Thursday, December 29, 2011

5 years

We celebrated our 5-year anniversary last week and feel like we've reached a true milestone in our marriage. 5 years feels...legit. Solid. Lasting. In fact, to date, we've been married 25.47 Kardashians. In celebration of our accomplishment, we're each writing a little something about the other. 

Why Camber thinks Isaac is awesome (in no particular order)
By Camber Hess

1) He is one of the few people I know that first recognizes people by their voice instead of their face. 

2) He never loses his temper. Never. And he has never, ever raised his voice at me. He is, however, a sharp-shooter with a rubber band (I learned this yesterday. Wish I'd known that before we got married). Ouch.

3) He is, it turns out, super smart. He has a perfect GPA in graduate school so far and yet has mostly maintained his personal policy not to study excessively. 

4) He plays the piano and guitar, has an angelic singing voice, and can memorize the lyrics to a song after listening to it just a few times. 

5) He is one of the easiest people in the world to cook for. His favorite food? Spaghetti. Really. His eyes light up with pure joy when I tell him spaghetti is for dinner. He will also eat leftovers, whole wheat pasta, and canned green beans. How did I get so lucky?

6) He loves to talk. Loves it. (See my blog post about this here). If there is anything on his mind he will sit you down and tell you all about it. It makes him very easy to come to know and communication has never been even the slightest problem in our marriage. And I never find him boring. 

7) Along with #6, if there is a secret he has to keep (like a present he got me for Christmas) it kills him not to tell me. So he tells my mom in the meantime. 

8) He has great athletic prowess. He can run fast, jump high, throw a frisbee with incredible control, and beat Camber at arm-wrestling even when she's been working out for months. Grrr.

9) He loves good books, and that includes the Harry Potter series, which we have read out loud to each other. Twice. Also he loves Jane Austen. We have watched the 6-hour Pride & Prejudice together at least 3 times. 

10) He can entertain himself for hours with his wedding ring. In mid-sentence I have found him flicking it in the air, spinning it on a table, trying it on different fingers, or pretending it's a monocle, and at restaurants he makes obstacle courses out of salt shakers to roll it through. Many a stimulating conversation has been put on hold by "Oh! Dang it!" Followed by Isaac crawling under the table or searching between couch cushions. It's adorable. 

I'll keep him around, I think. At least for 5 more years.


10 Reasons Camber Deserves to Rule the World*
* Benevolently, of course
By Isaac Hess

To Whom it May Concern:

Since the financial crisis, I understand that your committee has been tasked to find an authoritarian leader to save us from ourselves. After being married now (blissfully) for 5 years, I would like to respectfully submit the name of my wife, Camber Hess, for your consideration regarding the post of benevolent dictator.

10. She will feed us all.

And I'm not talking about any of this food ration garbage, where each person gets just the necessary calories for survival. I'm talking about delicious food: Indian curry, amazing pastas, casseroles, breads—oh, don't even get me started on the amazing breads!

But most importantly, each slice will be baked with Camber's love. You want to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Give them a fresh slice of Camber's home-made wheat bread, and they will not only stop fighting—they'll start sharing jam.

9. She gives wonderful back rubs.

This may appear, on its surface, a skill Camber will rarely apply as dictator. You think this for two reasons: (1) you have not thought of the many possibilities; (2) you've never entered heaven through Camber's back rubs as I have.

Just think of how Camber's back rubs will ensure swift world peace. Kim Jong Un will immediately agree to reunite North Korea with the south once his knots are worked out under Camber's masterful hands. (Once those hands have begun their work, Camber can be denied nothing.) Drug lords in South America will agree to cease their murderous fighting under the influence. In fact, once we have trained an army in the way of Camber's massaging, we can probably cure all drug and alcohol addiction overnight.

8. She is an amazing musician.

The piano, organ, kazoo, accordion, nose flute—need I go on? If music is communication that rises above language, then Camber will unite the world under a flurry of piano pieces and egg shakers. Plus, she can play Rachmaninoff; that should please the Russians.

