Friday, October 1, 2010

on clarification

Ok, so I just re-read my last blog post, and I realized that I left out a REALLY IMPORTANT POINT about my gospel music class and why I don't like it.

My class focuses on white gospel.  You probably have no idea what that is, because I sure didn't, and definitely signed up for the course thinking it was going to be about something different.  Even when I found out it was white gospel, I thought, "Cool!  Like O Brother, Where Art Thou?  Because I seriously love that music."

"No," I wish someone would've said to me, "not like that at all, actually, and you should probably drop this course while you still can because this music is going to be like a cheese grater on your soul for 18 long weeks.  Did I mention you should drop this course?"

"So what is white gospel?", you're wondering.  "And why do I feel uncomfortable reading a term that is so flagrantly non-PC?"

Well, "white gospel" is actually the standard research term, believe it or not.  And this is what it sounds like:

With some slight variation, that is the majority of white gospel that we're studying.  Twangy and repetitive and irritating.  For all I know, that's the majority of ALL white gospel.

What did I expect to be studying?


(jump to :30)

Black.  Gospel.  The origins of Mahalia Jackson, Aretha Franklin, and the greats.

Same song, completely different style...especially at 1:45, which is my favorite part.  I won't ask if you can feel the difference, because of course you can.  It's not the people singing it, of course--despite what the names would suggest, white and black gospel songs aren't classified by race, but style.  Singers of black gospel sing around the beat, improvise, interject, and almost never sing the same song twice, making it reflect their unique personalities and encouraging the crowd to do the same.  Isn't that what gospel should be?  If you're going to sing about your soul, SING.  White gospel singers (for the most part) keep to the routine, the format, the structure, and they just don't bring their personalities to the table like black gospel singers do.

In the aforementioned class of mine, we've touched briefly on black gospel (mainly the early spirituals), but not as much as it deserves.  Black gospel reaches my soul.  White gospel makes me reach for my mute button.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

on lethargy

I'm losing all motivation to do well in my graduate school classes, which is a weird feeling for me.  Especially considering these are literature classes.

Well, sort of.

My "Gospel Music and American Literature" course has turned out to be a pretty thorough waste of my life.  Instead of reading literature and supplementing the course with music, it's a music class cleverly guised under a literature course number.  When we write papers, it's on music.  When we discuss things in class, it's about music.  Never mind the fact that most people in the course don't have the foggiest bit of musical training--we still discuss music, exclusively.  We did read one novel--just one--and when I tried to parallel a certain scene with elements of gospel music, my professor flat out admitted that the novel didn't have much to do with the music at all, and wasn't relevant to the discussion we were having.  (This is where the "waste of my life" part should be repeated.)  I love music as much as the next person--even gospel music, which can gets pretty irritating after listening to 1,000 "different but not really" songs--but honestly, I'm in a literature program, I signed up for a literature course, and I expect you to teach me about literature.  I could care less about the book you're writing, professor, or how you're using our class as test subjects for music analysis.  How about you teach me something that's going to be useful when I'm an English teacher?

As for "Literature, Language, and Society"'s undergraduate literary theory all over again.  Same readings, same authors, same topics.  I don't look forward to going to class, and I don't enjoy doing the homework, and I don't feel like I'm learning much.  That being said, I know 99% of gaining new insights into things is from taking an active part in the learning role, which I've never struggled with much before, but now I feel like I'm pulling my own teeth out trying to enjoy these classes!  My SVU professors were much better at asking the "right" questions and leading me to understand the broader purpose of what I was learning.

It may just be a matter of adjusting to a new way of doing things.  Maybe next semester I'll have classes that spark more of my interest.  I hate to be such a whiner, but it's just so disappointing!

Now that you're all thoroughly depressed, I have to tell you that life really hasn't been going badly!  I still don't have a job, but it means I get to bum around the house all day and watch The X-files and Doctor Who on Netflix while I wait to get called for interviews.  Ricky and I have almost been married for 8 months, which is incredibly hard to believe, both because it feels like we just got married and because it feels like we've been married forever already...which is a good thing.  Being married has been a huge, enormously delicious piece of cake.  I'm grateful to have a husband who's so easy to get along with and ridiculously fun to be around and supports (most of) my crazy whims.  I know there isn't just one "Mr./Mrs. Right" for each person, and that I could be just as happy married to someone else, but I feel like I would have to work at it so much more than I do with Ricky.  In fact, I hardly have to work at all!  Our lives blended together so nicely when we got married that it felt like Ricky had always been there, living in my apartment and doing the grocery shopping and drinking milk out of the carton.  It's not just easy being happy with the guy, it's easy living with the guy, which seems to be a big hurdle for some relationships.  That isn't to say that those relationships aren't just as awesome, but only to say that I'm really, really grateful for Ricky and everything that he is and how lucky I am to have found him.

Also, it's his birthday tomorrow!  Hence the long, totally not-interesting-to-you monologue about how cool he his.  He's going to be 25, which I'm fairly envious of, because I feel like age 25 is probably around the time when society stops telling you you're too young to be married.  Shove off, society!

I hope you all are doing fantastically well, wherever you are.  And update your blogs, dang it!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

on my potential as the carrier of the plague

I think that if biomedical warfare ever needed to be started, I would be a good candidate for the initial carrier of the disease.  Why?  Because my immune system is perhaps the wimpiest part of my body and I'm 99% guaranteed to catch it, and catch it good.  Or bad, depending on how you're looking at it.

My immune system used to be a champ!  I would stay up all night, wake up early, eat nothing but ravioli out of a can, and never take vitamins.  Good old IS didn't even bat an eye.  Every fall and spring, he would remind me that he and Allergies were still in cahoots, leaving me with the equivalent of whooping cough for about a month.  About once an academic year I would catch a virus from a roommate, what I always took as routine exercise for my faithful IS.  I didn't mind it so much because he had kept me out of the hospital my entire life.  I hadn't even thrown up since age 12!  If there was an award for solid, reliable immune systems, mine would definitely be a candidate.

Until 2009.

You'd think that three years in college, with roommates continually in close proximity and late nights a routine, would have been the worst time for my immune system.  It wasn't.  In fact, looking back, I'm pretty sure IS was feeding off the antibodies produced by said roommates and maybe even classmates, because as soon as I graduated and spent a summer away from classes, he started sleeping on the job. 

"Pneumonia?!" I exclaimed--or I would've if I hadn't been a dishtowel lying pathetically on the couch for days on end.  "Who gets pneumonia in the summer?!"  (Which is also the question that everyone else posed, as if I had chosen a really bizarre time to have my lungs fill with fluid.)  For the first time in my life, I was in the hospital for myself.  My deathly fear of needles drew a few tears when they put in the IV--I had never had one before--but I was so desperate to feel better that they probably could've cut off a finger with no complaints from me (and at Stonewall Jackson Hospital, I wouldn't have put it past them).  A few hours later, I was back home, too weak to sit up long enough to change my clothes.  Obviously, it all ended well (thanks to Sam, Kirsten, and Ashley, who bought my groceries and made me soup), and I even made it to Robin's wedding that weekend, even though I did feel a bit like Grandpa Joe in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory after he hasn't set foot outside the bed in years.

That was my immune system's first treachery.  I made it through the fall without major incident, leading me into a false sense of security, and then a few days before my wedding in January I started feeling weird.  Naturally, I wrote it off as stress, and even a definite fever in the hotel room the night before didn't tip me off to what was coming.  My wedding day went without a hitch (thankfully--can you imagine a feverish bride in the middle of January?) and I had about five days of Costa Rican awesomeness before my appetite disappeared.  I would feel ravenously hungry, and then take two bites of food before feeling full to the point of discomfort.  (Ricky wound up eating double for a few days!)  I attributed it to sun poisoning, and stayed off the beach for a while.  Long story short (most of you already read the honeymoon story), I wound up having mono.  And strep.  And an excruciatingly long, painful flight back to America, where it took me a week to feel strong enough to open a wedding present and another week before I could stand up long enough to make a sandwich.

That was the second blow.

