Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Wheels on the Bus, the Gears in my Head

Updates from my bus ride:

Who buys flowers from the guys that sell them on street corners? I've never once seen someone roll down their window and buy a rose, but people must once in a while or else why do the flower sellers continue to keep trying?

I've been on a doctor appointment kick lately. I'm not sure what possessed me; something about the combination of a new year and the fact that I actually have spare money to spend on co pays right now. That, and all the health insurance hoopla made me realize I should probably use mine since I do have it. So first I went to the eye doctor to get a new prescription for my contact lenses and it turns out my eyesight has somehow improved since the last time I went a couple of years ago. I didn't know that was possible, but it has improved enough that I don't think it's just a fluke from changing doctors and measurement equipment. So that was weird. Then I went to the dentist for a teeth cleaning and found out I need at least a filling and more likely a root canal. I find it bizarre that it's possible to have a tooth decayed to the point it needs a root canal and not to be feeling any pain at all whatsoever, but the dentist showed me my x ray so I believe him. And I've learned my lesson: even if your mouth feels just dandy, it's probably not wise to put off going to the dentist for five years. I knew it had been a couple of years, but then I thought back and realized that the last time I had any dental work done was the summer after I graduated from college, and although I can't quite figure out how I frittered away five years of life so damn fast, that was in 2005. So, yeah. Going to get a root canal on Tuesday and then planning to get back in the habit of visiting the dentist at least annually. Since I was already on a roll with all the medical appointments I also scheduled my annual gyno appointment. It was my first time going to this practice and I liked the doctor I saw a lot, although they had the most intense medical history form I've ever seen. I had to log in and fill it out online a few days before my appointment and it took half an hour to fill out. At one point there was a page that said something like "Please check if you have experienced any of the following" and it began like this:
And because it was written that way I did a double-take and thought "Is this form asking me whether I was adopted or an accident?!" Then I read further down the form and realized it was asking me if I was adopted or had ever been in a serious accident, which makes a lot more sense. I mean, I realize that something like 50% of pregnancies are unplanned, but there's no reason all those unplanned people should know that about themselves and have to admit it on medical forms.

Penn and I are both on a mission to get into the best shape possible before wedding time next year. I know his sister is on the same mission. Something about knowing that there are going to be so many pictures taken that day really does inspire a certain fanaticism about wanting to be in shape. That, and it recently dawned on me that if attempting to get pregnant is in the relatively near future then this really is the last chance to see what my current body can be before I go and change it. I think I can manage to have a good body post-pregnancy, too, but I know it's going to be different. Anyway, Penn is doing really well and its inspiring me. I've been very good about entering my calories consumed in the Sparkpeople tracker and I'm still not denying myself any food (when I want sweets I eat sweets) but I'm trying to make healthier choices and workout a little harder on days after I've gone over my recommended calorie goal. Skiing most weeks lately has helped, too, since I burn literally 1,000 calories every time we ski. I also finally bought a scale, something I'd never owned before. I never had one before because I worried I'd get obsessive about it, but I've been very good about only weighing in once a week. I began my mission just after Christmas, and as of Monday I'd lost five pounds. That's about a pound a week, which is just right. I honestly don't know if I can lose more than that and maintain it. It would be nice to lose five more pounds and be at my "dream" weight (a weight I think I was last at before I discovered beer), but I don't know if that's actually a sustainable weight for my frame and I don't want to have to work too hard. That, and I'm never really sure what's fat and what's muscle, so I don't want to get too crazy about the scale number because what if the only reason I'm losing weight right now is because I'm losing muscle mass from not having been on my bike in a couple of months? Anyway, the only reason I wrote this paragraph in the first place was to complain about the fact that I'm pretty sure all five of the pounds I lost came out of my already A cup breasts. Why is the only fat anyone likes always the first to melt away?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Double the Fun

