Friday, November 30, 2018

I'm in the Phone Booth It's the One Across the Hall. If You Don't Answer I'll Just Ring it Off the Wall.

Well, kids. I'm going to write this big rant post where I cry fat, white people tears about my obnoxious first world problem. Yup, that's right. After three years I decided to upgrade to an iPhone 8. Worst mistake I ever made. I stupidly bought it at Best Buy, and they don't seem to train the people who work there very well. So, the guy who sold me the phone told me he activated it at the store, since I paid him $36 to do just that. Turns out, he didn't activate it, so I had to go to Verizon and pay them another $20 to activate it. I will give Best Buy props for responding to my bad review by refunding money for the other things I bought when I picked up my iPhone.

Of course, the fun didn't stop there. My phone never worked quite right. It kept giving me a black screen, and then it would work just fine. I have no idea why it would sometimes work and sometimes not. It finally got to the point where it was a black screen for several days straight. I stupidly also bought the Applecare insurance, which means you have to go to a specific Apple store, which we don't have in Iowa city, which meant I had to drive to Cedar Rapids after work.

There they were able to restore my iPhone and it worked without the screen turning black for at least a couple of days. Then we went back to the same problem until the screen blacked out the Sunday evening of Thanksgiving weekend and it hasn't worked since.

So, since we're going to Chicago tomorrow, we're going to take it to an Apple store there where they will hopefully give me a new iPhone. I was warned that it might cost me about $100 for a replacement phone. So far my running total is $599 for the iPhone, $136 for the insurance, and possibly another $99 for a replacement iPhone for a two month old phone that has never really worked. My desktop computer cost less than that and it's worked for over nine years. We did get my old iPhone6 back up and running until we can try to get my new phone replaced (hopefully).

This whole mess has made me yearn for the days where I just had a watch, an alarm clock, a Walkman for music and a landline phone instead of a smart phone.

Sorry about the rant. I know that the deal with first world problems is that they're like listening to someone talk about their dreams, no one really cares except the person experiencing them. Sigh.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

It's So Free, This Kind of Feeling. It's Like Life, It's so Appealing.

I normally don't do any of those "I'm grateful" posts around Thanksgiving, because I'm grateful for what I have everyday and I try hard to tell the people in my life how much I love them and how thankful I am for them as often as possible.

BUT! I feel like I should put this post in here because even though I tell him all the time, (no matter how annoying he may find that), I am so damn grateful to have John in my life.

My post yesterday about our house, would not have been the same had it not been for John. He bought into the mortgage so I didn't have to mow lawns and donate plasma on top of my full time job in order to be able to afford my mortgage.

He is also great at fixing things. I can fix things around the house if it's easy and things work exactly like the directions say they should, but I will never have an engineering degree. My brain doesn't work like that. I don't have patience for problem solving. If it doesn't work the way they say it's supposed to, I get frustrated and kick it and swear at it. Surprisingly (or not) that almost never helps the situation.

When we needed a new toilet, John researched it all (he is a huge lover of consumer reports), ordered the stuff, went to Marion and picked it up and THEN watched a Youtube video and installed the toilet. If I tried to do that, I'm sure our bathroom would be covered in waste from the toilet and somehow, water would shoot up to the ceiling from a pipe or something.

This is the first relationship I've been in when the other person worked as hard or harder than I did emotionally, communication wise and actual work/cleaning around the house wise. I fake complain about how lazy that is making me, but duh. It's kind of a nice problem to have.

I am so grateful that he likes to play outside as much as I do, and that when I'm not feeling all that great or have a migraine and am on meds for it and so I can't get my heart rate up like we normally do riding bikes or running, he suggests we go for a mellow hike instead.

And even though he rolls his eyes and scowls about it, he lets me stop and take way too many pictures of him when we're playing outside.

John is smart and fun and kind and generous and charmingly self-deprecating. Most importantly, he puts up with my orange cat, which, as you can see his a HUGE pain in the ass.

So, I hope you get to be around people who you are grateful for this long, holiday, weekend...And that you express your love of them every day of the year not just on Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 19, 2018

And Wouldn't It Be Nice to Live Together

Today is the 9th anniversary of me closing on my house. I had rented apartments my entire adult life until I bought this house when I was 44 years old. Even though we will be working on it forever, there really is just THAT much stuff to try and fix.