Since mono/strep ended in March, I've had a hospitalizing kidney infection (delirium at 104 degrees, anyone?) and a UTI.  Ricky caught a virus recently, and it took me a whopping three whole days to catch it, and catch it better (worse?) than he did, leaving me powerless against the productivity of normal life and schoolwork.  I think my white blood cells have just started throwing down their arms at the first sign of illness.  "We surrender!" they cry pathetically. "Take the red cells!  The red ones!"  If I could shrink down to cell size and enter my own body (a la Magic School Bus), I would definitely give them a good talking-to.  Maybe even some well-placed punches.  Maybe then Immune System will straighten up and remember who's boss.  (Me.)

As a side note, I feel the need to say that I'm very fortunate to have avoided life-threatening illness, unlike so many friends and family members.  I'm not trying to demean their sicknesses in any way.  Instead, I'm just making myself feel better about my own by adding some cool mental images of me punching blood cells like a beast.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

on lots of things

When I have a lot on my mind and need to organize it, I would like to say that I refer back to one of those handy Venn diagrams and/or flow charts that I spent countless hours of my grade school life trying to understand.  As we all know, they actually have some use in 1% of real-life situations, none of which I have ever found myself in, so I resort to something that is obviously much more primitive and appeals to most species of mammals...specifically, a list.  So this is what you get, all you mammals out there.

1. Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" Rally

If there's one thing that irks me more than radical liberals, it's the banking-so-hard-to-the-right-you're-going-in-circles conservatives.  And circles, quite honestly, are what I feel like a good number of conservatives have been going in.  I hear a lot of griping and not a lot of game-planning.  Yes, from everything I've seen, the country has taken a conservative turn since the Obama administration, but that doesn't mean the Republican party can just point fingers and dump figurative tea all over the place without giving me some answers.  Saying "Obama hates God and once he's gone the country will be better" is not enough.  Also, while you're on the subject of actually coming up with solutions, can you please remove Sarah Palin from your agenda?  I've heard her speak a few times before, but this rally was the last straw.  She said zero useful or pertinent things--which doesn't surprise me, because I don't think I've ever heard her say anything useful or pertinent--and is about as motivational as late-night infomercials.  Hillary Clinton may not be someone I want to eat at my dinner table--EVER--but I at least have confidence in her ability to get things done.  I barely have confidence in Sarah Palin to tie her shoes.  Ok, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but can you imagine if the president died and SHE were our first female president?  I would probably die from shame.

Also, Glenn Beck, I pretty much rank you with Stephanie Meyer.  By that, I mean that when people say, "Oh, you're Mormon!  Like Glenn Beck, right?" as if you are part of our theological canon, I grit my teeth a little and say something like, "Yes, I am...and no, I'm not like Glenn Beck.  No, I do not like Twilight.  No, I do not support Mitt Romney solely because he is a Mormon.  But thank you for asking."  Don't get me wrong--I agree that our country would benefit from tapping further into its religious roots.  This is, after all, a country founded by (and majorly occupied by) a God-fearing people.  However, I feel that holding your rally on the day of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s march was wholly distasteful and inappropriate.  I also feel that giving your remarks on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, on the site of "I Have a Dream," was conceited and, again, inappropriate.  I listened to you speak, desperately trying to find out what the heck "Restoring Honor" even means, and all I got from you was a call to pray more fervently.  I probably don't need to remind you that faith without works is dead, and that God expects us to act on our prayers; however, I didn't hear much advice on what those actions are supposed to be.  We have brains and bodies for a reason.  Another reminder: the Founding Fathers were pretty set on separation of church and state...obviously.  So what exactly are you trying to restore America TO?

If this was all about the fact that Obama pulled troops out of Iraq just days later, save your breath.  That was long overdue.  And for the record, Ricky and I just registered as Independents in Florida.  No, seriously.

2. Ricky is cheating on me with law school

Ok, ok, I expected him to be studying all day, every day--I really did.  The only problem is that I have about 1/2 a friend here in Florida, if you count Zelda the cat.  I would seek refuge in befriending my grad school classmates, but they all live a good distance away and most of them are older with grown-up jobs and backyards.  All the couples at church have 2+ children and are subsequently never, ever available to do things like jump off a bridge or play Catch Phrase. (We did find one young, married, childless--YMC, for short--couple at church last week who seems hip and cool.  Friendship pending.)  You'd think that being home by yourself all day with no responsibilities would be awesome, and it is...for like, a week.  Then you lose all motivation to do anything and sit around in pajamas all day.  I'm the kind of person who needs structured days to function, because once I start feeling productive (like at school or a job) it's easy to steamroll through all my other tasks and feel super awesome about myself.  If I have nothing to do all day but load the dishwasher, I'm going to waste a lot of time playing Super Smash Bros. on the Wii.  And I do.  Does anyone else feel like that?

3. The cat is still alive

Go me!  I can't grow plants or keep fish alive for longer than a month, but it's been two weeks and I have been a model cat parent.  I even bought her a hugely giant scratching post online because the one we bought her from the pet store was so pathetically short that she had to lie down to use it.  She likes to climb up said giant scratching post and cling to the side, reminding me of King Kong and Ricky of Spiderman.  She doesn't bother with her cat bed (I should've known better than to even buy one) and instead likes to sleep in the bathtub, under the bathroom sink (she opens the cabinets with her head), and in our boxspring.  Yes, IN the boxspring.  Apparently there's a little flap of fabric that opens into it, and once she discovered it she would disappear for hours before we discovered where she was hiding.  Zelda is the weirdest and most awesome cat I've ever met.

4. Rich people in Florida give a lot of practically new things away

If I thought living near W&L was awesome for thrift store shopping, it was because I never dreamed of the extravagance of southern Florida.  Yesterday, I bought Kenneth Cole NY heels for $5.  A few weeks before that, it was a pair of Marinelli heels for $7.  Before that, the 2nd season DVD set of Seinfeld for only a couple dollars.  See what happens when I have nothing to do all day?  I bargain shop.  It's not as expensive as regular shopping, but just as addicting. 


We pulled up the carpet, found nothing, sprayed mold killer on every crevice, and steam cleaned the heck out of the corner area of carpet.  After (very) periodic checks, we're still mushroom-free!  Yay!  (Elizabeth, I will grudgingly admit that you were right and I was over-reacting, but I don't care because there was fungus in my house and it was super gross.  So there!)               

6. Grad school is not the same as SVU

And by that, I mean it is not as awesome.  One of my professors is great, but the other one never asks the right questions for discussion and I'm still not sure what I'm supposed to be learning.  Plus, most of my classmates say things like, "I don't think this is right, but..." and "I don't really know, but..." before they answer a question.  It drives me crazy!  You can tell they weren't fostered in a discussion kind of environment, so hopefully they'll grow into it.  In the meantime, I munch forcefully on Cheez-its and try not to lecture anyone on giving assertive answers.  You're all judging me right now for being a huge jerky snob, but I'm not going to pretend like you don't expect a certain degree of classroom elitism from me already, so here it is.  I don't even share my Cheez-its with them or anything.

7. I'm super uncomfortable around extended family that I hardly know

I know this because Ricky and I spent last Friday and Saturday at my grandparent's house in Miami for Labor Day weekend, and there were a lot of people there (whom I did not recognize in the slightest) who kept saying things like "You look the same as you did 12 years ago!" and "You're 21?  You look 17.  You're married?!" and "You have the same hair as your Aunt Rachel."  I know that everyone has these relatives, so if you've come up with an appropriately polite response for these remarks, please--I beg of you--share them.  As it stands, I throw out something like "thank you" with a slight rise in inflection at the end to indicate that I'm straddling the offended fence and flash a smile just genuine enough to appease but not full-blown enough to signify pleasure.

I probably should've warned you that this post would have no pictures and probably nothing to interest you, period, but disclaimers take all the fun out of everything.  Plus, aren't you impressed by my list-making?  It's not a Venn diagram, but maybe next time if you're lucky.

Friday, August 20, 2010


Everyone will be happy to know that we have successfully been living in Florida for three weeks.

Everyone will NOT be happy to know that THIS IS GROWING IN MY LIVING ROOM:


Excuse me while I hurl my guts.

