Tuesday, May 27, 2008


It's official; I'm getting the invisalign braces!

Today, I went in to learn about how well they'll work on me, specifically. There were computer images to see how my teeth are now, how they'll look like in the end, and how they'll look like step by step, with each tray.

I'm very excited. I need a total of 14 trays on both my top teeth and my bottom; each tray, I'm to wear for 2 weeks. This means 28 weeks (or just 6 months!) of braces, and then I'll have straight teeth!

There's enough space in my mouth where I won't need my teeth filed in the gaps. Also, it sounds like my insurance is going to cover half the cost! I couldn't be happier with that.

Woohoo! I'm excited not to have my one front tooth in my way all the time (one of my incisors has dropped so low and so far back, when I bite down, it touches my bottom teeth before any of the others, so that's the only non-molar tooth I can touch to my bottom teeth). I'm just... excited!


My first tray should arrive in 2 weeks :)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Peace Corps

Yesterday, Andrew and I talked about the Peace Corps. We're basically tossing around the idea of applying to volunteer for next year. To be honest, I really love the idea, and the possibility of learning a language to live and help out people in another country is extremely appealing.

There are some really good benefits for working with the Peace Corps. First, you spend three months training on a language and culture, and then you are placed (usually with a family) in another country to live and work for two years. It's mostly volunteer work. The government pays you a stipend to live off of, based on the cost of living in the country you're sent. Then, after completing the full two years of service, each volunteer is given $6,000.

Also, if you complete your two years in the Peace Corps, it's supposed to be really easy to get a job with the federal government. As long as you meet the qualifications of a position (degree, experience, whatever), you won't have to go through the competitive process for the job for a full year.

Furthermore, Andrew and I would be guaranteed to be placed together if we were accepted. We wouldn't have to worry about being alone. About 9% of Peace Corps volunteers are married, and (apparently) there are some projects in countries they only send married couples to. Hmm.

Of course, there would be a few concerns with leaving. One, I'm used to seeing my parents weekly. Not seeing my family whenever I want to will be very challenging. Two, Bailey's health is always a concern. I couldn't possibly leave her this late in her life. It would kill me to have her get really sick when I'm gone. Perhaps Andrew and I should wait a few more years when we don't have a pet? Also, career/jobs could be a problem. I don't think my company would give me two years leave for the Peace Corps (although I can definitely call on Tuesday and look into it). I've always touched on the idea of working for the federal government because of the benefits, so I could have a job opportunity upon returning. However, it would be a bit intimidating to come back home after 2+ years of being away, and then having to deal with the issue of finding a job.

I'm not sure. A lot of possibilities and worthwhile reasons to join the Peace Corps. A lot of emotional concerns to deal with, too, if we were to apply.

Do any of you know someone who's joined the Peace Corps? What were their experiences like?

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Mountain Camping

Last night, Andrew and I drove up to his parents' land near Fairplay, Colorado to camp. It was to be my first time camping outside of a campground with a toilet, so I was a bit nervous.

Because of the holiday traffic, the trip took longer than usual. We stopped off in Breckenridge and didn't actually make it to the land until just after 8pm. With the mountains to the west, the sun was already almost set up there.

Andrew's parents were there checking out spots to build a cabin, and they helped us set up our tent before heading on their way. I felt sleepy and wanted to crash out just as Andrew got the fire going. It took a lot of work and time, so I didn't want to hurry away to bed. Instead, I did my best to stay awake and checked out the stars.

Maybe I made it to about 10pm. I'm not sure. At some point, I had to tell him I couldn't stay awake any more. I crawled into the tent and into my new (good to 20 degrees) sleeping bag. I was a bit too short for it, so I took a blanket and shoved it down to the foot of the bag and buried my feet in their to keep them warm. I slept and slept and slept...

...for about 3 hours. My cold, numb face woke me up. Using my warm hands, I was able to help my face, but I couldn't find a position to keep my face warm. I thought about burying my head in the sleeping bag, but the oxygen wasn't good in there. Plus, I didn't know if sleeping bags are made with plastic (are they?), and I worried I'd suffocate. My nose was freezing again, so I gently shook Andrew to let him know I was uber cold.

He let me crawl into his bag. He has a fabric lining near the top, which helped keep my face warm. However, with two of us zipped into his one-man bag, it was difficult to breathe and move. He decided to try out my bag. I think he did OK in there, but once he left the bag I was sleeping in, my feet started to get cold.

I felt pretty miserable. I didn't want to fail at my first non-campgroud camping experience, so I tried to fall asleep again. At the time, I didn't know what time it was (1am), and I assumed it was close to dawn (wrong!). I figured, if I can just fall asleep for another hour, the sun will rise and start to warm us up! Time ticked by slowly, and I think Andrew knew I wasn't sleeping. He offered to pack up the camp site and take me home. At first, I resisted. After another 20 minutes (or maybe it was only a couple), I gave in and agreed.

