Saturday, September 30, 2006

The beach

I finally made it to the coast! This afternoon at approximately 5:30 pm, my feet touched the Atlantic Ocean. It was definitely as warm as everyone said it was. And quite picturesque, too.

Two highlights from my trip: all the seashells I found intact, and Mr. Beakers.

I saw the cutest bird burrowing his little black beak into the sand,

running around in the waves that were lapping up on the shore. He was super fast!

I grew very fond of Mr. Beakers as I followed him up and down the beach while he was busy at work, I presume looking for food.

Whenever the water would come rushing up towards him, he would run away from it, just far enough so that when it reached him, it was gentle and shallow. Only once was he forced to resort to flying away...and that same wave caught me off guard and got my whole right leg wet!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Driving around the Wrightsville Beach/Wilmington area, I was totally getting a Southern California vibe. Very cool. I actually had a moment of, "Wait, where am I?" It was a little odd for the sun to be setting over the beach instead of the water, but it was beautiful nonetheless. Gorgeous weather, clear sky, couldn't have asked for better. I definitely want to go back soon, and spend some more time exploring up and down the coast!

Monday, September 25, 2006

A visit to the chiropractor

I went to a chiropractor today. I wasn't in immense pain or anything, but my lower back was still bothering me, and my biggest fear is that it will only get worse. Now like I said before, I am very skeptical of chiropractics in general. But I figured that it should be my first stop, to see if there really is anything serious going on in my back. So I made an appointment with an office recommended to me by several coworkers.

I was told to go to their website to fill out some forms ahead of time, and then when I arrived, I filled out even more. I was familiar with some of them, because I'd seen them in my days as a disability claims administrator. One of them had me rate on a scale of 1 to 5 how how impaired my functionality is during different tasks, such as driving or walking. I could not justify circling any number higher than 1 on all the tasks.

After I turned my forms in, I was taken back to meet with a "financial consultant," who goes over the payment options. I could pay cash (hoping for a reimbursement by Geico), go through my own health insurance which would necessitate pre-authorization and 7 more pages of paperwork, or just get a free consultation today until Geico approves my treatment. I opted for the free consultation.

I was taken to a small room where an assistant asked me questions about my pain and explained the basics of subluxation. She was friendly enough, but I could tell she'd given the speech hundreds of times. Then I was taken into a separate room (not private) where the doctor came in to examine me. He started off by saying that he will let me know if there's anything he can do to help me, and if not, he'll refer me to the correct type of doctor. (Three guesses on his conclusion!) He had me stand up and then started recording his comments while the assistant took notes. He fired away all his observations so fast that it made me wonder if he was really evaluating me or just working from memorization. And of course none of it made sense to me. I did catch something about one shoulder being higher than the other, and one hip being higher than the other. At one point he poked my lower left back and it really hurt, whereas when he poked my lower right back a) it didn't hurt, but b) he didn't poke it nearly as hard. (Mind you, I had just told the assistant exactly where I was hurting.) Afterwards he said oh-so-reassuringly, "You're in the right place, we can help you," and he also said, "Are you sure your pain level is just at a 1? Let me test your pain threshhold." That's not generally something you want to test, now is it? He put his hands around my skull and applied pressure, asking me to rate the "pain" on a scale of 1-5. I said a 1, because it was barely anything. He said, "Oh yeah, you definitely have a high tolerance for pain, most people say that's a 3." At first I was kinda proud, but then I thought, "There's no WAY that was a valid test!"

After he left, I was taken back to the small room, and I asked what exactly the doctor had found wrong with me. The assistant was clearly avoiding my question because her answer was, "You have issues that chiropractics can help." I don't know if they hid the specifics of my condition from me because it was a free consultation, or what. But I didn't like the feeling of them knowing what's wrong with me, but keeping me in the dark.

I was given tips on how to help my back feel better (surprising: no heat packs!) and the assistant had me try on a lumbar support thingie that she wrapped around me and secured with velcro. It felt like a corset, and it didn't really make my back feel better. If anything, it was worse, because it was pushing on the sore spot. So I took it off, and that was about it. The assistant encouraged me to attend the free spinal care class tomorrow at 6, and sent me on my way. She said she would try to get authorization from Geico to proceed with the treatment, which would entail X-rays and such.

