Thursday, August 26, 2010

Books, Breezes, and Robot Love

9:47 - Wifey reading the chapter "The Seer Overheard." That means that this post will be in the light--at least until she decides that she is tired enough to sleep. Munchkin cut her third tooth today (her top left), but is still working on the right one. Good thing she is such a good kid that she just becomes disinterested in food instead of drooling and fussing a lot. Since she is paid for and so well behaved, I guess we will keep her.

I finished reading a book this week that I picked up on a whim in Costco. The book is called The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It is supposedly sweeping the nation. I heard that it was good from a co-worker, and then one of my sisters told me that she liked it too, so I thought that it couldn't be too bad.

It was well written, and reminded me a lot of my time that I spent in Finland. That was probably because it took place in Sweden. The pacing was great, and there was just the right amount of details in the book, but some of the details I could have done without. I might be a prude, but it was a bit racy for me, but if you are into that kind of thing, this book would be right up your alley. The mystery plot in the story was gruesome, yet great. There were a lot of characters who decided to sleep with each other (for sometimes no reason at all), but I guess that is how some people live. I'm glad I am not one of them. Wifey is glad too. Well, I didn't ask her, but I know what she'll say.

The weather is cooling down for a bit tonight. We have the windows open and we can hear the wind forcing itself through the leaves like the grating of fine sandpaper. The high for tomorrow is only supposed to be in the 70s, so I am hoping for some of the crispness of autumn tomorrow morning. On the drive home from the in-law's tonight, the wind was dragging the dust up from the ground to make it seem dark and hazy, even though it was only 8:30. I remembered (again) that I needed to change the headlight on my car. It is nice to see what is in front of you in the dark when you have to drive in the dark.

With the change in the weather, I am getting into some other changes as well. I heard about all the kids starting school, and it made me start to contemplate heading back for a Master's degree. At this point, I am toying with the idea of a masters in communication. I don't know when I will actually be able to go back, but for the time being, this seems like something that would be marketable, yet would let me keep writing.

Wifey just closed her book and rolled her head onto my chest. Maybe part of this post will be in the dark.

I am also looking to change jobs. I have thoroughly enjoyed working at a large company for the past year and a half, and have learned a lot from it. My contract is coming up, and I am starting to feel like it is time for a change. I got turned down at (which is probably a good thing, as I am not exactly the bodybuilding type), but have a resume out to a company that sells wickless candles. Call me crazy, but I am actually pretty excited about the opportunity.

The position would be for a copywriting position. I haven't had a lot of experience writing copy to promote products, but it is something more creative than what I am currently doing (technical writing), and I am craving some creativity in my life. In fact, today I needed a break, so I put on my headphones and took a walk. I almost melted into a puddle of goo, but I braved the heat and chilled to my tunes as I walked around the campus. I was listening to Coldplay's X&Y album, and I landed on a few of my favorites from the album: Fix You and The Hardest Part. I was needing a diversion, so I started creating a music video in my head to accompany the lyrics.

If I had the artistic prowess and technical savvy, I would create said videos, but until the day that you can upload something directly from my brain onto a computer, I think the videos will remain memories. I'll tell you a bit about the Fix You one though.

I was picturing an Igor robot who was narrating the story. He helps a Dr. Frankenstein robot who builds a girl robot. To stay with the theme, we will call her Mary (after Mary Shelley, of course). After Mary gets built and works, Dr Frankenstein robot doesn't think she is good enough. Igor robot gets a bit caught up in the whole scenario and starts to like Mary robot. I don't know how robot emotions work, but Igor robot has them in a good way. Dr. Frankenstein robot ends up trying to make Mary robot better and better, but he can't do it; his finite robot mind just doesn't have the capacity to upgrade her any more. Dr. Frankenstein robot throws her out, where Mary robot gets damaged, which makes Igor robot mad, so he quits. Igor robot digs her out of the scrap heap and brings her to his own lab where he tries to fix her.

Yes, I know. Cheesy. Sappy. Not very inventive. Just remember, my walk was only 30 minutes, and I had already listed to two other songs. I was working on a tight schedule, and the images just kept coming. The story served its purpose, and my creative muscle got worked a bit today. I don't think it will be sore tomorrow, but just in case it is, I will make sure that I stretch next time before attempting to tax it again.

