Monday, July 31, 2006

A New Month...Almost

As August peeks her little head around the corner, I am both excited and nervous about the Fall-to-Come. In the course of the next 5 months (5 MONTHS!) I will somehow complete my thesis, defend my research, complete 2 classes (finals and all), and GRADUATE. But on a positive note, my sister will be here this weekend (to stay for 2.5 weeks), I finally get to socialize again (in class), the weather will soon be getting cooler, and I will GRADUATE!

My "baby" sister, R (she's 14 now), just finished her first week of Band Camp. That's right my sisters have followed in my footsteps. I was in my highschool's Color Guard for 3 years, and absolutely LOVED it! Really, it was the only activity I was (wholly) involved in, and through it I made the Best Of Friends, Experienced Life, and met my True Love. My other sister (now 20) was also in guard (in New Mexico), but she only took it for a year. (wimp!) Now R is trying her hand at twirling, marching, and performing. And, I am SO PROUD of her!

Workout Update: Thanks for your words of encouragement. Friday I ran 2 laps around the block and swam 10 laps in the pool. Saturday I was NOT feeling well, so I rested. Sunday I did 150 crunches/leglifts/various ab reps. And, YES, it is feeling pretty good to get my body moving again! Unfortunately, I still haven't convinced R to join me, but Guapo doesn't seem to mind (the one-on-one time with "mom")!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Be My Conscience

I've started yet another workout routine.
An old friend of mine is getting married at the end of September, and I'd love to look good (or decent at least) when I see all the "old folks" I knew back in high school. So, AJ and I had a motivational conversation about working out and losing weight. But, she's not here to make me stick to a routine, so I'm asking for your help! Ask me about it! Bug me about it! Please! I need your help.
Wednesday (day 1): started late, so only did 100 crunches/leg lifts
Thursday: 2 laps around the block (about 1/2 mile) and 10 laps across the pool (about 100 yards).
And you know when people say "oh, have you LOST weight?" and you can't tell if they're serious or just being nice? I've decided that after 2 weeks I will begin to measure & weigh myself weekly. I already took initial "stock" of what I have, so hopefully after two weeks I'll at least be able to notice something!
I think that exercise is my biggest obstacle to losing weight. I eat a good breakfast (special K, or other "fiber-ful" cereal and some kind of fruit, bananas this week), small lunch (sandwich, or soup, or crackers with cheese and pickles), and normal size dinner (I've finally taught myself to stop after eating "one serving size"). I also snack occassionally on crackers, fruit, or another bowl of cereal. I make healthy choices when we eat out (salad or chicken), I ALWAYS have water with my meals (this was probably the HARDEST part of trying to be more health-ful), and I hardly ever eat junk food (cookies, brownies, ice cream, etc). So, now we're down to EXERCISE!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Life Choices

