Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Things My Father Taught Me in Childhood That I Still Hold Onto Inexplicably That Are Probably Not True

1. If you check the box on your license form to be an organ donor so that it shows up on your license or in the DMV database then if you are involved in a near fatal accident on the road, the responding EMT folks will deliberately move slowly and let you die so as to have use of your organs. Especially if you are ugly, fat, or dressed unfashionably. I still can't bring myself to be listed as an organ donor for this reason.

2. Unless you have a natural innate talent in a particular skill, all of the practicing and studying in the world is not going to really make a difference. Practice does not make perfect unless you're gifted in that area. So it's better and less frustrating to just focus in on things you seem to be naturally talented at and skip attempts at things that you don't seem to be good at from the get go. For this reason I never go back and try a second time at things I try once and suck at. I completely ignore the try try again philosophy even if at times I want to believe its worth it to get incrementally better in some area I don't have a natural gift in and look stupid along the way then just focusing on things I can feel good at. Sad really.

3. If you beat up the bully, no one will pick on you anymore that year. This works in school, in social situations, and at work. I have always been too scared of confrontation to put this "truth" of my father's to the test. But i secretly believe if I had the courage to do it, it just might work.

4. Makeup is designed for ugly people to hide their imperfections. No one needs blush unless they are unnaturally pale. Same thing with lipstick. For social acceptance, and because I think it makes me look better, I do wear makeup occasionally. But i have such self-loathing about it, because while applying the makeup and for the whole evening afterward I feel as though I am confessing to the world that I think I am ugly and need to fix my imperfections by the act of the application.

5. If you don't like classical music it is because you are not intelligent enough to grasp its beauty. I used to argue this point against my father for years, but secretly I believed he was right. Because he is my Dad and I hold his crazy opinions in high esteem.

6. Children who get mostly everything they want in life grow up to be very unhappy once they discover the real world doesn't work like that. This is what I tell myself when I don't get my way- self, you are protecting yourself from future agony and disappointment.

7. No matter what a man says about women's liberation, all men secretly want a woman who lets them be dominant and in charge. If you don't submit willingly to your man, he will eventually leave you or cheat on you with a woman who will make him feel powerful. This is especially true if you are not a good cook or lover so it is important to excel in both areas.

8. People can communicate telepathically with other people and animals if they have the gift. Our family has the gift. I secretly try to do so all the time, and I feel I have a greater than 60% success rate.

9. UFOS and aliens exist and the govt does secret research on them. So do demons. Possession occurs plenty of times on earth and sometimes disguises itself as mental illness. If you call a demon to go after someone and they fail, they will come back for you. When facing off against a demon and losing, it will look like you had a normal heart attack.

10. Children are too big of an investment emotionally, mentally, physically, etc and having them leads to a lifetime of regret. Better never to have children and save yourself from having to face the stress and disappointment that is inevitable.

11. Lightbulbs burn out faster from turning them on and off every time you leave the room then if you just let them keep burning all evening till bedtime.

12. Key religious principles should not be held up for a democratic vote as they are in protestant denominations. In this way, the Catholic church is superior.

13. Eating out of aluminum pans leads to Alzheimer. To this day I won't use aluminum cookware because I'm afraid it might be true.

14. Yelling signifies you've lost control of the argument. It's irrational and a sign of weakness of position and should be avoided at all costs. The non-yeller in the argument has the right to feel morally and intellectually superior to the yeller.

15. Being fat is a moral failure as well as a significant health risk.

16. Jewish people are better at financial management and making money then any other ethnic group in the world -something God gifted them with. This is 50% of why so many countries and people hate them- envy at their success.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Wonder Spot

I just finished reading The Wonder Spot by Melissa Bank. It was a good book and I recommend it. It tells the story of a Jewish girl as she comes of age and into her adulthood. A touching story, it exposes the drama of family life and ordinary angst and I found it to be heartwarming.

My favorite quotes from the book:

"'Your welcome,' she said. 'I was just afraid'. It was a nice surprise to hear her say the truth. But right away the public relations part of her brain rushed in with a revised press release: 'I trust you to make the right decisions that are best for you'"

"As soon as I'm in a relationship, I promote fear from clerk to president, even though all it can do is sweep up, turn off the lights, and lock the door."

