I'm not going to my 10-year class reunion

There, I said it. If anyone from my former high school class is reading this, then you're probably one of the first to know. I'm not going to go to my 10-year high school class reunion.

Good ol' ECCHS. (Photo from their website.)

Don't get me wrong - I WANT to go. Badly actually. I had major regret for not attending the 5 year and now that both D and I are working, finances are no longer the major issue that they used to be (5 years ago I balked at the idea of spending $50 on dinner for the two of us at the reunion. These days we go out to eat at least 2 or 3 nights a week and we typically spent $50 each time anyway.)

Through social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace, I have "friended" a lot of the people that I went to high school but wasn't necessarily friends with at the time. With the peer pressures and stresses of high school gone, I feel like I have a stronger connection with some of the individuals now, and can relate to them more, even if we're not "stay in touch regularly" kind of friends. I admit that I could totally be making this up, but I do feel a connection nonetheless and feel like I have more in common with people now that I did ten years ago.

There are a couple of reasons why I've decided not to attend the reunion this time around. The first, and most profound reason, is the date. It's scheduled for August 15th, and as an employee at an institution of higher education, August is our "busy" month, meaning that we can't take time off and we often have to work late nights or weekends. August 15th, in particular, is the day before our campus and residence halls open to new incoming first-year students, which means that we have historically had to work the day before, even though it's a weekend.

If I chose to attend the reunion, I would have to be here during the day (and the hours are still TBD) and then drive the 2 and a half hour drive to St. Marys straight from work. Ideally, this would mean that I would arrive around 4 or 5 p.m., which would give me some time to get ready before going to the reunion.

But I also have to work at 7 a.m. the next morning, August 16th. Which means that I either drive back to Pittsburgh on Saturday night following the reunion (and probably leaving early to do so), or at the butt-crack of dawn on Sunday morning, probably leaving around 4 a.m. at the latest (since I need to be showered and ready at work at 7 a.m.) The whole thing just sounds like a nightmare to me, which is the primary reason I have decided to forgo the reunion.

But the second reason is my friends. There are only a few people from high school that I have kept in touch with other than through Facebook or their blogs, and those people have decided not to attend. Even though they are the people that I already keep in touch with, they're the ones that I want to see the most. Some of them will be in my hometown that particular weekend and while it would be great to see them, I still have that nostalgia that I discussed above in paragraph two to see some people that I DON'T stay in touch with. If my friends were going, I'm pretty sure I would decide to go to the reunion in a heartbeat. Having them there AND getting to satisfy my craving for nostalgia would be win-win.

I've gone back and forth on this a million times, before finally decided not to attend. I know that I will probably experience regret once again, but this time at least I can blame it on work (and not my penny-pinching ways.)

If anyone else from my graduating class is reading this, are you planning on going to the reunion?

Mini-Vacation, Part 2

The second day of the mini-vacation was the cabin that D's step mom has on the Susquehanna River. It's a beautiful location and the river is over a mile wide so it feels more like a big lake instead of a river.

We started with a boat ride down the river. Our first stop was at the nuclear power plant that uses the river water to cool the nuclear reactors. Nothing worthy of photo, but it was interesting because the water in that area is sometimes as hot as 100 degrees! Hot enough that someone recently caught a piranha in the water - attracted by the warm water!

On a particularly calm creek that feeds into the Susquehanna we saw these incredibly cute baby deer. I have NEVER seen deer so small!!

This picture does not do their cuteness or their smallness any justice

Friday night we went to dinner at a restaurant right on the water. Honestly, my dinner was not that good, but I didn't say anything. I ordered a blackened steak, but there was so much fat in it that I hardly ate any meat at all. If you know me, you know that I cut around fat like crazy and only like the actual meal. The thought of eating an animal's raw fat disgusts me. I don't understand why more people wouldn't want to avoid it.

