Wednesday, June 27, 2012

On the Job Frontier

Hey, folks. I thought I catch you all up on the state of (un)employment in Lindsayville.

Yeah, that's right. I'm still unemployed. And you know, I enjoy sleeping in, and crafting, and cooking what I want for dinner, and spending hours (okay, not hours) gazing at his royal highness, Sir Meeko Kittybeard.

But. It's getting old.

When JJ and I moved here, I knew it was going to be tough to find a job, because despite what everyone thinks about nursing, I know from a first-hand basis that this profession is in no way recession proof, and that the nursing "shortage" is a big fat joke. I knew it would be difficult to find work. I knew this, and yet I never imagined that after 9 months of hard work, I'd still be unemployed. Don't get me wrong, I've had a few promising interviews, but I can never just seem to land it...and truthfully, I am getting very discouraged. Especially now that many of my nursing school friends have had jobs for over a year, and are moving on to bigger and better things, and I still feel sort of...stuck. Like I'm still trying to get that first big job. Heavy sigh.

Well, a couple of weeks ago, the tables turned a little bit. I get a temp job at the Mollen flu clinics starting in August. It's not going to be fantastically challenging, but hey, it's something to do during the day besides laundry. I hope that working there will help me get a "real" job...

And JJ and I started talking. Everyone keeps telling me that I need to find a hobby, etc. to occupy my time, and truthfully, I have a few. But you know, I'm not at that point in my life yet where staying at home and having a hobby are going to be enough for me. I worked stinking hard for my nursing license. I'm not done with it yet. Although having two incomes is definitely a good reason for me to want a career, the real reason for me is because I want to wake up every day and have some sort of goal besides what I'm going to make for dinner. I miss working, and thinking, and DOING. So came the subject of possibly going back to school.

Originally, we though that I wouldn't go back to school until I had worked for a little while...but now that time is getting away from me and I still can't find work, things have changed a little. I'm going to pursue getting my DNP starting in the Fall of 2013. Although the employment scene is really crappy in Boston, one good thing about this area is that it is literally bursting at the seams with universities (seriously....there are three in Lowell alone, and probably 5 or so clustered around the Harvard campus). And by then, I'll have Massachusetts residency, so I could potentially get my degree form one of the best colleges in the country.

That's right people. I'm applying to Harvard (mostly for shits and giggles). I'm also going to apply to Boston University and the University of Massachusetts. Wish me luck =D

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Cinco de MAYHEM!

So, on Cinco de Mayo last year, JJ and I sort of went our own ways. He was board gaming with some Tucson buddies, and I had to work late for vaccine clinic at the health department. After work, me and my some of my favorite (who am I kidding? They were all my favorites) public health nurses went to Guadalajara Grill for margaritas and Mexican food. YUM! I got an email from one of my buddies this weekend and it made me miss them a bunch, BUT, JJ and I did have a really awesome Cinco de Mayo weekend this year. And we got to spend it together, which is nice =)

Me and Mary Frances last year. She made these fake braids for all the nurses. I miss her!
This year, our ambitions were a bit higher than they were last year. What did we do? WE ATE BRAINNNNNNZZZZ.

Or rather, we were part of the "Zombie Horde" during Boston's Run For Your Lives, a "zombie infested 5k obstacle course." So we went, got our make-up specially done, put on some gross clothes, got red corn syrup splashed all over us, got free drinks and popcorn, and a free t-shirt. TO PRETEND TO BE ZOMBIES. How cool is that? 

JJ, after his zombie transformation. I was a little jealous of the attention they paid toward making his mouth look extra bloody. Not so jealous of the entire bucket of corn syrup they threw on him, however.
Me, after my zombie transformation. I was one of like 9,000 zombie nurses/doctors. LOL. (You can see one in the background!)

Us, acting not-so-zombie-like at our position on the course. We kind of forgot that our sunglasses made us look like blind zombies, lol.
This obstacle looked FUN! A slide into muddy water. Just beyond this was the most gigantic slip-and-slide I have ever seen. 