P.S. The light is still on. I'm turning it off and going to find Wifey who wandered away to let her side of the bed cool so she could sleep.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Aw Shucks

10:02 - Wifey just put down Harry Potter 6 and turned off the light. Munchkin is teething (we think), but asleep for the moment. Hopefully she has a repeat sleeping pattern and sleeps in until 9:00 tomorrow morning. Not that it really matters to me, as I will be working, but it is always nice to have a happy camper to greet you when you come home from work. Then again, it is also nice when Munchkin doesn't feel so great and wants to snuggle too...

Yesterday we went to my parent's house for dinner. We had a ham, grandma potatoes (you might know them better as funeral potatoes), green salad, and fresh corn on the cob. For dessert, Wifey brought a pink lemonade ice cream pie that she found online the other day. Needless to say, we were all stuffed after dinner.

There was still work to be done though.

While Wifey was taking care of the dishes for Mom (we usually do them together, but I wanted to get started on my job), I went out on the front lawn to begin. I brought the wheelbarrow from around the side of the house, careful not to be hit by the sprinklers that were on the lawn for the day, and parked it right at the fence. The grain field had been cut within the past week, so the golden chaff was beaming as the rays of the descending sun beat down on it. There was a cool breeze, and just a hint of the crispness of fall in the air. The breeze pushed the hawks, along with their sharp cries, through the air on their hunt for mice. While it was nice to look over the field, I had a job to do--shucking the corn.

We decided to freeze some corn this year. I had grown up helping out, and knew my job well. I was always amazed as Dad could shuck the corn in two quick swipes, revealing the slightly over-ripe kernels of corn. As hard as I tried, I never was able to shuck corn as fast as Dad.

I also worried about getting all the silk off the cobs. Mom had to wash it off once it was in the house, or else we would have to eat it when the bags of frozen corn appeared on the table to be eaten. I don't like corn between my teeth, and I really don't like flossing, so the thought of strings of corn between my teeth was just no good. While I contemplated that and tried to remove every last silk thread, Dad would bring me back to reality with a, "Quit your homesteadding," accompanied by a stern brow beating while his hands never stopped shucking.

For those who don't know, homesteadding is the term Dad used as a synonym of procrastinating. You weren't going as fast as you could, or you were deliberately being slow so that you didn't have to pull your weight.

I wasn't homesteading--just trying to save Mom some time from having to wash the corn a lot, but more importantly, getting rid of all those threads that would end up between my teeth.

After a while, my job title would change to Chief Transporter. With Dad and two brothers shucking, and Mom and two sisters getting the corn into bags or bottles, we had to make sure that the girls had all the corn they needed, and that the sawed-off cobs got brought back outside and dumped over the fence to the cows. I liked the job of Chief Transporter better, because I could occasionally sneak a drink or take a quick respite without a comment about homesteadding.

This time, I had my title of Chief Transporter, but I also had the title of Chief Shucker. I picked up my first cob and started to peel back the husk, smirking as I peeled off all the husk in two quick motions. It used to be so hard, but was now easy. It must be a superpower imbued on dads. Munchkin came out with Grandma for a while to sit and watch the barn swallows carve circles in the sky or the leaves rustle in the breeze. I never thought that you could get a ten-month-old to sit still for a half an hour, but Munchkin will if she has enough lilting leaves and swooping swallows. She gets a bit of an Elvis snarl on her face, but for her, that is a good thing.

After all the corn was shucked, I brought it in to Wifey who started the carving process. Mom had a great knife (which had sliced off part of her knuckle earlier that day) which made the corn seem like softened butter, and it quickly fell off the cob. We put it all in 27 pint freezer bags which were squeezed carefully into oven pans and promptly put into the freezer. It took us a while, but now we have some corn for the winter.

I'm quite proud of Wifey. She canned 31 pints of beans this year (which Munchkin could easily devour by herself in a short sitting), and now we have 27 pints of frozen corn. While I don't particularly crave either of these vegetables, it feels good to know that we have some food squirreled away that would save on a grocery bill if I can't find work for the three months I have to take off from work. Silly federal laws that get in the way of working.

