5

Ten More Ways to Soothe Your Summer

It’s all come down to this…tomorrow is the big day.

Prelim Exam A.

I think I’m going to have a headache, stomachache, vertigo, and nausea all at the same time. This morning I went to a pancake breakfast at the elementary school where I’ll be teaching starting next week, and got to meet all the parents and students; already, it seems like a lifetime ago. I spent the rest of my day talking with some friends on Facebook, rereading some of my papers, rereading one of the plays, imagining hypothetical questions, shopping at Kohl’s, and going to the gym. Now I’m just sitting on the couch watching The Golden Girls and waiting for some food to finish cooking.

Since my stress level is higher than the Capital building right now, I thought I’d get back to something I started at the beginning of the month, but since 10 is a good number, here are ten more ways to soothe your summer.

1. Say thank you.

It’s two simple words that are so easy to say. What the hell, add in a “so much” if you so desire. Don’t go overboard, but tell someone that you have appreciated something that they have done recently, and why. Or, just for being themselves. It’s free to do, doesn’t expire, and can spawn even more calm and happiness into the world.

2. Help out at an event, even when you’re not asked.

At this morning’s pancake breakfast, after the parents had left the school and the children were in class, I summoned over one of the teachers who wasn’t working at the moment and we put the rest of the milk in the fridge so it wouldn’t spoil. Granted, it was soy milk, which lasts for way longer than regular milk, but still, it was one less thing for someone else to do.

3. Buy someone else a gift.

Don’t go overboard with this one, but if the occasion merits, spend some extra time and money, get someone a gift, and make a plan to get it to them ASAP. Something little that can brighten someone’s day. It was easy for me to do today; my office mate and his wife had a baby two weeks ago, so I went to Kohl’s and got them a $25 gift card. We have our first staff meeting of the semester the day after tomorrow. I can’t wait to give it to him.

4. Buy yourself a nice outfit.

New year, new school, new duds. While I was at Kohl’s, I saw a few shirts and pants that looked nice, so I spent some time trying them on and texting out selfies to see which outfit I should buy. I found a long sleeved lavender Oxford with black dress pants, and then a short-sleeved green and white striped oxford with khakis. I ended up going with the second one, which got the better reviews anyway. I can’t decide whether I want to wear it to the staff meeting or the first day of school.

5. Light a new candle.

There was a green-apple-and-kale candle on the clearance shelf. It smells great. It’s burning right now. Unlike most scented candles, it’s a rather unobtrusive scent, and I can actually smell it several feet away, without leaning over it.

6. Make a meal, and eat it off of your nicest china with your nicest silverware.

Granted, I only have two sets of china and silverware (one meat and one dairy), but rather than going out for an expensive meal, I just finished eating some homemade herb-crusted tilapia and broccoli. Speaking of food…

7. Eat some vegetables.

I know, shocking coming from me, but I just heated up a broccoli/carrot/cauliflower mix in the microwave and ate it. Even though it’s not my favorite food group, it tasted fine and I probably got a few vitamins out of it as well. And on that note…

8. Rice is nice.

I just finished cooking some basmati rice, and it came out clumpy and firm just like I like it. I guess if you’re gluten-free, this might not be the best option for you, but it’s odd how something so insignificant can make you feel so normal.

9. Find something to look forward to.

While I was out, I saw a banner across the front of Barnes & Noble; Jennifer Chiaverini is doing a talk and a book signing in two weeks. And two weeks after that is the Wisconsin Salsa Festival in Milwaukee, with a pre-party in Madison. Maybe I’ll try out the new float spa this week or next, or go antiquing in Columbus.

10. When all else fails, Golden Girls.

Even when you’re feeling alone, Dorothy, Blanche, Rose, and Sophia will always be there with something to say to make you laugh.

Good night everybody. Sleep tight and keep me in your prayers.

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14

How I’ve Changed Since Starting This Blog

It’s been a busy few days of selling jewelry, dancing, and writing my prelims, but I’m at 63 pages (including the maximum 25 pages for the one I’ve been spending most of my time working on) so it’s time to watch a little bit of the Olympics and do some blogging.

