Hi! Did you miss me?

Years ago, I read an article that blog writers should never start a post with an apology for not writing in a while. I can’t remember exactly what the reasoning was in the article, but I thought it was good advice and I resolved never to do so. My primary reasoning, since I can’t remember the article’s reasoning, is because this is my space, dang it, and if I don’t want to be here, then I don’t have to be here. And I don’t have to apologize for that. And secondly, starting posts with apologies is really boring to read.

So, you’re not getting an apology. But I do want to write about my absence a little bit becuase I have been thinking about what was behind it and figured I might as well share that. There are two primary reasons, I think, behind my lack of posting here.

One is that I stopped writing almost entirely once I started using a tablet to read the Internet instead of my laptop. My laptop has gotten old and very slow and it doesn’t do me much good on a day-to-day basis. I tend to read a lot of different things on the internet and I can read all of those things more quickly and with less weight just by reading on my small, handheld tablet. My tablet has been one of my favorite purchases in the last several years. So much of what I do can be done using the tablet instead of a full processing personal computer — with one glaring lack. I stopped writing.

I don’t tend to write using my tablet. Primarily because it’s a pain in the butt to use the integrated keyboard for long lengths of text. I didn’t even text much with people I know online using it becuase I got so frustrated with how slowly I’d have to type compared to how fast I can type  on a keyboard, and I’d get more typos and autocorrect errors and it was SUPER FRUSTRATING. So I stopped. Mostly. I kept typing to one or two key people because they kept texting to me, but otherwise, I mostly went silent.

And the not writing didn’t bother me too much because of the second reason, which was that I was feeling more and more vulnerable about how my life was not feeling very private. I started to back away from any social media and places where my personal life was available to people outside of my own home. (Not that I was much online anywhere, but anyway…) The reasons behind this are partially because I was getting overwhelmed at work and with stress and a lot of things that were only happening inside of my own head. But the solution that I found was to curl up into myself and not share.

And I think that was healthy, to an extent. The amount of information that we willingly share on the Internet is massive, and there is a point, for everybody, where you should hit the point of “I’m not going to share that.” (For some people, that point is WAY FURTHER past where it should be…) I think it’s normal and important to sometimes stand back and evaluate what information you’re sharing with which groups of people and think about if it’s appropriate and think about what’s happening that could or shouldn’t be shared and to be cognizant of the difference.

Of course, in my evaluation of what was happening in my life, most of what I came up with was the fact that I was working. A lot. And that it wasn’t something I could/should share and if I did, it wouldn’t be terribly interesting. So I didn’t.

And on top of that, I didn’t think people would care or notice if I stopped typing, so why not? If I didn’t want to write and people wouldn’t care if I didn’t, then why did I go through the trouble? And that may or may not be true — since I’m not sure that anyone other than the people in my immediate family actually even know this website exists, and as far as I know, only the women of that audience have ever cared to read it. If that’s my whole audience, then shouldn’t I just be able to communicate with those people in other mediums?

Except I haven’t.

I mostly just sunk into working too much, doing little else, and getting more and more mired in the muck in my head.

So, finally, I’m working on changing that.

Justin bought me a keyboard for my tablet. He’d asked me several other times if I’d want one and I kept telling him that I  didn’t think the expense would be worth it. But we’re working on setting up a new computer as a media server (for all the CD’s he spent months coping digital copies of) and we were going to need a keyboard to use for that computer. And he found a keyboard that would easily switch between three different devices and asked if I’d be interested in that.

So now I have a keyboard for my tablet! Which means I can enjoy all the ease and speed of my tablet AND still be able to type!

On top of that, Justin and I had a heartfelt conversation about how I needed to stop working so much. I’d been working 50+ hour weeks since October and I was not holding up under the strain. I’d started thinking about finding another job, just to be able to walk away from all the problems I’d been dealing with in this one. The outcome from that discussion was that there were two options: Work could have me for 40 hours or they could have me for 0 hours. I would actively start concentrating at leaving ON TIME and not working overtime. And either things would pile up because I wasn’t working enough or I’d find a way to make it work in the 40 hours in my week. And if they piled up and the company decided I needed to work more hours, then I would leave. Or if I couldn’t find a way to be happy with the amount of backlog that was happening because I wasn’t working overtime, then I would leave. Either way, it was going to be 40 or nothing.

