Some good pots.

Well, I made it through another semester of grad school. This was probably the toughest yet. I really had some difficult classes. During the last several days of the semester, trying to finish my last two assignments, I think I spent between 50 and 60 hours working in 5 days, including the 20 hours I worked out of the last 27 hours before the assignments were due. Still, I persevered, and I made it through. As long as I was making progress, it wasn't so bad. The only times I got really discouraged were when I went more than an hour or two without figuring out anything new. Sharayah was amazingly supporting, putting up with the 12+ hour days and taking care of everything else in the house so I could just focus, not to mention putting up with me during those frustrated times. Sometimes I'm not sure how I'm making it through, but other times I know it's her constant support and encouragement. I would have quit a long time ago without her.

So today we went ice skating at the rink at UD. I like skating, but I'm very bad. I can generally stay up (I only fell 2 or 3 times in the 2 hours we were there!) but I have terrible form and I know I look silly not falling. However, Sharayah holds my hand to serve as a point of balance and I do alright. I saw plenty of people who were worse than I was, which is always an encouraging thing. Oddly enough I skate better when I skate faster, although I'm not great at stopping (read: I don't know how to stop except by coasting until I slow down) so that's maybe not a good recipe for success. Either way it was fun as always. I'd never skated on a full-size rink before, since I've only skated on cruises and those are like 1/4 size (imagine a cruise ship big enough for a full hockey rink. cool.) Hopefully we'll go again sometime soon.

In an amazing feat of perfect timing, the new Zelda game came out just before the aforementioned week of absurd amounts of homework. Still, we found a little time to play it now and then, and a little more now that I've finished. If you've ever played a Zelda game in the past and enjoyed it, I'd definitely suggest you get it. We've had a lot of fun so far.

We are so on top of Christmas this year. We got our chop-your-own-tree tree the first weekend after getting back from Thanksgiving vacation, we got a real wreath on our door (by which I mean it's made of real branches and stuff) and we have totally finished Christmas shopping already. Normally we don't finish until... well normally we don't finish, and some people end up with nothing from us. Sometimes we correct it in time, and sometimes it's March and we think... hmm, by now it's just offensive to call this a Christmas gift, I guess we'll wait until next year. So the big deal here is that we actually got everyone in our immediate families a gift this year. And we were over a week early! (Though we are waiting for things to be shipped to us, after which we have to ship them, so... don't expect anything Christmas morning...)

We saw a tiny orange fluffy cat at Petsmart. If we didn't think we'd look crazy for having 3 cats in such a small space, we may have gotten him. He was an adorable ball of... orange fluff... and he would follow Sharayah's finger as she traced it around his little window. And I don't mean follow with his eyes. He chased her finger around his whole little cage. I think I would have named him Percival. Is Percival a good name for a cat? You could call it Perry. Or Percy if it was girly. I was thinking today that pets are a good outlet for names that you kinda like but obviously would never want to name a child (no offense to the 0.0008% of children born last year who were named Percival, or the 0.0003% the two years before that).

the first time that you opened your eyes


i am employed.

That's right, I have accepted a job offer. Quite an exciting and apprehensive time. I'm actually going to do it. Crazy.

There was about a week of feeling overwhelmed, which I did not like at all. I don't like to make seemingly super important decisions overnight, and when you have a couple companies wanting/needing a prompt response to their job offer... I did not like that at all, especially since each place had at least one aspect that I was uncomfortable committing to. I don't like to decide on a choice that I am not completely comfortable with. I realize, though, that that is sometimes inevitable. The hard part is determining if the reason I'm uncomfortable is a legitimate one (something that should definitely be given more time to consider) or just something that may not be as convenient or comfortable as I had imagined my ideal situation would be (in which case, I should just get over it and deal with it). It's annoying.

When I get overwhelmed, the idea of curling up under a pile of blankets goes from an appealing scale of 3 ("Hey, it's a pile of blankets! I bet it'd be awesome to crawl underneath them all and see how dark it is!") to an 8 ("Must. Hide. Must find. Pile of blankets. Safety!").  Being able to hide for a short period of time actually seems pretty therapeutic. It's dark. Warm. There are no visual reminders of what was stressing you out. You focus on your breathing (due to the fact that it gets stuffy really fast), which is supposed to help you calm down (I think?). I know it might sound weird, but I think it's a perfect way to handle feeling overwhelmed. The trick is to not let yourself stay under the blankets for too long. A way to make sure this doesn't happen is to not give yourself any air holes for fresh air to come in. That way, as soon as it starts getting stuffy and hot, you know your hiding time is over and it's time to be normal again. Fool proof way of dealing with feeling overwhelmed. Is there a way to patent it? I'm on it.

Anyway, I think for several days in a row I began and ended the day by asking Jason, "What am I supposed to do?" And after he pulled me out from under the blankets, he always knew. He's ridiculously good for me. He solves all my problems. Now if only I could help solve some of his... but he isn't a big fan of just writing down my willy-nilly solutions to his math problems. He has this thing about "proving"  it or something. Psh. Such an odd fellow...

So, Jason gave me the confidence to politely turn down the first couple job offers, which was rather a relief. They just didn't quite seem like the right opportunity, but I wasn't sure if I was just being unreasonably picky/just poorly reacting to the possibility that I was being pushed out of my comfort zone more than I had originally expected or if it just wasn't the "right" job . I guess I just had a slightly irrational (and also slightly rational) feeling of obligation to take the first job I was offered, to get my "foot in the door" so to speak, since I haven't really (and by that I mean not at all) pulled my weight job/money-wise. Self-inflicted guilt is quite the motivator. Luckily, I have an awesome husband who is quick to let me know I'm being silly and that he only wants the best for me. And within a week of turning down the not-quite-right positions, I had another job opportunity offered to me that, as far as I know (given the understanding that I have not yet actually started the job), is nearly ideal for what I currently need/want.

And like that, I am employed. Paperwork has been signed. I am awaiting a foot pedal in the mail from the company. And then training will begin. I am obviously still a lot apprehensive (what if, despite the entire Career Step course, I'm a horrible transcriptionist?), moderately excited (I'm going to make money without being in retail or in a call center!), and overall content (it's nice to make a decision that involves zero red flags inside your gut). God is a good God.

On another note, I can't believe it's Christmas already. And I can't believe it's been over a month since our last blog post. Here's a quick catch-up summary of the past month:

  • We visited the Christmas tree farm and sawed down our classically-shaped Christmas tree. 

  • Thanksgiving vacation was awesome, filled with tennis, swamp walks, large-scale chess, rotisserie turkeys, licorice, puzzling, tether ball, and a balcony camp-out (!). 

  • Christmastown at Busch Gardens: singing/dancing shows, light displays, Clydesdales, a rather romantic sky-high ride, a fantastic coaster ride on the Alpengeist (on a cold, dark night? incredible), and 19th century carolers. Lovely.

  • Longwood Garden's Christmas shindig.

  • Zelda Skyward Sword. So psyched.
  • We got two Angel Tree kids this year, a little girl and a baby boy, and I had a ton of fun shopping for them (Jason may or may not call it 'fun'). There are some adorable baby clothes out there... Seriously. It's ridiculous.
  • I might have convinced Jason to purchase a goat and some chickens
  • Puma now has a hand-crafted, bright pink yarn ball, courtesy of me and my fancy balling (yarning?) skills. I love watching him carry it around in his mouth, his jaws open so wide trying to get the biggest chunk of it possible.
So, there you go. Christmas is upon us, and I can feel my excitement rising. Jason's finals are due Thursday (you can do it, babe), and he is quite deserving of the break to come. I love this time of year. :)

He is not ready for Christmas.


Puma is kind of a dope.

The other day Sharayah and I were outside and the windows to our apartment were open. We saw Puma looking out at us through the screen, and he seemed a little bothered. So, of course, we came over and taunted him. It turns out, if you run the end of a stick along the screen he's just dumb enough to think he can grab it or eat it. This actually went on for several minutes without him ever understanding that even if he was fast enough to catch it, he couldn't get his mouth on it. We also found some berries and set them at the bottom of the window, and he couldn't figure out why he couldn't eat them. It was pretty great. At some point, though, he started getting upset that he couldn't get to us. We walked back and forth between windows from two different rooms, and he always ran to join us, whining as though we had him in a cage. See, to Puma, a cage is any place where he is and we are not. Perhaps more accurately, it's any place where he is and Sharayah is not. Sometimes in Tulsa he would think we had left the apartment (since we had an upstairs) and he'd start yowling the most sad, pathetic cries you've ever heard. He'll do the same thing here if we ever have a closed door between us and him. No matter the size of the room, if we're not in it, it's a cage. Apparently this doesn't just apply to rooms, but the entire apartment. Puma can curl up on a 1 square foot spot on the floor, and he lives in an 1100 square foot cage.

