12.22.2013

blessed budget

Christmas is a handful of days away [if we're talking about sloth's hands, that is]. In the pit of my stomach, I feel like I'm 5 years old. I can't help it. It's almost CHRISTMAS. It's such a joyful, skipping, bouncing, happy time of year. In honor of this once-a-year time of giddiness, I have painted my nails [my left pinky and index fingers (pastel-y green) and my right thumb (dark teal)] for the first time in... well over a decade. This is what happens when I receive free nail polish in the mail. I am now a force to be reckoned with.

Each weekend since Thanksgiving, we have been checking all kinds of Christmasy things off of our to-do list.

  • Tree chopping. Check.
  • Christmas bulb swapping. Check.
  • Snow bunny hopping. Check.
And then, there was only one:  Christmas gift shopping. 


Unfortunately, gift giving is not one of my strong points. I am generally terrible at coming up with gift ideas that are not perfectly spelled out for me. It is most likely due to practicality: Why risk getting someone something they won't like/need/appreciate? When it comes to gifts, I know spontaneity and thoughtfulness ["Oh, I saw this and knew it was perfect for you!"] are admirable traits. It is just hard for them to overcome my more boring/practical/this-just-makes-more-sense side. I fluctuate between thinking of this as a flaw and thinking of this as a very, very good thing... Ahem. Anyway. Luckily for me [and even more so for Jason], most people do not mind listing various things they would like to receive. Christmas lists are good. Christmas spreadsheets are even better.

My next gift-giving obstacle is a little less... excusable. I could attempt to paint it in a better light, but I always hate those "present your flaws as a strength!" exercises. Ugh. Demanding does not always mean focused. Impatient does not always mean driven. Talks a lot does not always mean good with people. And, in  my case, while I consider myself frugal, I am honest enough to recognize that I may actually have a stingy streak.

I have to work for money. I go through frustrations for money. I don't have mounds of money and I have yet to discover a dollar bill hanging from the branches of either Mario or Luigi [who, by the way, have lost all of their leaves and look rather forlorn now], so I am ever aware of how much I have versus how much I need versus how much I would like. I don't like to spend more than I need to and I have pretty stringent requirements of what makes it on the Need To Buy list. Gifts are always borderline items. I know this is terrible. I know this. I am a work in progress.

Luckily [for all who know me], there is a treatment. It is quite simple, actually. It is a solution that engages and satisfies both my head and heart so that stinginess is not a factor and practicality rules the day. The magic cure? Practice generosity, but practice generosity within the safe parameters of a blessed budget. Good golly, it works.

Jason and I probably have a much more rigid definition of "budget" than most, but to us, it just makes logical sense. To us, a budget is not just knowing how much money you have. It is not just knowing where you are spending your money. To us, having a budget is having predetermined amounts of money being set aside in numerous spending categories based upon percentages and need and, obviously, paycheck size. It is honestly defining what are actually needs and what are wants. It is always having an exact idea of whether you can rationally afford to not cook dinner at home or to buy that neato gadget and, even further, if you should.

To us, a budget is a detailed spreadsheet and organized receipts. It is knowing that our first 10% goes to Tithes and the next 10% goes to Savings; no negotiation. It is knowing we can spend up to $225 on whatever groceries we feel like each month. It is knowing that when we finally need that new pair of shoes or those new tires down the road, we'll be okay because we've been setting aside money each month in our Clothes and Auto categories. Ironically perhaps, having such a meticulous budget gives incredible peace of mind and... freedom. We control our money and not the other way around.

It is our excessively detailed budgeting that gives that final touch of Awesome to this entirely joyous time of year. I recognize I have tight-fisted, stingy tendencies, but due to my understanding of the value of money [thanks so much, Mom and Dad!] and Jason's spreadsheeting skills and slight OCD tendencies [he's not that bad, really], I do not have to be bound by them. I can deliberately practice generosity without losing my peace of mind. Knowing we've set aside a specific amount of money each month in our Gifts category makes Christmas shopping completely freeing. I know how much we can spend with zero amount of guilt or stress attached to any of our purchases. The money in Gifts is supposed to be spent on gifts! It just makes sense.

So, yes. I am extremely grateful for all of the Dave Ramsey courses my parents made me sit through and all of the envelope budgeting of my allowances and just the common sense that was bored into my head as a kid. I appreciate it so much more now when I have more than $10 to divide into 15 categories, and now that I have Jason to do all of the painstaking accounting.

Moral of the story:  Thanks to our blessed budgeting, everyone on our Must Shop For list will receive a gift on or around Christmas.

I wish you all a guilt-free, stress-free, gift-giving-filled Christmas!

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Owl see you in 2014.

12.10.2013

an open letter (also, snow day)

To the guy who knocked on my door this morning:
Thanks for knocking on my door this morning, and the rest of the doors in my building, asking everyone if they left their car's lights on. I did not answer the door because it was pretty early and I wasn't dressed yet, but through the door I heard you asking the neighbors if they left their car lights on, and it got me thinking. Could I have left my lights on? Not the headlights, since my car beeps incessantly if I leave those on... But the interior lights? Hmmm...

~48 Hours Earlier~

What a perfect day for a snow day. It was Sunday morning, and we were already planning to go to a Christmas tree farm. Each year we go to one of those neat places where you can wander through a forest of Christmas trees, pick one, cut it down yourself, and take it home. We were then planning to go to some sort of horse thing (Sharayah could give more details on that) and then possibly to my parents' house to watch football.

When we woke up, it was just starting to snow. It wasn't sticking, but it's still always fun when it snows. By the time we had eaten breakfast and were ready to leave, it was snowing pretty heavily and starting to build up. We decided to try to follow through on our plans (carefully), and just turn back if the roads got too bad.

By the time we got to the main road, it was snowing like crazy. Cars were leaving pretty good tracks to follow, so we headed toward Pennsylvania and the Christmas tree farm. We turned on the crummy Christmas radio station (we can only find two, and the other is even worse), sang along, and enjoyed the blizzard surrounding our car as we cruised along. We had to go a bit slow, but we made steady progress for quite some time. All around the road we saw the snow continuing to pile deeper. Even on the road, in some places, it was building up. After a while, traffic started to get pretty slow. A few times we were stuck for a long time behind cars that seemed to be stopped for no apparent reason. It seems to me that you should either keep going (maybe slowly) or pull off the road. At any rate, it took forever to get to the tree place, and we were baking in the car (the ice built up too much on the windows if we didn't keep the heat/defrost turned all the way up), but it was enjoyable all the way. Driving through falling snow is pretty fun, as long as the roads are still passable.

When we got to the Christmas tree place, the snow was already a foot deep and still falling. My car was lined with ice around all the windows and everywhere that wasn't a window. We cleared it all off and set out to find the perfect tree.


It was really an adventure just to get from our car to the Christmas tree forest. Tromping through the deep snow through rows and rows of trees, we searched for just the right one. We actually didn't spend too much time getting a tree, since we didn't want my car to freeze while we looked. All the trees were covered in snow, which just made them look that much better. Once we found one we liked, we shook it a bit to see if it also looked good without snow, and set to cutting it down. Either I'm getting better at it, or the saws at the place we used to go to aren't as good, but it came down really fast. We carried it back, tied it to the car, and set off on the next phase of our adventure.

We were going to head somewhere or other to see some horses next, but it was pretty far away, and we didn't know if it would be canceled, and it had already taken us a really long time to go what should have only been 45 minutes, so we decided to skip that part of the plan. We started heading to my parents' house. It turns out, the path to their house was on some less frequently used Pennsylvania roads, those really scenic two-lane roads through farms and Amish country and stuff. It was really pretty, but we had to take it pretty slowly and carefully since the road hadn't been traveled as heavily (and the snow was continuing to fall). Still, we made it safely with only 3 scary moments for Sharayah and none for me (I was driving, so it was less scary for me).

Once there, we shoveled my parents' considerably large driveway (much bigger than it looked, what were we thinking?). I don't think I've ever gotten to shovel a driveway, and Sharayah hadn't either, so we thought it might be fun until the novelty wore off. For Sharayah, I don't think it wore off, and for me it really wasn't so bad (sometimes manual labor is relaxing for me). Anyway, shoveling the driveway is still playing in the snow. We also got to play in the snow with my mom's tiny puppy. Most of the snow was way too deep for him, so we had to stomp some down for him so he wouldn't sink and disappear. Once we finished the driveway, we ran around in their yard through the (quite deep by now) snow. We made a couple snow angels (mine was pretty impressive) and went inside to get warm. Our team won the game, we had some good food and good times, and we headed (carefully) back home.