So, unfortunately those are really the only pictures I have. Did I mention I was covered in corn syrup and pretending to eat brains? Made it sorta hard to get to the camera. There are loads more on their Facebook page, however.

We left the "Apocalypse Party" right after our zombie shift, foregoing the giant line to get hosed down and instead doing the old washcloth-wipe-down and change in the parking lot. Then, we were on our way to phase 2 of Cinco de Mayo weekend: Cape Cod.

Some of JJ's board game friends were hosting a board game weekend at their awesome house on the Cape, so we went (still mostly covered in fake gore), and played board games until late Sunday night. I was a little nervous because I can't usually handle playing board games for more than a few hours at a time, but I got along FAMOUSLY with the lady of the house, Dawn, and her bestie, Valerie. I pretty much didn't want to leave. On the plus side, Dawn is a kitty-fanatic almost parallel to myself. So, yeah. I made friends, hooray!

We got home late, late Sunday night to a kitty who was extremely displeased with our absence. He made it clear by attempting to put his cute little tush on our faces all.night.long. Silly kitty.

How was your Cinco de Mayo?

Friday, May 4, 2012

Meeko's First Walk

These pictures are from a LOOOOOONG time ago (as evidenced by that weird white crap on the ground, you Arizonans might be pleased to know it's called snow. Just FYI. =P) But, I am really terrible at looking at and uploading pictures from our camera to our computer, so I am just now seeing these cute pictures of Meeko  on his very-first-leash-and-everything walk. Here you go:

Putting his harness and leash on him to get used to before the first walk...

He kept shaking his feet and meowing the most pitiful meow. Doesn't he know snow is AWESOME?
JJ is a lot happier than the kitty is, that's for sure. 

Meeko is slightly more pleased at being wrapped in JJ's jacket than--ick! On that weird wet shit on the ground.

So that's it. I forgot to mention that the only way we got the cat to walk down the hallway and into the elevator was by shaking a bag of treats at him the whole time. Fatty. (Don't worry, he was only outside for maybe ten minutes, and he got LOTS of treats throughout the journey)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Mouses in the Houses

So, we've had a problem the past few weeks. A mouse problem, EWWWWWW! I was literally flabbergasted when we found one on the floor the night we came home from watching the Hunger Games. After all, we do live on the fifth floor, I vacuum frequently and we don't leave food out. I never thought we'd get mice....spiders, sure. Those love to hang out on the window screens and I am a vicious spider-hunting killing machine, and I have trained my cat to be a vicious spider killing machine as well (when he notices them). I'm almost not even afraid of spiders anymore. Almost. (For a story about how freaking scary spiders are, click here.) But how the heck did this thingy get in here?

After walking in to our apartment with the dead mouse on the floor (thanks kitty boo boo face!), we originally didn't even notice it. JJ thought it was one of Meeko's fake mice, and he asked me when I bought him a realistic looking grey one (instead of the neon colored ones he has now). Um, never. I don't buy him the realistic looking grey ones because a) I don't want to freak myself out by thinking the toy mouse is real and b) I don't want to think the real mouse is actually a toy. So yeah, we cleaned that one up (after we both did some squealing and near-gagging), I made sure ALL the food was put away and out of reach, took out the garbage and cleaned up our clutter so that if there were any more, they wouldn't have easy places to hide.

Hartz Just For Cats Kitty Frenzy Cat Toy
GOOD mouse toys

Furry Mice Assorted 2 " 12 ct.
BAD, BAD, HORRIBLE mouse toys

JJ tried to calm me down so I could sleep by convincing me that mice are better than scorpions. Which put me at ease for a little while. After all, scorpions are vile, vicious creatures that abandon all right to live as soon as they come into the house, and mice are kind of cute, right? RIGHT?

See how cute I am?


It only took me a few minutes of research to become deathly afraid of the Hantavirus they carry in their poop, as well as the mouse plague of 1993 in Australia to convince me that these little suckers were out to breed and poop enough to take over my home and kill me. Fast forward one week of exterminators, me constantly checking for mouse droppings, obsessively cleaning up food particles, crawling around on my hands and knees blocking mouse holes with steel wool, and trying to utilize cat-friendly ways of getting rid of mice (mint plants?), and I'm finally starting to have some peace of mind. Until I'm sitting on my couch one morning and this little sucker comes crawling out without a care in the world.

