Saturday, August 25, 2012

on year three

Well, it's finally happened.  Ricky and I have finally reached our LAST YEAR OF LAW/GRAD SCHOOL, RESPECTIVELY!

I'll give you a minute to bask in that glorious news.

It's weird to think that it's been two years since we moved to Florida.  We miss the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia (and I, of course, am extremely fond of Charleston), but honestly, both of us love SW Florida more than any other place we've lived.  We love the heat, the beach, the 75-degree "winters," the afternoon storms, the fantastic county library system, the short(ish) drive to Disney World, the Everglades, the rich people that make sure our city looks really nice (no billboards, strip clubs, neon signs, etc.), the crime rate so low the local newspaper publishes front-page stories about the next town over, and the Publix on every corner.  I could do with more bookstores (everything here is chain stores--no cozy secondhand bookshops) and less 80-year-old drivers, but other than that, I'm completely enamored.  I'm not used to staying in one place for any extended period of time--my dad was in the Navy, so if we weren't moving, there was always the threat of moving--so the idea of living in Florida for years and years is a little scary.  But we're really hoping we'll get to stay anyway. 

I wish I had taken more time to blog about last semester (outside of my 99 list blog), but it was definitely one of those times in life that's so unbelievably chaotic that you're not sure how you managed to pull it off.  On top of my full-time job, I was teaching a three-hour college class, holding office hours for another four hours per week, and taking six credits--three of which were in Old English, which is a foreign language (Hwæt! We Gardena in geardagum, þeodcyninga, þrym gefrunon, hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon.), and which resulted in a lot of faux-swearing and throwing of pens.  (In my 18 years of schooling, I've never struggled more with a class.  But I digress.)  I was "working" 53 hours a week, and that's not including church/church callings and the additional 10-15 hours a week spent on translations, reading entire Hemingway novels, writing weekly papers, and grading the assignments of 25 students.  On weeks when they had papers due, I would spent around 12 hours on grading alone.  It was exhausting.  I did a lot of not-sleeping.  There were many nights when Ricky decided to stay up with me to make sure I got my grading/papers done (bless him), because he knew I would fall asleep if he didn't.   

Since it's my blog and I can brag all I want, I'll say very smugly that I came out of that semester with A's in both classes, glowing teaching evaluations, and without losing a single client.   Gold star for me! Ricky gets two stars, because his schedule was just as hectic as mine (he handled his with a lot more grace) and he still emerged from the fray with A's and B's, even though his classes are a lot more difficult than mine are.

This summer, I've been adding to my collection of antique maps (I've been redecorating our living room: old maps framed in a gallery wall, old books, old brass get the idea) and working on a research project in YA dystopian literature (think The Hunger Games).  Ricky was back in the Miami-Dade State Attorney's office in the misdemeanor division, living with my excellent grandparents and commuting home on the weekends.  We went to NYC in May, and Charleston in July, and got to see a lot of wonderful people. 

Now that we're back in the throes of schoolwork and never vacuuming enough, it feels like summer break (can you call it that when you still have to work?) was much too short.  Ricky's interning again with the Judicial Circuit Court for the fall (working closely with some judges!) and he's already started applying for jobs all over the state.  He's also President of two law societies (J. Reuben Clark and Criminal Justice) this year, which means I have to do much more socializing that I would like, and he's working on his blue belt in karate in his spare time.  I'm teaching a Composition I course and taking Earth Science Studies in Shakespeare (don't ask--it was the only class that worked with my schedule), which means I'll be doing a lot of Shakespeare/Milton/Spenser/Donne analysis, and I'm tossing around a thesis idea with one of my professors.  I'm also working with the girl half of my church's youth group, so my Wednesday nights are filled with pancakes and laughter and the occasional glow-in-the-dark volleyball game.  Neither Ricky nor myself is near as busy as last semester, but we're both so burned out that it feels harder.  I can't wait to be done!  I have every intention of eventually getting a doctoral degree, but I need a couple years to recover from my M.A., I think.

So that's where we are.  We do a lot of microwaved vegetables, pasta, and organic oven pizza--not much actual cooking.  (Truthfully, though, I'd rather spend two hours grading papers than I would making dinner.  I don't enjoy cooking in the slightest.)  We're planning trips to the Florida Keys and Harry Potter World (I think I have Ricky persuaded, Becky!) and Idaho and hopefully a lot of mini-adventures to fill in the gaps.  I'll probably be blogging about those a lot more on my 99 in 999 blog than I will here, because I'm not sure what to write in this one sometimes.  I certainly don't feel like I speak for Ricky when I write posts, and I don't have a lot of extended family I'm trying to keep "in the know," and nothing I have to say really falls into the cooking/homemaking/crafting/fashion/babies categories.  So...we'll see. :)

Saturday, January 7, 2012

on strawberries and manatees

Taking advantage of our last precious days before classes and homework start up again (ok, so we both already have homework, but whatever), Ricky and I decided to fill our particularly restless day with a trip to a local produce farm!  I found a website that lists all of the places in SW Florida where you can pick your own fruit, and since it's strawberry season, we drove to one of the nearby farms to see what we could find.

Ricky was extra excited because the produce stand was selling guava jam, which is indescribably delicious, and something that we've only ever seen in Costa Rica.  We also picked up a jar of their homemade blueberry preserves (SO GOOD!). 