Hopefully I will hear back from a potential employer this week (with an invitation to interview, of course) and not have to worry about being a contingency contractor any more. That would be quite nice, making me feel more like a dad with useful superpowers (like providing for my family) than corn shucking.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Atypical Atmosphere

11:11 - Today was a variation from the norm, and it ended up being very good for me. I woke up earlier than I usually do, traveled more than I care to, and am up later than I should be.

The day began with my alarm going off at 5:30 AM. This is the time when I hope that the the gray of pre-dawn has not started creeping into the window so that I can sleep for a few more hours. Today I was excited though, so I got up and promptly called my parents. I needed a hat.

My parents showed up on my doorstep at about 6:30, and we were loaded and on the road by 6:45--a bit later than we were hoping, but still quite respectable, considering my alarm would have just gone off on any other normal day, and I would have quickly silenced it.

We drove to Fallon, Nevada today, and I was very pleased that Munchkin did so well, and that Wifey's back didn't bother her (two of our own personal miracles in one day). The drive was relatively unexciting, but what can you expect as you drive through the deserts of western Idaho, eastern Oregon, and Nevada? I do have to say that I saw more green than I expected today, so that was good.

After arriving at our hotel, we found out that they weren't expecting us for another day. After some carefully-worded concerns were expressed by my brother, we were able to find a room for us and four other families who would be coming for our reunion. We were a bit scattered, but no worse for the wear.

We had a great day catching up with family that I haven't seen--some that I haven't seen in two years. We were only missing one of my nephews, but he is involved with something that we all whole-heartedly support him in, so we can excuse him for the time being. After this wonderful time, I came back to our hotel room.

Now I have not stayed in a lot of hotels in my life. I am grateful for that. I like my creature comforts of home. My thoughts about a hotel room can be summed up by an arm chair that sits in the corner of this room. It is relatively comfortable, and I am currently sitting in it with my feet up on the matching ottoman. The chair is quite pleasing to look at, and I wouldn't mind having a similar boldly-upholstered armchair in my home, but if you look at a large button in the middle of the chair, there is a button that is askew.

Hotel rooms have a barren sense of comfort for me. When you walk in, the furnishings are generally tactful and the bed is larger than ours at home. There are mirrors placed strategically through the room to make it seem bigger. Everything appears perfect--until you start living in it.

As I lay in bed tonight, I realized that the bed was too hard, the pillows were too soft, the light switch was lit, the air conditioner kept the blinds open just enough to let the light of the casino through, the soaps are strangely perfumed, and the furnishings were not quite right. While it appears to be nice, it isn't what I'm used to, and while that isn't always a bad thing, in this case it is.

My first clue was actually the tub. I have always found refuge in the bathroom. Ever since I was young, I knew that I could go into a bathroom and people wouldn't come in to find me. It was guaranteed private space. Even to this day, I like to take books into the bathtub with me to wind down at the end of the day. A bit crazy, I know, but it relaxes me.

As I was performing my nightly ritual tonight, I put my book down on the floor to start washing myself. I went to slide down in the tub to get wet, and found that I couldn't sink into the inviting warm water like I wanted to. I understand that some people need non-slip surfaces on the floors of their tubs, but not I! A slippery bottom on a tub is a MUST for me.

After I got out of the tub, I climbed in bed and realized that the mirrors that make the room look larger in the day make it seem cavernous at night.

What I am trying to say is that I'm not home, and I'm feeling it. Good thing I have plenty of family around to make it seem more like home, even though they generally aren't around.

I will now resign myself to try to get comfy on the bed and attempt to drift off to sleep until the morning (or Munchkin) wakes me up.

Wish me luck...

Friday, August 6, 2010

Two Awkward Happenstances

11:03 - This past week I happened to have two things that really stood out to me because of their awkwardness.

Awkward experience number one: I woke up to wet pants.

