July 8th, 2014

I just sent the last payment for our car!! We now own this baby completely!! Well, as soon as they process the payment and send us the title, but YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN.

Now we’re going to be able to get really serious about those credit cards that we’ve been working on FOREVER. No more car payment!!

And we did learn some very valuable lessons about buying cars. Like, specifically, not to get suckered into buying a brand new car when we don’t have the money to afford that. Six years is a long time for us to let that lesson sink in really nice and deep.

We just passed the 100,000 mile mark on this beauty, by the way, but we should be able to get several more years of driving from this car. We just spent a chunk of change getting the works done at the mechanic’s — new brake shoes and pads, a new rear shock (or two?), all new fluids, new filters. I feel like the only thing we didn’t get on this trip was new tires. But she’s a happier car now.

I’m just SO EXCITED to have finally paid off that loan!! That feels AWESOME.

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May 26th, 2014

Well, since it seems like every other woman in my family (Mom, Erica, Amy, & Krista) are all writing about their plans to lose weight over the summer, I might as well write about how things are looking for me on that end. :)

Peer pressure: It works on adults, too.

OK, so earlier this month (May 9), I had a doctor appointment with a new doctor. I’d been getting frustrated with the doctor I had been seeing and the doctor who Justin’s been seeing is really nice, so I swapped over to her. She’s technically not actually a doctor but a physician’s assistant or whatever, but it doesn’t matter to us, we think she’s awesome. She’s a very curious-natured woman, so when she hears about things, she wants to get to the root of what’s going on instead of just treating symptoms. This is exactly what we want in a doctor.

The week before the appointment, I had some fasting labs, and on the 9th we went over the results. Everything looks pretty okay, except my weight is obviously high, my cholesterol numbers are a little outside where they should be, and my TSH numbers were a little over what they should be. None of those things really indicate anything on their own, but all put together, it could be that my thyroid isn’t functioning like it should be — basically, TSH tells the thyroid to work and high numbers of TSH mean that the thyroid isn’t listening as well as it should be.

She ran more lab work to test to see if there’s something else going on that could be effecting the TSH numbers, apparently there are some autoimmune problems that could be impacting things. Those all came back as not being a problem, so we’ re back to just seeing a test with high TSH numbers.

Now, since I don’t seem to be experiencing the symptoms of hypothyroidism, it might just be a weird day for my blood levels. On the other hand, it might be a sign of problems on the way. So I have an appointment set up for 6 months from now and we’ll check the levels again at that time.

Until then, my homework is to see how much weight I can lose before then. If I can’t get the weight off, then it’s possible something really is wrong with my endocrine system. If I can get the weight off, then my cholesterol levels should do better and it’ll be healthier for me all around.

So, it’s time for me to try to lose some weight.

I’m starting this out by mostly trying to be more active. I sit around a lot at work and then I come home and sit around a lot at home. So I talked with Mom and we figured out a short workout that I can do in the morning before I get ready for work. I only have a short amount of time, so it’s only a 15-minute workout, but I am usually sweating by the end of it. And it really helps me feel more awake in the mornings. I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I have been, honestly. But I feel really good about taking time to work up a sweat right away in the morning.

In addition to that, I make sure to find some sort of exercise to do after I get home from work. Mondays, I have a yoga class at work. Tuesdays, I do a video online by Jillian Michaels. Thanks to our Amazon Prime account, I get to watch it without buying it. Also, I’m starting to understand this love/hate thing people have for Ms Michaels. I’m *beat* by the end of that 40-minute video, but I feel really good about myself. The rest of the week, depending on how things are looking, Justin and I might go for a bike ride or swimming at the pool (he does laps, I run in place and do other things like jumping jacks and stuff). I tried going rollerblading last week and it didn’t last very long. I only fell down once, but it was HARD on the muscles in my low-back and outer-thighs. I’ll have to work on that one more, but I might wait until I’ve got more abs-strength.