We realized on the way home that we didn't know where my phone was. We figured it was probably under the seats or somewhere at my parents' house. I didn't remember whether I actually brought it in, but I knew that I didn't have it most of the time I was there. Anyway, the phone never did turn up. The next day (Monday), I had to be at school all day to proctor and then grade exams, so when I got home I turned on the lights in my car to see if I could find my phone. Alas, it was not in the car. Our best guess is that I had it in my coat pocket when we were in the snow, and it fell out when I made the snow angel, since I made a long dive to land where I wanted to make it (so there wouldn't be any footprints), and we know I've lost house keys while making snow angels once before. If that's the case, the phone is, of course, busted, since it's sitting in water and snow. I guess we'll see if it turns up anywhere else.

While I didn't find the phone in the car, I did manage to leave on the interior lights in my car. So, again, thank you kind stranger who knocked on my door this morning. Without you, I would have a missing phone and a dead car battery. I did not answer your knocking, but I do appreciate your considerably generous actions.

12.04.2013

slowest half marathon ever

I'm not much of a runner, yet I often randomly find myself thinking, "It'd be cool to participate in some kind of timed [for glory!], long-distance [more than a couple miles], leg-moving activity." Usually I am dissuaded from acting on these thoughts by the following:
  • I believe there is a registration fee for most things of this nature. Boo fees.
  • I doubt that I would do well enough for my satisfaction. I am a harsh critic and a pathetic runner. Not a good combination.
I figured that one day [that ever elusive day in the future] I would cave, buy in to some trendy running event [the Color Run always looks fun], and just do it. I figured I would just keep Do Some Running With An Absurd Number of People on my bucket list until a convenient occasion arose [ORU's Fun Run doesn't count, for some reason]. I never figured on semi-checking this off my list the day after consuming a pound of mashed potatoes and pie. 

But that is what I did.

I am pleased to announce that Jason and I have completed A HALF MARATHON.

...

Sigh. Alas, my conscience will not allow me to leave it at that, so I suppose this requires a slight disclaimer. I have completed a half marathon... if running a half marathon equals traversing over 13 miles, eating pizza at a Magical Pizzeria, Resisting the Urge to Pee, eating chestnuts, gazing upon a real-life Ugly Naked Guy, visiting the Magical Pizzeria once more, and accumulating [and subsequently employing] chutzpah.

Before getting into all of those minor details, however, I think the common thing to do is to proudly state one's time accompanied by a picture of the victorious ones. So. To make this authentic, here we go:

We finished our half marathon in 11 hours 37 minutes. That is over 1 mile/hour [thanks to my Math Man* and his quick calculating skills!]. We are the chapped lips champions.

Now to elaborate. 

Jason and I went to New York amidst Black Friday madness. We walked and walked and walked. It was such a splendid, absolutely tiring day.

Our trip this year was planned around our $16 Megabus tickets from Newark, DE, to New York City. It was an excellent purchase. Our tickets were $5 to NY and $3 back to DE per person. As the prices rose a week or so later to $20 per person each way, we felt quite lucky. In addition to the great prices, there were options for arriving and returning that fit perfectly with our Adventure Desires [spending the entire day without feeling the need to stay overnight]. Perfect.

Front row!  
Our bus left at 6 a.m. [from one of University of Delaware's parking lots (in which Jason's parking pass conveniently worked)]. There were few enough people and we were some of the first to board that we even scored the front row seats on the second deck of the bus. It was like a 2.5 hour amusement park ride filled with "Oh goodness, we are not going to  make this turn!" and "Duck! We are not going to make it under this tunnel!" Since we woke up at 4:30 a.m. and knew we had a long day ahead of us, we both fell promptly to sleep as soon as we hit the interstate and there were no more sights to see from our front row seats. However, thanks to Jason's excellent inner clock, we woke up just in time to experience the Entering of the City.

Being the super-organized-when-we-want-to-be people that we are, we had printed out a map of NYC and labelled all the things we wished to visit [plus some, just in case we had extra time]. Jason carried along a pencil and we traced our route progress throughout the day. It probably gave the appearance of two lost tourists [and we were even asked once if we needed help finding something], but looks can be deceiving! We were quite the opposite of lost; we knew exactly where we were, where we'd been, and where we were going. 
Awesome bench idea.

First stop on our map was the High Line. Think railroad tracks, odd sculptures, and winterized foliage. Honestly, what I found most appealing [aside from the peacefulness of it all] were the benches. Since it was still early morning and my fingers had yet to acclimate from the warm bus to the chilly outdoors, I didn't take many pictures, so I found this one from the interwebs. The benches seem to just come right out of the sidewalk! I thought it was extremely clever.

We entered the High Line somewhere in the middle of its 1.5 mile stretch, so we first headed to the south end and then retraced our steps back and went all the way to the north end. On our way back up, we had a visual run-in with the aforementioned Ugly Naked Guy. There was a hotel. There were many windows. There was a man who, from a distance, seemed to be standing up against his hotel window wearing some skimpy underwear. As our legs took us closer and closer to the hotel, the illusion of underwear was removed. I wished for the illusion again. Twas not a sight I wanted to see before Second Breakfast. To be fair to him, I suppose, he may not have been Ugly, but he most definitely was Naked so... If 2/3 words fit, the name is considered appropriate in my book. Plus, if there's anything I've learned from the Vermettes, you should never waste an opportunity to make a Friends reference. More to come.

Times Square was the obvious next stop on our route so off we went. We made a few pit stops in several brands of chocolate stores [free samples!]. We strolled into a retail store [American Eagle, I think?] to check out the Black Friday madness and quickly were reminded why we are not shoppers. We saw people dressed up as Minions and Buzz Lightyear [gigantic head, tiny wings]. The big ad campaigns for all the screens and billboards and buses and taxi tops were Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag and something [a show?] called Mob City (?). I suppose the new Disney movie Frozen also had its fair share of the limelight [I really want to see it, even though I have absolutely no idea what the story is about since the advertisements for it are focused solely on Snowman Olaf and his reindeer friend and apparently they aren't the main characters? ]. Times Square was as shiny and larger than life as always.

About this time in a half marathon is when you take a pizza break, right? Good. Because that's what we did. Now, we'd had pizza on the brain for quite a while but for whatever reason we had not seen anything that appealed to us. It felt like we walked round and round and round without finding any pizza other than Sbarro. The situation was getting desperate. Once my mind gets set on FOOD, I can't think of anything else. I was nearing the point in time where my brain goes into starvation mode [not my stomach, but my brain], the point in time where the whole day collapses into a puddle of sadness... And then! Right as I was slipping into the "Well, I guess we just won't get to eat anything ever and for always," I see a sign. It says PIZZA. We were saved! No one would die of mental hunger or sadness.

I mentioned earlier that it was a Magical Pizzeria, but at this point we didn't realize it was a Magical Pizzeria, so that will be explained later. The important thing here is that we ate pizza. I had one topped with tomatoes and onions and mushrooms and broccoli, while Jason had a slice of cheesy Sicilian. Delicious! Once refueled, it was off to the races again!

I am secretly offended on behalf of all of my bovine friends.
Next stop was Rockefeller Center. I valiantly won the fight between Frugality and Outdoor Ice Skating [You know how many pizzas I could buy with the $54 we saved?!]. We observed the not-yet-lighted Christmas tree. Jason and I both discovered a curb where we were unaware a curb should be. We observed all the antics of the Lego Rockefeller Center [Lego now has dogs! that can be walked on leashes! When I was a kid, my Lego dog consisted of a 2x4 with a 2x1 for a head and legs. Lucky kids these days...]. We went into the NBC Experience Store just to see the section dedicated to Friends. I especially liked the shirt that read "He's my lobster!" and the Moo Point [it truly is brilliant]. Sadly, jacked up prices make for no souvenirs. But at least I have a picture!
His name is Chad.