Anyway, after dinner, D and his brother set off fireworks!! Their dad found a huge packet of fireworks in his attic that were probably at least 10 years old. We didn't have much hope for them, but they turned out really great!!!

One of the fireworks, from my perspective on the stairs of the deck. Yes, I was hit with smoldering ash. Scary.

The next morning (Saturday) the plan was the pick raspberry's and then go rock jumping at a place where D used to play as a child. The raspberry's were wildly picked over though and I quickly got a rash from the briers. It was too much work, so everyone quickly gave up. I don't even eat raspberry's so my commitment to the project wasn't ever strong anyway.

Then we went to Lock 12, an old historical lock just off of the Susquehanna that was used for moving ships up and down the river. For those who don't know how locks work - Basically, a boat would be pulled into the lock by horses. The back gate of the lock would close and the lock would fill with water, rising the boat. Then, when the boat was high enough to continue upstream they opened the upper gate and horses pulled the boat up into the next level of the damn. It was pretty interesting!

We walked across the rocks at a part of the river just below on the dams.

Although the picture makes it look like there were a lot of rocks and land, it was actually mostly water. So much so, that there were areas that we couldn't cross because there was too much water between point A and point B. D and S (above in blue) were much more nimble than I and hopped from walk to walk like they were mountain goats! I - on the other hand - took my sandals off and just walked through the water. I didn't want to get hurt or get my sandals wet!

Crawfish, anyone?

The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing at the cabin. D's step mom through an anchor down a dozen or so yards from the dock, and everyone took tubes and beverages out, not unlike the picture below.

I did some reading and sunbathing before joining everyone in the water. (Those black tubes and my skin are NOT friends.) I eventually commandeered the raft that the baby is in (in the right of the picture.) No worries, he was tired of floating.

Saturday evening we packed up our bags and got into the car to head to Delaware to pick up Murph! Part 3 will be brief, but I promise it will also be cute!

I'm back! Mini-vacation, Part 1

I'm back from my 4 day weekend, struggling to settle back into a life of routine.

Our mini-vacation was good overall! I'm going to summarize it over the next two posts (maybe three), complete with lots of pictures! The weather was ok, not great for two of the four days, and sadly one of the four days was spent in the car, on the turnpike.

Thursday - Day 1 - was earmarked for a visit to Hershey Park. We bought advance discount tickets at a Giant grocery store on our way. The skies were gray but we had seen on weather.com that morning that there were only supposed to be "scattered thunderstorms" throughout the day, and otherwise partly cloudy. We were ok with that, which is why we bought the advance tickets (we were committed to going after that!)

Weather.com - however - is NOT reliable. Shortly after we got our tickets it started raining. And by raining I mean POURING. Better yet? It rained for the entire three hour drive to Hershey!! We didn't know what to do at that point - should we go since we already had the tickets but risk having a wet and miserable day? Or should we just call it off and plan to return the next day, with hopes that the weather would be nicer?

Ultimately, we decided to do it over a lunch at Wendy's during which time we continued to watch it rain. No decision had been made, but I was leaning towards just sucking it up and staying in Hershey. Returning on Friday would mean an hour and a half drive to D's dads, and then another hour and a half each way to get to Hershey and back the next day. That means an additional 4 and a half hours would be spent on the road, on a trip that already consisted of WAAAAY too much driving.

So we stayed. We got in the car (still raining) and drove around for a while. D called his brother, who went on weather.com again (are there any better options for reliable weather sites online? If so, please enlighten me. Weather.com does NOT have my trust.) Just a mere four hours later, the forecast had changed drastically. Now they were saying that there was a zero percent chance of rain from about 12:40 until at least 6 p.m., when it might start storming again. We could see some blue skies off in the distance so we took the plunge and went to the park.

At least this time, weather.com was right. It didn't rain at all for most of the day. We got into the park around 1 p.m. and were SHOCKED at how many people were there given the inclement weather. Nonetheless, the lines for rides weren't too long and we spent most of the day getting on some of the larger coasters. We decided to skip the water park altogether - it looked like fun, but neither of us were really interested in getting wet.

