Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Soooooo close...

As Hubby informed me this morning, "Riki... It's Wednesday."  In my world, this is both good and bad.

Good, obviously, because we leave for vacation on Friday night.  That means a whole week without work.  A week without homework.  A week with my hubby and bestie.  A week in the magical world of Disney.  And, among other things, it means a road trip with my hubs and a (brief) visit with a good friend in Atlanta!  There is lots of good coming my way!

The bad?  It's Wednesday.  Before we leave Friday evening around 5, I have to finish taking notes from a recent lecture and take a quiz for Forensic Science.  AND I have to take a psych mid-term.  Usually I do these things over the weekend, but clearly, that's not an option, so I'm a little stressed out.  And it's not like I have all the time in the world.  I do work full time.  And I have to pack.  And I have to find some time to relax and/or sleep so I don't become Rikzilla.  

It also means that Miss Maxine will be boarded for over a week.  :-(  I so badly wish we could bring her with us.  Anytime we leave her behind, I just know that she thinks we've abandoned her, and I cannot STAND that thought.  Fortunately, she'll be boarded somewhere familiar (our vet offers boarding) and she'll have her bed and Rocky (her favorite toy).  I just wish I could do more to make her understand that we DO love her and we WILL be coming back.  The whole language barrier between species makes that pretty difficult, though.  

The silver lining of boarding her, though, is that it's one of the few times she'll voluntarily interact with other dogs.  Maxine is a little too territorial and protective of us, so normally when she encounters another dog, she barks like crazy (with some whining thrown in for good measure).  When she's boarded, we're not around to protect and she's on neutral turf.  We actually have photo evidence that she can get along with other canines in that situation!  In fact, she seems to make friends!  Who knew, huh?

So, maybe instead of thinking of it as a week of boarding, I should think of it as a week of socialization and play dates.  It's like camp for dogs!  And she'll just be that much happier to see us when we come pick her up after vacay.  Yep.  That's my story and I'm sticking with it. 

For now...

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

D is for Disney, that's good enough for me...

Holy crap, the time is almost here, lovelies!  On Friday night, Hubby and I will drop the puppers off to be boarded and thus begins our vacation.  So close, but so far...

This will be my 5th trip to Disney World, kids, and I am so freakin' excited!  Even cooler is that this will be the second time I've been there with Hubby (the first being our honeymoon) and the second time I've been there with my bestie, M!  How cool is that?  

So, naturally, I've been thinking about past Disney trips.  My memories from my first 3 trips are fairly fragmented, but a few key points stand out from each.

Year: 1994
Age: 9
With: My parents

My first trip to Disney World.  Holy balls, was I excited for this trip!  Partly because I got to miss school for it (my dad's work didn't always line up with school breaks, and he was determined to take me there), but mostly because it's damn near every nine-year-old girl's dream to go to Disney.

Sadly, I only have a handful of memories from this trip.  I remember crawling around in the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids play area, while wearing my Minnie Mouse headband.  I remember going on Space Mountain with my mom and barely being able to walk afterward (I felt so effing sick).  I remember eating dinner in France and that the butter was sculpted like a little man (a soldier, I think) and feeling so grown up.  I remember one night for dinner, all I had was a Nestle ice cream bar (I was pretty sure I was the luckiest kid ever).  I remember the day we left, I found a coin on the floor of the hotel closet (I still have it; it's from England!).  

The memory that stands out the most, though, is a sadder one.  Particularly for my poor dad.  We had a one room suite, so my parents had the bedroom and I had the sofa bed in the living room area.  One night I woke up and had to pee so badly that I couldn't sleep anymore.  The only bathroom, though, was in the bedroom, and I didn't want to wake my parents up.  So instead, I sat at the edge of the bed and waited.  I'm not sure what I was waiting for.  Morning, maybe?  Anyway, at some point, my dad woke up and came to check on me, only to find me perched at the edge of that damn bed, trying not to cry because I was nearly in pain from holding out.  When he asked what I was doing, I explained, and to this day, he says that moment broke his heart.  I can't even imagine how he must have felt.

The vast majority of the memories from that trip are pretty great, though, so no worries.  

Year: 2001
Age: 16
With: My high school cheerleading team (and my mom)

This is the first trip to WDW with M.  She and I were damn near inseparable at that point in time, and among the other team members were my boyfriend (the longest relationship I've had aside from Hubby) and a few other good friends.  This is the only WDW trip that I have an actual scrapbook from, and the pictures make it look like the trip was a blast!