Yesterday, Ricky spotted a lizard crouched under the edge of the lovesac.  Excited (we like lizards), we moved the lovesac out of the corner to capture said lizard, thereby revealing these lovely moldy creatures growing out of my carpet. We told the property manager, who seemed really unperturbed by the whole thing, and someone's supposed to be coming today to look at it.  In the meantime, every time I take a breath my brain convinces me that I'm sucking in super-deadly poisonous spores and my lungs will collapse at any moment.

It turns out that our washing machine connection was leaking in the lanai next door...which probably means that we're going to have to pay for the repairs.  The lanai is outdoors, which means the water would've evaporated if it wasn't so dang humid!  I'm hoping it's not as bad as it looks (because we're really quite poor), but we all know that mushrooms are a sign of a well-developed mold system, which means replacing carpet, floorboards, etc.  Feel free to send prayers our way.

If you need me, I'll be sitting here wearing a surgical mask.

EDIT: We never did find the lizard.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

on playing catch-up

You know that feeling after you haven't blogged (or journaled) for a long time?  That feeling where you look at your most recent entry and realized all the stuff you've done since then?  Being completely overwhelmed at the thought of writing all those painful play-by-play descriptions of life events that will, inevitably, take hours to accomplish?  Procrastinating the inevitable blogging for that very reason?


Luckily, technology has provided a useful tool for blogging procrastination: the digital camera.  With this handy device, you can take pictures of everything you do, storing these photos neatly on your hard drive and telling yourself that this makes up for not writing about said life events....because look at all the pictures you have!!!

I looked at a picture on my computer the other day, and I had no idea what it was of or why I took it.  The only indication I had of its identity or value was the iPhoto album it was in, and that wasn't much help.  Cool, huh? 

As far as record-keeping goes, Katie's writing > Katie's picture-taking.

I realized this morning that I have been fastidiously updating my other blog and leaving this one woefully neglected.  So, utilizing my pictures (ha), here is a recap of the last month:

We went to Philadelphia!

The weekend before we left for Florida, we drove Ricky's car up to my parents' house to leave with them until my dad can drive it down to FL on Labor Day weekend. While we were up there, we decided to visit Philadelphia!  (SUCH a good choice.)

Ricky had a cheesesteak!  (I had a gyro.  I'm unconventional.)

We met up with Angela! :D (In line for the Liberty Bell...)

We saw the Liberty Bell!

Ben Franklin's grave!

The churchyard was closed, but when has that ever stopped someone from taking pictures through the gate?

We waited in a super long line to see Independence Hall!

We saw Independence Hall!

And the inside! 
These are the stairs from the musical 1776, which happens to be the BEST MUSICAL EVER.  A security guard was eying me suspiciously as I snuck away from the tour group to take this. 

George Washington's original chair! (Excuse the blurry--there was some crowd jostling.)

We saw Valley Forge!

We saw a free "Shakespeare on the Green" play (Much Ado About Nothing) at the Washington Memorial Chapel at Valley Forge!  (And it was awesome!)

And this, at the Washington Memorial Chapel used bookstore.  HAHA!

We took pictures with these right before we left BV for FL:
Really, we were driving the moving truck out of town when we stopped to take these.  How could we not?  And yes, I am wearing the same shirt from Philadelphia, but all my clothes were packed!

We moved to Florida!  
And man, is it beautiful or what?  You forget what the sunset looks like when you've had mountains in the way for three years.  Cameras never do them justice.


Again, I know pictures don't do my life justice, but that's a whole lot to catch up on.  I'll try to do better from now on. :)  In the meantime, Ricky's first day of law school orientation was yesterday (yes, I did take a picture of it) and my first day of grad school orientation is TODAY!  Hopefully it'll mostly be students my age, because so far all the people Ricky and I have met are a lot older than we are;  surprisingly enough, all the law students that we go to church with are in their, they all have at least one child, so 24-year-old Ricky feels pretty young, and 21-year-old me feels practically like an infant.

While we're on the subject of Floridians, Ricky and I are also trying to find someone who understands our sense of humor.  Just one person would be great, really.  All the married-with-children couples here kind of smile politely when we, the Jensens, start some sort of verbal banter that the dear Bagleys or Ondriceks (or any of our VA friends, really) would pick up on.  It's like playing Wii tennis when the other person can never reach the ball in time to hit it back. 

In the meantime, I'm in the process of refinishing our dresser and finishing the apartment decorating.  And by "finishing," I mean "putting up stuff we already have," which isn't a whole lot.  Further decorating will come when I find a job, hopefully at a Books-A-Million or Barnes and Noble or Borders or something equally up my ally, and have a little extra money.  Between law school books, grad school books, and buying off doctors to give me prescription medication (a.k.a., spending $130 to sit in the room for five minutes, tell them what's wrong with me, and have them sign a piece of paper), we're not too eager to spend any more money.  Unless it's on dark chocolate ice cream, because I could REALLY go for some of that right now.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

on church history

There are a few shocking realizations that begin to sink in during the final weeks before a big move.

"Ricky!" I wailed two weeks ago. "I have to leave the antique mall behind!"

"Ricky!" Last week. "What about autumn?  What about the mountains?"

"Ricky!" This week. "We're going to be so far away from everything!"

And by "everything" I meant "all the cool sites in Virginia and the northeast," of course.  Including the LDS historic sites in upper New York, which Ricky and I have both wanted to see for ages, but it's not exactly like Idaho and South Carolina are right next door.  So before we shoved ourselves all the way in the bottom corner of the United States, we decided to take a road trip!

Luckily, before I married Ricky, I considered the length of time I could spend in a car with him before going crazy.  Even luckier, that time extends well past nine hours, which is the length of time it takes to drive from Buena Vista to Palmyra. (In case anyone is concerned, no amount of time with Ricky would ever drive me crazy.  Duh!)  So on Wednesday, we loaded up the car (mine--Ricky's doesn't have cruise control, and that wasn't about to happen), started up The Three Musketeers on the iPod, and drove to the very edge of the country to a bed and breakfast on the shores of Lake Ontario.  


It looks like the edge of the world, doesn't it?  They don't call them the Great Lakes for nothing.

We got to the area just in time for the Hill Cumorah Pageant, and I was practically jumping up and down with excitement, so we grabbed some seats and spent some wonderful time talking to the actors roaming the audience.  

It was a long wait.

 (You don't have to tell me that he's the cutest thing you've ever seen.  I already know.)

Once the pageant started, it was awesome!  It was exactly what I was expecting, which is good, because I was expecting a lot.  The pageant covers a condensed version of the story of the Book of Mormon, and it attracts hundreds of people each day of the performance.  We met people from Ohio, Utah, Idaho, was great times.

The funny thing about large gatherings of Mormons, however, is that they often attract people who are upset about large gatherings of Mormons.  I don't get it.  These people didn't just disagree with my beliefs--they were yelling hateful things over a megaphone at families walking by with no provocation at all.  It wasn't an attack on the religion, but on the people.

I am blessed with the knowledge of my Savior, Jesus Christ.  I believe He is the Son of God.  I grew up singing a song in church that's become one of my favorites: 

Love one another as Jesus loves you,
Try to show kindness in all that you do,
Be gentle and loving in deed and in thought,
For these are the things Jesus taught.

The man with the megaphone didn't think I knew these things.

"Jesus died for you!" He screamed it like it was a curse. "He died for you, and you don't care!  You're nothing, Mormon!  Nothing!"

What that man failed to realize is no one is nothing to our Savior.

While Ricky and I waited for the crowd to clear before we left, we could hear the man's megaphoned voice become louder and more enraged over time behind us.  It was an interesting contrast to the pageant set in front of us, where somewhere offstage a track of "My Shepherd Will Supply My Need" was playing just loudly enough for us to hear it under the screaming. 

Where does someone learn so much hatred?  Learn to lash out at strangers he's never met and doesn't know, not out of welfare for their souls but only to ridicule them?  I don't know, and I'm glad I don't.

I didn't mean to spend so much time on unpleasantries, but it was a thought-provoking incidicent--overall, the pageant was wonderful.  I don't regret a second of it. 

Since it was late by that point, we drove back to our adorable bed and breakfast, admired the antique sheep decorations (I was thrilled) and slept until a home-cooked New England breakfast the next morning...complete with a welcome from the resident cat!  We drove back down to Palmyra to visit the Sacred Grove, the Smith Family Farm, and the Palmyra temple:

 It's a beautiful place.