After perusing the stand itself, we walked back to the fields, grabbed a basket, and got to picking! 

Also, check out the sweet riding boots Ricky got me for Christmas!  It's a daring husband who picks out women's boots, that's for sure.
Between singing lines of "Strawberry Fields Forever" to each other and making sure to grab all the oddly shaped strawberries, Ricky and I had a great time. 

The first one!
"This one looks like a heart!"
Lots and lots of strawberries.
I'm pretty sure Instagram isn't cool anymore, but too bad.
Our haul!  Five pounds of strawberries for $8.55.
Our total came to $21.03, with the jam and preserves.  Definitely a cheap date, which is our favorite kind.  There's also a citrus grove nearby where you can pick five gallons of oranges/grapefruit for $9.00, so I think that'll be our next stop!  We'll probably pick a day that's not so "cold," though--it was in the mid-50's on our strawberry trip, and Ricky and I were freezing.  My ears haven't hurt so much since the time we went to Obama's inauguration, and it was seven degrees that day.  It didn't take long for our Virginia blood to thin, I guess!

We had read online about a county park that has manatees in the river (yeah Florida!), so on a whim we asked the produce stand attendant if she knew where it was.  As it turned out, it was a three-minute drive up the road, so we made a detour on the way home.

Manatee Park!  You can see the manatees in the water.
On cold days (ok, "cold"), the manatees come up the river from the Gulf because the water is warmer.  We didn't see many until we came to this little pool off the edge of the river, where the water was clearer.

Mom and baby!
Not the best view, but it was still pretty cool to see them in the wild.
Manatees and strawberries?  Yes.  Lizbeth, I'm sorry we didn't know where these things were when you came to visit, because picking strawberries would've been a lot of fun!  

In other news, I teach my first class on Tuesday.  Every time I think about it, I want to hide in a closet somewhere.  Why is this happening??  Why are they letting me do this??  Don't they know I have no earthly idea what I'm doing??

If you don't hear from me again, it probably means I died of shame, or that I ran away to a foreign country. 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

on auld lang syne

Since I've been abysmally poor at blogging this year (...and every year...), I'm going to attempt a "Year in Review" for memory purposes, because I really only have so much room in my long-term memory and I need most of it for the plotlines of my favorite novels.  Where's a good pensieve when you need one, anyway?

Also, there probably won't be pictures in this post.  And it's written in third person for no good reason.  And most of it is boring and self-serving.  You've been warned.

-Ricky and Katie go to Idaho/Utah to visit Ricky's family.  Katie comes close to killing herself on the ice a dozen times because she brought cute shoes instead of practical ones.  Ricky's uncle fishtails the SUV on the way home from the airport and Katie almost wets her too-thick pants while everyone else calmly carries on the conversation.  Salt Lake City is gross and covered in smog, but Ricky and Katie go to The Pie with Megan B. and Jacob and Kaitlyn S. and good times are had by all.

-Ricky and Katie celebrate their first anniversary!  They think they might've gone to Outback Steakhouse, but they don't really remember.  Ricky buys a cake from Whole Foods with the same fruit filling as the wedding cake, because they decided that eating year-old wedding cake is really disgusting.  (Not like it would've lasted the 15-hour drive to Florida anyway!)  Ricky gets Katie a collage frame of the last two years together (including dating and all that).  Katie doesn't remember what she got Ricky (see above reference to memory capacity).

-Katie finds a job listing in the newspaper classifieds for a publishing assistant at a local publishing company.  She applies on a Sunday; on Monday, she gets a phone call for an interview.  Wednesday, she finds out the Borders store where she works is closing, and she interviews for the publishing job Thursday morning.  Thursday afternoon, she gets offered the job!

-Ricky and Katie drive to Buena Vista, VA for spring break, also making a surprise trip to Stafford to see her parents.  While in BV, they stay with Robin and Baden B. and play unhealthy amounts of The Lion King on SNES.

-Katie begins her first full-time, salaried job!  In her degree field, even!  She does a lot of editing and a lot of graphics work and she is in love.

-Ricky drives to Port Charlotte, FL to see a Yankees spring training game.  The Yankees lose, but he leaves with a ball from their batting practice, and is really excited.  (Ricky collects baseballs from the games he attends.)

-Katie becomes a pescetarian and gives up eating land animals.

-Katie gives up Facebook for Lent.

-Katie takes Ricky to his first hockey game! The home team--the Everblades--is playing the Stingrays, the team from Charleston that Katie grew up going to see.  The Stingrays win and Katie is secretly really happy about it.

-Ricky and Katie build a blanket fort for General Conference and it is awesome...until the cat tries to jump on the "roof" in the middle of the night, falling on Katie's head and collapsing all the chairs.  (Still worth it.)

-Ricky and Katie go to Miami to spend Easter weekend with the grandparents and Katie's extended family.

-Ricky starts an internship with the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office, an internship which is super exclusive and incredibly hard to get (/wife brag), and he's assigned to an ASA in the felony division.  He lives with Katie's grandparents during the week and makes the two-hour drive back home on Friday afternoons.

