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I just planned out the next six-ish weeks at work, and it includes working about four of those six weekends. Including Friday, Saturday and Sunday this week. Including Thursday this week. Not for long, but still.

I feel like I’ve been focusing so much on finishing up at the current job, and spending my free time either exercising or sleeping, that I haven’t had much time for myself lately. Probably why I’m also throwing posts together before collapsing in bed.

But here are some things I want to do, little things, when I have time time:

1. Finally write up my trip stories about Papua New Guinea, as well as Ecuador and the Galapagos.

2. Make an indentation on the stack of unread books on my bedside table. Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of John’s comic books because the (a) don’t take brain power, and (b) I can read a few pages and put it down instead of getting sucked in and reading all night.

3. Work on some of the recipes that I’ve been reading and drooling over in the Fine Cooking that my parents send John for his birthday. They all look so fabulous and tasty, but the last thing I want to do when I get home at 7:45, sweaty from the gym and exhausted from the day, is start in on a big meal.

4. Find some new running routes, either by poking around online or by driving to some different locales and then just running. I know this kind of falls into exercising, but I’m thinking more in terms of the long, casual runs on the weekends. The ones that are about time and distance rather than speed, that are about getting out and enjoying the day rather than making it through a workout before the gym closes. Same goes for bike routes, though it’s getting cold so those are maybe a bit limited by weather, seeing as how they’re longer than a run.

5. This sounds silly, but catch up to where John is on a couple video games. He has a bunch, and I play a few of them, and it would be nice to, say, finish editions I and II so I can start on III, which looks awesome.

6. Declutter my house. It needs it and I need it. But then again, we’re looking to move in the next six months, so maybe I leave the decluttering for the packing and unpacking process? But I feel like I need some change in my living environment.

7. Spend some quality one-on-one time with various friends. For example, Cara. We see each other fairly often, but mostly with John and James in tow. It’d be nice to get in a girl’s night. Throw in Shelly and subtract one-third of the alcohol (she’s pregnant) and it’d be a pretty awesome time.

8. Go scuba dive for fun. I haven’t done this in Monterey in forever. It’s all been classes, which have their own rewards, but are not about me, underwater, blowing bubbles and making friends with fish.

9. Watch more hockey and college basketball. I’ve got to soak it all in for the next however many months before the summer drought (and baseball) settle in.

That’s it, off the top of my head, but I’m thinking I need to make some time to do some of this. Even if it maybe means a few less workouts. Or a few days longer at the current job. My mental health could probably use some or all of the above, just to make me feel happier and more centered and more grounded in my life.

Life has been so full of stuff lately that I feel like I haven’t had a chance to sit and breathe, let alone do anything extra. There’ve been scuba classes to teach, research symposium applications to finish, weddings to help with and attend, plus all sorts of work.

The biggest thing John and I had on our plate lately was Elizabeth and Mark’s wedding. We’ve been having all sorts of lunch and dinner parties to help the happy couple make table center pieces or arrange favors or have bridal showers. We’ve been on a number of bike rides to help the bride tone her arms and back. It’s been really great to watch two people so clearly in love, and so right for one another. Plus meeting all of their other friends has been a blast.

Their wedding was last weekend, and it was beautiful. Hot as hades, but beautiful. Full Catholic mass ceremony, which was a bit much for a non-air-conditioned church (one of my friends from high school nearly passed out but made it through), and a great reception. We’d helped set up the reception area beforehand, so knew how nice it was going to be. There was also a post-wedding brunch, for which my oven was on at 400deg for 2 hours on Saturday, while the outside temperature was hovering around 100deg. Hot, but the food was oh-so-tasty.

Elizabeth and Mark are off on their honeymoon for the next couple of weeks, and I’m sort of sad to not have them around, and to have no more wedding party excuses for getting together, but we’ll be back to our usual routine the minute they’re home, I’m sure.

The other big thing that’s been taking up my time, and absorbing most of my words, is my paper, which was submitted Monday to a journal, and has been sent out for review. Such a relief. I went home Monday, sprawled on the couch, and didn’t move for hours. That may have been due to the heat, in part, but still. It’s done, or at least I don’t have to think about it for 4-6 weeks. Cross your fingers for me, will you?

I’m pretty proud of this paper. Yes, maybe it’s not as great as it could have been with massive more experiments (there’s always another paper, I suppose), and no, it’s not going to change the world, and yes, it’ll likely be one of two instead of a whole handful that I end up graduating with, but that work? It’s mine. I did it. I completed it, with lots of help, but it’s still mine. And I’m pretty proud of that, regardless of the comments that have been thrown at me in the past about it.