We then wandered up towards Central Park. List of things to do:  Explore FAO Schwarz, gaze upon all the pretty horses giving carriage rides, and then get lost in the Park itself. I can say with much satisfaction that we accomplished all three tasks. Did you know you can buy a 16-foot giraffe for only $7999.99? You can. Go get one today. Did you know that the FAO stands for Frederick August Otto? Now you do. And worry no longer about what you will name your first son. Did you know that I have a secret boyfriend who is a debonair Lego man? Neither did Jason, but we've reconciled. Also, I would have more pictures of Jason with Lego Batman or Lego Pirate Man or Lego Man From Halo [I just noticed a trend here... there were no Lego Ladies. Que paso! (Jason: "I don't think that means what you think it means.")], but he's camera shy sometimes. OH. And still related to Legos, did you know they now have an entire book filled with things to make with Legos?! It's crazy cool. If I still had my bucket of Legos...

On to Central Park. There were dozens of pretty horses all dressed up for carriage rides outside of Central Park. Unfortunately, they are $50 for a 20-minute ride. Psh. So we just walked around and looked at them all. This, of course, means that every other carriage driver asks if we want a ride which inevitably leads to us not wanting to linger about the area. We saw one horse skillfully tip his bucket of oats over and then right it again with his nose. I like to think he was just sharing his meal with the hundreds of overweight pigeons and squirrels flocking around all the carriages. Once we finished horse gazing, we bought a pretzel and a bag of roasted chestnuts from a street vendor and commenced our Central Park explorations.
It's a thinker, that's for sure.

There's not much to mention about this part of our adventuring, I suppose, since all we did was walk along the various paths with no particular route or destination in mind. We did find an odd exhibit called Eight Giant Red Snails [or those words in a different order], and I persuaded Jason to contemplate the deeper meaning of this display. He was cooperative but unsuccessful. The snail was no help either. We also stumbled upon a castle and got to climb up some spiral staircases to the top. We took the obligatory picture. Sad story:  When we got back to the bottom of the castle, we saw a tiny little tiger glove left on one of the stone walls. He had no companion or owner in sight. I fear the tiny tiger had a long, cold night ahead of him.

Time for some chutzpah. So, apparently, both the Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art are sneaky little institutions. If you go to their websites, they have the usual "Admissions" section where they outline the prices of admission and such. However, if you are unfamiliar with them or just are skimming such a section for price info, you may very well not realize that the prices are only recommended admission prices, or "suggested donations." To make it even more confusing, they also, in contrast, list member admission prices as Free. So, if you aren't a member, $25. If you are a member, Free. But to become a member, you have to pay some absurd fee/donation. So... What's the dealio? Welp, admission is technically free. But, if you don't look at it closely enough or are vague on what in the world it means ["Can we actually just ignore these outrageous prices and just walk in without paying?"], you may just decide not to visit these gigantic places of Interesting Things to See. Upon further research, it seems that as long as you're willing to walk up to the ticket counter, look the official ticket lady in the face and say that you do not want to pay the recommended donation and that you only think their museum is worth, say, $1 a person and not $25 and that, by the way, they should offer free pizza and chocolate...! Well. She cannot deny you. [She cannot deny you the admission, but she probably can (and will) deny you the pizza and chocolate.]

Armed with this information, we decided to go for it. We accumulated as much chutzpah as two not-very-chutzpah-filled people can accumulate and made our way out of Central Park and towards the Museums. As we did not think we would have enough time [or chutzpah] to go to both museums, we chose to explore the Museum of Natural History. We walked in. We wandered around the foyer pretending we weren't about to be cheapskates. And then... I telepathically shoved all of my chutzpah into Jason's brain and told him to go Do the Deed. Yes, he does my dirty work. Reason #849 that I love him. [And, I find it fascinating that he continues to love me despite the fact that I pretend not to know him while he's carrying out my dirty work. Keeper.]
One of many gorgeous species.  

So yes, Jason chutzpah-ed his way through the ticket counter for a "donation" of $1 each. Excellent. It was $2 well spent, I think. We explored just a fraction of the place, and there always seemed to be something new around the corner. We enjoyed the animal displays the best. Some of them were extremely life-like, and the way the painted scenery just melded into the actual scenery in each display was quite impressive. The details were spot on. And did you know the number of different horned/antlered animals is absolutely ridiculous? Well, it is. They all looked so similar, yet so different. God is such an awe-inspiring artist and creator. Anyway, there were also hours worth of more educational displays, but we really didn't have time [or energy] to be educated this trip. Maybe next time.

By this time, we were plumb tuckered out. The oddest muscles and joints were sore beyond belief from the miles we had walked up to this point [I'm too lazy to calculate the exact number] and the slow meandering pace that we used to walk circles upon circles in the museum. Between the bottoms of my feet, some weird spot in my upper thighs, and my lower back, I officially felt like an old person. I think if I had listened closely, I would have audibly heard my joints creaking. We were sitting down every time we saw an open bench, regardless of the display, which probably was about every 3 minutes. The benches were like little pieces of heaven placed in front of bow and arrow, basket weaving, and South American wrestling match displays.

How in the world was it only just past 4 o'clock. We were only 2/3 of the way done with our day! Oy. What a day. I am 100% convinced that,  if you are already weary and sore, it is significantly less tiring to walk quickly than to walk slowly with a lot of starts and stops and pauses. Science [maybe]! So, thankfully, once we were back outside and briskly walking without making a lot of stops, my soreness and weariness were less noticeable. Good thing, too, since we still had quite a bit of walking to do. I believe we next started our Christmas Window Display viewings. We went from Bloomingdale's to Barneys to Bergdorf Goodman. Darkness was upon us by this time, so it was perfect timing. Oh how I love Christmasy things! By the time we were finished with these three stores, we decided to head back to Times Square to see it at night.

We were also getting hungry for dinner now and decided to be lame [or brilliant!] and eat the same thing we had had for lunch: Pizza! Boy, do I love a good slice of vegetable pizza. So yummy. But, then, disaster struck! We carefully studied our map and the route we had traveled earlier and made an educated guess as to the whereabouts of the tasty pizzeria we had visited earlier. But upon reaching the spot, there was no pizza to be found. Tragedy! We knew we hadn't quite accurately traced our path to the pizzeria earlier [remember, earlier we had just seen a sign off in the distance and promptly deviated from our planned route, without taking care to note specific directions] so we were devastated to be in the same spot we were in 6 hours earlier: Desperately hungry and no pizza in sight.

We wandered about for a bit but knew we were running out of time. We still had a few more sights to see and still had quite a walk to get to our bus stop, and we knew if we didn't get food quickly, we most likely would not be able to eat until we got home after 11. So just as we were about to give up the search and go find something mediocre and less happy and not pizza, just as our spirits reached their lowest points of the day [since earlier when we couldn't find pizza], just as our perfect day teetered on the brink of no-longer-perfect...!

We found it. We literally were standing on a corner, about to head off pizza-less towards the rest of our sight-seeing route, and Jason happened to look to his right, and there it was. On that corner. Less than 20 feet away. This is where the Magical Pizzeria gets its name. I believe it is a place of magical wonder, a place that appears when you are at your lowest and are in desperate need of a pizza miracle. It's a beautiful thing, this Magical Pizzeria. I will not forget you**.

Science again! I said science again!
Once refueled, we were able to finish our adventures on an energized note. We looked at the Christmas Window Displays for Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord and Taylor, and Macy's. Our favorite this year was Saks. They had a story of a Yeti who made friendly snowflakes.

We only had one last hiccup in that we were under the impression the bus stop was at one particular location and it was actually another block or so farther, but we made it there with plenty of time regardless. And with that, we had unknowingly completed our first half marathon. Our completion time is laughable, but I think it is semi-respectable when you take into account all of the pizza and pit stops and pedestrian crossings and pigeons. Respectable indeed.

Unfortunately, some people finagled their way on to the bus before people were officially allowed to board so, even though we were in the front of the line, we were unable to get front row seats on the top deck. I decided to sleep the entire way back though, so I still had a perfectly lovely trip home. We made excellent time back to Newark. Waking up and stumbling off the bus after all of my muscles had solidified into a mass of soreness was my last bit of entertainment for the night. What a good day.

Boom. I'm done. I have detailed our entire adventure for future generations. Now I'm tired. And I really want pizza...

Accurate representation of post-half-marathaon us.

*As I write this, my beloved Math Man is pleasure reading... a book titled, "Amusements in Mathematics." No lie. He's the best.