Mostly, though, I’m making sure I do something almost every day to get my heart-rate up because I’ve found that more than any other muscle in my body, my heart is the one struggling the most. I have to keep close watch on my heart rate because it will ZOOM up there like crazy. I can’t do jumping burpees, for example, because it takes about 2 of those before my heart is ready to bust out of my chest.

Of course, my shoulders and my abs are right behind it, wanting to give up, but I’m working on those, too. And everything is starting to improve, in the 2 weeks that I’ve been doing this so far.

I have managed to lose a couple pounds, just with increasing my exercise activities, so I feel pretty good that my thyroid is working okay so far. I’m curious to see what the results say in 6 months, but I’m not terribly worried at this point.

And I know that exercise is only half of the weigh-loss coin; the other half being changing my diet. I haven’t gotten very far on that side of things, other than trying to be mindful about my eating habits. My biggest problem is portion sizes, more than snacking. While I do eat things that I know I shouldn’t, most of the time I can avoid snacks. But when I sit down to eat dinner, I put more on my plate than I should. So until I get to a point where I’m not losing weight just by exercising, I’m not doing any structured plans for my eating, but working to increase my fruit and vegetable intake and reduce . . . everything else, pretty much. Not REMOVE, just reduce. If half of my plate is covered in salad, there’s not much space for anything else. And that’s the way it should be, I figure.

And I know when I mess up on that, like with the cake at the bridal shower at work on Thursday, I’m going to have to pay for it later, like with a 10-mile bike ride and several hours of yard work.

Anyway, that’s how this whole thing  is going with me. I guess I’m on board for the 15-pound loss by the reunion. When is the beginning date for that, by the way? Maybe we can open up a thread for that on the forum on Erica’s site? We could also start planning for what we’re going to do that weekend, too!

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May 19th, 2014

Saturday morning, April 26, Justin and I set off from Chattanooga heading to Atlanta. We got a later start than we’d hoped, so we got to Atlanta after the opening at the Renaissance Festival. We tried to check into the hotel we’d be staying at that night, but they were totally booked and weren’t able to give us access to our room until later in the day. So we went to the faire.

Missing the beginning meant we missed the few lines that our friends, Becky and Julie, give during that portion of the faire, but we did manage to search them down later on. They decided a while back that working/performing at the Ren Faire was on their “Bucket List” so they tried out to be musicians this year. They somehow managed to end up as Cast instead, meaning they’re part of the crew of people who do different skits during different parts of the day. Becky and Julie spend all day, all weekend, in character, dressed up as peasants who pretend to clean different areas in the faire while singing folk songs to the people around them. It’s hard and it’s hot and they had to do a lot of hard work before hand, like learning the King’s English, to do what they’re doing. But as far as I can tell, they are having an absolute blast doing it. I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t trade it for anything. They were also able to score a bunch of tickets for their friends and family, so Justin and I were able to get into the faire for free!

Becky, by the way, is our friend who’s traveling around the States in her Casida camper trailer. If you’re ever interested in hearing about what that’s like, she keeps a blog over at Interstellar Orchard. Julie is going to be joining her later this year when they head out to Nevada to work on the Amazon Camper-Force this fall.

But for now, back to the Ren Fest. As always we had a lot of fun. We tracked Becky and Julie down a couple of times to see them in action. The rest of the day, we wandered around and saw shows and browsed shops and had fun.

We saw one of Justin’s favorites, “Cirque du Todd“, juggling and doing other feats of humorous silliness.

He was followed by one of my favorites, “Hey Nunnie Nunnie,” a couple of singing nuns. (Heads up, that link will automatically start playing music.)

We caught “The Washing Well Wenches” with their usual good-natured inappropriateness.

I made my traditional necklace purchase. I have a weakness for pendant necklaces and they have so many of them there. This year I got a little glass leaf.