Now to just get a second paper out and aim to graduate sometime. Key word: sometime.

But hopefully with the paper done, I’ll be around a bit more. I’ve clearly kind of forgotten how to do this whole blogging thing, but hopefully it’s like riding a bicycle, which, hey, I’m allowed to do again! Here’s to the paper being sent off, and theoretically only 2-3 more months of physical therapy! Whee!

Remember back, oh, maybe 10-12 weeks ago? When I mentioned I’d hurt my shoulder?

No?

Well, I did. Somehow. The left side of my neck hurt. Then the pain moved into the right side. Then down into my shoulder blade. And then down into my side, to the point where I felt like I had a stitch from running to far, despite doing nothing but laying on the couch on a heating pad, eating ibuprofen like candy. It wasn’t fun.

I went to the doctor, and since I’m not a fan of Student Health’s physical therapy people (not being a student athlete and all), I got a referral to a chiropractor.

All was going well for the most part, and the pain was slowly going away. At least to the point where I was no longer single-handedly keeping ibuprofen people in business and could do things with my right arm. Simple things, like pick up a half-gallon of milk. Ah, the small pleasures in life, right?

Then, about two weeks ago, I started going backwards. More pain in my shoulder blade. New pain in the fronts of my shoulder joints, right where you’d draw an imaginary line between your arm and your body.

In fact, right where your rotator cuff is.

Wait, what now? Rotator cuff? Umm, not so good.

So off I went to see the doctor again, and got another referral to a physical medicine specialist, who gave me a referral to a physical therapist (thankfully a real one, not student health).

Up to this point, no one besides the chiropractor had done anything other than ask me where it hurt, to move my arm a bit, and to tell me I had a sore muscle. And they’d all asked me what I did for a living, then suggested I stop doing it. Riiiiiiight.

The physical therapist lady, on the other hand, was lovely. She asked a ton of questions, took a lot of notes, then had me do a bunch of resistance movements, with her providing the resistance and me telling her it was fine/uncomfortable/pressure/pain/ouch/etc. It took almost an hour. She also had me relax and then moved my joints around, presumably to see how much they did move.

Then she sat me down and gave me the news. Apparently, I have what’s called hypermobile joints in my neck and shoulders. This means the joints allow extra movement of my shoulder and/or vertebrae. More than the average person. A common symptom/sign is double-jointedness, which I don’t have, but I’m still hypermobile.

The pain in my shoulders and neck/back? While possibly stemming from some initial muscle pull, is likely from what’s called hypermobile insufficiency. Basically, the muscles around my shoulder joints (i.e. those four fun little muscle that make up your rotator cuff), as well as the ones in my neck/back/shoulders, are tired of dealing with the extra movement.

And so they’re complaining. By producing pain. And all the bench work and desk work I do for a living is not exactly helping.

And the extra fun news? Unlike a pulled muscle, this won’t get better. I can do physical therapy to increase the strength of the muscles to hopefully avoid more pain, but it’s going to be a life-long struggle to stay ahead of the weakness.

While I’m glad to know why I’ve been hurting for close to three months, I’m not exactly happy with the diagnosis. Frankly, a pulled muscle sounds better. Or at least shorter-term.

And so the verdict is: Physical therapy twice a week for at least a month, if not more. Chiropractor once a week, for my back, mostly. Diving is permissible for now if I never carry weight. Yoga is good. Biking is completely out the door unless I get handle bars that allow me to sit straight up and not put any pressure on my shoulders. Kickboxing is gone. Swimming isn’t so good until I’m stronger. Working at a computer for more than 20 minutes without standing up and moving around isn’t good. Working at the bench for more than 10 isn’t good.

After the first physical therapy appointment today, I can definitely tell how weak I am in my shoulders. I knew I hadn’t been able to lift heavy things, like a fully grocery bag or an empty pot (let alone a full pot), but I didn’t realize how little strength I had there.

Must be why I’ve never, ever, in my entire life, been able to do a pull-up.

My goal now is just to get strong enough to do normal life stuff, and then hopefully get back into being able to exercise (dive, bike) at some point after that.

But really? This kind of just sucks. And hurts a lot right now. I suggest you all buy stock in ibuprofen and/or aleve.

I’ve spent a ton of time lately working on a manuscript to give my boss, and the more time I spend working on it, the less time I want to spend sitting around writing other things. So, not so many posts lately.

