Monday, May 31, 2010

Facebooking No More

I have permanently deleted (not just deactivated) my Facebook account.  Having been on Facebook since 2005, it's difficult to say goodbye, but it feels so good to walk away.  My life does not revolve around checking status updates or following who likes what.  I will miss seeing pictures of my cousins' children, but that sacrifice comes with deactivation.

I think bloggy has been updated 75% or so... a few more tweaks, additions, and minor edits left to do.  Using Google's suite as a replacement for Facebook seems to work well.  Picasa allows me to post some pictures publicly while keep some pictures more private.  G-mail allows me to post status updates and IM with friends.  Overall, I'm just as available as ever, but there's a bit of disconnect to overcome without Facebook.

Oh, and my life is finally Farmville free.  I never played the damn game, but it was impossible to get away from the constant nagging suggestion or updates from friends--even though I hid the game and blocked it, the updates continued.  Good riddance!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Rain, Rain, DON'T Go Away!

Allergy season is on in full force here at Chez Jaggy.  I am almost out of Singulair, so it's time for a visit to the doctor.  I don't understand why the doctor even needs to see me to prescribe Singulair.  As if listening to my chest or taking my temperature will suddenly cure hay fever...  It's not like I'm seeking a controlled substance either.  Singulair doesn't exactly make me feel like I have superpowers: it just allows me to breathe normally (a blessed occurrence to be certain).  Why won't a phone call once a year suffice for an annual visit?

"This is Jaggy, I still have allergies, send me Singulair."
"But you need to see the doctor in person."
"Why? So they make money off the insurance company for my allergies, a disease that will inevitably be considered a pre-existing condition whenever I need fancy drugs?"
"...yes.  And because the doctor needs to know how tall you are.  Again.  Sorry, we didn't write it down the other eleven times."

I just want the Singulair without a stupid office visit to confirm that, yes, I still have allergies.  How hard is that?

Until I get the drug, however, the rain can keep on stickin' around.  While it can make allergies worse by breaking up the pollen particles, it also keeps the air a bit cleaner.  And the grass greener.  And the world so much prettier under a gray sky.  I love rain. :)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Updated Blog Design

I got bored with black and white. While I love damask patterns, they're sort of overwhelming and obnoxious after a bit. Time for some color.

I had a difficult time deciding the final color scheme. The Man and his brother insisted that my former damask pattern was contemplative and formal, a good fit for me. But it was boring. I'm not into pastels, and I wanted to maintain the lighter background behind the text, so this is what worked. Much thanks to Hot Biggety Blog for the image and Pixie for the help with color selection.

As a side note today, I visited a Wal-Mart for the first time in probably five years. I was quickly reminded of why I avoid those stores: incredibly obese people in high concentrations, families with far too many children (put them on leashes, seriously!), and not enough clothing on people who need to wear more. I felt weird walking out of the store, as if I had some of my soul smushed by corporate greed and cheap Chinese lead-laced melamine milk. *shudder*

But I got new drawer shelving systems for my crafting supplies, so I have an evening of sorting and reorganizing ahead. Finally!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

If it's not jealousy, what is it?

It's impossible not to play the comparing game. As hard as I try, comparing happens. And try as I might, the grass always seems greener on the other side.

As our friends have purchased houses and cars, filled their houses, and planned their luxury vacations, it's hard to watch and not be able to join in. They are buying fancy things like pianos and grills and nice furniture. They are buying multiple motorcycles, boats, guns, and mountains of clothes, seasonal wardrobes even. Our friends are dropping lots of money on toys.

Watching that spending is difficult for me. I'm not jealous of their stuff. I don't want motorcycles, guns, or a grill. I am not the type of person to even have a seasonal wardrobe. It's not the items themselves but that these friends can buy things. Our friends have purchasing power. What's more, I have to wonder how much of it is being put on credit cards or taken out in loans.

Where are my friends getting their millions to be able to afford fancy things? Are they scraping by just to be able to get items that somehow help them keep up with the neighbors? Or are they living beyond their means? Are they borrowing (or mooching) from their parents?

I'm not jealous of their stuff. I have stuff. I like my stuff. I don't necessarily need more stuff. I would, however, like to have the opportunity to have choices when it comes to getting stuff... and we're slowly gaining momentum in that department. But it's so incredibly hard to watch the spend-spend-spend my 20-something compadres love to do.