He started the car and had me sit in there while he quickly packed everything up. Dogs or coyotes or maybe the yetis that reportedly live up in the area were howling, so I didn't fight him too much on staying in the car. I glanced over and saw the temperature read out read 25 degrees. My sleeping bag should have worked at that temperature, but, then again, it was probably too big for me as there was lots of extra space on top to let the cold air in.

We made it home by 3:30am. Typically, I hate the temperature in our apartment. No matter what we do, it's stuck at a miserable 78 degrees inside. At 3:30am, however, it felt nice to be usually warm, and I fell straight asleep and didn't wake up again until 11.

So maybe I didn't make it through a full night of mountain camping. That's OK. I'll give it a try again this summer, when the temperature won't drop so low. For now, it's enough to say, I peed in the forest. Good for me.

What did you all do this holiday weekend?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Canoe Dog Continued

With my back a bit burned (I missed a spot with sunscreen!), I've been napping on and off all day, and Andrew's been applying lotion on my burns. Bailey's just as tired as I am. I've been browsing through our pictures, and it struck me as funny that she's the one using the seat pad in all the canoeing pictures (she pretty much stayed on that pad and laid down on the life vests).

I feel so lucky that she's still healthy enough to go canoeing with us. I really hope we'll be able to take her camping next weekend!

Canoe Dog

Bailey's completely wiped out after a fun day at Chatfield Reservoir. We got up early and went over to Andrew's mom and dad's to pick up the canoe. I wasn't sure what to expect from Bailey, but she did pretty well!

She loved the smells. We canoed to a little "island" and let Bailey run around off leash. After a little persuasion, she even pranced at the edge of the water and loved it. Andrew beckoned her to follow him further into the water, and she actually did. She swam a little bit, but ultimately decided the land was more fun. Good choice; she had a blast smelling everything in "nature."

After about an hour or so, she seemed a little exhausted and started to cry. She doesn't spend much time outdoors, so I figured she'd had her fill and was probably a bit overwhelmed. Do we headed back, really satisfied with our day outdoors with the dog. I'm really glad we took her there; I'm so happy she had fun.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Art of Taking Bailey's Temperature

In the wee hours of the morning, Andrew and I grabbed Bailey, her leash, and headed to the pet hospital.

She started acting a bit off earlier this week, though it took me a while to really notice a pattern. My parents watched Bailey for the weekend, and my mom told me that Bailey woke her up around midnight Monday morning to go pee.

On Tuesday, I picked her up and brought her home. Around midnight, she started crying, but I was so tired, I fell right back asleep. At two, I woke up again and noticed her cries sounded desperate. I told her, "OK," and I got up and went to the bathroom to find my pants and shoes. She jumped out of bed and was ready to rock. Evidently, I took too long, because she squatted and peed as I was putting on my shoes. I felt so, so bad for her and didn't say anything to her because I knew it wasn't her fault. I took her out anyway, and she peed again for a long, long time.

Again, I didn't think too much of it. I chalked that one up to being my fault because I didn't wake up when she cried to me at midnight. Still, I felt some worry. She's never, ever had an accident in the house since she was house broken as a puppy.

I monitored her closely Wednesday and Thursday, and I took her out every few hours. She did just fine and made it through those nights. On Friday (yesterday), I took her out at noon and then went to work. Andrew came home at 4:45pm and found a little pee puddle by the door. He took her out right away and she peed again.

I didn't get home from work until 11pm. After I got in, Andrew told me about her accident. I knew something, something had to be wrong. But it was late on a Friday night, and my vet wouldn't be open until Monday. I wondered, "Is it OK to wait until Monday?" Then I thought of Homie, and I thought about how his symptoms hadn't been that severe, and how he died suddenly, anyway.

So I called my vet's number, knowing that, after hours, it connects to the pet hospital. I explained to the tech her pee problems, and I asked if I needed to worry about bladder infection or kidney infection or what. She said it could be something minor, it could be an infection, or it could be old age (simply that Bailey can't hold it any more). She told me I could certainly bring Bailey in; it was up to me if I wanted to wait until Monday.

I woke Andrew up, and we took her to the pet hospital at County Line & Holly. They were so sweet to her. At some point, the vet tech took Bailey to the back to "take her temperature." I could hear the bells of her collar jingling as she led her away down the hall. That's when Andrew leaned over and said, "You know how they take her temperature, right?"

I laughed a bit at the expense of Bailey, thinking of my little Sweety prancing down the hallway completely unaware of what awaited her... the anal thermometer. Poor girl.