Justin still wasn’t feeling well, so he left as soon as we were able to check into the hotel. He went back to rest and recoup a little bit. I stayed and caught a “Barely Balanced” show, a group of acrobat comedians.

I’m really not sure if you can see it in that photo, but that’s one guy laying on his back, propping up the gals thighs, while the other guy stands on top of her thighs, while she’s doing a really impressive split, and the two guys are juggling flaming clubs.

And then I stayed for the last “Tortuga Twins” show of the day, which is always the most rowdy one of the day. They were having a blast and ended up going longer than their time-slot.

After that, I went to listen to the Pub Sing, where the musicians and cast tend to end up at the end of the day, where I got to catch up with Becky and Julie again. After the singing was over, I had to leave the premises along with the rest of the guests, and the girls went backstage to Becky’s camper to change. I waited for them at the staff parking exit, because I had no other way of getting back to the hotel, and then we went to pick up Justin for dinner.

We went out for the traditional after-faire Mellow Mushroom dinner, which was as delicious as always. And then we went back to the hotel, where we pretty much just sat around chatting while the girls each took advantage of our shower. The shower at their campground is about the size of a very small closet, with inconsistent water temperature. Julie is driving back and forth to the faire from home each week, so she has nice showers at home during the week. But Becky is living at the faire campgrounds full-time, so she jumped at the opportunity to take a nice, hot shower.

By the time showers were done, we were all starting to fall asleep sitting in our chairs. It’s a long, hot, tiring day wandering around the faire, so we said our good-nights and everyone set off for bed.

The next morning, the girls went back to work at the faire and offered us another set of free tickets, but Justin and I were tired and decided to head home instead. We had planned to stop at a Costco on our way out of Atlanta, but it ended up being closed, so we went straight home. It was an uneventful drive and we got home before 4:00 that afternoon. Thankfully, the house was still there and everything was in order. We dragged in our luggage, worked on unpacking, and relaxed a little before heading to bed. I had to get up to work in the morning, so I made sure to get unpacked and prepared so I could jump right back into being at work.

The following morning, by the way, was awful. My boss made me cry at the 7:00 meeting. It was embarrassing and frustrating, but he apologized by giving me an orchid.

And that was our whirlwind trip! To quickly recap:

4/16: Justin flew out to California, I worked
4/17: Justin spent time in San Diego, I worked
4/18: I flew out to San Diego
4/19: We went to Desert Hot Springs
4/20: Spent the day in Desert Hot Springs
4/21: Went back to San Diego
4/22: Spent the day in San Diego
4/23: Flew to Atlanta, drove to Chattanooga
4/24: Spent the evening at Nathan’s house
4/25: Spent the day in Chattanooga
4/26: Drove to Atlanta, spent the day at the GA Ren Fest
4/27: Drove back home

And that’s the end of Part Five and the last post about that trip. Now I’ll get back to posting about other things that are happening around here. :)

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May 15th, 2014

Wednesday morning, April 23, Justin and I had to get to the airport around 9:00 for our 10:00 flight. Bill had a meeting, I think, so we said our good-byes to him at the house before leaving, and then Lynn dropped us off at the airport. I have to repeat again how wonderful it was getting to know them better and being able to stay at their home during this trip. I’m very happy that Justin was able to reconnect with them, after not being in touch with them for so long. I hope that we’re able to keep in touch better from here on.

Our flight from San Diego back to Atlanta was really one of the easiest flights we’ve had. We had one layover in Phoenix, but the second flight was on the same exact airplane as the one we flew in on, so we got off to get some food, but then came right back to the same airplane. They even let us board at the front of the line, along with all the people willing to pay extra money for their seats. We were at the very last seats on the airplane, instead of the very front of the airplane, and I do mean the VERY last seats, but it was still pretty cool. If the guy who sat next to Justin had been at all nice, it would have been a better flight. But at least the transitions were easy.

