Sunday, January 27, 2008

Home again, home again, jiggity jig

After leaving Lima Peru at 12:35am, I got home this afternoon at around 2:30pm. Both bags arrived with me, and the trip was as smooth as one can hope for an international flight.

There is NO WAY I can post about this trip yet. I have a chem test on Tuesday, PLUS a post Chem lab write up, an entire different Chem lab, and a pre-lab write up due immediately after my test. I'm assuming that it wasn't very smart to leave all schoolwork at home, but then again, I was on vacation.

Look for updates on Friday. Highlights? Um, my family threw me one hell of a 30th birthday party complete with live music, merengue and salsa dancing, and a DVD to record the entire thing. I took advice from Tyra Banks (thank you ANTM.) I learned that camping sometimes means you poop into a hole in the ground. Climbing up to 4200 meters is the most physically challenging thing I've ever done in my life.

Oh yes, and the world got it absolutely right when they voted Machu Picchu one of the new seven wonders of the world. If that picture wasn't enough to convince you, here's one of my own from a very untalented point and shoot photographer. The site couldn't have been more beautiful.

Oh hell, and here's one of me with a llama. Just for fun :-)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


So, my boss started the birthday celebration. At least my desk looks festive now :-)

Blog Posts from the Edge

I've never been on the edge of a nervous breakdown before. The view is nice from here. People treat you with a sort of careful friendliness. Everyone should try it.

The short story is that I am Stressed. Out.

The long story includes classes and homework and planning ahead and this plane that is scheduled to take me to Peru at 8:30am on January 16th, which leaves me not quite enough time to get everything done...which means something's gotta give, and I'm terrified that it's my packing which would mean that I'll show up in Peru with underwear and a toothbrush and nothing else.

I know, I know. How can I find time to post when I've got fifty billion other things to do? Simple - I need a break to hang on to the frayed edges of my sanity.

The boyfriend left yesterday for his company's national sales meeting. (this means that it's just me and the dogs....which means that my lunch hours are now "dog walking hours"...class ensures that I don't get home in the evenings for their walks otherwise...sheesh!!) His flight was at 11:15am. I had to be at work at 7:00am in order to leave for class at 4:00pm. Even though I happen to think the Indianapolis International Airport is a happenin' place to be, the boyfriend opted NOT to get there five hours early, but instead to take a taxi to the airport at 9:00am. Which lead to the following phone call at 9:20am.

"Emily? I need you to come pick me up and take me to the airport."
"I can't! I'm at work. I need my lunch hour to go home and walk the dogs."
"My taxi just got into a wreck."
"Yeah. He got hit by a maintenance truck when pulling out of our complex. We're okay, but the driver can't open his door. He can't take me. He said another taxi would take a while to get here."

At this point I had a mini breakdown while I calculated that I could just get to my complex by 9:50am, and then to the airport by 10:20am...he could still make his flight. My very understanding boss let me go (I think he recognized the signs of an impending breakdown) and the boyfriend was at the airport by 10:20 and on his flight by 10:45. Whew.

I mean, who does this stuff happen to?

I did get out of Biology lab early last night, so I guess I should count my blessings. That extra time allowed me to stop at Target for last minute travel items and finish up my Chemistry lab homework while still getting to bed before midnight. The dogs all got rawhide chews so they would keep still. Call me crazy, but I think they like it when I'm stressed.... Lots of treats. Anything to make mommy feel less guilty for ignoring them in favor of Chemistry labs.

Tonight I have to leave work at 4:00 to take a Chem quiz early that I would otherwise miss. Then I have Chemistry lecture at 6:00 and lab immediately following. I should get home around 11:00pm. Then I have to pack. I can't forget to take my Chemistry lab manual with me, as well as my notes on Chapter 13 because I have a test and a lab due on Tuesday the 29th. (I get home at noon on the 27th.)

What about Biology? Well, right now I'm treating Biology like the bastard child and ignoring it. I have no choice. That test isn't until February 6th, so I'll worry about it when I get home.