-Katie and Ricky drive to Miami to see Kayla C. and her now-fiance, Felipe.  They have lunch with Felipe's family (during which Katie loves all over Felipe's little niece) before driving home, at which point Kayla asks Katie via text message what her impressions of Felipe were.  Katie replies that she thinks he's super nice.  This approval is almost definitely the reason Kayla and Felipe eventually were engaged, but Katie is really modest about it.

-Ricky and Katie buy seasonal Disney passes!! 

-Ricky and Katie drive to Titusville, FL to see the launch of space shuttle STS-134, the second-to-last manned NASA flight before the space shuttle program ends.  They camp out overnight on the bank of the river, across which they can see the Kennedy Space Center and the launchpad, and they view the launch around 9:00 then next morning with binoculars.  As of January 2012, this is the most incredible thing they have ever seen.

-Ricky and Katie make their first trip to Disney World after the space shuttle launch.  Ricky has never been to any Disney park, and Katie hasn't been since she was about seven.  They visit Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and then Magic Kingdom again (for the fireworks, obviously).  Ricky and Katie decide that this day is definitely one of the top three best days of their lives so far.

-Ricky is elected Treasurer of his law school's Criminal Justice Society and President-Elect of his J. Reuben Clark Law Society chapter.

-Ricky goes on a ride-along with police officers in Naples, during which he translates Spanish on two occasions, participates in a search for a kidnapped woman, and witnesses an arrest.

-Ricky and Katie make their second Disney trip, this time visiting Epcot.  They try to keep to their policy of never waiting in lines longer than 30 minutes, but decide the 45-minute wait for the "Fantasy of Flight" ride might be worth it, since the Fastpasses are all gone for the day.  Walking up to the ride entrance, they greet the ticket-taking cast member, who suddenly flashes two Fastpasses and says "I think you guys dropped these!" with a wink.  They manage to stammer out a "Thank you!" and mean to thank him again after the (awesome) ride, but he's gone.  They relish the Disney magic. :)

-Ricky and Katie make their first donations to the SVU Annual Fund!  Katie donates $10 without knowing that Ricky had already donated $5 the day before.

-Katie and Ricky fly to Costa Rica for the Alfaro (Ricky's mother's family) family reunion.  Katie is reminded of how terrifying Costa Rican driving is as they make their way in their rental car to the Monteverde Cloud Forest.  Despite the crazy drivers, Costa Rica is beautiful and peaceful and lovely.  They finally get to go zip-lining, a year and a half after their honeymoon debacle--it's incredible, and made even better by going with their brother-in-law and older nieces and nephews.  Katie bonds with her preteen nieces over Glee and a mutual dislike of Justin Bieber.

-Katie finds out that her "unofficial sister"/best friend since 8th grade is pregnant and actually shrieks with excitement after she gets off the phone with her.  Katie laments that she no longer lives in South Carolina.

-While researching for his ASA, Ricky discovers legal precedence in a drug possession case that overrules the defense attorney's motion to dismiss, and the defendant is forced to take a plea.  Ricky's life is basically a Law and Order episode.

-After months of paperwork issues, Katie is officially extended a Teaching Assistantship for spring 2012.  She is the instructor of record for a college freshman composition course.

-Ricky goes to the medical examiner's office and is way too excited when he tells Katie about all the cadavers he saw.  He also visits the county jail.

-Ricky and Katie watch 4th of July fireworks on the beach and are dramatically underwhelmed. 

-Ricky and Katie fly to VA for the wedding of one of her EFY girls!  Katie cries like a baby and is thrilled that she got to go.  While in VA, they also spend a lot of time with Katie's family and make quick trip to BV.

-Katie and Ricky go to the midnight showing of the very last Harry Potter movie dressed as Bellatrix Lestrange and Sirius Black, respectively.  Katie prepares for this event with multiple trips to Goodwill, using a semi-permanent dye to color her hair black, baby-powdering/styling a wig for Ricky, and carving/painting wands out of wooden dowels.  They get a ton of compliments on their costumes at the movie theater, and Katie's coworkers insist that she wear her outfit to work the next day.  She does.

-Katie's hair is the longest it's ever been--to her waist when pulled straight--before she cuts off 13 inches for Pantene's Beautiful Lengths.

-Katie and Ricky drive to Orlando with Greg P., who was Katie's very favorite EFY co-counselor, and his wife, Danie, who is equally awesome.  They visit the Orlando temple and Panera and meet Greg's oh-so-nice family! 

-Ricky and Katie purchase a fantastic sage-colored microfiber sectional + ottoman from a couple on Craigslist.  They rent a small U-Haul to get it home and have horrible flashbacks to their 2010 move.

-Ricky is officially home from his internship!

-Ricky begins his second year of law school.

-Katie begins her second year of graduate school.

-Katie and Ricky make a two-day Disney trip with Kayla and Felipe!  They visit the Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios; Kayla sings in the American Idol Experience and is incredible.  Katie and Ricky decide that Felipe is really awesome.

-Katie and Ricky go to the Humane Society to pick out a new kitten.  As soon as they sit down in the "kitten room", a small grey-and-white cat jumps onto Ricky's lap, lies down, and starts purring.  Ricky and Katie make attempts to like some of the other kittens, but they keep coming back to the one who "chose" Ricky.  They adopt her on the spot!  Zelda, their older cat, only takes two days before warming up to baby Zora.