7. She loves outdoor activities.

Legend tells of a time when Camber brought down a lion cub and bear cub with her bare hands—at the same time! I have not confirmed this, but given the outdoor feats I have witnessed with my own eyes, I do not doubt it. She hikes, bikes, kites, camps, canoes, and so much more. No one will miss Vladamir Putin. Camber can kill tigers just as easily, if not more so.

6. She is an exercise maven.

Obesity is a serious problem—for other people. Camber is as lean as a panther, maybe even leaner if we're talking about a panther that just took down a wildebeest. Camber's addiction commitment to exercise is inspiring. Do you think she stops when she's sick? No! When she's tired? No! When she's dead? Unsure, but I doubt it!

Think of how this will inspire the world to healthier ways. And if she brings this same level of indefatigability to her other responsibilities, the world will thrive in gloriousness.

5. She saves lives at work already.

As benevolent dictator, Camber will have to allocate scarce resources, including health care. Let's face it, there just isn't enough to go around. Some people will have to die. Some of my friends' grandparents probably won't make the cut.

But Camber has been there. She takes care of sick people all the time, and does so with compassion and grace. This will give her compassion for her people, but will also give her the wisdom to know when it's time to just give up on entire nations/states (sorry California—we're sending you out to sea).

4. She laughs at my jokes.

As the future "first man" to Benevolent Dictator Camber, it is important to my ego that she does this, so it is important for you, as the committee, to know that she does. This will placate me despite the fact that I have no power, and will prevent me from seeking to overthrow her rule. Why would I need to? My wife thinks I'm funny. What else can a man aspire to?

3. She supports me in my schooling.

For the past two years I've been sucking money away from our bank account at about the same rate she puts it in, all for a stupid piece of paper called a Masters Degree. And she's happy! Clearly Camber isn't in this for the money. She's good. She's supportive. And it makes me happy.

Once the whole world feels this love and support, it will transform us from a mass of in-fighting people to a mass of in-loving people. (That sounds gross, but keep your mind out of the gutter.) It has changed my life to know I have her support; think of what that would do to the whole world?

2. She's beautiful.

It is a well-accepted fact, that it is vital to be smoking hot to be an effective leader. Camber has this covered.

The men will want her. The women will want to be her. People will never be compelled to pay taxes: they will do so of their own free will. Laws will never be enforced: people will obey as a token of love. Pilgrims will travel over the whole world to see her—which will increase tourism revenues, helping the economy. All will love her, and despair.

1. She Loves Me.

Why does loving me make her fit to rule the world? Simple: it proves she can love anyone. Loving me as she does is no small feat. If she can love me, she'll have no problems loving and serving even the dregs of society, giving them of herself all day every day.

Plus it means I get to live with her in the palace.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Baby Jesus v. Santa

Some years, when December rolls around, I feel like I'm really celebrating 2 holidays. Just when I start feeling all happy and hopeful about little baby Jesus I think, "Sheesh! Why are there so dang many people to buy presents for?" (Insert the genius idea of gift rotations. Best idea ever.) 

After some sad experiences over the year, the Savior's message of hope and peace has found profound meaning for me this season. And yet, rather than revel in the comfort, I compulsively brainstorm gift ideas on scratch paper and mentally curse stores when I spy obviously inflated prices. And I reluctantly join the hordes of people at Wal Mart scowling at each other over the last box of Peppermint Oreos and precariously balancing awkward rolls of wrapping paper on the way to the car (because I am NOT making more than one trip in this weather, thank you very much). Christmas is a holiday at once spiritual and secular, hopeful and hectic, cheering and chaotic. And alliterative.

So who wins, baby Jesus or Santa? As a child, I liked baby Jesus and all but the magic happened Christmas morning when I woke up at 4 AM and peeked in my stocking. Presents are a little more immediate than, you know, salvation. 