It's just about 1,200 square feet without a basement or air conditioning. It was built in 1950 and it's layout is as simple as can be, which is exactly what I want. I never wanted a house brand new house that looked like every other house and had way too much space to clean.

The above photo was what the dormer room looked like when I first bought the house.

And this photo is the after. I pulled out the brown carpet and painted the old wide wood plank floor that had some lumber yard name stamped on every board a light gray. The next time I repaint the floor, I think I'll use a medium gray, to give it a little more color and definition.

I like to describe our interior design "style" as weirdo, poor person chic (with cats).

We were supposed to get a new roof in early October and the roofers were going to put some sky tubes (like sky lights, but much less expensive) in during that process. It still hasn't happened, and we're hoping they are able to work us in sometime in the next couple of weeks, but at this point, what's another couple of months, right?...Anyway, I'm excited that the sky tubes will give us more natural light and I can use the dormer/reading/spare bedroom as a studio as well.

The above photo was what our living room looked like before we moved in. What you can't see is how grimy the walls looked in person.

One of the first things I did when we moved in was paint the living room. There isn't much natural light and I wanted our living room to feel warm and cozy - hence the camel colored paint I slapped up on the walls.

You can't tell from the above photo, but the old counters in our kitchen had the quaintest cigarette burns about the same color as the cabinets before we replaced them.

Last winter, we finally scraped the popcorn ceiling, replaced the ceiling fans and painted the walls. This winter we hope to finish this phase of the kitchen redo. We hope to retile the floors and replace the appliances and call it good for a little while.

Like I said a couple of weeks ago, we also replaced our toilet to one of those low-flo dealies. Of course, our house being our house, no house project is ever easy.

We found that someone had cut out a piece of the wainscoting to make room for the older, larger tank. So, we're just going to let this sit here glaring at us until we finish the kitchen and can start on the bathroom. After nine years in this wonderful little cottage, I've resigned myself to the fact that it's always something...

Here's to another nine years of "interesting" home improvements and loving our flawed little cottage.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Welcome to My Nightmare! I Think You're Gonna Like It!

Well, it's time to look at all the very dark places I traveled to through book reading during the month of October. It was a frighteningly fun month of book trips. I read seven creepy books altogether.

1.) The first place I went was to Scotland in 1869. "His Bloody Project" by Graeme Macrae Burnet talked about how badly oppressed the Crofters were back then and the story of a young man who killed members of a family. It was very well done and let you see the crime through the convicted killer's eyes and then took you outside of his confession to see that there may have been another, less sympathetic story.

2.) "The Woman in Black" by Susan Hill. It takes place on the Northeast coast of England and it is a straight up CRRREEEEPPPY ghost story. It was best not to read this too close to bedtime, since it made falling asleep a little treacherous.

3.) The third scary book trip I took was to "Lovecraft Country" by Matt Ruff. It took place right after the Korean War in Jim Crow America and deals with the fact that H.P. Lovecraft was a scary racist. In this novel, it takes the form of the Lovecraft's fiction and uses the best parts of it, but the scary predator in this book is racism itself. It is very well done and entertaining and if you like Lovecraft's fiction (or even if you don't), you should definitely read this.

4.) "The Bloody Chamber" by Angela Carter is a collection of short stories, about scary fairy tales with a definite feminist twist. It took me to all kinds of dark places in Europe in a vague past.

5.) I went for some classic scary fiction for my fifth trip. "The Invisible Man" by H. G. Wells. It's a good classic Sci-Fi novel about an experiment gone wrong. I think I'll finally read "War of the Worlds" next year.

6.) "The Hunger" by Alma Katsu was about The Donner Party story with a werewolf/zombie twist. Some people complained about the ending, but I thought it was very engaging and the characters were well written. It was perfect for a Halloween month read.

7.) The last book I read for October was "The Shadow of the Wind" by Carlos Ruiz Za'fon. This was the book that I found on the street outside my house this Summer. It is a gothic type novel that takes place in Spain after the Spanish Civil War. It is a gothic novel that I loved. A friend of mine thought the writing was bad but the story was riveting. I tend to agree, but the story really made up for any other faults the novel may have had.

