This day in history: August 30

August 30th.

An ordinary day, like any other in the down swing of summer – still deeply submerged in the oppressive Texas heat, but the promise of fall lurks on the distant horizon.  For our family, this is a particularly special day in our history.  Eleven years ago today, we welcomed into our lives a beautiful baby girl.  In classic Megan fashion, she made the process neither easy nor quick; but when she finally made her grand entrance at 4:45 p.m. weighing in at 9 lbs. 15.6 oz and measuring nearly 22 inches long, we knew we had been given a most precious gift.

Megan Leanne Isaacs 8/30

It is very hard to believe that it has been eleven years since we first heard the sound of her cry, smelled her wonderous baby scent and were looked upon by her now famous stink eye, but here we are.  I may be bias, but I believe she’s grown into quite the young lady.

Megan 2011

Of course, this day is not ours alone.  I have two friends who were also blessed with the birth of their children on this day.  To them, I wish a very Happy Birthday.

It is also a rather eventful day in history.  On this day in history:

  • Melbourne, Australia was founded.
  • The city of Houston, Texas was founded.
  • The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway opened.
  • Thurgood Marshall was confirmed to the Supreme Court of the United States.
  • The Space Shuttle Discovery made its maiden Voyage.
  • Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, was born in London.
  • Nancy Wake, Allied spy during WW II, was born in New Zealand.
  • Warren Buffett, American gazillionaire, was born.
  • Charles Bronson, American actor, died.
  • Max Factor, Sr., Polish-born, American cosmetic manufacturer, died.
  • Indian Larry, American stuntman, died.

*disclaimer:  all of the above information is courtesy of my friends over at Wikipedia because as you know, I am a lazy writer at times.  Don’t judge me.

Things I learned this week (August 22 – 26)

So, here we are again – another week successfully muddled through, with virtually no collateral damage.  That makes for a good week, in my book. 

For those of you that pay attention to these things, there are only 27 days left until the official beginning of the fall season and only 120 shopping days left until Christmas. 

I’m looking forward to the beginning of fall, myself.  Though, I don’t know why.  I live in Texas.  Mother Nature tends to forget about us down here in the Lone Star State when she is handing out seasonal weather.  I’m starting to think that she doesn’t care for us all that much.  Or maybe we are being punished for something.

Rick Perry, perhaps? 

Just saying.

I learned this week…

Megan the Wise

…that my daughter is wise beyond her years.  She sat down at the dinner table and out of blue said, “So many years gone by so fast, huh?”  She’s had a lot of these little zingers lately.  I’m not sure how she became so mature or if it is even a good thing, but her frankness warms my heart.  I am so blessed to have her in my life.

…that even at my age, and with more than a few semesters under my belt now, I still get butterflies on the first day of school.

…that an educational institute’s library is still one of my top five places to people watch.  The eclectic group of individuals who choose to begin their quest for higher education at a Community College make for great character inspiration, as do the facility that are determined to teach them.  I spent two days this week taking it all in and playing my favorite “what if” game.  Perhaps I will share some of the things I witnessed with you in my next blog entry.

…that even though I am not a proponent of war, I am thrilled to see Gaddafi’s regime come crashing down.  Those of you old enough to remember Lockerbie, Scotland will surely share my view.  [If you would like to read more about the bombing of Pan Am flight 103, you can do so (here), as well as (here).] Now, the question is:  Will the liberated Lybians embrace this opportunity for a new beginning, free from oppression, or will they squander it away, allowing an even bigger evil to rear its ugly head.  I guess time will tell.

Jeff Mitchell/Getty Images

that I found this little tidbit regarding the founder of IKEA very interesting.  For those of you who don’t know, I loathe the Swedish furniture maker with the strength of a thousand suns.  I have no real problem with their products, per se.  I will readily admit that my favorite writing chair is from IKEA – though my choice of decor tends to lean more toward traditional than modern.  My biggest problem with the store is in its design and layout.  I don’t appreciate being herded like little lab rats through a never-ending maze while enduring the endless stupidity and rudeness of those packed like sardines around me.  I want to get in, get what I need, and leave.  An impossibility in IKEA.  Oh, and don’t get me started on the floor.  I have never left that store without an ache that runs from my right knee down to my right big toe.  Never.

