Monday, October 20, 2014

Monday Night in Jackson, Tennessee

You know how it's on my Life List to visit every state in the U.S.? Well, usually I don't consider just driving through a state as having "visited." Like, on this trip to Virginia? We stopped at a McDonald's in Arkansas to use the bathroom, but I don't think that counts as having "been" to Arkansas, because I didn't actually do anything there.

So I'm not sure if traveling through Tennessee counts either, but I've got a good story for you anyway.

My dad and I had just crossed the Tennessee border, just passed through Memphis, and it was getting dark and pouring rain, and we were about ready to call it a day. I had gotten several recommendations from friends who had traveled with pets before to stop at a La Quinta Inn, because they don't charge fees for animals. The next La Quinta past Memphis was in Jackson, so I made a reservation for us. Once we got the cat and all our bags unloaded, we looked for a place to get dinner.

Now, neither my dad nor I are the type to stick with chain restaurants if we have the option of local places. We looked on Yelp to see what was close and had decent reviews, and ended up at this little fast-casual, beach-themed Mexican food place called Tulum's. It was fine; we were hungry. My burrito was the size of my head.

By the time we got back to the motel, it was only like, 8 p.m., and we were all, "What do you want to do?" "I dunno, what do you want to do?"

There was a bench in front of the La Quinta where people had been sitting and smoking while we had been unloading my truck, so my dad decided that we would go to the Exxon station across the street and get some beer. And then drink it on the bench in front of the La Quinta.

So we did.

So you tell me — do you think this counts as having visited Tennessee?

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Remarkaballs

My first week of work, I found out that our office had its own community kickball team.

(That's because I was asked to design the T-shirts for the team. I told you my job was awesome!)

The season started in September, so I only got to play in a few games before our planned move, but it was a lot of fun, throwing back to elementary school! (I'm pretty sure that the fifth or sixth grade was the last time I played organized kickball.)

We won some of our games, and we lost some, too. We played other teams in the community, and some of them were like, crazy good. The highlight for me was during game three of the season: I made it onto second base during that game, which is basically a miracle because I almost always get tagged on the sprint to first base!

Most of the time, while our team was on the field, I ended up playing outfield. Which was perfectly fine with me, because the ball rarely made it as far out as I was. I am not particularly good at throwing, or catching! I'm always afraid the ball will hurt if it hits me!

When was the last time you played kickball? What games did you like when you were a kid? And does your office have any fun extracurricular activities?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

It's "real" in that I really can't mow my own lawn

This post originally written on 9-14-14, with edits.

When Matt left for Virginia, he left behind most of the things in our shed, including one of those reel lawnmowers. You know, the kind that you're supposed to be able to just push around the yard, and the blades spin as you're pushing, and it chops all the grass down.

(I say this, but I didn't know what a "reel mower" was. I kept thinking he was saying "real mower" and I was like, dude, all lawnmowers are real! So there's that.)

I think it's obvious from the above statements that I had never mowed my own lawn before. But with Matt gone, and the photographer coming to take house photos the next day, I thought the lawn was looking a tiny bit shaggy and decided to try my hand at mowing for the first time.

Oh, those reel mowers are AWFUL! I spent maybe 20 minutes struggling to get the thing to go, and in that time I got maybe, maybe a third of the lawn mowed. And I also got the beginnings of some thumb blisters, and about 30 mosquito bites, because it rained the last two days.

When I noticed the mosquitoes swarming around me, I said screw it, threw the push mower back in the shed, and texted a dude friend to come mow my lawn for me.

I tried, ya'll.

My friend came and mowed the lawn the next morning, and he likes to tell people that his yardwork is the reason our house sold on the first day. Curb appeal, man.
I mean, who WOULDN'T want to live here?

Do you do your own yardwork? What chores are you the worst at?

Monday, October 13, 2014

All Byyyy Myyyyyselffffff

I guess there's no harm in telling you I'm not at home, since our home officially belongs to someone else now. (Or it would if the realtor would stop making excuses for the closing date being pushed back.) For the next few days, I'll be doing a lot of driving as I road trip across the country with a drugged cat in the backseat.

(The vet says tranquilizers will take the edge off. We'll see.)

So begins day one of our trip to Virginia. (Well, my trip to Virginia. Matt officially moved out there over a month ago, I'm just not in the habit of announcing that I'm home alone.)

Obviously, I won't have a lot of Internet time, if any, over the next few days as I drive up to pick up Elliott-boo from my parents' house and start the 17-hour drive, so I'm going to start posting some of the things that I've wanted to say over the previous month that I wrote down and wasn't able to share.

My precious boo! Sober, and also traitorous for only being a lap-kitty for my mom. But I missed her fuzzy face.

First things first, though. We do have a home in our new town! When Matt and his parents moved the basics up to Blacksburg, they spent their first full day in town looking for a place for us to live. I was working that day, but I kept getting text messages and e-mails on my phone filled with pictures of potential rentals. They visited five places, but the second townhouse was a clear winner. Garage, washer/dryer included, central heating and air, in a nice neighborhood? He deposited the deposit, paid the rent, and moved in three days later. Done and done. We never thought it would happen that fast.