Am I being tested in some greater cosmic way? Am I supposed to be learning frugality and poverty as a greater life lesson? What is the good in not having choices?

How is the grass greener on this side?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Mr. Stitchy's Revenge

Jamming, grinding, and groaning to a halt. That was my experience Monday night when attempting to sew the last two straight lines on my wall hanging project. My poor little sewing machine had been performing beautifully until then, so I was quite shocked to hear it sputtering so badly. I cleared out all of the jammed threads, grabbed some scrap fabric, and tried again. Jam. Cleared the jam again, tried again. Jam. Crap. I took the bobbin out to see if maybe I missed something, made sure the bobbin was in correctly, checked for hidden threads I'd perhaps missed, and closed 'er up to try again. Jam. Damn. After an hour of careful checking and re-checking, I determined that the top thread wasn't pulling up the bobbin thread correctly.

That's about the point where I put my sewing machine away to try again another day. I was too frustrated to even look at it. I'm not a sewing machine genius, but I knew I had a good needle, correctly wound bobbins inserted the right direction, and a good machine. So I covered it up and walked away. Pffft.

After doing some online research the following day, I sat down Tuesday night with new determination to fix my machine. Nothing short of a complete disaster or electrical malfunction would make me take it in to get a tune-up. C'mon, it's a sewing machine, not open heart surgery.

I removed the needle and presser foot and had to remove a couple screws to get the throat plate off. The bobbin came out easily, and the bobbin hook followed with little difficulty. I brushed out the feed dogs and each piece before I replaced it. As the owner's manual suggested, I put two drops of oil inside the bobbin case on the race and cranked the hand wheel a few times. Smoooooooth.

Giving it a go, I closed everything up and rethreaded my machine. After a quick prayer, I plugged it in and let loose on a scrap. Everything worked perfectly. The machine is quieter than before. It hums. It purrs. I smiled, proud that I fixed it myself for free instead of paying to have the machine serviced.

And then, on my lunch break, I ran to JoAnn's to get ribbon to finish my project. It's ordinarily $2 for three yards. I need about thirty yards... eek. I didn't really want to pay $20. Dismayed, I walked over to the notions to look for new and interesting things. When I turned around, I saw an end base ("end cap") full of ribbon. The exact ribbon I wanted, black 1/4" satin, was on 10-yard spools for $.50 each. SCORE! So I got forty yards of ribbon, more than plenty, for $2. I love bargains...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Shoyu Chicken (just like Local Boyz)

Okay, okay, here it is! Here's the recipe for shoyu chicken just like you'd find at Local Boyz.

1 C water
1 C soy sauce (I use a little less of the sodium-free Kikkoman)
1 C lightly packed brown sugar (give or take; I'm a giver)
1 tsp ginger (the granulated stuff works just fine)
1 tsp garlic (powdered, again, cheap and easy; don't substitute with garlic salt!)
splash of vinegar (maybe a tablespoon? leave it out if you don't have any)
4-6 whole chicken breasts or thighs or mix-and-match pieces--they'll fall apart on their own

Throw it all in a crock pot, give it a quick stir, set on high for four hours (low for six hours), and walk away. The recipe is perfect for starting on your lunch hour if you can run home--and then it's done when you get home after work! When there is a half-hour remaining on the timer, set your rice to cook. I make 3 cups of white rice in a rice cooker so there is plenty for two people plus leftovers.

This dish will reheat fabulously, so go ahead and make a bunch at once. Increase the ingredients to make more. My average-sized crock pot could easily handle a double batch. I'm not sure it's possible to cook this in a crock pot and make less than my recipe... though you could try it on the stovetop in a pot simmering on low for an hour or two. Use half the ingredients for two small chicken breasts. The stovetop method is the fastest, but the texture of 'fally-aparty' meat won't be the same.

As previously noted, I've accidentally thrown in pork cutlets with the chicken, and that was delicious too. Even steak might work. All of my meat gets trimmed insanely well, so there are no weird pieces like I've sometimes found at the restaurant--another bonus of home-cooked food.

