My dad has an entire workshop behind our house (which has recently expanded to include a plastic shed) in which he houses every electronic gadget (and every cord, wire, screw, plug, or other part to fix said electronic gadgets) known to mankind. There are boxes, drawers, and crates everywhere you turn, not to mention a flat-screen TV, surround-sound speakers, and two computers. (He has worked in radio, television, computers, and every other electronic medium you can think of - that's where it all comes from.) Amazingly - he seems to know the general location of everything. When the VCR wasn't working last night, one magic cable, plucked from the masses in under three minutes, did the trick. He is a pack rat, but, I admit, an organized one. He rarely throws things away, mostly because he thinks he'll need them someday. A lot of the time - such as in the case of user manuals, or various connecting cables - he's right. Other times - regarding twenty-some-odd pairs of plastic Walkman headphones, for example - he's just a plain old pack rat.
Mom is pack rat number two. However, like Dad, she's also very organized. Fighting clutter is her lifelong battle; she hates knickknacks and cursory gifts - she always says she'd rather get nothing at all than things she doesn't need, want, or even like (a sentiment with which I agree). She is constantly organizing, planning, and rearranging the masses of stuff which have found their way into this house (with the result that my room has become the oft-used depository, since I only live here part-time). However, in true pack rat fashion, Mom has a hard time conceding that our old things might not someday have value - if not for her, then for someone else. Everything has to go someplace useful - Goodwill, mostly, but also to relatives or friends, or even just in a box in a closet. If it still has wear in it or a potential, ten-years-down-the-road value, it's saved.
Then there's my sister, who takes the worst pack-rat genes of both parents to a whole new level. She's not terribly organized and certainly never throws anything away. Approximately one-half of the entire contents of her room are currently residing on the back porch - the better for us to be able to see her floor. (It's wood, we've discovered.) With Catie, we can blame it on the artsy gene. Everything that doesn't get saved for some other reason (sentimental value, etc.) has a possible value as an art project. However, most of the time, 'everything' ends up being stacked in one of the various piles on the floor and forgotten. She'll be moving out to Tallahassee in a few weeks - it will be an interesting transition. What will be deemed 'essential' and what will remain behind? Stay tuned.
My sister, by the way, is the real reason this topic has suddenly sprung to mind. As I was brushing my teeth at 3:30 AM this morning, I took it upon myself to count up her numerous bottles, tubes, and potions which have effectively taken over our bathroom. Both shelves in the (rather large) wall-mounted cabinet are jammed full (in fairness, Mom does have room to squeeze in one small stack of washcloths); then there's the shower itself and, of course, the back-of-the-toilet plastic box, with all its little wonders. In a cursory examination, I counted over 75 products. I disregarded such items as toothpaste and Advil which, let's face it, are rather essential. (However, I also did not dare to crack open the dragonfly-spangled makeup bag, which surely would have yielded yet another treaure trove.) Bottles, tubes, creams, lotions, colors, scents... surely she doesn't use all of it?
Then I came back to my room and took stock of my own inventory. Here it is:
Hair: 3 products. Shampoo and conditioner every night. The end. But, to be fair, I also own mousse (if I'm going out, and my hair has been cut recently enough, I sometimes spike it up, just for a change).
Makeup: 1 product. I do have one (extremely small) makeup case, but I crack it perhaps once a year. On a daily basis, I only use SoftLips.
Face: 4 products. I never used to use anything besides astringent, but due to swimming, I've had to make some changes. (Soaking your face in a pit of chlorinated chemicals for hours every day does not exactly promote a healthy glow.) So I use moisturizer morning and night, a cleansing wipe after swimming, an exfoliating scrub (in the shower) a couple times a week, and a tube of Clear Complexion for those rare cases when it's needed. (Luckily, Catie and I both won the genetic lottery when it came to skin.)
Body: 3. Body wash in the shower, baby powder for under my arms (prevents rashes), and deodorant (cue the Hallelujah chorus!).