Around 7 p.m. we decided to go on one of the larger coasters for a second time. The sky was starting to get dark but we didn't hear any thunder or see any lightning. However, they were closing all of the roller coasters because their weather systems had detected lightning. We were ok with leaving at that point, so we followed the mass exodus to the parking lot (seriously, it was a mass exodus. EVERYONE was leaving.)

On our way out, we purchased a new ornament for our traveling Christmas tree collection. Previously, we used to purchase shot glasses to collect from each place that we visited. However, after we collected about 30 shot glasses, we remembered that we don't do shots. Oh yeah.

So, we're collecting ornaments now and we officially have our second ornament (the first being from Cape May.)

My second update is the one that will involve lots of pictures! Up next: Part 2, The Cabin.

I'm leaving in a CR-V

This afternoon I am leaving straight for work for our second mini-vacation. Unfortunately, lately it seems like all of vacation time is spent in the car, driving to and from various places. Riding in the car is anything but relaxing for me, so I am not looking forward to the additional thousands of miles that we'll be putting on my car over the next five days.

Weather.com is calling for scattered thunderstorms over the next few days, but partly cloudy on Saturday, with a high of 86 degrees. I'm crossing my fingers that it turns into "mostly sunny" with a similar high. After our Cape May mini-vacation was more or less rained out (I'll post about that sometime soon.) I do NOT want a repeat of that.

Here's where we'll be spending our time on Friday and most of Saturday:

The "cabin"

Personally, I hope to spend most of my time in the sun, on this dock.

Isn't it pretty?

I didn't sleep well last night, so I'm feeling particularly cranky and negative about this whole trip in general. Murphy isn't really welcome at the cabin. If he comes, he needs to stay outdoors, including at night. D and I struggled with this for a long time. Murphy has never spent the night alone, has never spent the night in his crate, and has never spent the night outside. He has also never spent the night outside alone near the water (he'd be the boat garage so he'd hear the water lapping up again the shore all night.) As much as we like to think that Murphy is a tough, outdoor dog, he's really a baby at heart. He's a people-lover and doesn't like being alone. On the few occasions that we've had someone else watch him, they're comment always is, "he was really good but he followed me EVERYWHERE." That's the kind of dog he is. He likes to be where the people are, even at home. It's annoying to some, but we love it.

So, after we decided that Murphy should not come to the cabin, we had to decide if we wanted to board him ($25/night plus a $13 late fee if we picked him up after noon on Sunday, which we most definitely would), or come up with an alternative plan. Ultimately, we decided to have Murph stay with D's mom, since she really enjoys his company. Unfortunately for us, this means a LOT of additional driving. Tonight, we driving to Delaware via Baltimore to drop off D's brother. That trip alone is usually around 6 hours. Then tomorrow, depending on the weather, we will either drive to Hershey Park or find something else to do around Delaware. Then, we'll head to the cabin on Thursday evening and spend Friday and most of Saturday there. Saturday evening we'll return to Delaware (an 1.5 to 2 hour drive) to spend the night there again and to get Murphy. On Sunday morning, we'll return to the cabin with Murphy (who is fine being outside if we're there) so that he can do some swimming. He's a really good swimmer and super cute about it. D loves it because when Murphy does "manly" dog things, he feels like less of a wimp for loving and owning a foofy white dog. Plus, he's super cute when he's wet.

It sounds less and less like a vacation to me when I write out all of the driving that we'll be doing. But, it's done and decided, so I need to get over my cranky attitude and make the most of it. Since we'll be on the road a lot, I probalby won't post for the next few days. Wish me luck on hopefully getting some relaxation and sun!

The co-ed shower

About three weeks ago D and I attended our first co-ed wedding shower. D's brother is getting married in December, and their step-mom wanted to host a co-ed shower at their cabin. So, even though the wedding is still 6 months away, they had their first shower.

