Monday, December 16, 2013

Color Me Rad 5k

I completed my first 5k on 11/09/13 (which is 3.1 mile run, for my fellow 'Mericans). I would've told you sooner, but I'm a lazy bum and it's easier to passively observe prefabricated empty media than march into my mind and mine for organic nuggets of creativity therein. It took me over a month, but here I am, mind mining.

The run was called Color Me Rad, and a (probably miniscule) portion of the proceeds went to breast cancer research; the other portion went into the pockets of the folks who put on the run. No bigs though, since the company I work for does a similar thing for charities and I'd be a super hypocrite to harp on Color Me Rad when my paycheck comes from the same thing. I digress.

Since I am a major couch potato and often go from my quiet cubicle at work to the isolation of Couch Island when I get home, my feller and I trained for it using the Couch to 5k program. It was kind of amazing to go from being red-faced, head pounding, sweaty and heaving on the first run to 9 weeks later running 30 minutes straight with more ease than run number one. The engineering of the human body is masterful. We started our training in August, which is often over 100 degrees Fahrenheit around these parts on any given day. We figured as the runs got longer, the weather would be improving. It was a wise and kind of ballsy strategy, but I'm glad we did it that way. It helped to have Rich running with me - the evenings I didn't want to run, he pushed me to get out the door, and vice versa. The other thing I couldn't have gone without is the watch I bought to time the run. It was hard for my miserly self to part with $45 for a watch, but I used it on every single run once I got it, so I'm glad I parted with the dough.

This particular run had 'color stations' set up about every mile where CMR workers grabbed handfuls of 'color bombs' and threw them at passersby to liven things up. The color bombs were made out of colorful corn starch (i.e. purple, pink, orange, green), and the color stations were pretty dusty. There were also folks holding color hoses, and they would spray us with what looked like a water hose, but shot out colorful liquid that stayed on better than the color bombs.

Surprisingly, more than half of the people in the run were walking the course rather than running. I was pretty proud of my little group for running all the way through. Some people were wearing funsy stuff like tutus or Twister costumes or colorful wigs, but we just kept it simple and wore the shirts they gave us for the race.

I'm really happy that I stuck with it and followed through, since my typical course of action is avoidance and non-commitment. Here's a pic of me on race day, and I actually look like I'm enjoying myself! Physical activity is unexpectedly stress-relieving once the body is conditioned properly.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Quitting Time

I quit school. Sure did. Applied, got accepted, spoke to an adviser on campus, signed up for classes, waited, thought, considered, quit. It just didn't feel right, and I kept trying to wait it out, thinking I'd come around. I was constantly questioning if that was REALLY what I wanted or just what I felt like I was supposed to be doing. Like I had to meet these standards, take this step next, and to what end? I've grown tired of waiting for my life to start, going through the motions because of the supposed next step, and promising myself that eventually I will start LIVING and not just PREPARING TO LIVE. I was uncertain about my major, and I feel that if I wish to further my education, it should be in something I feel deeply connected to, not just a "meh, this is the best I can come up with." Also, I'm in zero debt right now. I deeply despise being in debt, and going to school would require me to take out loans and be tens of thousands in the hole. And since my major was apparently not that popular, most classes were during daytime hours, when I have to be at work, or online, which I hate. AND campus is a heck of along drive from me. And I'm not willing to sacrifice my job for my schooling. Especially since the money I make now is similar to an entry level position that my degree would earn me, so there was no financial gain aspect - just a loss from the indebtedness I would find myself in. And my major typically requires a masters degree in order to get into most good paying positions, and I never planned to get a masters. And...and...and I keep wondering if I'm making excuses or if all these thoughts DO tally up to my conclusion - quitting is the right answer. I guess in reality there is no "right" answer. My life, my rules. Of course I haven't completely closed the door to the idea that I may go back at some undetermined point in the future, when/if the notion strikes me. In the mean time, I'll plan things like people whose days aren't jam packed are able to plan. I'll take FUN classes! I'll do things I WANT to do, rather than feel OBLIGATED to do. I've started LIVING, instead of PLANNING TO LIVE. It is a good feeling, but I still have this niggling thought that I may regret this. Nothing is certain. Just gotta keep moving forward and try to take the next best step.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