We landed in Atlanta, figured out how to get to the Park ‘n’ Go shuttle, picked up the car, and set off to Chattanooga where we’d be spending the night. It’s not a long drive, maybe 2 1/2 hours, but it had been a long day traveling, several hours of it in the air or in airports, and the 3-hour time difference did have an effect. We got to the hotel after dark and had a little trouble figuring out how to check in when the guy at the desk had trouble remembering that Mom and Dad had stopped in to check us in and pay. We did get it figured out eventually and collapsed into our room.

I don’t remember if we even bothered to get dinner. I just remember that we were in a big bed with nice sun-blocking curtains, and we slept for a LONG time. The next morning/early afternoon, we found a really nice shopping center, picked up presents for the TN Fritz kids, got yummy food and a few other things that we needed, and then set off to Nathan and Amy’s house.

Apparently, I set off for the WRONG house and it’s a good thing that Dad called to make sure I had the right address. It didn’t mess up our travel, because we hadn’t reached the spot where we would have erroneously turned right when we should have turned left, but it could have been an embarrassing mess.

The drive, by the way, was BEAUTIFUL. There were several times where Justin and I were nearly speechless, just exclaiming one-word descriptions of the area we were driving through, mostly words like “Heaven” or “Perfect.” We both are so completely in love with the mountains and hills of the Smoky Mountains. Justin, at one point, said that he finally understood what people meant when they say that they’ve left their heart somewhere (like “Left my heart in San Francisco”) because he just can’t imagine being as happy anywhere else as being in those mountains makes him feel. And I genuinely started to cry, tears dripping down my face, because I feel absolutely the same way, and I’d been worrying that I wanted to drag him away to somewhere that I wasn’t sure he’d be as happy as I think I will be. Most of the way to Nathan’s house, until we left the mountains, we had to keep fighting the urge to just pull off on a back road, get out of the car, and stay for a while.

But we had places to be and birthday wishes to give.

When we drove up to Nathan and Amy’s house, almost everybody was out in the yard working or playing. We said our hello’s and spent a wonderful afternoon with the TN Fritzes and Mom & Dad. Mostly, we sat around and chatted, watched/joined the kids playing, and then had a yummy meatloaf dinner. Then we watched Ethan open presents, somewhere in there I got a guitar lesson with Dad, and watched Frozen with the kids, where, yes, I did sing along with the songs along with the kids.

We really would like to be closer to family and it’s one of the things we’re looking forward to, when we get around to moving into the mountains. I really enjoyed getting to hang out with everybody. And Justin had an absolute blast playing around with Ethan, for sure.

And then, much too quickly, it was time to head back to Chattanooga. Nathan’s house in the Central Time Zone and our bed was in the Eastern Time Zone, so it was going to be another late night for us. And while it’s not a long drive from Spring Hill to Chattanooga, something close to 2 hours, it’s not nearly so pretty after dark.

Friday, we rested. We arranged to stay another night at the same hotel again. My allergies caught on to the SPRING! that was happening all over and started to make me really miserable. We picked up a roll of quarters and found a laundromat to wash a couple loads of laundry, since we hadn’t packed quite enough to make it through the whole length of the trip. We thought about trying to find something fun to do on a Friday night in Chattanooga, but we were both so tired and worn out from everything that we’d done and been through in the last several days, that all we wanted to do was rest. We went out to dinner early and then went to bed. Justin was starting to not feel very well and my allergies were in full swing and we were TIRED. So we didn’t get to explore the city again, which was something I would have liked to do again, but the timing was bad. We’ll go back up again and spend more time, but for this portion of the trip, what we needed was REST.

And that’s the end of Part Four.

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May 14th, 2014

Monday morning, April 21, Justin and Rose ran into town to pick up a few electronics items from stores that had been closed on Sunday so Justin could get her entertainment system running smoothly – she heard how well he did on Lynn and Bill’s. I packed up our suitcases and put a doorknob on the bathroom door while they were away. And we set back off to San Diego with Wendy that afternoon. Justin and I landed at Lynn and Bill’s again, rushing in to shower and change before heading off to the wake. Wendy went to spend the evening at a friend’s home.

