Monday, November 29, 2010

Dog Day

Today, as I anticipate a pretty heavy phone call and contemplate the possible results of my husbands latest phone interview, I'm going to do what ER doctors often tell people to do to keep calm.  I'm going to think about my dogs. 
Dogs are just about the coolest things there are.  They love unconditionally.  They can do cool tricks.  They get me laughing uncontrollably.  They have attitude and style all their own.  A dog can sense how you are feeling and help you get through even the roughest day.  A great dog is a godsend.
I have 2 dogs.  The first one is a Boston Terrier.  He is nearly 14 years old, which is very senior for a Boston Terrier.  He is my first dog that I ever had after moving out of my parents home.  He is the 4th Boston Terrier I've shared my life with.  It is said that Boston Terriers are high strung and this guy is no exception.  His personality is such a presence in my everyday life.  He is ball obsessed and still loves a good romp even though he doesn't see or hear too well anymore.  In his older age, he seems to have lost any inhibition and likes to tell us everything that is on his mind with a loud and long Owwwroooo...!

My second dog is a dog that we rescued.  She is a chi weenie- half chihuahua, half dachshund.  My husband really wanted a chihuahua and I wasn't so sure about that, as I had one that was tiny and shook all the time when I was I kid.  I eventually agreed to a mix, so it would be a little bit bigger dog.  When I first brought this dog home I still wasn't so sure that a chihuahua of any type was the right choice.  She was fragile and seemed so sad.  She had been 1 of 38 dogs in a puppy mill.  She was bred at least 3 times and she was only 2 and 1/2 years old.  But then, over about 6 months, she bloomed into just about the best dog ever!  She is now a spring with fur and absolutely the most loving little thing anybody could ever want.  She is smart as a whip and has the coolest way of communicating.  If you ask her if she wants to go outside or wants food, etc.  She will answer like this-  A slow motion spin means: 'I guess so' and a fast series of spins means: 'You've got it.  That's exactly what I want!' and finally, if the answer is 'no', she will just just slowly walk away. 

These 2 add so much to my life.  I can't really imagine life without a dog!  Do you have a dog?  Or a cat?  What does your pet mean to you?  Tell me about it!


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Family Tradition

Been a little out of sorts lately.  I am really not always like this.  I swear I will have interesting things to say that are of a more fun variety.  Soon.
In the mean time, I got a call last Friday that blew my mind.  And my husbands mind, so I knew it wasn't just me. 
It's hard to explain without going into a lot of old business, but let's just say that someone is finally being stopped short for something that has gone on for years and years. 
Actually, enough with the cryptic crap.  I hate it that my family seems to be overly involved with the justice system, but it is what it is.  And it doesn't have to make me feel like a loser... 
My mother is now a convicted felon and will be sentenced on Monday the 29th of November.  A reign of terror that has caused hurt for so many people is coming to an abrupt halt.  She was convicted of felony domestic violence against my sister, for an event that happened last January.  (For those following this little soap opera, that would be my only sister who is the fine example of parenting these days.  Yes the whole apple and the tree thing...  I am hoping that this might signal a big change in some family dynamics, eventually.) 
The part that blows my mind is that the prosecutor called to tell me that the judge has decided that my mother is not eligible for the minimum based on information that I provided.  The minimum is 90 days.  It seems that I was able to prove a pattern of behavior, which will be one of the biggest deciding factors in what her sentence will be.  The prosecutor will call me after the proceeding to let me know what the ultimate decision is.
Let me tell you, I have been on a roller coaster of emotions.  I honestly believed that nothing would ever come of this.  Most people think that my mother is the nicest so and so around, at least until she blows up in their face or tries to run them over with her car.  Yes, that has really happened.  And then people just walk away and stop being her friend, leaving her to continue taking her rage out on her family.  I am in disbelief that the facade has finally crumbled.  That someone has finally seen what has really been going on for all this time.  I feel vindicated and guilty all at once.  I am grateful that my sister will see that this behavior is truly wrong and maybe take a look at her own.  I am sad that it took so long.  I haven't come to terms with the idea that my words and evidence will lead to a more severe sentence for my own mother.  I wonder who my sister might have been if my mother had gotten help or been different.  The roller coaster hasn't stopped yet...
As I sort through all these feelings, I am ultimately at some sort of peace.  My family is changing, though the process is raw and difficult.  I know that I am contributing in a positive way. 
My husband and I will be spending Thanksgiving with my nephew and his father and their family.  We will celebrate a good moment with a family that has been waiting for this for a long time.  We will be part of something bigger than ourselves.  Part of something that could contribute to a better future.  I really can't ask for anything more.  Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Aunt On A Mission

