Dec 28, 2010

plan, plan. then plan more.

Posted by Mary |

We're broken down in Agra with the Ranthambhore blues.

And by that, I mean that a strike has closed all the borders into Rajasthan. Our train out to Sawai Madhopur tonight was cancelled. We have no idea when the borders will open again.

Since Plan A went to shit, we've enacted Plan B, which is an overpriced tatkal ticket from Agra straight to Udaipur tomorrow night. If that train is cancelled, we will consider Plan C. Go buy an actual India book and just start taking whatever trains are still open.

Dec 27, 2010

picture time

Posted by Mary |

We've got a little Internet time left in Agra, so here you go, Mom.

MNB (who will now officially called Beau, as My Old Beau is a weird acronym) and I enjoying both the Taj Mahal and the timer function on my camera.

agra and onward

Posted by Mary |

After the calm of Rishikesh, anything would seem hectic. But Agra was probably a pretty bad choice. This place is like tout central. Our train was about 4 hours late into the station, so our hotel pickup wasn't there.

MNB and I ended up hiring an autorickshaw driver for the day and visited the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort, etc. Things were going OK and we were even going to give him a nice tip, and then the stops at stores began. I offered him money to take us back to the hotel, which cut down on our number of stores but did not eliminate them entirely. This also cut down his tip. He should have done the "commission vs. big fat American tip" math. However, I am very good at listening to a sales pitch and then leaving, so we will not be bringing home any carved marble coasters or handwoven rugs.

I've heard rumors that milkmen are on strike and this is shutting down railways in Rajasthan. A few friends are apparently stuck in Bundi. We are hoping that our train to Sawai Madhopur leaves tomorrow night.

Dec 24, 2010

om away from home

Posted by Mary |

Delhi is in our rearview mirror. I'm not saying it was a bad city - there were definite highlights. But staying in Paharganj meant touts, lots of touts. They're like mosquitoes on the tundra. You are OK as long as you keep moving fast, but the moment you slow down they are all over you. I like to think that I taught MNB the fine art of ignoring people and shutting off sales pitches quickly.

Our exodus from the city did not go smoothly. Despite having train tickets that said New Delhi, our train was actually leaving from the Old Delhi station. One harrowing autorickshaw ride later, we made it to the right station. I'm not sure which my physical therapist would disapprove of more - my wearing a 30-ish pound pack all day after we checked out of our hotel, or my running for the train with said pack on. MNB and I had a less-than-stellar moment during all that, yelling at each other as we tried to find the right train. Then we yelled more as we tried to find the right car.

One top-of-the-line 1AC overnight train ride later, and we are spending Christmas Eve in Rishikesh. We splashed out and are paying Rs1650 for a room with a balcony overlooking the Lakshman Jhula suspension bridge and the Ganges. Through the open door, we can hear the sounds of the bazaar below. Monkeys cavort on the roofs. And MNB made the mistake of telling me that he kind of likes the sound of the Indian music pumping in the streets below.

After we checked in, I dragged MNB down the road until we found a massage place. Since there were both male and female massage therapists, we shared a room. Rs450 each got us more than an hour of abusive massage. I have never been so relaxed, nor has my hair ever been so greasy. I hit it twice with shampoo and am debating attacking it with Dr. Bronner's tomorrow.

We only have one more day of bliss here in the foothills of the Himalayas, and then we're off to Agra.

Dec 20, 2010

checking in: Delhi

Posted by Mary |

We arrived safely. Our taxi driver spent almost an hour trying to convince us our hotel is full. We finally made it there (on foot) to find that - surprise, surprise - it was not all full and they had our room.

It's very smoky and busy here. We've found breakfast and an internet cafe. Next up: getting a SIM card for our "new" phone (thanks, Tom!) and trying to grab some cheap salwar kameez for me. Wardrobe supply is running low.

Dec 18, 2010

...and we're off!

Posted by Mary |

All boxes on the "to-do" list have been checked. Paperwork is organized. In just 36 short hours, we'll be in Delhi.

Dec 17, 2010

justice ... with a side of karma

Posted by Mary |

The dirty rat bastard from two years ago struck again! We had our holiday party and gift exchange at work today.

And while I got some beer early on, Jim just couldn't resist his urge to steal it from me. Jerk. To my utter delight, it was stolen from him. And what did he end up with in the end?

A framed picture of our director. Justice!

Ironically, I was sitting next to him in the staff meeting when I observed that whoever got the portrait this year would likely have to bring it to their next job. Our department will regroup as a much smaller unit, but most of us will not be around after the contract is done.

Dec 16, 2010


Posted by Mary |

Dammit! Cuba isn't working.
This is not me waffling, BTW. This is the basic facts of the situation foiling me at every turn.
Just so you know.
Look, he's had a rough time of it since Jerry Maguire,
but he'll get parts again. The man won an Oscar!
You suck.
Nah, actually I'm pretty awesome. And you know it. :D

Yeah, so maybe my friend's plan to vacation in Cuba is falling apart, but all systems are go for my trip. On Saturday night, MNB and I are headed to the airport for the long journey to India. We'll be there for a month, hopefully avoiding most of the cold winter weather in Fairbanks.

Of course the trip is well timed. On Tuesday, my entire department got laid off. Good times, right? It wasn't unexpected - most of our funding (like 95%) came from a contract that expires May 31. And it doesn't look like the contract will be renewed. So we pretty much all have jobs until May 31, they just gave us 6 months notice.

We first heard about this possibility back in July. And since I'm a planner, I went into overdrive. All additional principal payments on my mortgage and all investing came to a halt as I began moving all extra money to my emergency fund. And I'm confident I'll be able to find another job in my field. So I've stopped tossing around insane ideas like renting out my house for two years and joining the Peace Corps.

The trip to India will be a welcome respite from the office. People are somewhat chipper now, but I can see the mood growing bleak. And we'll be covering quite a bit of ground as we travel mostly in Rajasthan. For perspective, it's like starting in Chicago, then going to Grand Rapids, down to Indianapolis, out to Kansas City, onward to Omaha and then back to Chicago. Or for more visual people, it's like we're traveling around Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. It's not necessarily a huge area, but you must factor in bad roads and lots of train rides.

We'll try to check our e-mail occasionally and will update the blog as time and Internet access permit. But you can pretty much imagine that most of the trip will be like this:

Poor MNB still doesn't believe me when I tell him I *will* sing this every time we get on a train.

Nov 30, 2010

heard in connecticut

Posted by Mary |

It's really shanty Irish to talk on the toilet.
--Dad, to my sister
who was trying to
stay in the conversation

Why must my father leave for work so early in the morning? It means I have to wake up even earlier to say goodbye to him. When you're trying to readjust your clock to Alaska time, it means technically waking up at 3 a.m.

My big trip to America is over. I am heading to the airport soon and going home. I love my family and will miss them, but I miss my house and my bed and my cat. Oh yeah, and I miss MNB too.

My long day of flying will be broken up with long layovers in airports. I will use my time at O'Hare to suss it out. MNB and I will have about a 4 hour layover there in January. I've sweet-talked a friend into meeting me at SeaTac for dinner. Maybe I'll walk to meet her. Maybe she'll bring pizza to me at the terminal.

Nov 29, 2010

reunion time

Posted by Mary |

Part of the fun of visiting the East Coast is getting to see old friends. On Saturday afternoon, I headed down to my friend Cara's house, where we had arranged a small reunion.

Floyd, on the left, showed up at the Pearl Street apartment in Mystic one day when Jenni and Cara were living there. Since every group of friends needs someone with a crazy Scottish accent, we kept him. On the right is his wife, Dawn, who we had known for many years before that.

We also had a small high school reunion. From left, I represent the class of 1994, while Dee was 1995. Cara and Kristen were both class of 1993. Three out of the four of us were troublemakers. I maintain that I was the good kid.

Even though our high school was in the northern part of the state, there was some crossover into the southern part of the state, as many high school friends were also Mystic friends. I lived in between the two and had grown up in Groton. Cara's family had a beach house in the area. Dee lived in California when he first started at Pomfret, but his mother moved down to the Mystic area.

Joining our Mystic reunion was Becca, who I went to school with in the sixth and seventh grade. She lived in Mystic and was involved in many of our hijinks.