First things first. Why are wedding showers always targeted just towards women? It's just a PARTY, and depending on how you plan it, doesn't have to be "girly" at all. People always hate showers because they're always so "girly" and boring, but really, that's because tradition dictates that they be that and few people are willing to go against the grain!

See how much fun co-ed showers can be!?!?!?

I'm all about co-ed showers now - bridal (wedding) and baby showers, both. Even when it's just a women-only shower, I still always sign D's name to the card. After all, the money for the gift came from OUR joint account. It's not like I paid for the gift myself. So why isn't he invited to the party? To keep the guest list down? Because tradition dictates? Because deep down he wouldn't want to go even if he was invited?

Whatever the case may be, co-ed events just make sense. It's the COUPLE that's getting married, not just the woman. It's the COUPLE that's having the baby, even though it is the woman who actually gives birth. The couple is starting a life together, registering for gifts together, but then only the women gets to open those gifts at the party? Not fair!

So, this is my official call for all future showers to be co-ed, regardless of the nature of the shower! Just look at how much fun a co-ed shower can be!

The groom-to-be trying to identify his bride-to-be by only feeling legs....

I'm his mommy

Yesterday, Murphy had a seizure. He had put his two little paws on my arm and looked at me with sad eyes and I gently pushed him away, seconds before he starting convulsving uncontrollably. We pulled over in a gas station parking lot and laid him in the grass, where he could convulse without witting anything in the car. D stroked his back and quietly said things like, "It's ok, good boy, you're going to be ok" while I got on the phone with my mom to find out if St. Marys had an emergency vet service.

(Murphy, on his namesake holiday)

But I'm getting ahead of myself, so let me give you the background story.

We were headed back to Pittsburgh from St. Marys after a quick overnight visit. Murph had had a rough weekend. As soon as we arrived in St. Marys on Saturday, he ran into the house and gobbled down all of Riley's dog food. The bowl was full and Murphy has definitely been known to get sick when he eats too fast, even when it's the food that he's used to eating. After that was a day full of a sick dog. He was restless when we tried to take a nap that afternoon, and ran to the water bowl as soon as we opened the bedroom and drank more water than he should reasonbly consume. Not long after, he threw up slimy water - something that often happens when he drinks too much too fast. I figured that he was feeling dehyrated from eating so much a short while earlier.

Later that night when we were at my aunt's, he wouldn't eat the treats that they tried to give him (very unlike him), and threw up and/or pooped on their floor (it was such a weird mess that I honestly couldn't tell what it was - ew.) The next morning we were preparing to leave. Because of his antics the day and night before, we didn't give him any of his own dog food - I figured he would just throw it up.

At one point shortly before we were going go leave, a large unknown dog came to the card and started sniffing around. Murphy went CRAZY! He hates other animals in his territory and barked and whined like crazy. He stood on his hind legs to try to look out the window when he couldn't see the other dog from the front door.

I did some research on dogs and seizures last night. It turns out that many small dogs can experience seizures when they're hypoglycemic (tranlation - low blood sugar.) This makes sense in many ways because we knew that Murphy had thrown up everything that he ate the day before and he hadn't had any other food that morning. We, however, thought that it might be related to a pinch nerve or something wrong with his back, since his two previous seizures had both occurred when he was jumping onto or of of our bed (which is quite high and difficult for Murph to do.)

In my research, I also read that dogs typically can feel that a seizure is about to happen. They frequently frantically seek out their owner for comfort and love right before it happens. Reading that only broke my heart more when I remembered that Murph had put his paws on my arm and looked at me with sad eyes right before it happened. I pushed him away, thinking that he wanted to crawl on my lap to look out the window. Really, he was coming to me for help, because he knew something bad and scary was about to happen but didn't know what else to do. Soooo sad.