…that I was mistaken in my belief, or perhaps hope is a more adequate word, that the middle school parents would have a better grasp of pick up and drop off rules.  Their children may have matured over the summer, but sadly, they have not.  Yesterday, I saw a white Chrysler 300 (with pimpin’ rims) parked backwards – complete with illuminated reverse lights – in the moving (in the opposite direction) carpool lane.

…that the weather folks on the nightly news are just screwing with us.  We might have fallen for the arbitrary 98 or 99 degree high temperature prediction stuck in at the end of the ten-day forecast, the first few half-dozen times, but now it’s just cruel to dangle such utter nonsense – complete meteorological fabrications – in front of our noses.  Haven’t we suffered enough?

10 day forecast courtesy of http://www.weather.com

…that adaptation is born out of necessity.  A couple of weeks ago I came back from vacation to find that most of the stationary bikes at my gym, including my beloved #3, were gone.  “Out for repair”, the pimply boy behind the counter told me.  I was forced to get my cardio workout on the elliptical.  I am surprised to report that I don’t hate it.  I’ve figured out how not to fall off and how to adjust it to fit my short, stubby stride.  As always, I judge the success of a workout by the amount of sweat dripping from my body and the level of numbness I feel in my legs when I’m finished.  The elliptical delivered on both.  This does not mean that it will replace the spinner as my workout apparatus of choice – I am a biker, through and through.  *HA!  I made a joke there.  See?*

…that though I searched high and low, I was unable to find any new reports of bear attacks.  However, I did come across another Great White shark attack.  This time off the coast of South Africa.  I don’t wish to belittle such a tragedy with insensitivity, but I must conclude that this surfer was either demented or had never watched the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week.  Every episode I’ve ever seen features dumbasses shark enthusiasts in boats off the coast of South Africa surrounded by large numbers of these predatory fish.  You can read this surfer’s story (here).

…that insects can elicit the occasional awwww moment:

Miroslaw Swietek/liveScience

Okay.  Perhaps that was being a tad too generous, but you have to admit that the above photograph had you leaning in a little closer to your computer screen, musing, “What is that?”

My work here is done.

Journey of Self-discovery: Conquering my fear of boats

Boats scare the shit out of me.

I apologize if such language may seem unnecessary to you, but it is an apt description of the paralyzing fear I experience just before crossing a gangplank.  As I’ve said before in a blog entry on my irrational phobias, it has less to do with the physical vessel and everything to do with its function.  Boats “float” in bodies of water;  bodies of water –  and the things that live in them – are deadly.  I don’t do deadly.

As a general rule, I avoid boat travel like the plague.  As was the case four years ago, when I was traveling with my family in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.  I took one look at the ferry to Cozumel, turned around and walked away.  I was not going to get on that boat.  Period.  End of discussion.

Playa del Carmen, Mexico 2008

In recent years, however, I have come to the conclusion that I cannot live my life in absolutes.  Inflexibility stunts personal growth, and frankly, makes for a very boring life.  When it comes right down to it, who aspires to have a boring life?  No one, that’s who.  We all want to look back on the past with some measure of accomplishment – that we didn’t squander a lifetime away doing nothing but shaking in our boots, scared of our own shadow.  It took me a long time to figure that out.

Bearing this new discovery in mind, I jumped at the chance to meet up with one of my oldest friends in New York City in September 2009.  Okay.  Perhaps “jumped at” is a bit of an overstatement.  There were many things about that trip that caused the little anxiety troll inside my head to scream out in panic.  The trip would coincide with the anniversary of 9/11 and would entail leaving Megan behind for more than a day or two.  I am not a spiritual person but I am prone to superstition.  For me, the whole set up seemed to tempt fate.  Seriously bad mojo in the making; and I just knew that if I went, I was doomed to perish.  But this time I didn’t listen to my nagging fear monster.  I spit in the eye of fate and went with my husband to New York City, had a fabulous time, and even rode the ferry to Liberty and Ellis Islands – in a rainstorm with choppy seas; on September 11th.