Miscellaneous: 4. Lubricating eye drops, which Lasik patients are (ideally) supposed to use daily, perfume (I own two brands), and an Intuition razor, which has the soap built in.
Total products: 15. Exactly one-fifth as much as my sister.
Somewhere along the line, I seem to have missed the pack rat gene. In fact, if the three of them are pack rats, I am a woodchuck, in the sense that I chuck everything out - not only wood, and not only trash, but also unneeded school supplies, unused makeup, the occasional item of clothing, and, once, a valuable set of old coins. (I was nine. To this day, Mom still goes through my trash can.) I am the polar opposite of my sister - extremely organized and not at all pack-rat-ish. If I don't see myself needing something anytime in the near future (Math for Liberal Arts Majors class notes, ugly keychains, non-mechanical pencils) and nobody in the immediate vicinity wants it, into the garbage it goes.
Knowing the value of the trash can makes my life a lot simpler and more streamlined; yet sometimes I wonder which is really the better way to be. Because certainly there have been times when I've thrown things away, then wanted them later - or, worse, wanted things that I think I threw away but can't quite remember, so I tear my room apart looking for them. Usually, though, these incidents are so infrequent that my peace of mind more than balances them out. I'm happy the way I am, and the rest of my family is (I assume) happy the way they are. There are pros and cons to both ways, which means this post was essentially pointless. But still, in Robin-esque fashion, a closing question: are you a pack rat?
Serious progress has been made on the grad school front. 4 of the 7 online applications are filled out (waiting to be submitted until I get paid), and I have a separate page in my notebook for each school and all the stuff I have to do for it. Also, I have envelopes stamped and addressed for those awesome 3 professors who think they can manage to come up with a couple nice things about me, with 3 of the 4 necessary recommendation forms already prepared and folded inside (still waiting on Harvard).
Doesn't sound like much when I say it that way, but all that took me the better part of 5 hours. And at least I feel organized now - that is to say, every little random note I had scribbled down somewhere, every phrase I'd glanced at on a school website and then forgotten, all the factoids I'd filed away in my brain and then lost... they're all in one place now, no need to go poring through those sites again.
7 application fees = $485. Ouch.
But: tonight's 2.5 hours of babysitting = $26. Nice, very nice.
Anyway, seeing as I have to get up in three hours... bedtime.
3:00 - Climbed blearily out of bed and put on my uniform. Ate some cereal, looked halfheartedly at the forms I'm supposed to send back ASAP to UCU, and scribbled a few notes into my dayplanner. 3:30 - Left the house, iPod blaring. 4:05 - Arrived at work and did my pre-trip, only to discover that the radio wasn't working. That always makes for a verrry long shift. 4:15 - Headed out on my first trip, to the beach. No passengers. 6:00 - Picked up a young Chinese student at the airport and headed to Gainesville with him. I got to give him a new 'English name' - he had been going by Fred (to limit the confusion caused by his real name, Tong-Hai), but I told him that was a terrible choice, so he agreed to switch to Jason. (He just looked like a Jason to me...) 7:50 - Dropped off Jason/Fred/Tong-Hai - no tip - and collected passenger number two, nicknamed 'Dutch' - a retired Vietnam vet who audits history and politics classes at UF and whose life dream is to join the Peace Corps with his wife. We had a great conversation about the disintegration of America's world image because of our clueless leader. 9:45 - Dropped 'Dutch' at the terminal. Again, not one red cent. ("Wow, that ride just flew by. Maybe I'll see you again Wednesday evening when I come back?" he said hopefully. Hah.) 10:00 - Headed out to the beach for my last trip, carting a walk-up passenger to the Mayo Clinic. I'd seen him tip an airport staff member $20 for carrying his bags, so I had high hopes, but once arrived, he ended up forgetting that he hadn't paid me the fare yet, and so the fat $20 tip had to become the $20 fare. Once again, no dice. 12:00 - Post-tripped the van, washed it off, and left. 12:45 - Arrived home to find both parents gone. Made a ravioli Lean Cuisine for lunch and did a bit of Netherlands packing reorganization. 