Sunday, April 13, 2014

Spring Break Pt 2

My last post discussed the first half of our trip to Shreveport/Bossier, Louisiana to visit my in-laws.  Let's pause for a moment on that one.  When I tell people we went to Shreveport, they immediately think it's a half hour drive to New Orleans- party party party!

Um, no.  NOLA is way on down on the gulf. There has to be something, anything in LA to take up the rest of the space of the state.  You know, people, commerce, school and places that make pie.  Shreveport is in the northern part of the state. It's much like southeast Arkansas or really east Texas.

Also, if you're visiting your in-laws, even in New Orleans, you're probably not partying all that hard anyhow.  When we moved from Oklahoma to Washington almost 2 years ago, I saw how hard it was for G to leave his family.  It was hard on all of them too.  So I started an Instagram account and connected with my sisters-in-law and MIL and I make sure that I post regularly about our life together.  I do the same on Facebook and here, on this blog, I chronicle our adventures (well, some of them) in an effort to keep us connected.  But it's not enough. You gotta see people face to face once in awhile.  I'm also lucky to really enjoy my in-laws, who are considerate, thoughtful, and kind people.

So we're visiting. We've gone to Natchitoches and have had a good time.

There were family game nights every night, and lots and lots of sweet tea.  Miss Ladybug has her yoyo (grandpa) wrapped around her little finger.  Those two are definitely in cahoots.


Ladybug gets sips of his sweet tea and she loves him so much, she passes out on his shoulder.   Cahoots, I say.

Anyway, Yoyo has to go back to work and the next day, Debbie (my MIL) takes us out and about. We begin with Strawns. It's a chain, and I'm sure they serve other things in their cafeteria-style restaurant, but all I saw was pie.  Banana, strawberry, and chocolate.  Homemade, no fake foods.  That was lunch.  They were out of banana, but we were assured we'd get another chance.  I was trying to be all delicate and stuff- I mean I was in polite company- but I could've easily eaten an entire pie (maybe a couple of them), and we reluctantly went on our way.

To go shopping.

Charming Charlies is a cute, cute, cute little accessory store. I loved it because they have everything organized by color and not by item.  So in the green section you'd see green scarves, necklaces, hats, and a few dresses.  Nice, right? Right.

I never buy myself jewelry.  I don't know why- it seems self indulgent.  And G and I agreed that he wouldn't have to buy me jewelry.  I guess I meant to get around to buying some but it never seemed like the time.  Debbie heard this and whipped out a wad of cash.  "You go pick yourself out something and I'm paying for it!" "No thanks, I'm good."

My words of protest fell on stone deaf ears.  I know that aspect; her son gets that way when he's set on a particular course of action and will hear nothing else.  I sighed internally and tucked the cash into my bra as dramatically as I could.  She acts like I'm her daughter or something.
Oh.  How sweet! I'm not sure I've ever experienced that before, except with Charlotte. But that's when she's insisting on paying for our margaritas!

G and I wandered about the store.  We looked at so many possibilities!
Tiaras! I always wanted a tiara!

And lots of pearls...

And a gorgeous clutch I would never use but would love

More beautiful clutches

Do you see why this took over an hour?

Iridescent in purple, red, and beige.

Debbie
So finally, I settled on a beautiful statement necklace... 


And a gold and green necklace/earrings combo. 


There is just one catch: every time I get a compliment, I say "My Mother-In-Law has great taste!", which I happily do, because inevitably someone will comment on my pretty jewelry. 

Also in cahoots


We packed up and headed out of Charming Charlie's and off to a few other stores. 

 I can't believe we found- in Shreveport, LA- a Rogue beer made with VooDoo Donut's bacon maple donut!! Holy S$%#!!
And Easter is coming too... 


Our last stop that day was a casino. In LA, you can't have a casino, unless you use that loophole where it's on a riverboat.  There aren't any riverboats in Shreveport, so in a "sure, we're not just paying politicians off" move, there is a moat dug around the casino and filled with water.  Then the moat is covered over with walkways.  

They got my money anyway. Debbie, G and I all decided to split up and take the same amount of cash.  Debbie and I came back with the same amount, $0.  G? Yeah, he had all of it since he doesn't gamble.  :) 

The other highlight of the trip was spending time with Stashia. I have never had a pedicure before, and as it turns out, neither has she.  While Debbie and Dormilee (her mom) were getting their hair done (with Ladybug in tow), we ditched G and his dad at a bookstore and got our toes did.  We skipped to the Starbucks next-door and grabbed a bit of caffeine, then both picked out purple polish and waited to see what would happen next.  
I loved this part!

