Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Victorious, Ya'll!

 Back in the saddle again...

Greetings and good news from Texas, kittens! After fighting my way through a ridiculous teacher certification test last month, I had very low hopes for passing it. However, yesterday I received my results and I passed! The passing score was a 220, and I received a 264 (top score, 300). So, now I have moved from hoping, desperately, to just pass, to now kind of thinking "damn, I could have done better". Such is the life of an overachiever.

But the important thing is I PASSED! This test was the very last thing I need to do for graduate school this fall, so now I can fully enjoy the coming summer and all the road trips, national parks, hiking, camping, swimming, and running that entails. Ah, can't wait. Bobby and I have such good adventures, even when it's just a tent and a national park in a neighboring state.

At the moment I'm 5 days into my two week Texas trip, hanging out at my Dad's house. I have lots of pictures and stories to catch up on, but a shower followed by lunch with a friend needs to happen first. Arielle and I are off to Austin tomorrow morning for more Texas touring and friends and family visiting, so I'm not sure when I'll give another update, but I just had to drop in to share that the PLACE exam did not defeat me, much as its subjective, ambivalent nature tried.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Airport Literature

Arielle was set to fly into Denver this morning from Boston. Unfortunately, due to a variety of events that cumulatively conspired against her, she missed that flight by 8 minutes. She is now wandering about an airport, amusing herself without the aid of her laptop (the battery to which was, unfortunately, left behind, dutifully plugged into the wall). She called to let me know that I'd be picking her up at 10:22 p.m. instead of 10:02 a.m. She also told me that she has decided to go ahead and start writing her book, since that's all she can do for the next 12 hours. Pen and paper, old school style.

We had a good long conversation about writing, and blogs, and social networking, and whether or not Twitter is something that I need to do (she says yes, I say eh). When I got off the phone, I started thinking about how Arielle is finally starting to write her book thanks to being forced into a situation where she has no other distractions. All it took was forgetting a charger, and missing a flight- two seemingly unrelated (and on the surface, negative) events.

This leads me to wonder- what am I letting distract me? What are you letting distract you? It might be something that isn't even readily apparent as a distraction. Which makes it all the more difficult, I suppose. I have to put a critical eye to almost everything in that case. That's pretty daunting. Even so, I'm glad I have plucky, roll with the punches kind of friends to make me think about things like this.

Here's to Arielle's book. And your book, and my book, whatever that might be for each of us.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Facebook Gave Me Pink Tires

The following picture was scanned during my epic scanning adventure of late 2010, and then posted on FB to share amongst friends. I copied and pasted some comments on it below...

Bob- Do we need to get you some pink tires for your current bike Cortney?
April 7 at 11:30am ·

  • Melanie- Oh yes, she needs pink tires!
    April 7 at 11:41am ·

  • Melanie- Ha! Tom looks like Tyler (but with hair).
    April 7 at 11:42am ·

  • Cortney Yes!
    April 7 at 1:33pm ·

  • Bob http://www.amazon.com/CST-C740-700x25-Track-Fixed/dp/B003CO2R8O $11, done
    April 7 at 1:35pm · · 3 people

  • Cortney- Are. You. Serious?? Those are big girl tires?? As in, they could go on my very adult, very grownup street bike and they would work? This is amazing...
    April 7 at 1:36pm · · 1 person

  • Cortney-I need to state, for the record, that last night we were talking about bikes with some of Bobby's friends, and he mentioned "yeah, I got Cortney some pink tires today!" I turned to him and said "seriously, you actually ordered those??". So, yes, that pink tire link above at Amazon.com is now my biking reality. They'll match my pink helmet, wheeeeeeee!


    So, as you already know, Bobby ordered the tires. And yesterday, they came in. And they were ridiculous. As soon as Bobby got home from work he tore open the package, and immediately started putting them on my bike.
     Ok, well, not immediately- first we had to goof around with the pink tires...

    then he put them on. 