Posed pictures can't begin to tell the story of sitting around the dining room table, drinking copious amounts of red wine, and reminiscing about our youth. We all took turns forgetting who was involved in which incident. I think that I need to demand a reunion every time I visit Connecticut. Thanks for the fun times (past and present)!

Nov 26, 2010

that holiday feeling

Posted by Mary |

The cool kids hang out on the front porch at night, drinking wine.
And by cool kids, I mean my Aunt Mary and cousin Jess.
MySpace-style portrait art will never die!

After the supercomputing conference ended, I bid adieu to New Orleans and flew to Connecticut to visit with family for a bit. As my sister had given birth in April, I risked incurring great Catholic guilt trips if I didn't make it out to meet her daughter soon.

I am once again struck by how big and how identical everything is here in the Lower 48. It's become a world of chain restaurants and box stores. Moreover, a popular timepass seems to be making a day of shopping. I guess I'm spoiled in Fairbanks - we have barely any places to shop, making that errand more utilitarian. At the same time, I do have the ability to buy nearly anything my heart desires, thanks to the Internet. Thus, my shopping list for this trip has been quite brief: a new sweater, a piece of luggage for my roommate, a box of Devil Dogs. I impulse-purchased a new purse, reminding myself of how easy it can be to get distracted by the quantity of goods available.

The rumors of my niece being a quiet and perfect baby have been greatly exaggerated. Ashley goes to grandma daycare, so I've been spending most days with her. And don't get me wrong - she's cute! She mostly stuffs her two middle fingers in her mouth and stares at you. She may be plotting my death to increase her inheritance. It's hard to tell. Mostly she just stares. But when she gets fussy, she is not afraid to cry long and loud to share her dismay.

My friend Meg also has a new baby. She adopted last year, so I had met Leah once before. But now the kid is walking and is a bit of a handful. She is built like a tank and seems to be bulletproof, thus earning herself the nickname Bam-Bam. Mean nicknames aren't just for the dance troupe!

Yesterday was, of course, the big event, with my Manhattan relatives trekking inland to eat turkey and ply me with questions about Alaska politics. The Massachusetts relatives had arrived the night before, possibly to suss out the liquor situation. There's always enough wine around when I am here, but otherwise it's usually pretty dry, belying our WASP-y roots.

If yesterday was Thanksgiving, that means today is the day after Thanksgiving. And instead of waking up early for Black Friday shopping, we are following a different family tradition - staying out of my mother's way as she becomes a whirling Tasmanian devil of Christmas decorations. I could try to explain just how much she decorates, but not even pictures would do it justice. Let's just say that there are normally three fully decorated Christmas trees. And the bathroom goes beyond theme towels to theme shower curtains. People wonder why I don't celebrate the holidays, but it's clearly just a natural rebellion against the environment in which I was raised. Like a holiday Rumspringa.

I have a few days left to try to fit in all the visits with old friends and relatives, not to mention spending quality time with my actual nuclear family. There's been a subtle shift in language. People keep asking me how much longer I'm home, but I speak of how much longer I'll be visiting before I go home. I miss my house and my cat and MNB. I'm glad I skipped the Icepocalypse of 2010 in Fairbanks, but I need to go home. And then turn right around and go on vacation with MNB.

Crap. I've only got a week left until I have to go to the Supercomputing Conference. Suddenly my To-Do List is looming in front of me.

Of course, the conference itself wouldn't be so bad, except for the trip to visit my family afterward. That means extra packing and extra luggage. Not to mention the extra nights until I'm back in my own home and sleeping in my own bed.

In an ideal world, I'd be able to bring MNB along with me. He'd get all nerdy at the conference, then be forced to meet the family. However, in the real world, there is really only one airline that flies out of Fairbanks. And since it doesn't fly to New Orleans, I can't use my companion fare for him. He'll just have to keep the home fires burning. (Hopefully not literally, as I don't actually have a woodstove.)

With the conference nigh, the crazy preparations at work are almost done. This means I can settle into the next big task: Hosting an international conference in 2011. Lots of work to be done, including some of my favorite things - designing publications. I've already knocked out two of the three reminder postcards and sent them off for printing and mailing. There will also be a mailed brochure and a rather hefty conference program. I'm getting giddy just thinking about heavy weight paper and aqueous coating.

Oct 26, 2010

nobody does it better

Posted by Mary |

In the realm of things I am good at, I think "shopping" ranks pretty high. Now, I may live in Fairbanks where shopping opportunities are few and far between, but there is the Internet when I need shoes. But when it comes to a new pair of glasses, I feel the need to physically try on as many pairs as possible. Tonight I dragged my roommate along to help me narrow it down.

From the whole store, I got myself down to 13 possible pairs of glasses. And from those 13 possible pairs, I ended up with 4 nearly identical pairs. Like, they're all pretty much the same frames. Don't believe me?

There's your proof. Dark frames, moderately cat-eye-ish, with aqua/teal/blue interiors. Hell, they even have almost identical lens, bridge and frame widths. So I'm opening my life up to votes once again. Vision wear by democracy, if you will.

Which glasses do you like best?

Oct 14, 2010

breaking news, not breaking leg

Posted by Mary |

My radio silence has been deliberate. It's not a "no news is good news" sort of situation. My knee just didn't heal well after the surgery in July. I've tried, but the range of motion is not coming back through physical therapy.

Tomorrow morning I go back into the hospital for another procedure. This one is less involved than the actual knee surgery. More painkillers this time, from what I understand. That should make for interesting post-operation conversations. I recall waking up in my hospital room in July with the overwhelming urge to discuss diversifying my portfolio to include more foreign investments. Fortunately MNB was only a phone call away and more than willing to talk about fiscal matters.

I'm all out of sick time at this point, so I am using vacation time to take one of the two weeks I need off from work. I'll just have to be back at work the second week.

In semi-related news, winter is setting in. The snow has arrived and it looks like it will be here to stay. When I get out of the operating room, I will have another OnQ ball in my knee. Non-sequitur? No. I do not own any pants that will fit over all the wrappings and the OnQ and will keep me warm in the wintry weather, so I am wearing my fleece pajama pants to the hospital. Tres WalMart chic.

Sep 3, 2010

behind the curve

Posted by Mary |

My surgeon has officially confirmed that I am behind where I need to be for recovery. My knee is just not bending enough. MNB came to the appointment with me, and we talked about how to get my knee bending more. It may take a village to raise a child, but it only takes two people to work on my knee.

Thus, when I got home from rehearsal, my roommate and boyfriend were waiting for me. I got comfortable face down on the floor and they took turns bending my knee for me. We only did 2 cycles of 5 bends, but it took 30 minutes. Basically, they bend my knee, and then I have to push as hard as I can trying to straighten my leg for 30 seconds to fatigue the quads. As soon as I stop pushing, they push my knee into a deeper bend for 30 seconds. Then I'm supposed to try to push again from there for 30 seconds, followed by an even deeper stretch for 30 seconds. I don't think it's easy on either of them to do it, as the stretching makes me scream, sob and beg for them to stop. Halfway through the first round, I felt my face go numb and realized I was perilously close to passing out. My roommate brought out a damp washcloth for my neck, but as soon as I was recovered from that, the stretching began again.

I'm eternally grateful that I have both of them there to help me. There's just no way I could do this on my own. If I don't succeed in getting 30 more degrees of flexibility in the next 3 weeks, my surgeon is talking about having to put me under general anesthesia and forcibly restoring my flexibility. That does not sound like a good thing.

Sep 1, 2010

the medium reveal

Posted by Mary |

I'd love to be able to do a big reveal. I would start off with some before pictures of my bathroom, and then hit you right in the face with dazzling after pictures. Just like one of those home improvement shows! After all, that was the plan for the summer. I even had a name for the project. Down To The Studs 2010: A Bathroom Odyssey.

But then my knee happened, and my bathroom plans got scuttled. And before they got scuttled, I kind of started a little demolition. As you may recall, we had to get a broken cast iron pipe repaired, which involved moving the sink, and we ripped out quite a bit of the wall for good measure. After my injury, the sink never got hooked back up and the black plastic stayed on the wall.

When MNB came back two weeks ago, he decided to go ahead and hook up the new sink which had been sitting in my garage for three months. (We had to cut and move the new pipe up to hook up the sink, so I didn't want to hook up the old sink and possibly have to cut and move again for the new sink.)