Once in a while, it’s a good idea to look back, mostly to see if someone’s chasing behind you, but sometimes just to see how far you’ve come. No special occasion, it’s not any sort of anniversary, but it was just something I was thinking about in the car today. So here are a few ways I’ve changed for the better since starting writing here.

1. Self-awareness. I definitely think that I have become more self-aware. I feel like since I have a place on the Internet where I can speak uninterrupted and unfettered, I don’t feel the need to overshare in real life. I personally don’t think I’m an oversharing type of person, but now, I don’t know, there are some times in my life where I feel weird sharing it out loud and prefer to say it in my head or to myself. Of course, there are things that I don’t share here, but those things are usually the kinds of things I don’t share anyway. And again, I’m the only one that matters when it comes to how I…come across, but I think that by and large, I’ve had more positive than negative social interactions in recent times.

2. Better behaved, in general. What I mean by this: at times I want to blog about my daily life, obviously I’m not going to blog about a time when I’ve embarrassed myself, but it’s kind of like reality television: if those moments don’t happen, then there’s no footage of it. I don’t talk about my blog on very many occasions in real life, and if I do, I just kind of say “I wrote about it in my blog…” and that’s the end of it, and obviously, there’s curation that goes on in any online presence, but painting myself as a person I’m not – ooh what just happened to Aly Raisman just now on the balance beam, I was looking down and I missed it – is a whole lot harder when there are fewer dramatic corrections to be made.

3. What’s worthwhile. The things that I want to look back on, and posts on mine that I reread, are the funny, well-thought-out ones, and not just the rambles of daily life, or oblique references to some situation the specifics of which I’ve long forgotten. Reading a depressing poem is not something I’d want future me to read,  or anyone else for that matter, or commentary on some event (whether global or just in my own life) that ends up being insignificant.

I had some other thoughts today, but of course I didn’t write them down anywhere, but if I remember them, I’ll add them. Oh, and yay to my 37,000th Revolver Maps visitor, from Jaipur, Rajasthan, India. And now, back to watching Team USA Olympic Gymnastic domination.

5

Home Mode

Nope, I didn’t make ice cream today. But I did help make fake candy bars.

More on that in a minute.

But first…

I think I’ve discovered why I get so bummed spending large amounts of time at home. I love my parents and I miss them so much during the school year, and it’s just so nice to have home-cooked meals and sleep in the bed I grew up sleeping in, but that’s usually where it ends. I don’t usually have too much time to see friends when I am here, and I’m constantly reminded of what I dislike about this place: despite the great kosher restaurants, it’s the “oh how’s your mother doing (fine, thanks, you see her more than I do, how’s yours?),” the “are you still in Baltimore (yeah, I have, and I’ve just been hiding in my parents’ refrigerator for four years),” and in general, the great blanket of blah and boredom that envelops me. Call it languor, call it torpor, but it just kind of invades and sops me up.

This, my friends, is Home Mode Jacob.

Take these last few days as an example. Yes, I’ve been riding high off of seven days of pretty much nonstop action and being Travel Mode Jacob, but I feel like I’ve been asleep more than I’ve been awake in the 72 or so hours I’ve been at my parents’ place. Maybe it’s living with two retirees that has been slowing my pace down, but on Sunday, I slept until 1 PM, then went out with my mother, had lunch, and instead of exercising at the club, laid down on a chaise and woke up several hours later; yesterday, I managed to get up for some early errands with my dad and some geocaching, but after he dropped me off at Walgreens to get some stuff of his own done, I barely had enough energy to walk over to Starbucks before I had to sit for a while and nurse a coffee until I got the strength to walk home; and today, not only did I close my eyes in the car on the way to Rockville with my mom to help out at my sister’s school, but completely passed out asleep on the ride home, and had barely enough energy to exercise for 20 brief minutes before dinner. If I were in Madison, I probably would have been way more active, reading books, doing chores, going to the gym, and eating real meals rather than whatever my parents have in the house. Plus, I’m super nervous about the next two and a half weeks of really living out of a suitcase, when I probably should be more excited than scared.

So maybe that’s one reason why I don’t like coming home too often for too long.