But now I’m just sitting in front of the computer exporting image files to TIFF files, individually, one at a freaking time, in 5 different color combos, and I’m about to go mad from boredom. I’m really hoping the time this is taking is because John’s old computer is so slow, and thus it’ll be faster if I can find a computer at work, but it may just be the program.

One hour and 47 images down, millions of both to go.

So what have I been up to?

1. We went out and bought a couple hundred dollars worth of school supplies for the school in Fiji–it’s amazing just how much you can get for so little. Now, of course we have the problem of shipping this stuff there. That might actually cost more than the supplies themselves, but it’s a price we all (the people from the trip) are glad to pay. I just feel bad that it took us so long to go and do this!

2. I’ve screwed up my neck/shoulder/side muscles through some random combination of work and diving. The extent apparently has to do with my body trying to compensate for, say, my neck muscle being sore, and thus holding my shoulder funny, thereby injuring it as well. I am not amused. The chiropractor thinks she can help, but if not, I’m off to physical therapy. Grouch. That said, I’d like to be able to dive and bike again soon, so I’m doing what I can. Frankly, there are days when I’d like to take a deep breathe (or sneeze or yawn or whatnot) without intense side pain as if from a stitch. Grouch.

3. We’re going to visit my grandparents this weekend. They’ve been moved down to California, although they would probably term it “they’ve moved to California.” They haven’t done so well this past year, and fall (the month, although it did involve some falls) was hard on them. I couldn’t go help out, as I felt like I’d already taken off so much time to be with my mom, but now I can go and see them and take care of them whenever. Or just visit them. They’ve moved down here to be close to two children and their families instead of just one. Maybe this means my parents will come visit more? I hope!

4. Speaking of which, my mom Facebook’d me. I was amused. And yes, I accepted. I’ve always approached that site with the theory that, if I didn’t want my parents/boss to see it, it wouldn’t be on there. So why not? I’m wondering a bit about my sister, though.

5. We have back-to-back-to-back-to-back scuba classes starting tonight. I didn’t go down to help, but I might get in the pool if I can weasel permission from the doctors. This schedule is going to take the combined work of our entire staff. Le sigh.

6. We had brunch a week or so ago with Elizabeth and Mark, and found an awesome crepe place to add to our list of enjoyable restaurants. Plus, it was just a lot of fun.

7. On the opposite side of the spectrum, James M wanted to get together for dinner Tuesday night. When he was late, I texted. And apparently woke him up. Frankly, we were okay with being stood up. Less awkwardness, as he still hadn’t quite caught on to the fact that most of us are incredibly fed up with him and his lack of help to our scuba staff. Especially with the upcoming classes…

8. My goal for 2009 was to declutter my life. Not so much a New Year’s resolution, which is made to be broken, but a plan to feel better about living in a small apartment with a lot of stuff meant decreasing the amount of stuff. To that end, we took 7 bags of stuff to the Goodwill last Saturday. And that was only one room’s worth!

9. John finally, finally, has a full weekend off this coming weekend. First since December. He still has a job, so I’m not complaining, and I understand that his schedule is wacky because his boss is rearranging the whole schedule to maximize the full-timers, thus (a) protecting them and (b) minimizing the amount of time he has to pay his part-timers. This sucks for them, but not much I can do about it. That said, the lack of weekends off together combined with the number of late nights he’s working isn’t fun.

10. Sydney and I haven’t gotten together much recently, what with her crazy shifts around the holidays, my trip home, and now her trip to Thailand. But she’s home and we’re having dinner Monday! Woot!

Okay, ten seems like a good number. It seems like all I’ve been doing lately is working, going to the doctor, or going out to eat. I’m sure there’s more to my life than that, but maybe not.

Oh, yes, there was the massive Target run and clearing them out of all conceivable school supplies. Fun!

Anyways, John’s almost home and the San Jose Sharks are playing, as are the Stanford boys’ basketball team, so I think it’s officially time to call it a day and shut down the image analysis. Gee, darn!

Because that means only one more day of the week to go. And then the fun starts, right?

Or at least, the 4am wake-up-calls. But that’s followed by diving, dinner with friends, brunch with friends, and biking. Whee!

My days have been so long lately, and so hectic for the most part, that I’m feeling sparse on “me” time. And it doesn’t help that I’ve had a lot going on in the evenings as well–dinner with friends, meetings, dog-sitting get-togethers. Not that that stuff isn’t fun, it’s just not sitting on my couch staring at the ceiling going “uhhhhhhhh”.