Now that it's November and my book journeys have been a little less unsettling. You'd think I'd be sleeping better...

Friday, November 09, 2018

You May Find Yourself Living in a Shotgun Shack

So, Things are still crazy in my world. Now we have to buy a new toilet. I've never bought a toilet before. I am learning that there are more to toilets than I thought. Like you have to figure out if you want a dual flush or a soft close lid or if you want a self-cleaning one. It's bizarre to me. Why do they have to make everything so complicated? I just want a flushing toilet that works...And that's a little taller than the one we currently have. I swear if I have to get my knees replaced, it will be from trying to get up from our very short commode every damn day. Anyway, by the next time I write you, we should have a sparkling new toity and I will be the one cleaning it.

We also had the Pella door guy come and give us an estimate for our front door. Our current front door is not insulated and we probably lose way too much money from all the cold air that rushes through there every day in the winter.  Guess what the guy quoted us for a hung door (hee hee) and a storm door. Four THOUSAND dollars. What the hell? Is it made of gold? Guess what we're going to do? Get our door from someone else.

Have a great weekend and may your houses not need as much work as ours does.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Waking the Witch

Since it's almost November now, (Weird. How did that happen?) I thought I'd finally do my travel through books post for September.

In September I read seven books.  They took me to many places and times, and dimensions even. here is where I went:

1.) The first book trip I took in September was "Further Tales of the City" by Armistead Maupin. I believe there are seven books in the series and this is the third one. It took me back to San Francisco in the very early 80's. It was kind of sad going back there then, knowing that the AIDS epidemic was going to flare up in just a few short years.

2.) My second trip was to England in 1934, through Ian McEwan's brilliant novel, "Atonement". Wow. It was a well written and intense journey.

3.) "Slouching Towards Bethlehem" by Joan Didion was the third book I read last month. I can't believe I've never read any Didion before. It was non-fiction and took place in California in the mid-sixties. It was definitely a wild ride.

4.) Adam Haslett's "Imagine Me Gone" dealt with the legacy of depression in a family and took place in England and the East Coast and in the minds of some people dealing with severe clinical depression and anxiety. It made me feel much better about my own life.

5.) I went back in time and in an alien culture for my fifth book trip. My niece asked me to read the first book in her YA Science fiction series, "The Replacement" by Bianca Sierra-Luebke. It shows a lot of promise and I'm curious to see what she does with the rest of the series.

6.) Next I basically started my Halloween preparation reading with " The North Water", by Ian MCGuire (my second Ian author of the month). It took place in 1859 on a whaling ship bound for the Arctic Circle, It was a VERY dark "Moby Dick" type novel. It was graphically gross and bloody, and perfect reading for the season.

7.) My last read of the month was the third book of Margaret Atwood's trilogy, "MaddAddam". It took place in the distant future and provided some much needed hope in my reading for September.

So, all for very little money I traveled back and forth in time, went to the Arctic Circle, San Francisco, England, the East Coast and met a few new life forms all without having to deal with the  TSA. October is shaping up to be an even bigger, and scarier adventure through book travel.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Oh Yeah. Alright. Let's Start the Dancing

Not last weekend, but the weekend before, John and I went to his ex-girlfriend's wedding in beautiful Bellevue, Iowa.

We paid the extra $10 for our hotel room so we could have a river view. It came with a three season porch-like balcony, and it was totally worth it.

I brought a few books, just in case I had time to read.

We were supposed to be at the lodge in the state park at five on Friday evening to help set up for the wedding.  A lot of mutual friends of John and his ex from when they lived in Boston were going to be there, so I was glad John got some extra time to hang out with them.

We got there a little early, so we decided to do a little hiking before we helped set up the wedding.

We found a gorgeous overlook and then John looked to the right of that and saw a crack in between two rocks and decided to check it out. We had to get skinny to fit through, but sucking in our guts was way worth it.

This was our view on the other side. How incredible is that?

We had a nice time at the pre-wedding party and got back to the hotel room around 10.

The next morning we went to breakfast downtown and then wandered along the Mississippi River for a bit.