But it’s almost midnight here, and I have to get up at 7:00 tomorrow morning to catch my 10 AM flight to Toronto, Canada, and then onto Montreal for Leg 3: ATHE 2015! Wahoo! It doesn’t feel real, even though I’ve spent months planning and anticipating, especially as I sit here on the floor of my childhood bedroom. Hopefully, I’ll magically wake up in Travel Mode, aka Super Happy And Ready For Anything Mode. Travel Mode Jacob is way more fun than Home Mode Jacob.

But now, time for Sleep Mode Jacob.

A demain!

And even though nobody from South America viewed my blog today, I got a lot of great views from every other continent, so big hellos to North America (Canada and USA), Europe (UK, Norway, Belgium, France, and Poland), Asia (Singapore, Philippines, and India), Africa (Kenya and South Africa), and Oceania (Australia and Vanuatu, my first new country in quite awhile!)

2

It’s Fossil Butte NOT Butt

Well hello there, you’ve caught me in a respite between bouts of nighttime sneezing, so here’s the lowdown on all the exciting things that happened on Day 3 of Summer Odyssey 2015.

The theme of the day: exploration! We got up bright and early, and were out of the apartment by 9 AM for a day of fun. I think I nodded off in the car for some of the trip, but two hours later and we had crossed into Wyoming, the 41st state I can say I’ve been in. We stopped off in Evanston for gas, snacks, and a bathroom break, but it wasn’t long before we found ourselves (well, we arrived, we knew where we were going) at Fossil Butte National Monument outside Kemmerer, WY. On the way, I taught the group the “We Call It Butte NOT Butt” song, and even though someone was always singing it, it never became unfunny. That’s the best.

Unlike yesterday’s national park adventure, today we practically had the place to ourselves. The weather was gorgeous; not too hot or cold, bright sunshine, blue skies, and a cool breeze. Walking along to the visitors center is a railing which is also a giant timeline denoting when certain things appeared, like sponges and bacteria, and when certain landforms came to be. It wrapped around the whole visitor center and was very informative. Human beings were only a tiny red arrow at the end; makes you feel so, so small.

Even though the visitors center is pretty small, we spent about an hour there looking at fossil imprints of everything from plants to seeds to bugs to animals to…fossilized poop. That was a crowd favorite. As we watched, a park ranger carved a fossil out of stone right before our eyes. It was incredible – the real deal – an ichthyologist at work. Ramona actually came up with some seriously interesting questions for a 4-year-old; she wanted to know where on the body of the fish do they start etching, the head or the tail, and how do they know how big it will be? The ranger, Andy, told her (and us) that they always start at the head, when they find it. Based on how the fish is facing, they work down the body to the tail, and usually it just tapers down. Important to know, or else they just be chipping away at empty stone all day. We also learned that they have found fossilized fish with other fossilized fish in their mouths; a sign that the bigger fish probably choked to death.

And that’s why you always chew your food, kids.

After learning that valuable lesson, getting some souvenirs, and Junior Ranger badges for the girls, we headed to the trail for a picnic lunch. You just can’t beat cheese sandwiches in a gazebo looking out over the wilderness. Then, we headed off on our post-lunch hike. It was not as strenuous as the hike up to Timpanogos, but just like yesterday, Iris and I played trailblazer and sped ahead of Julie and Nathan who were corralling Ramona and hoping she’d want to walk more instead of riding on her dad’s shoulders in the heat. They caught up to us at the halfway point, and just as we headed out, Julie told us to look out for black bears. Somehow, this ended up becoming a giant story about evil teddy bears, and Iris and I went back and forth creating an entire movie treatment complete with sound effects as we hiked, and before we knew it, we were back at the car. The other three came back, reporting that Julie had gotten stung by a bee, and that they saw a big rattlesnake in the path (which we probably missed because we were lost in our own world) and headed back home. On the way, we saw a huge herd of pronghorn deer, plenty of cows, and not much else. Still, the “not much else” of Wyoming was more beautiful in color than most other places. As the earth-tones of Wyoming faded into the Utah green, it was hard to believe that we’d been sitting in a car for almost three hours each way. With so much to see and fun conversations going on in the car, it was almost like no time at all.

Back in town, I treated everyone to all-you-can-eat sushi, which might have been a huge mistake for the tummy but it was so, so good after a tough day of hiking. I polished off four rolls so quickly it was like they were not even there.