My plans for tonight got cancelled, not by me, but by John and the other people–none of whom could make dinner. John’s boss decided to switch late shifts with him suddenly yesterday. This is great in that John doesn’t have to work late Friday, especially with Saturday starting at 4am. Not so great in that he was suddenly supposed to work late tonight, when we theoretically were doing dinner with friends. But then she got stuck in Sausalito, and he was working late, so eh.

I’m the only one free, apparently, so I’m about to take myself off for my lonely walk to the car, drive home, scrounge some food up, and contemplate free time.

What shall I do? I’m not used to this free time thing. I’ll admit to wishing for some this coming weekend, and wishing that we weren’t doing quite so much out of the house, but it’ll be a good time. And I’m basically not planning on leaving the couch for the Saturday and Sunday after Thanksgiving unless you can give me a very good reason to move a muscle.

And I’ll fully admit that I’ve been planning all week to write up a post about scuba and a defense of it in light of the recent happenings, but I’m so beat that writing just feels like more work.

Suffice it to say: It can be a dangerous sport, and you have to respect it, and if things go wrong, they can very very wrong quickly, but the fun and delight and amazing stuff is well worth the potential risk, especially if you work hard to minimize that risk at every possible turn in the road.

Enough for now. I’m off to the car park. I think I’ll eat my lunch along the way. (Yes, you read that right.)

Dear Life, can we pause so I can catch up?

*sigh*

So here’s the deal: I’m a wee bit afraid of snakes.

Okay, okay, I’m completely and utterly and psychotically afraid of them. All of them. Even the small ones. Even garter snakes.

ALL OF THEM.

VERY, VERY AFRAID.

I’ve had this problem as long as I can remember, and no, I’ve never been attacked or bitten or even really threatened. And it’s not that I’m afraid of that–no, I’m afraid of the damn things themselves. My brain rarely makes it past “snake!” and on towards “poison! constriction! what fun!”.

I’d figured, for the longest time, that I was afraid of them due to the following memory: When I was about 5, I went to a birthday party at the zoo, and we got taken behind the scenes to see some of the baby animals or animals that weren’t on display. At the time, there was a large boa of some sort there. I remember some adult taking my hand and forcing me to touch it, probably to make me realize it wasn’t slimy or going to hurt me in any way. I remember being absolutely terrified of it.

I mentioned this to my parents, and my mom said that that person? Was her. And I was already terrified even before she made me touch it.

The only possible explanation she or my dad had was that when I was a couple months old, they’d been out hiking in the deserts around Tucson and had seen some fairly rare rattlesnake. Now, my dad’s a reptile person–he works with lizards and has always liked them and snakes. So, naturally, they wanted to get a bit closer to see it. I was in a little backpack thing on my dad’s back, and apparently just started screaming my head off. (Clearly I was smart back then–who’d willingly want to get closer to a rattlesnake??) My parents think that the backpack or a diaper pin or something poked me, and now I associate that pain with seeing the snake. Possibility.

So in general, I’ve avoid snakes like one might avoid the black plaque. Let’s just say that The Crocodile Hunter wasn’t my favorite program on TV, eh?

This fear generally manifested itself irrationally–I actually went to see Anaconda when it came out (brilliant, I know–my earlier brains had deserted me in the face of peer pressure and a lack of any other summer movies worth seeing), and had to get up and walk out of the theater, but not until I’d left fingernail scars on the arms of the two people on either side of me.

When I’d be flipping through TV channels, if I came across a snake, I tended to scream, cry, hyperventilate a bit, throw the remote away and press myself as far back into the sofa as possible. This usually resulted in John coming and turning off the TV with equal parts exasperation (WHY would you throw the remote away? WHY not just change the channel?) and sympathy (It’s okay, it’s gone, stop crying).

It wasn’t fun, but it didn’t really impair my life in anyway.

Then, if you remember, there were snakes galore up in Chico in May when we (Amelia and I) rode the Wildflower Ride. There were two snakes encountered on that trip–one crossing the road while I was driving, and one (dead) on the side of the road. Neither experience went very well, let’s just say.

And my reaction to the dead one that I biked past? Was to swerve out into the road, far away from it. Aside from the general crying/screaming/hyperventilating, swerving out into the road on a bike is not a good idea. I’m just sayin’. If there had been cars, I know that wouldn’t have stopped me. This was too instinctive, too “get far away right damn now”, to control. I just went.

And that was a bit terrifying to realize. A dead snake, or even a live snake that I bike past, hopefully isn’t going to do me too much damage. A car, on the other hand? Will do a lot of damage to a biker.