So my bathroom still has black plastic covering half the walls, and there's some ugly exposed floorboard where the vinyl stopped for the old sink, but at least one part of the bathroom renovation is done!

It's a lovely portent of things to come. Next summer...

This was the only sink that was shallow enough to work with the awkward bump-out for pipes in my bathroom. Fortunately, I quite like it.

I considered three different faucets. It seems like a silly thing to debate, but I plan on living in this house for a while, and I didn't want to look at my faucet every morning and regret cheaping out on it. In the end, I actually chose the most expensive one, and I love it.

As a bonus, I put the old sink on Craigslist and managed to sell it for $50.

On an unrelated note, I told MNB I was going to have dinner with Tom on Monday. He didn't say anything until I mentioned watching a movie, too. Is my new boyfriend jealous of my old boyfriend? I made a joke, but then apologized for it before he helped me stretch my knee. Never do physical therapy in anger!

I finally got my new brace onto my knee last week. Pinky and I will have a beautiful long-term relationship. I'm still not wearing heels. Boo. And my insurance company granted me a generous exception and gave me two extra visits. According to them, I will be all healed by Friday. Yeah. Right. We're fighting that.

Aug 13, 2010

just chilling

Posted by Mary |

I'm still waiting for my cryo cuff to arrive. I bought one off eBay last weekend, hoping that it will help me fight the swelling in my knee. Of course, as soon as I bought it, a coworker mentioned that he had one. Dangit, I missed out on a free cryo cuff! I asked to borrow his while I waited for mine to arrive. So I am now in the cooler club, and I carry it with me and look for outlets to plug it into. It's nice to be able to ice the knee on demand. I'm trying to figure out where to put it in the bedroom to ice overnight. It doesn't help that there is only one outlet in the damn room.

I was offered a ticket to a concert tonight, but I turned it down. There are several reasons:

  1. I can't stand up outside for hours, and there was no guarantee of nice weather so I could take my chances just laying on the ground at the show.
  2. If I was really excited to see Snoop Dogg (and maybe I would have been 10 years ago), I would have already bought a ticket. There's a reason why I haven't been to a show at the Blue Loon since 2008. They bring up faded stars.
  3. I had rehearsal.
Note that last one? I got a small role in a play. Remember my now-infamous turn as Rosita, the hideous, aging Spanish prostitute in the 2008 FST production of Camino Real? Yeah, this time I'm just a bimbo. Typecasting. Since I won't be able to dance for a year, I decided to find other ways to be on stage.

I've also told the troupe that I won't be at rehearsals for a long time. I hope to get back to ballroom dance sometime in the fall (though that depends on my healing), but it will take a while to be able to return to the vigors of fusion dance.

In another bid to occupy my time, I have started to organize my clothing patterns. I have a lot of them. I've come across at least 2 duplicates so far. Along with the patterns, there's a large supply of fabric I've purchased for various projects over the years. I've declared the next month to be "Sew Your Stash September" and will be trying to work through the pile. I started work on one dress, but it's slow-going. I have always cut on the floor, and now I don't have the ability to move around easily. It took me 2 days to cut out all the fabric, and I still have to cut some interfacing. But those 50s housewife dresses aren't going to sew themselves.

I'm mostly chipper. (Especially in the mornings, much to the consternation of most of my travel partners.) So even after royally fucking up my knee, I did my best to remain upbeat. Dislocated the knee and have to stay off it for a while? OK. Going to need a few months of rehab? OK. Oh, hey, it's actually a torn ACL? OK. Gotta get some surgery and it will take a year to recover? OK. No family or boyfriend or roommate around post-surgery? OK.

But I'm not made of stone. I had to break eventually. In the end, it was the lasagna that did it.

See, at work we have two half-size, under-the-counter refrigerators. If you've ever had one, you know that the freezer space in them in tiny and prone to excessive frosting. So it's no surprise that one of the freezers is completely frosted over and utterly useless. The other freezer is only half-frosted over. (Should half-frosted be hyphenated as a compound modifier in that sentence? It feels right and wrong at the same time. I digress.) This leaves me enough space to jam in the ice pack I need to use constantly at work. I'm really struggling with the swelling in my knee, and the solution is ice and elevation, both of which are tricky to do at work.

On Thursday, I was icing my knee while eating lunch because I'm a multi-tasker. When I returned the ice pack to the kitchen, I found a frozen lasagna wedged into the freezer. It wasn't just wedged in there, it was dominating the space. There was no room for my ice pack. I suppose I should also mention that there is a full-size refrigerator and freezer in the ARSC offices one level down. But the lasagna was upstairs. A refrigerated ice pack is not nearly as effective, and my knee was pretty achy by the time I went home.

At physical therapy the next day, it all came to a head. My flexibility had been getting worse, and my strength was rapidly fading too. I got downgraded to the 2.5 lb ankle weight for short-arc quads. The previous week, I had been rocking 7.5 lbs, but now I was struggling with 2.5. When my timer went off, the PT asked me how the set had gone. I said "Fine," and promptly burst into tears. Yes, I turned into that emotional wreck of a person, sobbing in the middle of the physical therapy center. There was no rhyme or reason to it, but I just couldn't stop crying. The PT recommended I take the day off from work, which I readily agreed to.

I spent the weekend relaxing, elevating and icing. I got back to PT this morning in a much better mood. I still had that damn 2.5 lb weight, and my flexibility was still crap, but I was in a better mood. Then I got to work. The fucking lasagna was still there. Who does that? Who not only buys a lasagna in the middle of the day and takes up all the freezer space with it, but also leaves it there for 4+ days? I moved it to the fridge and sent a blanket e-mail explaining that I had moved it and that I needed some freezer space for the ice pack. No one has fessed up yet.

Damn lasagna.

Aug 3, 2010


Posted by Mary |

I got myself a fancy new iPod Touch. Apparently I can use it to update my blog(albeit very slowly). And no, I didn't spend my money on this. It was free, courtesy of a University of Alaska wellness incentive program. I managed to accumulate enough points for the grand prize despite injuring myself halfway through the program. I guess my healthy lifestyle has paid off. Too bad it's all gone to pot since May 30.

Jul 20, 2010


Posted by Mary |

Lately my aesthetic has been $8 walmart bike shorts,
a T-shirt and a thigh-high anti-embolism stocking.

I don't understand why I'm not meeting more men.

I've been spending some time chatting online with one of my friends lately. She moved to Cambodia a few years ago, and I've been meaning to go visit her ever since. It hasn't happened yet, and I fear she is tiring of fragile democracies and will move on before I get the chance.

She had her ACL replaced when she was in high school, so she's been listening to me moan about my pain and mobility issues. Every once in a while, she'll throw in a special little tidbit, like the fact that I may get some sensation back in my knee, but it will likely be numb to some extent for the rest of my life.

I've been working on getting over my squeamishness with regards to looking at my knee. I'm fascinated with the bruising and the numbness. Although I feel pain deep inside my knee, I can't feel anything on the surface. It generally feels hot to the touch, even after I finish icing.

This was the bruising on Sunday. Note the lovely brown tones.

Here you can see how the bruises are really coming into their own and spreading out nicely. I recently likened them to a friend as a cross between Turmeric and Puce. I like to describe colors like a J. Crew catalog. Fun fact: Apparently "puce' can be used to indicate two different colors. I've always known it to be a light brownish green, but apparently it is normally known as a reddish purple. (I know it says Victorian Pink, but you're just going to have to trust me that CC8899 is the hexadecimal value for puce!) I can show examples of both of these colors in just one bruise!

And yes, my leg is still ridiculously swollen. Thanks for noticing. Swollen knee + atrophied calf = cartoon leg.

I am planning on going back to the office next week. I will still have physical therapy three times a week. Those appointments have been last about 90 minutes lately. But there's a lot of stuff to do at work, and I'm getting bored at home. I do have concerns, however, about my ability to keep my knee elevated and iced while I'm at work. Technically speaking, it needs to be above my heart. So just keeping it extended in front of me won't cut it. I'm going to have to experiment with propping it way up on the desk and perhaps taking breaks to our rest area to lay down on a couch.