In our house, Isaac, who counts down to Christmas starting in about June, has banned all Santa decorations, at least for now. Instead we have a nativity for almost every year of our marriage. 

If you look closely, you will notice there is no baby Jesus in the middle one.
It came that way.
Maybe he got to feeling self-conscious that day.

However, our household Santa ban did not prevent us from going to see the most decked-out Santa house I have ever beheld. 

And yet, next to the Santa display was this:

Maybe they can both win. 

On a somewhat unrelated note, we lost our original star and bought a new one online this year. Isaac made me wait until he got home to put it on the tree. Aaaaannnnd this:

Note to self: increase tree-topper budget for next year.

Merry Christmas all.

Friday, December 2, 2011


Thanksgiving this year was an epic 5-day masterpiece of sugar binging, Arizona sunshine, and Camber's family. I feel like I have a lot to be thankful for this year, in addition to the usual good health, family, Gospel, free country, etc.

First, I got to meet my niece Hannah, already a year old, and my nephew Jake, who was born in September.

Jake was so excited to meet me that his bowels filled with joy.

Which left no more room for poop. 

So he had a spectacular blow-out--in my arms. This was his first blow-out of such grandeur, and I am proud to have helped.

I am grateful I chose to carry him at that time with his backside facing out. 

Also, I am grateful for the 1st annual Cooper Turkey Trot. By hosting a private 10K, we saved a collective $75 and slept in 3 extra hours. 

I am grateful I got 3rd place. Even though there were only 3 runners.

I am grateful my dad worked hard to produce an incredible Thanksgiving dinner. And I'm grateful it made him tired so we could take this funny picture during games.

I am grateful we got to be there for Jake's baby blessing. And that in Phoenix it is warm enough to wear short sleeves in November. WHY do I live in Iowa?

Isn't my family adorable?

Last of all, I am grateful that Isaac's mouth is, indeed, too small to swallow a baby.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Camber's list

I have long felt an affinity for awesome last names. 

One of my greatest fears as a child, aside from the usual worries about the house burning down or dying before I turned 16 and got to go on a date, was that I would marry someone with a dull last name. Like Smith. Or Johnson. (No offense to the many good Smiths and Johnsons out there. I still love you guys). 

Luckily that fear did not come to pass, although taking my husband's name did involve relinquishing the alliteration I'd so long adored (my maiden name started with C). True love requires sacrifices. Sometimes painful ones.

Since my married name is neither dull nor epic, as a pet project I've been keeping a running list of awesome last names that I have coveted at some point or another. I promise, these are all real names. I hope these people appreciate what they have.

Camber's Awesome Last Names List

Bosch Von Benedict
More to follow. Hopefully.

As consolation, we're considering the middle name Fightmaster for our oldest child. Boy or girl. 

If anyone has an awesome name to contribute, by all means please share it.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Switching Places

I like to run a drama-free household. So this year we had some stringent criteria for our Halloween costumes. They needed to:

1) Be cheap, or, preferably, free
2) Require no sewing, gluing, painting, or glitter
3) Require little to no shopping
4) Be comfortable and preferably un-embarrassing (Isaac's request)

And being the ever-resourceful people that we are, we came up with costumes that met all four criteria.

We switched places. 

Meet Camber, MBA Candidate, and Isaac, RN.

I was all set for an easy, drama-free morning as we put on our costumes, but we hit a snag I wasn't anticipating.

Isaac said, while I buttoned up his shirt, "You look weird."

So in case I didn't catch it the first time, he repeated it when I got on the suit jacket. "You look weird."

At first I thought he was just referring to the general sagging nature of the suit. Not quite my size.

But before we exchanged our habitual peck after morning prayers, Isaac recoiled.

"I feel like I'm kissing a guy."

Thanks, dear. This was the real reason he thought I "looked weird."

Never mind that I didn't make him wear anything even remotely girly. He looked great in the scrubs. In fact, he enjoyed them so much that we calculated how old he'd be if he became a doctor after his MBA.


Forget it.