I don't know if I'll go back or not. I mean, it feels a little smarmy, but there's not much of an alternative. An MD would just prescribe pain pills because the next step up (which is certainly not warranted in my current condition) would be injections or surgery. So I understand the appeal of chiropractics, which involves no drugs and no knives, as a kind of interim solution. Clearly the service fills a need, because the office was quite busy. But I can't help but feel it is just a money-making factory where the doctors suck you in just to collect payments from insurance companies. Seriously, the doctor looked just like the Acura car salesman I met on Saturday!

Friday, September 22, 2006

RIP Fiona

Whelp, Geico is going to total my car. Poor Fiona. I went to get all my personal effects and take my license plate. It was a sad sight to see her sitting out by herself, topless.

The body shop had "stripped" her to make it easier for the adjustor to ascertain all the damage. It was a pretty gnarled mess, with the bent frame

and so much crumpled metal.

The body shop guy said I'm lucky to have walked away uninjured. Although I will admit there has been a bit of lower back soreness today, complete with radiation into the lower extremities--I know enough from my stint in the orthopedic department of a disability insurance company that those symptoms are not good, but I'm getting a massage tomorrow so we'll see how I feel after that. If symptoms remain on Monday, it's back to the doctor with me.)

So apparently when an insurance company totals a car, they don't give you Blue Book value. The Geico guy said he would have to get a market survey done to determine the true value of the car. Considering I bought it used less than three months ago, and I bought it for well under Blue Book, I assumed he'd come back with a figure close to what I paid for it, perhaps even a tad higher. He called today with a figure $1200 less than what I paid! I indicated my dismay and he said he would review the survey to make sure it was done properly, and although he had a super full day of appointments, he would try to get back to me ASAP. He did not return my call by close of business today, so I assume I will not hear from him until Monday.

Which means I have the rental for the weekend, and can go around to test drive some new cars. My first instinct was to go back to Carmax since the process was relatively hassle-free, as far as car buying goes. But then I remembered that after I bought Fiona, my coworker said I should have talked to Jason, our director of sales, first, because he has car auction connections and could probably save me a ton of money. Ever the skeptic, I assumed buying through an auction would mean I'd have limited choices and would risk getting damaged goods. Not so. Jason said he has a couple buddies who own car dealerships, and they travel around the country weekly to acquire inventory. Yes, there is crap available, but Jason has bought many cars through them and can attest to their high standards. Many of the vehicles are coming out of leases or were dealership demo cars. Jason's friends only bid on the best for him, and would do so for me as well. I can specify make, model, year, mileage, and features. Of course, availability varies so I may have to wait if I'm picky, but I could end up saving about $3000 going this route. Or, I could upgrade to an even nicer car. Suddenly an Acura or a Lexus is not out of reach for me. I see myself in an Acura more than a Lexus. To me, this looks like a rich person's car:

But this is right up my alley:

I'm also considering a Nissan Maxima, because they are so nice looking. The only bummer about these nicer rides is that nine times out of ten they come with leather interiors. What is it with expensive cars and dead animal skins? I have always had cloth, not only due to cost, but also by choice. I may end up having to let go of that criterion, although I really hope not to.

. . .

Meanwhile, a new development in the construction zone of US1 in Cary. Holy streetlights, Batman! Two whole miles of lighted highway. Be still my beating heart.

. . .

Today at work we got new phone systems, which necessitated the running of cables and cords and such up in the ceiling. This is how it's done in small corporate America, folks:

(That's Jason on the right, and my boss Jace on the left.)

. . .

And lastly, a license plate I saw while sitting at a stoplight today. Aww.