13:00 - Went to sleep. 17:28 - Woke up before the alarm, saw the sunshine streaming through the windows and nearly had a heart attack, thinking in my sleepy daze that I had missed my 4 AM call. 17:31 - Calmed down. Went back to sleep for a few minutes. 17:50 - Got up with the alarm, put on my bathing suit, and headed out to swim practice. 18:20 - Arrived at the pool. Yelled at Brian for having had Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in his posession for a full six days and not having finished it. 18:30 - Started warming up. Got in 1700 yards (500 free, 500 kick, 200 drill, 200 stroke, and another 300 kick) before practice officially started at 19:00. 19:10 - Started doing our coach's sets. First it was 12 x 50 free on :50, descending by 4s (ouch!), then a 300 kick with fins, and then one great big long set - 5 x 100 free, 300 kick (with fins), 5 x 100 of each stroke plus an IM, 300 kick with fins, 5 x 100 of one stroke, 300 kick with fins. 20:20 - Last set: 12 x 50 easy/fast on 1:00. I did 4 (my shoulder was starting to hurt), then warmed down, for a total of 5000 yards. 20:30 - Practice ended; we all showered and changed and jumped in our cars to head to San Marco. 21:00 - Regrouped at Pizza Palace for our coach's welcome-back party. Had a salad and split a chicken-and-spinach calzone with Linda. Heaven on earth! I'm definitely going back there. 22:20 - Arrived home. Showered, put on my PJs, put the heating pad on my shoulder, and had a little frozen yogurt while flipping between Honey and The Amazing Panda Adventure on TV. 23:10 - Went to bed for a precious almost-four hours before I had to get up and do it all over again, today!
The new Harry Potter book is awesome, but sooo sad; I cried. All you fellow HP fans who haven't yet finished reading: you will feel like you've been hit in the face.
Not much to talk about. I'm back at work again, killing time in between phone calls. I just called Travel Center on my boss's recommendation - he has a connection who might possibly be able to help me get a cheaper fare to the Netherlands - but I got an "all agents are busy at the moment" message, so now I'm waiting for my phone to ring.
This weekend was fun; Megan won the 100 fly for her age group (she's 12), and came something like 3rd in the 50 free. She made finals in the 200 IM and 100 free as well, but I didn't stick around for those because I had a 4 AM shift the next morning, so I'm not sure how she finished. Michael (9 y/o) didn't make finals in anything, but he just made his JO cuts a couple of weeks ago, so he was excited just to be there. They've both grown up so much; it's unbelievable.
As for my swimming, my shoulders are much better - I was able to swim without pain for a good 45 minutes yesterday - but then we had a set of 6 x (75 build, 10s rest, 50 sprint, 10s rest, 25 sprint, 30s rest), which totals out to 900 yards, and they started flaring up again around halfway through it. I finished the set, then took it easy for the rest of the time, but it's driving me absolutely bonkers. Why won't this crap clear up???
Grad school plans are on hold temporarily, because aside from retaking the GRE, I can't do anything else until the forms are posted in mid-August. My current projects: filling out and sending in the required UCU forms, finding a senior thesis topic, planning my October UK trip, and picking my next language. Whatever it is, I have to start learning it on my own, because when I get back to UF in the spring, all that will be available are Beginner 2 classes, not 1 (because those are in the fall). One professor has already told me I could do an independent study in Swahili with him, so I'm leaning toward maybe trying to pick up French or German - something I already have a bit of a basis in. I wanted to take one and/or both of those at UCU this fall, but they aren't available at the beginner level, so I guess I'm going to do Spanish again instead.
I began to think at cocktail parties. Now and then -- just to loosen up. Inevitably, though, one thought led to another, and soon I was more than just a social thinker. I began to think alone -- "to relax," I told myself -- but I knew it wasn't true. Thinking became more and more important to me, and finally I was thinking all the time. That was when things began to sour at home.