Sharayah made a tasty potato soup today. I helped peel the potatoes for her. It was pretty tough because they were those little red potatoes, so there isn't much room to grip them while you peel. On the other hand, the little ones are easier to wash. I told her that they were small potatoes compared to regular potatoes. It wasn't my idea, but I poured my soup over a Kaiser roll to get some sort of biscuits and gravy style effect. I don't know about all that, but it was pretty good so I'll probably do it again. I think the effect was more like bread and soup, but that's probably better anyway.

Thanksgiving is almost here. I'll be going with family (wife, parents, siblings) to Williamsburg, actually to the same place where Sharayah and I stayed this past summer. Hopefully the trees will still have some leaves, because seeing them in all their fall color glory has to be amazing, judging by what they looked like with green leaves. We'll have the place starting from the Saturday before Thanksgiving, so it's pretty tempting to skip the last two days of school before break and just take the whole week off down there. Maybe someone can bring a laptop and Skype the lectures to me. That would actually be pretty cool. Either way I'm expecting some fun and finally some time to relax for a couple days. Also food.

So it looks like next semester my TA assignment will be to teach math education for future k-8 teachers. I'm thinking that their method of randomly assigning TAs to different classes is a bad idea. I'm not saying it's not an important class, but I have no interest in math at that level. If I end up teaching, it'll be at a university. My only consolation is that it does seem to be a well planned and organized course. I don't agree that it's a good use of my abilities to teach it, but it's a good course for people who actually want to teach math to children. There's a lot of stress on trying to obtain a deeper understanding of numbers and operations, so that when they try to teach the problem solving techniques, it's not just a set of steps, it's based on an understanding of what the problem is really asking at a fundamental level. At any rate, hopefully it will only be for a semester and then I can teach something more interesting. I will probably teach some level of Calculus over the summer, which is a little uninteresting because I've TAed it so many times, but at least it's subject matter that I enjoy.

 the darkness around me


oh to be a child

Children's entertainment just got better.

  • I thought Ratatouille was decent, but Ratatoing? That's pushing it. There's a blue mouse. I'm not sure what to do with that.
  • I loved Charlotte's Web when I was a kid (all except for the millions of baby spiders released to roam the world at the end), but Spider's Web? Look, the pig's name is Walt instead of Wilbur. That's an instantaneous 2 point deduction right there.
  • Chop.Kick.Panda. What a brilliant title to generalize Kung Fu Panda. Personally, I didn't think the actual Kung Fu Panda (the first one, I never saw the sequel) was that great (and I have a thing for pandas [and most things large and furry {and asian?}] so that's really saying something...), so I don't have super high expectations for the Chop Kick Panda. Unfortunately.
  • House balloon to the rescue! I thought Up was a pretty good movie ("squirrel!!"), but I really thought the title was borderline unappealing. Making a rip-off "What's Up" is not an improvement. At all. 
These just look like potentially hilarious (but most likely awful) movies. Part of me wants to watch them while the more logical side of me is protesting fiercely. Since I don't think I could ever get Jason to participate in such a viewing, I think I will give in to my protesting side. Sigh.

I figure a kid (if they're young enough, at least) won't care if his/her movie is a lousy rip-off of a better-in-nearly-every-single-aspect movie. The fundamentals are there: You have the talking animals, the bright colors, the kung fu (or should I say chop kicks?). If I were a kid, I think it would be a  winning combination. Anyway.

I guess what I like about the good animated movies of today (which naturally excludes all of the above pictured) is that it is generally entertaining for an actual child as well as a child-like korean posing as a 25 year old. I don't believe these movies would fall into that category. I suppose I can't say that definitively since I haven't seen but bits and pieces of them, but I'm pretty confident. An 11 on a scale of 1 to 10, conservatively.

I suppose the primary point of this particular post has been accomplished, so I shall rein in all additional (but unrelated) rambling thoughts. Done.

I would bet every single feather in this picture that they are not going to see any of the above-pictured movies. For one, they are ducks. For two, I'm positive the movies went straight to DVD. Positive.


once upon a time

Four years ago today, we got engaged. It simultaneously feels like it was only a year or so ago and way more than four years ago. Time is odd like that.

"...i love jason, and i don't care if i'm a sap about it right now. do you know how weird (in a completely good way) it is to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that something is right? and this is right. he's so good for me, in so many ways. i second guess everything. everything. everything. but not this. why not? i know rarely is a thing perfect. and i know something that can span decades like a relationship leaves plenty of room and time for a flaw or imperfect moment. yet the thought of spending my life with him excites me. to no end. in all aspects. i know i'm supposed to marry him. and for once, i want more than anything to do what i know i'm supposed to do. God loves me. isn't it awesome?"

I wrote that four years ago and every single bit of it is still true (which is really saying something for me since usually when I look back at what I've written [three or more years in the past] it just makes me laugh at my own silliness/stupidity [which isn't always a bad thing]). Every single word is still true.

The absolute feeling of "this is right" rarely comes to me, frustratingly enough. And because of this, I tend to avoid the responsibility of as many life-altering "big" decisions as possible. That was always one of my worries, that I wouldn't know for sure when it came to big decisions. Because, likely as not, I would probably just decide not to decide and in doing that possibly make a huge mistake. Or take the 70/30 chance of choosing one of the options and, again, possibly make a huge mistake. God truly blessed me in that He not only gave me a best friend but He also let me know that he was to be my best friend for life, which I almost appreciate just as much.

The feeling of just knowing something with complete clarity and peace is exhilarating. I wish I had those moments more often, especially since knowing there is such a feeling makes all decisions that much more apprehensive if the feeling isn't there. But that's life. I suppose it might get boring if there wasn't some sense of unpredictability.

Anyway, that's all I wanted to write. Jason has a homework assignment due tomorrow so it may be a long night tonight. Oh, and speaking of Jason, his birthday is coming up. I had a perfect/funny/awesome gift for him, but it's not going to get here in time. This saddens me. Oh well, a late gift is kinda better than no gift, right?

This kitten doesn't think so. I am thoroughly reprimanded.


the day of celebration

Ah, the day of celebratory adventures in honor of the past 11 months dedicated to Careerstep's course. 

So, the much anticipated (and dreaded) MTE final was conquered unofficially on September 28th (as soon as I hit the little 'Submit Exam' button at 10:33 am, 7 minutes before the 48-hour testing period was over) and absolutely, positively officially owned in the face on October 5th (after returning to the apartment from a super long walk with Jason to find the scary email in my inbox). I graduated with High Honors on the first go. I had to read the email twice before I got up the nerve to tug on Jason's shirt sleeve, asking him to verify what it actually said. I hadn't really had any doubts that I'd graduate (even though only about 70% graduate on the first try, one only needs an overall score of at least 85% so... I wasn't worried), but I was pretty sure that if I got anything but High Honors (overall score of at least 95%) that I would be looking at a retake of the final, for my own sake. Ahh, but it was all unnecessary planning. No retakes for this korean. She did it. :)

On the 4 straight transcription files I got a 98%, but once it was averaged with the score from my 2 editing transcription files, my overall grade was a 97%. The highest grade that I know of personally is a 98% by another Careerstep student, so I am more than pleased. A couple other neat percentages:
  • Currently, Careerstep's hire rate for High Honor graduates is 96%.
  • Currently, Careerstep's hire rate for their MTE graduates (the specific course that I took) is 100%. 
 It's most definitely comforting.

So, after Jason read the amazingly exciting email, he picked me up and spun me around the apartment. There may or may not have been some drooling involved. (You try having someone sling you over his shoulder while you're laughing giddily and being spun in [seemingly super fast and tight] circles... Drooling happens. I've learned to live with it.) Puma even joined in the celebration by jumping on top of his perch and whining at us, wanting to know what all the excitement was about. We made the night an official celebration by breaking out one of our 'For Special Occasions Only' drinks, the Grapefruit (or was it the Clementine...?) Izze. It was a celebratory night. 

Obviously, one night is not enough of a celebration for such an occasion, so a weekend adventure was planned for the upcoming Saturday (though of course, now it's just this past Saturday so... yea) to be filled with Longwood Garden wanderings, a super cool corn maze "fun park" (I've always wanted to get lost in an all-out corn maze, so I was super stoked), and dinner at the Cheesecake Factory. Even though Jason has been stupid busy with homework the past few weeks (literally, nonstop), he told me he would take the whole day off for me. I still can't help but think that I don't deserve him.

It was a lovely day, a little bit on the warm side at times and ridiculously sunny at all times, and we exhausted ourselves with adventuring. The highlight for me at Longwood was their lily pad exhibit. It was ridiculous. They had so many kinds of lily pads, varying from really small pacman-like pads to super awesome, spike-lined lily pads that I'm pretty sure could support a small child. (*After further research about these lily pads, it turns out that if the weight distribution is done correctly, a medium-sized child may even be held. Definitely going to keep this in mind for the future...) Also, throughout our Longwood wanderings, I had Jason test the sharpness of all things prickly, and he definitively stated that the spikes on these lily pads were by far the sharpest of all the other test subjects.