Philosophy

One thing pneumonia does is afford its victim endless hours to consider philosophy and conduct a comprehensive assessment on one's life. Where is God taking my life this year? What goals do I want to work toward prayerfully? How can I be a better wife, better friend, better community member? I've had so much time to ponder these questions. Other than a weight loss and fitness goal that remains elusive, I've actually accomplished all of the goals I put down to paper a few years ago. It's the first time in my life where I'm not sure where to go next in long term planning. There is nothing I feel compelled to accomplish with burning desire. Instead, I'm quietly asking God to give me some new direction and goals. Jon and I are very different. He is able to find the joyful purpose in ordinary day to day living. No specific goals to strive toward are required to bring a sense of purpose and utility into his life. I love that about him - he embraces simplicity. I understand that we are called to find contentment in whatever circumstances God places us, but I feel most connected with God's plan and most useful and content when I am striving, striving, striving toward a goal I believe God has set me about accomplishing. To simply "be" and parade through the routines of ordinary life seems so fruitless for me. I feel like I've only got so much time on earth and I need to squeeze every ounce of purpose and possibility out of it. I love that Jon and I can bring balance to each other's lives with our differing philosophies.

I am making progress with my weight loss goal. I lost 15 pounds in the past 2 weeks, mostly b/c of the pneumonia but I'll take success from any angle. Once I recover fully (doc says another couple weeks)I can return to the gym for cardio and weight training again. I've probably lost ground not being able to work out for a month with the pneumonia, but I will hopefully get back up to speed quickly. It's exciting for me to watch my clothing size drop. My long term goal is to keep my blood sugar level at a stable and healthy level (I am insulin resistant at this point and have to go on Metformin once I recover from pneumonia to help with that), lower my blood pressure, and fit into a healthy size 10 or 12 again. Pray for my success in this measure.

My main employer has been quite sympathetic with this illness and for that I am very grateful. I have weeks and weeks of work to catch up on and I look forward to really digging in starting Wed as we are off today and tomorrow for holidays.

Tomorrow should be an interesting moment in American History. Our first president with African heritage. Quite a long way our nation has come from slavery, unjust hangings, and other forms of inhumanity against Africans. Still a long way to go though. I'm relieved that although Obama has opposing political viewpoints to my own, he seems on the surface to be a good man. I am concerned though with the pressure his supporters are putting on him. They have practically crowned him Christ incarnate and worship at his feet. I hope and pray that Obama will not get sucked into this power but will instead remember who the leader of the heavens is and turn to him for guidance. I am troubled with his choice in pastor this weekend for the invocation. If you've not read about it, he chose the very controversial openly gay bishop from the Episcopalian denomination. This bishop has been the center of strife and his actions have literally led to the splintering of the church. Regardless of your viewpoint on homosexuality, I hope we all can agree that to cause such a commotion within a denomination- to take the focus off serving the needs of the churched and unchurced and direct everyone's efforts to fighting a protracted war over acceptance of homosexuality within the clergy is misguided at best and demonic at worst. Either Obama chose this man because Obama believes that homosexuality is not a sin, or he chose this man because he was pandering to the GLBT base of the democratic party even though Obama does not support such behavior. Either way, it is troubling.

I do not feel it would be right for Christians to vote in nonbelievers to the presidency unless there was no other choice (i.e. both runners are not believers). I understand that there is no constitutional requirement of faith for our president and that the president in no way shall control the church or vice versa. However I cherish the freedom as an American to vote my conscience and I would only seek to vote for a man of God for president. In fact I would vote for a christian democrat over a non-believing republican if it came down to it. (It's why I would have never voted for Romney). The job is too important and too powerful in my mind to be trusted to a man who does not strive to put God first. My only comfort is in knowing that God is all powerful and will work his plans out even through a non-believing president.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Meet my New Friend Pneumonia

So you may have noticed that last week I never finished blogging about Paris over on travbuddy.com and if you've sent me emails or called me you've gotten no response.

In my defense: pneumonia. double pneumonia even.

I'm way too tired to type this out all over again so im just going to copy and paste my IM conversation with my coworker today.