I've gotten to the point where I can say these things matter-of-factly. I look at the amount of crap that I have to get done in the next 24 hours, and the amount of crap I have to prepare for when I get home, and I wonder why exactly I thought it would be a good time to take an international trip?

Oh yes. I'm turning 30. That's right.

I should be old enough to know better.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Time is on your side...

I have this old grey sweatshirt that I filched from my ex. I joke that it's the only good thing I got out of the relationship. At least, that's what I used to joke. It's a men's extra large, so it's pretty big on me, but otherwise it's just your standard issue dark grey zip up hoodie from Old Navy. I wear it when I don't feel like dressing up, or I'm really cold, or I'm sick... you get the picture. It's even my "Laney armor" as you can see.

After all these years, it's pretty worn. It's soft, the cuffs are frayed, and there are random holes in the arms from where I would wear the sweatshirt to play with the dogs. The boyfriend comments about the holes and tells me what a shame it is because it was such a good sweatshirt. But what I think is that at this point it's pretty much the perfect sweatshirt. More importantly, after all this time, it's lost all association with my ex. It's really just a great sweatshirt.

The point of that story is that all things fade with time. Even the worst moments in our lives, the breakups that feel like they're going to tear us in half, the deaths of loved ones, the realization that things aren't going to work out the way we planned - we have an amazing coping mechanism built into our psyche. That coping mechanism is time. "This too, shall pass," was said for a reason. We will always be able to carry on, even if we don't really feel like it at the time.

And yet, I went to my first biology recitation of the semester and met (through the class introductions) a man who is an AP Chemistry teacher. Since I am taking chemistry this semester as well as biology (and since I do not have a shy bone in my body) I decided it would behoove me to get to know this person. So I sat down next to him, offered my hand and said, "Hello. My name is Emily. I'm taking chemistry this semester. Nice to meet you."

He laughed and said, "Hello. My name is Ben."

Now, if you didn't know me, you probably wouldn't have noticed the slight hiccup in my speech when I responded with a smile and "I'm sure I'll be asking you a lot of questions this semester." The conversation continued smoothly from there. But I noticed, and it made me so angry. What it meant to me was that even with all this time and even with all my effort to put that whole relationship behind me, little pieces remain, and those pieces are always going to be there. What it symbolized was that I couldn't control everything, and that the best I could do was never spare a thought for what had happened, but freeze up slightly when I encounter someone who happens to have the same name as a guy whose actions brought me to my knees. And I don't want to think that any part of him, even his name, has any power left over me whatsoever.

It was a humbling experience, and it passed in a couple of seconds, but it left me thinking.

I don't think it's that I'm not over my ex. I don't even think it's that I have any residual regrets or feelings about how it ended. I've made my peace with my past. I think that what it means is that I will always remember what happened, and for the longest time I was trying to forget. But the past shapes you and makes you who you are, right? I'm all that much stronger for what I went through, and my life is on an entirely different path because of it. It was a good thing, and even if just for that fact alone, I need to remember it. If those memories are stirred up by a name, well, I should consider myself lucky. It could be so much worse.

Besides, I got one hell of a great sweatshirt out of the deal, right? There's always a bright side - even if it takes you years to see it.

Friday, January 11, 2008

School Days

So, I'm getting old. It snuck up on me, and I don't always feel it....but I can tell my age in several ways including, but not limited to; the fact that my knee was injured two years ago, and I can still feel the pain when it rains. My back is constantly sore when I workout without a good stretch first. I NEED my seven hours of sleep or I just can't function. I say things like, "I just don't understand young kids." And when I get messages from my chemistry professor telling me that snow might cause our final to be postponed (as happened this past semester) I get angry.

I wasn't ecstatic at the thought of my final being postponed...I was irritated because I had been expecting to take my final on Saturday, December 15th at 10:30am for weeks. Moving it would screw up the rest of my holiday planning (that was supposed to happen AFTER the stress of the final had passed.)

