Friday, March 7, 2014

Frostbite and Pineapple: The Forgotten Post

Wow, I feel proud that I write enough I forgot about a blog post. I wrote this about three weeks ago and forgot to publish it. Oops, no wonder it seemed like so long without a post. Anyway, here it is. Apologies for the grumpy tone, I was cold.

I must say, I really lack sympathy for everyone complaining about how cold it is in there respective states.  Let me explain how cold it is here.  I have to take a 45 second walk outside to get to the bathrooms. In order to go there I wear the following layers, normal clothing (2 shirts, sweatshirt, jeans, very warm socks), coveralls and heavily insulated boots with spikes so I don't fall over on my treacherous journey. An enormous parka, gloves, and a hat that goes over my ears and has a pull down flap for a face layer. The only skin exposed is a strip of my cheeks and my nose. If I cover my nose, my glasses immediately fog up and I am blinded. In my 45 second walk, my nose gets so cold that my eyes involuntarily start to tear up. It feels like someone punched me in the face by the time I get inside the bathroom building. It may be cold elsewhere in the country, but when you start to feel sorry for yourself, just remember I risk frostbite every time I have to pee.

Even worse than bathroom trips is having to count inventory of our product stored outside. I wear gloves, but they have to be thin enough for me to write things down so my fingers go entirely, 100% numb in minutes. My method for surviving this involves breaks every few minutes in other peoples offices and the warm up shack that we use to defrost our liquid products. And I get a bit jumpy.  Not only am I concerned about polar bears, but there is a rumor about some giant blue fox creature. I saw it briefly through the foggy window of a bus from far away, but it looked too large to be a fox to me. Travis suggested I would be safe as long as I "marked my territory" around my mud shack. No thanks Travis. I sure do appreciate how awfully helpful he is sometimes though. But the wildlife is why anything that moves in the wind makes me jump and makes my heart race. Even when my glasses aren't fogged, the steam that comes off our rig stays low to the ground in a foggy cloud. Often the wind blows clouds of fog around you while you are walking outside. My worst fear is walking out of a white out cloud and being face to face with a bear. Or a mysterious northern chupacabra or whatever the heck that blurry snow creature might be. Not to mention I'm always making sure I pay close attention to where all the loaders, big trucks, and pick ups are. I don't want to be featured on an episode of Ice Road Truckers because one of them ran me over.

My office stays surprisingly comfortable. The exception being anywhere close to the floor. Especially under the desk. I have taken to sitting with a space heater four inches in front of my legs. This is the only way to keep my feet from feeling like I have been outside playing in the snow all day. On especially cold days, I've had to take off my boots and warm my feet and then my boots in front of one of the heaters. This is when I've just been inside, mind you. It's chilly all the way up here. My office is apparently gaining a reputation for being a warm spot on the rig. Mainly because I blast all three heaters on full heat all the time. I think some people come to visit just for that reason.

I've noticed a few random oddities about the food up here. Everything seems to be pineapple flavored. Pineapple juice is everywhere even when the few other flavors run out. Which just seemed to be an odd choice. There's apple, grape, and orange too, but it much smaller quantities. Pineapple juice is the only one I've never failed to find. The only yogurt I could find was pineapple as well. My theory is the management is attempting to fool us into thinking the weather is tropical, as there appears to be a similar abundance of Hawaiian BBQ chips.

But that's all the random bits of forgotten blog post I have for today. Here's to hoping I don't have a frostbitten nose for wedding photos!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

8 Bits In A Byte, 8 Kibbles In A Bit: A Love Story

Once upon a time there was a young college girl, an awkward (but pretty awesome if she does say so herself) and innocent engineering student. Let's call her Miriam. After toiling endlessly at her studies, she made the fateful decision to attend a house party and learn about the wonders of alcohol. After a few Tampico and Tequilas (she was not so much of a classy drinker in these early days), she decided popcorn was in order. Upon opening a pantry, she was shocked to find a boy with curly hair, sitting at the bottom of the pantry eating goldfish in the dark. Instantly the girl liked this boy, after all, Harry Potter came from a cupboard too. He also took a liking to the girl who rescued him from the pantry. Throughout the course of the evening, numbers were exchanged and plans lunch plans were made.  Miriam went home that night feeling rather fuzzy minded with vague memories of meeting lot of Travises (it should be noted there are in fact two in this story, which is very confusing but that can't be helped. The Travi are everywhere. However, the main character in this case will be normal Travis and the other Travis will be Other Travis)