-Katie's car, Luna, turns seven and hits 100,000 miles!

-Ricky turns 26!  For his gift, Katie signs him up for two years of karate lessons.  Ricky is quoted as describing this as "AWESOME" and immediately starts referring to himself as "the karate kid."

-To celebrate their joint birthdays (10 days apart), Ricky and Katie go to the local dinner theater and meet very charming elderly people.  The show isn't too great, but the experience is!

-Katie turns 23!  Ricky buys Busch Gardens - Tampa tickets for her birthday and she is thrilled.  She's especially excited because the tickets include a safari tour where participants get to feed giraffes.

-(This one should be a post by itself, but I'm already here, so too bad.)  Katie goes to San Diego on her first business trip!  She participates as a vendor at the NHPCO Clinical Team Conference and drinks unbelievably delicious Bloody Marys (or Virgin Marys, as it were).  After a client cancels a dinner appointment, her coworker decides to go to the airport early, and Katie decides to go to Ocean Beach solo.  She gets a map from a nice old man at the airport information desk, walks half a mile to the bus stop in business clothes (she realized later that she really should've changed at the airport) and pulling a carry-on, rides the bus for 30 minutes, asks the incredibly helpful bus driver where she should get off, finds her stop, walks down the boardwalk surrounded by half-dressed beachgoers (still in her slacks and blazer), becomes mildly concerned about being robbed, buys a vintage dress from a $2 thrift shop, makes it to Ocean Beach, and parks herself on the stone wall of the boardwalk to wait for the sunset.  She watches a few surfers ride the enormous (compared to the Atlantic) waves and reads a postmodern novel--which she really isn't enjoying at all--for class.  After a few minutes, a 20-something man approaches her from the beach (she keeps a wary eye on her purse) and introduces himself as Darren--he teases her about her business attire and "preppy" book before telling her all sorts of stories about San Diego.  He's appropriately friendly and funny without being flirtatious, and sticks around for about 15 minutes before saying goodbye with a handshake and a "Have a safe trip home!" Katie is bemused, but he didn't rob her and didn't ask her out, so she decides he really just must've been genuinely friendly and goes back to reading.  When the sunset arrives, everyone on the boardwalk counts down to the sun's disappearance, and it's so fun!  Katie is satisfied and gets back on the bus for the trip back to the airport.  There isn't room for her carry-on on her lap, but a sideways-cap-wearing, skateboard-carrying, cussing teenager looks over and kindly offers to put it under his seat for her.  The bus line ends unexpectedly at the bus depot, and a worried Katie asks the bus driver what line she now needs to take to get back to the airport.  Another girl, who introduces herself as Carrie, overhears and says she's going the same direction, and that they can go together.  They walk down to the metro line, where they start analyzing the metro map, and are approached by two police officers who offer to ride with them and make sure they get off at the right stop.  Carrie and Katie chat about school and work and their mutual love of little kids until Katie's stop.  Katie then catches a bus and makes it to the airport an hour before her boarding time.  She resolves never to fly United again because they don't even give out proper snacks for a six-hour, cross-country flight, but the kind and helpful people in San Diego (bus driver, Darren, teenager, Carrie, officers, and multiple people she asked for directions) make the entire trip amazing.

-Ricky's abuelo (grandfather) passes away and he flies to Costa Rica for the funeral. 

-Katie and Ricky go to Busch Gardens the Saturday before Halloween, and the park is completely dead!  They wait in almost no lines and have a blast.  The best part is definitely the safari/giraffe feeding.  Ricky's entire hand winds up in giraffe's mouth and Katie gets bulldozed by a giraffe neck.  They also get to pet kangaroos, which is awesome.

-Katie dresses up as a lion for Halloween in her office.  She combs out her hair for the first time in years!

-Katie and Ricky go to Sarasota to meet Elizabeth M. for the Sarasota Chalk Festival.  They eat Thai food and bring Elizabeth home for the weekend.  Katie and Elizabeth go to Sanibel Island to find shells and are attacked (no, really) by crazed seagulls as they attempt to eat their food.

-Ricky earns his yellow belt in karate.

-Ricky and Katie go back to Disney and spend most of the day at Animal Kingdom.  They eat cinnamon-glazed almonds and become completely addicted before heading back to the Magic Kingdom to see the holiday lights.

-Ricky and Katie celebrate Thanksgiving with Erin and Quinn K. at their apartment--Katie drops her pecan pie as she's taking it out of the oven and Ricky's turkey doesn't thaw in time.  They both dismiss Thanksgiving as a silly holiday, anyway.

-Katie earns a 4.0 for the fall semester (Ricky's grades don't post until January).

-Ricky visits Idaho for his sister's wedding in the Twin Falls temple.

-Ricky and Katie unknowingly buy each other the same thing for Christmas; Katie figures it out by the same size/shape and the same expense in the bank account.  They laugh about it a lot and revert to "backup" gifts.

-Katie and Ricky leave Christmas Eve for Katie's grandparents in Miami.  Ricky is getting over a fever and some serious sinus pressure, which gets him out of kissing all the great-aunts.  They open presents on Christmas Eve and have a great Christmas! 