My sister is a woman of many talents.  She is intelligent and resourceful.  However, the things she chooses to do with her talents are questionable, to put it nicely. 
It seems she's found a really great way to avoid important court dates, like the one she missed today. See, if you want to continue on with your pathetic life consisting of dragging your children down with you to lower and lower depths, then the thing to do is to keep missing custody hearings by checking your drugged out self into the hospital the night before a hearing.  SIX TIMES over the past two years.
Either my sister has the worst, luck, ever. Or she's up to her usual level of seriously manipulating whatever situation she is in. Just when you think she's backed into a corner and couldn't possibly slime her way out of it, start following the slime trail. That trail is long and slippery...
Let me tell you, this is one of those times that my husband actually counted me down- 3, 2, 1... He does that when he knows that I'm about to do something like spin my head around and blow pea soup. I didn't. I kept it cool. Only because I really wanted some answers. And because when I do have one of my rare true blow ups, I don't always remember just what I've said...and that can be bad.
I spent most of my day with a judges assistant and a parole officer. They are now quite aware of just how obvious some behavior patterns have become. And how tired I am of nothing being done about said behavior patterns.
Although my sister was unable to represent her side of the issue today, the process is now moving on without her. Just as it should be. My nephew, Nathan, will be spending the remainder of this year with his father, sharing the holiday season with his Dad for the first time in 5 years.  I think the judge finally got it when we pointed out that with every second chance that my sister is given, my nephew LOSES yet another chance at any sort of normal childhood.
I get it. These people see a lot of cases.  Many that are just like my nephew's. Unfortunately, there are many kids without someone who loves them enough to fight for them. I was that kid at one time, and I refuse to stand by and watch my nephew suffer alone. I know what it's like to be told that no one will ever believe you and feel as if that is true.
Unfortunately Nathan has learned to lie, that the truth gets you into trouble. He doesn't really know what the truth is any more. He has a hard time trusting anyone. But he is also bright and unique and deserves all the support that it's going to take to get him back on track to enjoy a normal life one day.  It has been an ugly trip already, but I swear my nephew will learn that people love him and will be there for him, no matter how hard this journey gets.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

For Those Who Wonder, Why Texas?

Turn off the music player so you can watch and hear the video.


I've heard this complaint call has been around for awhile, but I just heard it and nearly cried laughing. I really can't put it into any better words than this why Texas is the place for me, so without further ado, I bring you this:

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thank A Veteran

Whenever I see someone with some clue about them that they have served this great country (a hat, a pin, etc.), I take a moment to ask them about their service.  Some have incredible stories to tell and some don't want to talk about it.  I am always blessed by whatever these people have to say.  Then I take another moment to thank them in a real and heartfelt way, because I do mean it and I can't imagine what my life might be like if they had never served.
Sometimes the most amazing thing about those who have served is how grateful they are for what the military has done for them in their own lives.  I have seen and heard remarkable things about lives being transformed and opportunities had.  No doubt about it, the people who serve the military are unique and usually meant for a special calling.  I am humbled to have the chance to at least thank them and maybe be lucky enough to discover something about their story.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Cool Running

I like running.  No, really, I do.

Up until February of this year, I think I was like most people who believe that running is an activity best reserved for trying to save ones life from immanent danger.  And only that. 

