May 31, 2010

May the adventures continue!

Over a year ago my Dad made a friend here in town, let's call her Sweet Lady. It's been fun for him when he comes to visit to have someone to go 'serindipping' with during the day. She also happens to go to the same church I've been attending. Usually we don't see each other since I'm at the early service and she goes to the later one.

Yesterday she slipped into the seat next to me and whispered, "Is your Dad ok?"

I was confused, "I think so, why?"

She said her recent email to him had bounced back and then she continued, "His birthday is soon, right? I sent him a gift and wanted to make sure he received it." HIS BIRTHDAY!!? oops.

I exclaimed (in a whisper), "Sweet Lady, you just saved my life! I totally forgot about it. His birthday is tomorrow." She seemed a bit shocked at my total depravity in forgetting my father's birthday. What she didn't realize is that she'd saved me from extravagant extortion.

The summer after my mother died, every member of my family forgot my birthday. Mom had always accused us of being thoughtless, but she'd suffered in silence much of the time. I had no such compunction. So I held it over them all and forced them make up for it (at least in guilt if not in gifts). I visited my Dad and made him pay for a guide and come with me for an outdoor rock climbing adventure. If I forget his birthday now, it's at least a $100 penalty.

So I called him today like the thoughtful daughter I am.

He mournfully commented that my birthday present to him had not yet arrived. I laughed and confessed to my thoughtlessness.

He pounced, "Well then, our contract states that you owe me..."

"Wait!" I jumped in, "I take it back. I know what to give you and you'll get it today. I'm giving you a Kindle gift certificate and I'll email it to you."

He paused, "Hmm...that's an acceptable alternative. Fine."

During our call, I also did something I've never done before. On this memorial day, after having supper club last night with a friend in the Army reserves, I thanked my Dad for serving his country and helping to keep us safe.

He joked, "I was wondering when you'd ever thank me." He served in the Army as a translator from Russian to English during the Cold War. He's been stationed in Germany to overhear and translate the Russian walkie-talkie chatter. He continued in all seriousness, "We knew we were on the front line and that what we were doing was determining if WWIII should ever start. After dinner many of us would volunteer for extra hours. We knew it mattered."

I commented that going to the International Spy museum (in DC) with him had been the first time I'd realized that my Dad WAS a veteran. Of the Cold War. No blood, but the stakes were high and the service mattered.

Remembering those who serve their country in many unsung capacities. Happy Birthday, Dad and many thanks.

May 27, 2010

Better than breaking even

I know, I know. Reading about inanimate objects is your FAVORITE topic, right? Enough with the bike! Who cares?!

Hmmm...persuasive argument, but not persuasive enough to smackdown my buzz from last night.

I worked on the bike for 3 hours on Saturday. Learned how to change tires and navigate around disc brakes (I stole his tires and put the original tires on his 5,000 pound bike.) I felt very proud of myself and really wanted to ride on Thursday. However, the fenders I'd bought don't work on a mountain bike with shocks in the front (and 'the sky is falling', i.e. it's STILL raining in California. Usually the dry season starts in March. Whine, whine, whine).

At this point, I've returned everything I bought at REI!

I got a new helmet, but when I got home and put it on, Jrex burst out laughing. "You look like a stormtrooper!" I turned around and checked the mirror. I'd tried on a small in the store that was too small. They didn't have a medium, so the clerk brought out a large with extra padding. I bought it without trying it on. Oops. It was HUGE. And white. So, ummm, yeah, Jrex was right. I returned it and found a medium-sized blue one on-line instead. (Going for the skateboard/bike/snowboard helmet-style)

Last night I rode my bike down to the B1ke Connection in Pal0 Alto. I got there 20 minutes before they closed and asked if they could put on the pedals and handlebar grips that I hadn't been able to install on Saturday. While they did that, I found a seat, fenders and a lock. They rang me up then asked if I wanted the new stuff installed. Sure!! Thanks!!! Twenty minutes later, the repair guy (an older gentleman from Cuba) had also fixed the gear that wasn't working. I rode home in a happy cloud. I LOVE my new bike.

After the insurance money, I've ended up with a great upgrade at no cost to me (except for my time). Not that I recommend this as a method for low cost bike upgrades!