Ferry to Liberty and Ellis Island, New York 2009

And survived.

Take that bad mojo.

(Good thing I didn’t learn about this until I was home safe and sound.)

In January, my husband and I celebrated our fifteenth wedding anniversary.  A milestone, to be sure, in this day and age of rampant divorce.  Our special day falls very close to Christmas, so it is not unusual for us to forego gifts, opting instead for a simple dinner out alone.  This year, however, given the significance of the anniversary, we decided to take the honeymoon we weren’t able to afford when we first married.  We looked at a lot of places and agreed that Cabo San Lucas, Mexico was where we wanted to spend five days playing the part of newlyweds.

Cabo is a beautiful place, romantic and serene – almost magical.  Perhaps it was this bit of magic that possessed me to agree to go on a whale watching expedition.  The conditions were perfect for sighting one or two and, for us, it was something new – uncharted.  That was what this trip was all about, after all.  Trying something new.  We booked it.

Then I saw the boat.

Inflatable raft would be a more adequate description.

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico 2011

To say I was scared to death would be an understatement and to be honest, most of the two and a half hour boat ride is one big blur.  I spent a good deal of the time clinging to the side rope, praying to a God I haven’t spoken to in years, and trying not think about how very deep the guide said the water was beneath our feet – or what may be lurking there.  The point at which the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific Ocean is rough, dark and cold.  Terrifying – made even worse by the boat’s Captain who at the barest hint of a “blow” on the horizon was off like a shot, bearing down on the unsuspecting whales at speeds that where not conducive to safe boating under any conditions.  I was seriously reconsidering the status of my own sanity at this point.  I wanted the hell off this “boat” in the worst way.

Then I saw my first whale.

They are a sight to behold.  Like nothing I’ve ever seen.  I almost forgot where I was – almost.  Whales move quickly, so you only have a minute – sometimes mere seconds, to take in the their majestic beauty.  The experience left me in total awe.   As did the incredible sunset.

Sunset - Cabo San Lucas, Mexico 2011

When I stepped off the boat at the end of the tour, I was relieved. I really had my doubts that I would make it back to shore in one piece.  I was also overwhelmed with the sense of accomplishment I felt at facing down my fear.  Don’t get me wrong, I was still scared shitless, but I hadn’t allowed it to control me.

Will I ever do that again?

Absolutely not.  But now I can say that I did it once and that’s enough for me.

“Nobody puts Baby in the corner.”

A few blog entries back, I made my feelings known about what seems to be the popular new past time in Hollywood – remaking and rebooting everything under the sun.  I thought for sure they’d hit rock bottom with the remake of Footloose (and it’s beloved soundtrack).

I was wrong.

Recently, it has been announced that the powers that be in Tinseltown have decided to continue their blasphemous campaign by daring to take on the 1987 classic Dirty Dancing.

And here I thought they learned their lesson with the colossal flop, Dirty Dancing – Havana Nights.

Again – I was wrong.

For those of you who were not a frizzy haired, big toothed, homely teenaged girl with a unibrow in 1987, you may be asking yourself why on earth would anyone get their panties in a bunch over this nonsense.  It’s just a movie.  A stupid movie at that.

Maybe it is a stupid movie by today’s standards, but in the context of the time and to the targeted audience, it was pure brilliance.  In 1987, I was a frizzy haired, big toothed, homely fifteen year old girl (with a unibrow that defied imagination).  I knew little of the world outside my safe and secure life on a military installation.  The school year before, I’d moved from Germany and was lucky enough to have fallen in with an amazing group of kids just like me.  All of us Air Force brats plopped down in the middle of nowhere Texas and left to fend for ourselves among the native population.  To say that we suffered from culture shock would be a gross understatement.  We were awkward, quirky and marched quite happily to the beat of our own drum.  That year, and the following year, the group of us – five in all – spent a lot of time hanging out around our housing development, the SAFB library, the BX food court (don’t ask) and torturing our collective families by invading their peace – and their refrigerators.  Bobbi’s mom had the best snackage by far, and that’s usually where we landed when we wanted to stay up all night and watch movies.