Nicole and I went to that bridal expo today. In the end, we opted mostly to make fun of it, although I did get some useful vendor info and we thoroughly enjoyed the part that involved sampling wedding cakes and we got to discuss every dress's pros and cons during the fashion show (Next time you see me, ask me to walk like a fashion show bride. It's RIDICULOUS.)
I'm so glad I have friends to wedding plan with. The timing of my engagement was serendipitous, actually. My friend Jen got engaged in July (you may remember I was at the proposal!) and is getting married in August. Then Nicole got engaged in October and is planning a wedding for this upcoming October. And then Penn and I got engaged in November and are planning a wedding for January. It's really fun having them both as my "engagement buddies." Jen lives on the opposite coast (boo!) but she is several months ahead of me in the whole planning process so whenever she calls me I grill her about how her planning is going so I can figure out what is coming up soon for me. And having Nic right here is great because we can share tips on where to get good discounts on vendors in town and on the web and I can drag her to things like the bridal expo.
Nic and I have even started thinking about doing some of our pre-wedding events together. We have a bunch of mutual friends who will be invited to both weddings so we're thinking of doing a joint bachelorette party for all of our friends here, for instance. I think it's awesome having a good friend who is engaged at the same time I am and cool that we're doing some of our planning together, but it seems to be confusing other people. At the expo today we kept walking up to booths and inevitably the vendor would say, "Who is the bride-to-be?!" and one of us would say, "We both are," and the vendor skeptically would say, "Really? Both of you?" I think they thought one of us was probably lying. I guess most brides don't like hanging out with other brides? I mean, is it that rare for two people in the same social circle to be engaged at the same time? Maybe it is, but in our case it just worked out that way. And we have just the right degree of friendship, too. If we weren't very close then we wouldn't be doing any planning together in the first place, and if we were extra-super-close I think maybe I would have hinted to Penn not to propose so close after she got engaged (for instance, had my sister gotten engaged before I did I think I would have felt obligated to wait a while before getting engaged myself so as not to steal her thunder). But as it is, it worked out perfectly. We get to share the fun and frustrations of the Bride-to-Be title but I don't feel like she's in any way stealing my spotlight (and I am pretty positive she doesn't feel like I'm stealing hers).
I suppose I can see people thinking it's strange that we're considering doing a joint bachelorette party or maybe even a joint bridal shower (should someone in our department suggest throwing a casual one, which seems possible considering how often they like to have baby showers), but I don't mind sharing the limelight at events like that and its just easier with our overlapping guest lists. And there are still plenty of things that will be separate: the weddings themselves, for one, since their wedding is two and a half months before ours and halfway across the country and the styles we're trying to create are pretty different. And I'm hoping to do a different bachelorette get-together with my wedding party and my closest friends from out of town just before the wedding, anyway. I was thinking of going low-key for that (something more like lunch and spa treatments as opposed to shots and giant slices of street pizza) so it might be fun to do something a bit more rowdy with Nic and our local girlfriends (and friends near enough to drive into town for the night) well before either of our weddings.
So yeah, I don't think it's weird or detracting from my own "special bride" feeling to want to share some of the pre-wedding parties with Nicole. I think that takes some of the pressure off of both of us! Plus I think our friends will be grateful that they don't have to clutter their calendars with multiple events for both weddings. This just seems easier and more fun all around! And it's nice for our fiances to get together and groan about wedding stuff, too. We all get along great and I hope that they'll stay in the area and we'll remain good friends long after all this wedding party planning is behind us. I think it will be fun to look back years from now and remember 2010, when we were all planning our weddings.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Plan