Have a lovely weekend, everyone! Oh, and happy belated first day of Fall. We're supposed to be in the upper 80's this weekend. Hopefully the last hurrah of summer. Back to the 70's next week. Aaahhh, just the way I like it.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


Thanks for all your support, everyone! I am so lucky to have friends like you! One comment that particularly made me laugh because it was so clever came courtesy of my lil' bro:

Anyways, remember, Fiona was originally an OGRE!! Looks like she changed back from a pricess to an Ogre for about the next month.

Thanks for the chuckle!

The latest news is that the Geico adjuster called me this evening to let me know he would be looking at my car tomorrow and would call me with his verdict. As for my physical health, I seem to be fine. The only soreness is in my left shoulder where the seatbelt hit, but it's not even bruised, so I definitely was very fortunate.

Driving the minivan is kinda cool. It's interesting how what you drive can make you feel different. I'm the same person as always, of course, but I feel like people probably assume I'm a mom based on the type of car I'm driving. We all make assumptions based on things like that. There was an interesting 20/20 covering this topic last Friday, about how stereotyping is wired into our brain as a survival mechanism. We size people up--friend or foe--to determine how we should react to their presence. So a guy in a Porsche, probably cocky and definitely rich. A young lady in a VW bug, probably funloving and sweet. A kid practically laying down in a lowered and tricked out Civic hatchback, probably a gang banger wannabe. A guy driving an SUV, most likely a dad. A guy in a suit and driving a BMW or Mercedes, a successful businessman. And I'm sure that not all businessmen actually want to drive BMW's, but they feel like they need to live up to the image of a businessman, and businessmen just don't drive VW bugs. So people perpetuate the stereotype by participating in it, as well as assuming that others participate as well and thus are judgable based on stereotypes.

I'm sure many grad students have done dissertations on the topic of identity and cars, so my little ramblings are superficial. It was just a thought I was having this afternoon while driving home in the pouring rain. Tomorrow is supposed to be clear and 75, perfect fall weather. Yippee!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Fiona ails

I was in a car accident this morning on the way to work. No one was hurt. I was stopped in traffic and a small SUV rear-ended me while trying to pass me on the right. The impact caused me to hit the person in front of me as well, so a total of three cars were involved. There was already another set of vehicles pulled on the side of the road from a previous accident, so we just added to the mess. I was very shaken up, of course, but quickly came to just accept what had happened. I think the fact that it was not my fault allowed me to avoid replaying the incident over and over again in my head. I had seen the guy approaching in my rear-view mirror and when he hit, my first thought was, "This has to be a bad dream!" I immediately called my office to let them know I'd be in late or perhaps not at all, and my boss was very concerned and supportive. (Have I mentioned that I love where I work?) My next call was to my mom, who suggested I should call my insurance company.

The guy in front of me had called 911. An officer was on the scene relatively quickly, from the Cary Police Department. He started at the back and worked his way up. We were there for probably 45 minutes to an hour waiting for him to complete all his paperwork. Of course I killed some of the time by taking pictures. Aren't they lovely??

I also chatted with the victim in front of me. He was a pediatrician, very nice fellow. Luckily the carseat in his Jeep Cherokee was unoccupied. Eventually we went back to visit the culprit. We obtained his info, even though I'm sure it'll all be in the police report. The guy was from Virginia, based on his plates and insurance. He said he'd driven in DC-metro traffic for eight years and had never had an accident. Not like that matters to me, buster!

The doctor had very little damage to his car, just a mark on his bumper from where I hit, so he drove off after the cop released us. I had called AAA to get towed, because I wasn't sure the car was driveable. The lady told me the truck would be there by 9:58, an hour and 15 minutes away, but probably much sooner because she was marking my case priority due to it being the result of a motor vehicle accident. So you can imagine I was more than a little peeved when the tow truck that pulled up half an hour later was for the other guy! I ended up sitting there another hour waiting for mine. The police officer was so nice. He said their policy is not to wait for AAA, but rather than leave me alone he suggested that I leave my car there and he would give me a ride to where I needed to go. I opted to stay with my car, but he was very concerned that I feel safe. That felt nice.

When the tow truck finally did arrive, I had him tow me to Cary Collision, the same place I took my previous car to repair the deer damage.