The next morning, Miriam woke up feeling under the weather. With  a solemn vow never to drink Tampico again, she retired to the floor of the bathroom for the remainder of the morning. Young Travis, having had better judgement, had woken up feeling perfectly fine and ready for adventure. Across town he was meeting friends at a steakhouse when he noticed his new friend, Miriam, was mysteriously missing. Suspecting foul play he sent her a text, "Hey! Good morning! :-) :-) Margaritas sound good tonight???"  The narrator would like to say that Miriam sent a dignified reply back along the lines of  "Good morning to you too! I think I'll skip those today, haha."  Alas, Miriam chose to send something more along the lines of "F*CK YOU." Star sign omitted, letter U included. Thus began their love story. 

At first Miriam and Travis were just awkward friends. Awkward because somehow one or the other always said something odd or inappropriate accidentally in each other's presence or found themselves in a strange situation. One meeting at Travis's house illustrates this point best. Upon walking up to the front door there heard a voice calling from the parking lot.
A head wearing a cowboy hat peered out from behind a truck. "Travis! Hey Travis, can you let me in the house, I'm locked out!" came the plea from the friend who shall remain nameless.
"Sure, why are you standing over there?"
This question was soon answered when the questioner moved out from behind the truck, clad only in animal print boxers. "I don't have pants."
"Why not? Are you drunk?" Travis asked curiously.
"No, I just lost a bet. And my pants," was the matter of fact reply. "Want to go get some Taco Bell after I put on some pants?" And this was how the tradition of Taco Bell runs with said unnamed friend began.

Throughout the last couple years of school, Miriam and Travis's relationship evolved. They went from being mere acquaintances to bar hopping buddies, often sharing a beer or two on Wednesday nights because it was much quieter and calmer than Friday nights. Miriam even took on the role of wingman. Or more accurately, attempted and failed miserably. But they had a few great adventures that strengthened their bond. One evening at the Buffalo Rose Bar, a cougar took a liking to Travis. The cougar silently stalked her prey until the moment Miriam left for the bathroom. Miriam couldn't have been gone for more than two minutes. When Miriam returned, Travis's shirt was mostly unbuttoned and he hissed angrily, "Why did you leave me here alone?? She came over and tried to rip my shirt off!" While Miriam found this endlessly entertaining, she still made a better effort to protect Travis. Once very rudely shoving the woman away to stand next to Travis and ward away the offers of Jager bombs, which Travis wanted no part of. 

While Miriam was being Travis's knight in shining armor, he was busy being a villain Once while studying for the engineering exam to end all engineering exams (the fundamentals of engineering test, the FE) Miriam turned to Travis for his expertise in computers. 
"Travis, how many bits are in a byte?"  asked Miriam.
"Well that's easy, there are 8. The more important question is, how many kibbles are in each bit?"  He replied. 
This answer sent Miriam into a mild panic. "I've never heard of kibbles in bits! I must have missed a whole section of information, I'll never pass now! At least tell me how many kibbles are in each bit, so I know a few basics."
"There are 8 kibbles in each bit," said Travis, ever so helpfully. 
Lo and behold, there was no question about kibbles and bits on the FE, if only there was, Miriam would have received extra credit. 

Yet another example of Travis's trickery was Engineering Economics. Now, engineering econ was a class that Miriam had naively decided to take at 7:30 in the morning on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  So sometimes this led to a short attention span and the playing of ZombieFarm on a hidden phone. Luckily Miriam had a companion in her misery, Other Travis. Now once when Miriam was studying with Other Travis, Travis came to visit. Other Travis asked Travis, "Have you done your engineering econ homework yet?" Travis seamlessly picked up on the joke and replied, "No, I don't think I'm going to do it." Miriam was appalled and began pestering Travis to do his homework, and for that matter, attend class more often as she never saw him there. "No, I don't think I'm going to go," was always Travis's reply. This went on for weeks. Neither Travis let slip the joke until much later. Travis never went to engineering econ because he was never in the class. 

Now when Miriam and Travis's friendship began to evolve into something more, they faced the introductions to parents stage of the relationship. Miriam took Travis home first, as her family lived close by. Travis noticed her father always seemed to get headaches when he'd visit. He wasn't sure whether to take this personally as Miriam's father is prone to migraines. Travis claims that as time went on, Miriam's father stopped having headaches every time Travis came to visit, a fact that greatly amuses Travis. Travis feels he probably won some points when he cooked Thanksgiving dinner the second time they all met when Miriam went a little nutty and insisted on cleaning the entire kitchen and forcing her parents into this task with her.