"Dirty Dancing" 1987

We had our list of usual suspects:  The Outsiders, Top Gun, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, Can’t Buy Me Love, St. Elmo’s Fire, The Breakfast Club, Back to the Future, Howard the Duck, Flashdance, Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles…the list was endless.  But our go-to movie, the flick everyone could agree on time after time was Dirty Dancing.  What was it about this film that captivated us?

We could relate to it – at least on some level.

Here was this girl who was not so unlike ourselves – a little homely, a little awkward, striving to live up to her family’s expectation – the good girl; the apple of her father’s eye.  She thinks she has it all figured out until in walks the over-confident, sizzling hot bad boy with a leather jacket slung carelessly over one shoulder.

Swoon.

She would never be the same.

And neither would we.

As we sat noshing on junk food in the dead of night, we were spellbound not only by the raw sexuality of this film (as is depicted in this scene), but also by the emotional journey these two characters took us on.  It was a roller coaster ride.  Scene after scene, we watched as this ordinary girl and trouble filled young man waged a war within themselves, struggling against their blossoming feelings and the confines of their prospective situations.  It was a journey that saw them lay their souls bare, tested their budding trust in one another, and finally brought them together in a spectacular over the top dance sequence.

All set to a soundtrack that rivaled even that of my beloved American Graffiti.

What is there not to love about this movie?

How on earth could anyone think that the onscreen magic of Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze could ever be recreated?

Why must Hollywood make a mockery out of every coming of age film from my formative years?

Can they not just leave well enough alone?

Things I learned this week (August 8-12)

Well, we’ve made it through another week.  That means we are one step closer to the end of this nightmare summer and the beginning of a refreshing fall, full of new and exciting possibilities – and lower temperatures.  But before we get too caught up in fantasizing about day time highs under the century mark, let’s take a minute to explore the useful, and not so useful, things I’ve learned this week.

This week I learned…

…that sometimes you just need a Red Bull.  Even if that Red Bull is inside Madonna’s refrigerator.

…that moving heavy boxes from a high perch to the floor can cause a hip flexor injury.  Who knew?  Though, I shouldn’t be surprised.  I did get golfer’s elbow from falling off a ladder while painting my bathroom last year.  An aging body is a strange thing.

…that I can mark camping in Norway off my bucket list.  You are either going to have to take my word for it or Google it yourself because the photo is just too gruesome to link.  (note: reference campers, polar bear, and Norway)

Dirty Dancing circa 1987

…that nothing in Hollywood is sacred.  I think I am going to have to devote another blog entry to this abomination.

…that for $32 you can get an ice cream sundae that smells (and I guess tastes) just like Justin Bieber.  So, I tried to think of something witty to say in response to this, but…yea…I got nothing.  I’m sure a few of my fellow WCers will do their part to fill the void.  In fact, I look forward to it.

…that reading your account statements from Fidelity Investments can be a lot like watching a Vegas magic act.  One minutes it there; the next, it’s gone.  My advise:  save yourself the ulcer and don’t even bother opening the statements until this storm passes.  If it ever passes.

…that the Stasi were not a fashion forward bunch as noted in the photo below.  For some reason, the first thing that popped into my head were scenes from the 1982 Clint Eastwood movie Firefox.

Reuters

…that after enduring 40 straight days of 100+ degree temperature, nothing is more beautiful than watching heavy clouds and an outflow boundary roll into the area.  No rain but that 84 degrees was mighty nice while it lasted.  Alas, it’s back to reality.  There are, after all, several weeks of summer yet to come.