Not to be so introspective, but I have a question/discussion for you, my readers:
What key moments in your life made you realize that you were/were not on the right path? Okay, let me put myself out there a little. As you may know, I am 25 years old and still in college. I never left, I never took a "break," and I don't have children. I am just what you might call a career student. However, I don't want to be anymore. I will be completing my Master's in December, and am on the edge of the rest of my life. I am extremely nervous and anxious to be out of school. Nervous because sometimes I really doubt my abilities in the real world, and anxious because I am so ready to be out of Starkville, out of Mississippi, and just someplace else.
After 2.5 years of college (started right out of high school), R decided to put school on the back burner to help support me through the remainder of my Bachelor's and into my Master's. I whole-heartedly hope that he realizes how greatful I am, and will always be, for that. Because of his sacrifice, we have 2 reliable vehicles, a home (that we OWN), several happy pets, and memories of a few amazing vacations. We also have a discontented husband who feels like, at 25, he is unaccomplished and going nowhere. THE PLAN, as we call it, is for me to finish school, get a job, move, then it will be his turn to finish school. Most likely he will not return to a regular 4-year program, or Biochemistry for that matter, but it is his dream (and mine) for him to earn his degree. I have all the faith in the world that (once he decides what he wants to do) he will excel.
As for the question I asked, here's how I feel. I grew up knowing that I would go to college. Now, I did talk to a few recruiters and joined ROTC for a year, but I just knew that the military was NOT for me. And, I never had a job until the summer after I graduated from high school. The focus for me was school, and I was not allowed to work. So, entering the workforce was not really an option. I knew school, I had been in school since I was 5, so college was what I was going to do. And, I loved it (love it still). I did well in my classes, I made new friends and reinforced old friendships, and I grew as a person. But, into my junior year I started to get nervous about graduating. I mean, really, who, with a bachelor's degree is really ready to start their career? I wasn't.
So, it took me another 2 years to finish (total 5.5 years). Fortunately, I wound up at this lab job, loved it, and was invited to get my Master's there. That was my answer, I wouldn't have to leave school just yet. Here we are, 2 years later, and only 6 months away from graduation. I have learned, accomplished, and grown so much in the past 2 years. I realized that I DO NOT want to be a college student forever (no more homework, no more books, no more teachers' dirty looks). We will be celebrating our 2nd anniversary this fall, and I realize that I DO want to have a nice home and children (one day).
At this point in my life, I am also starting to feel the added weight of R's sacrifice. I will be the one supporting our family. Until he finishes whatever program he chooses. And, I will not pressure him to hurry up! He deserves it! I owe it to him! Not just because we're married and I have to, but because I love him, he's been such an amazing provider and supporter! I want him to feel the same pride and accomplishment that I do--about starting something and seeing it through!
I guess what I'm curious about are the choices that you (or your significant other) have made as a long term investment in yourself/your family. Do you have children? How did you know when you were ready to have them? Are you a working/stay-at-home parent? What sacrifices did you/they have to make? Do you feel regret/guilt over it? I know it's very personal, but I just needed the therapy of putting my feelings out there, and curiosity (the voyeur in me) has me asking YOU.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

If I Ran the Circus

This weekend R and I went to the "Greatest Show On Earth!" That's right, the circus was in town. We had coupons for discounted tickets, and with nothing better to do on a Saturday night, we enjoyed 2 hours of circus mayhem!
I guess since we're such a small town, and the Humphrey Coliseum isn't THAT big, it was only a "one-ring" circus. But, it was so funny to see this place (the same place we watch basketball games, and the stage that I graduate on) decked out for the CIRCUS!
Here are the tightrope walkers/riders. Both of the guys kept almost falling off, so it was really scary that they were responsible for holding that poor girl up! Oh, and they didn't have security harnesses/ropes, either.

The tumblers were okay. But, they had harnesses.

These contortionist guys were pretty cool. R said he got a charley horse just watching them! Can you imagine, how do people realize that they CAN do these kinds of things? "Hey, Ma! Look what I can do!"

The elephants and horses were probably my favorite. Probably just because it isn't everyday you see majestic white horses doing tricks in formation, or get within 20 feet of a REAl elephant.

This couple was my other favorite act. They were about 30 feet up and upside down. They did a little skit and even juggled! How can you even concentrate when all the blood is rushing to your head? And, it looked almost like magic because they'd pick up their feet like they were really walking!
Overall, the whole thing was fun (worth the admission). I have been to the circus before, but for some reason it used to seem so much BIGGER! (Probably because I was a kid?!) And, R said that the last time (he thinks) he went to a circus, he was too young to remember it.
Of course I had to buy him the $10 bag of cotton candy (with souveneir hat).

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Hi Mom & Dad!