We also discovered a really cool pepper plant (its edibility [that's a word, right?] was debatable) with yellow, red and purple peppers. I would love to put them in a salad just for the color (regardless of the taste [almost]). We wandered through a meadow and saw a groundhog-type animal eating lunch. We even got to see a pomegranate bonsai with 2 pomegranates ready for the picking. I really wanted to pick them... We took a small smattering of pictures, some of which can be seen in the haphazard collage below, and it was a pretty sweet afternoon. The only drawback was that we didn't get to watch the fountain show... but that'll save until our next visit.

Smattering. To see them enlarged, feel free.

After getting our fill of super cool plants, we headed to the corn maze, which was about an hour's drive away. I loved it. Since it is close to the end of corn maze season, the corn was the drab brown/yellow and not the lush green, but it didn't matter. The maze was still plenty intact with the corn stalks well above my head. The maze was rather daunting, but we only got turned around a few times and made pretty good time once we figured out where not to go. It was such a large maze that, even though there were a ton of people there, you only ran into other people every now and again. At the beginning of the maze, the park gave us these flags made of a felt square and long pole. The purpose of said flag?
If you got frustratingly lost, you could wave your flag above the corn stalks and someone would come lead you out (there was a lookout tower where an employee stood watching for any such panicky waving flags). Jason didn't want to carry the flag around the entire time though so we didn't bring it with us. I think we got a little lucky in that there were several paths that, when taken, would lead you all the way back to the beginning and we didn't take any of those paths (which was good, since it's one thing to realize you've gone in a small circle and it's a whole other thing to go from 60% complete to 5% complete).
Once we finished the corn maze, we went on to do some of the other mazes that were available. These included a rope maze, a bamboo maze (I love bamboo, but a maze constructed of it really makes your eyes go crazy. I highly suggest subjecting yourself to this.), and some other random mazes. Overall, it was a really cool time. Next year though, I think we'll go a little bit earlier in the year so as to see the corn maze in all of its greenness.

By the time we left the mazes, it was late-ish and we were pretty tuckered out from the hours of walking in the sun, so we called an audible and decided to save the Cheesecake Factory for later on this week and just go make dinner in bed at home. It was a perfect way to end the day.

So yes. Good weekend. Life is good. I'm as content as this kitty...

...well, maybe not this content.



I think I've heard that if you do something every day for 3 weeks, then you've made it a habit. Now, obviously you can still change that habit again, but it's harder to stop doing something (or easier to keep doing it, depending on what you're attempting) if it's a habit. That's good news for Sharayah and me (yes, "me" is the correct word there), because we've made it well past 21 days in our read-the-whole-Bible-in-one-year schedule. I believe we're on day 35 or so and we're still doing well. It's been really nice so far. I don't think I've read very much that I hadn't already, but most days things will hit me in a different way than they have before, or I'll catch a detail that I didn't remember. It's just a nice, peaceful 20-30 minutes we can spend together each night before bed. I'd really advise everyone to try it out. If a year or the whole Bible sounds like too long, there are shorter reading plans on the website (youversion.com, if you're too lazy to scroll down to find it again).

I've also been trying to start playing my guitar again lately. If I've ever had a habit in my life, it was playing guitar. People who knew me at ORU may have seen me with my guitar as much as without it, and may have a hard time believing it, but in the past couple years I've barely played it at all. It's strange to me how something can be such a passion for me for such a long time, and then it can just disappear. While I was at ORU, I think playing my guitar was one of the most important things in the world to me. I really miss feeling like the guitar is just an extension of my arms. Now it's a foreign object that I have to actually hold to play. I can no longer sit for hours and rattle off 30 or 40 songs in a row without checking the chord charts like I used to do on the honors and wing retreats. I can't even think of that many songs, much less play them without music. However, I'm making an effort to get it back. I think it's all still a part of who I am, it's just been asleep for a while. It's time to wake up.

it's Your mercy


progress report time!

One of my favorite parts of sponsoring children through Holt (or any other organization for that matter) is getting the progress reports about each child. I love reading about how they've been doing and what they've been up to. Currently, we're sponsoring these two lovely kids, Zu Fen (Xu, left) and Yuan Fei (Luo, right):

Zu Fen is 7 now and Yuan Fei is 13.
Anyway, yesterday we received the progress report for Yuan Fei, and I wanted to share parts of it.

"Yuan Fei studies hard. He likes thinking independently. He is good at math. Last month, his school held the math contest. He won the first prize and won the honor for his class... He often discusses the methods of study with his classmates to make a greater progress in his studies. He is also willing to help the classmates who have difficulties in study. One day, one of his classmates asked him a math problem. He explained the problem to him patiently. Half an hour later, the student understood how to resolve the problem... He also likes playing badminton and ping-pong. In the school sports meeting, he won the second prize in ping-pong match."

Math and ping-ping... It just made me smile.

On a kind of related note, reading the progress reports with their not-always-idiomatic English (I have no clue if idiomatic is the proper word in this context... but I figure there's a 23% chance that it's correct) never fails to remind me of all of my engineering courses at ORU. I'll read the progress report and hear Dr. Liu, Dr. Zhang or Dr. Ma in my head.

...and every time I read or hear or think about toes, I immediately hear Dr. Ma saying, "Foot fingers, not many have 11 or 12." Ah, so many non-engineering lessons learned from my asian professors. They still make me laugh.

Alright, that's all I wanted to mention. Jason has been meaning to blog but has not yet gotten around to it this week. Oh, he's started playing his guitar again, which is happy for me. My first distinct memory I have of Jason (the Honors forums aside) is of him and George playing guitar together in the fish bowl (which I just mis-typed as 'bowel,' which would not be accurate since neither Jason or George was/is Jonah...). It was a neat night. Guitar and Jason just go together, so I'm glad he's finding some time to fit it back in to everyday life.

Last bit: I've decided to take my transcription final Monday and Tuesday. Fingers crossed.

This is a completely unrelated picture. I just find him adorable. Oh, and I would love to own that swing.


football.mushrooms.half-asians. oh boy!

One of the best things about fall (right there underneath the cooler weather, colorful leaves, the coming of Thanksgiving and Christmas [yes, I know Christmas is a winter holiday, but my statement is still valid], and the better-to-roll-off-the-tip-of-your-tongue named months [September, October, November are such better names for months than April, May or June {though I just might think this because people name their daughters April, May, and June and it doesn't sit well with me... though the fall months would make awesome boy names, in my opinion}]) started this past Thursday: Football.

Wait, let me clarify: The NFL started this past Thursday, and that is an awesome part of fall. College football... not so much. I guess I just don't get college sports. But that's all I'll say about that.

The opening game was Saints vs. Packers. It was a pretty good game, if I do say so myself. I'm not a big fan of either team, but Brees seems to be a decent kind of fellow so I wish they could have pulled it out. But no biggie. Anyway, since we don't have television service, we weren't able to watch the game live, but to remedy this we decided to invest in NFL.com's Game Rewind. Basically, it lets you watch all of the regular season games, without commercials, in DVR fashion, anytime after the game airs. You can watch it the day after or several weeks after. Every single NFL game is available for you to watch with the only negative being that you can't watch it live. This setup works out for me and Jason splendidly. Due to some random events, we were able to get it for $30, and now we get to have football whenever we want it. Turns out, football is nice to have going on in the background whilst you do other productive (or not) things.

So, yes. Being able to watch the Colts game whenever? Win. Peyton being out for who knows how long? Major.Fail. As this topic saddens me and everybody already knows all about it,  I only wanted to mention it in order to bring up a small side topic.  Last season Jason and I did a fantasy football league for fun, with just the two of us. It was entertaining to say the least. I basically had the Colts for my team. Hooray. Anyway, for this season, Shawn apparently needed 2 more people to join his fantasy football league (this can't be said enough: who uses yahoo these days? :P ). Somehow he was left with asking me and Jason to participate. It's entertaining in that I think the others in the league are probably much more serious about winning than either of us. ANYway, I again pretty much just have the Colts for my team, and this makes me happy. I have Peyton as my quarterback, and I am going to keep him there, even though he's not playing. This will serve several purposes: 1) It's funny. 2) He's still the best quarterback ever. 3) I will be able to give everyone else in the fantasy league 2 free wins off of me. It's seriously an everybody wins strategy (well, I guess Peyton doesn't really  win... it's a pretty lame situation for him no matter how you look at it). That's all for that.

It was brought to my attention yesterday that the Festival of all Festivals is occurring in Kennett Square, PA this weekend. In the words of the festival-put-er-on-ers, it's a "Fun(gi) for all!" festival. That's right, people. In the quaint little town of Kennett Square (which also happens to be the home of the absolutely awesome Longwood Gardens), the Mushroom Festival is happening! It's a pretty well-known fact that mushrooms top my list of Awesome Foods, so a festival dedicated to these tasty  delicacies? Potentially mind blowing. Unfortunately, Jason has a lot of stuff to get done this weekend so I don't think we're going to be able to check it out. It's okay though. There's always next year!