My Trip to South Korea

I am by no means a world traveler. I have only been out of the country once, to Rocky Point, Mexico when I was about five years old. The only thing I remember from that trip is one of the little girls we went with got bit on the toe by a crab while playing on the beach and howled and cried for an incredible amount of time. So when I heard my sister was going to be stationed in South Korea for a year with the military, it didn't really cross my mind that I'd be going. About six months into her stay, my little wheels started turning and I realized I'd never have another actual REASON to go there - it felt like now or never. I talked to her about the plan I was hatching in my head and she was incredibly excited about it, and she's one of those people whose excitement is infectious, so my mind started working double time. Before I knew it, at the age of 28, I finally had a reason to apply for my passport. How I've longed to get that little baby stamped with evidence of my world travels! I always figured, since I live in a border state, my first trip as an adult would be to Mexico; instead I made my plans to travel half way around the world, literally night and day. Passport was received, tickets were bought, plans were hatched. Before I knew it, I was on a plane headed towards the unknown.

When my plane touched down at the airport in Incheon, it was 4:00AM local time - 16 hours ahead of Phoenix. My sister greeted me at the airport, and we took a return bus to the base, where I was able to stay in her room for the sweet price of FREE for the week. Our next stop was the train station, then from there we took a cab to the Toilet Museum. The main building is shaped like a toilet, and right outside is a giant poo statue.
Many photos were taken, many pooping poses were struck. When we reached the end of the tiny park, we headed back toward base, tuckered out from a long, sweaty Korean summer day.

Day two we just lazed around and went to some shops, soaking up the scenes, comparing and contrasting American life to Korean and getting a few things to prepare for our outing the next day.

Day three was by far my favorite, because it provided some much needed relief from the heat, AND I got to meet a ton of my sister's squadron, which was REALLY cool! I never thought I'd get to know any of the people she works with, and it was awesome to get to put faces to the names of people I've heard about, and see how she interacted with everybody. Keep in mind she has not been stationed in Arizona since she joined the military, so I have never had the chance to meet any of her friends or people she spends time with. I was so happy to have gotten the opportunity. (Sorry, tangent!) ANYWAY, day three we took a bus to Inje where we went zip lining and river rafting. Zip lining was AWESOME! It's something I've always wanted to do, and to do it in South Korea was icing on the cake. So cool! There were a bunch of different lines, and we zipped around from tree house to tree house (or whatever they're supposed to be called!).
Not all tree houses were connected via zip line, a couple were connected with little log platforms, seen here:
When river rafting, we were able to cool down in the water when the river wasn't too rough - a much needed reprieve from the pounding sun.
We also met a cool Korean river raft guide, who didn't speak much English, but was totally awesome nonetheless. We promised to find and friend him on Facebook so we could share group pictures, but were unable to locate him. :( No group pictures for us. [His name was Kisun, or something of the sort - pronounced key-soon. If anyone reading is able to locate him so we can share photos and not disappoint our cool friend, they will automatically be granted 50 cool points!]

The next day we journeyed to Seoul via bus and visited a monk temple (Bongeunsa Temple).
At the temple we saw the back of one single monk as he was walking away! Boo! Despite the elusive monk population, the buildings were beautiful and it was very cool to get to observe some of the worshipers practicing their faith.

Toward evening, we journeyed to Seoul Tower, a pretty cool place that boasts a view of the whole city. It was extra special because we went up to the tower while it was still light, but the sun went down while we were up there and we got to see Seoul at night in their big glass panoramic room. Very cool indeed.
We stayed the night in Seoul and the following day went to the Trick Eye Museum, where optical illusions made for some awesome and hilarious pictures!
We headed back to our little room on base for my last night in Korea.