Of course, all this also begs the question of work attire. ARSC and UAF in general are not really big on dress codes. Some people dress up, some people wear old jeans and T-shirts every day. I usually fall into the dress-up category. However, I can't put any pants on over my current brace. I could go buy a pair that would fit over it, but they would be ridiculously huge on the rest of me. But I can't really wear dresses if I'm going to be propping my leg up on the desk, right? I've been living in bike shorts and T-shirts for the last week and a half. I think I might have to go to bike shorts underneath dresses when I return to work. It will be very early-90210 chic.

Jul 19, 2010

in which she realizes the truth

Posted by Mary |

I've never been one for stretching after exercise. It must be noted that I am rather on the flexible side to begin with. Sure, if I was led into some stretching, I would follow along. But I'd just hold the poses and wonder why I didn't feel anything. The closest I could get to a stretch was trying to touch my head to my feet in a seated forward bend. That kind of hit the old hamstrings a bit.

Naturally, some people I talked to exclaimed about the benefits of stretching. and after the third or fourth fitness trainer told me I HAD TO stretch, I decided to start humoring them. So, sometime around the beginning of the year, I started stretching after exercise. I felt nothing. I did it daily. I still felt nothing. I kept it up for months.

Bada bing, bada boom. Tore my ACL. I am now convinced that stretching broke me.

Jul 15, 2010


Posted by Mary |

Not safe for work. For that matter, not safe for those with delicate stomachs.

Think of rainbows and kittens and sunshine and gumdrops. All bright happy things. Do not think about my yucky, yucky knee.

Some people keep asking about it, so I am going to address the issue in this post. But I'm going to preface it with lots of Julie Andrews-type cheer first. So please, if you're at all squeamish, just stop reading now.

Back when I had a healthy knee, MNB and I went hiking at Angel Rocks. This is his Captain Morgan-ish pose near the top.

In May, I purchased new living room furniture. It's a good thing I did, because I don't think I could get up from my old couch in my current condition. Also, the removable back cushions are the perfect size to prop my leg up at night, so one of them is now permanently ensconced in my bedroom.

A new addition to the house is this coffee table that I made. Yep, made, as in cut the wood and put it together with my own two hands. Cutting wood precisely with only a circular saw is hard, so it's a touch wonky. Clearly I need a double bevel sliding compound miter saw. With laser marker. The design was drawn up by Ana White. I somehow found her blog right after she started it, and I've been singing her praises for months. Those swivel wheels are my favorite part of the coffee table, as I can move the table around while in a prone position on my couch.

This is the first hint of carnage in this post. Since I don't have a dedicated woodshop, I built the table on my back porch. Thus, when I stained and finished the table, I did this on the back porch too. One of the perils of finishing wood outdoors is bugs. This one is forever entombed in the final coat of polyurethane on the table top. I believe that his cries for help scared all the other bugs away, keeping them from joining him in the polyurethane grave.

My physical therapist kindly took a MySpace-style self portrait when I asked him to take a picture of my leg. I also made the mistake of peeking at my leg after the picture. I started feeling light-headed when I looked at it. Later on during PT, I said I needed to take a little break, then promptly bent forward at the waist and collapsed across the table. This caused a bit of concern among the staff. It also got me out of finishing that set of hamstring curls.

OK, I've talked enough about it. This is your last chance to look away.

Seriously, you've been warned.

I'm posting the picture now...

Behold my knee, 72 hours after surgery. They removed the blood suction device from my knee on Tuesday morning, and on Wednesday they took out the On-Q anesthetic device. There are small incisions on the side of my knee where the surgeon did most of the real work, but there's also a big slash down the front where they had to harvest 1/3 of my patellar tendon to replace the torn ACL. And as you can see, some blood is still oozing out of something at the bottom of my leg. And in case you're wondering, yes, that is a very sexy thigh-high anti-embolism stocking on the other leg.

To be fair, I gave PLENTY of warning before I posted that picture. I like to think that I'm slowly getting better. I actually got hungry today, instead of just remembering about twice a day that I ought to put food in myself. I managed to sit on a stool next to the bathtub and wash my hair today, which I consider a major victory. An actual bath or shower is just beyond my comprehension right now, so I'm making do with whore baths and baby wipes. As far as the pain, well, it's there. There are times when it's OK, and times when it's very bad. Right now I don't see much of a pattern. But I'm continuing to take all my medications and going to daily physical therapy, and I have every hope that I am going to heal quickly.

I tried calling the insurance company today about the 26-visit cap on chiropractic, massage and physical therapy visits that went into effect on July 1. They were very apologetic, but said that UAF had made that decision, and that I needed to talk to someone at HR to request an exception. Of course I got a message that HR had closed the office for the afternoon when I tried calling at 2 p.m. I'll try again tomorrow.

Jul 14, 2010

post-op report

Posted by Mary |

I made it through surgery. Spent the night in the hospital, didn't need to be on the morphine drip. I could keep the pain under control with percocet, and the passive continuous movement machine was cranking my leg to 90 degrees all night long while I slept. Now that I'm home, it's a slightly different story. My flexibility and leg strength are all but gone. I spend most of the day with my leg propped up, which makes my back hurt. I would like to take a shower but have neither the stomach nor the supplies to uncover and recover my wounds. I plan on bathing with baby wipes and maybe trying to wash my hair in the sink tomorrow.

Jul 11, 2010

it's almost time

Posted by Mary |

My surgery is tomorrow, which means I am spending my weekend running around like a chicken with its head cut off. I had hoped to go see Fairbanks Shakespeare Theater's musical production of Two Gentlemen of Verona. My friend Anne assured me that someone could pick me up in the parking lot and drive me to the outdoor set. Alas, it looks like I may have to miss all the FST shows this summer, because I have a chore list a mile long.

Clean out the fridge.
Take the garbage to the transfer station.
Go grocery shopping.
Clean my car a bit. (Liz needs to get her car fixed, so I told her to schedule the repairs for next week so she could borrow my car as long as she needed.)
Clean up the house a bit more.
Do laundry.
Change kitty litter boxes for both cats.
Put a rolling chair in the kitchen, since I won't be able to move food to the living room to eat.
Rearrange furniture to suit my post-surgery needs.
Pack a bag for the hospital.

To make my weekend more pleasant, I spent more time at the walk-in clinic yesterday morning. I started getting some symptoms Friday, and tests confirmed that I have an infection. Thus I started a course of antibiotics. I hate antibiotics. The surgeon said this shouldn't interfere with my surgery.

I do have several things taken care of already for my convalescence. I have the rest of Star Trek: Enterprise to watch. There's quite a few Bollywood movies I've been meaning to get to. I need to continue studying Hindi. I built a new coffee table on wheels so I can spend some time on the couch as opposed to in my bed. I also entombed an insect with polyurethane on the top of said coffee table, but that's a story best saved for another post when I share pictures.

My friends are rallying to help me post-surgery. I have issues (which they apparently have already discussed) about asking people for help. So they are forcing help upon me. I did take the step of setting up a Google calendar so that we can track all of my doctor's appointments and who is driving me.

My health insurance fiscal year began again on July 1. I've already reached my deductible and my out-of-pocket maximum. However, they changed the plan this year, and now chiropractic, massage and physical therapy are all lumped into one category, with a maximum of 26 visits per year. Since I am already scheduled for 42 visits for physical therapy after surgery, this presents a bit of a problem. The PT office tried to call the insurance company to request an exemption, but got the runaround. So sometime after surgery, I will have to call UAF HR and start the onerous process of trying to get my medical care covered.

Jun 29, 2010

update again

Posted by Mary |

I've got a date for surgery in two weeks, and have been working hard to get flexion and strength back in my leg. I need my knee to be as healthy as possible before the surgery so I can recover better afterward. To that effect, I have been going to physical therapy three times a week. I've also been on a roller coaster of medications meant to protect my stomach and bring down the inflammation. I had to enter it all into my online calendar to keep track of when to take which pills. As of Sunday, I am down to just two medications - the stomach stuff and one new anti-inflammatory. The new medication is not my friend. I am feeling rather dizzy and am waiting for a call from the surgeon so we can talk about this.

At PT yesterday, they measured my leg for a new brace. I will need to wear this brace after surgery. According to my insurance company, the brace "meets the criteria" for being a covered expense. However, they would not pre-authorize the brace, which means they might refuse to pay for it. I ordered it in metallic pink. If I'm going to potentially pay $1,400 for the brace, it had better be sparkly and pretty. I hope it looks like the Borg assimilated Hello Kitty. Did I mention my insurance year starts over again on July 1? I think I'll be hitting my out-of-pocket maximum pretty quickly this year.