Pedicure selfie!
Look at them toes!

Purple!
 The pedicure was fun. There was soaking, massage chairs, and of course, coffee and conversation.  The uncomfortable part was when the lady took what looked like a rasp to my feet.  I thought she was going to file off my toe prints.  I guess now, if I commit a barefoot crime, they'll never catch me.

While we were hanging out, some lady with an appointment came in.  The technician took her to the back room, and 10 minutes later, both came out.  The lady looked embarrassed and beat a hasty retreat.  The tech said several sharp things in Vietnamese to her fellow nail techs- who turned in unison to stare at the fleeing woman.  

I don't care what your primary language is: When someone does something bad or stupid, you can always tell.  Indignation and shame both translate easily. 

With beautiful feet and caffeinated bodies, we went about our day and had a family dinner out so we could get some cajun style food.  I got the fried crawdads but passed on the alligator.   

Finally, we had to leave. We had a last lunch with everyone - including lots of sweet tea- and dropped off our rental car at the airport. Goodbye, Louisiana! 

-----

Twenty seven hours later we actually left the state.  Without complaining too much, let's just say that weather, incompetence and a wish to never, ever use American Airlines or the Shreveport airport ever again have been burned into my mind.  One example: as we stood in line for three hours, a lady in a wheelchair was behind us the whole time.  Nobody thought to move her forward; we ended up getting to the front (finally) and we gave her our place. That put us dead last. I tweeted my frustration and all that American said in return was that it was nice of us.  Seriously? It wasn't nice- an elderly woman in a wheelchair should NEVER be neglected. We are not that society. After so long, we looked bad: Tired, disheveled, and a bit defeated.  When we finally left (on United Airlines) we made it to Denver where we had to run to catch our connecting flight.  I had an asthma attack. The air there is thin and my lungs were burning. Burning.  But we made it, even if I spent the next few days laying low.  We made it to Seattle and even made our bus home to Ellensburg, where we arrived at almost 1 a.m.  


Finally, a short one-mile walk with my suitcase in tow and we were home. Safe at home with a snuggly kitty and our own bed. I am never leaving home again. 

Well, for now.  



Sunday, March 30, 2014

Planes, Automobiles And The Bouncy Ball Project

Spring break finally got here.  Finally, finally. Finally!! I wrapped up my classes and turned in grades.  I'm a little afraid to check my work email because when you have 103 students, someone is going to be unhappy. Mostly, though, the students did a great job. I also finished up a round of prednisone to help my lungs recuperate after a three week bout of upper respiratory infections. I was pretty sure that after this, I'd be looking what might be called "un-slim" in my photographs.  What the hell. I'm more than my body. At least I was feeling better. That doesn't mean you're going to see a lot of pictures OF ME from this trip.
Family


I had a plane to catch and some logistics to work out before our Monday flight out to Louisiana to visit my in-laws.  G and I watch a show called "The Walking Dead".  Last week was the penultimate episode. The last one is tonight and we knew that if we didn't see the episode, it would be likely that we'd come across a spoiler on social media. So we stayed up until midnight and watched it.  Totally worth it.

We hauled our luggage to the local stop, hopped a bus to Seattle, caught a plane to Dallas and then Shreveport, and then rented a car to get around.  All told, we spent from about 8 a.m. until about midnight in transport.  And yes, I agreed to go visit my in-laws. I like them. They are fun, including my husband's grandma, my mother and father in law, my sister in law, Stashia, and niece (who we call Ladybug on the 'net). We haven't seen them in 18 months and hadn't met Ladybug yet, and we had a week for break, so why not?
How you know you're in the south

My favorite photo from the trip


It was a great week. One of the highlights was participating in "The Bouncy Ball Project".  I have a friend, Leah Kayajanian, who is a stand up comic in LA. Straight up. If that doesn't make you fear/respect/lust after her, you should also know that I met her in grad school. She's a great writer. So when she asked if I'd like to participate in her Bouncy Ball Project, I agreed. Leah is one of those people you would be like if you had the guts to abandon everything you used to be to become the person you want to be. She's smart, funny (obvs), hard working and I imagine her as something close to Cobie Smulder's character Robin Scherbatsky, drinking whiskey and chasing wild men.  I would've driven to LA to get the bouncy ball, just to tell a good story and toss a ball out to the mercy of the universe.  She has her name on all of them, too.  I think that takes a certain amount of chutzpah, to say Yes, I'm littering in the technical sense, but I'm really just spreading good plastic vibes. Call me sometime.
I tore in to the package. This is why we can't have nice things.