The wake was really hard.

This is probably the second funeral and wake I’ve ever been to. I have very vague memories of being at another one when I was very young, but I don’t really have a clear picture of it. Which meant that I had nothing to go on for past experience heading into this.

The cemetery is the same one where Justin’s dad (Kirk) and Grandma Barnett are buried. Since we visited their graves when we were in town last time (2012), I knew where we were going. We walked into the lobby of the chapel and found Justin’s uncle Doug (Grandpa Doug’s other son, he only had two children: Doug and Kirk) chatting with the receptionist. He and Justin chatted for a little while before we moved into the actual chapel itself. There were maybe 15 – 20 people in there, including Pat, Grandpa Doug’s long-time companion, and she introduced us to several of her nieces and nephews and friends who were there to support her. One of Grandpa Doug’s nieces and her adult granddaughter and grandson-in-law were also there, and we know them from the Barnett family reunion that we attended in 2010. Grandpa Doug’s dog, Linda, was also in there, and the poor thing wasn’t feeling well. Her neck was tilted to the right and her balance was off. And several other people who knew Grandpa Doug and Pat came through while we were there, people from the House of Sweden in town and other groups.

Honestly, I got overwhelmed and couldn’t keep track of people.

Grandpa Doug was up at the front, in a lovely white casket, and he looked much too thin. He was missing his always present smile and his red hat, so he really didn’t look like himself to me. I went up and stood there with Justin for a while before we moved to look at the many different poster boards with photographs attached. I couldn’t go back when Justin went back to the casket later. It was too hard.

The photographs were wonderful though, and it was great seeing photos of when Grandpa Doug had been much younger and different events that he and Pat had attended. There were pictures of him with his family members, including one with Justin and his dad at a high school cross country race and another with Justin’s cousin Doug (uncle Doug’s son) in his Marines uniform.

Cousin Doug is in training in Florida with the Marines and wasn’t able to make it up for the funeral. Through the wonder of technology, the next day, his girlfriend was able to Skype with him so he could see the second half of the service.

Justin told me that the chapel we were in was the same chapel as where they had the wake and funeral for his dad, 11 years ago. And was when I lost it and had to sit there and cry for a little while.

We stayed until the chapel closed for the evening, along with Uncle Doug, Aunt Lisa, and Cousin Doug’s girlfriend, Deanna, and her mom, and Pat and some of her family. The receptionist came through and told us that she had to close up, and Uncle Doug asked that she leave a light on for Grandpa Doug overnight, because he always had a nightlight on. She said that she would.

Justin and I got invited to go out to dinner with his aunt and uncle, but Justin wasn’t feeling up to company, so we drove around until we found a Barnes and Noble and wandered around the store for a little while before heading out to find food, and then driving back to Lynn and Bill’s. We arrived late, after they were already in bed, but they didn’t mind getting up to let us back into the house.

The next day, the funeral started at noon, so we took our time getting ready in the morning, making sure we looked presentable. We arrived in plenty of time, which is only worth noting because Wendy made Justin really nervous about showing up late, but we were fine. And also because his Uncle Doug and Aunt Lisa showed up right at the start time because they ran into traffic. There were a lot more people there, but not as many as we’d expected. Justin’s ex-stepmom, Sharon, and her husband, Pat, were there and it was wonderful to see them.

It was a lovely funeral. Grandpa Doug was a Mason and a Marine, so there was a portion of the service where a Mason gave a little talk and I honestly don’t remember all that much about it other than something about an apron and a twig from an evergreen and a lot of references to God being the Grand Master, or something simlar. I know very little about the Masons, but the “Grand Master” reference is so simliar to “Game Master” that it made me inappropraitely amused.