One of my neighbors has been kind enough to start mowing my lawn for me. That's a good thing, as I currently can't do it myself, and the back yard had become a knee-high field of dandelions. In return, I made him a chocolate root beer cake. I am trying my best to keep up with the house and the cats. It's all going to go to hell for two weeks after surgery, but I can try to enter that period with a clean house. It doesn't help that my roommate's cat decided to pee on the area rug. I need to devise a gate system to keep the cat trapped in the back of the house. I am clearly unable to handle two cats in my present condition.

I've been able to get back to the gym for limited activity, and am going to try some swimming after work today. The lack of exercise has been driving me crazy. Hopefully the dizziness won't get worse when I've got my glasses off and am in the pool.

I'm heading down to see MNB this weekend. This will probably be the last time I get to see him until he comes back to Fairbanks for school. I don't feel up to a 6-hour drive, so I used some of my miles to buy a ticket. It galls me to spend 20K miles on a 350-mile flight. Of course, it galled me even more to see the exact same flight show up for 15K miles the next day. Thanks to a 24-hour cancellation policy, I was able to cancel, then rebook for the 15K. I'm mostly off the crutches for now, but will be bringing them along just in case. I'm sure getting through security with a knee brace, an ankle brace and a crutch will be good fun.

Jun 20, 2010

medical updates

Posted by Mary |

I stopped taking the Vicodin. It wasn't so much the insomnia as it was the apparent destruction of my stomach. It may have been the Vicodin, it may have been the ibuprofen. All I know is that 2 weeks ago, I laid on the floor of the bathroom for an hour and spent the rest of the night in bed, twitching in pain.

Last Monday, I began physical therapy. I only did one session before the PT sent me for an MRI. He suspected I may have torn my meniscus. It turns out my meniscus is fine, but I tore my ACL. Not just a little tear; it's completely gone. There's also an avulsion fracture, where a chunk of bone was ripped off. The MRI additionally shows extensive bone bruising on both the femur and tibia.

The PT managed to get me in for an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon on Friday. I was there for about 4 hours, doing tests, looking at the MRI, and discussing my options.

The short version is: I need to have my ACL replaced. It looks like that will happen in about 3 weeks, as I need to get the inflammation down and flexibility back. In order to get the inflammation down, I am starting a pill-intensive regimen of no less than 3 anti-inflammatories. But first I'm starting with drugs for my digestive system so I don't get sick again.

Lest anyone worry, my winter travel plans will continue. MNB is coming with me, and we decided to buy travel insurance, just in case I blow out my knee again and need an evacuation.

On a side note, tonight I had a panic attack. It's been a long time since I had one of those. It only lasted about 10 minutes, but I had forgotten how powerful they can be. I'm sure the notion of impending surgery had something to do with that.

MNB was in town last week, but I didn't get to see him as much as I would have liked. He was working at the Air Force base, and had to stay late because of equipment issues. He wants me to come to Anchorage so he can take care of me after surgery, but I don't think that's the most logical plan. Instead, I am going to try to visit him once before the surgery.

Jun 9, 2010

fun fact

Posted by Mary |

Sunday night: Took the Vicodin. Couldn't get to sleep.
Monday night: Skipped the Vicodin. Slept well. Could barely walk with the crutches in the morning.
Tuesday night: Took the Vicodin. Can't get to sleep.

The prescription medicine I need for the pain in my knee is apparently causing insomnia. And yet, without the pills, I am in a lot of pain in the morning. I have not yet figured out how to balance this equation.

Of course, the listed side effects do not mention insomnia, but do include drowsiness. It's 1 a.m. I need to be at work in the morning.

Jun 6, 2010

feeding my ego

Posted by Mary |

Living in Alaska, I have started a love affair with Amazon. They will ship almost anything up here for free. The only thing better is Zappos or Endless, because they give me free two-way shipping on shoes. Shoes!

Amazon is now in the habit of suggesting passphrases, a few words you can easily remember when you need to log in. They make some suggestions for you. My latest order prompted the suggestion: Mary's Colonial Policy.

I always did think of myself as a benevolent dictator.

Jun 3, 2010


Posted by Mary |

I've spent a lot of time in bed during the past few days, usually filled with self-pity. It took me 44 hours to get a knee immobilizer. That's 44 hours of a dislocated knee kind of flopping around. So I feel I've earned a bit of wallowing time.

I keep thinking of things I can't do. I planted flowers last week, but if it doesn't rain, they will die because I can't water them. Tango classes are starting up again, but as you can imagine, I won't be attending. I have handed temporary control of my troupe over to Rachel, since I won't be performing again this summer. The lawn is a sea of dandelions, and I can't mow it. Yesterday my ex-boyfriend came over to change my winter tires for me. Most baking and cooking is out, since I can't get around the kitchen. I probably don't need to tell you that I won't be hiking Kilimanjaro this winter. (Don't worry, I've got alternate plans scheduled for my vacation time.) I have packages to mail but can't even get them to the car. I have to finish installing at least the one window on my house, but will now have to pay someone else to do that for me. Pretty much all household renovation projects for this summer must be canceled. I need to do laundry and change the kitty litter and do dishes, and all of these are nearly impossible when I have one functional leg and need to use both arms for crutches.


May 31, 2010

heard in the dance studio

Posted by Mary |

Dude, did you just break your fucking ankle?
--Sharon Kihara,
the epitome of compassion

The madness of May is finally over. OK, technically this is the last day, but I'm calling it over. My busy, busy month concluded with two days of dance workshops with the amazing Sharon Kihara. And the end result of those workshops was NOT a broken ankle. It's merely a sprained ankle and dislocated knee. Owie.

After getting our butts thoroughly kicked with 9 hours of conditioning, training and technique, my troupe had a private choreography workshop scheduled with Sharon. And approximately 30 minutes into this 3-hour workshop, I found myself sitting on the floor, cradling my leg, screaming "It's my knee!" as people ran around trying to find ice and figure out what to do.

I felt kind of like this, minus the ferret on a waterslide.

But of course, instead of ending the workshop, I laid on the floor with my knee elevated on yoga mats someone found in another studio and watched the rest of the workshop. Afterward, Liz drove me to the emergency medical clinic. By the time we got done there, all the pharmacies in town were closed. Most of them are still closed today because of the holiday. I managed to get my Vicodin filled, but the only open pharmacy doesn't have knee immobilizers. So my dislocated knee is flopping around until Tuesday, apparently.

How does this affect my life? Well, I'm glad I haven't ripped out the bathtub yet, as it looks like I'll be sitting on the floor of it to shower for the foreseeable future. And I probably won't be able to go to Anchorage to see MNB next weekend. Definitely not going to the gym tomorrow. I plan on going in to work for a 9 a.m. meeting, then searching for a damn knee immobilizer and getting a temporary handicapped parking permit.

May 21, 2010

decisions made

Posted by Mary |

After careful consideration (which means about a week of turmoil), I chose the new furniture for my living room. on Thursday night, MNB, his truck and I went to the furniture store. As we were walking up the steps, I looked through the window where the couch used to be and remarked, "Oh, they must have rearranged." When we got inside, it became evident that not only did they rearrange, but that in the intervening 7 days since we'd been there, the couch I wanted had disappeared.

I'd had a sinking feeling all day that the sale from the previous week would be over, and the price would be jacked back up. I figured I could talk my way back into the lower price. But how can you talk your way into a non-existent couch? I flagged down a saleswoman we had chatted with last week, and she got on her little walkie-talkie to figure out if there were any more of the couch left. And the couch? Well, it turns out that while I was at home pondering, it had been discounted and moved next door into the clearance section. We hurried over, and there it was! On clearance!

Alas, only the couch was there. The loveseat, chair and ottoman were nowhere in site. Undaunted, I asked yet another salesperson if they had any loveseats left. After conferring with her walkie-talkie, she told me they had the matching loveseat in Anchorage and they could ship it up for free. Furthermore, the price for the couch and loveseat was now the same price as just the couch would have been last week. Score! Even better - they have one more of that couch in the warehouse, so I can get the brand-new one as opposed to the floor model.