----------------------------------------------
maria: how are you feeling?
me: hi maria. i am able to get out of bed so that is good. today i am trying 30+ minute stints sitting up
maria: wow.
do you have good drugs? or is it viral pneumonia?
me: its been so wierd. ive never been so sick ever.
so basically
maria: pneumonia will slam you.
me: i felt like i had bronchitis last week so i went to my dr who said yeah looks like it and thew some amoxicillian my way and cough suppres and inhaler and told me to rest for like 3 days at home
but fri i felt like a truck hit me. i couldnt breathe i couldnt stand up really and my fever was 103.5 all day
so i got scared and called the dr and she said oh no go to er immediately
:(
maria: I figured since they sent you to the ER it was pneumonia.
(I have kids... been there.)
me: yeah so they diagnosed me immediately with pneumonia in both lungs -i had all 4 of the classic signs- the crackling, the shortness of breathe the fever and the spots on the xray (spots look cool)
they gave me iv which was good cause i hadnt eaten all day, anti-nausea in the iv, oxygen
and antibiotics
they watched me for a few hours to see if they could stabalize temp- and they could keep it at 102 or less with tylenol- so they said they dont admit adults anymore who have a spouse and stable vital signs id get better at home instead of in the hospital
i guess thats good?
(not for jon though. he was miserable having to take care of me.)
fri eve i seemed stable to me. not worse not better.
by mid sat i felt worse. like i could breathe a little better, like the antibiotics were working, but my body was so tired. i could barely lift my chest to cough it was just too much. and without the anti-nausea meds i couldnt keep anything down
i didnt eat any food, nothing, from friday until last night.
just water
maria: it will take you a very long time to get completely well.
weakness and lots of coughing for quite a while.
me: sat night we almost went back to the er b/c i went back up to 104 and had a wierd side effect today i feel like i can breathe better
so im following my recovery steps
when you can breathe better, supposed to sit up more, take short walks out of bed.
my fever is down. i am only coughing every 15 minutes unless i talk
maria: any ideas why you got this?
me: i tackled going downstairs to get a bowl of cereal and i did ok going down but coming up was bad.
no- i find out the blood results
which bacteria caused this- tomorrow when i got for 2nd chest xray
to followup
they just knew it was bacterial b/c that presents differently than viral
maria: ...this is awful... but with all your plane travel I kept thinking SARS.
me: but i dont know which till i see results
lol i dunno about SARS. i thought TB personally.
maria: ah!
me: TB pnemonia is a possibility. but i dunno because TB is supposed to be much harder to get better
so anyway i ate a bowl of cereal today. miracle diet - lose 10 pounds in 3 days-with pnuemonia!
maria: I don't recommend the pneumonia diet.
me: so i am sad b/c i got online b/c you know i am inquisitive. and i googled pnuemonia recovery and it says the same thing the doctor does
it could be a month before im up and normal and driving everywhere and being me
maria: yup.
me: well at least my job is mostly mental labor. seems i can do more and more of that each day hopefully starting tomorrow after dr clears me
maria: no reason to leave your house for work.
me: i just dunno when i can go back to the office. it says to wear a mask outside in cold air. sounds stupid. something about risk of secondary infections is high
and avoid stairs and long walks and etc for who knows how long
it says a lot of people have like 4 good days and then relapse b/c they don't follow recovery steps right. slowly.Also, I've never blown all my sick leave the first month of the year before.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Paris Trip

I've begun the work of posting the adventure that was the Paris trip to my travel blog. So far I've only posted the first day of pictures and activities (and what a day it was!) but bookmark the location to come back and read all the entries this week as I finish them.

The travel blog for Paris is at:

http://www.travbuddy.com/travel-blogs/47153

I will not be duplicating the entire trip blog here on my regular blog, so you’ll need to bounce over there to read the entries and see the pictures. It’s really one click, quite easy, so try not to whine so about being led all over the internet.  Travbuddy.com is specifically designed to log multi-day trips with mapping and other cool features so I almost always post my longer trip entries over there and just notify you of them here.

Christmas Eve and the Mass of Christ

Right now the voicemail on my cell phone is stacking up. Emails- over 300 and counting- are waiting in my inbox for reply (and more arrives every hour). I've been back from our Paris trip for approximately 32 hours and I've not yet spoken to anyone except one of my best friends and my mother. Instead, I have a compulsion to finish the blog entries for the trip as my first priority.