So I got the ball in the mail and promptly stuck it in my pack. The trip for this ball looks like LA
So off we went.  Now, I just had to find the right moment to release the ball and make Leah proud. Actually, I needed to find the right moment, release the ball, photograph that puppy, remember details and write something really pithy about it later to make Leah proud.  Damn.
This would be a good spot

A good candidate for bouncy ball-ness



It happened that on our second day in Bossier City (next to Shreveport), we decided to take a family road trip.  All of those people I mentioned, plus G and me, all piled in a huge SUV. I think it was the luxury version of the Exxon Valdez. I LIKED it. Smooth ride and as a bonus, I got to sit next to the baby and be silly with her the whole way there and back. We went to Natchitoches, Louisiana, where they filmed the movie "Steel Magnolias".  Aha! Strong southern women overcoming obstacles and living in community with one another.  Perfect.
If we get arrested, I'm blaming her


It was a warm day for me, in the low 60s.  After Ellensburg with its snow still on the ground, that's a warm spring day.  I got Stashia and Debbie (my mother in-law) in on the plan, which seems appropriate.  Yes, my accomplices in creative littering were my sweet, thoughtful, church-going in laws.  You'd think that these traits would work against the bouncy ball project, but you would be wrong.  These women are sort of hardened criminals, prone to gleeful ball tossing at random intervals.

Nobody would suspect them.

We pulled around the side of the Steel Magnolia House and snapped a few pictures like normal tourists. I tucked the little yellow ball in a bed with a bunch of colorful petunias and hoped it blended in.  Then we took off, giggling.  Not having sirens and cops and handcuffs was a bit of a letdown, but you can't have it all.


Just regular tourists. Nothing to see here.

Look at the base of the sign

The rest of my adventure, including my first pedicure, Debbie's excellent taste in jewelry, gambling with the in-laws and taking 23 hours to get out of the damn Shreveport airport, will have to wait until I have a little more time and energy.  Right now, I have to go write that 25 page report that I was supposed to have finished last week.

Oh, and if anyone finds that ball, it wasn't me who put it there, despite photographic evidence.  It's got Leah Kayajanian's name all over it.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Finals/Finally

Hi Everyone-
A quick and rather frantic post as I wait for a student to meet with me about her grade.

Sooooo- it's finals week.  On top of 4 classes I need to grade essays/grade finals/enter grades, I've also got a huge report due before next Monday.  No pressure.  Once Monday hits, life will be much slower paced than it is now.  Knock on wood.

That's because I'm moving to another job in the university.  I'm going to have to move offices, which I can't think about right now because I'll burst into tears.  I don't want to leave my beloved office mates. They were the first people to welcome me to Ellensburg and they were my first friends here.  We are all very thoughtful of one another- and we have a great dynamic.  Not something you always see in a big office full of women.  The upside is that I'm moving.....to the LIBRARY!!  Yes, the Library where they keep the books.  I'm excited about that.  Corner office, nice windows. I won't be a librarian (I'm not THAT good), but my new job will entail creating a real online tutoring presence for the university and I'm tied to groups that are also housed in the building.  I'll start after spring break, which is next week. I'll still get to teach, just not as many classes.

I'm also finally getting over my cold and sinus infection.  I went to the doctor this week and she said as much, but that I keep coughing and having a hard time sleeping because my lungs are really weak from the illness.  Since I'm a moderate asthmatic, she insisted I take a round of Prednisone.  Pred makes me edgy and restless. I don't sleep as well. I told her I'd take and I am reluctantly doing so- only because we leave for vacation on Monday and I want to be well.

Vacation- we're going to Louisiana to visit G's family. Well, my family now too. We haven't seen them in person, outside of FaceTime, since we moved to Washington. Lots of things have changed! We will finally get to meet our new niece, HK.

So fair warning: lots of pictures will ensue.  I'll put up more on my Instagram account than I put here and they'll load there first.

Off for more adventures!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Almost There

We're almost there!

Almost spring, 

Almost spring break, 

Almost the end of my big project, 


Almost feeling better. 


I feel like I'm reaching and reaching, and my fingertips are just brushing success.  

I always did like the ends of things. I'm a lover of leaving and a sucker for new beginnings.  

There's something satisfying about closing a good book after you've finished, cleaning up after a delicious meal, and sweet coming home after a long trip.  

I'm leaning forward into spring. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Diversion!