Our ward Halloween party was epic, and just for fun, here's the donut-eating contest (photos courtesy of Channa Dalton, who has a far better camera, and let's face it, better camera skills, than I do)

Isaac lost. But he looked good, and that's important.

And my Halloween cupcake, because it was the cutest darn thing I've ever eaten.

To conclude it all, the first words Isaac said to me when we got home? 

"Please change."

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Girly. Or not.

I think it's time to come clean with you.

Sometimes, I am not very good at being a girl.

There. I said it.

Let me explain. A while back I sat in a room with a bunch of other girls and it struck me suddenly that they were all wearing these shiny things with their clothes. Jewelry, I think you call it. The stuff has always bewildered me because it doesn't seem to accomplish the main function of clothing--namely, covering skin.

At any rate, the jewelry seemed to look nice on them, so I thought I'd consider getting some for myself. I went to a popular jewelry store (Walmart) and started perusing the displays. I thought necklaces seemed pretty straight forward and started there, and within a minute I broke out in a cold sweat. 

Who knew that there were so many variations on a simple necklace? It's just a shiny thing you hang around your neck, right? But there's so much more involved--is it for a low neckline or a high one? Casual or formal? Do you wear it alone or with another one? What color is the shirt you're planning to wear it with? Worse, what color are the shoes you're planning to wear it with (no one actually owns more than one pair of casual they?) Then, you have to start coordinating with the earrings and bracelet that are going to go with the necklace, and you might want to consider matching eye shadow and purse color as well.

Suddenly I felt nauseated and my respiratory rate doubled. I could feel the store closing in on me, and sensed other customers staring at me, positive they could sense my lack of finesse at jewelry purchasing. Probably they were snickering. I booked it to the produce section. Apples I can handle.

Here's the truth. I grew up with three brothers and no sisters. The males in my house mocked make-up and prissiness in all forms and I was in college before I knew about eyebrow plucking or hair straighteners. I own two necklaces that I actually wear and bought neither of them. 

I have two hair-do's, and that's only if you count the ponytail/headband combo that I sport when exercising. My favorite place to go clothes shopping is at a thrift store, and my makeup collection has three items in it. On my wedding day, I spent about 15 minutes doing my hair and makeup. The same amount of time that I spend every day. And while I feel a twinge of regret looking at my somewhat plain appearance in my pictures, I'm also pretty sure I was the least-stressed-out bride in the history of weddings.

Here's the question: Is that okay? Am I allowed to deep down wish I were wearing a T-shirt and baggy shorts? Can I consider myself an adequate woman if I never do learn how to accessorize?


I brought all this up with Isaac, and his only response was, "How is that a problem? That's one of the things about you I think is awesome!"

See the T-shirt? And how happy I look? What a great day that was.

Well, at least I married the right guy. And I don't plan on buying a new necklace any time soon. It's just too traumatizing.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Ugly numbers

This was our mealtime conversation today.

I: J's birthday is today. He's 28. We spent some time talking about how 28 is a perfect number.

C: Why?

I: Because it is one of a few numbers whose factors add up to itself (1, 2, 4, 7, 14). 6 is another example. 

C: 28 is more impressive. It's bigger and still pulls it off. Like how big prime numbers are more impressive.

I: Prime numbers sure are ugly numbers

C: What do you mean?

I: Think about it. 13. What could be uglier than that? Or 11? Or 17?

C: I have positive emotional associations with 17. I idolized that age from the time I was young. I can't think badly about it.

I: You have to let those go. We're talking about the number, not the age. 17 was the best year of my life, but it's still an ugly number. 

C: I'm sorry. I can't do it. 17 isn't ugly.

I: Well, you can't argue against 11 and 13.

C: You have to admit that 11 is lovelier than 13.

I: I think that's because 13 follows 12. And 12 is almost a perfect number.

C: Yeah, 12 really is a tough act to follow. Poor 13.

I: 5 and 7, though. Those are exceptions. They're almost as perfect as 12.