Tuesday, after our Free Movie (We decided on Click--I thought it was really cute), I got a phone call from my mom. Apparently dad had spent nearly 3 hours reading my blog and invited her to continue reading with him (another 2 hours). So, yeah, I told them about it back when I started, but I never really expected them to read it (I mean, they still have dial up)! But, dad was so interested in my description of rafting that he just kept on reading. Mom even left comments here, here, and here. (Oh, boy, that took a while--trying to figure out which posts went with which comments!) I'm happy that they're reading because mom half-joking said that her and dad were learning more about me (personality and interests) by reading my blog than they get out of my 1-2 week visits! So, after 25 years, my parents really get so see what I'm like! But, on the other hand, I'm a little nervous that they'll be disappointed or upset with some of the things I talk about.
I guess I just have to look at how my in-laws (mom, gramma, aunts) have responded to everthing (very supportive and kind) and accept that my Mission In Blogging is not to make everyone happy or tell fairy stories, but to express myself, keep in touch with long-distance family, and hopefully make a few friends along the way. So, Mom and Dad, welcome to my blog. Kick your feet up and make yourselves comfortable. I'll fix a glass of tea for y'all. And, please, hold nothing back if you feel the need to comment! But, if you comment on an old post, please put the date (of the post) in your comment so I have SOME IDEA of what you're talking about! :)

On a side note, WHO IN THE HECK gets sick in the middle of the summer? Yesterday morning I was feeling a little congested and had a sore throat. I made it through 5 hours of work, before deciding to take my thesis & articles HOME. Last night was miserable! Even the NyQuil isn't helping! I'm achy, my head/sinuses HURT, my throat feels raw, my nose won't stop running, and I have no appetite (which is VERY not normal for me)! Oh, and of course it has to start right around NOW. My boss/advisor just got back from her summer vacation, and we have to meet about my thesis-in-progress and lack of lab results. I also have to meet with one of my committee members about field stuff (for my thesis). AND, I have to meet with a satistician (I just had to look that up at soon to go over my raw data. So, of course, Perfect Timing.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Dog Days of Summer

ACK! It's gotta be like, a gazillion degrees out today!! I break a sweat just walking the 20 feet from my office to my truck! At 9:00 this morning (when I left for work) it was already 88 degrees and 35% humidity! Then, when I went home for my General Hospital/lunch it was 104 degrees and 68% humidity!! This according to my handy-dandy outdoor thermometer (which is located on the porch: in the shade and cross-breezes)! And, the extreme temps are expected for the rest of the week!
We had a nice time on the coast. It's so nice to visit family (gramma, aunts, uncle --in laws) for any occassion that doesn't involve a funeral home! The cookout went well, and I enjoyed hearing the family tales of grampa and haunted houses/furniture. We also had a little time with our nephew (OMG, I can't belive this kid is already 9 months), who is currently in the scared of strangers phase. And, yes, R and I are strangers! :)
AJ, her boyfriend CL, R, and I went to TGIFriday's for appetizers and drinks (tried my first mojito: wasn't incredibly impressed), then went to see "You, Me, and Dupree." It was cute. But, I nearly fell asleep in the theater (that's what a 4.5 hour drive will do to you)! Aren't we just the little party animals!
Tonight is our Free Movie (curtesy of my Favorite radio station 99.9 The Fox) and I'm hoping to finally get to see "Click" (or maybe "Lake House" if I can convice R). Unfortunately, there isn't anything else we're interested in (already saw "Pirates of the Caribbean," "Superman," and "Cars"). My opinions: Pirates: The graphics were awesome, but honestly, I thought it was boring. I didn't want to admit that, but I heard a few other people who agreed, so at least I wasn't the only one who thought so. Superman: We bought superman 1 & 2 a few weeks ago, so I was all caught up on the story. I was really impressed with the graphics and movie as a whole, but my Suspension of Disbelief only goes so far. Cars: I love the Pixar movies, and this one didn't let me down. Don't know if it's a keeper (like Toy Story & Nemo), but I was happy with my cost of admission.
Well, I'm out of here.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Tunnel, Falls, Home