 The farm!
(The doors of the temple have a depiction of the Sacred Grove in stained glass.)

After our fill of Palmyra sites, we looked at the clock--2:30.  It was a nine-hour drive back to VA. 

"Well," I said to Ricky. "It's a two-hour drive to Niagara Falls from here, and who knows when we'll ever be this close again."

You can guess what we chose to do.

I'll be honest--I was expecting Niagara Falls to be an over-hyped tourist trap.  And it was, indeed, very touristy, but TOTALLY WORTH IT.  Seriously, people, I could not take my eyes off this spectacle.

Canada (as seen behind our heads two pictures ago) has the better view, of course, but since we didn't have our passports we weren't complaining.  I wish I had taken a video of it, because the picture really doesn't do it justice, but whoa.  So cool.

Deciding we had probably get back to VA in time for work the next morning, we 5:30 in the evening.  Oops!  The GPS didn't know how to handle all the back roads in PA, so we were left with atlas navigating.  A couple wrong turns and gas station slurpees later, we were home at 3:00 a.m.  20 hours of traveling in two days.  Again, I repeat: so worth it.

I'm sorry this is the longest blog post ever, but it had to be done.  At least there are pictures this time, right?  Right?

Friday, July 16, 2010

on being torn to shreds

Ode to Long Pants

Long pants, long pants
Keep me safe from crawling ants
And attaching vicious plants
Oh, long pants.

Long pants, long pants
Wish I'd given you a chance
Even just a passing glance
Oh, long pants.

Long pants, long pants
If I had to take a stance
On climbing trees and rocks at slants
Wear long pants.

Beautiful, huh?
On the fourth of July, Ricky and I went on a hike with our awesome friends, Kathryn and Steve, up Little House Mountain.  (This mountain, for the record, is not that little.)

The trail is basically straight up the mountain.

I wasn't joking with my ode, either--a good portion of the trail is indistinguishable except for marks on the trees, so we spent a lot of time wading through sharp bushes and climbing over sharp rocks.  I lamented the lack of leg covering...two weeks later, I still have marks on my shins that haven't healed.  I'd like to think I'm not a complete weenie, but I was seriously glad to reach the overview.  We set up camp on the rock outcropping, roasted hot dogs and marshmallows, and watched no less than 10 fireworks shows from our cozy spot on the mountain!  All in all, it was a pretty epic way to spend the fourth of July.

 (All picture credits go to the lovely Kathryn, due to my neglect to charge batteries for my camera.)

The next morning's descent had all of our ankles shaking, but it was definitely preferable to climbing!  Also, I escaped tick-free, which is always great news.  On the way down, we passed a teenage couple who had taken up residence scarcely five feet from the trail...and hadn't bothered to put on clothes that morning.  Or, at least, that was my assumption, seeing as their arms and shoulders were bare and they had a tarp clutched up to their necks as we approached.  Yeah, it was a little awkward.  It got even more awkward when we temporarily lost the trail and had to double back from the other direction, pausing briefly to say hello and comment on the nice weather.  

For the record, Steve and Ricky decided to prove themselves true mountain men and forge their own trail.  While Kathryn and I were exchanging pleasantries with the now-clothed couple, those two were attempting to rejoin the trail without backtracking.  After a short game of "Marco Polo" and some ax-swinging by Ricky, we were reunited.  Oh, the wilderness.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

on goal-setting

my 99 in 999 list

Updates to follow!

Feel free to make your own.  It takes forever to come up with 99 things, but even making the list is rewarding!

Friday, June 25, 2010

on birth

Remember last week when I said I was going to write something on superheroes?  Yeah, that was a lie.  This week, however, I have caught up with Sunday Scribblings.  "The topic is birth?" I thought disappointedly when I saw the prompt. "Is there anyone who isn't trying to convince me to have a baby?"

(Although I do feel justified in buying the occasional, exceptionally adorable baby clothing item now that I'm married, there is no bun in the oven, no pea in the pod, and no other clever food-related euphemism cooking in my kitchen.)

Babies are an interesting bunch.  I don't have one, and I don't remember being one, and I don't know one that can speak very intelligently, so all my experience is speculation--but how weird it must be to be a baby!  Whenever movies portray the thoughts of a wee one, the narrative is always in full sentences and coherent statements, as if the baby has the thoughts of an adult but no way to convey them.  It's pretty obvious that this isn't true, but as hard as I try, I can't imagine living in that state of not knowing--not knowing how to speak, not knowing how to formulate a thought, not knowing how to keep food in your mouth.  When we're born, I think it's safe to say that we have no knowledge, no recollection, because we have no earthly experiences to know or recall.  In its very basic and original meaning--the appearance of a brand-new being--"birth" entails a complete lack of intellectual past (at least in a mortal sense). 

As you all know, because I am the product of years immersed in the study of the English language, I like words.  I am a Scrabble-playing, thesaurus-using nerd, and it's interesting to me the way in which we use the word "birth."  When a style of thought comes back around, we use it (e.g., "the rebirth of classicism").  When someone is spiritually converted, we use it (e.g., "born-again Christian").  However, even if something is new or transformed or cleaned, it can't really be birthed again, because being new or transformed or cleaned is relative to a state in which it was before.  Therefore, its new existence is based on past thoughts and mortal experiences to draw from, which influences the new state and is arguably different from the product of a experience-less birth in nature. 

"Katie, this is all very dull," you're thinking. "Is there a point here?"

Probably not.  Or, if there is, I haven't had the jolt of inspiration that will lead me to it.  Isn't it interesting, though, how we as a society are so inspired by "re-births" or "new beginnings"?  You really can't be re-born, or start over, but you can certainly change--which is what the process entails, but not what people call it.  Perhaps the word "birth" seems more final than "progression," but it also seems more idealistic and more sudden, which is probably the appealing part.  Births and deaths seem to require a lot less effort than all the stuff in the middle.

Monday, June 14, 2010

on the discovery of blog inspiration

Before you have a minor heart attack over my third post in two weeks, please know that I am not on my deathbed, have not lost the use of my legs, and am not on house arrest (...yet).  In other words, I am blogging out of desire--not because I no longer have the capabilities for doing anything else.  (If I WAS in any of those situations, I would expect each and every one of you to send me a baked good.  Consider this a trial run.)

I discovered something.  A writing kind of something, even, which are generally my favorite type of somethings.  The majority of the blogging universe is accentuated with pictures of people, their vacations, their pets, their adorable new blobby babies, and various other life happenings--unfortunately for you and the rest of the people that happen to stumble over my budding tree of a blog amidst the forest of blogosphere, pictures are not my forte....or even my mezzo-forte.  I enjoy TAKING them as much as the next person, but my brain lacks the motivation to ask my body to upload them here.  When it does try to muster up the stamina to request such a process, my body disagrees.  It's a messy process.  I avoid it.

What I'm getting at here is a justification for my lack of pictures.  Who needs pictures when you have words, right?  Language!  What seperates us from the beasts!  They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but I'll take the kilo's worth of expository writing.  (Stop worrying, I won't really write that much.  Wimp.)

There are only so many things to write about, however, before everyone and their dog starts getting seriously bored.  It should be noted that dogs can't even read, but the I'm pretty sure the sheer volume of words overwhelms them into boredom.  With this in mind, I have made a discovery:  It's pure genius, and pure simplicity--they post a one-word promt every Saturday, and then you write a blog post that corresponds to the prompt the following week.  I will be doing this, mainly because I can't come up with a good reason to HAVE a blog if I'm not putting anything worthwhile in it, and what can be more worthwhile than weekly ramblings on an assigned topic?  I know--you can't think of anything either. 

In fact, since I'm sure a lot of you use your respective blogs as a primary journal, consider this an invitation for you to join me!  I've always felt that a journal should be more than a catalogue of life events and extend to capturing the "essence" of the journaler.  So bring it on, people!

This week's topic: superheros/heroines.  More to follow.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

on how much I hate hair care

So, let's talk about my hair.