One evening I had turned off the TV and asked my wife about the meaning of life. She spent that night at her mother's. I began to think on the job. I knew that thinking and employment don't mix, but I couldn't stop myself. I began to avoid friends at lunchtime so I could read Thoreau and Kafka.
I would return to the office dizzied and confused, asking, "What is it exactly we are doing here?" One day the boss called me in. He said, "Listen, I like you, and it hurts me to say this, but your thinking has become a real problem. If you don't stop thinking on the job, you'll have to find another job."
This gave me a lot to think about. I came home early after my conversation with the boss. "Honey," I confessed, "I've been thinking..." "I know you've been thinking," she said, "and I want a divorce!" "But honey, surely it's not that serious." "It is serious," she said, lower lip aquiver.
"You think as much as college professors, and college professors don't make any money, so if you keep on thinking, we won't have any money!" "That's a faulty syllogism," I said impatiently.
She exploded in tears of rage and frustration, but I was in no mood to deal with the emotional drama. "I'm going to the library," I snarled as I stomped out the door. I headed for the library, in the mood for some Nietzsche.
I roared into the parking lot with NPR on the radio and ran up to the big glass doors... They didn't open. The library was closed. To this day, I believe that a Higher Power was looking out for me that night. As I sank to the ground, clawing at the unfeeling glass, whimpering for Zarathustra, a poster caught my eye. "Friend, is heavy thinking ruining your life?" it asked.
You probably recognize that line. It comes from the standard Thinker's Anonymous poster. Which is why I am what I am today: a recovering thinker. I never miss a TA meeting.
At each meeting we watch a non-educational video; last week it was "Porky's." Then we share experiences about how we avoided thinking since the last meeting. I still have my job, and things are a lot better at home.
Life just seemed... easier, somehow, as soon as I stopped thinking. I believe the road to recovery is very nearly complete for me.
Big things are happening in this house. First, I've decided not to go on Eurail. It's disappointing, yeah, but I've been sort of feeling it coming. The invoice for UCU came yesterday and the room and board are E3412 (~$4100, assuming the euro doesn't go back up) and that's almost exactly as much as I'll be getting from UF, all told. Then you have books and bedding and a key deposit and a bicycle and the thousand other things you end up buying when you move someplace new... all of which have to come out of my own savings, assuming the scholarships come in quickly enough for me to actually be able to use them as the initial UCU payment rather than as the usual 'filling in the new giant hole in my savings account which somehow never gets quite as full as it originally was'...
So, bottom line, the last thing I need to be doing is blowing $500 (minimum) on a trip. (If I stay home until the 15th or so, I can actually make another $500, working.) I'll consider possibly taking a weeklong trip (since I can't move into my dorm until the 25th), but the whole elaborate France-Italy-Greece plan is off. I may do it next year; as I've said multiple times, I'm hoping to do this trip, and as it was all sold out for this year, maybe I can do some sort of combo Eurail-plus-SwimTrek trip next summer. Assuming I get into Yale or Harvard and let them shower me with money and don't have to take out any student loans. (That, however, would depend partially on my paring this godforsaken Personal Statement down to the requisite 500 words, and after two hours of writing and paring I'm only at 741. No one should be surprised by this.)
Secondly (and much less excitedly), I'm debating writing a senior thesis. I looked at my degree audit today and realized (again) that I only have one more required class before I'm finished with my degree, plus the optional senior thesis. Mom thinks that would be something I'd be good at, and I agree. I have a serious case of diarrhea of the mouth (see above evidence); a 40-page thesis wouldn't even really faze me. However, it depends on my finding a topic I can actually churn out 40 pages on, and that (topic-finding) is not something I am especially gifted at. (Help, anyone?)