General safety point number 2: We’re going on vacation next week with Nate and Shelly, James F and Cara, James M and Rae and Aaron. We’re going on a dive vacation, to be specific. And we’re going to a place that has… sea snakes.

So, if my instinctive panic-reaction (prior to any sensible rational reaction about 10-20 seconds later) is to get as far away as possible, there are two options. One: I’ll turn and swim away at torpedo speed. Two: I’ll use my low pressure inflator button to shoot for the surface at rocket launch speed, possible bursting my lungs or giving myself an air embolism or giving myself decompression sickness in doing so.

Like arguing with a car while you’re on a bike, these are all things best avoided. Death is not really preferable to a snake encounter, no matter what the irrational part of my brain says.

So it was decided, in company with John and Amelia, that phobia therapy was in my immediate future. Luckily, Student Health is (not) equipped to deal with this. Bah.

But go I did, for 6 sessions. We mostly talked about snakes, although at my first session the guy wanted to know all about my family and my relationships, my medical history, if I’d had any thoughts of suicide, etc, etc, etc. I appreciate his thoroughness, but really? Snakes, buddy.

Step one was to buy a large toy snake, which John did for me. He was 5 feet long, blue, fluffy, and had purple eyelashes. I named him Jake, as in Jake the Fake Snake. Since then, I’ve decided that Jake may be female (see above, Re: eyelashes) but oh well. Jake wasn’t too bad, although he gave me the willies at first. Then the therapist decided if Jake was sort of okay, we’d move on to step two: watch a video.

Unfortunately, the first one he pulled up on Y*uT*be was of an anaconda (see above, Re: Anaconda the movie) that had crawled into someone’s livestock pen, eaten a member of the livestock (goat? sheep?) and now was too big to crawl back out of the pen BECAUSE IT HAD A FREAKIN’ GOAT OR SHEEP INSIDE IT!!!! Needless to say, this did not go well. I’m not sure what the people in the rooms on either side of us thought, but I think I did prove my point to the therapist that this was irrational and debilitating at times.

So we took a step back to pictures, and eventually to videos, and eventually, on my 6th visit, I made it through 6:30 of a 7 minute video of a guy playing with a 14-foot King Cobra. I kid you not. Google it. The thing is damn scary. The guy says that it’s highly venomous, though not at the top, but given it’s size, it probably packs enough venom to be the single most deadly snake out there. And he’s playing with it. And his dream in life has been to touch one on the head. Which he does.

Umm, I’m so not there. But hey, I watched most of it, right?

Since then, I haven’t had too much exposure, other than attempting to visit the snake that I recently found out lives next door to James and Cara. It wasn’t home (or at least, it’s owner wasn’t), so that may be the plan for this Saturday. There had also been a plan to visit the SF Reptile House, but that was nixed when we did the math of gas prices+time+(theoretically) easily accessible snake next door.

And last night, when the snake came on in the show? (The show about mold–WTF?? I think it was a metaphor for how fast mold can strike, maybe? Still, WTF??) I tensed, I shook a bit, but that was about it. There was no screaming, no crying, no hard breathing, no real panic.

All of this bodes well, but the real test will be when I see one in the ocean. Let’s just say that my fingers are crossed, and I’m feeling sort of maybe okay with this.

Yes, I know that most of you can do this, but I always have trouble with it. Thursday night, however, I did it all. by. myself.

Go me!

Sometimes you’ve gotta take pride in the little accomplishments when it feels like the big things are stuck, right?

Thursday was actually a really fun night. I hung out with my new friend Sydney at her place. We met Sydney about a month ago in Monterey–she was taking a scuba class with someone, and we were all in the hot tub talking and hanging out. Afterwards, James F and I decided we needed to steal her away from the other shop and get her to take classes with us and be a staff member if she was interested. Mission accomplished, or at least she’s said she’ll take classes with us the moment our class schedule and her work schedule line up.

She was actually drinking a beer in the hot tub, and James gave her a hard time about it. Neither thing is particularly recommended after diving due to possibly increasing the chances of the bends happening, but to combine them? Granted, we were in the hot tub too, but we always try to wait a couple hours before going in. I think sometimes James gives a hard time to the people he likes, so it was probably a good sign.

Anyways, she and I struck up a conversation, and it turned out we had a lot in common–diving, biking, we work at the same place. She seemed like a really level-headed and fun girl. James, afterwards, kept going on about my new BFF, but given that he kept inserting comments like “you’ve got to steal her away to come dive with us”, it was all in fun. I think he’s secure enough in his relationships, particularly his one with me, not to feel like he’s being replaced.