On our way out from the cabin, R and I decided to stop by the Stumphouse Tunnel and Issaquena Falls. These had been on our group agenda, but we just didn't have the time. Apparently, Stumphouse Tunnel was started as part of the transcontinental railroad system, but was interrupted by the Civil War. Funding was never recovered to complete the tunnel, and so now it's just a creepy old abandoned tunnel. We probably went about 200 yards in, then decided to turn around when our flashlight batteries started dimming!
I don't know if there are any ghost stories to go along with this place, but I'm sure it wouldn't be hard to scare yourself! The tunnel was very dark (obviously), wet, and echo-y. About 50 yards in, we passed through a big iron gate. Another 100 yards, there's a shaft in the roof (we could see how far underground we really were). 50 more yards and we passed through a steel door inlaid in a solid brick wall. That was where we stopped. At that point, our flashlights couldn't shed any light on the path ahead, and WHO KNOWS what could've been up there!
Just up the road was Issaquena Falls. Not a bad view from the top. Here I am looking oh, so pretty.
Vacations and weekends away are GREAT, but nothing beats the feeling of coming home! "Mississippi Welcomes You!" And, I give her a great big hug!
I forgot to mention a little pit stop we made in Atlanta. Fry's Electronics. That's all I can say. This store is bigger than any Walmart or Target I've ever been in, and has every type of electronic THING you could EVER ask for. R has been wanting to get some parts for his computer, and once he found out what "Fry's" was, we knew we HAD to stop. So, I'm sure he enjoyed mountain hiking, rafting, and spending time with friends. But, I believe Fry's was his favorite part of the WHOLE WEEKEND!
That being said, not 15 minutes after we walked in our front door, R had cleaned out the truck, unpacked his suitcase, put his clothes away, unpacked the cooler, and started a load of laundry. All so that he could play with his new toy (without my complaining)! Good Boy!
While most people would be very nervous looking at their computer in this shape, R gets goosebumps (in a good way)! Tired or not, he stayed up until midnight putting it together. (Only to find out that he STILL can't start it up until he gets the new video card--ordered online!)

Friday, July 14, 2006

The River Wild

We were given a quick lesson in paddle moves (forwards, back, body shifts, draws, etc) and began our journey down the river. AJ and I rode in front with R and JE behind us. That's Drew, our trusty leader in the back. A few hundred feet down river, we approached the first Major Rapid (Seven Foot Falls). And, yes, that was a SEVEN FOOT DROP off a rock in a rubber blow-up boat! Um, yeah, WHAT were we thinking?
So, the first drop didn't go as well as we had expected. See bodies flopping everywhere? Yep, that's us!
And, yes, that's AJ still in the boat! WHAT?! Falling in the water was pretty scary, but being shoved around by the current and pounded into the rocks--that felt dangerous! AJ followed all our "training" and reached her paddle to me and quickly pulled me back in! We both grabbed R, then JE and got them in, too! Great Teamwork Guys!
The next Big One was Raven Chute. We mixed things up by switching sides of the raft. Maybe not such a smart move?
That's right. Again, I was the first under the water! There go JE and R right behind me. And, AJ, losing her balance.
There's no way that girl can hang on to the bucking raft! It's going to flip!
But somehow, she stays in! See our heads bobbing around in the water? Okay, Hello! Pull us in, please!
Obviously, AJ is doing something right. Maybe it's the velcro on her butt? Or perhaps it's her "magical" pink shoes. Either way, I'm with HER! (Notice my death grip on her life vest? If I'm going in, she's coming with!) Amazingly, we all stayed in!
Next time around, we ALL grabbed AJ (Notice my grip on the front and JE's grip on her shoulder.)
Harnessing the power of the Pink Shoes, we didn't even fall out on This One!
Out of the 7 rafts in our convoy, we were the only group to fall out twice! Even JH, MH, & FB only fell out once! Of course, our Guide seemed to be a bit of a Risk-Taker and had us squeezing through some passages that none of the other rafts went through. And, we were the first raft through most of the rapids/falls.
Overall, I would Highly Recommend this rafting trip to anyone who a)is a strong swimmer and b)is Very Very Comfortable in the Water!
Throughout our trek down the river, we stopped several times for other stuff (see previous post about PotHole and Long Creek waterfall). There were also 2 jumping rocks. These were rock ledges 10-20 feet above the water where you could jump (not dive) into deep pools. We also stopped for a picnic-style lunch on a small stretch of beach.
Along the way, our Guide mentioned points of interest. This was the river filmed in the movie Deliverance (1972, Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight, Ned Beatty, et al), so he pointed out "Deliverance Rock" and the site of the "love scene" (among others). So, we watched this movie last night, and "Eww!" Boy, am I glad we decided NOT to rent it the night before we went out! It wasn't really scary, though, just disturbing, and I probably would've been so much more nervous about breaking an arm or leg! Too bad our "Bluegrass Jam" didn't include the Dueling Banjos!!
What an amazing experience! I can't imagine why I've never gone rafting before now!? Maybe it has something to do with my mom being nervous around the water? Well, this is definitely something I will do AGAIN!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Day I Placed My Life in the Hands of a River