    It just so happens these pepto tires do match my bike helmet perfectly.

    I'm so glad I live in a city where biking is a fun, frequent activity, instead of something wreathed in terror and near death experiences. Oh, taxes put to good use in the form of bike lanes and bike paths, and wide, wonderful roads, how I love you. I also love how Bobby does silly, random things like purchase nostalgic pink bicycle tires on a whim inspired by an offhanded FB conversation.

  • Thursday, April 14, 2011

    I Know It's Not P.C., but I Still Like the Word "Gypsy"

    It's moving time again around these parts, for reasons including the furious upstairs urination detailed previously. Although we're not moving until May 1st, I'm spending today, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday cleaning and packing. What's that you say? Today is only April 14th? Oh yes, but unfortunately I planned my epic Texas trip back when we were blissfully unaware of the impending rent increase that would necessitate a move. That means I'll be leaving for Texas April 21st, and I won't be back until May 10th. And that leaves Bobby to move us, by himself (again, might I add, since he moved all of our things up here a month before I left Texas to come join him last year).

    That guilt for not pulling my weight is precisely why I'm deep cleaning and packing over the next four days. My goal is to have everything done so that all Bobby has to do is physically move our boxes from Point A Pee Screamer Station to Point B Glorious New Apartment Station. Then, when I get back from Texas, I'll unpack everything, organize and clean the new place, and generally try and divvy up the moving responsibilities in a fair way. Last year I was in charge of unpacking as well, so in the grand scheme of things I guess it kind of does work out pretty evenly. Packing, cleaning for move out, and unpacking is at least equal to packing and moving, right? Let's just say it is. Bobby is flying to Texas on May 6th to go to a birthday and wedding, and then drive back with me. So if he can just make it through 5 days of eating out and living amongst a collection of cardboard friends, this move should go as smoothly as possible.

    The only unfortunate thing is that my friend, Arielle, is coming in on Monday, to spend 3 days here before we trek down to Texas. I do wish that she was coming to our comfy, homey apartment, and not a stripped bare, boxed up collection of rooms, but I've always loved that empty feeling of a boxed up apartment ready for a move, so maybe she will, too. Hopefully we'll be out of the house and so busy gallivanting between Denver, Boulder, and here that we won't have time to notice anyway. But right now, I have a propitious, mid April snow storm going on outside. It's the perfect background to a day that I had planned to spend inside anyway, packing and cleaning and then doing reading and classwork, so I'm going to get to it.

    Sunday, April 10, 2011

    Return of the Mack

    I was peepin' these fine ladies at the Denver capitol. Mmmmm, high waisted pants. So. Hot.

    I'm feeling good enough, after yesterday's testing debacle, to make stupid jokes. I guess that's a sign I'm on the upswing. I randomly woke up at 6:20 this morning, so I took a long bath while reading a book, uploaded pictures to FB from our Peru trip (oh man, I still have to put those on here too...), and did some scattershot internet surfing/news reading. I told myself I would fully, unequivocally embrace a lazy Sunday without guilt, but I still managed to pick up the house, do the dishes, and run an errand. But, I did skip yoga, and instead of drinking my usual smoothie for breakfast I had an egg croissant + tater tots and a Coke at Sonic this morning with Bobby. We ate in the car, laughing and being silly, communicating in a kind of shorthand to reference various inside jokes that I'm sure only we would find funny. And the carhop was roller skating, a fact that contributed perfectly to the Sonic-breakfast-at-10:30 a.m. ambiance.

    I'm going to try to stop asking poor Bobby, over and over and over, "Do you think I passed the test????". Because I don't get the results until April 25th, and that's a long time to pester someone with flatly unanswerable questions (oh, unanswerable questions you say! kind of like everything on the exam....).  WAIT, no, I'm trying to be positive! So here's some positive- in two weeks from tomorrow my friend Arielle flies in from New York, and then we're road tripping to Texas, where I'll spend two weeks bouncing around between Dallas/Austin/Brownwood/San Antonio/Padre Island, hitting up two birthdays and a wedding. Now that's some positive.