I remember being a student in college and PRAYING for snow to cancel class, or miraculously, a final. What the heck happened to me?

Since I finished my first (three credit hour) class back in school (with an A!! Go me!!! :-) in what I considered the semester to "dip my toes back in the college lifestyle," I thought it surely wouldn't hurt to take a few more credit hours this semester.

So I'm now enrolled in 10. Sadist. I know.

I have Biology and Chemistry this semester. Both with labs. I probably won't be seeing any of you until May. When you do see me again, I might be stark raving mad, but at least I'll be 13 credit hours closer to applying to a school of veterinary medicine.

Now my evenings on campus include not only one class, but walking between classes, sometimes heading to the library to study (there is no studying in the chaos that is my apartment...) Another way I know that I'm old is when I'm hurrying through the cold to my next class and I get that "Hey Baby!" look from a guy. My first thought isn't, "How YOU doin'?" as it might have been in the past. It's now, "Please. I could be your mother. Would you check her out?"

That's not technically true, but it sure feels like it.

My Biology lecture is in a lecture hall designed to hold approximately 190 people. There are 220 people enrolled. Due to work, I get to class RIGHT when it's beginning. I am ALWAYS one of the lucky few sitting on the floor. Do you know what this does to a thirty year old back? Seriously? When you're simultaneously trying to take notes, and you can't sit against the back wall because you're too short to see anything from that vantage point? And yet, there are 18-year-olds in seats who are falling asleep during lecture. What, they're taking a seat for fun? Just skip for God's sake! Aren't you supposed to respect your elders? (Nevermind that I slept through class on a regular basis. I actually slept through much much smaller classes....)

Oh yes, and my first stint in college was at a private university. I am now enrolled at a public university. Let me tell you something, I was DUMB when I enrolled in a private university. In fact, I think I need to go home and apologize profusely to my parents who so generously funded my overpriced education. How do the two differ? Oh let me count the ways.

My chem class this semester is a continuation of the chem class I took last semester. I can use the same book that I purchased last semester. No joke. This NEVER happened when I was enrolled as an undergrad. I don't care if I was in Accounting 101 in the fall and Accounting 102 in the Spring. Two entirely different books. When I found out that I didn't have to buy a book for chem this semester, I almost wept for joy. (Apparently there are also major differences when your parents are funding your education and when you're funding it on your own.)

I have been in three classes now, and in each one they make mention of how much you're paying for your education and why you should attend class to make your dollar worth it. (I'm not saying this logic would have worked on my 18-year-old mind the way it works on my 29-year-old mind, but's nice to point it out.) Additionally, in EACH CLASS they put a note in there that if your education is costing you nothing, you should thank your mom and dad. Hmmm....I don't think tuition dollars were ever discussed at my overpriced alma mater. If they were, the idea of thanking your parents for financial assistance? Absurd. I think it was expected.

There is no Starbucks on campus. I honestly don't know how these public school kids survive.

Don't get me wrong - the education I received from my alma mater was a good one. At least I think it was. I don't remember what classes I had to take to get a marketing degree actually.... I just know they didn't include any sciences at all.... or anything that I really use today.... hmmmm.

I digress. My education really was a good one. I studied abroad, (which cost less than remaining in the States...why didn't I realize that then?!) and all the classes that I took abroad counted for college credit (though the work I did on them was negligible.) I had great (I mean awesome psych classes. All of my classes were always small (even the intro ones) was a good college experience. But was it three times better than what I'm getting now. Um...I'm going to have to go with no.

Last night I went directly from my class (which ended at 8:20pm) to the library to get some homework done. I left the library at 9:30pm. Would I have EVER done that as an undergrad? (Hint: the answer is absolutely not.) I was the girl who put off her semester long project until the day before it was due and just worked on it for 24 hours straight. Back then I would justify myself by saying that I put in as much time as anyone else, I just didn't spread it out evenly throughout the semester. Now I can admit that I was just lazy and dumb. Now I study because I can't honestly think of another stretch of free time when I'll be ABLE to study - and because I've learned that those easy points (like attendance, in class quizzes, online homework, etc.) those points are the ones that make the difference in your grade. You know. If your test scores don't fall exactly where you want them to...