The guy who hit me has Geico insurance (thank heavens he is insured!) and the auto body guy said as far as getting cars repaired goes, Geico is the best. He said it's no hassle, and they allow factory parts from the start. (As opposed to Allstate (which I have), who makes you look for used parts first, then after-market, and then only if those are unavailable are you allowed to resort to factory parts. That's kinda crummy!) I was told it probably would not be totaled, but would take at least 30 days to repair. Holy canoli!

I've already got my rental car that Geico is paying for. Enterprise put me in a minivan. Kinda big, but it's nice to be a little higher up off the road, and man is there a lot of room in there.

So I finally made it work around 11:45, only three hours late! Ha ha. When I walked in my boss asked, "What are you doing here?" in a "go home and take care of yourself" kind of way. Apparently he had assumed I would not be coming in. But I felt fine and I had a lot to do. Everyone was so caring and I got to show off my gnarly looking photos. When the president of the company came in, he also expressed concern, and urged me to go to the doctor even though I wasn't feeling any effects. So I made an appointment for this afternoon. She said I'll probably be fine, but there's always the possibility that I'll wake up tomorrow stiff as a board. She gave me some scrips for heavy-duty meds but I'm holding off on filling them, in the hopes that I won't need them. Of course now I'm like a hypochondriac, looking for any sign of pain attributable to the accident. I did have a slight headache this afternoon, my lower back twinges now and again, and my left knee is making itself known, but those are all things that could happen on any given day even without an accident. Time will tell, I guess.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

From the Vault

Weeping Willow

Taken August 3, 2006 in Virginia.

I think the weeping willow is my favorite tree. There's something about it that is wistful and lazy and dreamy and soothing. I'm torn, however, as to whether I prefer it au naturel, or trimmed nice and straight. Wow, that about sums my day up right there...the ongoing feud between order and chaos. (I did some housecleaning, in case you're wondering where THAT came from!)

Interesting quiz

Ever wonder what dialect of American English you speak? Here's a neat quiz to find out!

Your Linguistic Profile:
65% General American English
15% Dixie
10% Upper Midwestern
5% Yankee
0% Midwestern

Friday, September 15, 2006

Uneventful, but that's not bad

Three days, three states. Aside from a ton of driving (Fiona is serving me well, and earning her keep), there wasn't much of note. Tuesday I'd planned to leave work early so I could arrive in Rockingham, NC before dark, but these days I can't seem to even leave on time, let alone early! I grabbed a Sonic chicken sandwich for dinner, then regretted it at 3 am when what I swear was a mild case of food poisoning came knocking on my door. All was well by morning, thank goodness. The training went just ok, because there was no cell reception in the computer lab, so people couldn't send practice calls. We had to do one demo call using the landline phone in the room, which is always less impressive.

Next up was Spartanburg, SC, and I had managed to make a list of interesting things to do there, but I ended up arriving pretty late and couldn't partake in any of them, such as the BMW factory tour or a visit to Walnut Grove Plantation. There was an outdoor outlet mall that was probably still open, but it was rainy so I opted to pass. I ended up dining on a Zaxby's Black and Blue salad while watching a Project Runway marathon in my hotel room. (Yay that Laura finally won a challenge!! And thank goodness creepy Vincent was ousted yet again.) The trainings on the second day were better, since people could launch their own calls, and there were two smaller sessions instead of one big one. And the data lady there was a pro, which made my life so much easier.

Thursday afternoon I drove home and enjoyed sleeping in my own bed. And watching two Grey's Anatomy reruns. (Can't wait for new episodes!) This morning I arose at 5 am to get to the training in South Hill, VA on time. Turns out I overestimated how long it would take to get there by about 45 minutes. So I sat in the parking lot and watched as kids got off the buses...then back on...then back off through the rear emergency exit. I was really puzzled at first until I realized it was a drill. I was thinking, "Man, they sure do things differently in Virginia!" The training went okay, although the equipment in the lab appeared to be from 1994 and four principals had their computers just suddenly shut down right in the middle of training. We got them set up on different machines...on the other side of the ginormous room...which meant I had to S-H-O-U-T so they could hear me over the school's whizzing servers which also happened to be housed in the room. Then it was off to train a lady at a government agency...something's not right when training one person takes twice as long as training 20! But she was nice.