Now while Miriam introduced Travis to her family quickly to make sure he was up to the challenge, he seemed to fear his family might scare her off. Countless times Travis would talk to his mother on the phone and say he was just "watching movies with a friend." Countless times he called his father for car advice as he "helped a friend whose car had broken down." Once even letting something like "Babe, go grab me the manual from the glovebox," slip out while still on the phone. Yet Travis was convinced that his family knew nothing of his love life. He justified this with the explanation that they had never specifically asked if he was dating Miriam. But in the end, no one was fooled except Travis who still thinks his mother has no idea that he like Miriam.  

As the story goes, Miriam and Travis have since run away together to the far north. Legend says they will return south one day and there will be great rejoicing throughout the land. Though Miriam and Travis will never again be just awkward bar hopping buddies, he will always be there to remind her of the time she had to go to class with a bar stamp on her face. Likewise, she will always be there to remind him of the time he melted all their spatulas into their morning eggs. True love can be found in the oddest of places in the oddest of people. And they lived happily ever after.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Reflections on Being a Quarter of a Century Old

It seems like so much has happened in a year.  It flew by very quickly but also seemed extraordinarily long. So it feels like my life was measured in dog years this year. I swear it has been five years all packed into one. For me this past year was really March to March, not January to January as it usually is, but I suppose this is fitting as I am a March baby. A year ago I found out I got this job, received the news that my mom had breast cancer, and was proposed to all within the same week. Now I have been engaged for a year with a wedding in less than three weeks, I've been working at my job long enough to have a white hard hat (not sure I have earned one but I resourcefully obtained one either way), and my mom has proved that a sense of humor is better than a pair of boobs anyway. So here's a little review and reflection of the past year of my life. Be prepared, it is a long post and I put the funny stuff at the end.

March went like this.
Got an interview at a daycare center in Fairbanks. Not five minutes later, got a call about an interview at an oil refinery. Then got the job at the daycare center in Fairbanks. Seconds after I hung up the phone, got a call about an interview for the mud engineering job. Decided the universe was sending me a message not to work at the daycare center and so I turned down the first job lead I'd had in three months. That was a difficult thing to do. Luckily, I got the mud engineering job very quickly after the initial contact. Adding to the job search stress, I was convinced my mother was hiding something from me. I had no real evidence or reason to be suspicious but I just knew. Travis and I went on vacation to see the Iditarod (the dog sled race, the last great race on earth if you don't know) the weekend I got the job. As a child I used to build mini dogsleds out of yarn, dollhouse shingles, and popsicle sticks and then have my toy dalmations pull them; so the Iditarod was kind of a big deal for me. The day before we went to see the start of the race, my mom called and told me that the doctors had found a tumor; she had breast cancer. Needless to say, it put a damper on our vacation. Travis told me later that it was at this point he nearly backed out of proposing that weekend. He waited until the next day right before we were leaving to head home after we saw the ceremonial start and watched many of the mushers start their race. But in the end he proposed next to Mitch Seavey's truck and managed to catch the whole thing in a series of pictures. And the engagement story had the perfect finishing touch when Mitch Seavey won the race, ten days later, on my birthday. Wedding planning gave us all something to think about and talk about besides breast cancer. And that's how March passed in a blur of stress, conflicting emotions, breast cancer research, wedding planning, and travel plans.

April went like....
Honestly I don't even remember April. I think April and May all bled together.

May, the month of travel.
There was a lot of travel to Colorado in May. I visited my mom after her mastectomy surgery and also spent time in Colorado and Wyoming for work training.  There were also freak "blizzards" in Colorado that made travel even more of a pain and stressed me out to no end.

June was all about transitions
I got a few brief weeks of "summer" in Alaska finally. Though this was just a brief week or two of mild weather that required only a sweatshirt. And there was still snow on the ground when I left for Houston for mud school where I spent the remainder of the month.

July was Houston
This was the month of hellishly hot Houston weather that shot up to 115 degrees. And it was a month of living in a hotel, away from Travis and my family, the first time I'd really been off on my own. I did have plenty of fun, regressing into a college schedule and staying up too late and having lots of evening drinks with friends but I also did just fine at real life and real jobs. This was the month I went to a rodeo, encountered a cockroach, decided to jump out of a plane, and ate so much sushi that I thought I would die from a stomach explosion.