Like Jason mentioned in his previous blog, I am this close to being done with my transcription course. I have to polish up a few things, await my last assessment results, prepare for the 48-hour final, and hopefully not just scrape through... by the skin of my teeth? Or is it by the seat of my pants? By the edge of a woods at the foot of a hill? Whatever. Just, hopefully not scrape by anything. I need to do extremely well or else I will think I did horrible. There's really no middle ground. So, while I'm excited that soon I will be finished with the course, I am also rather apprehensive. I just have to keep in mind my game plan, which is as follows: Prepare for final -> Take final -> Pass final to my satisfaction -> Find a job -> Work at job -> Increase the world's population of watered-down asians. (This would actually be better visualized with a flow chart [and boy do I love flow charts], but for simplicity's sake I won't go there.) It's a flawless plan, no? I'll have an option for helping out financially without having to loan my little guys out to strangers 8 hours a day. Win. I just have to succeed. Time will tell.

On a related note: Jason is going to be an incredible dad. It excites me.

One last thing: I wish to "learn" how to put together a scrapbook. I don't think I have the creativity or the eye to make it look special or anything, but I would like to put together a book with colorful pages  filled with nicely placed pictures. My fear is that it will turn out like a regular old photo album or a 5-year-old's art project. Regardless, I plan on attempting it sometime in the near future.

A picture not at all related to anything I just rambled on about:



I found out today that I passed the second preliminary exam, so I'm no officially 1/3 done with the requirements for the PhD. Not sure what else to say about it. I can already tell I'll be working twice as hard this year as last year. Maybe one day I'll really make it.

Sharayah and I each started a new Bible reading program on YouVersion. They've got dozens of different plans to read through the Bible in a year, such as in chronological order, arranged by topic, straight through in the normal order, or various other plans. You can just sign up for the site, pick a plan, and then each day go to their website and it has a checklist of passages to read for the day. We each picked a plan, and we're on day 10 or so. They actually have plans of varying lengths of time, but most of them are 1 year. I'll let you know next August if we made it through.

I've been reading a lot lately. This summer I made my way through the Ender's Game series, including the Shadow series and most of the short stories. I have a few more short stories left, but they're on the way to the library, and then I'll be caught up. I read the first book in college, thought it was awesome, and never gave it another thought. Then, for some reason, I started through the series this summer, and it's really all great. Many of the books have a very different feel from Ender's Game, but they're all compelling stories. I'd definitely recommend them. If you can manage it, try to read everything in the published order (rather than chronological). If you get confused, just ask me what to read next. I'm pretty excited because the next book in the series is coming out in November, and it's supposed to tie together a lot of the loose ends from all the different story arcs that didn't seem necessarily connected. Apparently I have good timing, because he had left the series alone for a while, and only came back to it this year.

Sharayah is almost done with her transcription training. Then she'll be (in her words) a "meat earner," though I think maybe she meant "bread winner." She's pretty much awesome. Apparently the rest of her plan is to start popping out babies, but she may have to wait a little longer for that.

Today, for the first time ever, I left my car's lights on all day and my battery died. It was sad. Also, difficult to solve, because my car was surrounded in its parking space so that no one would be able to get close enough to jump it. Luckily, just as I figured out how to unlock the gear shift without the car being on so that I could push the car out and back into another spot, allowing someone to get close enough to jump my car, the guy who owned the car next to mine showed up, so it was all unnecessary and I got my car going without any problems. Thus, all I lost was about 30 minutes and some pride (and who needs pride, anyway?).

the best I have


four cuts and seven days ago

The fact that today is the first day of September makes me ridiculously excited. Fall is practically here! I am so psyched for the gorgeous fall colors and absolutely perfect weather. There's just something about fall that is so invigorating. I love it! I have my fingers crossed that there will be much bike riding and picnicking. Oh my. I feel all jittery in anticipation. The year here, weather wise, has been near perfect. The seasons are so perfectly spaced out that, with the change of each season, you're not left disappointed about the current season ending. The autumny leaves are around just long enough for you to enjoy them to the fullest. Right when you think, "Hm, I'm ready for winter," it's winter and cold and snowy. I know not everyone loves the cold months, but for me they are rather glorious. There is just another kind of beauty to them. When it snows and everything becomes white for days... Or when it's all blustery and grim outside and you're forced to stay inside, cuddled under blankets with a book or puzzle... It just feels like it can't get any better than that. And then, right when you have your fill of the snowiness, color starts to return everywhere you look. Nature wakes up. Spring arrives.  And it's awesome and beautiful in a totally different way than either fall or winter. Everything just... comes alive. Car rides and walks are filled with many rather squeaky exclamations. Jason laughs at me, but he understands. The shift from spring into summer is a little less noteworthy, but still noticeable. The temperature warms up, the cool breezes disappear, the trees fill out with leaves and turn a nice dark green. Due to the heat, summer has never been my favorite season. But honestly, I didn't mind it too much up here. There were really only a handful of weeks with icky heat. I can handle that.

Anyway, all this to say, I'm ready for fall. It.makes.me.so.excited. God made a ridiculously beautiful world.

The not as happy part of September 1st is that it is Jason's first day of school. His schedule is basically 1030 to 4 every day. I know it's ridiculous, but I'm going to miss him. Having him around all the time was so nice. I know it's probably going to be a semester with a lot of studying going on, but he can do it. I'm super proud of him.

Speaking of hair*, I cut my own hairs. All of them. First time ever. With my own hands. And scissors. It was, seriously, so much fun. Now, I will answer all of the semi-pertinent questions.

Semi- Pertinent Question #1 - Why: I greatly dislike going to get my hair cut. Perhaps it is because I rarely got haircuts when I was growing up. I would get a trim every now and again, but for a good portion of my life, I just let it grow. My hair and I have always managed to stubborn our way into unpleasant situations. As a kid, I don't think I ever thought to brush it. It was annoying to brush hair since it only took about an hour to mess it up again. Plus, I honestly don't think I could tell a difference between nicely brushed hair and messed up hair. I wasn't/still am not very aware of things like that**. Add to that, I have/had an issue with obsessing over things, and my down-to-my-knees hair was just one of the stubborn points.

Anyway, I think the actual reason I dislike hair-cutting situations is because I simply have no clue what I want done with my hair and even less of an idea how to explain this to someone. So, the few times I've gone somewhere to have my hair cut, I always reach that same awkward point: I sit down in the chair, they face me towards the mirror, and they ask, "So, what do you want done?" I have no idea. I can give them a general length to work with and I can even throw that fancy word of "Layers!" in there, but that's about the extent of my cutting/styling knowledge. To make it more difficult, I also like to mention, "I wear it down and in a ponytail. I wash it and let it dry on its own. I don't use hair devices or goop***." With all of these vague and possibly restrictive instructions, I sit back and let them go at it. Once they've declared a finished product, I pay and leave.

And this is where the dissatisfaction comes in. Sure, my hair is now at a specific length, but that is basically all that is different. I realize this is partially my fault since I didn't tell them anything more specific, but it's because I have no idea about any kind of further specifics. It's silly, I know, but I just want to give a minimum length and tell them to do what they want with the rest, just remembering that I don't do any kind of styling or whatever on a daily basis and that I don't want to/know how to do any. I haven't yet found a gutsy enough hairdresser who will do just that, surprise me. Are my hair habits just too lazy to sustain any kind of different haircut? Again, I have no idea. No one will tell me. Add to this that I honestly don't think I would know a "good" haircut from a "bad" one (they all fall into the neutral zone with me so far) and you get an overall blah experience. Anyway, this is getting all drawn out and boring, so I'll go on. Suffice it to say, I just don't think that what they did was worth the time or money. The problem? How could I complain when it was supposedly something I couldn't do myself? So, I decided to try and cut my own hair, hoping that either I would A) do the same kind of "neutral" cutting without the money spending or inevitable frustration, B) give myself a "Hey cool, something different-ish!" haircut, or C) fail miserably, thus increasing my appreciation for hairdressers and removing my apathy for the blah haircuts that I've always received.

Semi-Pertinent Question #2 - Where: My back bathroom. Paper towel in sink to catch the majority of my hairs so said sink wouldn't get all clogged.

Semi-Pertinent Question #3 - When: It has been an ever-lengthening process (which I enjoy). I started off with my bangs-type hairs about two-ish weeks ago and have been slowly clipping away after every shower since, with the main event happening about a week ago when I hacked off about 4 inches in one go. So.much.fun. It is quite addicting, and I always want to do more (which I probably will, since the desire is there, until Jason tells me to quit or my common sense finally takes over). This wouldn't be a huge problem if I were just a perfectionist or something. You know, if I were a super perfectionist when it came to my hair, clipping a little here and there all the time to get it "just right" wouldn't be a terrible idea. But, you have to realize, I honestly don't think I would recognize a "bad" haircut. And I'm cutting because it's fun. This is a potentially bad combination. I just never knew cutting hairs could be so addicting and enjoyable, and I'm not sure if I'll be able to help myself from  making minor cuts every other day. Hopefully, I won't make a mistake that will necessitate 24-hour hat donning. But then, on the flipside, I probably wouldn't even recognize that I did... So, I still win!