And yes, I did the whole scream and pick up my feet thing like they do in the movies, absolutely terrified of this foul beast and thinking I am going to be stuck on my couch island forever. This is when I remember I have a cat, who has proven himself to be a mouser! YES!

Well, I ran and got the cat. He didn't appear interested. He curled up at my feet and took a nap. I moved some furniture. I finally got the mouse cornered behind the bookcase, and still the kitty doesn't care. I do the first thing that comes to mind: I squirt the thing with a squirt bottle until it runs into Meeko, who then proceeds to do his job by catching it.


Except, after ten minutes of playing catch-and-release with the little dude, Kittybeard got bored and let him go unharmed, so it ran back under the couch a smarter mouse. Great, Meeko. Most excellent. Dumb cat.

And I forgot to mention that while this whole thing is happening, I walk into the kitchen to find ANOTHER mouse just waiting calmly as if I'm going to feed it. It runs under the fridge as soon as it sees me.

Okay folks. I'm having visions of these guys running across my face in the middle of the night. I know it's an irrational fear, but I don't care. THIS MEANS WAR.

I was originally not going to get mouse traps, as many of them are cruel (ie, the glue traps), and many of them would only happen to catch a cat instead of a mouse. But after seeing two mice in less than an hour, and seeing that my cat clearly caught the last mouse because it must have been blind/retarded/and or crippled already, I had to make a decision. I bought some covered mouse traps and baited them with gobs of peanut butter, putting them behind the couch, by the fridge, the bookcases, and the stove. And then, I waited.

And then, this morning I check the traps.

Me: JJ! JJ! We caught a mouse!

JJ: So, it's still alive? We should set it free?

Me: No.....



Heavy sigh. I think maybe he thought we were going to keep it as a pet.


Edit: I just watched the Rescuers Down Under and now I'm starting to feel a little remorse.

Monday, March 19, 2012

What's in YOUR bag?

Okay, okay. Maybe it was our recent middle-of-the-night fright, maybe it's all these scary TV shows I'm addicted to (The Walking Dead, The River). Maybe it's guilt that I am, after all, a public health nurse and should really be the first person to have this sort of thing on hand. But I have recently started giving a LOT of thought into what the heck JJ and I would do in case of a real emergency. We want to start our own bug out bags. This is basically a "72 hour bag" that you can grab and go in case of fire, earthquake, hurricane, and any other disasters where you may have to depend on only yourself for three days until you are rescued or get to a safe location. Although I am super interested in what kind of provisions we'd need in case of the zombie apocalypse, that kind of thing requires a lot more survival skills and emergency planning than we've got right now, as well as maybe a military bunker and someone like Rambo on our survival team. So right now, I'm focusing on the bags. I'd encourage you all to do the same. I've been doing a lot of research, and below is a comprehensive list of things we'd ideally like to keep in our bags. Look it over! Make your own!

The Bag
You can go all-out and pick a gigantic hiking backpack. You can use one of your old Jansports from college. It doesn't matter as long as you can fit the necessities in there and carry it pretty comfortably. You might want to consider water-proofing it in some fashion or another.

This is the most important thing in your bag. Ideally, each adult needs one gallon of water per day. That's three gallons a person....can you carry that much, plus food, clothes, tools, etc.? Probably not. You are going to want to carry some, like this emergency drinking water from Amazon. Other than that, you will need to get it as you go. You need means to boil it, purify it with iodine tablets, or filter it with something like this in conjunction with coffee filters. Make sure to bring a variety of containers (which you fill before you leave) as well.
Platypus Platy PlusBottle - In Your Choice of Styles
These 1-liter bottles are nice because they take
virtually no space when empty.
Klean Kanteen Wide Mouth Insulated Water Bottle with Loop Cap
It's a good idea to have a stainless steel canteen as well, for the purpose of boiling water.