Whatever the cause, the whole incident was heartbreaking. We often refer to Murph as our "little one." He is - for all intents and purposes - our child, and we are mommy and daddy. He is the one thing in our lives other than ourselves that we care for, that we have to be responsible for. And when it appears that we fail at that, it's devastating. I know that at some point in our lives, when we have children, Murph - our dog - will be just that; a dog. He will take second stage to a human, but right now, he's all that we have. I am his mommy, and he knows that I love him unconditionally.

Murphy's seizure really put things into perspective for us. We realized that D is the calm one, and I am the one who panics (I probably could have called that one without this incident though.) We realized how much we love that little dog, and how sad we would be if he died. We also realized that St. Marys has inadequate emergency pet care (although I could have predicted that one as well.) If your pet has a medical emergency in St. Marys, you have to take him to State College. STATE COLLEGE - an hour and a half away!!! Plenty of time for your dog to die.

Dogs - unlike children - only live for a dozen or so years, give or take a few depending on the breed, which leads to a lot more heartache for those of us who love our pets like they're our children. Which means that we'll do ANYTHING for them, even if it means exorbitant vet bills to try to figure out why they're suddenly suffering from seizures. For now, I'm just glad that he's ok.

I need a vacation!

After our 8 day honeymoon last year, I realized just how important it is to me to have a "real" vacation to make my summer feel "fulfilled." (I'm using a lot of quotes here - I know - because these are terms that I am acknowledging might sound ridiculous to others.)

This summer has been hard in some ways, and easy in others.

In terms of work, things are going relatively well. Now that I am in my fourth summer of this very cyclical job, things are finally working out the way that I'd like them to. What used to be considered "the busy time" for my department just a mere three years ago, is now relatively calm and organized. My first summer here I worked every night until 8 p.m. and often had to come in on the weekends. I worked multiple 15 hour days. The overtime (which I no longer get) was nice, but it was NOT a lifestyle that I could maintain. I learned very quickly that that was the culture of the office; of the people who were there at that time. As they slowly moved on to other places and I became a more senior member of the staff, I realized that the culture could - and should - change. It's a much better place now and while the nature of our work means that there will always be some weekend and evening work, it's almost always pre-scheduled and just generally less stressful.

But in terms of my health, I feel like this summer has been crap. I have been struggling with excruciating neck and shoulder pain for weeks. The only thing that helps is Valium, which is NOT ideal. I am a person that experiences the maximum side effects for all drugs that I take, so any drug knocks me on my ass. My migraines have been back full force over the past few months, and now I'm getting a cold. Ugh.

But, there is hope in the future! Next week, will be what I am considering my vacation for this summer. A trip to the Susquehanna river for four days of relaxation. Instead of this computer monitor, I'll be looking at this:

And, hopefully this!

Isn't he the cutest water dog ever!!?!?

I am SOOO looking forward to our mini-vacation, and am already planning for our larger "second honeymoon" vacation next summer!

The Garden

Last night we ate our first crop of "garden beans" from our garden. Actually, I did not eat any, since I don't really eat many vegetables, but I hear they were good.

This is my second attempt at a garden, after a completely failed attempt last summer. I think last summer's garden failed for a number of reasons:
1. Ambitious start date - I started planting things the first early day in May, even though our last frost date isn't until May 30.
2. We were gone for 10 days in mid-June for our honeymoon - no rain, meant no water for the garden while we were away.
3. I was afraid of hurting the little vegetables. Meaning - I wasn't willing to "thin." I didn't want to kill half of the lettuce plants!!!! What I didn't understand was that by not killing half of the lettuce plants, that meant that none of them survived. Oh well, lesson learned.
4. Animals - they unabashedly ransacked our garden constantly. We could not keep up with the squirrels, crows, deer and bunnies that wanted our veiggies.
5. And finally, our soil sucked. Clay does not produce much produce.