Some noteworthy observations:

As far as infrastructure, Korea wasn't wildly different than America - there were lots of skyscrapers, huge cities, and well integrated public transportation. The biggest thing that struck me as different was the mannerisms of the people there. For the most part, people kept to themselves and were very somber. When getting on a train, they would find a spot to sit and look down at their laps or get on their phones and completely tune everyone out. I didn't see much social interaction among people. This was especially true for older people. We went to a couple of malls, and in this environment the younger people were a bit different - more chatty toward each other, smiling, and engaged. Also, young couples were much more affectionate publicly than Americans, lots of touching, feeding one another, brushing hair from their partner's face, holding hands, etc. I thought that a strange juxtaposition from the way people acted on the trains. I think that social media may be playing a role because on the trains young people were kind of withdrawn as well as they looked at their phones. Maybe technology is so integrated that people don't have to interact with those around them. Just a thought.

Despite my initial intentions, I ate NO authentic Korean food. First of all, it didn't smell even slightly appetizing. Weird spices that I'm not used to, I suppose. Secondly, the couple of times we tried to go to a restaurant, the people acted cold and withdrawn, and I didn't feel very comfortable. Not sure if it was because we weren't natives, or they were just assholes to everyone in general, but I try to make it a practice to only give my money to people who aren't assholes, so we decided not to dine at those places. Also a strange food oddity of note, every SINGLE DAY, where ever we went, there was a Dunkin' Donuts. I saw more of the chain there than I do here, by far. Every, every shopping center, EVERYWHERE! Weird. Despite my disinterest in Korean food, on the plane ride back I rode with Japan Airlines (who are awesome, by the way), and ate some very strange Japanese food. The thing that stands out most was this salad type cold dish that was all held together by a clear snot-like substance. When I picked up the little beans with my chop sticks, a string of the clear gooey substance trailed from the chopsticks to the plate. I have no idea what it was, and I can't seem to find any answers anywhere! I figure that's enough overseas food culture for one trip anyway.

Luckily for me, many of the signs at the airports I visited were both in the native language AND English, which was the thing I was most worried about (specifically getting lost), so it was easier than I'd expected to find my way around.

After being in Korea for a week, with its somber population, my layover in Japan was a surprise. I found that in the short time I spent in Korea, I was influenced so quickly by their culture. In Japan, airport staff smiled and laughed and acted very friendly, and I found myself avoiding eye contact just so I wouldn't have to engage in their kindness. Korea made me cagey! I guess that's a testament to the human condition - we adapt without even realizing that it's happening.

Overall, it was a rich experience and I got a lot out of it. I definitely feel less apprehensive about international travel because of what I learned on my journey. Soon my sister will be stationed here in Arizona, something we've all been hoping for since she joined the military so many years ago. I can't wait for us to plan a trip together and try a new country on for size, and experience everything for the first time together!

Monday, March 11, 2013

International Mail

Thursday was a good day for mail. I got my Passport, my acceptance letter from Arizona State University, an insurance reimbursement check, a new phone case I ordered from Etsy, and not even one single bill. Awww, yeah!

I have been wanting to get my Passport for YEARS now, but never had a good solid reason. I decided to get brave and go visit my sister since she's stationed in South Korea and I will never ever have another foreseeable reason to travel to South Korea. I have already bought my tickets and will be going at the end of June. The schedule worked out best around my work/school schedule, so I didn't think much of it, but apparently this is during the least desirable part of the year for travel to South Korea. I give zero craps about that because I'm sure we will have an awesome time no matter the weather. I am excited and also HIGHLY nervous because I've never gone out of the country before, except to Mexico when I was really young, so it doesn't even count! And if I were to travel to Mexico now, at least I could communicate somewhat since I know some basic Spanish. You think I know any Korean? Not so much. Maybe I'll make a little cheat sheet so I know how to say "I'm lost. Where is the airport?" and "I'm hungry." "Where is the bathroom? I need to poop." You know, the basics. Usually when something scares me, I just dive in and go for it, because being scared is lame, and adventures are thrilling, even if the very reserved and conservative part of myself has trembling hands.