Note on frozen meat: I've always been told never to put frozen meat into a crock pot. The meat apparently will stay in the "danger zone" too long. If you remember to defrost your meat before you put it in the crock pot, great! I forget often. I have thrown frozen meat into cold liquid and left it for six hours multiple times and not been sick. Maybe don't make a habit out of it.

DISCLAIMER: I am not affiliated with the Corvallis establishment Local Boyz. I have never been anything other than an occasional patron there. This recipe is as close to tasting like their shoyu chicken as I can approximate and was achieved through trial and error on my own part.

Monday, May 24, 2010

It looked like chicken in the freezer...

I'll admit, I'm not a culinary guru. I'm also not a total idiot either. I know the basics of kitchen safety, food safety, and flavor profiles. But last night my knowledge did not shine.

I was in the mood for no-fuss food, so I tossed some ingredients and meat in my crock pot to make my super tasty version of Local Boyz shoyu chicken. I had two packages of meat in the freezer, pink-peachy meat frozen solid. Tossed both of them in, some pre-cut chicken and some larger pieces that I swore were chicken breasts.

Four hours later, I lifted the lid to check on the meat when I very quickly realized that the chicken breasts had somehow morphed into pork cutlets. Both meats look pink-peachy when frozen, covered in frost, and inside a freezer bag, so I didn't really feel stupid, but I did a little bit.

Reluctantly, I pulled a pork cutlet from the dark sauce and dropped it onto a plate to survey the damage. It flaked apart beautifully. I gave it a taste and discovered the most amazing flavors! Aside from a textural difference, the flavor was perfectly matched with the chicken. The Man and I both devoured almost the entire lot of rice and meat. I had just enough leftovers for lunch this afternoon. I do believe I might have to "accidentally" make that mistake again!

Local Boyz has nothin' on my shoyu chicken/pork deliciousness. Nothin'.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Most Awesome Mental Health Day Ever

I decided Wednesday night that I needed a day off. Seeing that the schedule was open and that I have tons of vacation saved up, I opted to take Friday off. Friday was awesome. Friday was amazing. Friday was relaxing and therapeutic and just what I needed.

The day started early with a trip to Albany to get a couple inches whacked off my hair. For once, I got the exact cut I wanted. It'll take a bit more effort to retrain my hair some, but that shouldn't take too long. The right side seems to cooperate better than the left.

After a hair cut, I popped into the craft store to get fabric. I'm by no means a quilter, but I found an awesome pattern online that kept yelling at me to work on, so I bought a bunch of fabric quarters and planned out my afternoon and evening.

After noon, The Man came home from work, and we had lunch together while my fabric washed and dried. I watched a movie while ironing. The Man took a nap. I cut out all of my pieces--144 of them. By the end of the day, I had four nine-piece sections stitched and the rest ready to be sewn. We had a yummy spicy penne dish for dinner, and we even had time to watch a few TV shows late Friday night.

Saturday arrived too early with a trip to the grocery store. We took back our $5+ worth of pop cans and bought TWO watermelons. They're super ripe and sweet. Though I'd prefer to pay $0.19/lb like in the middle of summer to get Hermiston watermelons, I was pretty satisfied with $4 each for imported ones. For out-of-season deliciousness that The Man and I both love, I'll suffer $4.

We had some friends over for brunch this morning, a true adventure finding enough seating for six people in our tiny apartment. The food was pretty good... my muffins weren't burned at least, thankfully. I have to admit my ever-so-slight disappointment that I finally had professional photographers in our apartment and none of my photography was hanging on the walls. :( I used to have lots of pictures of my own hanging, but we took them down when we hung wedding pictures. It's not like I need to feel vindicated, but somehow it feels like a bigger pat on the shoulder when it's a "professional" compliment versus one from my husband (who is required to be impressed by my attempts). Oh well. I'll keep my camera and my pictures to myself. I'm only taking them for me anyway.

In any case, the apartment is spotless, the chores are done, the kitchen is stocked, The Man is happy, and I'm feeling crafty. Time to go sew fabric together!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Goodbye, Facebook

I had a moment this last weekend where I realized Facebook wasn't doing me any good. I was sitting around a table with my husband, sister, grandma, and cousins when I thought to myself, "I have no questions to ask my family. We stay in touch so much that nothing is ever new or worthy of discussion anymore." Rather than sever ties with family, I'm opting to discontinue using Facebook.