All he had with him was a desk, a recliner, and an air mattress. (Well, that was all the furniture, anyway.) So I'm sure he'll be glad to have a real bed again, and some legit places to sit. Oh, and perhaps his wife back. :)

If you had to live for a month with only three pieces of furniture, which pieces would you pick? Got any tips for driving cross-country with a cat?

Monday, October 6, 2014

Book Reports: The Martian, Nothing to Envy, Attachments

It's been quite a while since I've done a book post. I've been reading up a storm this year, and a lot of them have been really good. But of course, I mainly choose to write posts about the books that I just found to be absolutely excellent.

If you're interested in seeing what else I've read, check me out on Goodreads.

The Martian by Andy Weir
I'll preface this by saying I'm not really into sci-fi. I don't do fantasy, and I like my worlds to be fairly realistic (or at least close enough to realistic that I don't have to suspend too much belief). What surprised me about this book was how realistic it seemed. There was a heck of a lot of math and science in this (fictional) story, but the way it was told was so entertaining and suspenseful, it kept me on my toes the whole time.

Mark is one of six astronauts to ever set foot on Mars, but when a dust storm damages their equipment and blows a metal satellite straight into Mark, puncturing his spacesuit, the crew has to cut their mission short and bail out, leaving Mark for dead. Only it turns out he didn't actually die, and instead finds himself alone on a planet that it took months to travel to, with limited food supplies and no way of communicating with his crew.

Basically, every single thing he does on the red planet just might kill him for real; wear and tear on the space suits he has remaining, the frequent dust storms, the lack of significant amounts of food, and of course "plain old human error." And Mark determines (through math!) that even if he could get word to his crew that he was still alive, it would take them more than 400 days to get back to Mars to pick him up.

The story is pretty ingenious. Mark is a smart cookie (you'd have to be, to be an astronaut!) and the way he MacGuyvers his remaining supplies in an attempt to stay alive and fix his broken communication signal is brilliant. Only thing that might put some people off is that there are a lot of F-bombs in this book, but … well, what would you be saying if you were trapped on Mars?! A

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick
With all that's always going on in the world, I never really thought about North Korea, other than the fact that the U.S. was worried they might have nuclear weapons. I don't remember who recommended Nothing to Envy to me, but oh my goodness. This book was FANTASTIC. The author is a journalist who has visited North Korea officially several times, and found herself frustrated that the North Korean government tended to put on a big show for visitors, while hiding any potential unpleasantness about the country. She interviewed six North Koreans who had defected to South Korea in order to get a true picture of life in North Korea.

Those defectors painted such vivid pictures with their stories. The woman who worked as a doctor, but ended up nearly starving to death when her salary was cut because the government couldn't afford to pay her anymore. The mother who worshipped the Kim family, but was looked on with suspicion because of her grown daughter's anti-regime comments. The famines that the government tried to cover up, the stores with nothing available for purchase inside, the danger and risk it took to get out of North Korea, because North Korea didn't want its citizens leaving and China didn't want the North Koreans entering its country.

The title of the book comes from the propaganda posters that former dictator Kim Il-sung had hanging all over the country — We have nothing to envy in the world! North Korea is the richest and best country! The United States is a terrible and consumerist country that would seek to destroy our way of life! — messages that play a big role in how North Koreans are raised and what they believe. They have no (legal) access to the Internet, radio or television, except for the shows and movies that the Korean government releases, which are all propaganda too.

Overall, it was just a fascinating, horrifying, beautiful work. Can't recommend highly enough, especially if you're interested in other cultures or history. A+

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
I've seen the blog world singing the praises of Rowell's books for months (years?), but hadn't had the opportunity to pick up any of her books until now. I've signed up for a couple of book clubs in Virginia to see if I can find one that's a good fit when I get there, and this was the chosen October book for one of them, and so I was glad that my opportunity had arrived.

The year is 1999, and daily newspaper The Courier just got its staff on an e-mail system. The bigwigs at the paper are freaking out about the increased use of technology in the newsroom, and so they hire Lincoln to be, essentially, a living spam filter: his job is to read the employees' e-mails and flag ones that contain inappropriate words or content, and send notices to the offending employees. Lincoln hates his job.

But when Lincoln starts reading the correspondence between Beth and Jennifer, he doesn't send them a notice about using company e-mail for personal use. Instead, he looks forward to their conversations getting caught in the filter. And eventually, he starts to fall in love with one of them.

This book was totally cute. The characters were real people you could see yourself being friends with (or already having friends like them). I loved the candid-ness of Jennifer and Beth's friendship, completely told through e-mails. This was a refreshing and fun read, and felt similar in tone to some of Meg Cabot's adult novels. I'm looking forward to reading more of Rowell's work. A

Have you read anything just absolutely fantastic lately?