And so it begins here, with the account of our Christmas Eve and following day…


Christmas Eve was really quite stressful in that I had a very long list of "to-do" items I hoped to cross off in just that short 24 hour period. In no particular order, these included:


Get in a workout at the gym

Accompany my husband to Sam's Club to purchase 4 new tires for his car

Declutter the house so the woman who cleans for us would have an easier time of things

Wrap Jonathan's Christmas presents and place under the tree

Pack for Paris

Gather the last minute items onto our trip Itinerary and print everything out

Finish a major training module for HUD (a work assignment due by MDT)

Purchase the items I needed to make Christmas Eve dinner

Make Christmas Eve dinner

Attend Christmas Eve mass

Take my parents back to Woodbridge after the festivities

Pick up my refill prescription at CVS

Open presents with Jonathan since we would be out of town the next day


Wow! Reviewing my list just now it seems I really stuck myself in a corner- I don't think anyone could easily accomplish all of that in one day. I know I certainly wasn't capable. I got almost everything completed except that in the rush I forgot to go to CVS and never got the chance to pack before midnight.


Spending time with my parents was enjoyable. As I watched them watching the choir sing on Christmas Eve I cried. Listening to my mother's beautiful voice as she sang and remembering that I've not spent a holiday with them since I was 17 brought the tears. It was a lovely service focused on the retelling of the story of Christ's birth. I do not feel as close to God as I did a year ago and I know it is mostly because I've been too busy with work, my parents, traveling and other things to really put time and effort into our relationship. I've not been reading scriptures regularly and my prayer life has been limited to calling out to God only when I'm really up against the wall in frustration. 2009 will be different. I *will* make time for cultivating and deepening our relationship.


After the service, we returned to our home where we chatted and felt merry while Jon and I opened our presents. I was thrilled with everything we received. Two items in particular stand out in my memory (one because it is a mystery!). The first item was a lovely apron that was actually on my wishlist. It arrived with no card or return address and so sadly I do not know who gave it to me. But I am grateful. The second item has a story behind it. While visiting Jon's brother and family in Des Plaines over Thanksgiving I fell in love with the woman of the household's soft and fuzzy throw blankets. She had so many and they were beautiful and very warming on chilly days while sitting on the sofa. I inquired as to where she had purchased them and she told me and I told myself that one day, when I had time, I'd browse for them myself. That was the end really of the conversation. But seeing how much I loved the item, without any suggestion or request on my part, she purchased one for me for Christmas in my favorite color and had it sent to me. I actually cried when I opened it on Christmas Eve. Receiving presents from friends and loved ones that you'd put on a wishlist (to make things easy for those who may not want to try to guess what you want) is lovely and appreciated. Receiving presents that are so perfect from one who has come to understand you well enough to know what you'd love even before you think to ask for it is amazing.


After the gifts were opened we returned my parents to their apartment and came back home. It was after 10pm and I still had not finished my work assignment or packed. The training module was proving to be a nightmare. Just as it had been for weeks, no matter what new technique I tried I could not get the audio and video to match. I really really hate Adobe/Macromedia Flash. I worked on the training literally all night long. I had plenty of time as our doctor had advised me the best way to adjust to Paris time was to deprive my body of sleep the night before we left so that I'd naturally be inclined to fall asleep on the plane over the Atlantic and wake up in Paris refreshed and ready to begin the day. By 5:30am I'd had enough of figuratively beating my head against the wall and I wrote my manager to explain that I just couldn't get the audio and video in sync and so would remove the audio leaving the training text and video only. It's hard admitting you can't do something; I was very disappointed in myself. After weeks of trying to do this on my own having never learned flash programming before I won't beat myself up anymore though.


So now it was 5:30am and I still needed to pack. I was so tired, but got everything in my suitcase and carry-on and double checked all the essential items (passport, itinerary, camera, etc). I realized in the rush of the day I had forgotten to pick up my refill from CVS and seeing as how it's blood pressure medication I could not go without. I had to call another CVS - the 24 hour one- and have them fill it again so we could pick it up on the way to the airport.