Tomorrow: my last full day in Utah 😦 other than the altitude headaches and the constant sneezing/nose bleeds I’ve been enduring, it’s just so beautiful and fun here. This time tomorrow night, I’ll be spending the night on an uncomfortable plane from Salt Lake City to Philadelphia, then to Baltimore for Leg 2.

Better press publish before my computer clock rolls over to tomorrow even though it’s only 10:55 PM here.

8

Utahhhh-choo!

Man, Utah really does a number on the nervous system.

Even though this post is going to technically be published on July 21st, my computer is on Central Time, and I’m currently sitting here and writing this at 11:24 PM Mountain Time here in Julie’s living room in Orem, Utah. This is also the middle of Phase One of my 2015 Summer Odyssey, and kicking it off in a new state – number 40 for me – has, so far, been great.

So, to recap:

Yesterday (July 19) = Day One. Awake at 6-something after being to excited/anxious/nervous to sleep. At least I didn’t have to move apartments this time around. Actually, that made last time somewhat easier, but this time, I could get lazy about cleaning/packing since I could pretty much leave my apartment as is. Basically, I cleaned the floor, washed the dishes, and took out the trash before I left, but I left with half a hamper full of laundry and a bathroom that hadn’t been scrubbed clean in a long time. Once in the cab, I had my first mini-heart-attack of the trip, when I realized my camera was missing before we turned off Conklin Avenue. It ended up stuck between the seats of the cab, for some reason.

Security at Dane County Airport was a breeze, and soon enough I was on my first flight, on United Airlines from Madison to Denver, Colorado. On the flight, I sat with a high school kid who was on his way to Orange County. The flight was two and a half hours, and even though I don’t normally sleep on planes, I think I nodded off for at least thirty minutes.

Arriving at Denver Airport, I had about a half hour to book it from Gate B20 to Gate B77, just barely enough time to get on the plane. This one was much smaller, with a very loud engine. I had to gate-check my bag as it wouldn’t fit in the compartment.

Then, finally, Salt Lake City. Julie and family timed it perfectly and we had a happy reunion at the airport, before heading out into the beautiful Utah sunshine.

Wow.

Utah. Is. GORGEOUS. Everywhere you look, it’s a different color, from red rock to yellow sand to green and brown mountains. The sky isn’t as big as Texas but the blue is striking on a sunny day. They informed me that Salt Lake City, being a Mormon hot spot, shuts down on Sundays almost completely, which I found to be totally weird. Fortunately, we found a great little Italian place that seemed relatively new. It’s strange; a setting of ancient mountains, yet everything looks brand new.

Soon enough we arrived at their lovely apartment in downtown Orem, a suburb of Salt Lake City. After a short break to catch up and catch our breath, we headed on out to Bridal Veil Falls, and even though there were tons of people there, we still got a great little hike in to a beautiful waterfall. It was so refreshing to feel the cool mist on my face, while watching idiots ignore the “no climbing” signs and try not to die. It stays light until almost 10 PM here, so it was broad daylight when we went home for a light dinner. After the little girls went to bed, Julie and Nathan and I sat up with wine and chocolate until about midnight.

Bringing us to Day 2, which was today. A bit of a late start so I could sleep in from the trip and get adjusted to the time difference. We were going to take a long road trip today, but the forecast seemed a little uncertain so we went to Timpanogos Cave National Monument in American Fork, only 45 minutes or so away. Once there, I bought Iris a National Parks Passport and introduced her to the wonderful world of stamping. I love spoiling other peoples’ kids. We thought we could just go in, but it turns out you need to buy tickets for a guided tour, which is the only way you can see the caves! Fortunately, Nathan snapped up the last few tickets of the day, a 5:45 PM tour.

And the time? 11:45 AM.

Fortunately we had looked up some places to explore nearby in Salt Lake City, so after lunch at a Whole Foods cafe, we headed over to a spot I’d found, the Gilgal Sculpture Garden. It’s a “visionary art environment,” in every sense of the word, complete with a Sphinx with Joseph Smith’s head, stone books, and rocks with bible quotes. It was small, (about the size of an average home’s backyard), but perfect for Ramona, Julie’s littlest, to run around in and imagine and ask questions.