    Let's go, summer. Even if, thanks to the cruelty of poorly written and pointless exams, you include two summer school classes crammed into one month so that I can start grad school in August. Yes, even if.

    Saturday, April 9, 2011

    Well, That Was 4 Weeks of Wasted Time....

    This afternoon I took the PLACE English exam for teacher certification in Colorado. As I mentioned previously, I was stoked to get a study guide via the inter-library loan system and I was confident in my baseline knowledge of the subject matter. I studied for about 5 weeks, although the first week was just reviewing and figuring out a plan of attack for studying, so basically 4 full weeks of studying took place. By yesterday I had read the book cover to cover four times, researched online for practice tests, made study guides, and pretty much memorized a 6 page foldout by SparkNotes on Literature (terms, periods, literary criticism, etc.). After all was said and done, I had pretty much memorized the book and every date, literary period, influential author, and grammar rule under the sun (most I already knew, but it was all a great review).

    I was confident going into the test this afternoon. By 5 questions in, I was pretty certain I had no idea if I was going to pass it or fail it. I've taken a LOT of standardized tests in my day. And I can safely say that the PLACE English exam is the most poorly written one I have ever had the dubious "opportunity" to try and decipher. The questions were badly worded and ambiguous, the answers were subjective and seemingly unrelated to the questions...I would have laughed out loud if it wasn't so damned frustrating. On top of the terrible test format, guess what? Oh, nothing I studied in the PLACE study guide was actually, you know, on the test, with the exception of giving speeches. Related to that, strangely fully half of the test was over advertising and the media, and giving and writing speeches. Only about 5 questions were about grammar and punctuation. Some of the questions were almost suspiciously subjective, with very clear morals and values being promoted or denigrated....overall, it was the worst testing experience I have ever had, hands down, in my entire life. I'm good at taking standardized tests, I know how to work them- I made a 29 on my ACT, a 1450 on my PSAT, and a 1370 on my SAT. I say that not to brag, but to reinforce that this is not just that I'm a poor test taker, but that the test was a glaring anomaly in my long history, from high school through grad school, of generally kicking ass at tests. I have truly no idea if I aced it or failed miserably. I have never had such a confusing, frustrating experience with a test. There have been times when I have known I gave the wrong answer, but fully a third of the questions were so subjective and strange that I couldn't even place bets as to whether or not I answered them correctly. I felt like there was some sort of general philosophy, or ideology, that I was being tested on, that I was unaware I would be tested on until I got into the exam room. 

    I got home and googled around a bit, and it seems that many people have had the same experience. All I know is that I literally wasted 4 weeks of studying, because none of it prepared me for what I had to wade through and interpret today. I want to reiterate that the questions were NOT hard- it wasn't a matter of a question referencing a specific literary period and asking me to identify an author from it, or asking for the definition of a term that I simply didn't know- the questions were flat out obtuse and nonsensical. I had to make conjectures as to what the question was asking, and then I had further theorize as to what rambling, pointlessly detailed answer was the most relevant to the question. 

    I truly have no idea how that test is any kind of reliably predictive indicator of who will make an effective teacher. I get my results in April, and if I fail it I will be equal parts pissed off and embarrassed. I'll also be annoyed because I'll have to take two summer school classes so that I can meet the college credit requirement, so June will be spent taking two intensive classes, 6 days a week, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. for a month. 

    I really, really hope I passed.

    Tuesday, April 5, 2011

    I Don't Like Hearing My Neighbor Pee While He Screams...