Semi-Pertinent Question #4 - How: In a very choppy fashion. I pretended I was all official by using little hair clips to hold my hairs up in sections and whatnot, but in the end I just did whatever the heck my fingers wanted to do. I even attempted to measure how much I was cutting off and such. But, seeing as I only had the desire to do that to one side, I think it was more of a decorative measure than actually a useful technique. I just cut the hairs that I felt needed cutting and then cut them a little more. I held the hairs at different angles while I cut them creating all kinds of potentially tacky, uneven looks. It was fantastic. Every 10 minutes I would run into the living room to pester Jason who was studying for his prelim exam. I think I was his main source of frustration when it came to studying that night... Oops. Anyway, I eventually reached a point where I felt it could be called "done" for the night. It was around-ish the right length, and my front hairs were doing what I wanted them to do. The hairs on the back of my head were more difficult to cut since I couldn't see them/reach them/cut them as easily. They are still are doing some things that I don't yet approve of but, again, it's a process. I'll figure it out eventually.

So, the big question: Was it worth it? Totally. I cannot believe I hadn't tried this sooner. I hope to never, ever again pay for a haircut. Not only will I save the 10, 15 or 20 dollars (and nope, I don't at all believe that a more expensive place would give me more satisfaction), but I will also gain a priceless amount**** of entertainment. I suppose the only thing that could ruin my anti-hair-salon goal is the spontaneous growth of self-awareness and a personal sense of style. But, I'm pretty sure that won't be a problem for me. :) So.many.wins.

This whole experience kind of reminds me of this llama...

"How's my new haircut look? Seriously, what does it look like? I can't see a thing."
*i realize i wasn't speaking of hair, but i had no other segue into this awesome topic.
**i can tell whether my hair looks brushed these days. promise. i think i learned it sophomore year in college.
***just for clarification: a brush does not fall into the hair device category. hair devices use electricity. goop consists of anything besides shampoo/conditioner that you put in your hair.
**** $43.


and then, suddenly, summer was over

Well, it's been a while, blog. Oddly enough I blogged a lot less during the summer when I had more free time than during the school year when I was busy. It wasn't a terribly eventful summer but I guess a few things have happened.

I finished my summer research, and it was what could conceivably be called a success. We weren't technically able to "solve" the problem (we wanted to find a cospectral mate for K(9,3) at a minimum), but we did show that a lot of classes of subsets of K(n,3) are not switching sets for any n. The world expert on the problem still hasn't made any progress either, so I think that means our summer spent narrowing it down a little wasn't a waste. Either way, my adviser was pleased with my work and my presentation at the end of the summer went very well.

The soccer season also ended in a way that felt successful but won't sound like it to anyone else. Our final game was not a loss. That's right, we played a game and we didn't lose. We didn't win either. It was a tie. Actually I think our teams were pretty evenly matched. I really wish someone had managed to score, but our defense managed finally to allow no goals, so our team walked away proud to finally not have lost. Our opponent was ranked 5 ahead of us, having beaten the 4 teams I thought we should have beaten and having lost to or tied the rest of the teams. That confirms even more to me that if we'd had a good game against any of those few teams, we actually might have pulled out a win. Either way, everyone sort of took it as a win anyway because other than a forfeit victory once when the other team didn't show, this is the first game we didn't lose.

I took the second preliminary exam, and (if I passed) I'm now 1/3 done with the PhD program. The next stage is pretty scary, though. It's the oral candidacy exams... It's pretty intimidating. Basically I'll have to sit in a room for 4 hours with 4 experts in my chosen field and convince them that I'm an expert, too. I'm actually not an expert, so that will be tricky. I guess I've got the rest of the school year to become one. Then I will be a PhD candidate, and all that will be left is a dissertation.

Also noteworthy is the earthquake, which was big enough for us to feel it, but small enough that it didn't cause much damage. I thought that was pretty cool, and it's the most I remember feeling any earthquake. Not as noteworthy was hurricane Irene, which was much over-hyped by the weather media. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, since all news media is over-hyped. It's not that I wanted the hurricane to be destructive, it's that I was told it would be the worst hurricane ever to hit the northeast, even where we're located. Where we are you'd never have known there was a hurricane if the internet hadn't told you. Obviously I'd rather have a wimpy storm than a destructive storm, and I'm glad that the damage from Irene was nowhere near as bad as predicted. However, there is a middle ground (really heavy rain, high winds, but not extreme enough to cause real damage), and that's what I anticipated with something like excitement. Plus, all the people we saw preparing for their impending doom (for example, buying 9 cases of water and moving their stuff into storage) will just ignore all warnings next time, when there might actually be a big storm. If it's going to be bad, then yes, you should report that. If it's not, then tell people there are some precautions to take but don't expect to be holed up in a cave with no electricity, food, or running water for a month. This comic, including the note at the end, sums up my frustration. I'm more annoyed with the hype than anything.

Speaking of hype, it caused UD to cancel all activities from Friday until Monday (like students moving into the dorms, orientations, etc.), so school couldn't start today like it was supposed to. No, today students are moving in, because the weather channel said it'd be storming like we've never seen over the weekend. Well, it did rain for about 12 hours, and the wind topped 15mph for a couple of those hours. I guess that's bad enough weather to close everything for 4 days. Right? Anyway, at least now I don't have to start school until Thursday, since they're doing all the beginning of the year stuff today and tomorrow. See, there's always a good side. No damage from the storm, and no school until Thursday.

Now, if I can just manage to blog more than once a month, we'll be set.

the only hope for this heart


life != bar graphs

I like line graphs better than bar graphs. Bar graphs are just so blocky and ugly. They remind me of ugly city-scapes. Line graphs have so many more options. The lines can be pointy and sharp or smooth and flowy. Displaying more than one set of data not only looks cool and pretty, but the information is easy to follow along a given timeline. I don't know, I just like line graphs.

Life would make an awesome line graph. More than a few times, I've considered trying it but have always forgotten about the idea. Tracking the ups and downs of a person's life over the span of a year (realistically) or 10 years (unrealistically) would be neat. Sure, it would probably be difficult to consistently and accurately rate your life. And sure, you probably couldn't compare your specific graph to someone else's graph (which removes one of the cool factors of line graphs, as mentioned above) since their view of life would probably not be on the same scale as your own. But still... I think the end result would be interesting.

I think it's fair to say that this year would have made an interesting graph.

My grandmother passed away this past week. Unlike last year when my grandfather died, Jason and I were able to go to both the wake and the funeral. The wake was held at the same funeral home, something I felt was a bit... uncomfortable. If Papa's funeral had been more distant instead of just being a year ago, I don't think I would have thought much about it. But since that wasn't the case, having it in the same location just made me think of both deaths instead of just the one. Unpleasant. On the flipside, the ceremony (is that what it's called?) was held at the same church as one of my cousin's weddings.

The past 2 days have been a little odd, I feel like. I fluctuated between pushing down any feelings of sadness and just feeling... neutral. She'd lived a good, pretty full life, and she had been in a nursing home for the last few years as well. Really, I felt the most emotion for my mom and my aunt. Losing both parents so close together has to be hard. I guess I also briefly entertained the guilt that comes with not having seen my grandmother in such a long time, the same going for my grandfather last year. Luckily, when Amber died in April, I didn't have that issue. In fact, I remember being happy that we'd gotten to see each other much more up here in Delaware than we ever did while we all lived in Tulsa (for whatever reasons). It was nice that amidst all the terribly sad thoughts, there was a happy one.

I don't know. Sadness came and went the past couple of days. I honestly tried not to think about or dwell on the sad stuff for too long since I really didn't feel up to crying. Is that terrible? I greatly dislike crying and try to prevent it whenever possible. Unfortunately, I think I'm a sympathetic crier. I don't always have to have an emotional connection to something for me to cry about it as long as several others are crying about it. Yes, there's a chance that it also has to do with the fact that I'm emotionally involved with the person(s) crying and that that's what triggers the welling up and such... But still, whatever the reason, it's the most disconcerting characteristic ever. I feel like there wasn't as much crying this time around anyway. I might be wrong. I think Papa's passing away was so much more unexpected than Nana's, which made it harder to accept. Anyway...

Line graphs. I like the idea of plotting one's life on a graph. I will probably never get around to doing so, but I like the idea. I would average a day's ups and downs and give an overall number between -25 and +25. I think the resulting graph of a given year would inevitably have multiple negative bumps along the neutral baseline, and probably 2 or 3 seemingly-mountainous negative hills, but anyone looking at the entire graph as a whole would immediately know my life is an incredibly blessed and happy one. I have the best husband I could have ever asked for (seriously, how did so much good get packed into one man?), I have an incredible family (consisting of both Millards and Vermettes), and I can honestly say I have no dreams or desires that are out of reach. God is good.