I still think I'm right about 17.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Code Blue

Warning: This is not a funny hospital story. Please skip this blog post if you are prone to fainting at slightly graphic medical stories. 

Recently I watched my first code blue at this hospital. 

A code blue is your classic CPR situation--someone whose heart is not beating or who is not breathing.

It is the kind of thing you see on TV all the time. And in some ways, it is like TV. It feels dramatic. People keep pouring into the room in droves. There are syringes flying and orders being called and chest compressions and the beeping of heart monitors. It is 15 people all working together to try to save a life when every minute really does count. 

And yet, it is utterly unlike TV. The patient's spouse is shuttled out of the room white as a sheet. This is a real person, not an actor. If things do not turn out well, this day will be life-altering and remembered with remorse. The patient is disrobed and blood drips on the floor in a puddle as new IV's are started. Chest compressions are hard and fast and make the bed shake. Students and medical residents take turns doing them because it is exhausting work. The patient receives a breathing tube down the throat to assist in giving breaths. 

Every 2 minutes we pause everything to watch the heart monitor return again and again to a flat line, called asystole. This means there is no electrical activity in the heart at all. It means the patient is probably not going to come back. It means all our efforts will probably be in vain. 

I stood in the corner holding a clipboard and wrote everything down, calling out when more medication could be given and keeping track of how long we'd been working. Doing this allowed me to participate in the code but mostly observe first hand what happened. 

I watched the heart rate come back for just a moment. A pulse! We have a pulse! A new hopeful energy entered the room as doctors gave new orders and we excitedly started preparing to take the patient to the ICU. 

Then, just as quickly, the pulse left, replaced once again by that terrible flat line. 

I watched as the room gradually became more and more quiet. Compressions continued but no one spoke a word. We all knew. Finally I called out for the last round of medication. Someone gave it. 


And so, reluctantly, we stopped. The room emptied in near silence. In a moment we cleared the room and covered the patient with a fresh sheet and wiped up the blood. The drama of the moment fizzled out into a quiet sadness. Nurses rarely cry in such moments. Maybe it's the adrenaline. But the experience still cast a pall over the rest of the day, sobering us all. 

And yet, there lingered some small comfort in the nearly 30 minutes we'd spent trying to preserve a life. We gave life the best chance possible at lingering here. Everything we could do we did. Life is tenacious, but sometimes, so is death. When it's really truly our time to go, we go. For this patient, it was truly time.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Hitting the Wall

A while ago in church someone mentioned that she'd just finished reading the Bible cover-to-cover.

Why haven't I done that? I asked myself. I have read the entire New Testament several times and have read selected portions of the Old Testament, but there are vast areas of unchartered territory I still need to conquer. 

So I started.

Genesis went great. It's downright riveting--Adam gets created and then kicked out of the garden and Noah's trying to get his animals gathered and then Abraham shows up and there's that coat of many colors, and I could barely put it down! Exodus wasn't bad either. As I read, though, I started getting this unsettled feeling in my stomach. Something about my auspicious start bothered me deeply. I spent a few days trying to pin down what felt wrong about it all.

And then a sickening realization struck me. In 145 pages I had already covered almost every Bible story I knew. Sure, I still have David and Goliath to look forward to, and something about the battle of Jericho, but what on earth fills the other 1039 pages of the Old Testament?

I kept reading, bracing myself for the blow, and sure enough, it came. Leviticus. And after about 3 chapters full of dead lambs and goat and sacrificial altars and peace offerings and sin offerings and sweet savors I began toying with the idea of picking a new religion. Do Hindus have a shorter Bible? 

In the end, I decided to push through the wall. I bought two different books about the Old Testament. I read up on symbolism and ancient Israelite culture and Hebrew translations and I made it through Leviticus a better person. 

Then I hit the next wall: Numbers. So far: 3 chapters of numbering and sorting the camp of Israel. Turns out, there were a lot of Israelites. And I get to read about them, tribe by tribe.