    Our move up here to Colorado was the definition of flying by the seat of your pants, since Bobby found out about the job offer about two weeks before he started. Bobby came up a month before I did, to get an apartment and start work. He did the drive in one day, arriving in our new town at 2 a.m. and crashing on a friend's couch. The next day he searched for apartments, and that afternoon signed a lease. As far as apartments go, it was/is perfect. It met/meets all of our requirements- two bedrooms, so we could have a study/guest room, washer and dryer, and preferably on the second floor. Plus, a rare treat in Colorado, it had a pool (less rare is the hot tub that we have been wearing out all winter). I have to say again, it's been a great place.

    But the neighbors... oh, dear lord, the neighbors. First of all, the walls in our apartment are paper thin. Before you go saying "um, yeah, it's an apartment, par for the course" and all that, let me just say I have never before been able to hear, with crystal clarity, the conversations my next door neighbors have in the bathroom/dining room. It's like our medicine cabinet is some sort of tin can on a string game, or a speaker at the bank. I'm standing there, brushing my teeth, and random stranger lady screaming at her kids next door may as well be shouting in a megaphone in my ear. Oh, and speaking of random stranger lady screaming at her kids next door- yeah, you can bet I had to call the cops on her one night, when in the middle of our dinner we began to hear her screaming the most obscene, hateful, profanity laden things to her young son. Gross.

    But the real winner in the weird game is our upstairs neighbor. Actually, let me just back up and offer a caveat that should have been offered straight out the gate- I am not uptight about noise. I understand we're in an apartment building, and I'm going to randomly hear T.V.'s, children frolicking, loud music, sometimes, in awkward moments, loud sex- it's cool, we're all people, living our lives in identical boxes right next to each other. But this guy? It's almost like a joke. It's as if he gets up and says "what kind of totally crazy, ridiculous things can I do today that would maximize my noise level?". He will randomly burst into running, and stomp from one side of the apartment to the other, slamming things, opening drawers, hitting walls. Sometimes I'll hear an explosive outburst  of expletives, screamed at the top of his lungs. Sometimes, out of nowhere, there will be a huge crash, as though he has arranged all the furniture in his home into a tower to amuse himself by watching it fall over. Other times he'll laugh, loudly, for several minutes- it doesn't sound like he's on the phone, or watching a T.V. It sounds like he's sitting alone in an apartment, laughing maniacally like an evil genius as he plans his next noise making session. When he goes to bed, he jumps on it- no, really, like a kid, it's right above our bedroom. Perhaps the worst though is that I ALWAYS know when he's going to urinate. Why do I know when my upstairs, stranger neighbor is going to urinate? Because it ALWAYS goes like this- he will suddenly scream an unintelligible stream of profanities, and then run, stomping, through the apartment, banging walls, slamming doors, etc. The bathroom door will fling open, the toilet lid will slam up, and then he urinates furiously into the toilet, spouting more curse words- it's purposeful pee, like, jet propulsion into the water. Afterward, he flushes, doesn't wash his hands, and then runs back through the house, yelling more profanities at the top of his lungs. At first, I just thought "oh, some older, differently abled gentleman with some mental issues, lives above us. No big deal". But no, I saw him- a sharply dressed businessman, who drives a really nice car and lives alone. I wonder if he has any idea how much of his peculiar at home habits I can hear...

    Anyway, point made. My neighbors are loud, profanity filled people with anger issues and one of them abuses her children. But, the neighbors across from us are awesome people, and we made friends with Jenny at the hot tub here, so we've certainly also had a lot of luck here. However, when the lease renewal came and we found out that rent was increasing by almost $100 a month, we decided that our apartment complex was thinking a little too highly of itself- it's two years old, and bids itself as kind of a luxury/upscale place, but cone on now, an apartment is an apartment. After a week of researching and seeing new complexes, we found a new place that is far cheaper than here, with an extra bathroom for guests and a fireplace for winter. It's on acres and acres of land, our favorite bike trail runs right through it, there is an 18 hole frisbee golf course, a pool, a hot tub, racquetball, and tennis courts. So sorry, current apartments. But when we're surrounded by explosive, noisy anger and stomping/slamming/throwing/urinating, you can't go raising rent on us. Don't doubt our frugality, because we will deuce out on you faster than you can say "rent increase". Or "furious upstairs urination". Or "vile mommy next door".