On another note, Jarred drove home with us from New Jersey yesterday and stayed with us overnight. It was an entertaining 3ish hour ride (tip: the non-toll-road route from NJ to DE during traffic time is not advisable) to say the least.

Oh yes, and the Starke-Stark wedding is coming up next weekend. We are trying to figure out our travelling plans.  Sometimes I'm just terrible at plans...

After being out of town overnight for the funeral, Puma was quite a happy little fellow come bedtime last night. The happiness seen below is not the actual happiness but merely an example:



Well, the summer soccer season is coming to a close. We have 2 more games left. How should I summarize my experiences on this team?

Most of the time I don't mind that our team loses every game. Yeah, sometimes it's frustrating, but I do get to feel good about myself for being one of the better players, and I also play on this team because I actually like the other players. Really none of us are jerks and we're all just playing for fun. We have to be, since obviously we're not playing to win. Most of the teams we play against have a few (or many) jerks on their team, and I don't think I'd rather play on their team and win a few, because that'd be even more frustrating.

Besides, at times I think as a team we're not so bad, and we really could have won 3 or 4 games this year. There were 4 games within 2 points. I think we had a chance at each of those games, but we just couldn't keep it together the whole hour (the summer games are only an hour, both because of the heat and because they have to fit a lot of games into a small amount of time). We were even ahead for a while in two of those games, over half the game in one case.

As it turns out, I think (at least for this season) I enjoy more the games where we have no chance to win, the games where we lose by 4 or more. I'm sure that makes no sense. But maybe I can explain a bit. I mostly play defense, so for one thing there's a lot of action and challenge in the games against teams that are far better than us. I can really push myself to the limit and improve when we play a team whose offense is really good. That's the small reason I prefer the games where we have no chance. The main reason, though, at least I think it's the main reason, is that when we have a chance at winning, when we're actually ahead for some of the game, it's a lot more stressful for me. Our team struggles a lot to put together a strong attack, and in a game where we actually have a chance, that's really frustrating. To play really good defense the whole game and only let two goals past the whole time, and then to have our team only score 1, or none at all, is tough. I don't like getting upset at the forwards, because I know their job is hard, but it stresses me out a lot more when people make mistakes in a game that we could win if we'd just play our best for more than a third of the game than in a game where it really doesn't matter anyway, because we're going to get creamed no matter what. That goes for me and the defense, too, but I think most of the team would agree that our defense tends to be a little stronger than our offense. That may be just because our defense gets a lot more practice, since we have to spend much more than half the game being attacked, which means our offense is spending much less than half the game attacking. Plus we tend to have our experienced players play defense and let the new people play up front where it's not as critical if they make a mistake.

At any rate, it's been a pretty enjoyable season, which is saying a lot considering our record. I hope the team stays together long enough to really mesh together and improve, because I still would like to win a game sometime.


bullet time!

So, I realize we never posted the blogs for the last 2 days of our vacation, but really, who wants to read about end-of-vacation blues? Anyway...

I feel like bullet-point writing tonight in a not-at-all chronological order. And to spice it up, I think I'll add an occasional picture if it helps with the topic. And... Commence!

  • Colleen came to visit us. This made me happy for many reasons, not the least of which was that we baked a ridiculously splendid pie. Peach pie, to be exact. I suppose if I'm honest, Colleen actually did all of the baking. She did the majority of the shopping, the preparing, the mixing, the rolling, and the tasting. She even did 100% of the removing of inappropriate ingredients. (I still don't see why that one tiny piece of peach wasn't allowed in the dough/crust bowl. I guess it's one of those things that falls under the "Life's unfair" category.) I did all washing, peeling, and chopping of the peaches (and it turns out that nearly 10 pounds of peaches is only 1 pie worth of peaches), and I got to pour unmeasured (my favorite kind of pouring) spices into the bowl of chopped peaches. So, I suppose the "Colleen and I baked a pie!" would be more appropriately described as "Colleen baked a pie using my food-processor-less kitchen!" I don't care though, it was an awesome pie. As soon as it was cooked and cooled, we ate the pie and played Phase 10 (a game that Colleen valiantly dominated against all odds).

    I like Colleen. I am afraid to think of what will happen if she goes to work in South Korea and comes back more asian than I have ever managed to be. Perhaps she will be able to steal a cute little korean baby for me (you know, just in case my kids come out too white). Or perhaps she will teach me to become more korean! Oh the possibilities...
  • My cousin got married at the beginning of the month. The wedding was up in Stroudsburg, PA, which was a really pretty area, and only a few hours away from here. My family, of course, came up for the wedding, so Jason and I got to hang out with Jarred and Tamara for a day at Dorney Park. It was a lot of fun. The weather was pretty much perfect and we spent the entire day at the park without suffering any negative consequences (unlike spending all day in the middle of summer at Six Flags in Texas...). We rode nearly every ride that looked either 1) exciting, 2) dizzying, or 3) not that fun, but most definitely nauseating. Luckily, we all got a bit queasy at the same time, so no one had to seem like a wuss. I think Jarred was a bit apprehensive about how much "adventure" Jason could tolerate. Not surprisingly, Jason fared admirably. However, it turns out that Jarred's and Tamara's "adventurous" spirits can be easily quenched by 1) the loading/unloading of the Ferris Wheel and 2) the suggestion of riding the "swings." 

    I believe the left picture accurately captures Tamara's true feelings about Ferris Wheels, and the one on the right is an equally accurate representation of Jarred overcompensating for his uneasiness (which was definitively confirmed by the puddle of sweat in his shoes after stepping off this frightening ride). Lesson learned? Don't rock the gondola. Anyway, it was a lot of fun hanging out with them. :)
  • While we were on vacation and had access to live television (Sidenote: It was nice to find out that having regular television actually held very little appeal to me... I guess Netflix is able to sufficiently satisfy all of my staring-at-a-screen desires. Hooray.), we watched a couple episodes of a show called Cats 101 on Animal Planet. On one of the episodes, they introduced a breed of cat known as a Ragamuffin. Oh.My. As soon as we saw the cat, we just knew that Puma was part Ragamuffin. Ok, so I guess we can't know anything for sure since we adopted him from a shelter, but I would bet anything that he has a good bit of Ragamuffin somewhere in his lineage. To make my point, I shall use further indented bullet points. (Clever, no?)
    • Traits/Characteristics that indicate Puma's Ragamuffin Pedigree:
      • Kitten-like until four years of age.
      • Incessantly vocal.
      • Medium-length coat that increases in length toward the stomach.
      • Longer fur around the neck and face, creating the appearance of a "ruff."
      • Fully furred tail, similar in look to a plume.
      • Large, round paws with tufts between and beneath the paws.
      • The appearance of a wispy frill on the hindquarters. (I think "fluffy pantaloons" would also be an accurate description.)
      • Tends to "grumble."
      • Likes to fetch toys.
    I could go on, but my bullet points might get out of hand. I don't care that there's no way to prove he's part Ragamuffin. He not only has spot on physical characteristics but his personality fits perfectly. There are more than enough similarities to convince even my logical side. I officially declare Puma part Ragamuffin!
  • Today I tackled an 8 minute long endoscopy report. Is it terrible that I found it rather entertaining? Today was also the day of a 13:26 minute long report. However, despite the audio quality being infuriating (imagine someone dictating with the recorder in their back pocket, while they're in a wind tunnel, while breathing heavily into a stethoscope), the doctor spoke in complete sentences and didn't stumble over herself. Such a relief. I am slowly making my way through this last section of miserable reports. I'm so lucky to have Jason. He's beyond encouraging and makes me laugh. Sometimes on a particularly frustrating report, I'll ask him to come listen to the file so we can have a good laugh. He's so good for me. :) Anyway, despite the increasing frequency of frustrating moments (read: hours), I can't help but still enjoy myself. I have a good life.
Ok, so I think that's the end of my bullet pointing. It's late and I think it's time to call it a day. Feel free to chew on this* until our next blog:

*(if only you could hear my squeals upon viewing this photo)


Vacation Day 6, Part II

June 3rd, Vacation Day 6, Part II
So, today was the birthday of my lovely korean princess. It was my day to blog, but as you can see below I let Sharayah blog about the first part of her birthday, the horseriding adventure.

After that and after lunch, we went to the Ripley's Believe it or Not, since I had been to one in TN as a kid and Sharayah had never been to one. I really couldn't remember if Ripley's really was cool, or if I had just thought it was cool because I was a kid. Either way, it was still pretty interesting this time around. As always there were plenty of things that I might be more inclined to think were -not- real, although supposedly all of it's real. I always think the world's tallest man is just crazy. They had a lifesized model or manequin or whatever you'd call it. He was 8'11", and even knowing that's ridiculously tall, the model still seems unreal it's so tall. There was also the heaviest recorded man, I don't remember his exact weight but it was something like 1500 pounds at his highest weight. I don't know how that happens. They listed what all he would eat 3 times a day to sustain that weight, and it just sounded exhausting to me, really. I'd be too tired to weigh that much, apparently, because I couldn't make it through the meals.