95% of all first impressions people have of me have something to do with it.  I'll admit (and I may even boast) that my hair is pretty unusual, and I love it.  I'm grateful that I've grown out of the high school stage of wanting to shave it all off out of frustration, and that I have delusioned myself into thinking I actually know how to control it.  (I don't.  My hair is like a wild animal--after years and years of domestication, it trusts me and will sometimes do what I say, but you always have to remember that it is a very dangerous creature.)

There's a certain routine that comes with having hair this curly.  It's a routine so fascinating that I have had people stop what they're doing (band trips, sleepovers, new housemates, etc.) to watch and/or comment and/or ask questions about it.  It involves t-shirts, diffusers, various layers of hair products, and--most importantly--NO SHAMPOO.

Shampoo is the atomic bomb for curly hair.  Why?  Because 99% of popular shampoos have sulfates in them.  To provide a short, and very mangled, chemistry lesson: most hair products and conditioners contain silicones (dimethicone is the most popular, from what I've found), which coat hair strands and, for a short time, make hair look shinier/softer/etc. than before.  However, after time, coats of silicone--which usually aren't water soluable--can actually prevent moisture from getting to hair strands, making them more dry and unhealthy than before.  Sulfates, which are in most shampoos, are used to break down silicones and remove product buildup from hair.  This would be great news, except that sulfates also strip natural hair oils, which are absolutely vital for proper curly hair maintenance.  (Imagine how frizzy my poor 'do would be if my scalp wasn't working overtime to calm it down!)  The moral of the story is that I avoid shampoos--and silicone-based conditioner/product--like the plague.  Instead, I use water-soluable product and my hair is as buildup-less as can be....

...until two months ago, when I'm forced to switch conditioners because John Freida discontinues his curly line (sigh), so I simply change to another Freida conditioner and think nothing of it.  Well, my hair has been a garbled, frizzy mess as of late, and (to add injury to insult) my scalp has been an itchy, flaky mess.  (In my very hair-conscious world, this is the equivalent of someone ripping the cover off my 1911 copy of Peter and Wendy, or dropping my wedding ring down an elevator shaft, or something equally as terrible.  Call me dramatic, but anyone who has seen my hair in action will know how hard I work to keep it less-than-ferocious.)  Well, I traced my hair problems back to the time of "the switch," and I read the product ingredients to find that the second most common ingredient is a stinkin' sulfate!  In my conditioner!  I'm washing my hair three times a week with a chemical that's supposed to get rid of buildup that I don't have, and I'm wondering why my hair is being destroyed?  I would sue someone, but even the best lawyer couldn't make a case out of "I guess I just didn't think to read the label.  My bad."

In a not-so-dramatic ending to the story, I went to the store, read the ingredients on (literally) every brand of conditioner I could find, and only found one (made for African-American hair, no less) with no silicones OR sulfates.  That one, I bought, and my hair has since been restored to its healthy, bouncy self.  I know you were worried.

You're probably thinking to yourself at this point, "Did I really just read five paragraphs of Katie talking about her hair?"  Yes, you did.  Not only do I feel better after dumping that story on you, but I'm sure you have taken the message to heart and will now always make sure you know what you're putting on your head.  (Seriously, I thought I was suffering from a scalp condition.  Conditioner!  Who knew?)  You can thank me later.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

on the subject of Florida

I've discovered that the only way to motivate myself to blog is to read the most recent entry of every single blog I follow, even if they haven't been updated in a thousand years.  In fact, this is the IDEAL situation, because I begin to think, "Holy jeez, Robin/Elizabeth/Megan Bauer/Sara George-Kreider/various other bloggeritas, why haven't you updated your blog so that I can read about the life you are leading oh-so-far away from mine?" (Robin is the exception to this, because she is close, but I still like to see pictures of video games and bacon and the like, so there.)  Directly after these indignant thoughts stew for a moment, I then realize that my own poor, neglected blog has been lonely for like, six weeks.  Do you realize how long a wait that it in cyberspace?  They should have a Blog Protection Services agency to take blogs away from people like me--the people who promise that they're ready for the commitment and then shirk away from all updating responsibility.  (As a side note, they probably already DO have "the BPS," but it's probably part of the FBI and they hunt down people who use blogspot to plot terrorism, or something.)

In other, less conspiratoral news, Ricky and I made a road trip to Florida last weekend!  As usual, I did not take any pictures, mainly because all we did was look at a quantity of apartments that exceeds the number of X-files episodes ever seen by a certain SGK, and I didn't think anyone wanted to scroll through repetitive panels of off-white walls and beige carpet.  I figured this extensively long (15 hours) road trip would be a great time to start a new hobby, since reading in the car makes me motion-sick. (I still try every time just to see if I've outgrown it.  Next year?)  So, I bought some eggplant-colored yarn, a crochet needle, and set off to become the new starlet of crochet-dom.  To give you some backstory on my yarn-related experiences, I used to knit.  In the 4th grade, to be specific.  My school had a knitting club, but it was run by a teacher whom I loathed to my pre-pubescent core, so I refused to join...but still wanted to knit.  I expressed this to my better-than-the-knitting-club-lady teacher, who then sat me down and helped me knit a blanket.  "I'm a blanket-making prodigy!" thought my 9-year-old brain, who then promptly lost all interest and moved on to Pokemon cards.

So there I was, over a decade later, trying to dredge up some elementary school crafting expertise as I branched out into the exciting world of crocheting.  After a lumpy 4x4 square comprised of all the basic stitches in my "how-to" book and some enthusiastic praise from Ricky (you see why I married him), I went back to eating Cheez-Its and watching Strong Bad emails on my iPod.  My attention span hasn't matured much since age nine.  Maybe one day the post-married crafty gene that seems to be popping up in 90% of people (and blogs) I know will activate and suddenly I'll be whipping up wall hangings and baby shower gifts and maybe even care enough to save up for a sewing machine.  Or, I could just continue to kick everyone's collective rear end at Super Smash Brothers.  Whichever.

What was I blogging about?  Florida.  Right.  Fast forward 14 hours from the crochet episode, and Ricky and I--after passing Disney World (with exchanges of "WE ARE SO CLOSE TO DISNEY WORLD!") and Tampa ("WE ARE SO CLOSE TO THE YANKEES' SPRING TRAINING FIELD!")--are in beautiful, rich, manicured Naples, Florida.  Did I mention I got three nights at our hotel for $140 total (including taxes and booking fees)?  I did.  Bargain hunting should be an Olympic sport.

Seriously, though, Naples is gorgeous.  I mean, the town was (really) named after Naples, Italy, because the people who founded it thought it compared in beauty.  That sounds greats and everything when you're reading it, but being there is entirely different.  It's not often that I'm excited to move someplace--I really looooooathe (I hope your mental voice held out that "o") uprooting--but I'm excited to live in Naples.  We toured Ricky's law school (loved it!), visited the beach at night (a requirement), and even went to the movies (Prince of Persia for $3 each!  The movie wasn't that great, but hey--three bucks!).  There are so many ethnic restaurants in that city that I'm pretty sure we're going to be cardboard box-living broke within a month of moving, especially now that we've discovered this totally authentic, totally delicious Greek place.  There's also a Mexican place called "Mr. Tequila," which is obviously the English-speaking twin of "Don Tequila," and we took that as a good sign.  (We're going to call it "Mr. T's," in honor of good old "Donny.")  It was a struggle to leave, let me tell you.  In-between apartment shopping, we even toured Florida Gulf Coast University--the place where (fingers crossed) I'll be starting my English M.A. program in August!  I say "fingers crossed" because I haven't finished my application yet (I'm taking the GRE this month), but I've got a good feeling about it.  The original application deadline was in February--well before we knew we were moving to Naples--so I thought I was out of luck.  When I called the head of the program to beg for an exception, however, she told me that the deadline had been extended until August!  If I hadn't been trying to pass myself off as a mature, responsible, emotionally stable adult over the phone, I would've cheered.  Instead, I went with, "I'm quite pleased to hear that!" or something around that level of lameness.