**I currently still do not know the real name of the pizzeria nor at which cross streets it lies... Sigh.    

11.20.2013

welcome to my world

Despite working from home, I have coworkers. They will always be only coworkers to me and never friends as we have a very one-sided relationship. They talk at me. I listen. Sometimes I give one or two word responses. But, they don't care and never take my words into consideration. Ever. Oftentimes, I say nothing at all as they say things that do not make sense and I greatly dislike things that do not make sense. Many times, I wish to bang my head against hard objects when they speak. But that would only hurt me. They wouldn't even care. Welcome to my world.

To be fair, I view some of my coworkers as Good Peoples. They cordially greet me multiple times during the work day. Yes, they then go and talk on and on about their life and current work issues and do not care to hear about my life and my work issues, but they'll be so cheerful about bidding me adieu when they're finished talking that I cannot help but smile and think that maybe we could be friends. If our relationship was not so one-sided, that is. 

However, some days, it feels like I only run into the Undesirable Ones. The ones I am quite certain do not like me and whose sole desires are to frustrate me and make me feel worthless. We are not friends. I wish we were not coworkers. They do not greet me. They say words but often arrange these words in nonsensical fashions. They speak quickly. They speak with hard candy in their mouths. They speak while they yawn. They speak while they cough. They speak with their hands over their mouths. They speak as if they are part Yoda, part Chewbacca, and part Darth Vader*. Their sentences are the stuff of nightmares. And to top it off, when they are finished destroying my ears and brain with their words, they just leave. They do not thank me for listening to their problems. They do not wish me a pleasant day. They do not even say good-bye. They just leave. It's a miserable one-sided relationship.

But what is life if not learning how to cope with both kinds of people? So, cope I must. And in my ever constant efforts to put everything in its proper perspective, I will now present, in further details, my coworkers.

[All names have been changed to protect the identity of blah blah blah.]

The Good
Dr. A.G.E:  She is like a bowl of rice. When I see her ID in my queue, I am immediately pleased. She is good for lines simply because her dictations are anywhere between 4 and 10 minutes. She has a set outline to her dictations and she follows it beautifully, despite dictating in a narrative form [also good for lines]. She spells out words that may be confused with sound-alikes, she dictates where she wants her paragraph breaks, and she clearly states her numbers ["Morphine 15, one five, mg."]. Her only drawback is she often dictates on her cellphone which compromises call clarity, but that is not a deterrent due to her other outstanding qualities.

Dr. Bennadio:  He is my second love. I have told Jason this, and he's okay with it. On the bad days, I only have to see his ID and my stomach actually experiences the giddy butterfly phenomenon. He can make the worst day into a more than decent day [if not grand day] in the span of an hour or so. His dictations are generally done in large batches and range from 1 to 2 minutes. Excellent line fodder. He also has a very set structure to his dictations which balances out his tendency to speak a tad quicker than is ideally preferable. I cannot even count how many weeks he has either saved or started off with a glorious bang. He's like Christmas on my birthday in the middle of a red panda habitat.

Dr. Manners:  If Dr. Bennadio had a slower speaking, more polite brother, Dr. Manners fits the bill. His greetings and thank yous and even-cadence dictating easily makes him one of the Good Guys. He doesn't follow as strict of a structure when dictating, but he has such a friendly, clear voice. Once, his dog was barking in the background. You know what he did? He stopped dictating, quieted his dog, and then resumed his dictation. And to further demonstrate what a friendly fellow he is, he even had the humor of ending his dictation with, "This is Dr. Manners dictating with the help of my dog, apparently. Good afternoon." I think we could possibly be real life friends.

Dr. One Breath:  She is a skilled dictator. She fits all of her information in less than 60 seconds and, I often imagine, all in one breath. She has about 20 different phrases that she says and that are, obviously, programmed in my autocompleter. Transcribing her dictations is the closest I can get to eating pie on the job. With the magic of Instant Text, the meat of her dictations look something like this (to my fingers):  "Pn: Dn. Sob: Yes, o2l. Sk: Iaf. Lsc. Tdoa. Dtoa. Iwmc. Iobbwc. Dysg. Ttf. Msd." Instant Text does its work and presto, 27 lines done. Under 3 minutes of logged work. [If I was ever lucky enough to get a full hour's work of just her, that would be over 500 LPH. Oh, in my dreams...]

The Bad
Dr. O'Dally:  Yes, she is an ESL doctor. Yes, I'm sure she tries hard. Yes, she can speak English better than I have ever been able to speak Spanish. But still. She doesn't give proper dates. She doesn't spell out her slurred pronunciation of the patient's name. She does have a structure to her dictations, but if she forgets a word in her memorized spiel? She starts over. From the beginning. She redictates the entire thing. She answers her phone while she dictates. She answers the door while she dictates. She hangs up in the middle of the dictation if the person on the phone or at the door is more interesting.

Dr. Makes Me Want to LIT-erally Punch Someone:  I think the name says it all. But the name also doesn't say enough. Dr. MMWLPS doesn't just make me want to punch someone, her voice and cadence and slush-mouthed speaking actually makes my stomach churn as if I just ate a block of sour tofu. If I listen to her for more than 2 minutes, it feels like someone is just punching me repeatedly. It would almost be fascinating if it were not so frustrating. Listening to her dictate and attempting to decipher it actually causes a violent physical response in the pit of my stomach that often leads to me just having to walk away from the computer. When I see her ID in my queue, I often promptly decide it's time for a lunch break. Or a bathroom break. Or a torment the cat break. Or a... You get the picture.

Dr. 134:  He is just a culmination of all the Terrible Things that a dictator should not be; poor audio quality, horrible sentences, heavily accented and slurred speech, and always seeming to need to get done as quickly as possible. But what I find to be the most frustrating part of transcribing Dr. 134 is how sometimes he'll trick me into believing that he's a changed man, that he's going to take more care with this dictation, that he's actually going to give me a break for once. Alas, the joke is always on me. He'll start off strong and then subtly deteriorate to the point of What In The World. By the time I'm done with my first pass, I have blanks galore throughout the report. But I still have hope that I'll be able to finish it and send it on to the client, so I'll slave over filling in the blanks on my second pass... only to ultimately have to send it on to QA because of one or two blanks that I just cannot make heads or tails out of. Hopes dashed. Time wasted. Sigh.

Other Mentionables
Dr. Depends on the Day:  This particular doctor is a peculiar one. She has all the characteristics of one of The Bad [poor audio quality, heavily accented, slurred speech, etc.], but I feel it would be unfair to lump her in with the ones listed above. There are exceptions [her dictations done in the middle of the day are often noticeably ickier than the ones she does after midnight (go figure)], but I generally can make a decent report fairly easily and quickly. In fact, I almost consider her my one source of transcriptional pride. Nearly anyone could transcribe Dr. A.G.E. or Dr. Manners given enough time, but I am fairly confident that most "normal" people would listen to Dr. DotD's 4-6 minute dictations and just shake their head in disbelief. But my brain actually make sense of her, and my fingers make it comprehensible to the rest of the world. It's fascinating.

Dr. Male O'Dally:  He is the male counterpart of the notorious Dr. O'Dally [above] in voice and sentence structure and general style of dictating. But weirdly enough, he is so.much.better. He still constructs sentences like, "The patient's both eyes with output yellow and small," but his ID elicits no dread or anger.

Dr. Slooooow:  Every time I get one of his dictations, I'm 93% sure he's just going to die right in the middle of dictating it. He speaks so slow that I can speed him up to the max speed and he finally sounds like he's speaking at a normal speed. If I sped up any other doctor to the same level, it would sound like an indecipherable Minnie Mouse who just sucked helium out of a balloon. Once, months went by without seeing a dictation from him. I thought for sure he had finally just retired [or worse]. But... nope. Up he pops nine months later. Still as slow. Still as wheezy. Still seemingly this close to not making it through another dictation. Luckily, even speaking at 250% normal speed, he's a very clear speaker, so I actually enjoy transcribing him.

Dr. Goomba:  This fellow entertains me to no end. He can never read the paper that he's dictating from, becomes easily frustrated with others around him and just life in general, does not understand technology, and consistently dictates female patients as males. He has given me permission to "put whatever" when he can't decide what the patient's diagnosis is. He has talked me through finding the flashlight app on his phone. He considers "blah blah blah" an acceptable trail off. I never know what to expect from him, but he has actually made me burst out laughing on multiple occasions. Jason can attest to this.