So on Saturday, I will be getting up early to bring my old couch and recliner to the UAF Really, Really Free Market. I will then scrounge the market for any power tools I can get my grubby hands on. Then MNB and I will go pick up the new couch. And then I should worry about doing construction or cleaning, but I will instead go for a hike and a soak in the hotsprings. This is my only free weekend this month and is also the last weekend MNB is here before he heads back to Anchorage for the summer. So screw it, I'm relaxing!

And since I haven't mentioned it recently, remember that tiny little hole we cut in the wall to find the broken pipe? Well, the plumber finally came to fix it on Monday. (Hooray for home warranties, which covered the repairs. I only had to pay the $75 service call fee.) In order for him to fix the pipes, we had to make the hole slightly bigger. Maybe more than slightly. And since I'm going to start ripping the walls down in about a month to renovate the bathroom, it made no sense to patch them up again. All of this is my long-winded way of saying we have bathroom walls that are covered in black plastic. Staple-gunned in place, of course. It gives the place a very rustic charm. I can't wait to start ripping down more walls.

May 13, 2010

heard at home (and a poll)

Posted by Mary |

Inbred bacon is just as tasty.
--Me, explaining why
we only need two pigs
after the apocalypse

I need to buy new living room furniture. No, it's not what you think. Well, not if you're thinking, "Oooh, someone bought a house and got an $8K tax credit and wants to spend her money." However, if you were thinking, "Oooh, someone is finally getting rid of her 5-year old couch that she got for free when someone moving out of state left it behind because it was falling apart even then," you were pretty much spot on. The couch attempts to swallow you whole when you sit on it. Cushions, blankets and small children have disappeared in its proximity. And the arms are starting to separate from the rest of it. Plus, $8K tax credit, suckas!

So here's my debate. With small floorspace, I have fewer options when it comes to furniture. Thus I've found three possible options. I present to you, without further ado, floorplans.

My current living room situation. The yellow is representative of the wall color. And all that stuff to the bottom left is not a solid wall but open space to the dining area and built-ins. The only thing that must stay is the wood tv stand along the bottom edge.

Option #1

Option #2
Option #3 (The thing between the couch and loveseat is a possible matching ottoman)

As you can see, there really are limited possibilities when it comes to furniture arranging. All three choices also come with a chair or ottoman, but I don't really think they'll fit. And yes, Virginia, the boxes do represent the color of the furniture. But remember that my walls are paintable.

May 4, 2010

when it rains, it pours

Posted by Mary |

Actually, when I use the bathroom sink, it pours, too!

On Sunday night, I got sidetracked and started cleaning the bathroom. Then I noticed the bathroom sink was draining slowly again, so I decided to clear the drain with a little Drano. And that's when we heard the melodic sound of water splashing onto the dirt in the crawlspace underneath the bathroom. A quick glance downstairs confirmed that the bathroom sink drain was pouring water. No other pipes have been affected.

On Monday, MNB and I got changed into work clothes and ventured into the crawlspace. It was pretty obvious that the pipe we needed to fix was not down there, but rather inside the bathroom wall.

Step 1: Turn off the water to the sink and move it.
Step 1: Turn off the water to the sink.
Step 1: No, really, turn off the %$*#ing water to the sink.

The old valves were stuck in the open position. Nothing would make them turn. So, Step 1: Crawl under the house to reach the water main and turn off the water to the entire house. I made MNB do that.

The right tools make all the difference.

A quick trip to Lowe's for a pipe wrench, plus new power tools (!) later, and we were back in business. The valves came off, and we started getting inside the wall.

He is laughing at my hidden "tile."

Like an onion, my house has many layers. In the bathroom, it was wood paneling, with green tile underneath. Actually, it was fake tile. Also, enjoy the first picture of MNB to enter the blogosphere.

New tool! New tool! Yay!!!

With a bit of prying, sawing and smashing, we were able to see the pipes. The problem seems to be that the big old iron drain pipe is, for lack of a better word, broken. Not cracked. Not a little hole. Broken clean through. Since the drain enters the pipe below the break, it may have been broken for a while. I think that the pipe can handle a small stream of water, but larger amounts can't drain quickly and thus back up to where the break is and spill out.

See? Broken!

Do you know what the plumbing books say about iron pipes? Call a professional. Fortunately, the sellers bought a 1-year warranty on the house for me, and according to the paperwork, plumbing is covered. Even better for the plumbers, I'm not going to ask them to patch up the hole in the wall. I plan on ripping out the wall entirely when I renovate the bathroom this summer.

Apr 29, 2010

read on chat

Posted by Mary |

You would have wanted to name the baby Shatner!

This is why I'm thankful you're not having kids.

I'm still alive and kicking. When last we visited, I was in Anchorage. One small incident later, we returned to Fairbanks. (I may have caused a wee little security shutdown of a military base when I tried to pick MNB up for the drive back. Oops.)

So what are the updates?
My sister had a baby. Hmmm. I am a bad aunt, as I don't know if I ever mentioned online that she was pregnant. Anyway, she and her husband now have a daughter, Ashley Something Evenson. I got away with only seeing one of the nasty, placenta-y photos from birth. That was more than enough.
Spring is finally here. The snow is gone, it's getting warm. We have more than 12 hours of daylight. And I'm itching to get house projects down.
Speaking of house projects, I dropped a cool $1.3K on new windows. There's still one window left to purchase, but that requires talking with someone about patching the siding of the house, as I need to put in a much smaller window than what is currently there.
Also speaking of house projects, MNB has an air compressor. I plan on borrowing it for my bathroom renovation project. He was not too horrified at my behavior in the tool section the first time we went to Lowe's together. It helps that I showed restraint and did not purchase a dual bevel compound miter saw with a laser marker. But I wanted to.
And MNB? Yep, he's still around. He'll be heading south for the summer soon, though. I'm hoping to get down to Anchorage to visit him at some point, and am trying to convince him to convince the Air Force that they need him to install stuff at Eielson this summer.

Apr 11, 2010

on the road

Posted by Mary |

In February, Gary and I made plans to to to the Loon this weekend. There was a DJ coming up last night, and we wanted to go dancing. In March, I regretfully declined a road trip to Palmer for dance this weekend, citing the aforementioned plans. On Friday morning, Gary mentioned that he might not actually be able to go out after all. So, like any sane person, I went home after work, threw some stuff in a bag, and drove 350 miles to Anchorage for the weekend. It helps that MNB had to go down for work, too.

Let me tell you about the drive to Anchorage. It is long. And boring. And not pleasant at night. I usually only drive the route in the summer, so I wasn't quite prepared for the tedium of driving it partially in the dark. I got on the road by 7 p.m., and it started getting dark about 3 hours later. There's pretty much nothing between Fairbanks and Wasilla at this time of year. There's still another month or so until the hotels and shops at Denali open, so it's just one long, straight road. That didn't stop one car from using their GPS as they drove. They were also driving the speed limit. Suckers.

I managed to make the trip in under 5 hours, including one bathroom break, a refueling stop and pausing for the most horrific nose bleed I've ever experienced. Basically, I got to town in time to go to bed. On Saturday, MNB got up bright and early to go to work while I planned my route of attack.

  • Skinny Raven for new running shoes. $100 well spent, as I tend to destroy a pair within a year.
  • Target. Don't judge me - we don't have one in Fairbanks.
  • Modern Dwellers. Gourmet chocolate truffles. Like, wasabi-ginger truffles.
  • New Sagaya Market. Sadly, they do not sell naan anymore.
  • Title Wave Books.
  • Middle Way Cafe.
The plan was to have dinner with MNB at Bombay Deluxe. The reality was having dinner with MNB's family at Bombay Deluxe. Also: I had only brought one dress. And it was the sort of dress that MNB might appreciate. I kept my scarf on throughout the meal.

This morning I got up after MNB left with plans for a run at the hotel gym. I got halfway dressed before I discovered that I left my running pants in Fairbanks. Argh. To add insult to injury, the breakfast today was crap. All nasty, unhealthy food. They didn't even put out the fresh fruit! So much for trying to be healthy. I'll continue the downward spiral with Moose's Tooth pizza for lunch.

For some reason, MNB has decided to skip flying back in favor of driving with me. I told him I'm going to sing Neil Diamond the entire time, but he is still going to do it. Just wait until I bust out a Star Trek podcast.

Apr 7, 2010

mind games

Posted by Mary |

Last night MNB showed me an online game he'd designed. I had been drinking a beer, so I was only half paying attention as he tried to explain how to play, but it involved moving seeds along two rows of nine cups. There was something called a "home cup," and the objective was to capture your opponent's seeds.

