me where I got my hair, and I said "my mom."  She then instructed me to tell my mom "thank you," for giving me such lovely hair.  So this is me telling you "thank you," mom!
  • My headaches have been very mild the last month (maybe 2 bad ones a week), so I am, once again, cautiously optimistic.  At the very least, I am grateful for the peace and rest these little headache reprieves provide.  I was planning on signing up for a workshop on living with chronic conditions this summer, but it's hard to know right now if I'll need it.  Here's hoping I won't!  
  • That said, we all know that I tend to blog less when I am headaching more, and blog more when I am headaching less, so here's hoping for some consistency in the coming months! 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Accidental exhibitionists

Time for an embarrassing story!  We mostly love our rental house.  It is old-fashioned but updated in a very South-Hill (that's a nice area of Spokane that we don't live in) way.  It has a big back yard with its own Whomping Willow, a driveway that connects directly to the street and not the alley (very rare in our neighborhood) and space, space, and more space.  Enough space, actually, that Travis is setting up and trying out a little indoor golf area in the basement as I write.  We don't have a net, so it involves a blanket and weights and a little patch of fake grass.
The house also has quirks.  Quirks can be innocuous, like the sloped floor in the basement that means the furniture has to point one way and not the other, or the door that is sometimes stuck and sometimes too loose.  And the window in the shower.  The BIG window in the shower, on the side of the house facing the main street.  Luckily, it contains thickly frosted glass, and when we moved in we checked very carefully and made sure you couldn't see through it.
HOWEVER.
We only checked during the daytime.  Last night we were telling some friends about the window in the shower, and we simultaneously realized that we had never checked it when it was dark out.  Rookie mistake!  I take all my showers after 9 pm or before 6:30 am!  I have taken more than 50 showers in front of that window when it is dark out!  So last night we checked, and sure enough, it was very easy to see through the frosted glass.  I couldn't see Travis' facial features, but I could definitely see the color of his clothes.  I can only posit, based on this evidence, that it would be simple for a random passerby (or our across the street neighbors, whose living room window faces our bathroom window) to deduce that the person on the other side of that window was not wearing any clothes.  This would be really hilarious if it weren't horrifying.  I'm shocked that no one has called the police, or set up video cameras in the trees!
Travis is awesome, and jumped into action.  Now we have a beautiful and very opaque shade covering the window.  But is it opaque enough to rid us of our (possible) reputation as the neighborhood nudies?  Only time will tell.