The vet came in and talked to us. I asked a million questions. Essentially, he thought the most likely cause of Bailey's problem was a urinary tract infection (I guess they're common in older females). He said it's less likely to be something like a kidney infection because she'd be in a lot of pain, especially when she peed (which she wasn't). He said he also didn't think it was diabetes because I would have noticed a drastic increase in her drinking (which I hadn't), and he said she would have been peeing a lot more in quantity, not just frequency.

I swallowed my fear and asked him if it could be her cancer (Bailey has breast cancer). He told me that cancer can present itself in basically any way it wants to, so it could be, but it's not as likely. He told me that if everything else is excluded, only then would we worry about that, and then we would do ultrasounds and scans and such to see her organs.

He tried to do a somethingcentesis... a procedure where he'd stick a needle in her bladder and extract some urine to test. But Bailey's bladder was empty, and he couldn't. He recommended that we put her on antibiotics to see if it helps. If it doesn't or she gets worse, I should bring her to my vet on Monday for more testing and comprehensive blood work. If it does solve the problem, we can chalk it up to an infection and call it good.

I feel better knowing that the most likely problems are the ones with the lower health risk. She can fight off a urinary infection, if that's the problem, and she's on antibiotics before it is a big problem. The next most likely problem is her old age. If that's it, hell, we can buy doggy diapers for night time and when we're going to be out of the house for more than 4 hours.

I'm relieved to know it's not likely something life threatening. I'll tell you what, though; it sure made me very appreciative to wake up and find my little furry bundle snuggled up between Andrew and me this morning. I sure love that girl.

Do any of you feel like your dog/cat/pet is a part of your family? I'm sorry for everyone who's had to lose their buddy. It's not easy watching someone you're supposed to take care of get sick, is it?

(Attached are two photos: one of Homer chilling on the deck with us a week or two before he died unexpectedly, and one of Bailey on Easter nibbling on her Easter egg).

Friday, May 16, 2008

Automated Phone Systems

Andrew and I have been really looking forward to our stimulus payment. I'm getting braces, so we thought it would cover a good chunk of the cost on those!

The deadline for our stimulus payment to arrive in our direct deposit was today. It finally arrived...

...at half the amount it should have.

We received $600. I mean, that's great. But we were really hoping for the full $1200 that's supposed to go to married couples who make under $75k a year.

I spent an hour on the phones trying to talk to somebody. They have a wonderful automated system that gives you two options: Do I Qualify? and When Will I Receive My Stimulus Payment? If you don't answer one of those options, they disconnect you. If you do, it's more automated crap that doesn't answer any of my questions.

I called my local office. Their automated system said they don't have agents to talk with us, either.

I called the business line and couldn't get through. I called the individual tax line, and there was no one to talk to either. Finally, through that line, by not answering any of their options through five cycles, they finally connected me to an agent...

....who connected me back to the automated system.

It was great.

So I went through the whole process again, and when an agent answered and said she were going to connect me to the automated system, I cried out, "PLEASE, please wait!"

And in one breath, I said, "Pleasewedidgetourstimulus. Wegotitbutitwasn'ttherightamount. Please,please,theautomatedsystemonlyhastwooptions. Noneofthoseoptionsapplytous. Please,it'sonlyaboutifyouqualifyorwhentoexpectthepayment. We'vealreadygottenours,it'sjustforthewrongamount. Please,Idon'tknowwhototalktoaboutthis problem."

And she said?

We have a really high number of calls. I can only redirect you to this number. You probably won't be able to talk to any agent today. You might want to call back tomorrow, and maybe you'll get to talk to someone then.

I'm glad she answered me, but they might as well have added that to their automated system. Something like
If these options don't apply to you, please call back at a less busy time to talk directly to an agent.

Then I wouldn't have manned the phone for an hour to get that tidbit of info.

How did all your stimulus stuff work out? Did you all get what you expected and when you expected it?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Everything is Beautiful

I check in on my cousin Missy's blog regularly (http://huggingthemidline.typepad.com/). It helps me stay connected to some of my extended family (Thanks to facebook.com for that, too!). That's not always an easy thing when you have a family as big as ours!

Today, I read about her thoughts on staying positive and grateful. It motivated me a bit to reflect on the positive things I have in my life.

For starters, I'm so happy to have our parents live close by. I get homesick sometimes, and it's nice to go see my parents whenever I want and get some Wii Golf time in. Furthermore, I'm glad to have Andrew as my husband. Today, for example, he came home for lunch, and we ate a delicious meal and snuggled with Bailey until he had to go. Having to go to work isn't the greatest feeling in the world, but I'm really glad we both have jobs during this recession. There are many families who have to worry about money and food and their homes every day, and I'm so, so grateful that Andrew and I aren't one of them. I'm also very glad that I have today off. I'm grateful to have these hours to myself to read, do the dishes, catch up on laundry, and add to my blog.