Third, I've been looking at the two big swims I'm hoping to do next summer: Tampa Bay (24 miles, in April) and the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim (28.5 miles, in July). The Manhattan one was actually just held today, which is what made me go check out the websites again. Tampa Bay doesn't seem to have too many requirements, just the usual escort craft, but for Manhattan Island, I have to do a qualifying swim. (The English Channel requires one, too.) Manhattan wants four hours in 68-degree (or colder) water - not such a big deal. I wonder if I could do that in Lake Wauberg? Yeah, sure, there are alligators, but if I did it in March like we did this past year (63-degree water) and just stayed in for a longer time...? I can't think of anywhere else. Ah, well, I have a year to think on it.
Fourth, I'm probably going to dinner (or something) with my old buddy Faith on Monday. That's a good friend from high school who goes to Agnes Scott in Atlanta and is home for the summer. I haven't seen her in a year, since we met up in Paris last June, so that'll be exciting. My two other high school best friends, Mandy and Elise, are both still at school - Elise is busy doing Navy stuff, being happily single (join the club :)) and learning to drive her new stick-shift, and I have no clue what Mandy's up to. I miss her, though.
Fifth, and last: all the things I have to do before I can declare myself 'done and awaiting the verdict' about graduate school. The choices in order of preference are (1) Yale, (2) Harvard, (3) Georgetown, (4) Brown, (5) U Pitt, and (6) UF, with UNC Chapel Hill as an outside possibility. Basically, it comes down to whoever will pay me the most, but I really do sort of have my heart set on Yale or Harvard...
Anyway, the checklist:
Fill out all six online applications (up in mid-August). Send a check or pay an online fee for each one, depending on their preference. Get 3 recommendation letters written for each school. Get copies of my transcript sent to each school. Retake the GRE and get the scores sent to each school. Shorten this Statement of Purpose I've been working on all night by 241 words. Fill out the Statement of Financial Resources for Harvard (ha!).
Anyway, I hear the long-anticipated rain finally starting to pour down outside, so I'm going to grab Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (got to get through it again before Friday night when the sixth one comes out!) and go curl up on the couch.
(Come to think of it, isn't July 10th supposed to be Harry Potter's birthday? Coincidence...)
So I'm sitting here in the Runways office, scraping up another two hours of pay by answering phones while Darrell and Monica go to some meeting in Nassau county. Thrills.
For some reason, I am only witty between the hours of 4 and 6 AM. I had a wonderful post all scripted out while I was driving this morning, and it was even funny, like something people would actually want to read... but of course, now that the afternoon has rolled around, I've utterly forgotten it. Bah.
The shoulders are, well, hanging in there. Better than race day, but definitely not good enough for eight miles. Last night I did the entire 3500 meters kick except for 3 x 200 IM, which I swam normally (but with fins). I could feel them getting worse as the practice wore on, but there was also a weird sense of relief to finally just push through the pain and work my arms again. It's been almost two weeks and I don't do well when I can't swim. On the flip side, though, I can ignore a lot of pain and fatigue if I have to; there seems to be a certain unconscious 'meter' in my head which tells me how much to hold back. I think that comes from the nine-times-a-week thing; if you go all-out every time, pushing through sore or tired muscles, you'll regret it in twelve hours when you're doing it again. And because of that, I instinctively don't 'max out' on any level during practice. Same goes for open-water races. Only when I'm swimming a (comparatively) short pool race do I tell myself "No reason to hold back," and just go as fast and as hard as I can. That's sort of what I did last night - not sprinting by any means, but just telling myself, "No reason to protect the arms," and swimming normally. Not the best decision, probably, but I needed that one little interlude; I miss it so much.