The water in the river is VERY high right now. I'm not sure if this staircase actually leads to something that is covered up by water, or if it really is a stairway that leads right into the water.

I took this one of John on the upper part of that same staircase. Doesn't it look like he's running for office there?

After breakfast, we went to hike on the trails in Bellevue State Park. It was gorgeous.

We ended up hiking for almost two hours and if we had time, I could have  hiked all day.

Most of our friends who were there for the wedding ended up watching the Hawkeye game at the bar attached to our hotel. The game wasn't even close and basically it meant that they didn't do anything while they were in Bellevue but go from their hotel room, to the bar, back to their hotel room and then to the wedding the entire weekend they were in Bellevue. They missed so much, but maybe they don't really like playing outside, so they don't feel that way about there weekend...

After our hike we headed over to Potter's Mill for lunch. I love this place. It is so cool looking inside. We were able to catch a bit of the Iowa game, and like I said before, it was a total snoozer.

We sat at the bar on the first floor, and while we waited for our food to come, the bartender told us to check out the new third floor coffee shop and art gallery.

It was so cute up there. I told John that if I lived there, I could see myself spending some time reading a book and drinking some tea on a weekend afternoon.

We finally went back to the hotel and got ready for the big event. He doesn't do it very often, but John sure does clean up well when he wants to.

The wedding itself was lots of fun. They had a bluegrass band playing and they served awesome BBQ and Cajun style food. They ran out of beer fairly early on and I can't really drink wine, so I had my two beers and wasn't tempted to drink anymore. That worked well for me.

The other fun thing they did was have a photo booth and asked people to bring in fun props for fun photos. There were all kinds of freaks and weirdos with masks and funky hats and leather chaps out on the dance floor. It was so great.

The happy couple seemed to have a great time too. I'm not much of a wedding person, but man if the food is good and everyone is out on the dance floor, then sign me up for another one.

We finally had to say goodbye to Bellevue on Sunday morning. We had breakfast in Makoqueta, drove home and got to do a 35 mile bike ride in the afternoon. Hiking? Dancing? Eating? Drinking? Cycling? I think all of our happy bases were covered that weekend.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Al Davis Said it Best, "Just Win Baby, Win!"

Today I'm going to write two race reports. Last year with the migraines and dizziness, I was lucky to write two race reports in a season, so it feels kind of nice to do two in a couple of weeks.

The first race report I have is from Jingle CX. Because of varied health issues, I haven't been able to race Jingle CX for the last four years. It was great to be able to race it again and now they even have a 45+ Master's Women's Race and I ALWAYS want to support that.

Anyway, I only raced the Friday of Jingle CX and it was a rainy, muddy mess. Which I normally love. I did a really good job of warming up before the race. At one point while I was on the bike trainer, a woman in the tent next to ours, said, "Wow. Are you really reading a book on your trainer?" I told her I was a nerd and I read almost anywhere I can. She said she thought it was great. She was a big reader too and was happy to see someone else nerding-out at a bike race.

The race itself started out great. I had a good start and I never have a good start. I always say I like the muddy races because the other women have to go a lot slower, and I ride pretty well in the mud. The only problem came when I had to run up the first big, muddy, hill. I use flat pedals on my bike and the shoes I wore with them had NO traction, whereas my mountain bike shoes that I would wear with clipless pedals had great traction AND you can put metal spikes on the top part of the shoe.

Soooo, I had this great start, I was feeling confident, and I get to the first big muddy hill and try to get up it and keep falling. Doh! I finally had to crawl up it on my hands and knees. I know, so graceful, so pretty...Or not.

At one point, one of the women who was a ways behind me originally, ran past me while I was moving with all the grace and style of a walrus and said, "They're called, toe spikes. Christmas is coming. You might want to ask Santa for some."

"Whatever!" I thought loudly at her back as she nimbly ran up the muddy hill with her godamn toe spikes.

I finally made it up the damn hill and did okay riding down the crazy descent right after. I even caught the snotty woman who told me to get toe spikes, but then when we hit the next muddy hill, she passed me right back. There was one off-camber muddy downhill that a few years ago, I wouldn't have been able to ride, but I rode every lap on this race. At one point going down it, I lost all control over my bike, but I couldn't break because I would crash for sure. I just had to let the bike take me where it wanted and hope that it didn't want to crash me down the hill. Luckily, it didn't.