Since then, she and I have talked a lot, and we went camping with her and some of her friends over Labor Day weekend, which was a ton of fun. Like her, they’re all really cool people. We’re actually planning on some more camping/backpacking trips, and since she just got her time off approved, possibly even going to Thailand with her in January. Not that either John or myself have the time off available, and we definitely don’t have the money, but it’d be super fun.

So Thursday we got together for some girl time, and it was really nice to just sit and chat with someone without sort of feeling like I had to be on good behavior–we’ve fallen into a pretty natural friendship.

Plus, it’s nice to meet someone who understand both halves of my life–the science and the diving. It always seems like my science friends could care less about diving, and seem to be pretty bored whenever it comes up in conversation (yes, I know, I probably talk about it a lot, but it’s a big chunk of my life), and I think a lot of my diving friends come from diverse jobs so we don’t necessarily relate on a job-level.

Sydney and I ended up watching the movie ‘Charlie Wilson’s War’, which was really good, although I wasn’t really prepared to see Tom Hanks’ naked ass right in the opening scene. We also realized we were watching it on the anniversary of Sept 11, which was a bit poignant, given the message at the end of the film–for want of a million bucks to build a school system, we let down the Afghans a heck of a lot. Any wonder that they hate us? Not that I think it justifies at all what happened, but it made the whole situation make a lot more sense to me.

All in all, hanging out with her was a nice little pick-me-up. And tomorrow there’s diving to be done, as Nate and Shelly work on completing their Divemaster candidate requirements. Should be a blast.

I am, quite clearly, living for the weekend these days. And this was a pretty kick-ass weekend.

To start off, John worked late Friday, so I got to spend some time at home by myself. The grand plan was to make cookies as a house warming present, but did my brain remember this? No. So I loafed around and enjoyed some time by myself.

Saturday, after a brief couple hours at work, John and I went off to run errands–joy of joys–but its been fun to spend time with him on all his weekends off. We also discovered a German bakery, where we bought Nate and Shelly their house warming present–an assortment of pastries for breakfast the next morning so they wouldn’t have to worry about that post-party. And some champagne, just for good measure. Because we love them, crazy Brits that they are.

I tried to convince John to buy a cheap-ass bottle so we could get Shelly to break it on the house and christen it like they do with ships, but he thought they’d enjoy drinking the stuff more. He’s no fun, is he?

We headed south after running errands, swinging by his work place, then on to James F and Cara’s place for an hour or so. We all debated the fact that Nate and Shelly wouldn’t likely notice if we gave them only 4 pastries instead of 6, but managed to keep our salivating thoughts to ourselves. Then it was on to the party.

About 3-4 months ago, Nate and Shelly bought a house. They then had a huge series of house guests from the Motherland (England, where they don’t speak properly!). Finally, with the house back to themselves, their realtor threw them a housewarming party. She catered it, and had plenty of good food and wine and port.

And their house? Makes me wish John and I could go back and buy a house when we were talking about it. Because their place is perfect. Not that we could EVER have afforded it, but perfect. 3 bedrooms, two living rooms, 4 bathrooms (including one with a steam shower and an inappropriately height-ed window and another one with a jacuzzi tub), a climate-controlled wine closet, and best of all, an entire shed for their scuba stuff. Next to the 2-car garage. And this place not only has it all, but is beautifully decorated. The paint colors are nice, there’s a fire place, there’s marble countertops, there’s stained glass windows and stained glass lighting.

*sigh*

I think they need to adopt me. Or at least rent one of the bedrooms to John and me.

There were a ton of people that stopped by, and we got to sit and chat with quite a few people as the evening wore on. There was Olympic marathon-ing in the background as we all waited with baited breath for Michael Phelp’s eighth race (WHOOHOO!!!!!!). And there were lots of oohs and ahhs about the house itself. All in all, a fabulous party, and we all have a new party hangout.

I even tried to oblige Cara, who wanted to see me drunk because she thought I’d be an amusing drunk, but the evening went so long that my drinking just kind of kept pace. There was a lot of giggling, though. Fun times.

Sunday, after work, John and I met up with Elizabeth and Mark and went on a bike ride out and around, with plenty of miles behind us but also plenty of breaks for some hilarious conversation. We were supposed to do dinner with them afterwards, but they ended up having to (get this…) be interviewed for some prize they’d won in the local paper!!! So no date for us, sadly. But we can claim to have (sort of) famous friends!