August was when I ran away to Alaska...again.
I finished up mud school and moved back to Alaska having again accumulated a ton of crap to move in too few suitcases. I got a brief couple of weeks of Alaskan summer again. But I couldn't stay in one state, that would be too easy. I also made a trip to Michigan with Travis and met all the family. This was the month I finally went out to the rigs for the first time and saw a polar bear.

September was another April.
I don't think we went anywhere in September which can't possibly be right.

October was Washington.
This was when we took our home finding visit when I started to panic about how hectic moving would be and how much we still had left to plan for the wedding. I swear I was just constantly panicked in October.

November was hockey.
November was good, we had lots of hockey dates, movie dates, and dinner dates in November. November I recall as being a good month with extra time off. Which reminds me, a post soon to come of the last few Fairbanks adventures I forgot to mention.

December/January was when time sped up.
These two month were when time warped. This could not have possibly been two separate months, it was only one. We moved, celebrated all the holidays and Travis's birthday, spent ages both packing and unpacking, bought loads of furniture, and realized the wedding was almost here and frantically planned and spent money on wedding this and wedding that. My parents also came to visit us and made us feel weird about being adults and hosting parents in our space. But it was wonderful to see my mom and hear her jokes about how she didn't feel like bringing her new fake boobs through airport security.

February was wedding planning, puppies, and getting a new rig.
Weddding, wedding, wedding! Oh and then lets throw in some extra chaos and look for a puppy. Honestly it felt like deciding to adopt a child or have a baby.Where you think it will take much longer than it does and you are unprepared. I was prepared to have to wait until fall or summer before we'd have a puppy and then we had one within a couple weeks. We planned on a giant breed dog and that is indeed what we are getting. Not just a giant breed but the heaviest dog breed around. This puppy will weigh nearly half of what I currently weigh by the time we get to pick him up at 16 weeks old. Just process that for a second. And then on top of that was getting out on my own at at whole new rig.

March is a new beginning that is just beginning. I'll be 25, married, and raising 2 dogs and a husband. I'll be a Howard as well as a Gonzalez. We keep saying things will settle down for us but I'm thinking we will just see how the year plays out.

Well that's the year in review, probably with lots of big events forgotten but whatever, I probably already blogged about them. After a full quarter century of life and the past year's experience, I have learned a few things.

Stereotypes are made to be broken. You can bring a purse to an oil rig. Your nail polish doesn't have to match your coveralls. Conversely, you can swear like a rig hand and still be a lady.

 Everyone is a weirdo but people like you anyway. I really like cryptozoology. Roxi really likes feet (though does anyone else have a dog with an extreme foot fetish or is it just ours?). Yet Travis really likes both of us and our quirks.

Never say never because that's just asking for trouble and tempting fate.

Quality over quantity should be the general rule for furniture, friends, and drinks.

Read Harry Potter, skip Twilight.

Speaking of Harry Potter, the villains are never pure evil and the heroes are never perfect. Dumbledore and Snape are proof of this.

"Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light." Always.

Ok I promise, that was the last Harry Potter reference.

Good books are better than good movies. But it's also ok to put down an awful book and turn on a movie.

Just because you haven't known someone very long doesn't mean they can't be one of your best friends.

The older you get, the younger high school students get. You become officially old when you look at a high school senior and realize there are still a child to you. This is also when you realize that teenagers do stupid crap. I don't even know what I was thinking for those ten years of my life. However, remember that just because someone is a teenager that doesn't mean they don't know anything.

Always tell the people you love that you love them at the end of conversations. Just in case you get that scary phone call.

You might get away with breaking a few laws. Except Murphy's law. Murphy's law is more strict than any of the laws of thermodynamics.

Family isn't always related by blood, or even marriage.

Sometimes the two year old you're babysitting will wipe his nose on someones sweater or your dog will wipe her poop on someone's lap. The people you want to keep in your life are the one's who will just sigh, wipe the bodily fluids off their clothes, then have a good laugh about it.

Drink tequila responsibly. You can sometimes get away with drinking wine or even vodka irresponsibly. But tequila is serious business.

Change is the most constant constant. This means you'll have acquaintances who morph into the best friends that get to make toasts at your wedding. This also means that whatever you are stressing about will eventually sort itself out and then something else stressful will take their place.

Nothing good happens after 2 am.

Your mother was actually right a lot. (But not always!!!)

Accept yourself, and really love yourself. And don't forget about accepting and loving other people too. But yourself first.

How I Met Your Mother has some great life lessons. How I Met Your Mother words of wisdom.

Do something crazy every once in a while.

Marry your best friend.

Last but not least, it's perfectly acceptable to only have 24 life lessons when you are 25.