Dr. DJ:  I am not a talent scout for the next big radio show host, but I often think Dr. DJ thinks I am. He has this low, even, smooth voice and it always sounds as if he is auditioning for a spot on some late night jazz radio station.

Dr. Someone Might Hear Me:  I cannot transcribe what I cannot hear. Whispers do not translate well over the phone. Someone needs to politely convey this information to this doctor. When he dictates, I picture him huddled in a corner of a closet with his hand cupped over the mouthpiece of his corded phone. He takes HIPAA precautions to a whole new level.

So. There you have it. Welcome to my world. My coworkers, in a surprisingly large nutshell.

While the argument could be made that my fellow transcriptionists are technically my coworkers, I would make the counter-argument that I have even less of a relationship with them than I do with the doctors whom I transcribe. Sure, like I said at the beginning of this post, the relationship I have with the doctors is totally and completely one-sided but my relationship with the other transcriptionists at my company is... no-sided? And I really do not mind this. I genuinely consider this a perk of my job. The doctors and I may never be Friends, but I think they fit the bill for title of Coworkers splendidly, one-sidednesss and all, The Good and The Bad.

This is my 9-5 world. Welcome.

I want to eat these so much right now. And no, this picture has absolutely nothing to do with this entire post.

*You have no idea how pleased I was with myself for referencing three different nerd cultures... until I realized they were all from the same silly thing. [At least, I think they are... Vader -> Father of Yoda -> Owner of Chewbacca? By golly, I am terrible at this.]

11.17.2013

soccer again

Well, our soccer team has continued to improve for the last couple years, both through improving the players we have and through finding friends to play who are good. We just finished a season and have built a pretty decent team and gelled together pretty well as a team. Early in the season we had trouble getting enough players to show up, but once we found a few more players and all got used to playing together, we've done pretty well. Our last 4 games of the season were 2 wins, a tie, and a loss. Actually, the last two games were a win (I believe it was our first winning streak ever). We ended in 6th place out of 8.

Every team makes the playoffs this season (since there were 8 teams, which is a round number for playoffs), so we actually would have made the playoffs regardless of the number of wins, but in 6th place our first playoff game is against 3rd place. The only other season I remember us making the playoffs was in 8th of 8, and we had to play 1st place. Obviously 3rd is preferable, though we lost to most of the teams who placed above us during the regular season. Oddly enough, our tie was actually against the team that finished in 1st, although the team that was in first for most of the season lost their last two games (we think because of missing players) and ended up in... 3rd.

We went into the game planning to play hard but probably lose. We were playing a team that beat us by at least 5 goals, if memory serves. But that was only our 3rd game, before we had enough players each game to really have a chance (almost anyone would lose playing the entire game with 2 or 3 too few while the other team has a full team plus subs). Well, we played pretty hard and at halftime we were only down 2-0. We'd played pretty well and had almost scored a few goals. It was close enough that some of us joked that we actually had a chance. In the second half we scored to bring us within a goal of tying it up. They seemed deflated. Our defense tightened up, and our offense kept attacking relentlessly. We played one of our best games ever (maybe our best), and we had several near goals. Finally, near the end, we tied it up. They were really frustrated and we were feeling great. We kept them from scoring any more goals, kept the pressure on their defense, and made it to the end still tied 2-2. In the playoffs, in the case of a tie you play a short sudden-death overtime, followed by penalty kicks if you're still tied. We went all the way to penalty kicks, still tied 2-2. Our guys did great, scoring 4 of 5, and our awesome goalie blocked 2 of our opponents shots, so we won the penalty kicks 4-3. Somehow we won. Three game winning streak and first playoff win.

Now we have to play the 2nd place team next week. Whoops, guess we didn't think that one through.

love is sacrifice

10.31.2013

Impatience, thy name is...

Patience is a virtue, so they say.

I wish it was one I had neatly stowed away in my back pocket where I could easily access it without much effort. Alas. Neither patience nor a back pocket do I currently have.

I just asked myself, on a down-the-rabbit-hole kind of whim, what are my easily accessible, already achieved/conquered/don't-have-to-work-on constantly virtues. Nothing came dancing into my mind. This is worrisome [unless, there are no such things? but this surely is not the case]. For what virtues, if any, am I known? ...however, that is another topic for another day.

Ah, patience. Or, far too often, impatience. Impatience, how well I know thee.

When I am about to read a book, I first read the inside flap [if there is one], then the back cover [if it is a descriptive one], and then the first one or two chapters. At this point, I generally have gained two pieces of information:

  1. I now know the author looks nothing like I imagine s/he should, along with the fact that they most definitely need to update their headshot.
  2. I now know the gist of the story. I know the main character. I have a decent idea of the story setup. I can already picture the conflict that will come in Chapters 5-18. I can predict versions of the resolution come the epilogue.

What I do not have, however, is certainty. I like certainty. [If the desire for certainty was a virtue, my pockets would be proof of my virtuousness (not virtuosity, mind you).] In this case, I can remedy my uncertainty, and ofttimes I do just that. It just takes 30 seconds or so to skim the last chapter, see how everything ties up, and then...! Resume reading at Chapter 2, in a much more content [albeit, mildly ashamed] state of mind. 

My worst [and quite recent] incident was with a 5-book series. I behaved pretty well through Book 1. But then Book 2 hit and there was so much miscommunication and distraught thinkings and unfair happenings that I was fairly sure my happily ever after was irreparably dashed [Why, no, I don't get so caught up in books that I feel as if their world is my world and their troubles are my troubles. Why do you ask?]. So I did the unthinkable. I skimmed the last chapter of Book 5. Good news? Well, I-. I mean, they get everything worked out and it's almost okay that all the terrible things happened in Book 1. And 2. And 3... etc. Bad news? I felt as if I had just committed a heinous crime. My lack of patience got me again.

This, obviously, is also an issue with other entertainment-y things. When I watch a movie or football game or television show and there's already information on the ending, I want to know it. Spoilers do not deter me. Spoilers invigorate me. I am an impatient soul.

One video game that rather appeals to me is the Harvest Moon series. Be a farmer? Check. Own a cow? Check. Harvest an orchard by head butting trees? Many, many checks. Get a spouse, have some kids, save the world? CHECK. Yet, I'm entirely too impatient to fully, fully enjoy the game. I'm always wanting to "get to the good part." 

In my most recent Harvest Moon adventure [which was actually quite a long time ago], I managed to save the world, find a fellow to marry me, and even have a tiny baby who sends up 3 hearts every time I shake a rattle at him, but then... Impatience banged down my beautiful farmhouse door [that I even had upgraded to level 3!]. I wanted my kid to grow up so I could see the different characteristics he would have [which differ depending on who I married, my preferences, etc. (just like real life!!)], but it was going to take sooo looong. Regardless of the fact that a "year" only consists of four 28-day "seasons" and not actually 365 days. Regardless of the fact that my kid would "grow up" in about a "year's" time. Regardless of the fact that this was just a game that held no real importance or meaning or any type of lasting value. I became so impatient with making the days go by that I finally just had to stop playing as I was no longer enjoying the experience. My impatience ruined it.

The sad thing is, these examples are really not that big of a deal. They're mostly harmless and have no bearing on Real Life things. But they are a tiny glimpse at the impatience that too often is bubbling right beneath the surface of my baseline "It's all good" mentality. It often is all good. I feel I'm a decently easy-going person. But let it be something I care a ton about or something I don't really care about at all or someone who just isn't fitting into my selfish idea of Ideal At This Moment and... poof. Impatience, thy name is Sharayah.

On very, very rare occasions, this monster grows a second ugly head. I will be impatiently stewing about Things and Such and I see others with these Things and Such and... I envy them. It is typically just a sliver of a feeling. It is typically just a split-second reaction that I can quickly squelch. But still, it's there. Impatience-bred envy. Not a pretty sight. 

So. What to do.

For me, sometimes airing things out, verbalizing it [of sorts], just confronting the dirty facts is enough of an impetus to get a grip on things. I'm a decently rational person. I know what things fall into the Good and Admirable box and what things fall into the Nasty box. Impatience leads to discontent. Discontent leads to ingratitude. It's like a chain of monkeys in the Barrel of Monkeys game, but much less friendly. I dislike the monkeys that belong in the Nasty box/barrel [and oddly enough, I'm not much of a fan of monkeys in real life... For someone who thinks even baby possums are kinda cute, this is an odd thing].