When my husband suggested that running was a form of exercise that he might like to try and that it would be great if I would join him in this little endeavor, I was less than enthusiastic.  But he got to me in a weak moment.  He was recovering from a true near death experience and I felt I should support whatever it was he wanted to do with whatever time he has left on this planet.
I realized he was going to be fine for another 50 years or so, and that this running thing was a suckfest of epic proportions when it was too late.  I was already on board and that ship had sailed.  After 5 years of watching a yearly event that involved a parade & seeing runners finish an 8k and listening to my husband talk about wanting to do the run 'some day', we were going to start by training for a 5k run.  Don't get me wrong.  I am no couch potato.  I like all kinds of activities.  I love dance in all forms from ballet to ballroom and even belly dance.  I have a job that puts me on my feet most of the time.  But running?  Seriously?

Like most people, over the years I had put on more than a few extra pounds.  And the idea of hauling my overweight butt down the street for no good reason just didn't have any magic appeal to me.  But running seemed to be the only activity that my husband was even remotely interested in doing.  He has a sit down job and doesn't get a whole lot of regular exercise.  I was worried about his overall health, so I gave in.

I should have known better.  When we first got started, it was excruciating just to get down to the park at the edge of our development and back.  This one:

Sweat would pour off my forehead and it was shameful how far down I had come from my college level ballerina days.  It was only after a couple of weeks of doing this short 1/2 mile run, a few times a week, that I was finally ready to up the ante and increase the distance.  This is when my husband chose to admit that his family had a natural aptitude for running and that he & his siblings had done some cross country back in high school.  Yeah, I wanted him near death again.  But only for a little while.  (Then I found out that this 5k was really 3.8 miles, not 3.1.  I could have just screamed.....)  By this time I had fully committed to at least doing the 5k.  I wanted to see if I could really do it. 

I did do it.  Just barely.  In March, I did the actually 3.8 miles in 50.48 minutes.  13.23 minutes per mile.  Not great, but I survived.  I had to walk most of the last mile.  My legs felt like jello and I thought I might collapse right there on the spot.  Still, I was happy that I had followed through.  I had gotten to the point where this was actually getting easier.  So I readied myself for the event in July.  After all, 3.8 miles was pretty close to the 4.97 miles in the 8k, right? 

It turns out that there is really a pretty major difference and a real reason many people enjoy doing 5ks for years and feel no need to do 8ks.  But the 8k was what my husband always wanted to do, so that's what we did.  It was totally worth it.  Along the way, I learned some stuff about me and running that I never would have learned if I never would have pushed myself to this point.  I am a stamina runner.  I am not fast, but I am steady.  A hill in front of me doesn't much slow me down.  I just plug along and do what I need to do.  I can get faster over time and have learned a lot from doing sprints just to test myself and see what I've got in me when I give it my all.  Running is about the only time that I don't multi-task.  I don't even listen to music when I run.  It's pretty meditative for me and that's about as close or as comfortable as I get to meditation.  Running makes me feel free.

Shortly before the 8k race, it became apparent that I was now the motivator for our practice runs.  My husband is still faster than me and he would rather run than do other activities, but I seem to enjoy the process more than he does.  (He ran the 8k in 54:34, running & walking alternately/ I did it in 1:04, non-stop running because I don't have the running/walking thing down yet and I wanted to see if I could do it.)  He feels exhausted when a race is over, I feel exhilarated.  I have learned to love the miles that stretch out before me as a unique gift of that day and no other.

We are now preparing to do a 5k on December 4th.  I am now 25 lbs. lighter, due in part to running and mostly a lot of dumping personal baggage.  I am excited to see how much faster I will be over my time back in March.  I am even more excited about the fact that I am still enjoying running and learning more about myself in the process.

Monday, November 8, 2010


Pause the music player, so you can listen to the song:

Was anyone else as amazed as I was at Edison Pena's impressive appearance in the New York City Marathon? Here's what he had to say about it:
“In this marathon I struggled,” he said. “I struggled with myself, I struggled with my own pain, but I made it to the finish line. I want to motivate other people to also find the courage and strength to transcend their own pain.”

'Pena’s personal victory came just weeks after he was still training in near-darkness, jogging 6 or 7 miles each day 2,300 feet underground in stifling heat and humidity. He and 32 other men survived 69 days in the caved-in mine before they were rescued last month.'

'He said running was his salvation — his way of proving how much he wanted to live.'