-Ricky and Katie go to see "Blast!" (like indoor drum corps) and it is phenomenal.  Completely standing-ovation worthy.


Wow, that was incredibly long and involved.  If you read all of it, you get a virtual cookie, because it's not even very well-written.  I really just need to get it all down. 

I also read 46 books this year!  That's not including books for school or my re-read of my Animorphs books, because the latter are a quick read.  Hopefully I can up that number this year.

I've always been a firm believer that the year is only as good as you make it, so Ricky and I try to make every year better than the last.  Here's looking at you, 2012!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

on old people

This time I'm not even going to apologize for not posting in so long, because by now you must know that I don't mean it.  I will say that it only feels like I posted two weeks ago, and that I was very surprised to see that my last post was in June...and that that post was about events that happened in May.  Yikes. 

Anyway, stuff's been going on in my life, check my Facebook, etc. etc.  If you haven't been stalking me religiously, don't worry--it's nothing exciting.  Classes started and have thrown me into a well of despair, not because they're difficult but because it's early modern women (16th/17th century) and modernists, so everything I read now is about dying in childbirth and dying in the war and basically just dying.  Then I go to work and copyedit our company's new book about what to do when you have a child that's dying.  EVERYTHING IS ABOUT DYING.  I've been facing my mortality so much that I can barely walk down my apartment steps without thinking about mis-stepping and plummeting to my death.  Next up: dying my hair black and writing morbid poetry. 

Ok, so I already did one of those things.  Both, actually, if you count that poem I wrote in middle school about the Columbine school shooting and presented at the ward talent show and basically freaked everybody the heck out.  And, for what it's worth, my hair looks pretty awesome dyed black, but I did get judged disapprovingly by the old lady scanning my books at the library.  Usually the older people that live in my town fawn over my curly hair (and, by association, the rest of me), so it was sort of an identity crisis.  (Still worth it.  My hair is rad.)

Hey!  Speaking of old people (see what I did there?), Ricky and I went to a local dinner theater last night and were two of five people there under the age of 50.  (This is not an exaggeration--Ricky will verify.)  The other three were teenage boys there with their grandmother.  We were seated late at a long table, between two unknown couples who were already eating, and Ricky and I were both nearly paralyzed with awkward. 

When confronted with situations outside of your comfort zone, do any of you start thinking about what friends of yours would do in the same situation?  I do.  "So-and-so would just crack a joke and break the ice and start talking to that nice lady.  I can do that!  Ok, ready...go.  Wait, crap, she's talking to the waiter.  And now she's talking to her friend.  What if she doesn't want me to talk to her?  What if this is a place where people don't want you to talk to them while they eat?  What if she thinks I'm rude??  What if she thinks I'm rude and complains about me to the waiter and moves to a different seat and gossips about me and soon the WHOLE THEATER THINKS I'M RUDE?!?!  Better just not say anything."  Like I said--paralyzed with awkward.  Luckily, the lady sitting next to me WAS nice, and said "Come here often?" all nonchalantly, and I almost laughed because hey, that's a cheesy pick-up line.  But we got along famously after that.  She had to have been at least 70, and she had wonderful stories, and she was SO funny.  When Ricky and I told her we had never been to that dinner theater before, she was giving us all the inside tips on food and drinks and whatnot.  The coolest thing about it was that she had so many stories about the show!  It was "S'wonderful," the Gershwin musical revue, and she was telling Ricky and me about when the songs came out and the musicals they were from and how famous the actors were.  On some songs, you could hear people around the room singing along!  It was even better because I knew they didn't know the songs in the vintage-musical-hipstery way that I know them, but because they were around when the songs were actually popular.  Awesome.

Yesterday also marked my first time ordering a drink from the bar, which is embarrassing enough to admit by itself, so I won't tell you about how I was really excited all afternoon and researched the best non-alcoholic drinks and had one all picked out for when we went.  (Wow, it's sounds SO much more lame when I write it out like that.  Please, judge freely.)  I had a Virgin Mary (which is a virgin Bloody Mary, which is ridiculous because the Virgin Mary and Bloody Mary are totally different people, but whatever) and it was delicious!  Ricky thought it was gross, but he doesn't like tomato juice to begin with. 

I should also add that yes, I did miss the Relief Society broadcast to go to a bar and watch a musical.  I am a heathen, but a heathen who really had the best intentions and forgot when she ordered the non-refundable tickets six weeks ago that she probably should check the calendar for these things.  Oops.  Plus, I'm going to watch the archived video of soon as I'm done reading my Depression-era novel about assisted suicide.  It all balances out, right?  Right.

In other boring domestic news, we got a new couch!  I guess I should say "a couch," because our old seating arrangement involved a faux-velvet blue loveseat, which isn't really a couch at all.  Ricky and I were both getting pretty sick of the thing; I mean, we were fortunate to have it, and it only cost us $30, but the fabric gave me irritating almost-goosebumps (and the lovesac is weird to sit on when you're doing homework) so I usually just sat on the floor.  Our apartment has a long, rectangular living room, and really screams for a sectional, but I hadn't had any luck finding one with a) a color I liked, b) proportions that didn't shove all the other furniture out of the room, and c) a price tag that didn't make my lower eyelid twitch...until last month, when a sage green microfiber sectional with ottoman magically appeared on craigslist and I saw it an hour after it was posted and snagged the coveted "first person to email" spot.  We went to look at it, loved it, bought it, and had to rent a U-Haul truck for the day to get it home because we couldn't fit it into a regular pickup.  Now we actually have something for people to sleep on if they come visit!  Hint, hint.