Unless you are a superb hunter or fisherman, you are going to want to bring enough food to last you three days. Canned items like veggies or Hormel chili are cheap, but they are heavy. Or you could go the freeze-dried option, the meals-ready-to-eat (MRE) option, or the emergency rations (ER) option. Make sure you bring along some multi-vitamins to supplement whatever option you pick, as well as some sort of utensil for eating.
Mountain House 72-Hour Emergency Meal Kit
This freeze-dried option by Mountain House
 is pretty awesome. Keep in mind that a kit like this
will often need boiling water, but they are pretty
tasty and cheaper than MREs.

MRE. These require heat (included). However,
they are pretty expensive unless you can get them
from someone who is actually in the military. 

Emergency rations. These are the cheapest, most lightweight, compact, and disgusting option. One bar can have 2400-3200 calories...if you pick this, bring something like trail mix or dried fruit so you don't dread mealtime.

You always need multiple ways to start a fire. Stormproof matches are a good place to start. You'll also want a lighter of some kind--they sell fancy ones, but a BIC or a Zippo will do. A magnesium fire starter and a sparkie fire starter are also good ideas. Don't forget kindling--cotton balls and petroleum jelly work well, and can also be used for first aid.

Navigation, Communication and Signalling
Every member in your family should have a good, loud whistle like this. Period. End of story. You can keep it on your keychain--so no excuses. A signal mirror is an excellent idea as well--you may need to get the attention of planes or helicopters for rescue.

As for navigation, a GPS (like on a cell phone or Garmin) may work, but to be safe, you should keep manual methods as well. Keep a map of your area and laminate it to keep it water-proof. Invest in a compass and learn how to use these things as well.
Etón Microlink Self-Powered AM/FM/NOAA Weather Radio with Flashlight, Solar Power and Cell Phone Charger
A compact AM/FM radio is a good idea,
to keep track of updates on the situation.
This one is by Eton is pretty fancy, with solar power,
 wind-up crank, cell phone charger, and flashlight.
Motorola Motorola MH230R 22 Channel 23 Mile Two-Way Radios
Walkie-talkies are also a good case you get separated, to find people in surrounding area, etc.

Every region is going to have different requirements, but make sure you pack comfortable shoes and moisture-wicking socks. In cold weather, thermals are a good idea as well. Not going to go into much detail here because everyone is different, but I am going to make two suggestions:
Shemagh or Keffiyeh
A shemagh is an arab-style scarf that is much larger and more durable than a bandana. They have TONS of uses, including sun and dust protection when wrapped around the face, towel, pot holder, turniquet, makeshift bag, pillow...etc.
 Work gloves. More useful than regular gloves, and still keep your hands toasty if you need them too.

First Aid
Being a nurse, I am extremely discriminating about first aid kits. They always seem to have a thousand bandaids and nothing of real value. This one from First Aid Only is a good starting point. I'd pack some of my own stuff in it, including: burn cream, some more gloves, antibiotic ointment, a turniquet, ibuprofen, Immodium, Benadryl, some moleskin, Tylenol, cellox hemostatic granules, compression dressing, hand sanitizer, Pepto-Bismol tablets, and antibiotics.

Wind 'N Go Waterproof Flashlight (Yellow/Black)
Good, bright flashlights are a must. We like this one because of the rechargeable wind-up mechanic and the fact it's weatherproof.  Lightsticks and road flares are good, non-battery options and you should use one of those as a back-up light method as well.
A multi-tool can help you out in a variety of ways.  Leatherman is a good brand.
550lb. Type III Paracord 100' Black
550 paracord is one of those things that does a million things, from creating shelter, tying things up,  making a turniquet, making a fishing line, etc. It's cheap. Get some.
Victorinox Swiss Army Rescue Tool
Swiss Army knife...a variety of uses that will accompany  your multi-tool. 
Survival Sewing and Repair Kit
I know, a sewing kit may seem like the last thing you need. This one has a variety of needles (which you may need to suture), thread, wire, as well as duct tape. If you don't buy a sewing kit, I'd include these things in your bag anyway.
Gerber 31-000751 Bear Grylls Survival Series Ultimate Knife, Serrated Edge
Yes, a survival knife. The little Swiss Army one is helpful, but not for everything. This one by Gerber has it's own sharpener as well as a firestarter on it, and in real bad situations, can also be used for self-defense.
Other tools you may consider (depending on space and your needs) are: a small hatchet, a folding shovel, a pocket size fishing kit, bungee cords, a collapsible camp bucket, and survival snares. Great cheap tools also include heavy duty garbage bags and ziplock baggies...useful for a lot of things.