This guy and his absolutely fantastic performance really got me thinking. I am one who rarely engages in excuses. I feel like there really aren't any good ones. I've been known to say that excuses are just lies in disguise. The lies we tell ourselves are really the worst ones, aren't they?  I've seen way too many people who are much worse off than me in some way or another- either physically, mentally or emotionally (many of you bloggers fall into one of these categories) and I just don't feel that I have the right to cop out most of the time.  I admit that sometimes I come off as extremely demanding. I don't mean to be harsh. I just don't want to rob people of what they could be or could accomplish by being yet another easy way out. I hold myself to a high standard and I'm not any better than anyone else. So I try not to lower my standards for anyone, while still realizing that everyone is different and has something to add that may not be the way I would do things.
I so admire people who do things that they don't have to. The people who really make a difference in this world by going above and beyond what could possibly be expected of them. There are always things that I have meant to do, but never get around to. I think this guy and people like him are so important to those of us just getting through every day life without too many obstacles. They make us think about what we can do if we truly challenge ourselves, even just once in a while.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Oh Drat & All That...

No dice.
He came awfully close; I just know it.  We don't have a grade yet, but I know my husband couldn't have missed passing this test by much and it just kills me.  I was so disappointed for him.  I could have just cried, but I didn't (at least until later when he didn't see me).  After all, I'm his support system for these tests and he doesn't need that.  So we move on...  My husband & I spent 3 hours getting a new study plan in order and we're gonna' get this beast next time.
Here's part of the study plan, so you can get some idea what we're up against:

The good news?  This test is available in 3 month increments for the first time this year.  So we'll get this over in February, rather than have to wait until May. 
My husband seems to feel the worst about the fact that this is not great for job hunting prospects.  I continue to feel as if the right job will be there in the right moment for us.  Remember, we are not suffering with unemployment.  This is a choice.  I am always grateful for that.  Besides, we still have 2 job prospects in the hopper right now, so that's not bad.  The latest word from the recruiters: in person interviews for the aforementioned jobs will be delayed by a couple of weeks.  So, basically, after Thanksgiving. 
That means I know where I'll be for day after Thanksgiving sales!  I always love a good sale, even if I don't want to buy much, so I don't have to haul it 2,500 miles.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Think 7

Today at noon is liftoff for my husbands current nasty actuarial exam.  As mentioned in a previous blog post here, this is not as easy endeavour.  What he wants to receive as a grade or passing score is at least a 6 out of a possible 10.  For the last exam, I felt strongly that he would get a 7 and he actually earned an 8!  That was excellent.  There is always much riding on passing these tests, but as of late we are especially interested in what passing yet another of these will mean for his job prospects in Texas.
Up until just recently, the Casualty Actuarial Society has had a policy of making you wait until 6 weeks after the test to get a result.  Even at 6 weeks, you were only shown whether you had passed or not.  You had to wait another 2 weeks for an actual score.  That was a form of torture all its own.
Today will be the first time my husband will be given at least a pass/fail result immediately following the test as the test has been computerized this time around.  Funny enough, we are both kind of freaked out by getting a result right away.  To think we have become accustomed to the torture of waiting so much that it seems we may actually miss that time in no mans land...
At this point, we have put in the time, sacrificed missing things we would have rather been doing and are not sure whether any more practice would make a damn bit of difference.  In other words, I feel my husband is right where he should be.  He works so hard at this; he deserves to pass every time.  Today, I will be thinking 7.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Can't Resist

Before it all goes down, I just have to get my 2 cents or so in on this historic midterm election.  I'm going to avoid pettiness or any urge to say I told you so.  (I'll just be not-so-secretly doing a happy dance all over the joint!) 
So all I have to add to this event is this: I would so much rather be represented by a closer to typical American, not perfectly polished, not a professional political manipulator.  The best person for any job is someone who takes in information, makes sound decisions, and tries diligently to do their best at said job.  I hope the results of this election can help to get our country on a track to actually be a place where average people can contribute in real ways to our wonderful historic tradition.
If you voted, thank you for fulfilling your honorable duty.  If not, I hope you feel more compelled to do so in the future.
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