Friday, September 23, 2011

The Houseguest: Camber's mom

Our Houseguest came. And behaved herself very well, thank you.

Something about having my mom come transformed me into a little girl wanting to play show and tell, "See mom! There's our parking spot! And our gas station! And look at that tree outside our window!" Etc. It's as if few things in my surroundings held any meaning for me until time to share them with another person. 

Another advantage of houseguests is the excuse they give to visit things that only tourists ought to visit. Like the Amish Colonies. And the apple orchards. Fun places, but we just kept forgetting to go to them. Until my mom came. 

Yet another perk: my mom lives life with great zeal. She is the kind of person that will continue to have girls night with young married girls in their 20's. And grown men in their 20's and 30's will sit down across from her chair at work and confess everything from woes with women to their latest surgery (and show her their scars). Even my husband has been known to call her up and chat for an hour. Without me around. She can find humor in a traffic jam and joy in a $1 bacon cheeseburger. Any road trip with her is guaranteed to bring great excitement and noteworthy memories.

So when we went to Nauvoo (just the two of us) she proclaimed the old men that led the tours adorable and loved the horses and the temple and the pioneer dresses and bawled at the Carthage Jail tour and became BFF with our waitress at the hotel buffet and laughed at the pancake machine that produced ridiculously tiny pancakes at breakfast. And I enjoyed them all the more with her.

The ridiculously tiny pancakes

One night we went to dinner downtown and settled in...and realized the food was waaayy more expensive than we'd planned. I voted to leave. Isaac thought that was awkward. We already had water, after all. Then, because my mom is always up to adventure we decided to split an entree three ways. Not just any entree. A burrito. So that's what we did, and we loved the restaurant all the more for our funny memory of a three-way burrito.

Also at some point one of us mentioned crepes and that led directly to making plans for an epic crepe night. Which we carried out. We made probably 2 dozen crepes for...three people. We ate crepes for dinner and for dessert as well as pre-dinner snack and bedtime carb loading. 

And then she left.

And life got a little more boring.
At Carthage Jail in Illinois where the Prophet Joseph Smith was martyred.
This picture was taken post-meltdown. Mom is recovering here.
These champs took us on a tour of the countryside.
This is one of about 16 pictures we took with the horses.

This is a placard with a quotation from my 4th-great grandmother.
Apparently she wasn't the docile, subservient type. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Rules for Houseguests

A few years ago, my mom came to visit and Isaac decided that it was in our best interests to write up a list of houseguest rules to prevent potential misunderstandings.
She is coming today to Iowa for the first time, and Isaac sent her an updated list of rules as a friendly reminder of appropriate conduct on our premises. I promise, this is well-worth your time.

Dear Mom,

In preparation for your visit, I thought I would send you an updated list of rules. I have made updates to each section, and have added a section for "Iowa" at the end.


Section 1: The Kitchen

Rule 1.1 Guests are prohibited, except in cases of extreme life-threatening emergencies, from making any negative comments regarding the general state of kitchen cleanliness, the height of the stack of dishes, or the inability to find the bottom of the sink. Compliments are encouraged.

Rule 1.2 Guests are prohibited from snacking on chocolate chips

Rule 1.3 Guests are prohibited from breaking dishes (except in cases of self-defense), climbing into the refrigerator, banging pots and pans (except on January 1st), or hiding under the table (except in cases of self-defense).

Rule 1.4 Guests are prohibited from commenting on the general lack of counter space, the stains on the kitchen table (it is not blood), or the old linoleum on the floor.

Section 2: The Living Room

Rule 2.1 Guests are prohibited from touching any remote belonging to a television, DVD player, CD player, lamp, or fan.
              Rule 2.1.1 Guests are prohibited from wanting to touch the remote.

Rule 2.2 Guests are prohibited from complaining about the volume of the radio, television, or DVD player.