The only problem was that it wasn't a blast.  I have a hard time pulling up positive memories from that trip.  I think one of my favorites was when we were trying to get a group picture, and one of our teammates was out taking pictures of us instead of being in the picture!!  It was so funny when we realized what was going on.  Being in my first national competition was a real rush, too (even if we did suck and took last place).  Oh, and swimming in February is a novelty that I don't think I'll ever tire of.  :)  

What went wrong?  Where to begin?

First of all, there was a rule that whenever we were on Coach's time, there were no couples.  My boyfriend had his 18th birthday in Florida and the best I could do was sneak a quick kiss before we headed out for the day.  We couldn't hold hands, couldn't hug, could hardly talk to one another without fear of being caught.  As if that weren't enough, Coach decided that M and I were going on too many rides together and were told to separate.  So, I'm at Disney World with my boyfriend and my best friend, and I can't hang out with either of them?  Awesome.  Thanks.

I won't go into detail about all the other things that sucked, but I do have to mention the one that really bothered my mom (who was one of our chaperones).  At DHS (or, at the time, MGM), there's only one thing I absolutely must do when I'm there.  It's the Muppets 3D movie.  I loved it when I was 9, and it's one of the few experiences that I was dying to repeat.  Coach promised we'd get to it, so, I was psyched.  Lunch came around, and mom reminded Coach about the Muppets (I wasn't the only one who wanted to go, so it wasn't JUST for me), and again, she said we'd get to it.  In the meantime, Coach kept asking our captain and another select few teammates what we should do or see.  We did all sorts of stuff, but we never got to the Muppets 3D movie.  I tried not to act too disappointed, but my mom was less than pleased, to say the least.  Favoritism is one of my mom's few hot buttons, but there wasn't anything she could do.

Year: 2002
Age: 17
With: My high school cheerleading team

If 2001 was bad, 2002 was an absolute nightmare.  For one, M was no longer on the team.  Another good friend, T, had opted out because of a bum knee (in reality, it was because she didn't want to go, but she really did have a bad knee).  So I was down two good friends, my mom, and my boyfriend (since we weren't together anymore and he was out of high school anyway).  The trip was so bad that I honestly don't remember much at all.  If I think about the 2001 trip, I can pull up little bits and pieces of standing in lines, eating in the food court area, waiting for the buses, etc.  When I try to recall the 2002 trip, I can't even tell you who I shared a room with.  I've blocked most of it out. 

I do have one good memory from that trip.  We were done at one of the parks and were heading to another to wrap up the day (it might've been our last night, even; I don't recall).  We decided to take the monorail, and I remember standing there with my friend A.  We were both pretty un-enthused (to say the least) and were standing apart from the rest of the team (A and I have been friends since I was 3; if there was anyone there I could connect with, it was her).  The monorail pulled up, and we hung back, letting people get on, when the conductor yelled that she had 2 spots open in the front.  A and I ran.  The front car of the monorail is awesome.  The conductor was there, doing her thing, and there's LOTS of room to spread out.  Especially since it was only the two of us and a couple from Tennessee on their honeymoon.  We got to ask the conductor questions about what she does, and she answered them all without any attitude.  When we came up on Epcot, it was just glowing and it took my breath away.  I went to grab my camera and the conductor asked if I wanted a picture.  When I said yes, she slowed down the entire monorail just so I could take it.  If ever there were a magical moment, that was it.  (I'm actually tearing up just thinking about it!)

I'm looking forward to another trip with M (one where we don't get separated) and another trip with Hubby (though, it will be hard to top our honeymoon).  We're staying at the same resort that I stayed at in 2001 and 2002, so hopefully this trip will get rid of the bad taste in my mouth that I've come to associate with that resort.  


Thursday, February 16, 2012


I think everyone should be entitled to one day off a year that doesn't count toward or against anything.  Not a sick day.  Not a vacation day.  No penalties.  No questions.  Just one day (unpaid for all I care) where you can call in and all is forgiven.

The reason shouldn't matter.  Could be that you stayed up way too late the night before and you're exhausted.  Could be a "mental health" day.  Could be that you're just in a funk.  Could be that you're in a fantastic mood and work shouldn't be allowed to bring you down.

And it shouldn't matter what you use that day for, either.  A huge sale at your favorite store.  An event you'd like to attend.  A TV or video game marathon.  A day to get all your errands done.  A day to do nothing.  A day to do whatever.