    Sunday, April 3, 2011

    C25K Week 4 Wrap-Up

     I'm smiling because I didn't know that two years later I'd be dropped like a hot rock on a gym floor, resulting in a decade's worth of pain and doctor's bills.  Cheerleading, you were fun, but you were SO not worth all that.

    I had good intentions of doing weekly wrap-ups but March got away from me and here we are, at the end of Week 4. I did my 3rd run of Week 4 yesterday, and it was great.

    I did Week 1 twice, in order to slowly get used to running barefoot. So, my 3rd week of running I was following Week 2 parameters for C25K- run 90 seconds, walk 2 minutes. But here's where things get weird- I started toying with how long I could run, and on my first run instead of following Week 2 parameters I just decided to run the entire first 10 minutes, and then do the last 10 minutes alternating 2 minutes of running with 2 minutes of walking. So, you know, NOTHING at all like what I was supposed to be doing. And you know what? It felt fine. Still no pain, easy 5.0 pace, no worries. I probably could have run the entire 20 minutes but I held back. After that the rest of the week I followed Week 2 parameters to the T, even though after that first run it felt almost too easy.

    Week 4 (this last week) I was supposed to be following Week 3 parameters. Again, I kind of played around with this and settled into running 3 minutes and walking 2, repeating that three times, and then running the last 5 minutes. This is also very different than what I was supposed to be doing, but as I mentioned at the very beginning of all this, I'm not at all starting from a "couch" level of fitness, so I'm doing C25K to slowly build tendon/muscle strength so I don't get injured. But because I'm feeling fine- better than fine, I'm feeling amazing, and I totally credit the Vibrams and correct running form as a result- I'm playing with it a bit. This last week all of my runs were at a 1.5% incline, walking at a 3.5 pace, running at a 5.5. Even upping the running by .5 more, and going from a 0% to a 1.5% incline, and running more, I still feel fine and dandy.

    This is amazing. It is almost miraculous. I can run again, after over a decade of being sidelined by crippling hip pain anytime I even attempted so much as a mile or two. And it doesn't hurt, at all. I look forward to it, and enjoy it, and I like pushing myself and seeing what I can do. I can't even express how happy this makes me. On top of all of this, my hip has felt even better since starting to run. I feel like my SI joint instability is tightening up, and my alignment feels fully right for the first time since my injury. Between yoga and running barefoot I feel like I have a brand new hip and back. Yoga got me there 80%, no doubt, but that last 20% is all running. And it is glorious. I step off the treadmill and feel like I've conquered the world, even though I'm still just alternating running/walking at a fairly moderate pace and doing a fairly modest distance. The other day we were riding in the car, and I turned to Bobby and said "I really feel like 5K's are just the start- I think I could actually run further... maybe half marathons! Or... full marathons!". We'll see. For now I'm ecstatic that my body is cooperating with me, finally.

    2011 Goals Review: March

    Me, around age 3, trying to reach for something a bit out of my grasp. It seemed appropriate, right?

    March was a great month- C25K continues to go well, and I'm loving running barefoot. My birthday and birthday celebrations were great, and I got in one last snowboarding trip of the season. And on top of all of that, Karin and Hermes came in for a few days and we had our first camping trip of the season. Of course, all of that begs the question- with so much going on, how did the goals go? Surprisingly, this was my best month yet (or maybe, not so surprisingly, since this was the first full month of implementing them). You can find the full list of 2011 Goals HERE.