So. What to do.


Patience with others is Love. Patience with self is Hope. Patience with God is Faith.

The internet attributes this quote to a man I don't know with a name I can't pronounce, but I think the message is spot on. For me. Right now. And probably in the near future when I feel, yet again, those bubblings of impatience when things don't go the way I want them, when I want them. God's plan is superior to anything I can possibly imagine on my own. Time will show this to be true, in spite of my impatience.

And now these three things remain:  faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.

This is the goal. Patience with others, patience with myself, and [most of all] patience with God. Faith, hope, and love. Perspective is everything.

And... From the looks of our spankin' new background, I would say that fall is blissfully upon us! There is so much happy this time of year I could just squeak. I love fall weather and fall nature and fall everything. This comic rings true with me, and I just don't understand it. I think it's just because of how happy everything is. So, I'm okay with it not making complete rational sense. Fall is awesome sauce.

To me, 'edgepigs and fall go hand in hand.

10.27.2013

right around the corner

Well, the frustration involving that small result I was trying to prove is over. It turns out that what we wanted to prove is only almost always true. Without getting into too many details, we were trying to prove something about a particular family of graphs, in fact, these graphs, and (to make a long story short) it's not always true. It's almost always true, but (and this will make more sense if you click those links above) it's not true when the number of triangles is 16. It's true for any other number (7? sure. 10,856,321? yep.) but not 16. Oy. Anyway, the way we found this out was actually by talking to another guy who was working on a similar (but more general) problem. He let us help him finish his paper, (which was very generous of him, because I know he could have done it himself) and the (much better than what we were originally trying to prove) result will likely soon be published. It's already up on arXiv, so feel free to check it out. So, we weren't able to prove exactly what we were trying to, but I'm still going to be published.

Sharayah tells me this is not really enough for a full blog post. I guess it's not interesting enough on its own. Or, at least, it's not very entertaining to read about. So. I will try to do better.

A few years ago (before this blog!) Sharayah and I went to New York the day before Thanksgiving. Why the day before, you ask? Isn't the parade the day after we went? Well, yes. We actually wandered around New York all night so we could get a really good spot to watch the parade. It was a really good time. You can read all about it here... oh right, it was before the blog. Well anyway, it was a good time and quite the adventure, so we're doing something similar this year. We're going up the day after Thanksgiving this year. Right. So, we're not watching the parade (at least not in person), but we're going to go explore all the fun Christmas stuff around the city like last time. And, unlike last time, there will probably be a blog post about it.

You can ask Sharayah about the title. It was her idea (I asked her for one, because I couldn't think of anything), but once she explained to me it made perfect sense.

you make beautiful things

10.18.2013

thoughts on the throne

The time has come. It must be said.

I generally like to space out my weird, just give it in small doses, a little here, a little there. I figure I'm doing a service for humanity by not unleashing the Forehead Scrunching Oddness in two consecutive posts.

And yet. I fear I will forget to mention this pressing issue [yet again] if I put it off [yet again]. So. My apologies. But I just need to get this off my chest [and it's Friday and that means the end to another work week and sometimes letting out a little weird does wonders for one's sanity] and it may as well be done here and now.

Toilets. Why must you torment me.

There are round bowls. There are elongated bowls. There are really elongated bowls. There are seats that are flat. There are seats that are convex. There are seats that are concave. There are short toilets. There are tall toilets. There are really tall toilets. There is no lack of variety when it comes to such delicate matters of the <insert bodily organ>.

Variety is good, no? Diversity is key, right? Tolerance and acceptance of all toilets is the battle cry heard on the streets! [Probably not your street.]

And to all that, I say PSH.

Some may call me a toilet snob as I have what may seem like ridiculously high standards when it comes to my expectations of toilets, but really... No. I just expect a toilet to fulfill its duties... as I take care of mine. Is that so much to ask?

I want my feet to touch the floor.
I don't want my back up against the seat cover.
I want to be able to sit without feeling the need to balance.
I don't want to flush and feel water [fresh and clean or otherwise] land on my feet, legs, hands, or really any body part.
I want to be able to reach the toilet paper without having to stand up [I guess this may just be more of an overall bathroom experience kind of requirement, but I think it's an appropriate mention].
And most of all, I don't want fall in the toilet and/or feel the sensation of being stuck in the toilet.

Is that so much to ask?

Yes, I know that an ideal toilet for me would probably not be an ideal toilet for someone else. But I bet if you asked Average Joe* if he had a toilet preference, he would probably just say, "As long as it's clean, I have no preference." And if he doesn't have a preference, why not make the average toilet one that satisfies the preferences of someone who does have a preference?  Like me [said like Shawn Spencer, of course].

When I was a kid, I remember thinking that one day, oh one day, I would grow my adult legs and never again would I have that feeling of being hopelessly stranded atop the toilet. That day never came. I remember thinking that one day, oh one day, I would never again have to look down at a strange toilet and question, "Will I fall through that hole or get stuck in that hole or sit gloriously atop that hole? And if, worst case scenario, the former, what is the backup rescue plan?" Sadly, I have yet to see this day. I always need a backup plan.

So, what's the point of all this ranting and reminiscing and tales of dashed hopes and never-to-be-realized dreams?

Dear Jason and Sharayah of the Distant Future,
When you decide to build your own home and you come to that seemingly unimportant decision of choosing toilets for your bathrooms, don't shirk your duties! Go to Lowes or Home Depot and try some toilets on for size and comfort. Try option 1. Or maybe option 2. Bring a book! People watch! Just sit and put in some time to make an informed decision. Don't let your dignity and self-respect get in the way of lifelong toileting satisfaction. The choice of a toilet is not to be taken lightly as some studies say an Average Joe quite possibly spends up to 3 years on the toilet over the course of his life. Three years, you guys. Make the comfortable choice.
Sincerely,
The Toilet Snob

P.S. FYI, this is a no, this is a no, and this is a Oh My Gosh Yes.

As a very, very, very slight justification for this post and its not exactly tea-party-in-the-sunroom-chitchat topic: Today's work consisted of a more than normal amount of bathroom/toileting/definitely-TMI typing, so it triggered my brain and this post was the only thing I could think to write.

I also feel compelled to mention that about halfway through writing this particularly enlightening post, my brain told me that now was an excellent time to tackle the topic of society's [inconsistent] obsession with tolerance/acceptance. There would be a perfect segue with some workable analogies and it would kill two birds with one stone. But, alas, the slightly normal part of my brain kicked in. And for the sake of every person who doesn't want to be compared to a toilet, you're welcome.

Last note... Just in case you thought that the title of the post referred to something a little less bathroom-related and a little more God-Throne-related, here's an obvious yet often overlooked thought:

We like to imagine what heaven will be like. What will it look like? What will we look like? What will we do? Where will we live? Will there be relationships? Will we hang out with friends and family? Will we eat? Will we all become amazing harpists and have shoes made of clouds?

I know I like to use my unbelievably limited mind to imagine about the greatness of my Forever Home. And yes, I am silly enough to think that all of my earthly thoughts and desires can somehow be pertinent to my life in eternity. I am only human after all. I don't like not knowing things, and there's so much I don't know. But! that's okay! I don't need to know everything about heaven. I don't need all the guesswork. There's only one definitive thing that I truly, truly know and it makes the answers to all of my other questions completely insignificant:  Jesus is there.

What else matters?


Just goes to show, if you make the right toilet choice, they'll be lining up outside your door.

*Average Joe, in this case, may be Jason.

10.13.2013

Columbus Day

So, I guess tomorrow is Columbus Day. Like most people (I assume), I don't care much about Columbus Day. I don't celebrate or anything. Heck, I didn't even know it was tomorrow until 20 minutes ago when I read an article about Columbus.

I've heard some strange things about Columbus before. I heard he lied about being Italian and stole someone's identity. I can't remember why he would do that, and I don't know if it's true. I know he wasn't really trying to prove that the world was flat, though I've heard that for some reason they still teach that in elementary school. Well, today I read a very strange and disturbing article about Columbus, and I thought I'd share it. It's located here. Just a note - I don't think there was any profanity in that post, but I know there's plenty of it elsewhere around that site, so if that bothers you then only read the one article.