I think I would've taken that day on Tuesday.  For me, it would have been a day to reflect.  A day to remember.  Cry.  Laugh.  Grieve.  Ache.  I would have slept.  Or zoned out on the couch.  Or maybe gone outside with the dog.  Probably some combination thereof.

But I have no time off available (using it for Disney - definitely NOT complaining about that).  And I don't get "sick" days (all my time off is in one big lump).  So instead, I sat here and tried to work through the pain.  Then tears.  Then laughter.  Then numbness.  By mid-morning, I was emotionally drained.  I got some work done, sure, but staying focused wasn't going to happen.

I was 18 and in my first semester of college (which failed miserably, but that's not the point of this story).  My mental health and stability were so-so, and I didn't have many friends yet.  So, as has been my way of coping for a long time, I turned to the internet.

It was a Yahoo chatroom, I think.  Probably location based.  I'm not sure how it started, but we started talking.  We were both about the same age.  Both from Wisconsin.  Both bored.  So we kept talking.

When we met in person, my hair was red.  BRIGHT red.  Bozo red, you said.  I was easy to find, though.  We hung out, talked, enjoyed one another's company.  I think we knew dating would never happen (in fact, you had a girlfriend at the time, and I had a boyfriend, so it didn't matter anyway), but something made us want to be friends.

Maybe a few days later, we were talking about hair.  You liked long hair.  My hair was probably to my shoulders or a little longer, and you said I'd be prettier with longer hair, so I marched to the dorm bathroom with a pair of scissors and hacked at my hair.  You laughed and thought I was crazy.  I probably was.  Thankfully, it actually looked cute.  I've been cutting my own hair since.

You introduced me to web forums, and somehow made me feel like I belonged, even though I had nothing to do with the game it was associated with and didn't know any of the people there.  

You made me watch Fight Club, on the understanding that I'd have to watch it a second time to actually understand it.  

You took me to the bowling alley and we played pool.

We cruised East Wash together, listening to ICP.  

I was there when you got your first tattoo finished up.  You never did explain it to me; it never really mattered.

Best of all, you never judged me.  You always told me things the way they were, instead of telling me what I wanted to hear.  You listened, and even if you didn't care, you made me feel like you did.  I needed that.

It's been years since we talked.  Even longer since I've seen you.  A few months ago we exchanged brief messages on Facebook, the first time we'd spoken in forever.  It felt good.  

And now you're gone.  And I'm left with this ache because I don't understand.  I don't understand what happened.  I don't understand how it happened.  I don't even understand why it hurts me so much.  We haven't really been friends in a long time, but somehow, knowing you're gone and we'll never be friends again hurts so much worse than I ever would have imagined.

A lot of people will miss you.  People closer to you than I was, for sure.  But it doesn't make my pain any less real.  

RIP, DS.  

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Time Flies...

Let's go on a bit of a stroll down memory lane.

Yours truly is twenty and (in theory) on a "break" from college.  In order to return to college, the parental units insist that I get a job and earn X amount of money to put toward my college funds. 

So on this very day in 2005, I had my first day of work as a temp-to-hire employee.  It was primarily a data entry position, which worked for me.  I was scheduled for 20 hours a week, working 5-9 PM on weeknights.  I didn't have to get up early and could spend the days doing what I wanted, so it seemed like a sweet deal. 

I walked into the lobby of the building and realized that I had no idea what I was supposed to do.  So, I walked straight up to the front desk and, with as much of a smile as I could, I said, "Hi, I'm new and I'm not sure where I'm supposed to go."  In return, I got a blank, uninterested look.  Panic was about to take over when someone from behind me answered.  Apparently, we had a meeting to attend, and I followed the masses into the adjoining room.  Huddling in a chair at the back of the room, I clutched my purse and waited.  

That first night is still a bit of a blur.  During the meeting, we got Valentine's candy (a day late, but who cares), and I remember thinking that was pretty cool.  I later found out that the woman who would be training me for my job wasn't available for a few days, so I learned to do some easy stuff to fill the time.  I stopped by my boss's office to ask if I was allowed to take a break (no one had explained that part to me), and I headed out the front door to have a smoke alone.  I got to leave about 20 minutes early that first night, and when I got home, I remember my mom being so excited that I'd had my first night of work.  I, on the other hand, was just tired and hungry.  Excitement would have to wait.

Fast-forward to today.  Seven years later, I'm still working for the same company in the same general area.  It sounds less eventful than it was, trust me.