I have so much grading to do. I need to give guidance to my poor, lost students.  All 103 of them.  I have two weeks left in the quarter before finals week.
I
Am
Tired!

I also have some tres weirdo stuff going on with my family right now. Not the kind of things you share in a blog for everyone to read, but stressful all the same.

So G and I have been cheering ourselves up on the weekends.  We spent a good two weeks looking for things to put into a care package for his family in Louisiana.  Most of them have not yet been to Washington. YET. I'm hoping they do come visit at some point.  I'm sure I've said it at some point, but I got really lucky in the In-Law department. Not just my husband's parents, but his sisters and nieces too.  So I thought as G and I went around our journeys in Washington, we'd buy little trinkets and send them along.

From Walla Walla, we found a magnet and coloring book, with some colorful post cards.  From Prosser- which is in wine country- we went to the Chukar Cherry factory.  It's a locally owned and operated company that makes chocolates, usually with cherries in them.  We tasted lots of them just to make sure we got the right ones.

From a little store we got Aplets and Cotlets. I don't even know where the factory is in Washington, but the candies are sort of Turkish delights with a twist.  The fruits are locally grown and the candy is made here too.  My grandma used to buy them for us, and as she gave them to us she would say "You're the aplet of my eye!"

We decided against sending sweet onions from Walla Walla.  Probably a good call.

We were going to send them a bottle of wine, but uh, we drank it.  And I'm not sure it's legal to send across state lines anyway.

But the care package is also our way of saying..... "There's more where that came from.....!"

Check out my MILs blog for her reaction.

Glad you liked it!

(Now back to grading)

Monday, February 24, 2014

Only Three More Weeks

I hate being sick.

I'm not surprise, but I hate being sick.

I have a little cold, which grew from a little cough last week to what seems today to be a full-blown tempest in a teapot.  Coughing, stuffy nose and I'm tired.  Apparently, just in time for Monday.  At least I got all my grading done yesterday! Today I'm glad I made it through teaching my classes; now I'm sitting and drinking mint tea and grading papers.  I walk to work in the mornings and G and I walk home together at night.  This morning was fine, but tonight is going to be impossible. It's still snowing and cold, and while I like that, it's bad for my lungs.  G volunteered to walk home and come pick me up.

****Wait- before I go further, shout out to JOHN in the Academic Resource Commons for reading my blog! Good to see you in the ARC and I look forward to working with you soon.*****

It's been a neat couple of weeks.  For Valentine's day, G got me some chocolates and I got him a vinyl record that he's been wanting.  I waited until Valentine's to get it for him because it's by a group called "My Bloody Valentine".  :-D

We got out of town and headed for Walla Walla for the weekend.  We had restaurant food, went to wine tasting rooms and generally had a good time. I have an astonishingly low tolerance for alcohol these days.  One glass of wine and I can't drive. Two and I'm falling asleep.  We did tastings at 4 tasting rooms and bought a couple of bottles.  After that, I needed a nap. What happened?! I used to be so young!


Oh well, I have more wisdom now- I know not to drink a whole lot and that taxis are not very expensive in Walla Walla.
Lots of cool attractions in Walla Walla.


Anyhoo, we popped over to Dayton on Sunday morning to visit my little family church.  Grey hasn't been there and since that means I hadn't been there in two years, we decided to hop to.  The church has changed since I was last there.  For one thing, there were a ton of people there and it used to be about 1/3 full on a good day. And I was related to just about everyone.  This time, we showed up at 11. I forgot that services start at 10:45. Ah well. We had to sit in the front pew because that was the only space available. There were also more children there, which I like. Except for visitors with children, I was always the youngest one there. Some of the kids got up and sang songs. After church was a soup and salad luncheon and we were invited to go.

The pastor remembered me, and he wandered over during the collection to say hello and meet my husband.  I like him and his wife a whole lot. They've been at the United Brethren Church in Dayton since the early 1990s. That still makes him the new pastor. I remember two pastors before him.  He was very good to my grandparents and took special care with my grandma before she died.