I have a business trip to San Diego (I AM AN ADULT) coming up in two weeks, so I'll try to remember to write about it, maybe. 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

on space shuttles and Space Mountain

Ok folks, let's recap.

First off, I need to recommend that everyone begin carrying pocket-sized notebooks around, because mine is now officially my best friend.  It's even gained VIP status as part of the "things to grab walking out the door" pile with my sunglasses/chapstick/cell phone/keys/Harry Potter book.  (That last one is only sort of a joke.  The last movie is only three weeks away, people!)  Not only does carrying a tiny Moleskine make me feel like an artsy hipster-type, but it also ensures that I don't lose my grocery list, or forget what was going on in my brain on May 16th.  What happened on that day, you ask?  Well, May 16th is when this went down:

Not my picture--my camera's not this good!
And this:

This one IS mine.  You can tell because I squealed when I took it.

So the STS-134 Endeavor shuttle launch--the second-to-last American manned space launch--was originally scheduled for April 29th.  On April 28th, Ricky mentioned in passing to me that he had read about the launch in the news and they were predicting that over 700,000 people would show up to see it.  Our conversation went something like "Wow!  I didn't know we were so close to the last launch."  "We'll have to see when the last one is.  Maybe we can go." "I'm sure it won't be for another year or so.  I'll check."

And so I did.  When I got into work a few days later, I discovered that the STS-134 launch had been scrubbed due to mechanical issues only a couples hours before launch time (blastoff?) and was postponed for two weeks, putting the launch date right after Ricky would finish finals and before his internship in Miami.  Then I discovered that the STS-135 launch (the last one ever!) was scheduled for late June, which would be in the middle of Ricky's internship and which we wouldn't be able to work around.  After some excellent spontaneity on my part, and overjoyed agreement on Ricky's ("Aren't you glad you married someone as fun as me?" I boasted), I took the scheduled day off work and we decided to drive the four hours up to Titusville, FL.  Obviously, we wouldn't be able to get tickets for the "official" viewing sites so close to the launch date, but the little city across the river from the launchpad--Titusville!--has parks up and down the river where people can watch the launches.

I was still a little nervous about the 700,000 figure--there would be less people that would actually show up this time, of course, because most of people that had flown in from all over the country for the April 29th launch date wouldn't be able to turn around so quickly and come back.  Nevertheless, Ricky and I planned to get to the riverside at least 12 hours before the 8:56:28 a.m. arrival time, because we are geniuses...and also because we fought a crowd of two million people when we went to Obama's inauguration and had no desire to do so again.  Ever. :)

Sunday the 15th had me so excited I could barely make it through Nursery.  I went barreling around the apartment when we got home, making sure we had the tent and the binoculars and the camp chairs and the Wheat Thins and the iPods and the GPS and the Mapquest directions in case the GPS failed and the Disney passes (!) and the extra food laid out for the very cross-looking cat.

Ricky is either making tuna fish sandwiches here, or karate-chopping them.  Possibly both.

Robin, do you remember when we went to Rugged Wearhouse and I bought that Star Wars shirt?  SO PERFECT.


This picture is only to show you guys that I've been practicing my one-eyebrow raise.  It's still a work in progress, but you'll notice the forehead wrinkles only on one side.  That's right--be intimidated.  Also, let's have a moment of silence for my wonderful Costa Rican honeymoon sunglasses that broke three seconds after I got out of the car.  Sigh.
I couldn't help but take pictures every time I saw a sign for Titusville.

This stretch of road was gorgeous and empty.  I took at least four pictures of various signs, but you get the idea.
Ok, one more.
It was pretty bizarre when we arrived in Titusville.  The whole town looked as if nothing had been renovated or built since the beginning of the space race, and Ricky and I were a little creeped out.  Even the McDonald's looked like it had just been puked up by the 1960s.  I wish I had taken pictures, but I was too busy bugging my eyes out at how very "Twilight Zone" it all was.  Once we got closer to the river, the high-rise, modern, supposedly-better-to-view-the-launch-from hotels started appearing, and I felt less a time traveler.  

I was sure we were going to have to pay in solid gold for a parking space near the park--from everything I had read online, businesses would charge around $30 (usually more) to park in their lots on launch day.  However, because I am probably magic and totally should've gone to Hogwarts, I found a totally free curbside space right across the street from the river and made Ricky park there.  (Ricky will tell you that he found the spot and I'm just taking all the credit, but we all know how he exaggerates.)  We had planned to go to Spaceview Park only because they have the live countdown from the mission control room, but by a happy accident we wound up finding an empty stretch of riverbank only a block over from Spaceview, which was already crowded with tents and chairs and trees and people.  We decided to sacrifice the countdown audio for the better location and the squishy grass underneath our tent.  (Tree roots--don't try to sleep on them.)