There are several other reasons why I'm walking away from the single largest social media outlet.

1) When I joined Facebook in 2005, it was a social tool that allowed me to communicate with other students at OSU. I could decide who saw my name, picture, and information. There were no fancy applications, no chat feature, and certainly no family members. As Facebook has grown from a small community of schools to an open network, I've lost track of why I joined in the first place. I've gone through purges, deleted information and added info anew, and been dismayed to see my privacy sucked away update by update. Facebook no longer offers a safe haven of information isolated from the prying eyes of family or friends. (Not that I have anything to hide, but sometimes it's nice to post, "parents just don't understand!" without them seeing it.)

2) Anything can be posted by anyone at any time, and it links back to me. If someone posts a picture of me doing a keg stand (ha!), and then they tag me, my entire family and friends network will see the atrocity. Short of removing the tag from the picture, there's nothing I can do to remove the picture itself. And I'm not okay with people posting embarrassing pictures of me. Sure, even if I leave Facebook entirely, people can still post embarrassing pictures about me, but that means they'll have to get the pictures first...

3) "You're invited to a party!" "Join the 'I hate Twilight' group!" and "I lost my phone so send me your numbers event!" are common invitations that I've come to hate. The only invitations I really need are to weddings, birthday parties, and baby showers. Everything else can be done with a phone call. If I'm important enough to be invited, then hopefully that person darn well has my phone number. I'm done with electronic, meaningless, utterly pointless invitations.

4) The newsfeed went from bad to worse to flat-out awful. I used to have to actively pursue my friends' profiles to stay on top of their lives (we called this stalking way back when). Now, every time a person clicks on their profile and changes one word, they fill up my newsfeed with their garbage. I don't care if you're most like a purple crayon or that you are 74.6% angelic or that you're a fan of Megatron. I don't care.

5) Games with no point. Most games have very little "point" when you think about it, but there's a difference between playing Scrabble or Cribbage than Farmville. I never did get into Farmville, thankfully, though I was dogged with my Restaurant City determination. What did I learn from RC? Absolutely nothing. The games are lame at best. I prefer to play free games online that don't require me to be signed in and competing with friends constantly. Life isn't a competition, so why would I want my online presence to be one?

6) I do not like "like." Also, I would enjoy seeing a "dislike" button. I am not a "fan" of anything, and I very rarely "like" something beyond a status update. My opinion of your new degree, weekend adventure, or awesome pictures doesn't need to be known by the entire world. If it's a great achievement or noteworthy event, I'll let you know in more words than "like."

7) I do not need help finding people or discovering new pages online. I get tired of Facebook telling me I need to talk to a person or that I should join a group that six other friends joined. I'm not a sheep. I'm smart enough to realize that I haven't spoken to my husband online is six months--never mind that we just made dinner together or hugged or laughed ourselves silly with nary an electronic device in sight.

8) And finally, privacy. If I decide to put something online, I want to know whether it's "safe" or not. Facebook used to be "safe" when only people I chose could see my pictures or notes or status. But since Facebook changed their policy to keep all uploads forever, I've systematically removed data. My blog is public--and anything there is under a Creative Commons License--so I know that my blog is 100% open. Facebook tries to be sneaky, and I'm not okay with their policy.

I desire spontaneous conversation and staying connected in real life as opposed to fictitious friends and being overly involved in meaningless competition or dramatic needs for attention. If I decide to link my blog to other places, that's my choice. I am not comfortable with Facebook's "right" to network me to the whole world.

MySpace, likewise, will disappear from my life.

My profile will be deactivated by the end of the month. To maintain contact with me, stick around on bloggy. I have an e-mail address that I share with friends and family (not the general public as a rule). I can also be contacted by telephone, text message, my work e-mail during the daytime, Google Wave, and through my mother if the need arises. In order to maintain picture sharing capabilities, I'm switching to Google's Picasa Web Albums. If that's not enough connection, then I don't know what is!

Goodbye, Facebook, goodbye.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Marriage will NOT solve problems

As I've participated in weddings in the last few years and attended several others, I've been amazed at the number of people marrying in the hopes of solving their problems. I know one couple who married out of impatience, another who married to prevent the female from having to return to her parents' house after college, and one who had already had children and finally tied the knot rather than deal with a custody battle (happy day right there).