Today, I also felt really content when I took Bailey for a little stroll. She seemed to be doing much better after a few days of acting sick. It drizzled a bit on us, and we walked by two ducks sleeping in the pond under a tree. I love that feeling being out in "nature" causes in me; the feeling that everything is OK, and everything is beautiful.

Monday, May 12, 2008

American Idol and Digital Receivers

Andrew and I don't have cable; we don't watch all that much TV, so we've been sticking with broadcast and saving a bit of money there. A few months ago, we started hearing about digital receivers and such, so Andrew sent in for our free coupon thing from the government.

Yesterday, we finally hit up Best Buy to get our receiver. While we were there, I picked up a copy of Wii American Idol karaoke.

I might not be a fan of the show, but American Idol for the Wii is too fun. They have a selection of maybe 4 dozen songs or so, everything from that song, "It's Beautiful" (Or is it "You're Beautiful"?) to "Bohemian Rhapsody." You sing along with the song, and the judges from American Idol (Randy, Paula and Simon; see, I know my pop culture trivia!) critique you based on keeping with the rhythm of the song and keeping the right pitch. Based on how well you do, you might bomb out or else go gold or platinum (I have yet to get a diamond). The more platinum songs you get, the more songs you unlock (5 more until I unlock "Somewhere Over the Rainbow!").

Anyway, I wasn't sure what to expect from the game, but it's a lot of fun. Andrew said it's exactly like Rock Band, only it's without all the other instruments. I guess that means I might like Rock Band... or that Rock Band fans might like American Idol!

So far, my best song is "Tiny Dancer." I did surprisingly well on Aerosmith's "Don't Want to Miss a Thing," too. I'm really bad at the low pitch songs; the pitch mic has a hard time recognizing my low notes (no matter how low I go, I can't seem to get low enough for some parts of "Knocking on Heaven's Door").

I'm thinking about bringing the karaoke game over to my parents' house. There's a chance my mom'll get a kick out of it. That or Guitar Hero. I wonder if you can rent that along with the guitar from Blockbuster? Hmm.

Anyway, back to our Best Buy purchases. The digital receiver works *really* well. A few of our channels came in really static-y, but with the receiver, it's just as clear as having a cable connection. Andrew commented, "If I'd known it worked this well, I wo uld have sent for hte coupon a long time ago!" We have a second coupon, so we're planning on picking up another for our other TV. The digital picture is widescreen, too (I didn't know TV shows were filmed in widescreen; did you?). I'm excited to catch "House" tonight!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Hurray for our Stimulus!

Huzzah, Andrew and I have officially paid off one of our student loans! One down, one to go. Our finances seem to be in such good order, we've started to talk about looking for a house!

Our lease ends soon, so we'll renew it for another year, but we're hoping (hoping!) that we'll be able to find something and afford something the following year. Hurray!

Strangely, once we starting talking about it, my thoughts went immediately to Bailey. She's starting to show signs of getting older, and walks with a definite limp. I wondered if she'll make it through next year to be able to see our house and play in the yard. Thinking that it's a possibility she won't be there made me cry.

It's weird, I guess. In some ways, she's really an attachment to my childhood. My parents gave her to me a week before my 14th birthday, so I got to train her in Chicago and raise her here in Denver. She got to be with me for the end of my childhood and throughout the years of teenage angst. She was with me throughout college and still here now that I'm married.

Don't get me wrong. She's not on her death bed or anything. It just scares me to think that one day she won't be here in another stage of my life. It's hard getting used to the idea of not having someone around who's always been there. Sadly, that's something I've had to learn time and again over these last few years.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Pitter Patter

We barely made it through the first rain of the season.

So Bailey thinks, anyway.

Andrew and I fell asleep around 6:30 last night, we were so tired. Some time after that, it started to rain. I'm assuming the rain kept me asleep all night, until Bailey woke us up at 1am from her fear of the thunder. When it storms, she shakes violently, and no amount of cuddling or petting or playing will help. When she'd settle down enough, we'd fall back asleep, only to be reawoken later.

Her strategy to wake us up? Sit on our faces. I kid you not. She focused particularly on Andrew, which I find pretty funny. I'd wake up every couple of hours to hear, "Get off my face." Poor Andrew. Poor dog.

Andrew took her to the bathroom in the middle of the night, which allowed me to sleep in. I slept until 9:30am! Sleeping 15 hours was the greatest feeling, ever. When I finally woke up completely, I put on a light jacket and took Bailey out into the rain. There's nothing like listening to raindrops on my hood or watching the rain hit the pond.

Bailey has taught me to hate the thunder (whenever I see lightening flash, I immediately think, "Oh crap, I've got to get home to the dog!"), but nothing will teach me to hate the rain! I'm a bit disappointed it's stopped, but it's nice to have all the ducks and birds out again.