Then, Julie found info about a nearby International Peace Garden, so off we went. Now this place? Super cool. It was built in 2002 for the Olympics, and it’s a pretty large park with different pavilions and mini-gardens representing different countries. Right near the entrance is a Chinese hut with a little pond, then right after that, some Greek columns, and on it went from there. It was beautifully designed, even though it seemed kind of arbitrary since other than the architecture and flags, the flowers all seemed to be the same. Iris and I walked around and hit the highlights, including a Margaret Thatcher bust in the England Garden; a tiny house in Switzerland; a mini-maze in Korea; an Eiffel Tower sculpture in France; and a giant harp in Wales. We also saw gardens for Italy, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Switzerland, Netherlands, Russia, Canada, Mexico, Lebanon, Germany, Ireland, Brazil, Philippines, Japan, India, a general idea of Africa, and oddly enough, the Pacific island nation of Tonga. Iris was disappointed that there was no Madagascar or Australia. The only ones we missed were Scotland and America, maybe we breezed by those too quickly.

Then, back to the main attraction of the day: Timpanogos Cave. I’m getting a little tired, so maybe I’ll add more description in a future post, but I can describe it in a few words: hot, cold, amazing, and cute. Hot: the hike up to the cave. Steep trail, blazing heat, but fantastic views. Cold: Once inside the caves, we all needed jackets and were shivering when we finally emerged at the end of the hour and a half long cave tour. Amazing: all the stuff we saw and learned in the caves. Beautiful, glowing calcite formations, majestic flow stone, stalactites and stalagmites, tiny underground pools, intricate patterns on the walls and ceiling, and trying not to get too wet from the drippy drippy drips. Going down was a breeze, all the way to the cute: Ramona and Iris doing the Junior Ranger program. Julie shot a video on her phone and took pictures, it was adorable. Then, back to civilization for Smashburger and Menchie’s (we deserved all those calories!) and back home for bed

My first impression of Utah (well, after beautiful): ah-choo. I’ve been sneezing and already had two nosebleeds, in addition to a scratchy throat and headaches, just from the altitude, it seems. I go to the gym nearly every day, yet I got winded really easily on the hikes, from easy Bridal Veil to tough Timpanogos. I am constantly thirsty, and my voice has cracked a few times. Also, it seems like people here can have some serious attitude; twice we almost got slammed into by other drivers, and there was a certain air of holier-than-thou-ness about a lot of the people we saw, save for the awesome and patient National Park rangers. Seriously. This older lady literally pushed past me at Menchie’s without so much as a “sorry,” and it just seemed like I kept getting in peoples’ way.

That’s all for today, I guess.

Stay tuned for more Utah adventures tomorrow, and any important details from today I may have forgot.

3

A Semi-Productive Day

At the risk of turning this blog into a “this is what I did today” blog, I’m going to get back to the regularly scheduled fun we haven’t had for a while.

But for now, here’s what I did today:

1. Cleaning! I actually cleaned today! Vacuuming, laundry put away, coffee table and living room have been cleaned. Probably the easiest part of the apartment to clean, but it’s a start, I guess…?

2. Wrote down some new recipes to try out this week.

3. Got out of the house and found 3 geocaches.

4. Researched summer travel plans, including some possible jumping-off trips in the Maritime Provinces of Canada after Montreal and before returning to Madison (or possibly stopping off in Boston for a bit).

5. Did some exercising.

Gah.

Come on Jacob, bring back the fun!

4

And With That…

Just before 1 PM, I officially turned in my second and last final paper of the semester.

And then I was free.

And I had no idea what to do.

So, of course, I sat inside doing not much of anything, then went food shopping and out to dinner by myself Noodles, and spent the rest of the night in, doing nothing.

I’m horrible at keeping resolutions, but here’s a list of things that I want to accomplish this summer:

1. Read. Just bona fide read for pleasure.

2. Clean apartment, for real. I shudder to think at what’s at the back of my fridge.

3. Try out some new recipes.

4. Run around the lake, at least once.

5. Catch up with friends.

6. Go somewhere new (hopefully a country, but a city or state will do).

7. Practice at the dance studio.

8. Research getting a new laptop, back up files, and purchase said new laptop.

9. Be a better blogger.

10. Get on a decent food/sleep/exercise schedule.

Well, that’s some pretty lofty stuff right there…clearly I have set the bar high.