Protection and Shelter
I mean protection from the elements here, people. You'll probably want some sunblock (I like Bullfrog because I know a little goes a long way) and bug spray (to help prevent complications like malaria and lyme disease). Protect your lungs with an N-95 respirator. Ponchos, emergency shelter, and thermal mylar blankets are all great ideas. You can also get a sleeping bag, bivvy, or real two-person tent, but that's when things start to get really heavy. JJ and I are leaning towards cold-weather gear because we live on the East Coast, but Arizona folks may want to lean towards desert protection.
Space All Weather Blanket
I like this blanket from Space-All because it's thermal, but can function as a tarp or a little tent in a pinch.

Other Helpfuls
Hygiene kit. Those travel-size hotel freebies work great. You may also want to include Kleenex packets or toilet paper (it's more compact if you unroll it and fold it up). Don't forget a toothbrush and deodorant!
Cash. You're not going to want to bring a TON of cash, but if you are in a survival situation, you may need some.
Important documents. You may want to copy them, or scan them onto a flashdrive. Things to include: driver's licenses, passports, social security cards, health insurance information, immunization records, firearm carrying license, contact information for people you know, important family pictures (may be used to help identify and reunite as well), work licenses (ie, RN license), pertinent financial documents, and health information for your pets (ie, rabies vaccination).
Items for Pets. We keep Meeko's carrier next to the bed in case anything happens, so we won't have to search for it. Keep an extra leash and flea collar in your bag, as well as food/treats for your pet and something for them to eat/drink out of.
We like this container from Traveltainer because it includes the eating and drinking cups.
Survival Handbook. Your gear is no good unless you know how to use it. I'd suggest reading some of this stuff before the emergency...I know I'm definitely planning on flipping through a couple.
Firearm. Not for everyone, but unfortunately for humanity, when shit hits the fan, there are some people out there who revert to stealing and hurting people to help themselves. Something to consider.

Other Ways to Prepare
Keep your bag in a close location, so you can grab it at a moment's notice. Keep up-to-date on your Hepatitis A and Tetanus, Diptheria, Pertussis vaccinations. Have a plan. Talk about the plan. Act out the plan. Teach all children and pets about the plan. Meeko knows his carrier is a safe space. Anytime we pick it up and put it in the living room, he runs right in....that definitely was helpful on Friday night.

Anyway, I know that was a LOOONG post, but I think it's important. I don't claim to be any sort of survival expert, but I think everyone should work on a kit like this...even if all you can swing right now is an old backpack, some granola bars, some water bottles, clean socks and underwear, and copies of your documents, DO IT. You'll still be way more prepared than most people, and you can always upgrade as you go.

What do you have in your survival kit? 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

We were almost ASLEEP!

That night before Thanksgiving my senior year of high school may have been the scariest night of my life. There is an image etched permanently into my mind from then; an image I have shared with every fellow fake-fire-alarm evacuator (and more importantly, the sit-in-the-apartment-and-plug-my-ears while-that-alarm-drills-into-my-skull-ers). I cannot adequately describe the feelings associated with flinging opening your shutters at 1 am and realizing that the house ACROSS THE STREET is not just on fire, people. Not just on fire. ABLAZE. Spewing it's flame-tongues across the street you walk every day to the school bus, to your house. Your room. Your home. Running down the hall to where your parents are fast asleep, barely able to get out the words "The house is on fire" (even though that wasn't precisely true), pulling on pants, shoes, jackets, herding our two puppies and RUNNING out the back door. My father still in his underwear hosing down our roof. The telephone ringing, ringing, ringing. I have these flashes of memories in my head, but no words could do them justice.