Rule 2.3 Guests are prohibited from using (or touching) musical instruments, including (but not limited to): the piano, the guitar, the ukulele, the kazoo, the nose whistle, the jaw harp, or the armpit. Justin Cooper (Camber's little brother) is exempt from this rule.

Rule 2.4 Guests are prohibited from commenting on the cleanliness of the sliding glass door. Each remark will be punished by the guest having to lick the sliding glass door completely clean.

Section 3: The Bathroom

Rule 3.1 Guests are prohibited from borrowing, stealing, using, breathing on, or looking at my toothbrush (it's the electronic one).

Rule 3.2 Guests are limited to 10 minutes in the bathroom during a normal potty trip, 20 minutes for one (1) long potty trip during the day, and 30 minutes in the morning (which includes shower time).

Section 4: The Office (Guest Bedroom)

Rule 4.1 Guests have unlimited access to the office. It's your haven, your temporary home, your refuge.

Rule 4.2 Guests may not read any journals on the book shelf, but may enjoy the pictures on the cover.

Section 5: The Master Bedroom

Rule 5.∞ Guests are prohibited, upon penalty of death, from entering the master bedroom, from opening a closed door to the master bedroom, from peeking under the door into the master bedroom, from banging on the door of the master bedroom, and from any other practice which would disturb the peace, quiet, happiness, or general zen-like state of the master bedroom occupants.

Section 6: Iowa

Rule 6.1 Guests are prohibited from confusing the state of Iowa with the state of Ohio. Guests are required to perform 15 pushups for each mistaken reference to "Ohio." The substitute "Ohiowa" will be accepted up to three (3) times per day; each reference to "Ohiowa" beyond three times will result in a 15-pushup punishment.

Rule 6.2 Guests are prohibited from stating the obvious, especially from the following exclamations:

"It's cold here in Iowa!"

"There's so much corn!"

"Rivers here are big!"

"There are no mountains!"

"Iowans are fat!"


Rule 6.3 All statements, questions, thoughts, heart-felt loathings, or sighs about corn are prohibited. If a guest wishes to make a remark about corn, he/she must substitute the phrase, "Iowa is awesome," for the word corn. Example: "Goodness me! There are so many -- Iowa is awesome -- fields here!"

Rule 6.4 Guests are required to make two (2) positive comments about Iowa during each stay of the visit. General compliments regarding the greenness of the trees, the rolling hills, the general scent, the loveliness of the university, and the general lack of monkeys, are encouraged.

My mom is a very good sport.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Get out of my forest

Last week we went camping at a lovely state park with our friends Jershon and Shelly. Well, sort-of camping.

Because during that fateful night, we learned about the dark side of the woods.

It all started when we arrived at the park and started unloading the car, and heard a dismayed "Oh no" from our friend Jershon.

"I forgot to pack our tent."

Uh oh.

We quickly assessed the damage: four adults and a toddler and only one 3-person tent.

We discussed our options: driving home--no way. Sleeping in the car--too small. Isaac and I sharing the tent with the toddler--Um, no thanks.

Finally we decided that our friends would take the tent along with their toddler, and Isaac and I would sleep under the stars. It promised to be a clear night without rain.

It sounded romantic. Just us and nature. And the air mattress.

And for awhile, it looked like we were in the clear. There weren't even a lot of mosquitos. We had a campfire, roasted s'mores, and talked until well after dark.

It was a lovely, relaxing night. Until we saw the eyes.

They reflected an eerie red from our headlamps, and lurked near our bed at the edge of camp. Then one pair of eyes became two, and then three. Then they went for the food, and we realized our creepy red eyes were three raccoons. Three really, really bold raccoons.

We decided it was a good time to change our sleeping arrangements. Under the stars? Vetoed.

We began quickly gathering our food before the shameless raccoons started fighting us for it. And then I was all but attacked by three jumbo-sized daddy long-legs. I no sooner killed made Isaac kill one before another one surfaced. We made a beeline for the car, a five-minute walk down the trail.