Some things hadn't changed. For one, my Aunt Sarah was there. She'd just had some surgery on her hip and was looking mighty strong. She sort of charges ahead once again, and that's just the way I love my fire-haired aunt.  She's my grandpa's sister, and she's just as stubborn. I loved visiting with her. She and G get along too- not that he's ever not gotten along with people.  It just makes me happy. She bossed us around a bit and told us stories, and re-introduced us to the church.  As it turns out, I'm still related to just about everybody. There is something in me that just wants to help people, so after we ate, I walked around and picked up everybody's plates and refilled coffee. This is the kind of place where they serve homemade pickles and butter on a piece of bread. That's where bread and butter pickles come from, in case you wondered.  There were four homemade soups and probably 10 different types of sandwiches with jello mold desserts and pie and cookies and low sugar options.  Dayton is eventually catching up with the rest of the world.
My Uncle Vernon's chair is still there, in the United Brethren Church, Dayton, Washington

Sarah had G in thrall (she was talking his ear off) and I even had a moment to say hello to my Uncle Vernon's best friend, Morris, and his wife Carol. I like them an awful lot too.  Although, when I saw Carol, I broke out in tears.  I remember how much Grandma loved her and what good friends they were. Once when Carol was sick, Grandma was afraid she wouldn't recover and got a bit teary-eyed herself.  All of this rushed over me as I tried to say polite things.  All that came out was "It's good to see you.  Oh, you remind me of my grandma!" Then I got all sniffy.  She gave me a hug.  I don't know, I'm not much of a cryer, and I certainly don't go around crying in public.  When Pastor Greg came to say goodbye though, I teared up again.  He did too, saying how much my grandparents were loved and how much we miss them.  It was a lovely visit.
My fiery Aunt Sarah. I'm gonna look that good when I'm 90!


Anyway, last week I started feeling a cough coming on, and have had to up my asthma medicine.  This morning and afternoon, it's cough/hack/ick/cough.  I think I'm going to go home and just go to bed. Ride it out. I know what it's from- too much work. I'm overextended, teaching 4 online classes and working for the dean 30 hours a week.

I hate being sick.

Only 3 more weeks, only three more weeks...

Then more adventures!
You can almost see the snow on my hair...

Friday, February 14, 2014

The New Ordinary

I both love and loathe how busy I have been lately.  It's almost 11 p.m. and I gave up grading papers because I just can't muster the enthusiasm to encourage students when I'm this tired.  And my day started early too. I've also had some insomnia lately, so I'm waiting a bit to get sleepy before I go to bed.

So those are the downsides. I'm tired and I don't have enough hours in the day.  My job is stressful and sometimes makes for a much longer week than normal-bleeding sometimes all the way through my weekend.

The upside is that I'm incredibly happy to be doing what I'm doing right now. I know teaching 4 classes is considered an overload here. I've done more. Part of me is like "pssht, y'all don't know what you're talking about".  Then I have to grade 107 papers three to four times in ten weeks. And I go "Oh, yeah. Hmm."

My work for the Dean of Student Success is also highly interesting.  It involves travel, meetings with the research folks, meetings with the committee I'm working on, writing, meetings with students, writing, research and literature reviews and more meetings.  I really think my office hours, when I meet with students, is my stress relief.

I got to have sushi for the first time in what seems like two years.  I love it.  G does not. I can't bring myself to drag him to a sushi counter where he will have a miserable time.  I invited out a former student (now friend) whose husband also does not like sushi and we had a great meal at Oyama in Ellensburg.  The chef drew pictures on our food and carved a carrot slice into the shape of a bunny for garnish.  He even made us a little appetizer and said it would help with digestion.

The food was delicious!

So if I work pretty hard, I can also take time to connect with my "kind and very understanding husband who knows that I'm a workaholic but I can't help it that I love what I do and overextend myself so he's putting  up with me".    The new mantra is that this only for another 5 weeks.

Mantra: as in "It's only 5 more weeks. It's only 5 more weeks. It's only 5 more weeks. It's only 5 more weeks."

I'm sad and happy for my friend Kim.  She was the first friend I made here in Ellensburg.  She's the manager of the office where I work.  She has literally thrown herself in front of students who try to get in to see people without appointments and she does a great job of managing people, resources and time.  She got a new job on campus and yesterday was her last day.  So I'm happy for her and sad for me. We'll still be friends outside of work- we are making an appointment for early morning coffee on Tuesday mornings- but I'll miss her constancy in my daily routine and her ready smile and our silly chats with Joy, the other amazing lady (counselor, advocate, and case manager) who offices next to me.

For now, this is the new normal. Lots of work with periods of rest and periods of insomnia from stress.  Lately it's been sleepless and I won't lie; I'm tired.  But it will get better.  Five more weeks.

In the meantime, Happy Valentine's Day. I brought chocolate and candy and gifts for students and a few sweet people I know on campus.  This weekend, we're getting away for a little romantic trip.  Not really for Valentine's day, but because we have a 3 day weekend.

Peace out.