I tried explaining to him that I was a sore loser. I told him how I would scream "Don't touch me!" when Tom tried to console me after games of Scrabble. But nope, he wanted to play this game anyway. So I agreed to do it.

Then I whupped his ass.

I whupped it so thoroughly.

And when I was done whupping it, I pointed out how he needed to redesign the program because the box for my score was too small and my score actually extended outside of it.

And thus he did learn that I am also a sore winner.

Apr 5, 2010

springtime bliss

Posted by Mary |

Image from Paul+Photos=Moody

What makes a perfect spring day? Is it driving aimlessly on back roads with the windows down and The White Stripes on the radio? Is it sitting on the porch rail of a local bar in the sunlight, drinking a beer with the Grateful Dead drifting through the open bar door? Any way you cut it, Easter Sunday was a damn near perfect day. We'll get to that in a moment.

Saturday night was Scott's surprise birthday party. We met up at Lavelle's Bistro to ring in his 30th year (+11). He was a little taken aback that we were all there, and of course we sang loudly and badly. The plan was to go bar-hopping after that. For some reason, though, I started insisting that we should go to the Mecca. There is no way to put this gently or not sound racist: the Mecca is a Native bar. I knew this; I had been there before. But I thought it wise to go anyway. We'll always have the experience, but we downed our round of drinks and got the hell out of there. Next stop: The Big I. We took over the rear of the bar, and ended up bringing two GIs along with us when we departed for the Boatel. MNB was along for the ride, so he was my designated driver. We made the Boatel our final stop of the night, and then went home to sleep it off.

Neither of us remembered it was Easter until we were eating our lunch at The Bakery the next day. The holiday meant many stores and businesses were closed, so rather than doing anything useful, we just drove around. MNB only looked slightly horrified when I made him stop at the transfer station. He might have been OK with the visit, except I saw someone bringing a reel mower to the recycle deck. I hopped out to ask the guy about it, then picked it up and put it in the back of MNB's truck. We eventually made our way to Ester and the Golden Eagle. The sun was hitting the front porch, so we sat on the rail, drinking beer and talking. Instead of going straight home, we drove out along the Old Nenana Highway, looking for a good plot of south-facing land to build a house on.

Back home, I tested out the new mower on my front law, which is quickly emerging from the snow. I rounded out the day by raiding the Fred Meyer floral section for discounted Easter lilies (Maybe I can keep them alive for a little while. I <3 lilies!) and baking a batch of blackberry pie bars with lemon sugar. Ah, spring!

Mar 29, 2010

in which a new character is introduced

Posted by Mary |

Back in July, I took the bold step of making my fag hag relationship with Gary official. We were at a party, rather tipsy on some sweet tea vodka and homebrew, when we decided that we should become "It's Complicated With" each other on Facebook. The original rationale was that his boyfriend refused to join FB, and our relationship certainly was complicated.

The two of us can never keep things simple, though. We quickly decided to hyphenate and become the Haley-Blacks. Then we began adopting our friends in order to have a large, multi-ethnic brood, a la the Jolie-Pitts. Then we created a fan page for The Haley-Blacks. Yes, it was all rather complicated indeed. His boyfriend did join FB, but we did not change our relationship status.

However, on Saturday, I ventured to the Boatel with My New Beau, as Gary had expressed interest in meeting him. Gary had also taken to referring to MNB as The Interloper. Things started off calmly enough. Then, out of nowhere, he busts out with, "Now I'm 'Its Complicated' with Marmian. We just changed it on our phones 3 seconds ago." Yes, the very same Marmian who, not a week before, had been begging me to invite her over to watch when I finally decided to end my FB relationship with Gary.

Cue my screaming, "Whore!" across the crowded bar at Marmian and MNB pulling out his phone to update our relationship statuses. Phillip tried desperately to keep the peace by asking if I wanted to go to brunch tomorrow, but Gary interjected with, "Don't you dare ask him!" when I asked MNB if he wanted to go to brunch. I responded by saying "WE" as much as possible. Diana came over to join in the fun, and I told her that Marmian better have four spare tires for her truck, because I was feeling kind of slashy.

So, yeah, introducing him to my friends went well.

Mar 22, 2010

i judge

Posted by Mary |

Part of the Monday routine, since arriving in Fairbanks in 2003, is to pass judgment on people. Specifically, I refer to the "People" section of the News-Miner. Back in my days at the newspaper, it was my job to put this section together. And thus I did judge people for the stupid names they give their babies ("Neveah" - aka Heaven spelled backward - is not original, folks).

But my favorite part of the game was always guessing which newly engaged couple would be the first to divorce. Good clues were whether the couple lived in North Pole (sorry, NP!), how recently the bride had graduated high school (bonus points if it's a Christian high school) and whether the military was somehow involved in this wedding.

Today, it was like a light shone down from Neveah. The groom is in the military. The bride was born and raised in North Pole. And she has not yet graduated from high school. Wow. Fiancee and prom date all in one?

Not to sound too cynical, but I predict they'll stay together three years. They'll PCS to somewhere in the Lower 48, she'll have two kids, and he'll eventually leave her for a waitress at the local Olive Garden. I've been right about these things before.

Mar 20, 2010


Posted by Mary |

I did something to my neck on Thursday. I don't know how or what, but it's definitely in rough shape. I managed to get in to see my chiropractor before my massage on Friday. He made several adjustments, and the massage therapist spent the full hour working on my neck and that portion of my back. By later that night, though, the muscles had clenched up again. I had a mini freakout as I was trying to find my heating pad.

I woke up this morning and spent a good amount of time trying to figure out how to get out of bed. Once that Herculean task was accomplished, I headed back to the chiropractor for more adjusting. While my spine is now properly aligned and my ribs are all in their proper places, my muscles have clenched and just will not let go. I've got an appointment for acupuncture on Monday and another visit to the chiropractor on Tuesday.

In all of this madness, I opted to skip my cha cha class today, as well as the dance rehearsal tonight. Sorry, just can't do it. Instead, I'm at home with the heat pad, an ice pack, advil, icy hot and some naturopathic treatments. I'm working my way through a British zombie miniseries, and have several movies to keep me entertained as well. I stopped by work and grabbed my laptop so that I can work from home on Monday if necessary.

At least I can take comfort in the fact that if I'm suffering, my ex will soon be suffering more. Tom has come up with the bright idea to ski the White Mountains 100 tomorrow. He'll be racing along with his girlfriend Amy and our friend Jay.

In the "Sometimes It Hurts To Be So Fiscally Sensible" category, I transferred money out of my vacation account. It's been accumulating rapidly, so I took enough to max out my Roth IRA for 2009. I only have until April 15 to invest for 2009, and my trip isn't until December. I believe the amount still remaining in the account will be enough for the trip anyway, since I have enough miles with Alaska Air to get to Kenya. Plus there's still that big old tax rebate coming my way...

Mar 18, 2010

one mystery solved

Posted by Mary |

The house has always been a little moist. I assumed it was because it got sealed too tightly at some point. And the laundry area gets linty really easily, but laundry rooms are supposed to be a little messy, right? Wrong.

I was leaning over the running dryer this evening when I noticed it was unseasonably warm. Out of curiosity, I crawled up onto the washer and peered down. The vent pipe connecting my dryer to the outside vent is not attached. On closer inspection, it appears it was once held together with - wait for it - duct tape. Fun fact: You can use duct tape for anything except ducts. I didn't pull the dryer all the way out, but I suspect the same quality attachment technique was used to connect the vent pipe to the dryer, too.

I have to finish drying the stuff that's in the washer, but then the laundry is off-limits until I can get myself some foil tape and a few hose clamps and fix this situation.

To continue along the home improvement tangent, I have almost every aspect of my bathroom renovation planned out. I can't do it until August, but the plans are there.

In self improvement, I finally made the appointment to get my new tattoo finished. I think my first session with it was back in October, and it will be nice to finally have it done. I don't look forward to the forced immobility for a few days afterward.

I'm really developing a crush on this guy I'm dating. I know that announcing such in a public forum is jinxing things. I know. But I just like talking with him. I've always been more interested in mental attraction than physical (though believe me both are there), and he is proving smart enough to keep me intrigued.