So I'm usually thinking, as I wander on campus, if the differences that I'm noticing in this school experience in contrast to the last one aren't really differences, just the same things from a different vantage point?

Then I get checked out by another teenager and decide that this experience is completely different. (The girls who attended my alma mater will have to agree with me here. With the guy/girl ratio at our university, the chances of getting checked out were slim to none... Why didn't we visit the public university down the road, ladies? Not only are these guys looking, they're probably going to be DOCTORS!!! How dumb were we?)

Do me a favor and send your kids to a public university. Just make sure it has a Starbucks on campus.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Vertically Challenged

Those of you who know me know that I am, ahem, of a stature that is on the shorter end of the scale. My favorite fun fact about me is that I was born at 22 inches long, and am currently at a whopping 60 inches tall. I've basically grown three feet and two inches in 30 years.


It was actually less time than that. My report cards show that I did have a growth spurt in the fifth grade when I hit 60 inches, and I haven't grown since. (unless you count horizontal growth. Boo! BTW - do you remember when report cards tracked all that stuff?? Man, I'm old.) I was actually tall for a while. Too bad I can't remember it.

I generally don't notice that I'm short. I mean, I've been short my whole life so it's not like my perspective on the world has changed or anything. I can't even distinguish between different heights. When everyone is taller than you are, it's hard to tell if they're 5'7" or 6'0". (Of course, when they're really tall, I can usually tell that. Think basketball player height. When my neck starts to hurt from looking them in the eye, I usually figure they're taller than normal...)

The first time the boyfriend kissed me (after his last model-esque 5'7" girlfriend) he laughed. He said it definitely took some getting used to. Not that he's all that tall himself...

But when I can look someone in the eye, it's a weird enough feeling that I always know they're short. It doesn't happen often... When I see someone short (my height) I just can't believe that's how short I am. I always ask the boyfriend, "I'm not that short, am I?" The answer is inevitably yes. When I see someone else around my height, and see how short they are compared to everyone else, I literally can't believe that's how I look in a crowd. I mean, I don't FEEL that short.... I have delusions of height apparently.

Not only that, but since I have no concept of height, the only way I can figure out what's really deep, or really high is in units of me. I wish I were kidding. My family went to French Lick for New Years. There is a hallway with an over hang on the right that is about five feet high. I could walk underneath it with my head brushing the top. But looking at it, I couldn't believe that it was "one of me high." I seriously had that thought. Yes, I'm almost 30.

Isn't this a girl thing? Aren't girls supposed to be worse with spatial relationships? I certainly am.

A further I heard on the Weather Channel (yes, I watch the Weather Channel in the mornings before SportsCenter) that Mt. Ranier has gotten 322 inches of snow already this year. My first thought was,

"Wow. That's almost 6 of me. That's really really deep!"

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Time Apart and Life is Good

The new year began with snow. Snow and freezing temperatures. Awesome. That has to be an omen for something, right? Welcome to the year I turn 30.

Actually, the one-two punch of Christmas and my birthday takes on a whole new meaning this year as I approach the big 3-0. Let's be honest here... birthdays stop being a big deal when you reach the age of, I mean, you might have a party when you turn 16 and can drive, you go out and celebrate when you turn 21, you might have a little private celebration when you turn 25 and have (much) lower car insurance....but after that, there's a dry spell of about 5 years. But the 30th birthday....well, you have to celebrate that, right?

The thirtieth birthday is a dubious distinction. The end of youth? The official end of your twenties. The last time you have anything in common with college kids. I, personally, think the best is yet to come and I wanted to have a birthday this year that celebrates life, not getting older.

So I'm spending money I don't have and taking time I can't take to head to Peru for a trip of visiting relatives, and hiking up to Machu Picchu.