----
On a side note, I found a new blog called "Life of a Doctor's Wife". She's got links to lots of other women married to men in training. It's funny to skim through and remember those days. The stress and utter loneliness feel far away. What remains is that if I want something done, it's simpler to do it myself. Thus, what might traditionally have fallen to the guy (outfitting his wife's bike) is all on me. (To be fair, it never occurred to either of us to have him help!)

Jrex has been buried alive writing grants all week and I can't bear for anything from my life to add weight to all he's already carrying. That's the main residue of his training years. Even if I hadn't started with an independent streak, one can only survive marriage to a doctor IF one IS (or becomes) independent. If I try to lean on him, it feels like I'm tossing rocks onto someone struggling to escape a pit of sand. At this point, neither of us even think about it anymore. In fact, when he tries to help me (like changing the sheets), it actually takes more time since my systems are based on me doing it by myself. I guess this deserves a longer post, but it's interesting to compare who I am at 13 years as the wife of a doc in training with wives of a couple years.

May 25, 2010

Bummer

At the end of June, my Dad will be packing up his belongings (and boxes of stuff for us kids) and driving a UHaul (well, my brother will be driving it) out to Seattle.

After listing the house back in October, it finally sold a month ago. My sister, being an awesome human being, is organizing a farewell party for my Dad. She got Mom's address book when Mom died and has been MUCH better than me at keeping up with the Cincy posse. Anyway, I've been trying to figure out timing and finances to get out there. UGH. Delta has a monopoly on Cincy and it's really expensive to fly there. All the flight times are bad at one end or the other. Aside from that, the Sunday of the celebration weekend is my hubby's birthday and I'd like to be around for that. Basically it just doesn't feel like it's 'supposed' to happen.

My week there last October was sufficient for my emotional goodbye to the house, but it would be great to also see the people who made Cincinnati home.

Sigh.

May 20, 2010

White vs Asian: Haggling behavior

I HATE to haggle. Tell me the price, I say 'ok' if I agree, we're done. Clean, easy, no stress. When Mom K took me shopping for furniture (back when we had a house in Bawlmore), I learned the art of haggling from a master.

Sweet petite older Asian woman to young man in store, "How much for this table and that couch?" She listens to his long-winded pitch, "Hmm...but this table has a scratch. The couch cover is new, the legs look new, it's not antique. Besides, I need to come back for chairs soon. If you give it to me for [1/3 off price], I can come back later for chairs. OK?" The guy agrees and somehow ends up throwing in free delivery as well.

I found a bunch of bikes for sale via craigslist last night. I started emailing various owners. Went back and forth this morning with a guy whose name was obviously Chinese. He kept throwing in preparatory haggling statements like, "remember, it's first-come, first-serve." "The bike rides great." "It's been stored indoors. I never rode it." So I went there prepared to haggle. Somehow it felt like I couldn't just say ok to his price.

Turns out he lives up the street from my office, so I swung by today on my lunch break.

I rode the bike around. It's a Giant 870 ATX. I'd looked up some reviews and people seemed to love the bike. It's got shock absorbers on the front fork of the bike frame. The guy told me to try riding it off the curb. I've had enough bike accidents doing such things that I TOTALLY didn't want to do it, but I gave it a shot. It was like butter. I barely knew I'd gone off a 5-inch lip. Suhweet!!!

So I came back and looked closely at the bike, "The chain looks rusty." I rubbed it. "I'm going to have to get new pedals for this." I tilted my head and stared at the bike dubiously, "Would you take [$40 off]?" He looked at the bike with a frown, "I guess. But I know my Dad paid a lot more than that for this bike. Plus it comes with a rechargeable battery and headlight set." [I KNOW. Definitely part of my interest, dude.] He countered, I'll give it to you for [$30 off]. And then he helped me load it into the car.

The BEST part? I called my renters insurance this morning and had the nicest adjuster EVER. He had me send him an itemized list of all the custom elements I'd added to the bike. Even after our $500 deductible, I still get over $300 back--no receipts or photos required! And REI is having a big sale this weekend so I can get my lock, fenders, new pedals and commuter tires for cheap[er].

I'm lovin' life today!

May 18, 2010

Being eclectic

My mom always mixed interesting people in her dinner parties and open houses. She'd invite people she enjoyed and would assume they'd enjoy each other. For the most part, she was right. I can remember dinner with our pediatrician and his wife followed by a walk down to the School for Creat1ve and Perform1ng Arts to see a musical. Another dinner mixed the Curator of costumes from the Cinc1nnat1 Art Mus3um with the Dean of the Univers1ty W1thout Walls.