Anyway I don't have much else to say about it. I don't know how much of it's true (though the author does cite a few sources). I don't think there's really anything we need to do about it. Maybe don't view Columbus as a hero, if you do, but I doubt anyone really does anyway. I just thought it was an interesting read.

That over with, if people could pray for my dad that'd be great. His bad foot/ankle (which never fully healed, though he has been able to walk despite the pain for several months) has broken again. He's supposed to see his orthopedist tomorrow morning and probably have surgery later this week.

kp ps: let it be known that today is day 1 of operation clean as we go.

9.30.2013

live life pantless

Full disclosure:  I live life pantless. I am proud of this. I have no shame.

What does this mean exactly? It means I like to spend 73% of my time while awake without pants, and 99% of my time while asleep without pants. If these percentages are messed with, my legs get grumpy which sometimes leads to my face getting grumpy which leads to all kinds of unpleasant and grumpy things. Life is better lived pantless.

Without pants, life is...

  • Happier.
  • More exciting.
  • Incredibly breezier.

Let's take it one thing at a time. First, happier!

As a visual aid, take these 2 stick men. The one on the left has pants. The one on the right has no pants.


Wait. Hm. As it turns out, the only difference between Mr. Stickman with Pants and Mr. Stickman without Pants is... a balloon? Hm. Well... Hm. Let's see... Oh! Yes. Here we go. Balloons are one of those things that make people happy without really having a good reason for it. If you ask a random man named Joe [who may or may not be the stick man on the right] to tell you some random objects that make him feel inexplicably happy, he will undoubtedly include the no-brainers of Llamas, Crayons, Clouds Shaped Like Crayons, Soy Beans, and Rainbows. But, there is also a 78% chance [not too shabby!] that he will also mention Balloons. Because balloons are happy. So perhaps this isn't the most conventional [or convincing] argument that a pantless life is a better life, but trust me, this picture really is all you need at the end of the day.

Let's move on to number 2. Life is more exciting without pants.

Allow me to paint a purely hypothetical situation. It is just a normal day filled with normal life things. You wake up at 8:22 a.m. You sit up in bed and rub the sleep out of your eyes for 47 seconds,  13 seconds on the left eye, 13 seconds on the right eye, 13 more seconds on the left eye, and 8 seconds more on the right [you have your reasons]. You scrounge around for your shirt that has fallen in the crevice behind your bed. You step out of bed and land on a penguin. You leave the bedroom and trip over the cat who has it in his feral mind that if he can somehow get to the living room before you he will magically win something awesome. You fill a bowl with cereal and rice milk and start your morning's internet goof-off time. You start work.

So far, nothing out of the ordinary has happened. Life is normal. Life is good. And, of course, all of this life is happening without pants.

But then. The clock strikes 11:30. You consider taking your lunch break. You consider what to eat for lunch. You consider whether to go to the bathroom before or after your prepare your lunch. But then. Right in the middle of all of your run-of-the-corn-mill considerations, someone starts cheerily banging on your front door. Your brain freezes. What to do? You are in the middle of an active job with time ticking away. Your ears are attached to the computer via purple magic wires [some call them harmless earphones, but I think they are ever more insidious than that... but that's another story]. Your cats are going bonkers because they know the knocking means someone wants to kill them. And, as always, you are pantless. What to do? Oh, what to do?

The knocking suddenly stops. You think to yourself, "Ah, it was just a delivery man dropping off a package. What luck!" But before you even have time to re-remember your lunch options [bean stew or oven-baked sandwich?], another round of banging commences. The UPS man never does this. This can only mean one thing:  The apartment maintenance men have finally come to evaluate the holes they made in your walls weeks ago. You know this is almost-worst-case scenario. WHERE ARE YOUR PANTS?

You know you have a very limited amount of time remaining before a considerably embarrassing situation ensues. Maintenance men tend to knock only twice before pulling our their set of master keys and just barging right in. Barging right into your home while you stand in the middle of the room, spinning in not-quite-frantic circles, completely pantless.

As the second round of knocking ends, your pantless legs kick into motion [despite the obvious lack of help from your brain]. You dash to the bedroom to find some appropriate covering for your soon-to-be-mortified legs. The gray cat dashes with you, making you trip into the hamper of "Oh, we'll do laundry soon" clothes sitting in the hall. You suddenly realize that what you're looking for is actually back out in the living room in the pile of clothes haphazardly draped over the arm of the couch, what your husband has jokingly been referring to as your "living room dresser." Do you have time to dash back out and grab some shorts before the front door opens? As the only other option at this point is just quickly crawling under your bed pantless and hoping the maintenance men don't find you [that'd be weird to explain] or stay for an hour, you decide it is worth the risk.

So out you dash to the living room. Your gray cat dashes with you, nearly careening your face into the bookcase. You scoop up your entire living room dresser and haul it back to the bedroom. You find something to appropriately clothe your legs. You shove the rest of the pile under the blankets. And then you nonchalantly stroll back out to the living room... just as a third round of knocking starts.

Wait. What? They're knocking a third time? This is... unheard of. This is... Sigh. All of that frantic dashing about when you really had all the time in the world*. So you answer the door as if you wear pants all the time and those three unsuspecting, hammer-wielding maintenance men are none the wiser.

Excitement at its finest. The pantless life is an exciting life indeed.

Final point! Life without pants is breezier.

I really don't think this one needs to be explained. I just wanted to include it because A) you need at least three items to make a legitimate bullet-pointed list [I know I have mentioned this before, but it holds enough truth for another mention] and B) it is so true. You want a breezy life? Live it pantless.

So there you have it. I live life pantless. I am proud of this. I have no shame. And I have reasons for it. Who doesn't want to live a happier, more exciting, and [above all] breezier life?

So, the next time a day just starts going awry, you feel your face getting grumpified, or you just feel, well, just stifled...

Sometimes you need to just take the pants off.

I imagine this goes without saying [and so I will say it anyway! like everyone does! because that's the thing to do!], but for the sake of those with poor self-awareness or anyone who happens to follow the "If you don't explicitly state it, then I will assume otherwise" mentality:  The removal of your trousers should only be done in the privacy of your own home, no matter how stifled you feel while in public, and preferably only around those who are comfortable with your unashamed legs [i.e. spouse, pets, alter ego, etc.]

As that one fellow said, "You have to wear pants even if they are uncomfortable. It is important to wear pants when you leave the house." Wise, wise words.

Don't let their judging eyes fool you; they honestly don't mind you pantless.

*As long as "all the time in the world" means "more than 30 seconds but definitely less than all the time in the world."

9.23.2013

maze reloaded

Yesterday we went back to that corn maze Sharayah described in this post two years ago. This time Shawn and my parents joined us, and it was a good time. Technically we didn't go back to the same corn maze, because they change it every year. Anyway. This year the corn was still pretty green and alive, and it was absurdly tall. I'm thinking it was about 10 feet tall. When I read that, it sounds ridiculous, and I think, "this kid is totally exaggerating," but I am not. That's really my best guess.
I don't know how they got corn so tall, but it really helps make you feel like you were lost in an inescapable maze while you were in there. Which was only half true (it was a maze, but it was escapable, which is apparently not a word, so then what is inescapable? This isn't a nonchalant vs chalant issue. Escaping is a thing. I hereby declare that escapable is a word [it has come to my attention {Sharayah told me, and I confirmed on google} that escapable actually is a word, just like I thought it should be. I thought it wasn't because when it comes to spelling, I guess I trust myself a lot less than I trust the little red wavy line. Well, not today, red wavy line. Not today.]). It was tall enough that if you held the flag (the one they give you to wave in the air if you get hopelessly lost, so they can come rescue you) straight up over your head, it barely reached the top of the corn. Now that I think about it, that means that if you got lost, the maze really just might be inescapable. No one would see your sadly waving flag, so no one would rescue you. There are probably still people stuck in that maze... Now, where was I? (Haha, I'm talking about a maze and I said "where was I?" like I got lost in thought while talking about how someone might get lost in a maze. Get it? Lost? Because it was a maze. And you can... nevermind.)