I'm feeling sick today. Blah. It has been a very long time since I had a cold, and because I got sick this week--the first week in months when I haven't consistently been able to get 7-9 hours of sleep most nights--I have to admit that getting enough sleep clearly does affect my immune system. The upside of feeling sick right now is that I didn't really have plans for the weekend anyway. My engagement buddy Nicole and I are going to a bridal show on Sunday, but I should be feeling okay by then I think. (We haven't decided yet whether we're going there to mock it or whether we're going in the hopes that it will actually be useful. I think we'll just have to play it by ear and decide when we get there.) I have most of today to just chill out, though, and all day tomorrow to relax. Penn is going to be out of town all weekend helping one of his friends back home with a big home improvement project, so I'll be here by myself with my library books and a Netflixed copy of the latest Harry Potter movie (Penn and I took different flights to and from Europe and on one of those flights he got to see it without me, so I rearranged the Netflix queue so I could watch it this weekend. I love Netflix.).
I've given myself permission not to do any research or writing this weekend since I just came off of three straight weeks of work. I'm so very glad I took that class. It was grueling to be back in class after so many months of not taking one, especially since the class met every day Monday-Thursday, but I feel like I accomplished so much. First of all, I finally wrote the book review that you may recall was on my list of things to do last year. I've sent it off to one of my professors to review and then I'm going to submit it to the journal editor. As long as it's fit for publication--and, even as critical as I am of my own writing, I think it is--it will be published in the December issue! That's exciting. I've always wanted to have something published, and even though this is just a book review and not a book or even an article, it counts. I'm looking forward to the day I can type my name into the journal database on the library website and something pops up. My article itself is not completed, but I got a really good start on it and working on it gave me some good ideas for my dissertation so it was a useful exercise even if I never do end up working it into something to submit for publication (although I'd like to do that, too, eventually).
The class was good because it lit a fire under me and made me excited about my research again. I'd sort of lost my way on my project over the past couple of months. Now, however, I feel like I have some good ideas and an interesting direction in which to go. It's just a matter of making a plan and trying my hardest to stick to it. For the most part, I like the academic lifestyle. I like that I get paid to read and write. I genuinely get excited about research and, although when I'm writing I sometimes feel nothing but frustration, the "Now that is clever!" feeling I get when I occasionally write a really good sentence or paragraph is always worth it. There is one major problem with this job, though, and it's that I always, ALWAYS feel like I should be working. The guilt almost never goes away. While I love my extremely flexible schedule and will be sad to give it up if and when I have to, I'm also envious of people who go to work 9-5 and then just come home and get to relax (or maybe not relax, but run errands or whatever) knowing that their job for that day is finished. No matter what I am doing, no matter where I am, my job is not finished. I can finish individual projects, and that's always a great feeling and gives me a temporary sense of accomplishment. But as soon as I finish one thing there's something else I should be doing. Case in point: I finished my class and I finished my book review, but now I have fellowship and grant application deadlines looming and I told my advisor I'd get him a prospectus draft two weeks from today. As long as I am a student or a professor, this is what my life will be. There will always be articles to write and books to work on. Even if I end up at a job where a research agenda isn't emphasized, I imagine my life will pretty much always include lesson planning and grading. So, while I'm okay with dropping the work to spend time with Penn or friends or just to relax and read magazines for a while, it would be nice to get the nagging "But what about work?" feeling out of my head entirely.
So my plan this semester is to try to enforce an actual work week. I managed to do a lot during my comprehensive exams because I would close myself in my home office every day and work. Yes, I still spent some time fooling around on the internet, but mostly I worked well in there. Since I have the office, I'm going to use it. My plan is to get up when Penn gets up in the morning (around 7:30) and then work out and then spend the rest of the normal work day in my office. I realize I'm still going to have to be very flexible. I think I'm going to lose Monday afternoons to my baby-sitting job and I need to go to campus a couple of times a week to do my TA stuff, but I think if I can make a good effort to work while Penn is at work then I can relax in the evenings and on weekends knowing that I honestly have been working hard and doing the best I can. Even if I can work on the dissertation for a solid, uninterrupted three or four hours a day that's more than I'm doing right now. It's worth a shot. And if I want any chance of finishing this degree sometime in 2011 (my goal) then I need to try something to improve my self-discipline.
For now, I'm going to take more cold medicine and then take a nap, I think. All this work talk has worn me out.