Whitewater rafting. Sounds like fun, right? Sure, if you enjoy getting pummeled by surging water, shoved under racing waterfalls, and pounded into granite boulders. Bright and early Sunday morning (no big breakfast this time) we arrived at the NOC drop off for our 6-hour rafting trip. That was the day we attempted to tame the Chattooga River. Instead, we were beaten to a pulp, and served up for lunch.
After a quick introduction and instructional video (complete with rudimentary CGI of how to "ball" and keep "nose & toes above water" when thrown out of the raft on a rapid/drop) we were suited up in vests and helmets, bussed off to the Drop Site, and sent along our merry ways. With 7 in our group, we were split 4/3. R, AJ, JE, and I in one boat and JH, MH, and FB in the other. There were also 5 more rafts and 4 or 5 kayaks with our group. And, each raft had a Guide. Our guy was Drew.
This site along the river is called PotHole. It is a natural formation in the rock where you climb down (see AJ down there with one of the Guides) and duck under the water into a short tunnel (YES, in the rock) and you pop out of the other side under this little waterfall.
Assuming that your life vest doesn't get stuck in the tunnel, your head quickly pops up out of the water, but WAIT, don't gasp yet, because you immediately go under the fall and you're pushed underwater again! A Guide grabs your hand and pulls you to the rock to climb out, but it's covered in moss/algae and absolutely impossible to climb!
Somewhere along the river, we stopped at this (Long Creek) waterfall. BEWARE the slippery rocks! Seriously, why can I never fall on my butt (where there's plenty of padding)? Instead, I go straight to the knees and elbows.
Arms are okay, but I have this huge swollen knot on my left knee that has some really weird sensations (one side of my kneecap is numb and the other side twitches).

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Hillbilly Hoedown

After the waterfalls and hike, we made it back to the cabin, took refreshing showers and decided to attend the Cuzzins General Store's "bluegrass jam."
There, the locals gather just before sundown for an all-out hoedown! Of course, nobody told us to bring our own chairs, so we had to sit on the asphalt. But, the fun of live music was worth it.
Players in attendance included: 1 steel guitar, 2 bass, 5 guitars, 4 mandolins, 4 banjos, and 2 fiddles! They even played a few songs that I recognized! And, as per AJ's request, they played "Man of Constant Sorrow" (you know, the one by the soggy bottom boys on O Brother, Where Art Thou?). What a thrill!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Day I Climbed a Mountain

Friday afternoon: Discovered that it's only a 4.5 hour drive to Atlanta. Met the rest of our crew at Turner Field to pick up AJ (she didn't want to go to the game). Somehow survived the mean streets of down, downtown, and found our way to the northeast entrance. There she was, the little hooker on the street corner! :) Escaped the city and nearly ran off 2 roads trying to find the remote cabin. Had a discussion about the 1972 film Deliverance (which nobody had seen except for R), dueling banjos, and hilbillies. Adequately freaked AJ out!
Saturday: Had a filling breakfast of pancakes, eggs, and watermelon. Headed towards waterfalls in North Carolina. Revisited breakfast via Hwy 28 (WARNING: Do not take this route if you are prone to carsickness!).
Saw Bridal Veil Falls and Dry Falls (Fig1).
Followed the signs for "Scenic and Wildlife Overlook" and climbed this path (Fig2) up a little mountain (Fig3) to catch great views (Figs4&5).