Before you jump to any conclusions, the story isn't what you think it is--I still have control of my bowels, even though I am getting close to being thirty. Wifey went swimming with our little girl while I was helping a complete stranger move into a duplex near us. He had called up someone in our church, who in turn called and asked if I could help out. Being the sucker that I am, I offered up my (meager) muscles to the move.

After I got home from the move and Wifey returned from swimming with the little tyke, we did our nightly rituals--I climb into the bathtub to read and relax while Wifey reads in bed. I peeled off my clothes and placed them sloppily next to the dirty clothes hamper, knowing that I was going to wear them the next day. Wifey pulled off her swimming suit, also placing it sloppily next to the dirty clothes hamper, yet fortuitously on top of my pants.

One damp swim suit + one pair of denim jeans + eight hours = two damp articles of clothing.

Needless to say, when I woke up in the morning to slip my jeans on, the right front side of the jeans was uncomfortably damp. Waking up just late enough to have to hurry out the door, I didn't have time to throw them in the dryer for a few minutes while getting ready; of course, I also didn't think about it, being in my morning stupor.

I can gratefully report that the wetness did not change the color of the jeans so much that they looked funny. After my 10:00 meeting, I hardly noticed my damp hip and pockets, and by lunch at 11:30, the jeans were completely dry. Crisis (and incontinence) averted.

Awkward experience number two: I get asked my fitness goals

Wifey hurt her back a couple of weeks ago. When I say she hurt her back, I really mean that she did nothing, but her back decided to spasm and wrack her with enough pain that we had to call the ambulance to take her to the emergency room to get drugs to relax her because nothing else was working. She told me that she would rather go through child birth again than have that pain, because there was an end to child birth.

After the paramedics pumped her full of morphine and Valium, she relaxed enough for them to get her off the bed and down the stairs. The doctor in the ER just told her that she needed to rest a bit (even though she had been flat on her back for the previous three days, and taking it REALLY easy for the week prior), gave her some more meds, and sent us out the door.

Our family doctor recommended that Wifey do some exercises to strengthen her back. Wifey has been wanting to join a gym for a while now, so this just gave her some additional motivation. After forgetting about it for a bit, Wifey made the call tonight, and some young buck named Keegan or Kellen or something that started with a K asked us to come down and take a peek at the gym (to try to get you hooked, of course).

Aside: Before tonight, I have never stepped foot inside a gym. I feel it important to mention, as I did earlier, that my muscles are meager. I have always been lean, and never had the desire to bulk up or become stronger. I take that back--I wouldn't mind having some upper body strength so I could perform hand-to-hand circus acts, but that would require years of strength training and flexibility--I just don't have the chutzpah to put forth the effort. I was raised on a farm moving sprinkler lines, so although I am slender, I feel I have enough strength to get me by.

We got the grand tour. We dropped off the munchkin in the daycare place for a few minutes at the suggestion of Kurt, because the first rule of the gym is that you can't have your children who still can't walk with you while you are working out. Who knew?

 Kristoph first showed us the racquetball courts (4), followed by the group workout room where they were doing Zumba, and then on to the pool. K-Diddy informed me that the lockers were just day lockers, so I would have to bring my own lock as we slipped through the dressing rooms to the pool.

Mental note: I need to tell that to Wifey, as she was going through the women's locker room at the time.

The pool was set to a balmy 84 degrees (to my slender build, 84 equals cold), and family swim times are Fridays, Saturdays, and Sunday evenings. We moved back through the locker rooms as Kip regaled me with more amenities to try to earn his commission. Next we headed upstairs. I was a bit curious to find out what was upstairs. That desire was quickly quelled.

On our way up the steps, a very sweaty man in a yellow and brown stained tank top walked by me with his beer belly hanging out. He walked down the middle of the wide staircase, forcing the three of us to scoot over to the side lest we be slimed. I didn't really see his face, but I know that his stringy hair hung down to his shoulders. I had a fleeting thought of a bunch of people with names like Cletus and Zeke in just bib overalls (no shirts) throwing a medicine ball back and forth. Reason returned to my thoughts as I made the turn on the stairs and arrived at the top.

