Friday, December 28, 2018

Don't Be Scared. I've Done This Before. Show Me Your Teeth.

I hope you all had a great holiday weekend. Mine was really good. I didn't plan it to start out all that wonderfully, though. I unthinkingly scheduled a dentist appointment the Friday afternoon that was my last day before a four day weekend. I didn't think about what day that was, I was just happy that I got an appointment so late in the day, and then later when they asked me to confirm my appointment, I figured I should just keep it, or I would start pushing back my dentists further and further, until I didn't go at all.

I hate the dentist. I don't like people sticking their hands in my mouth, I don't like people putting me in pain, and I especially don't like PAYING someone to put me in pain. When I was younger and didn't have insurance, I went seven years once without going to the dentist. Of course, the older I get, the more I wish I had taken better care of my teeth.

This check-up wasn't so bad, however. Both the dentist and the hygienist commented about how clean my mouth was. If you've ever met me and know how much I swear, you are probably just as surprised about that as I was.

When I go to appointments now, I want to do that thing that people do when reading fortune cookies. You know, "You are a strong person with many charms...In bed". But instead of saying "in bed", I, in my head think "for someone in their fifties". So, when the hygienist told me that my teeth were a great color...(for someone in their fifties, I thought). Or my gums were so healthy and pink...(for someone in their fifties, I added).

I guess the whole gist of this post is that my holidays started with a dentist appointment that didn't go too badly...For someone in their fifties.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Feliz Navidad! Prospero An~o y felicidad.

Today is my last day to work before my four day holiday weekend. Woo hoo!

I'm excited to just get to stay in town and relax. I'm planning on cleaning, riding bikes, running, lifting weights, cooking up a bunch of food, and hanging out with my family. I can't wait.

I will try to keep writing more over the weekend, but we'll see. If I don't get a chance to write, I want to wish all of you a happy holiday, whatever holiday you celebrate and if you don't celebrate a holiday this time of year, I hope you have a lovely weekend and that you celebrate yourself.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

You Have to Sleep Late When You Can, And All Your Bad Days Will End

Okay. I'm going to try and keep this short, but you know me...

We have been traveling so much the last couple of weeks and it's been great, but it also meant I had no time to write. I'm going to try and change that these next couple of weeks.

A few weeks ago we went to Chicago and the week after that we went to Louisville. It's all fun and games, but it's also hectic.

We went to Chicago that weekend so John could do a race he's been itching to do for the last five years.

We got an AirBnb in Wrigleyville that was run by a management company. It was a cute place in the basement of the building.

I looked up a bunch of different places to eat and drink and play and one of the students in our office suggested we go see the German Christmas market by Daly Center.

We got to Chicago and went out for lunch at this nautical themed place and they just happened to have a bouncy house in the form of a snow globe. Pretty funny.

Since it was supposed to rain later in the day, we decided to check out the outdoor Christmas market first. The place was packed. I always forget how many people live in big cities, and experiencing those crowds always makes me glad I live in a smaller college town.

It was fun, though. There were cool things to check out and we even got fancy hot chocolate.

The other thing I forget about big cities? Parking prices. We parked in a ramp for 45 minutes and it cost us $33. WHAT?!

After the market, we went to the Shed Aquarium. The last time I had been there was when I took Coadster when she was a little girl and the fact that it was dark a lot in the aquarium made her keep saying, "It's too 'cary. It's too 'cary."

This time neither John or I were afraid of the dark. Although, the moray eel that came right at me was a little disconcerting...

Anyway, John and I spent about three hours at the aquarium it was so fun. The coral reef aquarium is mesmerizing. If you haven't been for a while, you should definitely go again.

We finally made it to our AirBnb in Wrigleyville. It was a basement apartment, but it was really cute. We found a nice Mexican restaurant to have dinner and the rest of our evening was great.

We went to bed around 9:30, since we had to get up early for John's race. It was such a wonderful day and we were having such a nice time until...You guessed it, things went to shit for a little while.

At 1:30 am, the people staying in the airbnb above us presumably came home from the bars and started partying. If it was possible for us to get a contact high from what was wafting through the ceiling, we would have been as high as kites. They were so loud most of the night, but at one point, we think someone was getting kicked out of the party, because he kept yelling, "Eff you! EFFFFF YOOOOUUUU!" outside our door. It was so pleasant...Or not.

THEN in the morning when John went out to the garage that we paid $30 to use, and the door was locked so he couldn't get in to get to our car and our stuff or our bikes. Originally, we were told not to lock the garage door because they didn't have a key. Which I thought was weird. How can you own a management company in Chicago and not afford a key? So, John tried to contact the people, and then tried again a half hour later and then contacted the AirBnb site (who were very prompt with their response, but they couldn't reach the management company either). John was supposed to race at 9:30 and they FINALLY responded to John at 10:15 and told him where the key was hidden outside. Really?! The whole reason we came to Chicago was so John could do that race.We wouldn't have even paid for a place to stay in Chicago if we had known he wouldn't be able to make his race. Of course, the management company was unapologetic.

We loaded up our car and went to watch a bit of the race anyway. It was a cool course right on the beach. So, we wandered around a bit. It was a nice, warm day for Chicago in December.

I hate to see all of this trash at the beach. I felt like shedding a tear like that Italian actor who played the Native American in those PSA commercials in the 1970's. Sigh.

When we were done checking out the race, we headed over to an Apple store to see if we could get my phone working. I figured with all the other crap we had to deal with, we might as well lay some more on. In for a penny, in for a pound, I guess.

We got there and they told us it would be an hour before anyone could see us. John suggested we get lunch at a woodfired pizza place across the street. They even had salad flights there. Delicious.

We went back to the Apple store when our hour was up and they said they'd send the phone downstairs and that would take another hour, so we wandered around the Dick's Sporting Goods store for about 20 minutes, which was about as long as I last in a store and then we found a cute little tavern and had a beer and watched the Bears game. When in Rome.

We went back to the Apple store and said they were going to try one more time to fix it before they gave me a new phone. Another half hour later, they conceded that it was a hardware issue and finally gave me a new phone.

At one point during all of this Sunday debacle day, I was thinking how lucky I was that John wasn't the kind of person to get all pissy or mean when things went awry and we got thwarted in the things we wanted to do. I have married and dated some bad control freaks in my time, and I am so glad that John isn't one. Just as I was thinking that, John said, "Thank you for being so laid back about all of this stuff. It's so nice that you go with things so easily and don't make everything even worse by acting like all this was the end of the world." Synchronicity.

So, as far as I was concerned, the weekend was great for the most part and nothing is ever completely perfect, and if it was, would we all take everything for granted? It was really too bad that John couldn't do his race, but we had a lovely weekend beside that, and it was too bad that I was having such problems with my new phone and it took so long to deal with, but we did get it fixed in the long run.

Here's to appreciating the good things!

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.