The view when we arrived--we're about 12 miles away, which as close as you can get without tickets.  See the dimple in the tall bush on the left?  The launchpad is basically directly over that dip.
Ricky's more righteous than me and stayed in his church clothes ALL SUNDAY.  There are probably few things less attractive than a well-dressed man pitching a tent.  It's like James Bond meets Indiana Jones.

It's a good thing I have the dexterity to both help with the tent and take this unfocused iPod picture at the same time.

Once we had the tent and the camp chairs set up, there were a few more families that had arrived, bringing the total up to seven or eight on our stretch of riverbank.  We were nearly as close to the water as we could get without being in marsh.  It was pretty surreal looking up at the moon above the launch site and knowing that, forty years ago in the same place, people watched a shuttle begin to bridge that distance.  Ricky and I played iPod games, read books, and ate snacks until about midnight, when we fell asleep.  I slept well, surprisingly, considering I went to sleep afraid that we would wake up to dozens of people crammed into the bank in front of us, but I woke up around 5:30 to loud voices and this:

That's our setup in the foreground.  This still wasn't as many people as were crammed into Spaceview Park a block over, so we were relieved!

I also woke up to this:

That's empty bank in front of us, people!  As it turns out, everyone who showed up was very respectful of those people who had camped out all night for good spots.  Go figure!
Ricky woke up to this:

...only with a more maniacal, sleep-deprived expression.
Poor guy. ;)

SO READY FOR THIS.  We'll pretend I was looking in the right spot.  Ricky and I disagreed about where the launch site was...turns out he was right.  Notice the girl behind me re-reading the first Harry Potter book--she was from Ohio and had just gone to the HP theme park 45 minutes away in Orlando.

We didn't bring anything but our sleeping bags because we weren't expecting it to be cold in the morning, but it was!  This is Ricky, braving the elements.
Waiting the 3 1/2 hours until 9:00 was torture.  I was so excited.  I didn't even want to leave to find a bathroom after I woke up, which in hindsight was pretty ridiculous, because obviously they weren't going to launch the shuttle two hours early just because they knew I wasn't watching.  Our unaided view was pretty bad--like I mentioned above, we couldn't even see the launch site, so the binoculars were a definite must.

Kids had been playing along the riverbank for the hours up until the launch, but about 10 minutes before launchtime people started standing with the kids along the bank under the pretense of, you know, now deciding to actually watch their children.

The kids by themselves were cute, though!  Notice that they aren't even tall enough to break the horizon line.
Well, I surely hadn't come all that way and spent all night there for some tall grown-up to stand in my line of sight, so Ricky and I grabbed our chair covers and put them down on the muddy ground right by the water so we could sit without being in anyone's way.  No one said anything, because they had seen us there all night--people did, however, come up and kindly request that the other standing adults sit down so that the people behind them could see.  They did.  It was all very nice.

Like I said--right on the edge.
Horseshoe crabs!!  Only one was still alive, but I had never seen them in the wild.  We had a bunch when I worked at the SC Aquarium, but this was pretty cool.  The kids thought they were stingrays and kept poking the dead ones with sticks.  We also saw a few dolphins in the distance, so we must've been pretty close to where the river empties into the Atlantic.

You could feel the anticipation the closer it got to 8:56.  The people with smartphones were on the NASA website, watching the countdown, and one man behind us counted loudly down from ten...we didn't believe him until we saw the smoke and flames explode from around the launch site.  Again, I was looking too far to the right, so it took me a split second to find the right spot--luckily, I only barely missed the initial plumes of smoke clearing the small group of trees in front of the launchpad, but I still kick myself a bit for not listening to Ricky.  (Yeah yeah, life lesson, whatever!)

After a moment, we saw the shuttle rising, silhouetted against the flames and smoke, and it was literally the most incredible thing I've ever seen.  My heart was pounding, beating so hard for no reason other than being a part of that tremendous moment.  I was smiling so hard it made my eyes water.  The cloud cover was pretty heavy, so we maybe only had 7 or 8 seconds of visibility, but those seconds were worth every amount of effort we put into getting there.  Every around us cheered and clapped and it was amazing.  The complete lack of sound from the shuttle made it even more awe-inspiring, like watching a movie scene in slow motion with only the background music playing.  It took a long time for the sound to reach us, but when it did, the ground shook and all the kids thought that was the coolest thing.  Ok, EVERYONE thought that was the coolest thing.

I took this minutes after the space shuttle broke the cloud line--you can see the shadow of the smoke trailing along the path to the left above the clouds--but the initial smoke plume still hadn't cleared by the time we left.

And here's THE VIDEO.  Ok, it's pretty far away, so you really can't see much, but still.  They tell you to "watch, don't record," which was the best advice of the day, so I was paying 100% attention to the binoculars in my hands and 0% attention to the camera between my knees.  The coolest part about the video is the sound!  You can't see much, but you can hear it, and you can see my hand shaking.  I'm wary of how Blogger handles the quality of these things, so if it's terrible, I blame them!

To quote from my Moleskine: "I JUST SAW SOMEONE GO INTO FREAKING SPACE."  Man, I am so articulate.  Speaking of being articulate, I'm not even going to apologize for saying "Oh my gosh" over and over and over, because I seriously had no control over what was coming out of my mouth.  It's just a good thing I don't have a foul vocabulary, because you would've heard it.  I'm pretty sure a guy behind us dropped an s-word at launch within earshot of at least a dozen kids, so either that's proof of my argument or he's just a tool.