It’s been about a month, and I’ve been at 45 hours or less that whole time. And it’s been VERY HARD. But so far, no one in my department blames me for cutting back. And no one has said anything about my job performance needing to improve. And while I sometimes have to tell myself that it will be FINE. Just leave it. Go home. Do it tomorrow… I’m getting better.

And cutting back on my hours and my stress means that I’ve opened up my brain space to deal with other things that have been stuck up in there, lurking, waiting, rotting. And I’m working through them.

My concerns about what I share publicly are still relevant and there are a lot of things happening right now that I’m not going to write about. But I think I’m going to try to at least write SOMETHING. After all, I have this shiny new keyboard that needs to get used.

Anniversary dinner

Hey! We didn’t actually end up having pasta! We had soup! That I made from scratch! And it was yummy!

So, allergy season is mid-swing now and Justin’s having a heck of a time, like I mentioned yesterday. (Look at me, posting two days in a row!)  We’re at a forecast pollen level of 9.4 (out of I’m not sure, 12?) and the top culprits are oak, juniper, and elm. The oak trees are trying to kill him. The juniper are working their way up to me, but I’m so far putting up a fight.

Anyway, yesterday he was head achy and draining and sneezing. Today he’s got awful gunk in his lungs and he’s miserable. He slept most of the day. (No classes today, so he didn’t skip anything.) We cancelled our chiropractor appointment because he wasn’t going anywhere and I didn’t want to go by myself. Which means we didn’t go to the grocery store or get tempted to get dinner on our way home. When he did finally decide that he was getting hungry, he said that what really sounded good wasn’t the frozen fish that we’d discussed, but a really creamy tomato soup with vegetables and noodles in it.

Well, we don’t have any cans of soup right now. But we do have a lot of other stuff, including a half bag of red potatoes that needed to get eaten. So I looked up a few recipes online, extrapolated a few concepts, and made up a pot of tomato soup from the stuff we had in the house!

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons sweet unsalted butter
  • 6 oz bag of chopped carrots and celery (left over from the last time I made soup and stored in the freezer)
  • 1 young sweet Vidalia onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1-ish pounds red potatoes, chunked
  • 1 small can of no salt added tomato paste (less than 1 cup, the tiny little can)
  • 1 big can of no salt added petite cut tomatoes (but whatever type you like would work just fine) (this was the biggest can we had in the house — 3.5 cups)
  • 4 cups no salt added chicken broth (or stock)
  • Optional: pasta, cheese, milk or heavy cream
  1. I melted the butter in a big skillet on a medium heat and added my frozen carrots and celery and let them cook for a while. It would probably go faster if they weren’t frozen, but I didn’t feel like doing it differently. Meanwhile, I cut up a small sweet Vidalia onion into small bits, and then I added that to the pan. It got pretty watery as the veggies melted, but I just kept giving it a stir now and then. And I crushed one clove of garlic into the pan with all the rest. I let this go until the onion was translucent and the other veggies seemed like they were getting pretty soft and the water had evaporated.
  2. While that was cooking, I scrubbed and cut up my red potatoes into small chunks and put them in a pot of water on the stove to boil.
  3. Into the pan with the carrots/celery/onion/garlic, I added the can of tomato paste and turned up the heat to a medium-high for just a little while, just to get the sauce bubbling a lot, and then I brought it back down to medium and let it reduce for a while, stirring it constantly to keep it from burning and sticking. I have no idea how long this took, but pretty much until I was bored and then again half as long. Once it got pretty thick looking, I removed it from the heat and set it aside.
  4. I put my big pasta pot onto the burner and added the carton of chicken stock (the carton was 4 cups, so I just put it all in there) and the big can of tomatoes, with all the liquid from the can, and then ground a bunch of a spice that Justin recommended and I can’t remember right now — I’ll find it later and tell you. And then I turned that up to medium and let it boil for a while. It’ll get a little bit foamy on the top as it boils. I was still waiting for the potatoes to boil at this point anyway, so I just worked on cleaning up the kitchen and let them bubble away. I don’t know how long that was — maybe 10 to 15 minutes? Not longer than that, I’m sure. Once the potatoes were done, I removed them from the stove, drained them, and set them aside for a little bit.
  5. After letting the tomato/chicken broth mix boil for a while, I added in the tomato paste/carrots/celery/onion/garlic mix from the first pan into the pasta pot and stirred that in for a while. (I kept on cleaning the kitchen.) Once it seemed like everything was integrated nicely, I turned the temperature down to a simmer and let it cool down a little bit.
  6. Since Justin had barely eaten all day and he’d mentioned wanting noodles in his soup, at this point, I set a pot on the stove with some pasta to boil so he could add it to his soup. I didn’t want the pasta in mine, so it didn’t get added to the big pot in the end, but he added it to his and said it was good that way.
  7. Once the pasta pot of soup had cooled down a little, I took out half of it (roughly) to another container, making sure to get a bunch of the solid vegetable bits. Then I used my immersion blender (Thanks, Mom!!) and blended all the rest of the soup in the pot, making it all creamy and foamy. Remember: you can always add the vegetable bits back in, if you decide that you’ve taken out too much. But you can’t take them out once they’re blended!
  8. Then I took about half of the potatoes and added them to the pasta pot and blended those into the soup, too. By this point, it was looking nice and thick and creamy. So I went ahead and put back in the rest of the soup that I’d removed but not blended and the rest of the potatoes and mixed it together to make a nice chunky, but still thick and creamy soup, and let it simmer just a little longer.