Marriage will not solve problems.

I had to think of my own marriage and the experiences I've had since last October. Marriage has not solved a single problem, and has, in fact, caused much difficulty and frustration.

Since I got married, or engaged in any case, I've visited a hospital approximately 400% more per year than before we met. My financial situation went from bad to worse (although now I have someone to share those difficulties with). My intelligence has been called into question numerous times, including about electronics and how to clean--things that were never a problem until The Man showed up. Speaking of cleaning, I used to clean about once every two weeks. I now have to clean more than once each week just to keep up. Other chores like cooking, doing the dishes, and even making the bed take longer and require more planning. Freedom--one of the things I relished upon moving away from my parents--has vanished. It's not that I don't get to choose what I want to do, but now I have to consult with someone about my plans early and often. Freedom can be approximated to living in a zoo: you're not really caged, but there's only so far you can go before you piss off something that can maul you to death. And then there is the intimacy, communication, and sensitivity that is a constant, nagging requirement. It's really hard trying to balance needs and wants, desires and nagging requests.

And that's just my side of the story: I'm sure he could write a book about his new problems too!

Marriage will not solve problems. Unless you're comfortable being alone, stupid, annoyed, hungry, poor, chained down, and with yourself as a person, I can't recommend marriage. It's going to be WAY too hard unless you're comfortable with you.

Thankfully we're both working very hard at trying to make our marriage successful. The one pay-off that I've been able to figure out is that, regardless of all the icky stuff, I have someone fighting on my side and in my best interest. There's someone to go home to, someone to be with, someone who cares. And that's everything.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Shell Falls

Great little spot in the Santiam Forest, the bottom twenty feet of a fifty or sixty foot waterfall. It's about an hour hike in to find this one, but the hike is pretty level. The only real terrain is on the dirt path nearest the falls.

Unlike the popular walk-behind-waterfall neighbor at Silver Falls State Park, this walk-behind-waterfall is relatively undiscovered. There's no railing, but it's not quite as steep as North Falls.

The Man, his parents, and I made this trek on the day before Mother's Day. We had a great time walking and talking, checking out the nearby cows in the meadow, and enjoying one of the first perfect spring days Oregon offers.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Feeling Off

A week with only two blog posts? Why do I suddenly feel like I've inadvertently committed blog suicide? Eek!

I haven't been up to much lately, so I haven't felt the need to blog. I get up, go to work, come home, veg on the couch, go to bed, and do it all over again. The Man and I haven't done anything exciting lately.

With Facebook being dumb about privacy, I've reduced my status there to zero profile information and just a few picture albums to share with family and friends. I've removed all of the applications I no longer visit daily. My online presence is dwindling.

The Man and I did go out Friday night with friends, and we went out to breakfast with family this morning. That's the extent of our travels.

I've found it very difficult to find attractive orange beads.

This weekend has not been productive. I must go get some laundry started soon.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Bra Sizes are Not All Equal

I went wedding dress shopping with my sister yesterday to look for her perfect dress. Without naming names, we went to the Wal-Mart of wedding dress stores (not actually Wal-Mart). The apathetic front desk lady was barely computer competent, though she did get her job done in a timely manner. As soon as she could, she introduced my sister to her consultant, a thrillingly boring woman with several tape measures draped around her neck.

Tape measures, ladies, are not fashion accessories. I don't care how crafty you are.

She took my sister's measurements and asked her what bra size she wears. For the sake of propriety, I'll select a size at random rather than give you her true measurements. Pretend my sister is a 34D. That is not a hard bra size to find. But since Dress-4-Less-Mart only carries three insanely small sizes, Measuring Tape Girl decided to blurt out, "oh, 34D, that's the same as a 36C." My sister stared at her. She blinked. She turned to me. I blinked at her. We said nothing.

We could have put up a fight, but my sister's size is difficult to find in department stores. She'd brought along a wonderful bra that fit perfectly, but Dress-4-Less-Mart makes women wear their undergarments, no exception. I remember from my experience in another branch of the same nightmare chain store being quite similar. I'm an easier size to fit than my sister, and they didn't even have a bra in my size!