…that just when my schedule is about to change and make it very difficult for me to write as often as I’d like, I find myself more inspired in my novel than ever.  I’ve had all summer – two whole days a week – to dedicate to full on, balls to the wall writing and all I’ve done (for the most part) is write these silly little blog entries.

…that in spite of the foregoing, I feel that I’ve grown both as a writer and a human being because of these silly little blog entries.  Putting my thoughts out there, for better or worse, has given me confidence.

…that the reappearance of the high school cheer moms at the gym means the gymnastic moms won’t be far behind.  There goes my peace and quiet.

…that every week should end with an “awwww” moment:

"Hold still! You've got a little schumtz on your face." Ilya Naymushin/Reuters

Awwww.

Prepare to be annoyed

I have a pet peeve.

Okay, two.

Oh, alright – stop rolling your eyes.  I have an infinite number of pet peeves.  Sue me.  I never claimed to be Susie Freaking Sunshine.

In spite of my vast list of grievances, I have tried to make a concerted effort to be more laid back about things.  Especially those that I have no power to control or change.  Sorta a dumbed down Zen thing, if you will.  Still, I am who I am and there are some petty trivialities that, no matter how much I try, continue to drive me absolutely batshit crazy.

When I originally started this blog entry a few weeks ago, it was in response to a near meltdown I had at my favorite Target Store; however, in the interim and after a much-needed cooling off period, I have decided to treat you to a list of my top three pet peeves and how I’ve learned to suck it up and deal.  My way of proving that I’m learning to let things roll off my back.

Again – I could do without the eye rolling.

3.   I hate the smell of ketchup.  I hate the sound of people eating in the close quarters of the movie theater.  Put these two things together and I have instant sensory overload.  Drowning out the din of a hundred or so munching moviegoers is easy – large popcorn, extra mystery butter substance.  Perhaps not ideal for the waistline but it gets the job done.  Getting away from the nauseating stench of ketchup is a little harder.  To add an additional element of difficulty to the situation, the offending food swimming in that nasty condiment is usually in the hands of a child.

I’ve always wondered why perfectly rational mothers do this.   Am I the only who thinks giving children messy finger foods to eat in a darkened theater is a bad idea?  I mean, really, why tempt fate?  Inevitably, that ketchup slickened hot dog is going to make the jump into hyperspace.  Out of the bun it goes, down the front of said child’s shirt, bouncing once off the knee and eventually coming to rest just out of reach beneath the my seat.  The mother will shriek in shock and scold the faultless child who will in turn begin to cry.

The old me would have had a stroke.  The new me scopes out the theater ahead of time and plans accordingly.  In the event of an ambush, I have found that very strong, minty gum helps mask any offending and foul odors thrown my way.  Problem solved.

2.  Parking lot etiquette is a thing that seems to have gotten lost in translation somewhere over time.  The very minute the operator of a motor vehicle enters the domain of a private parking lot, seemingly untouchable by the local law, something strange happens.  All the rules of the road taught in Driver’s Education are forgotten and it becomes a game of survival of the fittest – or who’s car is bigger.  Apparently the bigger you are, the fewer rules you are required to follow.  Unfortunately for me, I have a small sports sedan which is very low on the food chain.  It matters not that it is an awesome shade of red.  Oh no.  I think the red has an overcoating of invisi-shield because I am virtually undetectable in the parking lot.

I cannot begin to count the number of times I have been toodling along, minding my own business when I am suddenly on a collision course with a huge SUV driving straight at me, across the designated parking spaces at a high rate of speed.  My life flashes before my eyes until I find my voice – and my horn.  It always amazes me that they look shocked to see me there.  Of course, shocked gives way to indignation and I have often found myself on the receiving end of a notso nice hand gesture.  It probably doesn’t help that they likely read lips.  I can be reactionary in these situations and I have a very colorful vocabulary thanks to a mother who taught me the best unladylike words the English language has to offer.

In my defense – they started it.

Hm.  Now that I’ve sat here and thought this particular pet peeve through, I don’t believe I have made any progress in tempering my rage where these incidents are concerned.  I guess I will have to file this one under “Work in Progress”.