Finally, made it to Whitewater Falls (Fig6). The waterfall was pretty, but we didn't go to the bottom (swimming hole). Turned around, and had to climb 154 steps back up (Fig7).
There will be more later, I have TONS of pics!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Life Is Good

For all the complaining that I do (and that I claim to be "Way Too Busy") I really do have a Good Life. My brain is a little fried to make much grammatical sense, so a list will have to do.
  1. I have a comfortable and reliable vehicle. After driving the Toyota yesterday (first time in probably 2 months) I realized how great it is to have a truck with comfy seats, solid brakes, and air conditioning. (Dear God, Thank You so much for giving us air conditioning! Amen.)
  2. I have a (*quality*) college education. I have struggled, stumbled, and somehow managed to get within one semester of achieving my Master's Degree. Excuse me a moment while I say: Yay ME! This is a great personal achievement and I know I am truly blessed to have the capacity (mentally and economically) to do this.
  3. I have fantastic family and friends. From my (mostly) fantastic husband, to my parents and siblings, to my in-laws, to my most-bestest-friend AJ, I have a support system to rival all others. And, I am grateful every day for each one of them.
  4. I feel compassion, empathy, and hope. I get "down in the dumps" sometimes, but I always get back up again. I try hard to see the glass as half full. I wholeheartedly accept that there is a glorious light at the end of the tunnel.
  5. And, I have faith that if I do right (by myself, my loved ones, and others) I will be rewarded (in every sense of the word). (Dear God, Thank You so much for making me me, for providing everything I need, and for giving me the faith to accept You.)

Really, these aren't in order (of importance, or otherwise), I just needed to put things into words the way that they came to me. I realize that I'm as thankful for the little things as I am for the big things, and that seems important. No lesson here, Just Me, needing to express.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

June 28

Was my 1-year Blog-iversary! Really, it's hard to believe that I've been sharing my life with the internet for a year. Somehow, I managed to miss that day, guess I must have been busy (or something). Let's see, how did I start blogging? Duh, I heard about my aunt-in-law's blog, started reading, and just loved the idea of sharing my life. Who does that? Are we bloggers unique people who don't have many "real" friends, so we find it necessary to talk about stuff to "virtual" friends? Are we so eager for acceptance and exposure that we assume that everyone will be thrilled to read about My Life? My first several posts mainly covered the whole "how I came to blogging," "who am i," etcetera. I posted a few pics of R & I from our wedding day. And over the past year I've blogged on many random topics, a few of which I can even remember. There was the 10-part "Head West" series. There were a few about ex-boyfriends. Several covered my job, school, and co-workers. Where did the rest of those 162 posts go? And, was it really only 162? That's only a 44% blog-rate! Some of you blog not just every day, but several times each day! How do you do it? I guess I just feel like you'd be entirely too bored if I tried to write something Wouldn't you? Well, I don't know, but I know I can do better than 44%. And QUALITY will be my key word. In fact, I already have 3 "draft" posts waiting for a day they feel appropriate.
Finally, I want to thank y'all for reading. I know who you are, My Readers. Wow. Doesn't that just feel weird: My Readers. And believe me, I check your blogs nearly every day. And, when something really strikes me, I go home and tell R about it! Y'all are like my neighbors, you know, we never talk more than "hello, some weather, huh?" But, I know which car is in your driveway, who your kid's best friend is, and how many times your dog crapped in the other neighbor's yard. I'm so thankful that y'all find me interesting enough to come back (again and again). And, when I say something that strikes you, you feel welcome to comment. So, with great big *HUGS* I say: "THANK YOU!"