So, with all of these lessons learned, we waited until the end of May to plant, but not before we invested in dozens of bags of Moo-nure and garden soil, which we tilled in to improve the soil. I came to peace with the fact that some little plants had to die in order for the others to survive and thrive. We planned no long vacations (although with the wet June we had this year, it would not have been a problem.) We invested in a "Scarecrow" - a battery operated, motion sensing sprinkler that shoots a jet stream of water in a wide, pre-determined arc whenever something moves near it. It keeps the animals away and also has given me a good soaking more than a few times.

And lo and behold, we have a garden. (I'll post a picture soon, I promise.)

We planted 50 strawberry plants and "dead-headed" them each time a flower showed it's face in order to allow the plant to get stronger. Well, almost all of them. We did get about 40 or so strawberries, but I figure that an average of less than one berry per plant isn't bad. We have garden beans (success!), basil (success!), oregano (success!) cucumbers (success so far! vines are starting to creep!), peppers (success TBD), corn (not optimistic but it's looking so-so), and lettuces (the only complete failure this year, I think because it was planted in a particularly clay-dense area.)

I am LOVING the basil and oregano in our pasta dishes and D enjoyed the beans that he had last night! I have a feeling that we'll be giving away mass numbers of cucumbers (since I don't eat them and Dave only likes them in small doses), but all in all I consider this year's garden a complete success. I already have ideas in my mind for next years garden that include planting the corn in a more sun-filled section and additional compost to continue to improve the soil. Hopefully there will be no surprises for the rest of this summer's garden!

Our Anti-Cancer diet

With D's mom recovering from her most recent surgery, we have been thinking a lot about cancer and genetics. If it is true that cancer is something that is passed down genetically, it's pretty likely that D will get it, considering his family history. I read the book "Anti-Cancer" recently, which - although not necessarily the best book ever - had some interesting content.

Mainly it discussed a diet that the author believed could help in preventing cancer, especially if one is genetically predisposed to get it. It's based on the idea that a lot of the foods we eat in the world today have weird, manufactured ingredients that encourage cells to grow abnormally quickly, and if one of those cells happen to be a cancer cell, all of a sudden you have cancer.

So, we're trying to adopt this diet. I should say, we are trying to do about a 50% change (completely changing our diet would be nearly impossible.) There are a number of things that the book recommended that we have already incorporated into our diet, and some that we will be working towards.

For example, we are trying to eat only multi-grain, bakery fresh, bread. This means, no preservatives and the multi-grain is key. Anything with "enriched" flour is a no go. Whole or multi-grain flour is key. But even off-the-shelf bread products have to have preservatives in them, which makes them less natural even if they are whole grain or multi-grain. The bread is change is both the most challenging and easiest at the same time. It's challenging because bakery fresh bread has a short shelf-life - it goes stale quickly. Which means we have to eat a lot of bread! But, at the same time, I actually LOVE the taste of the multi-grain tuscany bread that we've been getting. It's so flavorful and has sunflower seeds baked right in! Love it!!!

Anyway, some of the other key changes we've made:
- Eliminate hydrogenated oils from all foods that we eat at home (this is HARD)
- Hydro-free butter/margarine
- Raw spinch for salads instead of lettuce (lettuce isn't BAD, it's just not "the best")
- Scrubbing all fruit before eating, or not eating the skin (pesticides DO cause cancer - wash your fruit!)
- Multi-grain pasta - we've found that the Ronzini brand is the best
- More vegetables. Period. This is hard, considering that I hate vegetables, but I'm going to try my hardest.

There are a lot of other things that we're going to try to incorporate over the next few months. I definitely can tell a different already, even after just a few weeks. All of this fiber and grain is more difficult to digest than the normally over-processed foods that I used to eat, and my digestive track has definitely noticed.
Enough said, right?

New Blog location

To anyone (and I doubt there were many) who were following my previous blog, I've changed sites since I use this particular g-mail account more frequently than the one associated with the other blog. I plan to move those posts over to this one for archival purposes, but since there wasn't much there in the first place, it shouldn't be a big deal!