Instead, we headed south again to James and Cara’s place, to the old stand-by of BBQ. Cara likes to experiment with new dishes and make us try them out.

“I’ll know you’re my real friend if you try the potatoes!”

We even went to see the Star Wars Clone Wars movie. It was actually surprisingly entertaining. Perhaps because the guys each had light sabers (green for James and red for John–apparently we’re a Sith family), I got a little-kid-sized double light saber (seriously, about 18 inches long, it was hilarious), and Cara wore Princess Leia hair buns and carried a blaster gun. We amused ourselves greatly. And a little 3-4-year old at the theater who couldn’t stop following around James and saying “He has a light saber!” Although I’m not sure his mother probably appreciated the effect…

The real gem of the evening was that James wasn’t disappointed by the movie. It wasn’t great, but it was good, and the friends made it worth the time. He only found 2 errors, geek that he is–apparently one of the bounty hunter droids that makes an appearance wasn’t invented at the time, and also the storm troopers that fly are supposed to have different helmets from the ones on the ground. Who knew??

All in all, a pretty good weekend. And my batteries are recharged. But it would sometimes to have a 5-day weekend and a 2-day work week.

So after my mom’s oncologist told me to start bothering my doctors about getting mammogram screening, I did so. Back in January? February?

Student Health referred me to the Breast Cancer Clinic here at the hospital. Their genetic counselor called me up and we chatted for awhile, and finally, last week (August, please note), I had my appointment.

The basic take-home message was that they don’t recommend screening until I’m 35, but at that point, I’d have a very low threshold for testing beyond a digital mammogram. This is good news. I’ve passed it on to Amy.

Even better news: Based on my family history and the fact that the two people who’ve been tested are negative for the BRCA mutations, I’ve got a 15% chance of developing breast cancer over my lifetime. Normal risk is 10-12%. So 15%? A damn good number. A number I can live with.

****

My mom’s meeting with the surgeon today, and the radiologist tomorrow. She’s got a month of daily radiation ahead of her. I need some airline to magically offer me a free ticket to go home again, and a rational to give to my boss about another week off. I hate not being there.

****

Elizabeth and I met up for coffee for the first time in a couple months. We’re going riding this weekend and then dinner with the boys, which I’m looking forward to a lot. Also, a mutual friend from high school is coming to visit her, and we’ll all get together for dessert or coffee or something. It’ll be good times.

****

Nate and Shelly are having a house warming party this weekend. They keep insisting they don’t need anything to “warm their house”. I feel the need to take something. I’ll make them cookies, but I’d also like to get them something wacky and gag-gift-ish. The first thing that comes to mind is TP. Anyone else have any thoughts?

****

Getting back into work after being gone for most of July is pretty hard. But things are finally ramping up. I’m not sure this is good, but it does mean I have stuff to do instead of stalking Facebook and blogs. However, I’m more convinced than ever that I just don’t want to do this. It isn’t making me happy. Anyone wanna pay me to be a scuba bum?

****

Speaking of Facebook, we found the diver chick from this past weekend, who we’ll hopefully be going diving with soon in an attempt to convince her we’re the cooler people to dive with. She seems pretty awesome, and we had fun talking with her Saturday for the hour or so we were all in the hot tub, so this shouldn’t be too hard.

****

Amy’s birthday is in two weeks. I need to get her a present. I have two ideas, but she’s also moving to Boston for school, so I’d like to get her something to help make the transition smooth. What do you need to move into your first apartment ever? With roommates you don’t know? In a town you don’t know? If only I had money for a plane ticket.

****

My best friend from childhood is getting married in October, right after John and I get home from our vacation. He can’t get the weekend off, and I don’t want to go by myself, as I’m not likely to know ANYONE but her. I either need to suck it up and go, or find a good excuse not to. Though money itself is likely to be a damn good excuse, as flying there Saturday and coming home Sunday will cost me at least $500 when you throw in the hotel and car. Again with the money for a plane ticket…

After the good news of last week, I’ve been celebrating. I haven’t been home to celebrate with my mom, or have her here with me, so I’ve sort of just been enjoying life for a week.

I will admit, though, that the small pessimistic voice in the back of my mind is asking when the other shoe will drop.

The rest of me is determinedly trying to squash that voice. After all, my mom will be a statistic one way or the other (and aren’t we all?), but all signs point to her falling on the “YAY” side of the fence. So there’s no reason to be so pessimistic, right?

Right.

(Right?)

So. The celebrating.