To round off the excellent morning, we totally lucked out with traffic.  We were also expecting serious traffic jams getting out of this tiny town--previous visitors had said three or four hours back to the highway was the norm, so we had actually planned to hang back and wait for everything to clear out.  However, since we parked so close, Ricky and I had very short pros/cons discussion and decided to try and make a break for it.  We had everything packed and back in the car in five minutes, and we made it out of the town in another 15!  Most everyone was parked bumper-to-bumper in the aforementioned commercial lots (which did wind up charging $30/car--we saw the signs!), so the roads were still pretty clear even though we hadn't dashed immediately to the car after the launch.  We ran into some bottlenecking at the highway merge, but again, no more than 15 minutes of slow-moving (not even stopped) traffic.  IT WAS GREAT.  I was thrilled, because getting out earlier meant we had more time to spend at Disney!

We stopped at a gas station to buy me new sunglasses (you never, ever want to be in Florida without sunglasses) and set off for Orlando!

I could barely handle my own emotions at this point.
The Disney post will have to come later, because this one took way longer than I expected (pictures are such a guys are lucky I love you so much).  I have an exciting lineup that I need to get through:  Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Epcot, and--finally--our recent Costa Rica trip.  Whew!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

on summer

Guys. Guys.

I am done with my first year of grad school.

In two days, Ricky is done with his first year of law school.


Is this real life?

Those are legitimately grown-up things.  People halfway through graduate school were the people I got all shy around at age 13 because they were so unbearably adult.  And don't even get me started on law school.

(It's not as grown-up as parenthood, though.  If someone even mentions the word "baby" suggestively in my direction, I start windmilling my arms like a cartoon character and run from the room before the idea somehow finds its way into my uterus and grows there.  Really, I'm still working on remembering to clean the litter box.  You go, moms.)

I've forgotten all the exciting things that have happened in the past couple weeks, but be on the lookout for updates on the space shuttle launch (!!) and a Disney World trip (!!) in the near future.  My camera is on its last leg, I think, so all my pictures may be of the blurry iPod variety, but I could basically just write "We saw a space shuttle launch and went to Disney World" and pictures really can't make that statement any more awesome.

In the meantime, here are some blurbs from my head.  Think of them less like a randomly compiled list of things I didn't really plan out beforehand and more like a pensieve with all my carefully chosen thoughts swirling together for your perusal.  (See what I did there?  Only 63 days until July 15th!)  My "gratitude notebook" I carry around in my pocket has also become a "random thoughts" notebook, so I'll pull from there a bit.

1. You know who's a decent guy?  Our President.  I don't care if you love or hate his politics, but you have to respect the man for trying to accomplish things while the rest of Washington is throwing tantrums like babies, especially when those things involve making reasonable compromises across party lines to get the job done.  Not many politicians do that.  Just saying.

2. Ricky and I are thinking about adopting another cat!  Zelda's been getting restless and I worry that she's bored while we're gone all day.  Good moms make sure their children have friends, right?

3. I found out today that Scrabble is being expanded to include slang words for the first time.  Is nothing sacred?  Words like "grrl" and "thang" (which are being added to the official Scrabble dictionary) will never be on my playing board.  Never. 

4. I finished the "probation" period at my job, got a raise, and am now officially full-time!  Sweet!

Monday, April 18, 2011

on things I forgot

The bad:  Ricky and I, on our first year filing joint taxes, are being audited.  (Anyone who has ever teased me about keeping all my receipts can now marvel at my incredible foresight.)  We did everything by TurboTax's book, so I'm going to have a bone to pick with them if something goes wrong!  Maybe the IRS will go easy on us since we're brand-new adults.  I mean, really, it's only the second year I've ever earned enough money to legally necessitate doing my taxes.  Good thing Ricky and I are squeaky-clean taxpayers, right?  Right.

The awesome:  Ricky got an internship at the State Attorney's office in Miami!!  (Two exclamation points aren't really adequate, but I'm physically incapable of typing more than two at a time.  This has been proven by grammar science.)  This is a huge deal, especially since Ricky would love to work as a state prosecutor after law school (think Law and Order) and Miami is filled to the brim with criminals to prosecute.  Because of my job here, I won't be able to go with him, but he'll stay with my grandparents (who conveniently happen to live in Miami) during the week and then drive the two hours home on Friday.  It's not a perfect arrangement, but it's totally feasible and a great opportunity for Ricky! 

Since I'm here, I may as well tell you that we also bought a (much-needed) new mattress, with many thanks to today being tax day and having fantastic sales.  Ricky could sleep on a rock slab for the rest of his life and still wake up each day fresh as a daisy, but I'm like the princess and her stupid pea when it comes to mattresses.  Hopefully our new squishy mattress will do the trick.  One of my favorite things to do when I shop is compare the price to something that everyone has/considers a "must have," and usually that comes back to Apple products (don't pretend like you aren't someone who knows someone who needs to have--and will totally justify spending hundreds of dollars on--the latest gadget the day it's released).  I feel like it really puts into perspective where your money is going.  Today, our money went into a long-term investment that is the price equivalent of a 16GB iPod touch.  I am satisfied.