Measuring Tape Girl: not all bras are the same size. Just because you go up in cup size and down in band size does NOT mean a bra will magically fit. A 36A bra will not fit a 34B or a 32C girl. Changing one of the digits could possibly work... a 34B woman could possibly fit into a 34C for trying-on purposes. Changing both the band and the cup is NOT RIGHT.

Guys: this is equivalent to another man telling you that if you wear 32L/32W jeans and they don't have any 32L/32W, they'll just go down to a 30L and pick a 34W to make up for the difference.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Stayton-Jordan Bridge

One of the first pictures with the new camera!

This is the Stayton-Jordan Bridge that sits over a small canal/creek/river/stream/water feature in Stayton Park.

Beautiful day for picture taking, beautiful surroundings, great picnic spot, and lots of fun.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Happy 22nd, 23rd, 24th, 25th, 26th, and 27th birthdays to me!

I wanted to get myself something amazing for my 21st birthday (since I wasn't planning a big drinking bash anyway). I've been a photographer, however amateur, since high school, so I researched cameras and selected a nice point-and-shoot camera to buy myself. You'll have to go back in time with me to 2004, waaaaay back to when digital cameras were common but not very cheap. I chose a five megapixel camera with 3x optical zoom. It was three hundred dollars. For a point-and-shoot, 5MP was a big deal. 3x optical zoom was a really big deal--few, if any, cameras then had anything but digital zoom. The same camera today is available with a few more megapixels for just about the same price. But Sony has a serious image stabilization problem, and I've fought that issue since the day I bought the camera. Without using a tripod, I have to be perfectly still or be shooting at the highest speed in full sunlight for the pictures to not be blurry. Indoor or candlelight, forget it. The camera served me well through college and has taken over eight thousand pictures since 2004. I've used it well, and cared for it very well. And I've always dreamed of having something a little bit better.

When DSLR cameras, the big fancy ones with long lenses, hit the affordable market in about 2006, my mouth started watering. I learned to take pictures with long-lens cameras (film, of course), so I've always wanted something I knew how to use. To break into the DSLR market would have set me back at least $1200 for the body in 2006, and each year I pined away--and walked away. Prices dropped around the holidays, but they never fell below $1000. Stores would hold "mega sales" on every product but their cameras. Finally, in about 2008, the ever-popular Canons dropped down around $800. Ugh. Still too much money, especially since I was living paycheck-to-paycheck. My trusty Sony would have to do.

Last week, I was stumbling around online when I found a review of a DSLR camera. The author went over every detail, highlighting the many, many pros and the every-so-few cons. I fell in love all over again (no offense to The Man). I looked elsewhere online to find reviews, and the overwhelming majority of opinions online were positive. Even Amazon has a 4+ star rating with more than a hundred reviews, and that's really saying something. So I knew what model I wanted, I just needed to find a price I liked. Prices varied online from $650 to $900, and the average was right around $750 for the camera and lens only. Shoot.

I started building my case. I thought about it for a few days. I talked it over with The Man. I did more price shopping. I looked at similar cameras from other brands and quickly realized how much I was getting for $750, so I knew I was in the right market. *sigh* Would my prized camera remain a dream forever?

Late Friday night, rather than blogging, I was surfing Best Buy's website for cameras when I found a kit price at $699. Camera body, lens, all of the camera's accessories, and a free carrying bag included. Holy freaking crap.

Yeah. And the Salem store had one in stock. One. And we were heading to Salem first thing in the morning anyway. And The Man has an income, we owe nothing on our credit cards, and we have money left over from our tax returns, more than plenty for the camera, and I'd already waited six years, and I am taking engagement pictures later this month so the timing couldn't have been better. *pant pant* The stars had aligned! (I'm so dramatic, haha)

So we went to Salem, bought the camera, had it opened and ready to take pictures within the hour, and went in search of waterfalls. Thank you to the friendly people at Nikon who give out pre-charged batteries so kids like me don't have to wait overnight to take pictures with pretty new cameras. Thank you to the memory card people for putting your cards on sale the exact same day I need to buy one. And thank you to Adam, the nice guy who helped me research the serial number to make sure my new camera wasn't part of the recall before I even had it out of the store.

I had to give up getting a laptop or the matching wedding band to my ring for a while, but neither of those things are things I'll lose sleep over. If I'd passed up a sale like the one I got, I'd be kicking myself forever.