Unfortunately folks, I know what that's like.

That night is etched into my head so completely that when I was lying awake this evening in bed, staring at shadows on our wall, the first thought about that soft orange glow, the sounds of lumber crashing, wasn't, "Stupid noisy truck. Dim your headlights!" I was on my feet, yelling at JJ to wake the hell up before I even looked out the window because I KNEW in my BONES what the hell that was. A quick peek from the window of our fifth-story apartment only confirmed this--flames spewing out from the window across the alley from where we live, licking the sides of our building. I could feel the warmth from that blaze from the window.

I'd like to think that I'm an expert in this whole the-fire-is-real-so-lets-evacuate-quickly thing, but I'm totally not. JJ was calm and cool while I was running around with one slipper on yelling about how I wasn't going to leave the cat behind. It was a flurry of motion and movement, but all in all, I think we are both glad I didn't clean too much today, as shoes, jackets, and pants were all readily available on the floor around the bed. Kitty and purse in hand, we darted out the door (all the while I was pounding on our neighbor's doors to wake them up) and ran down the hall to the stairs and out the building. We sat in the parking lot for two hours, unable to really see the progress of the flames and wondering how far that fire got.

We were lucky. Right now, we are sitting comfortably on our couch, soothing Meeko (the fire alarms are still going off and he's a bit freaked out). I know it's always easy to think that this could never happen to you, but please, people. I beg you. You may not be so lucky. ALWAYS evacuate, even if you live in an apartment or dorm building that is notorious for fire alarms for things like burnt pop corn in the basement. Have a plan. Keep important things (animal leash/carrier, passports, wallet, shoes etc.) someplace you won't have to look for them in case of a fire.

This is the creepy old building the fire was in. As you can see, it's VERY  close to us. The fire was probably arson. After all, can you think of a better place for general crime and skullduggery than a creepy abandoned old building like this one?

For obvious reasons, no I don't have a picture of the blaze. Right now the fire ladder is just outside our window, smoke billowing out, and you can see the flashlights of those hardworking firemen on all the floors of that building.  

A video by someone in Lowell. Our apartment is directly across from that covered catwalk.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

About the absence...

I have decided I am quite possibly the WORST blogger of all time. Why? I think of at least three new blog posts a week, but never get around to posting them. Then, when I have time, I start to think about ALL THE STINKING POSTS I will have to catch up on to get "back on track." So I get lazy about it all over again. And again and again, and well you get it.

So, to give you all a flying whiz-by bang-up debriefing on what we have been up to the past month, I should probably start now. Sorry about the lack of pictures...the computers in our house are all semi-functional right now, and won't recognize the camera. Dang.

As many of you know, we spent Christmas alone together here in Lowell. It was very low-key, but nice because it was our first Christmas together. I made Kringla, a holiday tradition in my family, as well as this cute Christmas party mix, just for funzies. We bought a fake tree on sale at Target, and decided it was probably for the best, because we had to put it away every night, otherwise Meeko would climb to the top, knocking the tree over and breaking many of our cheapy ornaments on the way. We had exactly one kind of wrapping paper, two "real" ornaments, and no stockings. In lieu of a Christmas ham, we ate steak. But we had each other, and so it was perfect and awesome and wonderful. Hopefully, next year we'll be with family in Arizona.

JJ had a week off after Christmas, and we had the genius idea to go to NYC after Christmas but before New Year's, but alas, we couldn't find a cheap hotel to stay in. So we spent our week wandering around Lowell, trying new restaurants, and playing board games together. New Yea'rs Eve rolled around and we did the stay-at-home bit again, and I made my mom's famous turkey taquitos (and jello shots!). We had a Harry Potter marathon. We drank tea and coffee every night and enjoyed each other's company.

So no...our holiday season wasn't crazy or exciting or full of people, but it was nice just the same. We started making time to have hot drinks together every night, and I think it's a part of every day that I look forward to the most.