On Saturday, we had the party to celebrate Jrex's paper. It felt like one of my Mom's parties. We just invited the people that Jrex wanted to see and it was really fun! Among others, we had an Army reservist in his camo outfit (about to get on a plane to head for his annual training), the mechanical eng1neer for the 1Pad, a d1rector of operat1ons from Amaz0n (K1ndle) and a sc1ence editor. (She was the only one at the party who could even HOPE to read any of Jrex's paper. We brought a copy and people passed it around. Two attendees actually tried to read it. Most people's eyes glazed over just looking at the title. We're very, very glad he does what he does, very proud of him, we just can't understand more than one word in ten...)


I was such a bad wife! Jrex ended up having to man the grill (Dovey had class and couldn't arrive until 6:30 and people arrived at 5:30). He was almost finished with the grilling before it occurred to me that he might like a plate of appetizers. OOPS! Poor guy was starving in the middle of abundance. He did a great job with the portobello mushrooms and the chicken and flank steak. I was supposed to be giving this party FOR him, but he made the zuccini fritters, the salad dressing, and grilled the meat.

Lovey and Dovey allowed a total invasion and were wonderful co-hosts. We lined up the wines on the 'bar' next to the grill. That way people could say hello to Grill Master J on their way into the patio. One of our guests called my wine covers "bottle condoms". Hmph. Jrex chose some fairly obscure wines (two included umlaut's in their names), so there weren't that many points scored in our "Guess the varietal for 1 pt, the country for 2 pts" game. We all enjoyed drinking them even if we didn't know what a Bla├╝frankenstein (I can't remember the name) was supposed to taste like.



We ended up hanging out until midnight! Afterwards Jrex kept saying how much it meant to him that all those people came in his honor and how grateful he was for me and for our friends.

Ditto.

May 12, 2010

Au Revoir Les Trek 790

[cue frantic movement music]
The past two days included client meetings (which involve Jrex dropping me off so my hair/makeup/outfit aren't mussed), a starter that failed on the mighty Subaru, a rental car, our mechanic, and then this month's savings going into the Subaru (at what point do we bail and buy a new car?!).

[cue sunny music]
Finally this morning was 'normal'. Inspired by Snickollet, I woke up early and went for a brisk walk/trot. Then I dressed in comfy clothes and ran downstairs to jump on my bike to head to work.

[silence]
The wall was yellow. It was big. It was really big, because there wasn't a bike in front of it. There wasn't a bike in my neighbors area. There wasn't a bike up the stairs locked to the railing (where it obviously should have been). There wasn't a bike in the back of the apartment (because it might have wandered off?). There WERE two ratty bikes in my neighbor's carport. But my shiny, happy, new woman-specific bike-seat, just fixed my Armadillo tires, new Shimano brakes commuter bike? Gone.

[cue sad music]
I ran to catch the train and then walked half an hour from the train to my office. (I have a sunburn)

I've just scanned craigslist for another bike, but it makes me sad. I've had cars stolen, but that didn't feel as personal as my bike being taken. I'd truly outfitted it just for me. It had become an extension of my legs and hands, my stress-buster at the end of a long day, light enough to lift into a train but rugged enough for potholes and rain.

[wringing hands]
My precious. Mmmyy...pressssshhious....gives it back nasssssty hobbbbitttsss!

I wish it was just au revoir and not goodbye.

May 10, 2010

Iron Man!

On Thursday night, during climbing, Graceful mentioned she wanted to see Iron Man 2 the next night. We all ended up meeting at the theater. As mentioned before, Jrex and I love comic book movies. Our third climbing partner, Petite Slovak1an did not grow up here, doesn't know comics, yet is with a guy who has the geek factor. The rest of us loved the movie, but she just shrugged when I asked what she'd thought, "I have to go to all these movies, they're ok." It made me realize how many 'inside' jokes there are, how much punning, how many plays on language. Not easy when English is your second language.

Mickey Rourke plays a bad-guy Russian and is GREAT in the role. Basically all the acting was really good except for the pipsqueak who's supposed to be Rourke's 'boss'. It felt like a sitcom actor got plunked into a movie and wasn't up to the challenge. Everyone else brought layers and subtlety to their roles, which is a challenge in a comic book movie, but the pipsqueak was just the same shrill note over and over and over.