    Food and Fitness
    Met all goals. There were a few weeks when I didn't drink any coffee or soda at all, but the weeks when I did I stuck to my one each goal. C25K is going well, and I'm doing yoga 3 times a week plus strength training 3 times a week. April is when I'm adding in Spinning classes, and I'm looking forward to it because I love Spinning. It destroys me and I love it.
    Misc Goals and Projects
    Met all goals here, with the exception of belly dancing lessons (you purchase them monthly and I would have missed half of them this month). Bobby and I took West Coast Swing lessons every Monday night in March, I worked on craft projects, and we purchased the last two pieces of photo organizers so that I can finish the last bit of organizing, I'm excited to have it totally done.
    Career and Finances
    Nothing changed here- still interning with both non-profits, taking my 3 out of 4 classes towards my Sustainable Development Certificate, and I've been studying for the entire month of March for the PLACE exam.
    Personal Improvement
    The book goal is right on track- I read 5 books in March: PLACE Xam English 07 (3 times cover to cover actually); Born to Run; Learn to Meditate; Culture of Fear; Alice in Wonderland (re-read, the first book I read on my Kobo). The only Spanish study I've been doing is reading my "Spanish Word of the Day" e-mail every day, because I'm really focusing on the PLACE exam. It's on April 9th, and after that Spanish will take the front burner again.
    Travel To-Do
    Bobby and I went to Denver together once, we went to Boulder together three times, and then I took Karin and Hermes to Denver. We've already met our goal to get out into Denver and Boulder more for the year (two times each, we met it by March!), and we have lots more trips planned. The extended traveling to Texas at the end of Bobby's HP contract is all scheduled and set as well and I can't wait to see friends and family- plus there are two birthday parties and a wedding to attend, so it's perfect timing.
    Met this goal. I'm glad that I get to see every single person on this list soon though, instead of just talking to them on the phone :)

    All in all the only areas where things have been neglected are the belly dancing lessons on Sundays, and the Spanish study. But the former just wasn't practical money wise in March with the impending absences, and I know I'd rather focus all of my studying energy on the PLACE exam without being distracted by Spanish.

    I'm stoked about April because I'll be done with the PLACE exam the first week, and then my friend Arielle comes in the last week and we drive to Texas together after I show here around Denver/Boulder/where I live. Should be another great month :) I hope you all are doing well with your goals/resolutions for 2011!

    Friday, April 1, 2011

    Back to Basics

    Tulip Festival, Japan, 2006
    Dear 23 Year Old English Teacher Blogger Me- Thanks for writing all that stuff down. 28 Year Old Me would have totally forgotten such random and ridiculous situations, observations, and rants.

    Okay, kittens, I think it's time to get back to the storytime aspects of this blog. Lately I feel like I've gotten too wrapped up in cut and dry documenting/picture posting instead of actually, you know, writing stories. I went back today and read a few posts from my old blog during my time in Japan, and it reminded me of why I started blogging in the first place- to share random bits and pieces of the junk that tumble rumbles around in my brain. It might be weird, tangential, sometimes irreverent, often blunt, but that's what it is. I think lately it's just been easier to upload a grip of pictures, caption them, and call it good. I know I've also been so distracted with all the "to-do's" of my life that the thought of writing a more involved, spontaneous, "let's see where this goes" kind of blog post is a meandering writing luxury that I have convinced myself I don't have time for.

    I'm going to stop being lazy when it comes to sharing that last little bit. I'm just going to clack away on my computer until I get that familiar feeling of my brain being wrung out like a sponge, when I know that whatever thoughts that have been banging insistently on the back of my eyes all day are finally enjoying their new post-sized home on the internet. For now though, I'm going to curl up with a book. I know, I know, it's Friday but seriously, the last two weeks have been jam packed with fun and adventure, and this weekend will be jam packed with studying, so I'm going to seize some rest and relaxation wherever I can find it. And right now that is in bed, curled up with a fleece blanket, reading about germs and weapons shaping civilization. Because if anything says "party hard, it's the weekend", it's a global social history about biological pressures and inventions shaping civilization. I'll just have to try not to wake the neighbors with my weekend literary shenanigans.