We kissed our wonderful doggies goodbye and headed off to the airport a bit after 7am, stopping by the pharmacy of course on the way out of town. We arrived to BWI airport in plenty of time for our 11am flight to Atlanta. This was the domestic segment of our trip- we would then board a plane in Atlanta destined for CDG airport in Paris. The trip was smooth and uneventful, although there is quite a bit of turbulence when flying over the Atlantic. I was very tired and slept most of the way, waking only occasionally to ponder all the exciting experiences we would have in Paris and my upcoming elite status with Delta airlines. Once we landed in Paris it would be officially- I would have flown over 25,000 actual miles on Delta planes in 2008, qualifying me for elite status. This means free upgrades to first class on domestic flights and those to Central and South America, priority boarding and baggage handling, and flight mileage bonuses when flying. Plus of course I'd heard the airline staff treat you as if you were actually human when you become elite. I was so excited! I set my watch to Paris time (6 hours ahead of Eastern US) and prepared for the best to unfold.



Friday, January 2, 2009

Vegas Trip

I promised a chronicle of the Vegas trip (Dec 12th-14th, 2008) and I've carved out a few moments to finish it.


The trip was offered through the Travel Meetup I organize. I planned the itinerary and made arrangements for those who wanted to come along.


We flew into Vegas Friday night (the 12th) and after checking into the hotel took a taxi straightaway over to Freemont Street. I introduced the travelers to the Golden Gate Casino and 99 cent shrimp cocktail as well as the overhead light show. It was *not* the family friendly beautiful light show I'd seen before but a raunchy stripper chick performance projected onto the screen ceilings. We were not impressed or happy about this change in programming.


Saturday morning we were off bright and early to explore the strip. We enjoyed breakfast at the Ellis Island casino (3 blocks behind the Tropicana and very very affordable) before visiting the Paris, Planet Hollywood, and Caesar's Palace Casinos. At Caesar's we enjoyed cheap drinks at Fat Tuesday's while watching the Atlantis animatronics show. Next we visited Casino Royale where I taught one of the members how to play Craps. I won $50 or so at the table that afternoon and I was pleased. By late afternoon we found ourselves at Circus Circus, touring the casino and watching the arcrobatic performances. We moved on from there to Lotus of Siam, allegedly rated the top Thai restaurant in the country. I don't think so! Even the cheapest hole-in-the-wall Thai place in Manassas serves better Thai dishes. What are the food editors of the LA Times and NY Times thinking?! They've obviously never been to a Northern VA Thai restaurant.


Immediately following dinner we took a cab over to the Excaliber casino for the evening's main attraction- Thunder Down Under. This was the first (and likely last) male strip show I'm ever likely to attend. My initial concerns about the objectification of the male performers proved to be unfounded. Instead, the performers used their presence onstage to objectify and use women. They brought women onstage and simulated degrading sexual positions; the performers putting their crotches right over the women's faces. One of the performers even groped an audience member's breasts . After the show the performers had their bouncer "selecting" women from the audience to go home with them, I assume for sex. It was a pretty sickening display overall, even though the men *did* have attractive bodies (ooooh particularly the fireman scene…).


After the show we headed back to Casino Royale for some more gambling. A few hours later (4am) I was up $150, and the member I'd taught to play craps was doing well also. She headed back to the hotel to sleep and I eventually followed.


Sunday morning we were up and out exploring the strip again. We had a gelato snack in the Venetian before we dropped into Mandalay Bay to sightsee and take in lunch at the infamous Burger Bar (home of the $60 truffle hamburger). After lunch we weaved our way down the strip stopping at Luxor, MGM Grand, NYNY, and the Mirage. As usual, the live lions at MGM Grand are my favorite attraction on the strip.


We did dinner at the Mirage Buffet before heading back to our hotel (Treasure Island) to pick up our bags and leave for the airport. We left Vegas on a redeye flight back to Dulles that proved frustrating as my overhead seat light flickered constantly as the tv entertainment system built into the seat controlling the light keep rebooting. I got very little sleep and spent Monday morning and afternoon after arriving home quite cranky.


Overall, it was a good trip and an excellent way to gather miles toward the goal of reaching Elite status with Delta airlines.