Anyway, worth seeing.

Finished The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo in book form this weekend. Definitely worth it. I was able to skim through the rough scenes, which helped. I love the characters and their complexity. Given how gritty this one was, I'm nervous to get the next one in the series since it focuses on the illegal sex trade, but I'm sure I'll go for it. In the meantime, it's nice to relax with Mary Jo Putney's trilogy: Wild Child, China Bride and Bartered Bride.

I'm finding that the strangest thing for me about the Kindle is the overall feeling that I'm reading one GINORMOUS book with very different sections. Because every 'book' looks and feels the same, I don't get the same sense of accomplishment when I finish one and start another. Other than that though, I LOVE my Kindle. I've been reading up a storm. The thing looks like it's attached to my hand: dog walks, eating cereal, brushing my teeth, waiting for the train, saving a big file, lunch breaks, evenings, all sporting me and my bright orange-covered Kindle. (In real life, it's MUCH brighter. Which wasn't what I wanted, but hey, might as well be conspicuous, right? Sheesh...)

PS. Thanks for all the responses to my previous post. That's all really helpful. I'll have more about that soon.

May 5, 2010

A different kind of celebration

I mentioned that one of my friends is going to be having a baby with down syndrome. She and I talked on the phone for a while yesterday. Above all else, she's a really honest woman, so our conversation ranged all through her fears, her theological dilemmas, other people's reactions, and her mixed emotions.

I'm helping to plan her baby shower. As she put it, "You only get a shower for your first kid, so this is the only one I'll ever have and I'm really ambivalent. I'm NOT excited. I'm not attached to my baby (I'm sure that will change when it's born, but it hasn't happened yet). I might cry through the whole shower, or I might be fine. Depends on the day."

I told her we'd try to think of ways to handle the shower that took the ambivalence into consideration. Other than having some time to pray for her and the baby, I don't have any bright ideas. Have any of you been in a similar situation? Known anyone who was? Any ideas for how we can acknowledge what's difficult yet still celebrate with her and bless her and her family?

May 3, 2010

I'm so crafty

Had a wonderful weekend. On my way home, I stopped at a fabric store and found quilting 'squares' of fabric to use to make bags for the wine tasting. Hide the wine while creating a fun take home gift for each person. White cord for the pull closures on the white wine, burgundy cord for the reds. (Yes, I'm a geek AND a dork. Is that a problem for you?)

Friday night I offered to treat Jrex for dinner. There's a good local Mexican place (with white tablecloths and creative food options). It was fun to just talk and enjoy each other. At the next table there was an Asian family. One of the two daughters was there with her Caucasian fiancee. He was ALL over her. Arm around her most of the time. Touching. Leaning in to nuzzle her neck. Whispering. I realized I'd been Koreanized because it made me REALLY uncomfortable. It felt so inappropriate to do that, especially in front of her PARENTS. If they'd all been white, it might not have bugged me as much, though, I still would have found it distasteful.

Then, Saturday, I met my two buddies for climbing. Afterwards, I went to downtown Mtn View with Graceful. She introduced me to a sushi place that is true 'fast food'. There's a sushi bar in the center that's surrounded by a trough with little wooden boats that travel around and around. Each new dish is put onto a boat and you just pull off what you're interested in eating. Yum! Quick, creative and cheap. That's my kind of food. Not great sashimi, but I don't eat raw fish anyway, so that doesn't affect me.

Next, she showed me the bead store. Their front windows are filled with clothing so I'd never noticed it before. It was the perfect place to get all my goodies for making wine charms. A set for the party and then a set for the prize. I'll put up pictures when I'm done.

Then I headed over to Lovey's house to case the joint (at her invitation). Also used her sewing machine to whip the wine bags together. Lovey and I are really looking forward to doing this party. The intimidation factor for me is that two of the guests REALLY go overboard in party decor and food. I'm trying to keep it casual, so it's fun for ALL of us. Both of those guest grew up in upper class homes and have standards like having drinks in the living room before going in for dinner. Smart Girl is the one who offered us an "Amuse Buce" before dinner and was concerned about the plating for each course (when it was just me and Jrex at her house for dinner...) We're just grilling in the back yard, so they'll have to come slumming with us.

Wait! We'll be doing the wine tasting and crackers and cheese before dinner. That counts, right?