Friday, we went diving with James F and Cara and Nate and Shelly. It was a day that reminded me why I dive in California. We went to a place in Pacific Grove (Monterey area) called Coral Street. It’s a pretty rocky area, with lots of kelp. Both dives were, hands down, amazing. Probably the top two dives I’ve ever done in Monterey, although a dive or two at the Metridium Fields at Breakwater or at Monastery might creep up there too.

It was a beautiful sunny day, so we got the dappled sunlight coming through the kelp, which was nice and think, but not too dense to swim through. Lots of fish, and two kinds of nudibranchs–Monterey Dorids and some little white guy that we’ve seen a number of times but haven’t identified. Tons of crabs, including a decorator crab out in a sand channel where he was didn’t blend in so well. Look like a crab covered in kelp on the sand instead of just kelp on a rock. First dive was 45 minutes, the second was 50 minutes, and I wish we’d been down longer.

The only thing to mar it was that, having sold our BCDs on eBay awhile ago, we haven’t yet bought new ones, so we had to use the store rentals. They’re okay, good for learning, but the BCD wasn’t what I was used to, so I spent a lot of the first dive fighting my buoyancy. Still an awesome dive, though.

We had 3 PADI professionals and 2 PADI professionals-in-training, yet we managed to bring NO FOOD AT ALL!! So about 4pm, when the pancakes from 8am had worn a bit thin, we headed off to the local Pizza My Heart to stuff our faces. Food always tastes better after a hard day’s diving.

Back in the bay area, we hung out at James and Cara’s place–James played computer games, Cara napped, and John and I played Lego Star Wars (AWESOME!!). We were, clearly, a lively bunch.

Eventually, there was BBQin (it was the 4th, c’mon!), but no one moved when we heard the fireworks start, and it was universally decided that hearing the booms was good enough. Still, a fun night.

Saturday, after cleaning the gear and going into work briefly and running some errands, we went to see…Wall-E!!!!

Oh. My. Goodness.

Best Picture, anyone? I’d vote for it.

And the Apple placement, especially with Wall-E’s boot-up sound? Lovely.

Sunday was a family day. We started with brunch in the city at Maverick with a friend. They make their own doughnut holes. How can you resist that? Hands down, John’s Eggs Benedict won “most tasty”. When our bellies were stuffed beyond recognition, we headed up to Santa Rosa to see my family–two aunts and their families, and my grandparents, who were down from Washington to look at retirement homes in the area.

I was a bit worried about seeing my grandparents looking old, but they seem to be doing surprisingly well. My grandfather is using a walker, and I think most of us would like to see my grandmother using one as well, but overall they’re doing well. There was more BBQ, celebration of birthdays and anniversaries, and lots of family stories. My relatives up in Santa Rosa are a blast.

This week has been pretty good, too. Things at work are moving forward (always a good thing), my meetings with the boss have gone well, and I’ve accomplished what I need to do before leaving for home.

Tonight, John and I even got out for a bike ride, which was the first one in about two months, and greatly needed.

However, the pessimistic voice is getting louder and louder.

My mom’s surgery is tomorrow. Yes, I told her about the nipple thing (thanks for the tip!), but she decided that was the least of her worries, especially since she’s not set on reconstruction.

Everything has gone so well so far, that I’m sort of waiting for the other shoe to drop. And it’s surgery. Yes, it’s routine (damn cancer!), and breasts aren’t exactly major organs, and my mom’s had surgery before so she probably won’t react badly to the anesthesia, but still…

It’s my mom. And it’s surgery.

I talked to her for quite awhile last night, and again tonight to tell her I loved her.

She’s gotta be at the hospital at 5am, and is first on the doc’s list, so she should be heading in about 6 or 6:30. It’s two hours, so that means done by 8 or 8:30. Call it 9 or 9:30 just to be on the safe side.

That’s 7am here!

I won’t even be awake!

That means I can call my dad immediately upon waking and ask how it went. And it’ll all be over at that point.

And Saturday, I fly home.

Problem is, I was only vaguely keeping the pessimistic voice below panic level when Amy called.

In tears.

And I promptly had to talk my sister out of the same tree I was about to contemplate climbing.

I fly into Iowa at about 2pm, and Amy follows at about 8:30pm. She’s in San Diego with friends for a week, vaguely pre-planned before the surgery date was scheduled.

Neither of us, I think, is all that comfortable being so far away when our mom is having surgery.

She’ll be okay, right?

AHHHH!!

(Dear God, Please don’t let all the promises I’ve just made to Amy be a lie. Please? Thanks, Sarah)

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