Speaking of school: a lot of the apartments we looked at were "income-restricted," meaning you couldn't make over a certain amount if you lived there. (I'm sure you're not surprised when I tell you it's a government thing.)  Cool, fine, whatever--but you can't have both renters going to school full-time, either.  That was what killed the deal for Ricky and me, because he wants me to be able to go back to school if I want to...and, obviously, I do. (Enough to pay out-of-state tuition for a year until I get FL residency, even!  Sigh.)  Therefore, we picked someplace else.  Two bedroom, two bath, carpeted, and even a separate dining area, which is a serious step up from our current apartment.  It's practically a just-under-1000-square-feet palace. The best (or worst) thing about being graduate students is that they allocate living expenses in your student loans, which means that Ricky's student loan amounts are absolutely through the roof, but it gives us the money to pay off our entire lease up-front.  (When I saw the dollar signs, I had to keep telling myself that this is how 95% of everyone pays for law school.  Otherwise, I was going to pass out.)  This is an extra blessing given the fact that jobs in Naples are few and far-between, and I probably won't be able to find anything until we move down there.  Worst case scenario, I take Master's classes and don't worry about being a grown-up with a job ever again!  :D

I promise I'll put pictures up of our new apartment once we're there.  Or, better yet, you could just come visit!  We'll have no friends and a second bedroom, so why not import some already-established friends to Naples?  Eh?

On our way back from Florida, we stopped overnight in Charleston for a blitz visit with some of my long-time gal pals (and guy pals, even).  We attempted to visit Waffle House at 1:00 am once the Sabbath was over, but the federal holiday weekend struck and the place was packed with potheads and some seriously wasted 20-somethings.  Back in the car to IHOP (I definitely wrote that as "iHop" just now)--less crowded, but it took forever to get our food!  FOREVER.  We didn't get back to Alaina and Thomas's townhouse until 5:00 am.  Birds were chirping!  Ricky and I consider this a huge breakthrough for married couples, because we have yet to know anyone personally who has gotten married and stayed out this late.  The lack of sleep did have me making a fool of myself, of course, but what are high school friends for if not for accepting you as an idiot? :)  Special thanks to Lainy and Thomas, who let us crash at their house even though they were (literally) moving in when we got to Chas.  They are, quite possibly, the coolest people to ever exist. 

So there you have it, friends.  Another traveling adventure in the lives of the Jensens.  We also went to a Yankees/Orioles game in April, which I just remembered that I forgot to blog about, but trust me when I say it was good...and cold.  And the Yankees lost.  But Ricky bought me hot chocolate and a pretzel, and we had a great view, and Ricky was happy to be there, and baseball is much more exciting in person, so it was still good.

In later April, we went to Monticello, home of the oh-so-famous Tom Jefferson, whom I don't really like much as a person but have to respect as the author of the Declaration of Independence.  My verdict on the house: definitely cool, but I wouldn't pay the money ($23 each!!) to go again.  I'd just walk around the beautiful grounds.  Ricky and I have a list of historic VA sites to visit before we leave.  Williamsburg is next on the list!

We also booked a bed-and-breakfast in Palmyra to go see the Hill Cumorah pageant in July!  Neither of us have been before, so I bought the room as Ricky's graduation present.  We're stinkin' excited.

As a closing note (and perhaps the best part of this entire post), I got to play Scrabble with Professor Dransfield--and won.  We're having a rematch, of course, but seriously.  It was awesome.

Monday, April 12, 2010

on the future on the Jensen family

So after much prayer, fasting, anxious waiting, and an offer of thousands of dollars in scholarship money, Ricky and I have decided on Ave Maria School of Law!!!!

(feel free to cheer out loud during this parathentical interlude)

It's in Naples, Florida, which has the following: Gulf Coast, beautiful beaches, fancy boardwalks, MLB spring training, a 90-minute ferry ride from Key West, and year-round WARMTH!  (Did I mention it's 3-4 hours from Disney World?) Rough existence, I know.  We thought it couldn't get any better...and then we found out that Florida Gulf Coast University is a mere 45 minutes away, with online teaching licensure AND an English master's program!  I'll keep you posted on my educational endeavors--obviously, some doors are open, but I still don't know which one I'm going through.  The plan right now, though, is for me to start teaching certification classes in the fall. Huzzah!

There we have it.  The first big decision of our marriage is successfully made, and we've been very fortunate to recognize Heavenly Father's help through all of it!  We'll be staying in BV until August-ish time, then we'll pack up all of our not-very-many homethings and truck the 16 hours down to Naples.  In the meantime, we'll be making visits for apartment and job hunts...and maybe to chill with the g-parents down in Miami. 

The scariest part about moving to Florida is that I'll have to make friends as a MARRIED person.  All the friends I have now--even the other "couple friends" that Ricky and I have--are friends that I had way before I was ever married.  Hopefully the fact that I am hopelessly pale will indicate to well-bronzed Floridians that I am a brand-new gringa and am in need of friends...or maybe I'll have to resort to winning them over with my charm and curly hair (which, for the record, will be curly to the point of illegality in Florida humidity).  It's worth a shot, right?

In less exciting news, Ricky and I bought Catch Phrase, which everyone knows is the best and most convenient multiplayer game ever brought into existence.  (I see you nodding in agreement.) While we're on the subject, it's too bad I didn't know that Ricky didn't know who Norman Rockwell was before we got married, or it may have seriously affected my decision.  See what this game does to marriages?  On second thought, don't ever buy it.

In even LESS exciting news, we got an Egg Genie in the mail today as a belated wedding gift.  I'm not sure if we ever asked for said Genie, but I do appreciate a finely-cooked, non-fertilized poultry byproduct, so I'm pretty excited about it. 

Happy April!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

on how the scriptures are the COOLEST!

So we're STILL WAITING to hear from BYU, W&L, and the University of Richmond about law school.  It's been two months!  Sheesh.  On a positive note, Ave Maria (see previous post about acceptance there) tracked down one of their LDS students from Idaho to call Ricky and talk to him about the school!  How amazing is that?  I mean, it's a Catholic school, so Mormon kids from ID are probably pretty rare. :)  It definitely wouldn't be a bad choice--the school is on the Gulf Coast of FL, four hours (driving) from Key West, two hours from Miami, and they offered Ricky a half-tuition scholarship!  (Plus, you don't have to be teacher certified to get hired as a teacher in only have to be qualified to be certified, and then you can start certification after you start teaching.  I could definitely live with that!)  But, we'll see. 

Oh yes, and about the title of the post--Ricky and began reading the Book of Mormon together a year ago this month, and (except for a few weeks of the summer when I was doing efy) we've read a chapter (half a chapter for the long ones) every day since then.  Well, we're not quite done yet, but last night we hit 3 Nephi 11, which is one of the greatest chapters in all Book of Mormondom.  Reading about Christ and his arrival always reminds me of how grateful I am to know Him, His gospel, and how much He loves me.  For a Biblical reference, I gave a spiritual thought for FHE this week about the verse "Jesus wept."  It's one of the most well-known, being the shortest, but I realized recently that I had no idea off the top of my head what story that verse comes from. 

[This is the break where you think about if you know the story.]

It's the story of Lazarus!  Let's recap--Christ is informed that Lazarus is dying, but purposefully waits a few days before going to see him.  (Jewish tradition said that the spirit of the deceased lingered for three days after death, so Christ was making sure there could be no doubt of the miracle He was about to perform.)  When he arrives, Lazarus is dead, and Mary and others are obviously distraught.  Christ knows that Lazarus will be fine, and yet here is where we see "Jesus wept."  Instead of just fixing the problem and dismissing the incident, Christ "mourn[s] with those that mourn" and "comfort[s] those who stand in need of comfort," understanding the pain that they're experiencing just as He understands the pain that we feel in our lives.  This isn't only a great reminder that Christ understands every trial we face, but also a wonderful example of how to treat those who experience sorrow or difficulty.  Sure, we may be able to fix the problem or make the situation better, but do we really sympathize?  The moral of the story is that yes, the scriptures ARE the coolest.  Even the shortest. :)

And for lack of anything else to say, here is a list of current favorites:
-toaster oven bagel melts
-framed pictures
-feather pillows
-Super Mario Wii
-Series of Unfortunate Events book series
-the original "Annie"

Monday, March 8, 2010

on how march madness is best in buena vista

My favorite part of March is, like most people, March Madness.  For those of you who aren't familiar with SVU culture, March Madness has a lot less to do with basketball and a lot more to do with popping the question.  For instance, it is now March 9th, at which point there have already been four proposals (and acceptances!) since the beginning of the month...unless I'm missing someone.  In any case, there are at least four, and I am very excited.  I don't know whether it's the coming spring, or the week-long break, or the realization that the window for a summer marriage is slowly closing, but March is without question the most popular month for engagement here in this tiny town. 