Justin put more spices into his bowl, along with the pasta and some cheddar cheese and probably a splash of milk. I didn’t want the calories, but adding some heavy cream or milk at the end of this would definitely make it even more creamy.

I thought it was delicious as it was and I’m very pleased about it! Even after we each had a big bowl of it, there’s still 5 cups of it in the fridge. So I’m definitely calling it a 6-serving soup. And if I’ve entered everything into MyFitnessPal.com correctly, 1/6 of this recipe comes in around 212 calories. (This is excluding the pasta/milk/cheese, just to be clear.)

Nutrition Facts
Servings 6.0
Amount Per Serving
calories 212
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 7 g 11 %
Saturated Fat 5 g 23 %
Monounsaturated Fat 2 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 20 mg 7 %
Sodium 136 mg 6 %
Potassium 951 mg 27 %
Total Carbohydrate 30 g 10 %
Dietary Fiber 6 g 23 %
Sugars 8 g
Protein 6 g 12 %
Vitamin A 76 %
Vitamin C 57 %
Calcium 5 %
Iron 13 %
* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.

 

So I’m feeling very accomplished! And Justin is feeling, I hope, well fed. He went back to bed about half an hour ago, poor thing. I need to head to bed myself in order to prepare for getting to work at stupid 6:30 in the morning.

Did you know that there’s an actual word for the mix of carrots and celery and onion that was the start of this soup? It’s a French word: mirepoix. I think that’s nifty.

I should be sleeping, but instead I’m writing

  • It’s been crazy around here. I should be heading to bed, but everybody else is posting today, so I figured I’d join in.
  • Last week I worked 52 1/2 hours
    • I was told on Thursday that I’d have a big thing done by the following Friday
      • And then on Monday, I was told I’d have it done by Wednesday
    • It got done well enough, but it’s a mess and I have a lot of work yet to do
  • This week and next week, I’m covering the morning meeting for my coworker who is out on vacation
    • I have to be at work at 6:30 tomorrow
      • And Wednesday
        • And next Monday,
        • Tuesday
        • & Wednesday
          • Remember how I was so excited to not be awake at 5:00 AM anymore?
            • Yeah
              • This stinks.
  • I haven’t got my morning work out in since Friday before last.
    • I didn’t exercise at all last week, to be honest
      • I also didn’t eat well last week
        • My weigh-in this morning was not encouraging.
    • I did exercise this afternoon after I got home
  • Justin’s allergies are trying to kill him
    • Mine aren’t so bad … yet
      • Our grocery store sells 90 packs of generic allergy meds that we can both take for about $15
        • They also sell 15 packs for about $12.
          • They’ve been out of the 90 packs every time we’ve checked for the last 2 weeks
            • We have 3 pills left
      • Costco also sells allergy meds for cheap, but it’s an hour away
  • We saw Zootopia over the weekend
    • It was adorable
  • We are watching season 2 of Daredevil
    • It is almost as violent as season one… :(
      • The plot line is not as interesting as season one
        • I wish I had Karen’s hair
          • Also, her waistline because dang that girl is slender
  • Justin is still doing well in school
    • We have about 2 weeks before he has to focus on getting ready for finals and all his big end-of-the-semester projects
      • I’m going to have to make dinner more often when that happens…
        • I see a lot of pasta and frozen dinners in our future.
  • It’s our 8-year wedding anniversary tomorrow!
    • We have no plans
      • Besides going to the chiropractor
        • Because we are old and boring
      • I think dinner is probably going to be pasta
        • Because it’s quick, easy, and goes well with the broccoli going bad in the crisper
  • And now I have to go to bed so I can get up again in 6 1/2 hours.