1.  Oddly enough, my biggest pet peeve is another parking lot faux pas.  As I’ve said in a previous blog – I like rules.  They bring order to chaos.  I don’t do chaos.  It makes me itchy.  So it shouldn’t surprise you that nothing pisses me off more than the sight of a rogue shopping cart careening wildly across the parking lot only to be abruptly stopped by the side of a very unlucky car.  Often times, it is my poor abused car that is the victim of such blatant disregard for the unwritten rules of buggy return.  Take cart, fill cart, pay for goods that fill cart, take goods to car in said cart, empty cart, RETURN CART TO HANDY-DANDY CART RETURN CORRAL.  Easy- peasy.

You’d think.  But sadly, no.

Is it laziness that prevents people from putting in a little effort to do what is right?  Or the deep-seated sense of entitlement that has gripped our country in the last few decades?  I don’t know.  Though I tend to lean toward a combination of both factors.  It certainly can’t be denied that there are those among us who believe the rules don’t apply to them.  That they are somehow above it all because…well…because they are them.

But in an effort to be more understanding toward those who seem to have missed out on the common courtesy chromosome, I have learned to accept….

…oh hell, who am I kidding?

All I want to do is take that shopping cart and ram it into the lazy asshat’s car – over and over and over and over…

Guess we will mark this one as “Work in Progress”, too.

Seems I have room for improvement.

Things I learned this week (August 1 – August 5)

What day is it?

It’s Friday.  You know what that means.  Yep, time for me to bestow upon you the new bits of knowledge I acquired this week.  Think you can handle the excitement?  I think you can.  Let’s go!

"Nympheas" Claude Monet circa 1920-1926

I learned this week…

…that my skin isn’t nearly as thick as I thought.  Or maybe it’s just that I’ve had enough of the cyber-anonymity induced nastiness that seems to have inflicted everyone with a keyboard and an internet connection.  I think it’s time to bring back basic human civility.

…that I should never make the mistake of illegally parking in the capital city of Lithuania.

…that Utah governor and presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman plays piano (he used to play keyboards in a band called Wizard back in the day), likes Cherry Garcia ice cream, and is a fan of the Grateful Dead.  I think the good people of Utah have been holding out on us.

…that the idea of Texas Governor Rick Perry becoming a contender for the top office makes me want to vomit and move to Europe.  I was okay with him as long as he stayed in Austin, hidden from view, but to unleash him on the entire country…well, we might as well just lie down in the street and await the coming apocalypse.  Doesn’t make sense, does it?  I can’t explain it myself.

…that I am to be the grandmother of a bouncing baby girl.

…that I seriously regret complaining about the frigid temperatures and ice we were plagued with just six short months ago.  I sincerely apologize to my Karma and beg forgiveness – and relief from the suffocating heat.

Ten day forecast. - ugh.

…that not writing every day doesn’t make me any less of a writer.  Distractions are a good thing.  In moderation, of course.

Central Park Zoo peacock

that sometimes you just need to get the hell out of dodge.

…that “The cliché “start your novel with action” has a flaw—and it’s a major one: What good is the action if it isn’t grounded in context that’s important to the story or draws you to the main character? It’s much, much better to start your story with tension, like a character conflict or a character who’s not getting what he wants. This gives the reader a reason to feel connected.”  – Brian Klem, Writer’s Digest

…that MTV turned thirty this week.  In its inception, MTV was innovative and just plain cool.  It certainly shaped my exposure to popular music.  Now, thirty years later, is it still as ground breaking?  Well, you will just have to wait for my upcoming blog to find out my thoughts on this.  And I have lots of thoughts on this subject.  Shocking, right?

…that nothing beats my homemade sauce after eating out for a week

….that I am captivated by this face and the sage intelligence I see lurking behind his eyes.  I wonder what is he thinking?  What has he seen in his lifetime behind bars?  If he could talk, what would he tell us about ourselves?

Issouf Sanogo/AFP - Getty Images