In July of 2005, I became a permanent part-time employee.  In August, my parents told me I hadn't earned enough money (well, I hadn't given them enough of my money, anyway) to return to school.  So in September of 2005, I started working 27-29 hours a week.  By December, I was working 40 hours a week at part-time pay ("seasonal" full-time, they called it) and had decided that work was better for me at the time than school.  

I continued working 40 hours a week (at hourly, part-time pay with no benefits).  I kept being told that I'd have to drop back to under 30 hours at some point, but the threat was never made good.  In April 2007, I was finally offered a full-time position doing the same thing I was doing, but with Day Administration instead of Night Processing.  That meant working from 8-4:30 instead of 12:30-9, but it also meant benefits and job security, and since the position was pretty much created for me, I took it without question.

In March 2008, I moved about 100 miles away from our corporate office (I had been living 3 miles away) and instead of letting me go, I was given the opportunity to work from home.  There were varying stipulations through the years.  For awhile I had to come to the office once every two weeks.  Then it was once a month.  At some point I was only going about 4 times a year, and then it finally dwindled to once a year (for our big company meeting).  

It's been seven years since I walked into the lobby without a clue, dressed in black slacks and a nice shirt, blindly following instructions and hoping I was doing things adequately.  In that time, I've gotten awards, promotions, and raises.  I've gone from a complete outsider to part of a family, to part of a new family, to just a name in a sea of employees.  From dress clothes to pajamas, and smoke breaks to laundry breaks.  A lot has changed.

And yet, somehow, I still feel like I did that first night, alone and unsure of myself, wondering what I'm doing here and where it'll lead.  Trying to figure out how I got to this point and when the rest of my life is going to start.  

Seven years.  Time does fly...        

Friday, February 10, 2012

Here Comes Valentine's, Here Comes Valentine's, Right Down Valentine Lane

How come there aren't very many Valentine's Day songs?  I mean, are there any that are specifically dedicated to the holiday?  I know, all love songs are applicable on V-Day, and it gets mentioned in some songs, but Christmas gets a bajillion songs.  Halloween gets some pretty awesome ones.  Hell, even Thanksgiving gets "Over the River and Through the Woods"!  Best I can come up with is "My Funny Valentine" and if you really listen, it's actually kind of a mean song.  "Well, you're not very pretty or smart, but dammit, I love ya!"  Gee... Thanks.

Anywhoozles, it seems that in last year's Valentine's-related post, I neglected to share my awesome Heart Day traditions with you lovely people!  What was I thinking??  CLEARLY you're all on the edge of your seats, so here goes.

Warning:  There's going to be some talk about my lady parts.  If you're easily offended (and you'd have to be REALLY easily offended; I'm not going into great detail here), then skip this and have a great day.

On our very first Valentine's Day together, I had an appointment for a colposcopy.  Ladies, if you've ever had an abnormal pap smear, it's possible you know what I'm talking about.  For everyone else, it's a diagnostic procedure where they essentially stick a camera up your hoo-ha to get a look at your cervix.  The procedure itself isn't much different than a pap (a little more "personal" since they have to actually look around a bit), but if they don't like what they see, they might biopsy part of the cervix.  Because of this, they tell you that you might be sore for a day or two and should probably take it fairly easy (in other words, no sex) for about a week.  

Thankfully, they didn't deem a biopsy necessary in my case.  They did ask if I wanted to see what the camera was showing, but I declined.  I figured if it was all good, I didn't really need to see for myself.  They're the pros.  I'll take their word for it.

Even though there wasn't a biopsy, I was in some discomfort for the rest of the day, and was pretty glad to have taken the whole day off.  When Hubby got off of work, he drove the hour and a half to come spend Valentine's evening with me, knowing that I had to take it easy and wasn't feeling 100%. 

So how did we spend that evening?  We ordered Chinese food and watched "Breakfast at Tiffany's" together.  Every year since, we've had some variation on that, and we consider it our tradition.  Sometimes we mix it up and go out for Chinese, or maybe we'll go to the theatre to catch a flick, but more often, we order takeout and watch a DVD at home.  It's simple, but it's one of my favorite traditions.

Oh, and for that first V-Day 6 years ago, he baked me a cake.  OK, so it was sorta falling apart, but it was so sweet!  Yeah, I found me a keeper. 

P.S.  Look to the right of this post and you'll see an opportunity to donate to the Humane Society by voting for Miss Maxine.  Check it out! :)