Even though this training trip was not as exciting as some have been in the past, it was still a very pleasant change of pace to not have to go into the office. I think it will be my last for a while, unless we get a big new customer sometime soon. We'll be focusing on phone trainings, which can get a little repetitive, but I've got plenty of other projects to keep things mixed up.

I stopped off at the grocery store before I got home to pick up ingredients to make Rachael Ray's Florentine turkey meatballs tomorrow for my parents. One of the ingredients is frozen spinach, which from what I can gather from news articles, is safe to eat. Besides, after 20 minutes in a 350 degree oven, any little buggers would be history anyway.

And just because this post needs a little photo-spice, here's a pic I took last weekend. Any guesses on what it is?

Monday, September 11, 2006


Yesterday I finally discovered the lake in Apex! After my massage I decided to just drive around exploring and I came across the lake, totally not where I thought it would be. It was a lovely day outside so even though I was not wearing walking shoes I parked and walked around a little. It has a 2 mile path surrounding it, complete with markers every quarter mile. If I ever get to switch to the 6 am shift, this is where I'll be coming in the afternoons to get a good workout. It's so beautiful, and so close! This is what I absolutely love about North Carolina. Nature just about knocks you in the head everywhere you go. I mean, So Cal has lots of nature spots but you have to look for them, and go out of your way to get to them, whereas here, they are footsteps away.

I saw some people fishing and I asked them if they catch much, and apparently there's catfish in the lake!

Another up close and personal nature event that happens quite regularly is the deer visiting my parents' house to eat corn. It used to be a mama and her baby, but now the baby is a big sister to a very Babmi-esque fawn. (And the bulge of mama's belly makes me wonder if she's already pregnant again!)

They are so cute, and so skittish. The slightest thing causes them to bolt. It makes me wonder how on earth they ever run towards cars. Peak mating season is coming quickly and I just pray that all the little creatures steer clear of Fiona.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


A long time ago I signed up to receive an email newsletter of quotations. On the website I maintained for my students, I posted one quote a week, and always needed new ideas. At some point it stopped coming, and I figured the sender just got tired of it. Then suddenly a month or two ago, it started reappearing in my inbox...and I'm pretty sure that when I did subscribe I had a different email address. Anyway, the point is, I thought to myself, "I'll probably just unsubscribe because when it comes to quotes, I've seen 'em all." I did a huge project at my last job that involved combing the internet and books for inspirational quotations. I must've read thousands. But I gave the newsletter a chance, and come to find out, the quotes are mostly ones I have not seen, and are pretty good. So I thought I'd share a few here.

(Disclaimer: Part of my quote-gathering project involved correctly attributing quotes, which is quite a problem on the internet. I have not gone to any lengths to check the attributions on the following quotes. Knowing the true author sometimes makes the quote more meaningful, but usually the words speak for themselves.)

There is only one group of people who don't have problems and they're all dead. Problems are a sign of life. So the more problems you have, the more alive you are.
-- Norman Vincent Peale

Affliction comes to us, not to make us sad but sober, not to make us sorry but wise.
-- Henry Ward Beecher

The creation of art is not the fulfillment of a need but the creation of a need. The world never needed Beethoven's Fifth Symphony until he created it. Now we could not live without it.
-- Louis I. Kahn

There is no baser folly than the infatuation that looks upon the transient as if it were everlasting.
-- Tirukkural

For one word a man is often declared to be wise, and for one word he can be judged to be foolish. We should be careful indeed what we say.
-- Confucius

A good leader is a person who takes a little more than his share of the blame and a little less than his share of the credit.
-- John C. Maxwell

Why should we worry about what others think of us? Do we have more confidence in their opinions than we do in our own?
-- Brigham Young

Study as if you were going to live forever; live as if you were going to die tomorrow.
-- Maria Mitchell

Friday, September 08, 2006

Welcome to 3.0!