And as for the ASU acceptance letter, there's another thing to be worried about! I have mentioned the safe cocoon I have built for myself at my local community college. It is time to move on, and no one in my immediate family has ever gone any further than high school, let alone a university, so I'm kind of flailing about, not sure how to maneuver this whole thing. My impression so far is not great; it's like they try to wring every cent possible out of you. For example, there was a $50 application fee (understandable), and a $100 fee for orientation if I want to go to that (which I think I should since I'm totally in the dark here), and my sister in law attended ASU and informed me that parking for a semester is over $200 (freaking ridiculous!), and that's just what I've come across in the month since applying. Who knows what other hidden fee garbage they will pile on? That kind of stuff really infuriates me. The worst part is, I HAVE TO do it if I want a degree, so I just have to suck it up, like all the other students. I propose a revolt! We shall blast Twisted Sister ("We're Not Gonna Take It"), paint our faces in a tribal fashion, know, other protesting type behavior. We'll need a leader though, cause I'm gonna be too busy with work and school and trying to have a life in between. Or I could just take the easy way out and pay the ridiculous nickel-and-dime charges that should be free. Wimpy, but simpler! That's my new motto for 2013. ;)

Friday, January 25, 2013

Domesticated Felis Catus

I received the following text message from Richard yesterday:

"I put cat littler on the driveway where my truck was leaking oil yesterday. When I pulled into the driveway just now, Jari [our cat] was in the middle of the driveway pooping in the little pile of cat litter. I had to stop, let him finish pooping, collect the poop, throw it in the garbage can, then finish pulling into the driveway." Ah, the small hilarious moments of domestic life.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Belated Lazy Life Update

Every year on my birthday I promise myself that I'll make a PIES outline and post a birthday picture so I can go back and look at where I was on any particular year. I turned 28 on November 13th and haven't gotten around to it yet - this year and every previous year. It's time, damn it! "What is a PIES outline?" you may be asking yourself. My first semester at community college I took a PSY101 course and the professor had us each write a PIES, which outlines the Physical, Intellectual, Emotional, and Social aspects of ones life at a given point in time. Here goes!

Physical - I chastise myself daily for not getting any physical exercise. I have been off of school for about a month and lack of time between school and a full time job was once my reason for physical lethargy. Now I have no excuse. The only way to get more exercise is to start exercising. I've certainly gotten sedentary these days. As far as my ulcerative colitis, I had a flare a few months ago, but as of right now, I am doing really well. I still take my meds (sulfasalazine, 2x2) every day, and supplements, including probiotics, fish oil, multivitamin, and calcium. I've gotten even more sketchy about dairy products and have been trying not to push my luck. If I'm feeling wiiiild and craAaazy I'll take a Lactaid tablet and hope for the best. So far, so good. I don't want to totally give up dairy products, because I'm sure the less my body consumes, the more difficult it will be for my body to handle it. And dairy is delicious. Yet another physical development: I got an IUD (ParaGard) a few months ago. I'll spare you the details, but my body is adjusting and it's nice to be taking one less pill every day. I like the idea that my body is producing the natural chemicals it needs and isn't being influenced by hormones via pill. My family has started giving me sideways glances about this, because they like their clan to reproduce. I know I just turned 28, but I am soooo not in a place that I want to procreate right now. I don't know if I ever will be; just kind of rolling with it. Wondering if the maternal yearning will ever find me. So far, not so much. Dare I set a goal for the physical category? It feels so...committal! Which I am 'non.' I will just set the small goal of walking the dogs regularly, which is typically a mile. Not exactly gold-star life changing, but, meh. Baby steps, eh? (Fighting the urge to make a pun linking the ParaGard and my "baby steps" comment about exercising. Good thing for you I'm not clever enough to come up with something!)