After the first lap, I figured out that I should go to the very right hand side of the muddy hills and grab the fencing on one side and use my bike on the other side of me for support in order to get up them. It wasn't the fastest way, but it was way quicker than going up the middle on my hands and knees.

You'll be happy to know I finally passed and stayed ahead of snotty toe spike lady to get 6th place. Not bad for letting most of the field pass me up that stupid hill on my first lap. Yea me!

I was happy with my result even with my mishaps.

The next race I want to write about was two weeks ago. It was called the Rack Run and it was a way to make money for women with breast cancer who can't afford to pay their bills. A cause I can really get behind.

Stinky asked me to race it with her. A few years ago, she started gaining more weight than she was comfortable with, so she's been working hard at losing it now. She's lost 20 lbs since her wedding by running more often and trying to eat better. Go Stinky!

Anyway, when we race together I just go at her pace and try to help her stay positive when she starts to get tired and cranky. Lately, she's getting so strong that I worry I won't be able to keep up with her. During this race, we were going at a decent pace and I knew what her best time out of her past races was and when it looked like we might beat that time, I tried to pick up the pace. Then when we could see the finish line, she started sprinting. I thought, "great!" and sprinted too, thinking we could cross the finish line together.

I moved to her right, and she cut me off. I figured she didn't see me and so I moved to her left, where she cut me off again. That little Stinker, she was doing it on purpose. So, I stayed just behind her and I finished a second after her. She said she just wanted to beat me, and nobody understands competitiveness better than I do. You'll all be happy to know that besides beating me, she also beat her fastest time and got first in her age group. Competitiveness can really pay off.

Most importantly, we had a great morning running around Sand Lake and then we went to Midtown Family Restaurant for breakfast, where I got pancakes and chocolate milk. Yea us!

Thursday, October 11, 2018

October and Kingdoms Rise and Kingdoms Fall But You go On and On

This is the campus where I work. How lucky am I?
 Okay. I was bad about writing again this week...And I'm actually doing things to write about. So, I'll just write a little bit today about random stuff and then I'm off work tomorrow. Yea! We're going to beautiful Bellevue, Iowa this weekend to attend, John's ex-girlfriend's wedding. I'm sure I've said before that people I know think it's weird that we still hang-out, but I like her and her fiance and I have lived in a small town for many years. We weren't total whores when we were younger, but if I didn't hang out with people that John or I dated at some point, we would live a sad, lonely existence.

If you don't live in Iowa, it's Fall here and beautiful, but damn if it won't stop raining. All of the rain is making the beautiful leaves on our trees fall a lot sooner than normal. So, hopefully there will still be pretty colored leaves on the trees when we hang out by the Mississippi River this weekend.

I either put Marigolds or cat fur on the butternut squash to keep the squirrels from eating them.
It's weird that I haven't really talked about my garden on here, because I seem to be obsessive about it everywhere else, but I grew my first mutant butternut squash this year. Cool, huh? I looked online and some say it should take like a normal butternut squash, but I'm a little afraid to try it. If I get up the guts and it turns me green after ingesting it, I'll let you know.

So, Halloween is coming up soon. Yea! Even though it's always too cold out during it, it's one of my favorite holidays. I wish people would wear costumes and I would have an excuse to read ghost stories all year long.

Okay. You all have a lovely weekend. I hope it stops raining wherever you are and that you get to enjoy some beautiful Fall foliage.

Friday, October 05, 2018

That Was Wisconsin, That Was Yesterday

Let me start this post by going back two weeks ago to try and catch you all up on this crazy but wonderful month.

A couple of Thursdays ago, we were heading to Madison, Wisconsin to celebrate John's birthday and race at Trek Cup CX. Unfortunately for me, I woke up that morning with a screaming migraine. Wah.

I still thought I might be able to do it, since I wasn't supposed to race until Saturday morning. I tried my damnedest to get rid of the migraine without taking my meds, which would make it so I definitely wouldn't be able to preride the course that day.