Mar 13, 2010

heard in the bathroom

Posted by Mary |

You might want to Google "how to wash caulk off your hands."

Until I can properly renovate, I must maintain. And this week I noticed a crack developing between the bathtub and the wall. I plan to rip the tub out this summer, but for now I caulked the cracks. For the record, acetone nail polish remover does the trick to clean your hands.

I am in the middle of a blissful long weekend. UAF gives us one paid vacation day for the spring break, so I had Friday off. I even took the day off from the gym, too! I could pretend I have all sorts of projects planned, but tonight will likely just feature dancing.

In unrelated news (because I like to just sort of throw this stuff out in the middle and then ignore it), an old friend died on Monday. Old as in "met him many years ago," not old as in "septuagenarian." He was 39. I'm not really sure how I feel about this, as I haven't fully processed it yet. But I was thankful that the gym was nearly empty Thursday morning. I lost myself in old music while thousands of miles away, friends gathered to remember Jimmy.

My roommate and I seem to have finally hit upon the solution to the constant catfights that have been happening since she moved in. Catfights as in "two cats fighting," not catfights as in "pulling each others' hair as we argue over who gets to shower first." We got a plug-in diffuser for cat pheromones. It arrived this morning. Both cats are now in the same room, mere feet apart, and are ignoring each other. It's an eerie sort of bliss.

Mar 5, 2010

injury? but of course!

Posted by Mary |

I have been sleeping wrong lately. It doesn't seem like the sort of activity one can do wrong, but there you have it. I go to bed like a normal person, and I wake up face down with the upper half of my body jacked up on three or four pillows. It is causing my back some distress. I think I'm going to try putting most of the pillows on the floor. We'll see how much damage I can do with just one.

I had to go to the chiropractor today to get prodded back into shape. It felt good, but I don't think he got me all aligned, and my back is hurting again. It didn't stop me from going to a 2-hour tango class tonight. Nor will it stop me from going out dancing tomorrow night. All this ballroom stuff is great, but I'm starting to feel the need to go to a club. I may have to make plans to do so sometime soon.

In non-dance news, I told my boss today of my travel plans for the winter holidays. I haven't put in a formal request for the dates off, but expect I should be able to do that after a little more research this weekend.

Mar 1, 2010

another day of fail

Posted by Mary |

I woke up early for the gym. Since I wasn't able to make it on Friday (see previous post re: no having a blower motor sucks), I knew I wanted to hit it hard. I wanted to make a cardiovascular atonement. However, it seems my right running shoe wanted to sleep in. $%*#

When I forgot my gym pants a few months ago, I just walked 5 miles in cords and called that my exercise for the day. But there was no way I was going to be doing any sort of exercise in the winter boots that I need to wear to stay warm in the unheated car.

Thus: a shower, and an early start to my work day. The office is dead quiet at 7:30 a.m.

Feb 27, 2010

of shoes and fans and changing plans

Posted by Mary |

Two things you should know about me.

  1. I love to dance.
  2. I love shoes.
Therefore, ballroom dance, which requires special shoes, holds a place in my heart. Yes, I could dance in regular shoes, but I have found a company that makes rather affordable custom shoes. You pick the shoe style, the heel height, any and all of the fabrics you desire, and you have your choice of a leather or suede sole. In other words, exactly what you want, for $60, most likely made by Chinese orphans.

I already have two pairs. As it turns out, one pair is not so comfortable. They press on the top of my foot and make one toe hurt. Naturally, I've been wearing that pair constantly. I figure if I make my feet hurt enough, I can convince myself that it's medically necessary to buy a new pair. And I was almost there. On Thursday I spent a few hours online with a dance friend in the Lower 48, sussing out my new shoes. I had already chosen the style, and we went back and forth over fabric selections. I may have made a mockup in Photoshop.

But my new shoes are not meant to be. Let's switch gears to sushi. I promise, the story will come full circle.

On Thursday, I not only debated shoes, but also went out on a date. I met him at a sushi restaurant for dinner. (Side note: He shows promise. I was not bored. In fact, I was entertained. As I recall, he sat there patiently while I ranted about Papyrus.) When we left the restaurant, he found that the inside of his windows had frosted. I wished him luck with that (and may have cackled over his misfortune) and drove home. After a few minutes on the road, I thought, "Gee, why don't I hear my vents?" Karma is a bitch. I blew my blower motor. (Pun not intended, but entirely welcome. Thus far, I have struggled not to make "blower motor" sound like a dirty thing.)

As an aside, last week it was +40. This week it is -20. And I have no heat in my car.

I skipped the gym on Friday in favor of calling my mechanic as soon as the shop opened. They had some free time! I brought my car in immediately! You may now cue the familiar Fairbanks chorus: "We don't have that part in town. We'll have to order it. It should be here by Monday." So my car is still driveable, but I have no heat and no defrost (which kind of means I shouldn't exhale in the car).

Oh, and the cost for parts and labor? Over $500. Frak me. So here the story comes full circle: No new shoes for me. I have to get my car functional again. Though it is tempting to just get this and use a space heater.

Feb 19, 2010


Posted by Mary |

I'm going to look up the Wikipedia definition of "guilt"
I must know what you all are talking about
pause for Internet search
"violated a moral standard"???
great, now I have to look up "moral standard"
(I've got "violate" down pat)

I decided I was going to give up shame for Lent. It was going to be the best 40 days (and nights) of my life. Then a coworker questioned how I could give up shame when I didn't have any in the first place.

I've decided instead to give up drinking for the month of March. This allows me a month without any alcohol, but keeps me away from the religious trappings of Lent that would make me feel bad if I failed.

Can I act sanctimonious when I offer to be the designated driver all month?

Feb 5, 2010

o rly?

Posted by Mary |

I have found the winner of "worst movie concept of all time."

It's all available on YouTube if you really want to watch it. But you don't really want to watch it, do you?

Feb 2, 2010


Posted by Mary |

It's February - how are you doing with your resolutions? I'm not the sort of person to make (or keep) resolutions, but I've realized that I have made a few adjustments to my regular lifestyle.

  • Gym changes. The gym fairy was good to me, and I got to go to the SRC almost every day during the University's holiday leave. I realized that I don't like feeling rushed in the morning, so I started getting up earlier so that I can put in longer workouts every day. Anything less than an hour of cardio feels like a waste of time, and I usually do a bit more than that. I've also started stretching after I exercise. Because I'm naturally flexible, stretching feels pointless, but since I've started doing it, my flexibility has increased even more.
  • Less baking. I've only baked once this year - pumpkin whoopie pies for my mom's birthday. Of course, this doesn't mention the fact that I've started down the crazy road of candy. Homemade marshmallows, people! Also, I put monthly baked goods back up in a charity auction at work, so I'll be baking again this week. The bid is currently at $205, with a coalition of coworkers banding together to battle last year's winner.
  • More water. I'm up to 96-120 ounces a day. I'd like to drink even more, but I'm starting to get weighed down with the amount of water bottles I'm bringing to work. I bring 3 full bottles (1 for the gym, 2 for my desk) every day, and have the option of refilling at the water cooler. UAF tap water tastes disgusting, and I don't want to tax the water cooler funds.
  • More dance. Well, also different dance. I'm currently dancing a minimum of 5 hours a week. Lately I've been going to ballroom practice on the weekends too, adding another 2-4 hours of dance. I want to start going to Argentine tango practice when I can, and will continue to explore new avenues of dance. My time with American Tribal Style dance is winding down a bit. I can't commit to the additional time needed to perform ATS, plus the ATS and Cold Fusion performances are usually one and the same, and I don't want the stress of trying to rush costume changes to perform multiple numbers. But ballroom is picking up, and I may move back into hooping.
  • Cleaning. My roommate and I have started watching Hoarders. It's great for keeping things in perspective (i.e. "we're not that messy!") and also for getting us off our asses to clean. On Sunday, we prepped ourselves with mimosas, then set a kitchen timer for one hour. We ended up only working on our bedrooms during that time, but it involved crawling under beds and vacuuming and sorting through clothes to give away. Later that night when someone knocked over a drink, it seemed logical to just move all the furniture and mop rather than spot-clean the floor.

I think that's about all the changes my life can handle right now. I'm still trying to work out the logistics of an overseas trip at the end of the year. My planning in advance is great, but I can't exactly price out tickets when they're not up for sale yet.