The boyfriend is NOT coming with me, but a good girlfriend from high school days (who also turned 30) is. This is due to a variety of reasons, but mostly due to the fact that the boyfriend's company's national sales meeting is from January 14th - 17th, and I refused to move my trip. It's only partly due to the fact that said boyfriend is actually smarter at saving money and not going into credit card debt over travel than I am. I'll be gone from January 16th - 26th.

All this means two weeks with no boyfriend.

Blessing, or curse?

Weeeeelllll... Right now I'm thinking curse. I know, surprise right? But the boyfriend has been incredibly supportive of my upcoming jaunt. It's not like I know how to hike. I mean, I know HOW to hike, but what clothing to wear? Shoes? Water purification tablets? WTF? I have to carry all this stuff myself? ON MY BACK? All of those questions (and more) have been answered patiently and repeatedly by the experienced hiker that is my boyfriend.

And for bonus points, he has not once expressed any doubt that I can handle this hike. Not once. I mean, even I have deep down secret doubts.*

Which brings me to the "life is good part." This past Sunday, when the weather freakishly rose to about 55 degrees and rainy (pretty much the exact conditions I will face on the hike that will live in infamy) the boyfriend and I loaded up the dogs (numbering three with the re-addition of Azul) and headed to Turkey Run State Park to hike. I wore all of my hiking gear and at least felt like I looked the part. After my first fall in the mud, I felt even more like I looked like an experienced hiker. It's okay. I can handle this!

After my third fall, I was getting a little angry at this "hiking in the mud" garbage.

On the bright side, my shoes are definitely water and mud proof, my waterproof jacket is awesome and also definitely waterproof, and I found out that a sock hat is definitely the way to go, even though it means I'll have to put my hair into a ponytail while hiking. I also found out that yoga pants that aren't cotten are a suitable replacement for fancy-schmancy hiking pants with lots of pockets, the option to zip off the legs to make shorts, and that cost more than I would consider paying for pants that I'll wear approximately....once.

Casey and Azul spent much of the hike off leash and rolling around in the mud. I eventually realized that I fell three times while attempting to walk two dogs in the mud and fell zero times when left on my own. Since I will not be walking dogs in Cuzco, I feel better about my ability to not fall off a mountain.** Besides, it was really fun to watch Casey and Azul play. I think that watching dogs frolic should be part of any anti-stress, anti-depressant, anti-anything regime.

Tyson really WANTED to be off leash and frolicking with the others. Unfortunately, Tyson is not to be trusted. After our previous off leash experience with Tyson (where he basically took off running and never looked back...well, until it was too late to find us any longer) we have learned that the switch that is in Casey's head (and Azul's head) that makes them stay within at least 50 yards of us at all times is malfunctioning in Tyson's head. Apparently he just gets SO EXCITED!!!!

I hate that dog.

Still, even walking Tyson, the boyfriend had no trouble remaining on his feet. He stayed much less muddy. I wonder if that has to do with the "experienced hiker" part? Nah. Must be my new shoes, you think? They're just not broken in yet.

I especially loved coming upon the other (batshit) crazy people that we saw at the park. (I mean, who else would be out in the rain and why?) There was a moment of terror on their face when they saw our pack (where pit bulls outnumbered humans) coming towards them. Of course, once Azul almost knocked himself over with the momentum of his wagging tail, they realized that our dogs are only harmful to your health if you live with Tyson.

So after about three hours, we loaded our muddy selves back into our car and drove home. After showers and rubdowns, we found ourselves falling asleep on the couch around 8:30pm. All of us. Two humans and three dogs (one tipping the scales at over 80lbs) on one couch. If there was ever a time that I wanted to have a camera and photographer handy...

Of course, the next morning, the dogs were ready for another three hour hike and my muscles were...well... It must be because I'm turning 30.

*I'm CONVINCED that I will be that girl on CNN. You know the one. "Hiker plunges to death on birthday trip." Rindee swears she won't let this happen, but I'm convinced. Pray for me.

**That's a complete lie.