We stopped in Dubuque for lunch on the way to Madison and had a nice meal.

We made it to the Trek Bicycle headquarters to try to pre-ride the course. I was feeling pretty weak anyway, but then I tried to ride up a very steep ramp and only got about 3/4 of the way up and I wasn't strong enough to go any further. Right then I realized I just wasn't going to be strong enough to race that weekend.

I promptly rode back to the car, took my migraine meds and threw in the towel for the weekend. At first I was sad that I wouldn't be able to race, but the course at Trek is so hard that it would have been too stressful for me and by not racing, I freed up the weekend to just have fun with family and friends instead.

We met my brother and his wife for dinner that night and then went home to bed.

Friday morning was John's birthday. We got up and John opened  his gifts and then we headed to Marigold, one of our favorite breakfast places in Madison where John got himself a fancy coffee and duck confit hash. So good.

We headed back to the Trek bicycle factory headquarters so John could do one of his favorite birthday activities - race his bike.

He didn't have the best race that day, but he still had two more days of racing to go to fix that.

It was a fun day to watch races and see stuffed sheep wearing helmets and socks.

We met my brother, his wife, her mother and my oldest sister at the Weary Traveler for John's birthday dinner. Since my oldest sister was having a lot of leg pain, we just went back to my brother's house to hang out afterward.

Coadster drove up after work that day and got to Madison around 9:30. John said he had a great birthday. Yea!

On Saturday morning we went to breakfast at Lazy Jane's Cafe and then went downtown to the Farmer's Market. They also had a craft fair downtown, so we wandered through that too.

If I had decided to race on Saturday, I would have had to be at the site by 7 am to pre-ride the course and then race and then watch John race and we would have been there all day.

So, it probably worked out better that I wasn't strong enough to ride up that steep ramp. After the Farmer's Market, John headed to the race site to warm up and Coadster and I decided to have a fun women's day about town.

On our way to the car, we saw this mirror lying in the grass. It made for a funky photo.

We decided to go to the zoo since I hadn't been there since the girls were much younger. We did make a quick stop at the beach. It was too cool to swim, but it was nice to hang out and check out the view.

Since Saturday was Stinky's birthday and she decided to stay in Iowa City to make money waiting tables on game day, we took a photo by her favorite animal, the giraffe.

The zoo was so much better for the animals than it was back in the 90's. The seem to have redone most of the exhibits to make them nicer for the animals.

Coadster and I went to the petting zoo, so we could meet some new friends.

We also got some expensive zoo ice cream that I paid for even though Coadster found $11 in the parking lot. But I guess that's how it is when you're a mom, even when your daughters are in their twenties...Ha ha.

We left the zoo and went back to the race site to watch John's race. My brother and his adorable dog came too. So, we got to watch some races together as a family. It was a lovely day.

Our friends Chelsea and Burne came to town by the time we got back from the race. We were all starving so we went to a pub to eat dinner and then we met my brother at the Tornado Room for a drink. The Tornado Room is super cool. The upstairs bar room looks like something from Goodfellas and it's pretty loud. The downstairs is amazing. It's very 1960's and has maps all over the walls and it's pretty cozy and quiet. I loved it.

On Sunday morning Coadster headed back to Iowa City and the rest of us went to watch John do his last race and then the pros race the World Cup. It was finally nice and warm.

John had a good race and we went to the new secret bar on the course. It was called the Decoy Bar and had all kinds of hunting related stuff around it. They also had snacks and the beer was free. It was a magical place.

I love bike races because people dress up in costumes and as I always say, I can't get enough of people dressing up in costumes.

The pro races were great to watch. As far as I'm concerned, the women's race is always more interesting than the men's race. This one was no exception. There were two women battling for first and at one point, the younger woman was trying to jump over the barriers on her bike and crashed. Luckily for her, she crashed in front of her competitor, so it slowed them both down.

We finally headed home after the races. We stopped at the lovely town of Mt Horeb on the way home. The town has a troll theme, but they also have a place that serves some of the best pizza I've had. It was a great stop on our way out of Wisconsin.

It was a such a fun and busy weekend, and then we only had a few days until the next Cyclocross World Cup race weekend, but luckily that was in Iowa City.