At the car, I was struck again by another reality. It's impossible to sleep well in a Chevy Malibu. What a stupid idea! What do you do, recline the seats and try to sleep with your legs hanging off the end and your head at a 45 degree angle? And what about the middle console waiting to whack you should you have the gall to try to turn over?

Heck. No.

On to plan C: Get a hotel. I told Isaac this. His eyes lit up, hopeful. This night could be salvaged!

I whispered, "Isaac, Jershon and Shelly never have to know!"

Because I'm sure they wouldn't notice us showing up the next morning looking...clean. And well-slept. With powdered sugar on our lips from those delicious donuts at the hotel breakfast. Isaac whipped out his iPhone and found a hotel. Thinking better of it, we went back for Jershon and Shelly after all.

As it turns out, selling Shelly on the hotel was not difficult. The raccoons had been hunting them. Jershon stared one down, and while it stared back, unmoving, the other two started to close in from the sides. Just like raptors.

So we grabbed our clothes and toiletries (and the toddler) and left for town. Once in the hotel, we slept like babies. Civilization never looked so inviting as it did that night. No raccoons. No daddy long-legs. No mosquitos. And that beautiful, beautiful flushing toilet.

In the morning we ate a hot, free breakfast at the hotel and drove back to our campsite, the tent waiting for us as if we'd never left.

We all go camping perfectly willing to share the woods with a few select species: deer, squirrels, and butterflies. The problem is, there are other creatures in that forest we'd rather not think about. As long as we don't see them, we can pretend they're not there.

But that night we saw them. And then we ran back to civilization like the wusses we really are.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Late-night entertainment

There are two kinds of confused people in the hospital. Adorable confused and Yelling and Swinging confused.

Last night one our patients became acutely ill and confused. Adorably confused. 

Patient: Am I still alive?

Nurse: Yes, you're still alive.

Patient: I didn't die yet?

Nurse: No, not yet.

Patient: Is 2 plus 2 still 4?

Nurse: Yes.

Patient: Am I here?

Nurse: Where's here?

Patient: I don't know. Wherever I am is here.


Patient: Here is where soul and body meet. Will you find it and take me there please?


Patient: I've been like this all my life. I'm a rebel without a clue.

Nurse: Do you mean a rebel without a cause?

Patient: I think I'm trying to be funny.

He succeeded.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The summer bucket list

I'm the kind of person that spends most of the summer dreading the inevitable approach of winter and panicking about not taking full advantage of the summer. I start every summer with an informal, unwritten bucket list of things I want to do before death winter arrives. As the months pass, if I'm not making progress on my list, I start panicking about the ever looming end of my life summer.

This summer my bucket list was in big, big trouble. So was my sanity. June and July were spent working or in Chicago, or else inside hovering over the air conditioner during our abominable heat wave. By August 1st, my skin still boasted its pristine ivory hue leftover for winter. Because it had not seen the sun.

Translation: My summer was being wasted away indoors.

Then Isaac finished his internship, we went to Utah, and the last 3 weeks have basically been an exercise in condensing a summer's worth of bucket list activities into a few short weeks. And in being happy to have Isaac home.


hiked a mountain
went camping at 9,000 feet
ate sushi and we loved one of us loved it
went on a bike ride
went canoeing
played frisbee golf
went to the Iowa state fair
went camping sort-of camping again (story to follow)
got slightly tanner
had a barbecue
swam in a lake
made homemade ice cream

Things are looking up for the list.

Although, for the record, I'm still dreading winter.

Here are some pictures of use checking things off my list:

Bless your heart, Iowa, but these are what real mountains look like.

Isaac's family. I don't know who the pink shirt is.

This is the famous butter cow. It's life size and it's ALL butter.
I hope they put that butter to a good use afterwards.
Except for the udder.
That massive hunk of flesh is, believe it or not, a bull.
And it won.
And I'm pretty sure it's too fat to come after you if you touch it.

Our awesome friends Jershon and Shelly standing by the first place pumpkin.
If you can't read the sign it says 1295 lbs.