That's the saga of how I acquired a shiny new camera. *grin!*

Thursday, May 06, 2010

An Ode to my Missing Piano

I haven't played a piano in probably six months. The very thought of that sent waves of anger, sadness, betrayal, and many other overly-dramatic emotions through me this afternoon. I miss it. I miss the feeling of those smooth, white keys as my fingers hover over and press them deftly. I miss the sound of a piano, the very soft tinks and lumbering clangs that drove my parents to the brink of madness when I was just starting out. I miss the sight of music notes, odd as that seems. I miss the clefs and staffs and wings on notes, the beauty of written music. And I miss the adrenaline of performing ever so slightly, just enough that it brings back memories of concerts and recitals, but not quite so much that I am daring to go out and do it all over again.

Why don't I have a piano? I had one growing up, and I stored my parents' piano when they lived in a rental house while their new house was being built. I tried to get by living in my apartment by using a cheap digital keyboard, but it didn't have enough keys and the right sound to do my heart good. It also couldn't hold big songbooks or more than two pages at a time, so I gave up on that device. After we got married, I didn't have room in our apartment to set up a piano anyway.

I am a pianist without a piano. I have a wonderful husband, a nice apartment, plenty of food, books galore, everything I need to live a contented life. Except a piano. And until I find myself at a real piano, or at least a weighted-key digital substitute, my life will certainly be missing a tiny fraction of my identity. Tiny, but important, my piano...

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Two Incomes are Better than One

We are both employed! For the first time since we were dating, we are both earning money. The Man recently found work not quite full-time, and we received his first paycheck yesterday! Such a long time coming, such a very, very long time.

I've heard people complain that they're not making enough money or that they never have money left over at the end of the month--and these are childless two-income families. Having survived the last six months married on an income that would make an anorexic penny-pincher cringe, my sympathy level for their plight is, oh, about nil.

I have to admit, though, it's not like we've "suffered." Though we didn't always get to do what we wanted, we lived pretty well as poor people. We both learned useful skills, and we are quite adept at repurposing now. We entertained ourselves and each other without paying for movies, games, or expensive trips. Sure, we wanted those things (I'd be lying if I said we didn't miss them). One big lesson in learning the value of a dollar is also learning the value of time. Money comes and goes, comes and goes, but time just goes. Sometimes quickly, sometimes agonizingly slow, but it always goes.

We've also learned what "net pay" is and how little "gross pay" actually means. I can make a billion dollars a year, but if my net pay is only $15,000, the rest of it doesn't exactly matter. So next time I get a job, forget gross pay, the only number I really care about is the take-home pay. Benefits are great--and mine are good--but what good is a life insurance policy when I don't have the money to buy an apple?

We've been married over six months, and living on one meager paycheck hasn't been easy. I have to admit, though, we've never argued about money. We haven't had money to argue about! ;) Even with a small income, we've added a hefty chunk to our savings and never dipped into it to inflate our checking account. We're starting to feel proud (not prideful, just... well, satisfied) of ourselves for managing our dimes so carefully, and with a little extra income, we're rewarding ourselves ever so slightly.

Bring on the video games and craft stuff!

Oh, and a new car, a house, the end of our student loans, and kids. Bring on the choices. How we've longed for those. :)

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

"Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words when necessary."

In my short time as a Catholic, these words have hit home so many times. I read them early, and I've seen them often. Even more, I've realized their truth.

Today, though, I discovered a piece of writing that seeks to refute St. Francis' words. Even if they aren't really from St. Francis, they're powerful words. I think the author of the article was offended that some Catholic dude figured out an effective method of evangelization a thousand years before he did. He also seemed to think insulting St. Francis would be a good headline... how very grown-up of you, Ray Comfort.

Why are words necessary? Why do we have to cram words down people's throats in order to change them? Why do we need to talk at them when we can be working with them?

Without a doubt, the reason Mr. Comfort disputes St. Francis is "works." That's a bad word in the Protestant lexicon to be certain, yet it's exactly what is needed by Christians everywhere. Rather than bashing on those who don't live up to your standards, why not look within and live a better life yourself--and then don't throw stones at others. It doesn't always take words so show a Christian lifestyle.

My parents didn't always instruct me with words on how to behave when I was growing up. They showed me so much by example, and it's those examples that make me want to be better far more than getting slapped on the hand or yelled at or spoken with. It's the walk, not the talk that led me to be who I am.