Right, so Sharayah and I were at the maze with Shawn and my parents. You might wonder how 5 people can spend quality time together in a maze (rather than wandering separately through it) and still each feel like we are contributing to the navigation decisions as we made our way through. Well, one solution would be to discuss at each crossroad which way we each wanted to go and come to a decision together about which path was more likely to get us to the exit.
That sounds boring, though, so instead we let each person lead for 3 minutes at a time. Shawn's phone made a beeping sound every 3 minutes, and once the timer beeped, it was time for another person to assume control. This was pretty entertaining, especially if the timer went off right before or after an intersection. While not leading, we could mock the decisions of the leader. While leading, we could make everyone follow us on whatever path we wanted. If the group ever had to backtrack or if we found ourselves coming upon an intersection we knew we had seen before, we could assign blame to whoever we thought was in charge when the wrong turn was made. Just plain good family fun. I will not point out who made the wrong turn that cost us the most time, because this person would then point out who made the wrong turn which cost us the next most time, and then they'd proceed to argue that my... I mean, that person's... wrong turn was in fact worse. When it wasn't. And it doesn't even matter if it was, because it probably wasn't me. Just get off my case, ok? You weren't even there so what do you know about it?

Hmm. I seem to have lost track of my story. (Lost. Heh.)

Oh. Anyway, we had fun in the corn maze and eventually escaped. We went through some of the other mazes and then we went to... the pumpkin patch.


Sharayah and I must really have been tired last time to have decided to skip the pumpkin patch. It was really fun. They take you to a huge pumpkin patch (I couldn't see the ends of it) and we got to wander around and choose whatever pumpkins we wanted and take them right off the vine. Well, you had to buy them, but it was fun and surprisingly addictive to try to find the best pumpkins. We got a nice medium one and a little one. My dad wanted to buy them all, or at least as many as he could find, but my mom kept him to 4 or 5.

 

Once again the corn maze was awesome fun and (especially with the pumpkin hunting at the end) left us very tired. We all went to eat and then headed home for some hard earned sleep.

sailboats throughout this brilliant sky

9.12.2013

belly full o' bean soup

This will be an educational post. Don't worry, though; I know you've always wanted to be educated about the topic of this educational post.

Having read hundreds [possibly thousands] of books that have touched on briefly [or in great detail] either hay or straw, I often wondered aloud in my head, in the split-second moment that I pay homage to the tiny black dot declaring the statement I just read to be complete, "Are hay and straw two different things?" But then I continue on with my reading, and the thought is forgotten. Until the next mention of straw or hay. And the cycle continues.

Cycle, STOP. I am here to save the day.

Before launching into this eye-opening topic, I suppose I should mention what triggered my desire to be ignorant no longer. String of events commence!

  • Jason and I like to read books to each other. We each have books we're reading separately on our own and then a nice easy read together. I wanted to reread the Little House of the Prairie series [nostalgia!] and since Jason easily gives in to my random whims and fancies, Laura Ingalls it was. [Adult observation: Ma Ingalls seems a tad racist against Indians.] We've made it all the way to the Long Winter, and I think it's safe to say that we are both thoroughly enjoying it. However, it is no surprise that hay and straw come up pretty frequently in this type of story, so... Event number 1. 
    • Reaction:  Hm, what's the difference between hay and straw?  
  • The Civil War era book I was reading on my own also mentioned straw and hay, though for a more amusing reason. Apparently, when recruiting young, probably not very educated, farm boys, there was the very irking problem of them not knowing their right from their left. When teaching them how to march in unison, this was... an issue. Hay and straw to the rescue! Obviously the poor lads, having grown up on a farm, knew the difference between hay and straw. So, tying a bit of hay to the left foot and a bit of straw to the right, their drill sergeants could guarantee marching synchronicity by referring to their "hay foot" or "straw foot." I find this brilliant and hilariously awesome. And, people, THERE IS A SONG.
March! March! March, old soldier, march!  
Hayfoot, strawfoot, 
Belly full o' bean soup.
March, old soldier, march! 
Event number 2.  
    • Reaction:  Hm, what is the difference between hay and straw?
  • As Jason mentioned in the previous post, we went to Kennett Square's Mushroom Festival this past weekend. [Incidentally, this brought back super strong memories (some really good and others not so much) of the hours spent in similar festivals helping out at my brother's booth. It's intriguing to me how clearly I can relive certain moments and how certain smells or sounds can instantaneously transport me to a different time. I like it.] There was a Mushroom Exhibit tent that was poorly queued. Inside the tent, there was just a long line of tables that attempted to show a progression of how to grow and harvest mushrooms. The first table had containers of various things such as... hay and straw [and horse manure, but that's not really relevant]. Honestly, the material in each little container looked the same to me, so it was only helpful in piquing my interest, yet again, to find out what in the world made hay and straw noticeably different. [I suppose I should also mention that the container labeled 'horse manure' also only contained a straw/hay-like material, which was very clearly not horse manure, so... maybe the material in the straw and hay containers was not actually correctly labeled either and that's why it all looked like the same stuff? (Hey {hay?}, maybe the horse manure was relevant!) Obviously, I did not understand this part of the mushroom presentation.] Thus concludes Event number 3. 
    • Reaction:  WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HAY AND STRAW? Imustfindoutimmediatelyorlifewillnotmakesense.

So. Clearly, all of these events in succession demanded that I remedy my ignorance when it comes to hay and straw. Clearly. As soon as we got home from mushrooming, I went to the google and got 'er done. [FYI, searching for "What's the difference between h..." you will find that people have a hard time differentiating between 1) hair and fur, 2) here and there (??), 3) hotel and motel, and 4) hay and straw.] And now... With my newly acquired knowledge, I will enlighten those of you who fit at least one or more of the below conditions:

  1. You are now unbelievably intrigued by the topic of hay and straw differences/definitions but do not consider it a good use of your time to search out these elusive truths for yourself.
  2. You don't think there really is a difference between hay and straw OR you don't see the big deal even if there is, BUT you're willing to humor me and/or you feel compelled to keep reading since you've already devoted so much time and effort to it to turn back now.
  3. You are a 5'2 Korean who is married to a dapper mathematician and you know you will later forget whether hay goes on the left foot or the right foot when teaching your children to march and you just need to jot down the information now for future reference.

If you said yes to one or more of the above, read on. Someday, this information may save a life [who knows?]. You are welcome.

What is it?
  • Hay:  Green grasses or legumes [such as alfalfa or clover] cut and dried.
  • Straw:  The stalks or shafts of grain [such as oats, wheat, barley, or rye] after being threshed and dried.

What is its purpose?  
  • Hay:  Used primarily as fodder for animals.
  • Straw:  Used primarily as bedding for animals [or basket weaving!].

What is the use of this information?
  • Hay
    • You own farm animals:  If you use hay to bed down your animals, they're probably going to eat their bedding.
    • You own a cat:  If you use hay to bed down or feed your animal... no.
    • You don't own animals:  You probably have no use for hay. 
    • Hayfoot is left.
  • Straw
    • Good bedding.
    • Good baskets.
    • Good hats.
    • Not very good food.
    • Strawfoot is right.

What now?
  • As it would be a waste of hay, you probably have never gone on a hayride. It was a strawride. Yep. Straw. Ride.
  • It is very possible I am still sorely mistaken on the fine differences between hay and straw and some hay/straw expert out there is having a conniption because of my oversimplified generalizations.

Ok. Whew. I'm glad all of that is out in the open for the bettering of the world. 

Now, as is usual, I had several things I wanted to mention in this post, but my initial topic got out of hand and so everything else will have to wait until next time. Except there's this one last thing that needs to get taken care of...

Jason and I have typically used separate toothpaste. Weird, I know. We just each had the kind that we liked to use when we got married, and we kept replacing them until that was just what we did. So we had separate toothpaste. No big deal. Anyway, Jason's ran out recently and we haven't gotten around to replacing it yet so he's been using mine and you guys he squeezes it all into the front of the tube. I mean, he really just goes at it. Just squashes the thing, right on the very end of the tube. So every day I slowly squish it in the middle so that it all goes back to both ends and squirt out my toothpaste like the whimsically odd but ever so frolicsome person that I am, and every day he smashes it all back to the front. Oddly enough (because I've heard of couples fighting over this sort of silly thing), I think it's pretty funny. But, he may be getting his own tube again sometime.

My sentiments regarding Jason's toothpaste methods exactly. <3