There was a lot of other stuff there, if you've been then you know the type of stuff. There was some interesting art. We saw several building replicas made out of matchsticks, which were pretty impressive. There was also some tiny art, as in you have to look at it through a powerful magnifying glass to even know there's anything there. I don't know how they get such detail on something so tiny. There was a video of a Chinese guy who would write huge amounts on grains of rice. The craziest thing about him is that he did it without the magnification, but you could barely read it even with the magnification. This may not count as art, but there was a sundial that was a miniature cannon with a magnifying glass positioned perfectly so that the sun would light the fuse and set off the cannon at exactly noon. I think that's a pretty cool, creative idea.

My favorite parts weren't so much believe-it-or-not exhibits as just cool things they made. First, they had a big screen that played different action sequences that had been filmed by a high-speed camera (like you'd see on Mythbusters, it's called high-speed because there are lots more frames than usual per second, so that when you play it back it's actually in -slow- motion, so if it helps you just think of it as a low speed camera). It had stuff like a glass landing on the ground and shattering, a building demolition, a bullet going through a watermelon, water drops landing in a pool of water, some plants growing in time-lapse. Now, all of these things I'd seen before, but the coolest thing about this was that there was a little wheel you could turn forward and backward to control the direction and speed of the video. So you could watch it as slow as you wanted, and go back and forth over the coolest parts if you wanted. It moved really smoothly, like they must have kept every single frame in memory constantly, I don't know how, and the effect was awesome. It was especially cool to see the watermelon get shot. The rind just peeled back. If you've never seen anything like that, you can check out this video, which is not nearly as good as what we saw (and not actually a bullet), but still gives you a sort of idea.

My other favorite thing was this dark tunnel that you go through on a suspended bridge. The only lightsource is coming from the walls, which actually aren't walls but more like a tube around the bridge. The walls are black but have some glowing shapes scattered over them and that lights the room so you can see - I think they're illuminated by a blacklight, that's about the lightlevel you get in the room. Around the doorways on either side are mirrors, although in the tunnel they don't look like mirrors, they just look like the black glowing tube extends too far past the door for you to see where it ends, which of course makes the door look like it's floating in the air and somehow is like a portal out of the tube. Ok, if you're still with me, maybe you're thinking, so what, maybe that's a little cool but what's the big deal, how could that be your favorite thing from the whole museum? Well, the last thing is the tube is rotating pretty fast, and even though when you look into the tunnel from outside you can see that the walls are moving and the bridge is (probably) not, as soon as you step through the door it feels like the bridge sways to the side and you're flung into the railing. As you walk across, you're continually stuck against the left rail (or the right rail when you go back through the tunnel) and it's very difficult to stand up straight - nearly impossible to walk straight, we practiced several times. So is the bridge moving? No. The first time I went in and fell against the rail, Sharayah couldn't even figure out why I fell, because she was still outside the tunnel. She could see that nothing moved, and yet I inexplicably flung myself against the railing. But even knowing it doesn't move, if you try to walk down that tunnel, you always end up falling against the railing before you get across - and it's only about 20 feet. I tried walking across with my eyes closed, and that was no problem. That bridge was completely solid and definitely not moving. Something about the lighting and that rotating tube just really did a number on the balance part of your brain, and it felt crazy. We probably spent a good 20 to 30 minutes just going back and forth across that bridge, it was ridiculously fun. If you ever find yourself in Williamsburg, go to Ripley's just for the tunnel, it's completely worth it.

After Ripley's we went pedal boating on the lake where we rowed before. It's a really long, narrow lake; you might think it was a river except there's not really a current (except for the wind causing the surface to move) and if you go far enough in either direction you can see the ends. It was a little cooler out this time, but pedal boating was a little more tiring than rowing, I think just because we were pedaling nearly the whole time. We also went really far, almost the whole length of the lake, and it was cool seeing all the fingers the lake had. I call the little inlets (outlets?) fingers. Just to clear up ambiguity, I don't know what the opposite of a peninsula would be called, but that's what the fingers are - just places where the lake sticks out into the land like a peninsula normally does into water. Anyway this lake has tons and tons of fingers, a lot more than it looks like from the end we started at. At the far end we found a big finger (a thumb?) that had a mysterious square 15x15 brick building sticking up out of the water. As we got closer we could see that on the side facing the shore (away from us) there were the remains of an old dock leading out to it. All that was left were the posts. We went around the spooky house and saw that there were empty window-holes on the other side, the door was missing, and actually it had no roof. I have no idea what it used to be, but from the mysterious junk we saw inside, the large, intricate spider webs in the windows, and the ominous crow that perched on the corner, we decided not to stay and find out. Actually we were just halfway out of time and we figured if it took 30 minutes to get out there, it might take 30 minutes to get back. We abandoned that abandoned house and set off for the other side of the lake. It was a good time, although all that pedaling left our legs feeling like they no longer wanted to go biking on the trail next to the lake, which we had originally planned to do. Either way we still enjoyed the lake, and it also freed up some time for our next adventure of the day.

You may recall that on day 4 we saw some mysterious large heads from the highway and we didn't know what they were. You can go read the previous account if you missed it. Well, our curiosity was just eating us about it, so we went to the resort office to use their internet (I think Sharayah already explained that the in-room wireless did not work), and did some searching to find out what it was. It's something called Presidents' Park, and the heads we saw were in fact the first 43 presidents. They had Obama made as well, but apparently he was still in the gift shop when they went bankrupt and closed the park, so they never got to move him. Yes, they closed the park and we couldn't get that close to these giant heads we'd seen (it turns out they were about 18 feet tall, according to the website), but we did walk around the park and got a pretty good look at the ones that weren't hidden behind foliage. It's a real shame they closed down, because it looked like it would have been really cool to walk around inside. It was set up sort of like a topiary garden with the presidents interspersed throughout. The circle of heads we saw from the highway was only about 15 of the presidents, actually in a half circle. We were disappointed not to get in, but at least we found an explanation for the strange sight of a few nights before. And Sharayah was happy that she was proven correct about the heights of the statues. We also had a fun thought experiment about what the place might look like after decades (or centuries) of neglect and overgrowth of the garden. I think it'd be really spooky with only little bits of the strange giant faces poking out of the foliage. I imagined it being far enough in the future that no one knew who the statues were, or why the giant statues of them were made and hidden in a forest surrounded by thick bushes.

Finally, we got back to the resort, had some popcorn and tried to watch a movie. You can tell it was a really good day because we only made it about 20 minutes into the movie before we fell asleep. All in all, I'd say it was one of the best birthdays I ever had, and it wasn't even mine. It was for my kp, whom I love so much. I hope she enjoyed it as much as I did.


The Day of the Horse (aka Vacation Day 6, Part I)

June 3rd, Day 6: Part I

**WARNING**This will be extra wordy and long-winded.**WARNING**

Oh, what a glorious day. Not only does June 3rd represent the blessed day I was brought into this world, but I also get rewarded for it with the giving of splendiferous gifts. Best.Day.Ever. I have had a perfectly splendid vacationy kind of birthday! I'm trying not to think about the fact that I'm now 25. Turning that monumental quarter of a century is rather... unnerving in a way. I feel like that age indicates a full-fledged adult, but I only feel like one about 2% of the time and about half of that small percentage of time is due only to the mere fact that I'm married. (Just as a clarifying side note: If I follow this "marriage = adult" train of thought further, I do always come to the obvious conclusion that being married does not declare the reaching of maturity and adulthood, evidenced by the fact of so many irrational, unstable marriages all around. I realize this.) However, for the most part, I actually don't mind not feeling like an adult. I like that I can still be absolutely ridiculous without giving a second thought to how it might reflect on my "adulthood." I like that I can still be completely enraptured by the simplest things. I like that my speech is made up of 2 parts random, 1 part "normal", and 1 part incomprehensible. For the most part, I like that I don't feel constrained to be adult-ish or "normal". It's only when I re-realize how un-adult-like I am (especially on each new birthday) that it makes me ask myself, "Should I change?" But the answer to such a boring question will not be found today, for today was a day for frolicks and carefree adventures. I shall start at the beginning.

This morning I woke up with one single butterfly in my stomach. I will call him Harry. He's a happy butterfly, one of the best kinds. He is similar in sensation to the nervous or embarrassed or scared stiff varieties of stomach butterflies, but only in that you feel him in your gut and your heart rate rises. However, as soon as you realize that Harry is present because of an impending happy occasion, all comparisons to the lesser butterflies cease. The reason Harry was fluttering about today?

I had an appointment with Frosty.

Obviously, you don't know who Frosty is, and, at 8 am this morning, I didn't either. At least, I didn't know his name was Frosty. But, though I didn't know his name, I had a good gut feeling (courtesy of Harry, most likely) that we would soon become best friends.