Au revoir to Odyssey version 2.0!

My one-year blogiversary was on 9/5/06, and I've been wanting to update my template for a while now, so welcome to my new look! If you visited last night and commented on the first draft of it, thanks! I hope that this one looks a little more polished. I had some fun playing with Photoshop. I really should learn that program more fully. I'm sure I'm utilizing like 5% of its capabilities.

Anyway, I can't believe I've kept this blog for a year now! I've written about 186 posts, which averages to about one every other day. I have had such fun writing about my experiences, from moving to settling in and now just living my life here. I don't know how long I'll keep it up, but I think as long as I've got readers and I've got things to say (the latter being much easier to guarantee than the former), I'll probably persevere. One day I hope to publish my blog as a keepsake book, through a website such as Lulu.

It was a busy week at work, so I'm exhausted. I didn't do any traveling, but I did about 8 phone trainings and the customer support line has been ringing off the hook! Today was my six-month anniversary at my job and my boss offered to buy me Chinese for lunch, but I had trainings at 11, 12, and 1 and didn't have time to eat but for five minutes in between. Next week I'll be doing on-site trainings in NC, SC, and VA, so I'll be out of town from Tuesday afternoon through Friday night. But I will actually get to sleep at home one night due to the way the schedules and locations worked out.

Oh, a word about the weather before I go. It has been lovely the past few days. I guess September means it cools off here. The humidity hasn't been awful, and the temps have been very comfortable in the low to mid 80's. All I can say is YIPPEE! Assuming it only gets cooler from here on out, we sweltered through two months, but considering the other 10 are fine, I think it's a pretty good deal.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Throw the clock out the window...

Holy canoli, people, it's September already! We've entered the -Ber months, which means that Christmas is right around the corner and then 2007 and before you know it it'll be 2008 and the state quarters program will be over and there will be no reason to pay with cash ever again! (Deep breath.) Sorry if I get a little carried away. I know I'm not alone in feeling like time is just flying by. It seems like every year goes by faster and faster! Before I know it I'm going to turn around and my baby niece will be graduating high school!

Although months tick by with alarming speed, the days go by just as fast. Every Friday I wonder what happened to my week! And every day at work I wish I could just freeze time, catch up, and then unfreeze time. Does anyone remember the show called Out of This World, where the main character, Evie, was half human and half alien, and she had lots of superpowers? My favorite was the power to freeze time, which she accomplished by touching the tips of her index fingers together. Naturally the writers used this gimmick a lot in the middle of potential hilarity, such as paint cans tipping over from the tops of ladders, and pies flying across the room. But oh, how I wish I could just touch my fingers together for a few extra hours everyday. I could read and knit and watch movies and nap! And when that gets boring, I could learn another language and explore every nook and cranny of the planet. Then, I could write a novel, cook a gourmet meal every night, and re-teach myself calculus.

Unfortunately we only have 24 hours each day and they never seem to be enough lately. Things are hectic at work. We had to let go one of the new hires because he just wasn't working out and he was really starting to be a liability. So although my plate temporarily became a bit lighter (with the removal of the "train new employee" side dish) it got filled right back up with more projects. It's all good, because I love my job and my coworkers. But I've been staying late everyday and I know it will get old pretty quickly.

So now I've got a lovely three-day weekend, and all I can think about is how in a heartbeat it will be Monday night and it will be over. You'd think this would make me want to live each moment to its fullest and all that jazz, but really I just want to sleep in and chill around the house. I do have to get my oil changed and I'll most likely visit my parents but other than that I've got no plans, and I'm fine with that. We're supposedly in for some pretty decent weather (btw, Ernesto stripped the crepe myrtle blossoms, blew around the pine needles landscapers use as groundcover here, and deposited a fair amount of rain, but otherwise was not much of an event in my neck of the woods). Today was in the high 60's and I loved it! Can't wait for fall. Hold on a sec...wasn't I just lamenting the speedy passage of time, and suddenly I'm wishing for the future to hurry up already? Man, I make my own head spin sometimes.