After the gentleman from the Masons sat down, the chaplain opened up the floor for people to come up and talk. Several people stepped up and told stories about Grandpa Doug, as friends, coworkers, neighbors, and relations. Justin stood up and told the story about how Grandpa Doug cut in during the first dance at our wedding. If you’re not familiar with this story, Justin and I had a dance at our wedding reception, even though we’re not very good at dancing. And partway though our first dance, Grandpa Doug walked foward and cut in, booted Justin to the side, and finished the dance with me. It was HILARIOUS! Completely unexpected, but what I came to recognize as being normal behavior for Grandpa Doug.

There were a lot of wonderful stories told and I wish I could remember them, but I’m drawing a blank right now. I do rememer that Pat stood and told about Grandpa Doug’s last few months and how hard it had been for him, that his health had really been declining and he hadn’t been able to do as much. And that recently, he’d been more and more sure that he was ready to go. He was prepared and he was tired. So this funeral was really a celebration that he finally was able to let go. He was free from the pain that he’d been suffering for so long. He was a peace and we should celebrate who he had been.

I don’t remember who said it, but they said that they last words that they heard him say were “Semper Fi!” and that was completly fitting for Grandpa Doug. The Marines had been such a big part of his whole life. There were very few other words that would have been more fitting to be his last words.

After people spoke, the chaplain said a few words, a song played, and then the pallbearers, of which Justin was one, transferred the casket out to the hearse and we made our way up to the burial site. Up on the hill, a handful of Marines took the casket from the car and to burial site. The chaplain said a few more words and then there was the sounding of the arms, or whatever that’s called when they shoot guns at the sky in honor of the deceased. That was followed by a beautiful playing of Taps by two players. The Marines gathered up the flag that was covering the casket and folded it very carefully before it was handed over to Pat. The folding took a long time because they had to make sure it was absolutely perfect. And I don’t have a picture of it, but when the Marine knelt down and handed the flag to Pat, and she accepted it, she held it close to her chest and hugged it, with this beautifully calm smile on her face, so thankful for the gift of that flag and for everything that it represented, both to her and to Grandpa Doug.

And then that was it. A few people put tokens on top of the casket before it was lowered into the ground. And people stood around talking for a while, thanking the chaplian for doing such a good job, and figuring out their plans for the afternoon. The grounds people stood off to the side, waiting for everyone to leave before they would finish up.

We went to Pat’s house, where she and Doug have lived for the last many years, for a reception. It was a little awkward, but we tried to move around from group to group to chat with a bunch of people, since this was the last we’d be seeing them for a while. It was good to be able to spend time with people, though, catching up and remembering Grandpa Doug.

Late in the afternoon, we went back to Lynn and Bill’s house. The four of us went out for dinner, where I finally charmed Lynn to talk about what she does for work, briefly. The whole time we were there (and it’s continued afterward, actually, via emails), she joked that when Grandma Rose came back from spending time at our house at Christmas, all she would talk about is “wonderful Kylene” and she wasn’t going to be taken in by my charms. Oh, no! She was stronger than that! When I got Bill to talk about his work the first morning we were there — he works for a weekly scientific magazine, coordinating with writers and editors and the like — Lynn exclaimed, “No, Bill! You’re giving in to the Kylene charm!” So whenever I tried to ask her what she did for a living, she’d reuse to answer. But over dinner, I managed to get her to talk a little bit about what it means to be an actuary. (Lynn is incredibly bright, by the way. Fantastic mathamatian!) A couple minutes into talking about the variables and things that she has to consider for her work, she stopped and looked at me. “You made me talk about work! No! I got charmed by the Kylene charm!” After which, of course, she refused to talk about it any more. But it made me smile.

We went back to their house, where Lynn showed me how she mades cookies (Justin has raved about her cookies for years) and Justin and Bill tried to fix the record player that wasn’t communicating with the rest of the entertainment center. After that, Justin and I packed up our bags and got ready to head to the airport in the morning.

And that’s the end of Part Three.

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