Remember a few posts ago when I mentioned having never ridden a 4-legged animal? I can now very proudly say that this is no longer true. Oh my. I seriously must be one of the happiest girls alive right now. Jason's parents' gift to me was a trip to Stonehouse Stables here in Williamsburg for an hour-long, nature trail horseback riding adventure! It.Was.Awesome. I am still a bit too excited to write very coherently about this experience so the following narrative will probably be quite jumpy and exclamation-y and filled with long-winded sentences. But, who cares? I got to ride a horse and it was so.much.fun! And you know what the best part was? (You know, besides the fact that I was riding a beautiful frosty horse [not pony!] aptly named Frosty, and the fact that I got the perfect spirited horse who wished to scramble and walk about with a similar excitement to that in the pit of my stomach [that pretty instantaneously, upon arrival at the stables, moved to my face and all of my body], and that the weather finally cooled down to a gorgeous 75 [which made walking along the completely treed nature trail, complete with deer, rabbits, geese, and serene lake, perfectly blissful]...) The best part was that from the minute I put my foot in the stirrup, I was completely at ease and comfortable. It felt 100% natural. For me, this is a big deal. Sharayah and new things generally do not get along. Rarely does something come to me "naturally." It usually takes a lot of awkwardness, a lot of nervous mumbling, and several re-introductions before any semblence of comfort or familiarity occurs. This was not the case with horseback riding and Frosty and me. It was such a wonderfully exhilarating experience.

I have to take a break from my birthday adventures to mention this: Jason and I brought along several puzzles to do while we are down here vacationing. The majority of our puzzles are in multipacks of anywhere from 4-10 puzzles. The packs we are currently working on are 4-packs of Thomas Kinkade and Jane Wooster Scott, and a 10-pack of random animal-themed puzzles. We have a few guidelines that we follow without fail when puzzling: 1) We choose a random bag of puzzle pieces from one of our sets. 2) We build the border first. 3) We never look at a picture of what the puzzle is supposed to look like. We think that the puzzle is more fun to build this way, not knowing exactly what the image is going to be. Well, in the case of the non-animal puzzles, we usually have a general idea of what will be in the picture (Wooster Scott = colorful towns with balloons and shops and sailboats, etc. Kinkade = an old-fashioned cottage settled amongst scenic forestry.). With this particular set of animal puzzles, however, we don't even have a general idea (other than that an animal should be present somewhere in the image) of the puzzle's finished product. Anyway, so the puzzle that Jason randomly chose to bring with us from the animal pack is 900 pieces and has been stumping us for the past couple of days. We managed to do the border and felt rather accomplished. Unfortunately, all of the remaining pieces basically fall into 3 color categories: brown, orange/yellow, and purple. It was intimidating to look at, and we had absolutely no clue what animal we would be creating from these pieces. There were seemingly no distinctive pieces, no particularly easy starting place, nothing. To make a long story not as long as it could be, tonight (about 5 minutes ago) Jason finally figured out the puzzle's animal. What we originally thought was a purplish-blue mass filled with red blood cells (as seen from under a microscope) that was slipping away from the sun on the crest of a fiery plasma wave actually turned out to be a horse! I just had to mention that. What a pleasant coincidence, eh? The day of the horse. What a good day. Now, back to your regularly scheduled programming.

So, yes, I won't go so far as to say that I'm a natural at horseback riding, only that it felt natural to me. As soon as I was on top of Frosty, I felt like I could conquer the world. I wanted to recklessly gallop off into the forest and become best friends with this four-legged animal. We would explore new lands and become inseparable. I never wanted to dismount. It was such a surreal experience, finally doing something that I've wanted to do for... as long as I can remember. It was everything I have ever imagined. Sure, we mostly just walked along the trail in a well-behaved manner, but in my head the entire time, I was seeing me and Frosty adventuring together. No guides, no trails, no hour time limit.

The entire time we were at the stables, surrounded by grazing horses, whinnying horses, clip-clopping horses, I kept feeling this irrepressible desire to slip away with one of them and just... be free. Perhaps it's due to my re-reading the Black Stallion series (I'm now into the 5th book) with all of its epic wildness, I don't know. What I do know is that I wanted to ride forever with Jason and Frosty. Just ride forever, completely free of everything. Riding Frosty gave me such an indescribable feeling. I feel it, but I just can't find the right words right now. It was amazing. Absolutely exhilarating.

I could go on forever but I'm sure I've already passed the point of "probably not interesting to read" so... I will give a more specific overview of the riding adventure, with less "It was so incredible!" 's. Like I've already mentioned, I got to ride a frosty speckled white horse named Frosty. Jason's mount was equally awesome, if for a slightly different reason. Jason's friend was named Charlie Brown, or CB. The name was perfect. We were told CB used to be a race horse, once placing 4th even, and the only thing you could do was laugh when they said it. Charlie Brown was a pretty generic brown horse, the biggest of the 3 [the guide's horse was light brown and named Elvis], and the oldest. He was a perfect horse representation of Charlie Brown, lacking only the stripe. The guide and Elvis led us through the trail, I followed behind them, and Jason was behind me (we were the only ones doing the trail at this time slot, which was super nice). Frosty always wanted to be as close to the front as possible. He had a ton of energy and was exactly what I had been hoping for going in to this whole adventure (I just didn't want an old, small, sleepy horse that plodded). Charlie Brown was the exact opposite. His favorite pace was plodding. Elvis and Frosty would just be walking along and we'd slowly but surely lose CB and Jason far behind us. I'd occasionally glance over my shoulder and never failed to crack up laughing at the picture I'd see: Jason and Charlie Brown looked to be the best of friends. They plodded along with such measured... seriousness. I don't think I can even properly describe it, but try to imagine an old Mickey Mouse cartoon where there are cartoon-y horses racing in some kind of... race. The screen first shows you the one horse that is racing along gallantly to that cheerful, fast-paced music (I have the tune in my head, but I can't really type it out, nor do I know the name of it). It then switches to the cartoon horse bringing up the rear in the midst of all the settling dust and the music changes drastically to that slow, measured, "plodding" music. Again, I can't really describe it, but Jason and I have been singing it all day and it's hilarious. I doubt that this attempt at clarity is clear at all, but it's the best I can do. Just know, we had to keep stopping to let Charlie Brown and Jason catch up to us. It wasn't Jason's fault at all, seriously. CB just had his preferred pace and, even when prodded to quicken a bit, he would only speed up for a few steps before falling back into his plodding. It was awesome. They were the perfect pair. I wish I had taken a picture of them, but I was the first to mount and Jason had the camera the entire time. Sad.

The other thing I want to mention is that Elvis was a bit skittish, and along the trail, there were quite a few opportunities for him to get skittish. There were rabbits and deer and fawns and random birds and such. All of the wildlife were cautious when they saw us, but didn't necessarily seem scared of us since they were semi-used to people riding on the trails. They would keep their distance but wouldn't run away. Anyway, we came around a corner and there were 2 deer that got a bit startled at our appearance. They kinda jumped to their feet, which loudly rustled the leaves. This, of course, startled Elvis who did a jerky bolt to the side. His movement startled the deer even more, which made them suddenly dash a few feet farther away. Their startled movements startled Elvis even more and so he kinda bolted again abruptly to the other side. This movement made him fall into a slight hole/ditch, which just completely freaked him. It was absolutely hilarious. It looked like he and the deer were doing some kind of awkward, jerky dance. Meanwhile, the deer and Elvis's sudden movements and obvious discomfort made Frosty shy a bit and he did a minature version of the awkward horse dance. It all happened rather quickly and I wasn't expecting it. I am proud to say that I handled it splendidly and all was right as rain (why is rain right?) in just a couple seconds. It was super cool knowing that it could have been a rather embarrassing disaster (if I had fallen off or scared the horses more in some way) but it wasn't. Where were Jason and Charlie Brown? Nowhere to be found. So we took the opportunity to take a short break and wait for our laggy companions who had missed all of the excitement. All in all, it was an exciting interruption.

I was so sad when the hour ride was over. I think it just may be my new favorite thing to do. Seriously. One of the best things about finally riding a horse today is that it turned out to be everything I have ever imagined it might be. When you look forward to something for years and years, there's a chance that you just might build it up in your imagination as something far more than it actually is. It's so disappointing when the event finally, finally happens and it is just not what you expected. It would have been crushing if horseback riding had fallen into that category. I'm oh so very glad that that is not the case. Riding Frosty was everything and more. Still.So.Excited.

I would absolutely love to own a horse one day. I realize that something like that could only be possible in the distant, distant future, and I'm okay with that. And sure, it may just be one of those far-off, never-to-come-true-but-you-never-stop-wishing kind of dreams, but I like to think that it just MIGHT come true. One day. And just the thought of it makes my insides smile. What's really neat is that Jason is onboard with the 7-children-5-cats-2-horses-and-a-dog idea. I have the best husband ever.

Anyway, this is way too long as it is so Jason will write about the rest of today in the next blog. It's been an awesome day. Hooray for vacations and birthdays and horses and Jasons!