The upstairs was much less exciting than my mind made it to be. There were lines of treadmills and elipticals facing big screen TVs that were hanging from the ceiling. A room full of spinning bikes was off to one side, while the weight machines were over on the other. A few middle-aged people ran on treadmills, and one older gentleman looked at me quizzically in my polo shirt. I politely ignored the stares and turned another corner.

This was the room I had been waiting for--the free weight room. Here was where Hans and Franz would hang out. Of course there were mirrors so people could admire their bulging muscles as they lifted (or watch for proper form), and Krank told me about how there were these new, great equipment sets that didn't require you to have a partner because you could just flip your wrist and get the apparatus to catch the weight so you could get out from under it before you were crushed to death.

I found I felt quite uncomfortable in this room. There were a few bodybuilding types openly staring at my wife and I as we walked in, and I could see them thinking, "What is that scronny kid doing here? We are here to pump iron, not wear polos." I kept my face devoid of expression, and politely listened as Kirk started telling us about the great trainers they had on staff.

We followed our illustrious tour guide back down into a little office near the front door. Kevin gave us the sales pitch, hoping that we would take the bait. He didn't know that the purpose of this visit to get one--yes, ONE--gym pass. He asked Wifey about her fitness goals to try to figure out the best plan for her. She told him that she wanted to strengthen her back and possibly lose some weight, explaining that the doctor suggested that she strengthen her back to help avoid this issue in the future. She even went as far as to say that she wanted to make sure her back didn't go crazy on her any more.

After this brief exchange, Kyle quickly asked, "So what was the main reason for your visit today?" Is this kid really so focused that he didn't hear the last sentence she just said? Wifey politely answers, and then finished the rest of the questions.

Kameron turns to me, and says, "Now, what are your fitness goals?" Having previously prepared myself to respond to this question, I gave my most succinct and to-the-point answer: "I don't have any."

Kit blinked. Then he asked the question again, without even rephrasing. "What are your fitness goals?"

I guess Klinton wasn't used to having someone who didn't want to be part of a gym come in and chat with him about gym membership. Wifey came to my rescue, supporting my claims that I really didn't care for visiting the gym and that I was relatively healthy.

That is why I love her.

With that long story now out of the way, I have an announcement to make--I have applied for a position at as an editor. Wish me luck.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Infant Pain Care? What Infant Pain Care?

11:53. Wifey watching "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days." It makes me glad that we never had a love fern...

We both have stuffed-up noses this weekend. And to make it worse, our little girl has the same thing. We ran out of infant Motrin this evening. Knowing that we would need some more this weekend, I offered to be the dutiful husband and went to the local store to pick up some more. I went over to the baby aisle to find said medicine, and instead of being like every other store that has the baby Tylenol with the baby supplies, I found nothing--well, I take that back--I found things like gas drops and Vaseline.

My next thought was that the infant Motrin might be over with the adult pain relievers. After searching there for said medicine, I still came up empty handed. I had to take drastic measures, so I did the unthinkable--hunted down a clerk, who paraded me through the baby aisle and then back over to the medicine aisle. I still came up empty-handed. The infant pain relief medicines were next to the adult medicines, but Tylenol, as well as a few other manufacturers, had recalled their infant products. Strike one.

Next, I headed too the opposite corner of the intersection to a Walgreens. I pulled in, quickly jumping out of the car. I heard a noise as I was walking up and thought nothing of it. As I got to the door, it doesn't automatically slide open. The clerk was talking with another clerk and noticed that I was standing outside the door. As I looked quickly around, I noticed the neon lights were no longer beaming red. Looking back at the clerk, she shrugged and mouthed sorry. Closed. Strike two.

Luckily, there was another store about two miles down the road. It was the same chain that I had originally visited so I knew exactly where to look (why they have two stores that are part of the same chain only two miles apart is beyond me). As I started looking for the recall notices, I noticed that there were many empty shelves, but one generic brand bottle left (insert angel chorus here). I snatched it up as quickly as I could and promptly drove back home.

What was initially a quick trip to the store became an hour-long ordeal. Even though we haven't had to use the medicine yet, I feel much better having it in my possession. And now I am laying awake in my bedroom trying to sleep.

Well, I'm not trying that hard if I'm writing a blog post. I had better shut this down and get to bed before I need to wake up.