Friday, January 15, 2010


I didn't mean for the first two weeks of the new year to go by without an entry, but things have gotten very busy around here. It feels like Penn and I are playing a game called Create Your Life.Except that it's not a game, it's real. We're making all of these decisions that we're going to have to live with (or, in some cases, hoping to live with) for the next, oh, I don't know, five years to FOREVER. Needless to say, those decisions take a lot of time and energy.
For instance, we've started to look for a wedding venue. You'd think this wouldn't be a big deal and, in the grand scheme of things, it's not. But at the same time, I only want to get married this one time so I don't want to mess it up. And I know logically that I can't mess it up. As long as we're married that's what matters, and who really cares what happens at the party. At the same time, though, it would be nice if I could spend the rest of my life looking back fondly on my wedding and not regretting that I did A, B, and C (or didn't do A, B, or C). I know there's no guarantee that it won't somehow turn into a disastrous debacle anyway, but I do feel like I can at least plan things to go a certain way that we'd like and then hope that everyone else goes along with the plan and gets along and has fun and all the other things I think we'd all like for our wedding day. Anyway, this all means that I have to really think about my ideal wedding, and since this is something I honestly never thought much about, it's kind of hard to suddenly decide if I'm a ballroom person or a historic inn person or whether I want classic or quirky or even daytime or evening (although I think we have at least decided daytime for that last one). Anyway, I'm certainly not complaining about having to make these decisions because although it takes up a lot of time it's also really fun. I'm also really lucky to have a dad who wants to throw a big, cool party so I have the freedom to make these decisions in the first place, which is great. I just never really realized exactly how many decisions there were going to be, and making them add up to a cohesive party with some sort of design is definitely a challenge! Just to reiterate, though, not complaining!! There's nothing more fun than reading wedding design blogs and legitimately being able to call it research.
As an offshoot to the wedding venue search we also decided it was time to go back to our church search. We both want a church wedding, and it would be even better if the church was already our home congregation, so we're trying to find a place where we can attend regularly until and after our wedding. Two weeks ago when we went out looking for a church we couldn't find one. I don't mean that in some metaphorical way, I mean that we had google mapped directions to two churches and then we ended up not being able to find either of them! So we gave up and drove around looking at houses for sale instead. But last weekend we had much better luck. We visited a church that we both liked. It had a good amount of people at the service, the pastor was friendly and has a sense of humor (that goes a long way with me), and they have an active Sunday school with a lot of kids (which doesn't matter at the moment, of course, but hopefully will in the future). It struck me as a fairly liberal, friendly place with enough technology as part of the service to show that they're willing to embrace the future without, like, using electric guitars or hiring a lighting designer (which is fine if that's your style but it's definitely not mine). It's a Methodist church, which has enough singing and pomp and circumstances ritual to make me happy but not so much that it makes Penn uncomfortable (I was raised Lutheran, where there is a lot of ritual-I always called it Catholic lite-and Penn isn't a fan of too much symbolism in his church services but I love it so we have to find a compromise). Anyway, I have been doing a lot of research on the Methodists and I feel comfortable enough with it to try it out. My main criteria is that we go with something mainline Protestant. I just can't handle evangelicalism (is that a word?). The whole "born again" thing just does not sit well with me, nor does the overzealousness and hypocrisy I've noticed in so much of the evangelical community. Not that I am bashing the evangelicals and fundamentalists. I have friends and future family members I like and respect very much who hold those ideals. I've just been very soured on the movement as a whole, though (Did I ever mention the time a Fundamentalist Baptist chased me down the street in college shouting "God is gonna get ya!" or the time I was told I was going to hell because I was wearing a Halloween costume?). On the whole I'm sure many evangelicals are quite sane and rational and many mainliners are Bible thumping nut jobs. But on the whole mainline Protestants strike me as more tolerant and accepting and rational, and that's what I need in a church. I want an open-minded, open-hearted community of people who like to talk about how we can use our faith in God to help the world, not how we should use it to make ourselves feel guilty or condemn others who don't share our beliefs. A major plus would be finding a group of people who can take lessons from the Bible without taking it literally, something else I think i'm more likely to find with the mainliners. So, yeah, that's what I'm hoping to find, and I hope when we go back to church again this week I'm not disappointed. By the way, a church member delivered a homemade loaf of banana bread to our house on Wednesday as a thank you for visiting the church on Sunday. What a great recruiting tool! If I hadn't already decided to go back next week I think we would have to anyway after that. I mean, you can't eat their bread and then never show up again! Sneaky Methodists.
Anyway, the other big thing I sort of alluded to above is house hunting. We're sort of hung up on the loan approval process right now for various stupid reasons I don't have the time or desire to go into here (why can't there just be a database with all of your credit and banking info filed electronically under your social security number?) but we're going to try to get approved for a loan next week and then see how things go from there. It's possible we won't find anything we like and I am sort of dreading being house poor for a while (having to spend all our extra income on home improvement) but mostly I am excited about this, too.
Oh, and did I mention. I have a thirty page article due next week and my prospectus due two weeks after that? So my apologies if I drop off the internet again for a while. I always have another random update to give eventually!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

So This is 2010

The new decade is off to a decent start. I broke one of my cardinal rules of life, though, which is not to start the new year with a hangover. I was just having so much fun at the party we attended that I kept letting friends hand me Jello shots and after a while I sort of forgot that Jello shots contain alcohol. So, yeah, in retrospect, half a dozen of those wasn't a fantastic idea. I'm not exactly a spry 22 year-old used to drinking four nights a week anymore. Having said that, I did have a really good time ringing in the new year so I can't really complain.
We're on our way home from the shore right now, where we drove out for a quick overnight trip to visit Penn's dad. That means we're officially done with all of this year's obligatory holiday visits (some of which feel a bit more obligatory than others, I have to admit...I get along with everyone in Penn's family so far but some of them wear on him a bit so I can't help but pick up on that...seems like that's the norm in most families, I've just been lucky that my own family visits have always been stress-free, I guess.) Anyway, now that the new year has started and my couple of months of traveling are over I'm actually excited to get back into a routine. I'm ready to start my winter class on Monday. I'm not looking forward to it, exactly, but I'm ready. I'm sick of feeling like I'm not working hard enough, and that's how I've been feeling lately. So now I can start working on an article or two and then I'm hoping the momentum will force me to finish my prospectus before spring. I'm also jumping hardcore into wedding planning. I have twenty venues on a spreadsheet and I am calling to set up tours and check availability starting on Monday.
I have a lot to work on, but I'm ready to get back to it. The late fall and Christmas season were a really nice hiatus from normal life, but i'm ready to get back to my normal routine.