Intellectual - I recently finished the Fall 2012 semester. I already got my Associate Arts degree in Spring 2012, but wasn't ready to leave the little pond of community college for the big pond that is a university. I still wasn't completely sold on my choice of major (social work), so a dragged my heels and thought I'd shuffle around and try some classes for a business major. "Why not?" said I. "I've been working in the business world for a long time; I should try my hand at business courses and see if I feel inspired to continue on that track!" said I. Turns out, it was one of the most mundane and grueling semesters of my life. I took accounting, macroeconomics and society & business. I passed them all with B, B, A, respectively, but felt drained and useless and (sometimes) stupid. I don't want my life to be so...formulated? Rigid? For-profit? Absent of human engagement? Whatever it was, I have taken a real step back. I stepped so far back, in fact, that I took this semester off. I am uncomfortable with transferring to a university because doing something new is scary and I'm complacent. Also, it's hella expensive, and I refuse to take out loans, so it will all be out of pocket. Also, the campus is far from my house and I would have to drive there in rush hour traffic in order to work around my work schedule, which is not flexible. This 'semester off' my goal is going to be to take another interest inventory (it's been a few years since my first one), reassess what I want for my life, look at applying for scholarships (which I've never done before so I'm just going to have to fumble my way through it), and apply to the university. The adviser I spoke with said I should have no problem getting in because I have pretty excellent grades. This aspect of my life is what is weighing most heavily on my mind.

Emotional - Hmm. I didn't realize how little I would have to say until reading the word 'emotional.' My whole life, I have always been into writing/journaling most intensely when I am struggling emotionally. I take it as a good sign that my inkwell has run dry. Honestly, I'm happy and comfortable in my life. I think all categories in the PIES outline funnel into this one. One thing that nags at me is the "more, more, MORE" my mind constantly pummels me with. I want myself to achieve more, academically, physically, and artistically (like jewelry making, perfecting the decor/design of my office, photography, family tree stuff, etc). I tend to veg out and watch tv or read rather than physically DOING things, and that bothers me more than anything. I guess one of my stronger emotions would be disappointment in myself for not living up to my full potential and taking the lazy path. Goals for this segment would be to create a simple schedule for artistic activities and force myself to follow through with it. It's mostly about breaking habits and creating a new routine. Once I get started on something I usually get lost in it and really enjoy myself.

Social - Being socially engaged is something I really love. But, as for friendships, I've kind of let most everyone drop by the wayside. I have always been much more close and comfortable around my family than with friends. I tend to be a very guarded person, and now that I'm out of the habit of social interaction, it is hard to convince myself to get back in. I'm feeling a little friend-phobic these days. I think I should let my hair down a little and try to hook up with some old friends. I do miss some of them quite a bit. Good folks. Back to the family thing - within the last 5 months, my mom has moved back to Phoenix from Texas and she is living with my aunt. Shockingly, I have been spending a lot of my free time at their place. There is constant action over there and, though it isn't the most wholesome environment, it feels very comfortable to me because I grew up in a very similar situation. I don't think most people would find it as engaging or natural as I do, but I'm happy she's here. In a way, I feel like it is a chance to repair a little bit of the damage between us. She hasn't cleaned up her act like I would like, but I am learning tolerance and telling myself that the only person who can change her lifestyle is her own self, and there's no need for me to let that take away a possible relationship or closeness between us. So far things have been going really well with that. (Let's pretend this is a smooth segue.) Richard and I have a friend who has started going out and feeding the homeless, and I'd like to get on board with that. When I was in high school I did a tiny bit of volunteer work at a soup kitchen and it was super rewarding. Another thing I've added to my list of things to accomplish is to start looking into becoming a foster parent. I don't think I would do anything with it at least before I'm finished with school (which will be a long time yet) but I know lots of kids out there need a safe place to lay their heads and I have some room, along with the desire to help a child in a position that I could have easily been as a child in if not for certain family members.

As a said at the beginning of this post, I'm including a photo of me taken on Thanksgiving 2012 to have a photo record of myself for 2012. Hooray for this post! It has been a nagging little devil since I first started thinking about it in, say, September? My life motto lately has been "I'll get it done...eventually." And that I did. That. I. Did.