Anyway, I was sore afterward, so I went home, took Aleve, "iced the heck out of them" (Kelly's words) and tried to sleep with my arms down by my sides instead of curled up near my head like I usually do. And, wonder of wonders, it may have done some good. The arms may have gotten the message that not only do they have to heal, they have to do it in a way which means I can still swim once they do. They're better. In fact, they're much better. But they're obviously not 100% yet. So. The time has come for drastic action. I'm not going to swim for five days (well, four days now) - until Tuesday night's practice. I'm going to ice them, and rest them, and pop Aleve, and do everything right. If during Tuesday's practice I don't feel like I've made significant strides forward, if the practice is not entirely (or almost) pain-free - then (a) I won't do Boston, and (b) I'll swallow my misgivings and try to find a doctor or physical therapist before I leave, like my aunt (who had a similar problem) suggested. I'm getting tired of everything being dependent on everything else, and something has to be decided, one way or another. The race is four weeks from tomorrow. My (tentative) intended departure date from the U.S. is the next day. I'm running out of time. My physical conditioning would probably still be fine to swim even if I just sat on the couch and ate bonbons until then, but those tendons may not be, and I know myself. If I did that race, even if I was in pain after the first stroke, I would still finish. I'd do breaststroke, and kick on my back, and whine a lot, but I wouldn't quit. Sometimes I think I don't know how to quit. So this is my bottom line, because I won't take the chance of hurting myself more severely, maybe permanently.
See, that sounds mature, doesn't it? That's the trick: if I write it down here, maybe I'll actually follow my own advice for a change! :)
Anyhow, so this is the 'tangled web we weave':
- I can't book a plane ticket, because I don't know if I can swim Boston yet. - I don't know about Boston, because my shoulders aren't healed yet. - Even if the shoulders heal, I still don't know if I can do Boston, because I don't know if the race coordinators will let me use a kayak escort. - I don't know that, because they haven't made a decision yet. - I also can't book a Eurail ticket, because I don't know what day I have to be back at UCU for orientation. - I don't know that, because the orientation packet refuses to arrive in the mail. - Therefore, I don't know if I'm doing Italy, France, and Greece or just Italy and France, because I don't know how much time I have. - Therefore I can't even pack effectively, because I don't know what the sequence of pre-semester events is going to be.
Oops, Mary just drove up, finished with another exciting day in Macclenny. Sometimes I feel like I'm almost in a stupor after I finish that run; I'm glad I only have it once a week. Ten hours is a long time to drive in circles through the rural outskirts of Jacksonville, dodging construction, crazy semi drivers, and street-sleeping bulldogs (that would be in Maxville).
Speaking of which, there was a turtle crossing the road at 5 AM at the beach this morning. It made it about 2/3 of the way across, then saw my headlights and froze. I might have gotten out and helped it, but I've heard that they don't like it when you do that (Greg claims he got bitten once). I will now use the darkness and the early hour to explain away the fact that I know nothing about turtle breeds and say only that although it looked too small to be a sea turtle, it was heading in the apparent right direction (towards the ocean), so I just crept slowly around it and wished it luck.
You know, I try not to whine. ("What, you? Ha!") No, I really do. But this shoulder thing is driving me nuts. My dryland range of motion is a lot better, but as of last night, swimming hurts just as much as it did on race day, on both sides. Based on online descriptions, I actually don't think it's my rotator cuffs, but that's about the only good piece of news. Shoulders are tricky beasts to heal. And a week of Aleve, ice, and heating pads has so far done diddly squat. And I have an 8-mile race in 5 weeks which I don't want to miss. Not to mention the team in the Netherlands that I'll be swimming for, full of kids who have 16-year-old shoulders instead of 21-year-old ones. This better not be a sign of aging. I'm supposed to be young and strong and invincible, and my body's supposed to do whatever I want it to, because I say so. (So there.) ...For another 9 years, at least. When I'm 30, maybe I can start admitting to having to slow it down a little, but not YET. Grrr.
Okay, I'm done being in denial now. The point is, I don't want to go to a doctor, because if I don't go, I don't have to be told, "No swimming for three months," or something equally devastating. Plus, after that 'do-I-or-don't-I-have-a-blood-clot' thing 3 weeks ago, I've had enough of doctors. Not only that - I can't think of anything they'd tell me to do that I'm not already doing. Ice, heat, anti-inflammatories, the occasional gentle stretch, and no vigorous exercise with my arms. (I kicked 2000 meters last night at practice, because I couldn't do anything else. Sigh.)
Okay. That's all for now. Send some healing energy my way, okay? I'm off to get a much-needed haircut; I am dangerously close to a mullet.