And it's the manner of the people that I love about Catholicism. Sure, we get preached at in church, but my husband doesn't tell me that I'm going to hell because I looked at him with lust before we were married (yeah, total sinner, my bad). My mother-in-law doesn't scorn me for wearing pants. The Man's family didn't cast him out for marrying a "convert." I never got lectured or reprimanded or anything but welcomed into the Catholic Church.

I'm not trying to put Protestants down at all here, not one bit. My story about Catholics is my experience and opinion (however biased). I am refuting those who who think Bible thumping is the best course of evangelization. It's about as effective as throwing cotton balls gently against a concrete wall to make it crumble.

Use words when necessary, indeed. Use words. Words are tools of communication. There's nothing bad about using words. But rather equipping yourself with a load of words, why not try stocking your shelves with kindness, compassion, and grace. Learn "I'm sorry" first, and then you can work on the Bible thumping.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Stuck

Some days I hate being an adult.
Some days I wish I could open my mouth and let the truth fly.
Some days I want to walk away.

Today was one of those days.
I need some craft therapy.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Pack Rat Central

If you ever want motivation to clean or organize, one episode of How Clean is Your House should do the trick. I know I can be a pack rat, but at least I feel like what I have is clean. My counters are wiped down at least daily if not more, and the entire apartment is cleaned weekly. Somehow, though, that whole "dusting" thing doesn't exactly fit into my grand cleaning plan. When we rearranged the living room this weekend, we took a ton of dust off the surfaces. Thankfully we're both already medicated for outdoor allergies that a little dust didn't seem to bother us.

I tried really hard last summer to clean out a bunch of my pack rat habits. The childhood toys were mostly donated. The stacks of books were whittled down and sold or given away. Even my closet was resorted and shucked of unnecessary items. One thing I didn't touch, though, was my financial records. Nobody ever told me how long to keep things, so I just kept everything.

And I mean EVERYTHING.

I had receipts for every purchase made by debit or credit card dating back to 2001 when I opened my very first checking account. A receipt for every meal eaten out not paid with cash. A receipt for every fly swatter, roll of toilet paper, and box of cereal. Don't get me wrong, they were all neatly organized and sorted by month along with the corresponding bank statement. I was very responsible in watching my account and making sure I was actually the one spending money by verifying at the end of the month with a receipt...

Okay, okay, perhaps the 2001-2008 receipts were a bit overkill. I've shredded everything up to 2010 except tax statements, anything related to my student loan, all of my year-end pay stubs, and my medical files. Part of me feels a sort of nostalgic attachment to that very first job's pay stub, but the money is long-gone, so who am I kidding by keeping it?

It feels good to get rid of excess paperwork. The files have been purged. I'm lighter now.

Let's just hope I never need the 2004 receipt for a pair of shoes I no longer even have... ;)

Saturday, May 01, 2010

800 square feet is not enough for two people

One bed, one toilet, one comfy chair. We are making the most out of a small apartment! This afternoon, The Man and I rearranged our living room/office/dining room/entry. Yes, one room really can serve as four purposes. Unfortunately the room is divided into two-thirds carpet and one-third linoleum. It's a long room with doors at both ends. Neither door is conveniently placed. And we have a 7' futon to fit into the mix.

We ended up covering a wall heater for the summer. We'll have to move things around a bit when winter comes if we're still in the same place, but that's do-able. We pulled the couch away from the window and set it out into the room to divide it into "living room" and "office." The Man's computer is in the living room, and mine is in the bedroom. It's nice to have our own "office" spaces. He's thankful to have room to lean back in his chair finally!

The TV is now against a wall instead of hovering behind the shoe rack with a visible tangle of cords just as you walk in the door. The ugly-but-well-loved-and-super-comfy rocker is behind the shoe rack now, and it can be pulled easily over by the couch if we have people over for movies.

In addition to rearranging furniture today, we did two weeks worth of grocery shopping (not including milk), made bread, baked enchiladas for dinner, finished an embroidered towel, and worked on my Wedding Manifesto. Still on the To-Do list this weekend: laundry, baking cookies, and organizing my files and the filing cabinet. I might also work on a bead project I've been thinking about... and Mass, of course.