Keeping busy

We had a nice weekend around here. Saturday was kind of busy. We had chiropractor adjustments up in Bluffton. From there, we went down to mid-town Savannah and I donated platelets at the Red Cross donation center.

It had been six months since my previous platelets donation! I don’t know how so much time passed! I know that for a streak there I wasn’t feeling well. And then the holidays hit and things got busy. And then I wasn’t feeling well again. And then they changed my schedule at work and I couldn’t schedule donations on Friday afternoons anymore. But a whole half a year?!

After donating, and getting some food, we went back home and I took a power nap for an hour or two because in the evening I went out to a friend’s birthday party. She was having her third or fourth annual 49th birthday and it’s always a lot of fun. She invites a handful of women and we sit around eating and drinking and playing games for prizes that she’s bought for her guests. This year I brought home a yoga mat and a lovely piece of wall art. I’m not sure yet where to hang it.

Sunday was relaxing after all the excitement of the day before. And that was needed because I was up very late on Saturday and this week has been busy and stressful. I’ve had a lot going on at work, trying to get caught up on a mess that’s gotten out of control and requires an insane amount of detailed research to clear up. And Justin had a test today, has a paper due on Friday, has another test next Wednesday, plus another paper due that same day. Plus his other class is starting and that’s going to add more work and reading. And it’ll extend his days so I’ll have to be responsible for making sure we eat dinner on those days.

On top of that, we’ve started training for the 5K race we have coming up in April. So we’re running up the street outside our apartment complex and back. It’s a nice place to run, with wide grassy strips, and we see a lot of people who are also out running or walking.

There’s this one guy I’ve seen several times who walks with his three dogs. I’m not sure what kind of dogs they are, but they’re biggish, like Labradors, but skinny with smooth coats. One of these days I might ask him what they are. Anyway, he walks them off leash and they are the most well behaved dogs I’ve seen. They stay right beside him all the time. And when someone approaches him from the other direction on the sidewalk, he’ll step off the sidewalk and tell his dogs all to sit. And they plunk their bottoms down and look up at him, not at the people who are walking past. And then once the sidewalk is clear again, he’ll give a command and they’ll all get back in heal with him walking.

I saw a Yorkshire Terrier try to pick a fight with his dogs and they all just sort of looked at it and kept on walking. I was worried the Yorkie would try to bite me, it was so badly behaved. But not these three big, muscular dogs who are just the best behaved things on the street. I’m very impressed.

Anyway, nothing terribly interesting from me today. But I’m trying to remember to write more often. So this is the babbling that happens.

Other exciting news for 2016 — Justin’s school stuff!

So, my January has been exciting with work stuff. Justin’s January, on the other hand, has been exciting because of SCHOOL stuff! That’s right, he finally started classes again at the beginning of the year.

It’s been a long time coming, that’s for sure. When he first started talking about going back to school, we were living in South Carolina, so he started researching the schools available to him, either locally or online, and started the application process for one or two of those. In the middle of that, we decided to move to Georgia, which messed with some of the planning there, because of state residency and in-state vs. out-of-state tuition costs, and also just the insanity of moving.