I love engagements.  I love them, primarily, because they lead to marriage, which is incredible.  I also love them because they make people the happiest I've ever seen them!  I'm especially excited for my very favorite Katzenbauers (yes, I will be calling you that), who are in the Big Apple living up the first few days of engagement.

The "next step" in the relationships of my friends makes me even more grateful that I said yes to such a fantastic guy.  (Ok, so it was less of a "yes" and more of an "of course" that--according to Ricky--took about a hundred years for me to say.)  Seriously.  Heck, a complete stranger would've said yes to a boy that adorable kneeling on a beach at sunrise with a shiny ring in his hand!  (For those of you that have seen my ring, that cathedral setting was something Ricky picked out all on his own, a fact that has always impressed me.  I had never even seen the setting before, but I fell in love with it as soon as I did!  It's funny--and not surprising--that Ricky knew what I wanted before I did.) 

I don't mean "fantastic" as in, "he's really smart," or "he's really ambitious," or "he drives a BMW," even though Ricky may or may not be all of those things anyway.  I say "fantastic" because Ricky plays Snakes and Ladders with me and doesn't just let me win, and because he buys me books instead of flowers, and because he watches my old Sailor Moon VHS tapes with me purely because he wants to see what I loved so much as a kid.  There are a thousand other pieces to the puzzle, of course, but when I see the whole picture it's hard to just describe one piece.  The point is, no one should ever settle for less than their best friend...and not the mature kind, either.  The face-making, soap suds-flinging, board game-playing, make-you-laugh-till-it-hurts kind of best friend.  One of my efy girls asked me once how I knew I was in love, and the first thought that jumped out of my mouth was this: "If I only had the option of spending eternity with Ricky under the restriction that we were never allowed to make physical contact, I would still do it, and I would still be happy." 

Anyway, I'm sorry for oozing marriedness all over my blog--I'll keep it to a minimum in the future--but most of you know Ricky and how much he praise he deserves for the guy he is, and for the guy he wants to be.  Even if he didn't propose in March. ;)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

on the progression of the Jensen living room

We bought a couch!

Ok, it's really a loveseat, but we don't have room (nor do we need) a full-fledged couch, so this one is perfect.  Maybe someday I'll have the energy to take a picture of it and put it here, but for the meantime, you'll just have to take my word for it.  It's a dark blue velvety fabric (I'd say halfway between crushed and non-crushed, to be specific), and the cushions are incredible squishy, and overall it's quite pleasant.  We were going to buy a red and black futon, which overall would've made our living room a lot more coordinated, but the metal arms were a big turn-off for Ricky:

"I'm a leaner," he explained. "Can you lean on those metal arms?  No.  Well, you could, but it would be really uncomfortable." 

In other words, he wants leaning AND comfort, and luckily craigslist provided both these things in our $35 loveseat.  $35!  The thing doesn't have a scratch or stain on it, and it's as plump as a bag of marshmallows, and the only reason the owners were getting rid of it was because they rearranged the room and didn't have room for it anymore.  And somehow, our living room finally feels like a room for living with this cozy little couch here.  After this astounding purchase, I did a gleeful inventory of our slow-growing living room collection, and was delighted to find out that all of our furniture put together--a couch, an entertainment center, a television, two bookcases, a small shelf for our board games, a mounted coat rack, and combination DVD/VHS player--totals about $90!  This is, of course, excluding our 7-foot lovesac, and our various Nintendo systems, but I figure those don't count because they were pre-marital.  The point is, since we've been married, we've only spent $90 on our living room, and the only thing we're still looking for is a desk.  Those who know how much I love not spending a lot of money on things--which should be all of you, because I make this a well-known fact--will know how pleased I am with this state of affairs.  I'll do a little tweaking when we move, because I want the coat rack and one bookshelf painted black to match the entertainment center, but overall it's definitely shaping up.  If anyone has a desk they'd like to get rid of...

Oh yeah, and speaking of moving, Ricky's been accepted to three law schools!  Ave Maria (Naples, FL--on the Gulf Coast!), Appalachian State (Grundy, VA--pretty much like BV), and the University of Detroit (Michigan, obviously).  He has scholarships at the first two, and we're still waiting to hear from U of D, but the chances are good.  We're still waiting on a good handful of letters from other schools, but they should start rolling in shortly!  We'll see where fate (and by "fate," I mean "Divine Guidance and/or Intervention") takes us.  Ricky and I still can't believe we're going to be moving and going to graduate school (the plan is for me to start in the spring, depending on my employment status) and being real-life post-graduate newly-marrieds.  I don't know if I'm ready for three hypenated descriptive terms at once!

In other news, Ricky and I watched "The Brave Little Toaster" on our new VHS player.  It was glorious.

Friday, February 26, 2010

on how snow is the nemesis of humanity

When last we left our heroes, they were having a pleasant drive up to the lands of Northern Virginia for their Idaho open house....

THE EPIC HONEYMOON STORY.  (And following weeks.) - Part 2

So we reach my parents' house at 1:55 in the afternoon, perfect timing to grab a sandwich, grab my mom, and be on the road for the airport at 2:10.  Our flight leaves from Baltimore at 6:00, and it takes 90 minutes to get there, so we figure we've got PLENTY of time...until my mom tells us that we're supposed to be picking up my dad from work in D.C.  "Through the city?!" I think.  Ricky and I share meaningful looks.  He looks concerned.  For those of you who aren't aware, a very strong person could probably dig to China in the amount of time it takes to get anywhere in D.C. Friday afternoon traffic.  Regardless, I remind myself, we have plenty of time to get to the airport...

...until the accident on I-95.

An accident, we find out later, that was caused when an elderly man in a truck rear-ended a VDOT (Virginia Department of Transportation) truck that was on the shoulder of the road, presumably clearing snow (they have to truck it out of the city because there isn't anywhere to put it).  The man wasn't wearing his seatbelt, flew through the windshield, and died.  The accident happened in the early afternoon, and we hit traffic around 2:30, and we were stuck in traffic for maybe...45 minutes?  An hour?  They closed two lanes of the three lane highway to get everything cleaned up, so it was a process.  My dad is freaking out via cell phone because we're stuck there, so finally he decides to just meet us at the airport.  Instead of going the way we normally go to Baltimore (specifically, AROUND D.C.), he directs us on 395 and suddenly we're passing the Pentagon.  We're pretty much in the heat of the afternoon traffic at this point, and one (unknowingly) missed turnoff later, we're taking the long way to the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.  By "long way," I mean, "the way of 500,000 stoplights." So, dad hits the B-W Parkway before we do, but he overshoots the airport exit and hits heinous traffic in the backtracking process.  By the time we finally get onto the Parkway, we've passed the majority of traffic, but there's no way we're going to get to the airport on time.  When we FINALLY arrive, it's 5:30--technically, we could've let mom take the car back home (even though she and dad are supposed to be flying out with us) and Ricky and I could've taken our carry-ons and ran.  However, anyone who's ever been to BWI knows perfectly well that even though we could've gotten in line for check-in slightly past 5:30, there is no physical way we could've gotten through the line, through security and to the gate in 30 minutes on a Friday evening.  It makes no difference regardless, because we didn't even think of this until we were in the long-time parking lot waiting for the shuttle to the terminal.  When we arrive at said terminal, it is 6:15 and the flight is probably flying off into the distance.  At this point, mom realizes that she's left her carry-on bag at the shuttle stop!  So, she grabs the nearest shuttle driver she can find, much radio-ing occurs, and she anxiously waits outside for its retrieval.

Meanwhile, Ricky and I figure we can just catch the next flight out to Boise, right?  No.  Because of massive (for the South) snowstorms in Dallas, Atlanta, Houston, and every major southern airport, all flights are being redirected and EVERY SINGLE FLIGHT to Boise, "Why Am I Suddenly a Major Tourist Attraction" Idaho is completely booked until the next night...too late for us to make it to the reception.  Ok, we think, let's try Salt Lake City.  Wrong again.  Same reason.