He was trying to get enrolled at the University of South Carolina – Beaufort campus, and I’m not sure what’s wrong with them but they have the worst customer service / admissions process I’ve ever witnessed. We’d go for weeks without them calling us and Justin would call and leave messages on machines and with people repeatedly and regularly, and no one would ever get back to him. And then when he finally managed to get someone knowledgeable to talk with him, they’d say that they were waiting for some information and they weren’t able to do anything until he provided that information and, oh, you didn’t know that?

After about a year of this, we realized that it only takes a year of living in the state to qualify for in-state tuition, so he went and applied for Armstrong Atlantic University in Savannah. And while it still took a while to get everything settled and lined up and it was really close to the wire there at the end, he managed to get enrolled in this semester and started on January 11th.

And some of the requirements were absolutely ridiculous. He had to do a ton of paperwork to prove that he’s a Georgia resident – like tax records and a copy of a bill to this address and a copy of his driver’s license, but also a signed statement of why he moved to the state and his intentions of leaving the state and a statement regarding why he doesn’t have an employer in state that can vouch for his living in Georgia (I was amused by this last one because his statement said something about how he’s a house-husband).

And then it took a lot of effort to get someone to review his transcript and give an evaluation of what credits he needed to take in order to graduate. Apparently this is because no one had ever seen a transcript with quite that many credits on it. I guess they’re not used to transfer students who are transferring after 3 ½ years of schooling. He was finally able to sit down with someone to review his credits and figure out what exactly he would need to take in order to graduate the most quickly with the most number of credits transferring over. And then register for the classes for the spring semester 2016.

And then it was done except for the money. But the loan money wouldn’t get approved until he’d proved his residency and also declared his major, both of which took longer than it seemed like they should have taken just because of the going back and forth with people who couldn’t help with what he needed to get done or the system not transferring information or people being out of the office for the holidays or something. I’ll be honest, at that point, I was pretty lost on the whole thing. I just kept hearing stories from Justin about sitting on hold for an hour to try to get someone to talk with him and then waiting again for another hour on another hold line and debating whether he’d have better luck just heading down to the school and sitting there until someone would see him.

Anyway. It all got approved and signed off and he’s enrolled! He’s declared as a Liberal Arts major (just like me!) and transferred the maximum number of credits that he’s allowed. Most of the classes he has to take are the core classes required for the school and to get the humanities classes that were missing from his transcript – because his previous school was an Engineering school and they’re not really big on Literature classes for some reason.

They also didn’t offer the Georgia History class that’s required for Armstrong. Fancy that!

So he’s taking a full load of 5 classes this semester. That turns out to be classes on Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays. He’s leaving the house slightly after I do those morning, and getting home on Mondays and Wednesday a while before I get home in the evening, but around the time I get home for lunch on Fridays – two of his classes are longer so they only meet two times a week.

Later, in March, he’ll have a “mini-mester” which adds another class a couple times a week in the late afternoon, so he’ll get home after I do once that starts up.

So far, he’s not terribly impressed with one of his teachers, has a lot of weird and frustrating stories to tell about another one, is rather fond of a third, and the fourth he doesn’t talk about much but is impressed with her organizational skills. He’s had a lot of reading, some of which he’s shared with me and has been fun and interesting to chat about. He’s had to give one presentation about some of that reading. He’s talked about how young so many of his classmates are and how they’re all too scared to talk in class so he tends to be the one talking quite a lot in some of his classes. (Like he’s usually so quiet, right?!)

One of his classmates is a guy who just got out of the Marines. But before the marines, he was at a small private school in northeast Georgia. Not actually Toccoa! But at his school, he was also on a traveling singing group (between 2003 -2006), and when Justin mentioned Luke Fritz, the name did sound familiar!

Overall, we’re both excited that he’s back in school. He’s happy to be working on getting his diploma and doing different coursework things. I’m excited because he’s getting out and able to chat with people and do more than sit in the house all day. Not to say that I’m not thrilled to see him on my lunch break when he is home. But I’m glad that he’s got the opportunity to go out, too.

And that’s the other half of the excitement for the start of our year!

It’s really just those two things – my work change and Justin’s school. Just in case anyone was expecting anything else.