Ricky and I are horrified.  Let's get some backstory:
-Sam Faubion and her fiance have driven approximately 12 hours from Washington to stay with Ricky's parents that night in preparation for our reception the next day.  When we find out there are no flights, they are an hour away from Burley.
-My aunt rescheduled my 8-year-old cousin's baptism for the following weekend so they could come to the reception.
-Ricky's second oldest sister, in post-medical school residency, actually managed to get two days off from the ER to fly up from New Mexico to ID with her four kids. 
-Someone in Burley has made us a wedding cake.  The cultural hall is lavishly decorated.  There are hundreds of people who have invitations to that reception.

See why this is a national emergency?  I, honestly, could care less about a party thrown in my honor, but what gets me is the fact that so many people will be disappointed after all the effort they made to be there.  Ricky and I spend the next few hours trying to call someone, anyone who can find us a flight.  We try Delta first and most often, but this is what we get: "We're sorry, due to extreme weather in the southeast and high call volume, we are unable to take your call."  I got Delta's answering machine!  No "wait for the next available representative," nothing.  How does a major airline just stop taking calls?!  And my poor parents are stuck with non-refundable tickets, by the way, but they're just focused on getting the newlyweds there.  After checking flights from Dulles, Reagan, and all airports within a reasonable distance and still finding nothing, we see that there's a 7:00 a.m. flight to SLC leaving from Dulles the next morning.  The problem is, we're not sure if the flight is full, so we may have to fly standby.  The other problem is, our tickets are from BWI, so we have to contact Delta and get them changed to Dulles.  Well, we all know how that's working out, so I wonder if we can just ask the BWI Delta representatives to change them--only to find out that they've all closed up shop and gone home because the last Delta flight--ours--has left.

Despairing, we decide to go home to my parents', get up at 4:30, leave at 5:00 for Dulles, get there at 6:00, and get our flight changed to SLC.  Everything goes well, until we get to the airport and I find out that our Delta tickets, since they were bought through Expedia, are actually United Airlines tickets (don't ask me how that works--I'm still trying to figure it out).  So, after waiting in the Delta line for 10 minutes, I now go wait in the even longer United line (Ricky is parking the car) for another 15.  Ricky catches up to me right before I reach the counter, and when we explain what we're trying to do, they send us to ANOTHER counter to rebook.  There's no line at this one, but by now it's 6:30 and the woman at our final counter says there's no way we'll make the 7:00 flight.  She is, of course, correct, but that doesn't stop me from bursting into tears.  I'm clutching my wedding dress, rolling a carry-on behind me, and trying to get my mononucleized body to run on four hours of sleep.  In other words, I am a hot mess.  The other counter attendant, seeing me crying, comes over to help.  Ricky explains that we're trying to go to our wedding reception.  As in, the celebration of our marriage.  This, combined with my weepy demeanor, is probably how we managed to score standby tickets to Denver, hoping to catch another standby flight to Boise by 4:00 that afternoon.  If we can make that flight, we're golden!

Our progression through the airport is accompanied by weird stares--I am, after all, carrying an enormous white garment bag that just screams, "I AM A WEDDING DRESS!"  After flinging it into practically every person that passes ("Excuse me, sorry, my fault"), we make it to the gate and find that someone (thank you, counter attendant who was obviously swayed by my tears) has bumped us up to numbers 1 and 2 on a standby list of over a dozen.  Miraculously, we get on the flight!  We're happy.  The flight goes well, I'm not feeling too sick, and nothing eventful happens on the way to Denver.  When we get to Denver, there is no snow.  None at all.  We left Dulles COVERED in snow, and the midwest has none?  As unfair as I think this is, the past few weeks have left me hardened to cruel jokes of the universe.  (Please know that I burst out laughing as I typed that sentence.)  So anyway, the flight we're supposed to be catching to Boise doesn't leave for like, six hours, so we entertain ourselves by eating airport food, yada yada, until we make our way to the gate.  We're numbers 1 and 2 on the standby list...this time for like, 20!  I wasn't kidding when I said Boise was the happenin' place to be this weekend.  I've got my fingers crossed as the plane fills up, but again--miraculously--there's one spot open!  I practically have to shove Ricky forward to go (because duh, it's his family and his friends and his hometown), and he finally does, and just as he's about to grab his ticket, the last passenger--a woman in a wheelchair--shows up.  We sit back down.  Ricky, in the only act of frustration I have EVER seen from him--flings the tickets onto the floor...and promptly picks them up.  (What can I say?  He's stable.)  In a last-ditch attempt to get out west before our scheduled flight at 9:00 (the time our reception ends), we check the standby list for the next flight to SLC--it has seven people on it, and we would be at the end. (I'm still around when that flight boards--no standby passengers get seats.)  We're not making it to the reception.

We notify as many people as we can, and wait for the later flight.  We figure the least we can do is get out there and see Ricky's sisters, especially since Maria flew up with her kids.  When we board the 9:00, we're starting to feel better--we'll get to see family, it'll be good, etc.--when Ricky's dad calls to tell him that one of his mission companions showed up unexpectedly to the reception.  Ricky's face just about shattered my heart into a thousand pieces.  The disappointment was painful to witness.  The flight to Boise was unpleasant, to say the least, and the flight attendants kept congratulating us on our marriage and it really didn't make us feel better about the whole situation.  Around 11:00 p.m.--two hours after the end of the reception--we make it into Boise, where Ricky's sister Ana picks us up and takes us back to her house a few minutes away.  There, we meet Ana's three adorable children--Eva, Carson and Bridget--Maria, and her children--Taylor, Miah, Caden, and baby Ryker--and Fluffy, the cat.  It's hard to stay in a bad mood with nieces and nephews climbing all over you!  Not only do Maria and Ana have us laughing in a matter of minutes, but within the hour I have 4-year-old Bridget sitting on the back of the couch to play with my hair.  ("It stays!" she says in astonishment when she flips my hair over my eyes.  She tries to mimic it with her stick-straight hair, but it just falls perfectly back into place.  She looks disappointed.)  Caden (5 or 6), comments that my ring is really sharp, and I tell him Ricky bought it for me so I could defend myself against predators.  Caden's eyes get really big. :)  Baby Ryker tries to eat my cell phone (he has this thing with gadgets--he also tried to eat Ricky's laptop), I talk to Carson about orchestra, and in the meantime, Ricky is switching our flight home the next morning so we can leave at 3:00 in the afternoon instead of 7:00 a.m.  Good call, because it's past midnight and I'm so tired I could even fall asleep with Bridget on my head.

Eventually we get to bed, then we say goodbye to Maria and company in the morning as they head back to the airport.  After a few more hours with Ana and crew, Ricky and I are back at the airport.  I'm disgusted by the whole business at this point, but as long as I don't have to spend any more time in Denver I think I'll make it.  And, coincidentally, I do.  We have a small layover in SLC ("Hey look, a temple!" "Where?" "There!  And there's another one!") and then make it back to Dulles at 11:30 without a hitch, grab the car, drive the hour back to my parents house, sleep for 6 hours, and leave at 7:00 to get to BV by 9:30 so I can shower and make it to work by 11:00.

Craziest.  Weekend.  Ever.  We still cringe when we think about all the people we didn't get to see, but getting to see Ricky's family made up for a lot of the heartache and headache. 

So why the title of the post?  Well, if you'll remember, the crash on 95 was because of a truck clearing snow.  If it hadn't been for the snow, the truck wouldn't have been there for the man to crash into, we would've made our flight, and it would've been peachy.  Let's say that the man hit something else instead and we still didn't make it to BWI in time.  Well, if it hadn't been for the snow in all the southern airports, we would've been able to get a flight to Boise and it STILL would've been peachy.

Thus, snow is the nemesis of humanity.  In all reality, though, that's way too much coincidence to be coincidence, especially since we did everything right and still we couldn't make it out there in time.  We figured--and still figure--that Heavenly Father had different plans for us that day.  Why?  I have no idea.  But that's where faith comes in, right?